How To Have Your 'First Retirement' At 32

Not everyone waits until they're 65 to retire. Carl Seidman isn't a millionaire, but he's retiring at the age of 32. He calls it his 'first retirement,' and says he'll have many more to come. Seidman talks with host Michel Martin about why some people don't believe in waiting until their sixties.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We want to turn now to someone who is thinking about retirement in a very different way. Carl Seidman is in his early 30s, but just a few weeks ago, he quit his job as a consultant in Chicago and hopped on a plane to Chile. He's calling it his first retirement and he says you don't have to wait until you're 65 to retire either, and he's going to tell us more about that.

Carl, welcome. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule of, what? What are you doing? Sipping pina coladas and chilling to talk with us?

CARL SEIDMAN: Actually, they're called pisco sours here, but thank you for your time, Michel. Happy to be a part of this.

MARTIN: Pisco sours. True. I didn't want to show off, but thank you for, you know. So what made you decide to do this?

SEIDMAN: Well, it's something that I had been thinking about for a very long time. Probably when I first started working, I took a look at the schedule of how Americans work from nine to five, 50 or so hours a week, 50 weeks a year, not a whole lot of time for vacation. And I decided that, you know, one day, I wanted to be able to take a sufficient amount of time off so I could work on projects, travel around the world, do things that I really wanted to do that wouldn't be able to fit into that, you know, two-to-three-week vacation period that most Americans get.

The way that I look at it - and the way that I've looked at retirement for a long time - is that I don't believe that I needed to work for, you know, 40 years or whatever it might be to get me to 65, that I could take a series of what I call mini-retirements throughout my life of a duration of, you know, maybe a couple of months or six months or even a year rather than have to wait until I'm 65 years old to retire indefinitely.

MARTIN: So where you are now - so you jumped on a plane with a one-way ticket to Chile.

SEIDMAN: Right.

MARTIN: Did you get an apartment? Are you staying in hostels? What are you doing?

SEIDMAN: Mostly hostels. Right now, I'm in sort of a hybrid hotel/restaurant outside of this national park in Olmue, so it's really going online finding places to stay, booking them, you know, maybe a few days in advance or maybe the day of, and playing it day-to-day.

MARTIN: Now, did you not like your job? Forgive me for asking, but you know I want to ask. Did you just not like what you were doing?

SEIDMAN: No. I really did enjoy what I was doing. I found it very interesting and very challenging. At the same time, I found the lifestyle to be very difficult to sustain. I was getting on planes every Monday, flying across the country, coming back on Fridays, kind of the life of a consultant, so it was challenging. But it wasn't that I didn't like my job. It was really more that it was really just the right time to go and do it.

MARTIN: What kind of reaction do you get from people when you tell them about this? Because, presumably, people ask, what is a fit, seemingly smart, well-to-- you know, put-together person doing kind of bumming around - right - in the prime of your working years? Right?

SEIDMAN: Right. When I did tell friends and family, most of them were very, very, very supportive, and very surprisingly to me, when I told my co-workers and former co-workers what I was doing, they say, you know, I give you so much credit for actually having the guts to do what you're doing because so many of us have thought about doing it in the past, but have not done it.

MARTIN: Finally, you know, there's a lot of talk these days in public policy about the hit that many Americans have taken in their assets because of the recent economic downturn. Do you ever worry that your ability to retire when you're no longer physically able to work - right...

SEIDMAN: Yes.

MARTIN: ...will be compromised by the time that you're taking now?

SEIDMAN: It's a challenging and interesting question and it's one that's really hard to answer because it's hard for me to say, you know, if I spend, you know, X amount of dollars when I'm 32, how is that going to impact the dollars that I have when I'm 65? But the way that I also look at it is times are pretty good right now for me to do this and because of the uncertainty of what might exist in 30 or 35 years, I have more certainty now than I do then.

MARTIN: Well, good luck. Have something, you know, tall and cool for us, why don't you, while you're down there.

SEIDMAN: I certainly will.

MARTIN: Maybe two or three.

(LAUGHTER)

SEIDMAN: Certainly will.

MARTIN: Carl Seidman is a consultant by trade, but he is retired for now at the age of 32. We caught up with him a few hours northwest of Santiago, Chile in the town of Olmue and you can keep up with his travels on his blog, TheFirstRetirement.com.

Carl, thanks so much for joining us.

SEIDMAN: Thank you so much, Michel.

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