Andrew Luck is Doing Early Retirement Perfectly

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The big news in sports yesterday was the retirement of Andrew Luck from professional football at the age of 29. Here are two takes from The Ringer: Andrew Luck and the Afterburn of Early Retirement and Andrew Luck Gave Up Fame, Riches, and Football Because He Is Unapologetically Himself. He seems like a stand-up guy. The thing that struck me was the chorus of boos from Colts fans (some burning his jersey) and a few snarky remarks from some (supposedly) professional sports commentators.

That’s how I knew that Andrew Luck was doing justice to my definition of “retirement”. To me, retirement means:

  • You are NOT optimizing your time for money. Elite quarterbacks rarely retire early because they can make tens of millions of dollars just holding a clipboard as a backup until they are 40 years old. Luck is walking away from anywhere from $10 million to hundreds of millions.
  • You are NOT following other people’s expectations, and definitely not what random angry internet people think. I’m sure many Colts fans are disappointed, and even he admitted that the boos hurt. But Luck only gets one life and one body. The fans won’t be there when you can’t walk right for the rest of your life.
  • You may NOT be doing what you are most talented at. Sometimes things come easier to you than others, but that doesn’t mean you find joy in the act. I think it can be noble to keep working at something to support your family, but this is retirement. Retirement means that if you want, you can do the thing you are least talented at. He could switch to painting with boxing gloves.

That’s why I call myself “semi-retired”. Am I talented at raising small children? No. Probably below average. Am I good at it? No. Nobody would ever hire me to watch their kids. If I wanted to optimize for money, I would never have done this. If we both kept working full-time and paying for full-time daycare, we could have earned at least a million dollars more during their childhoods. I am spending half my time doing something that doesn’t make much sense, so I call that half-retired even though I am still exhausted at the end of every day. At the same time, I am grateful because I know that it took a lot of luck and the gracious support of my wife and family to even have this choice.

Let’s not forget why this is all possible. Luck combined his unique talents, hard work, family support, and some luck to earn over $100 million in his career. He is financially free, even if he hits a few bumps along the way. We don’t know all his struggles, and he never needs to explain it to us.

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  1. Andrew left on his own terms which I respect. He left millions but he has made millions, how much is enough?

  2. He’s only retiring from football. He has an architecture degree from Stanford (not too shabby!) and plans to make use of that in his next career. This is a career change, not a retirement. Internet fans just can’t fathom why someone would want to change careers from a high-risk profession to a low-risk profession.

  3. Spot on, Jonathan

  4. Thanks for this one Jonathan. This man decided to do what was best for him and his family. A little research will show that the life expectancy of pro football players is much less than the general population. And seldom does a week go by where you don’t see an article about a retired player with either dementia or arthritis issues that limit them. And they can’t say that it messed up this season because he said that it looked like he would be on IR all or most of the season. The people booing are either selfish or jealous or just ignorant of facts. I personally have a lot more respect for a man who knows when to walk away vs one who tries to string it out. And the older I get the more I realize that money can’t buy the time that you are spending with your and the things that you could buy with that money are not nearly as valuable as the time you are spending with them. You say that you are not good at it but just your willingness says that you are. And maybe Luck’s decision will allow him to be with his kids and to be able to pick up his grand kids a little more and a little longer. Lastly, I will say that if he had decided to stay that would have been fine too because it would have been his decision and I respect that.

  5. Yes good for him (even as a colts fan), but did he have to wait until 2 weeks before the season to announce? Left the colts in a pretty bad spot.

    • stephen, as an employer, the timing of an employee’s departure is rarely convenient. This is true in all businesses; professional football is no different. For every fan that has booed him, I pray that their conscience will grow when the day inevitably comes that they leave their current employer and their employer and customer base are kind enough not to boo them out the door.

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