I like the concept of Financial Independence much better -- you go to work because you want to do something not because you have to.
I like that too. I would add too that it doesn't have to be "work" (ie. paid) that you choose to do with your time, but anything and anything that is found fulfilling.
It's commonly said that you should find the job you love. Easier said than done for most people, for different reasons. I have a hard time picturing anything that I love so much as to spend 8 hours a day at it.
I have a much easier time picturing an existence where I do one thing I love for 2 hours, then a different thing for 3 hours, then something else with the rest of the day. I hope to reach a level of Financial Independence by 55 that allows me to pursue days filled with purpose in lots of different pursuits, where only a small amount of that time needs, or happens, to be paid.
Visiting with and learning from seniors, participating in a community organization like Kiwanis or Lions, influencing the young to ensure the world is in good hands in generations to come, gardening for a time, running a landscaping company for 15 hours a week, staying close with family, catching up with friends, travelling, learning about topics in history, learning better how to play the piano/guitar, participating in debate on issues of the day, monitoring investments and cashflow, washing the cars by hand, having an afternoon nap in a hammock, going for a swim, playing sports and maintaining physical conditioning, trying a job that I've never done before, learning basics of various trades and applying those skills to various hobbies, on and on and on.
All these activities and more, that occupy and improve my mind and body, and hopefully leave the world and the people around me better for my short time in this world.
I suppose I should respond more directly to the original question too. Early retirement, or true financial independence, does seem like a tall order to achieve for most people, and requires a combination of high income and modest spending. It seems that, more often than not, people have only one of these traits, and not both. It takes a significant nest egg to fund the gap between early retirement at age 55, and kick-in of CPP/OAS at 60/65, without risk of capital draw-down.
Some barriers to early retirement, assuming your career begins at 25 and you live until 85, with conventional retirement at 65:
1. The years between 55 and 65 are often the highest paying years of your career.
2. Retiring 10 years early means you have 75% of the time to generate 100% of the required nest egg. Further, assuming that the nest egg income does not completely cover your expenses and some level of capital draw-down is modeled, the size of the nest egg required at 55 is actually larger than that required at 65 to generate the same retirement income.
3. Retiring 10 years early also means that you have 150% more years to stretch the nest egg.
4. A retirement portfolio invested and grown for 40 years will be a heck of a lot larger than one held for only 30 years, due to non-linear compound growth that only becomes truly significant in the latter years.