How to ER: 5 easy habits early retirees practice everyday

28 thoughts on “How to ER: 5 easy habits early retirees practice everyday”

  1. I find the last two points here the most interesting. I never thought about how optimistic FIRE people are, but I think it’s true. Definitely true of my husband who first brought up the possibility in our household. Also, being willing to challenge oneself and try uncomfortable things. I think this can be really valuable for career growth as well as personal growth (and saving money). So it makes sense that it’s a common trait here.

    1. Thanks Kalie, appreciate the comment. Yeah, you almost *NEED* to be optimistic to think that early retirement will work. At the very least, I think that optimism will lead to a more flexible lifestyle so, if you do need to take on some part time work here and there, it’s no problem. Just goes with the territory! 🙂

  2. Wow Steve – I love this post! “engaging in uncomfortable conversations and NOT choosing the status quo when making decisions” – as a teacher, doing what I have done has been very uncomfortable (leaving the profession with many years in – but not being old enough to retire). I finally have my “feet under me” and am willing to share what I have done (when people choose to ask me about it). I try to practice humility but want others to realize ER can happen on the less than 6 figure salary too. Making uncomfortable decisions is where we are as well – and it feels good! We focus on experiences over stuff too! Awesome read – thanks for aligning your thoughts so well with “where we are” too!

    1. Thanks, Vicki! It’s interesting that those uncomfortable decisions eventually turn into a decision that will make you very, very happy. 🙂

  3. I think your list of habits sums it up pretty well. My wife and I follow them pretty closely. This may play into habit #1, but to help us build our savings for ER we sacrificed convenience for money all the time. We mow our own lawn and clean our own house, we do DIY projects, we repair things ourselves when possible, the list goes on and on.

    1. Thanks Green Swan. Yup, we found ourselves doing more and more of our own work, too, after we made the decision to quit early. Paying someone else to do it just wasn’t worth even another month of working full-time. No way. 🙂

  4. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Awesome list, by the way. Regarding spending on expensive dinners, Mr. TJL had to convince me last night to take me out for a birthday dinner. I am still squirming over the unnecessary expense.

    1. Ha! A little indulgence every now and then isn’t a big deal, but yeah, I know how you feel. The spending money to celebrate thing just doesn’t feel right to me, either. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading, Mr. Tako. Yup, and the more we do those things, the less we even need to think about them. They become second nature.

  5. Man, points 1 and 2 were key in our ER plans. The other ones just fell in line after the first 2, but wanting to know where your money goes every month I think is the first step. Then you can say, “Whoa, I spend how much at Starbucks/Restaurants/clothes each month?!” Then you can decide whether it’s worth it, and like almost everyone here, we decided it wasn’t worth it to us and we’d rather be done in a couple more years.

    The eternal optimism is definitely Mrs. SSC. I can be more optimistic than most, but that is a fairly common trait it seems like with FIRE folks.
    Those uncomfortable conversations have gotten way more comfortable now that I’m more comfortable with ER and sold on it. I realize I don’t have to sell anyone on it, I can just try and plant a seed that “the norm” isn’t the only way to live life.

    1. Yeah, I don’t try to sell anyone on early retirement either. It just adds undue contention to the conversation, and quite frankly, early retirement isn’t for everyone. If someone would rather live a more traditional lifestyle and work longer because of it, great. That’s up to them. 🙂

  6. I think the key really is just prioritizing savings. The rest of the steps stem from that. Once you realize retiring early is more important than other things — well, those other things lose value. So you’re okay cutting cable, selling expensive things, stopping any collections.

    We’re not interested in ER, but I am going to be prioritizing retirement savings next year now that we’re rid of the worst of the looming expenses.

    1. There is a snowball effect here, isn’t there? Once you build a foundation of knowing exactly where your money is going, everything else gets much, much easier.

  7. Your optimism point is super interesting — I think you have to be optimistic to even entertain the notion of early retirement. But I wonder if most of us are some elusive blend of optimism and realism, because virtually all FIRE bloggers talk about the various ways they stress test their magic number or the contingency plans they have in place (wait, maybe that last one’s just us? haha). I think someone who’s 100 percent an optimist won’t necessarily do the hard work of facing down economic realities, scrutinizing safe withdrawal rates and questioning even unconventional conventional wisdom. And a 100 percent realist won’t have the imagination to see early retirement as a possibility. So maybe we’re all the rare unicorns who are optimists and realists in equal measure, or at least that’s my theory for today. Whaddya think? 😀

    1. I think there is a lot of truth to that, actually. With us, I am definitely the optimist and Courtney is more of the realist, so basically nothing gets done around here without her being involved. And that’s a super good thing, because her conservative nature will hopefully prevent me from getting *too* risky. 🙂

  8. We have alway spent money on experiences before we considered FIRE, stil do I now and I am sure it won’t change going forward. The difference now is watching carefully what is spent on those experiences and the use of travel hacking to make it even more economical.

    Mrs. PIE has had a few conversations at work recently where she has gotten an incredulous look when mentioning travel hacking. At the same time she found colleagues who are into it big time so the smart stuff about travel hacking is spreading more and more.

    Executing against the PLAN with relentless focus is one I woul add. Yet adaptable enough to go to plan B, C etc. Plan, plan plan. Perhaps this is more of a quality or behavior yet it becomes so emgrained it morphs to a habit.

    1. Hey Mr. PIE – my wife is definitely the planner in the family. If it were up to me, I’d just pick a date to quit my job, then go driving down the road and stop, well, where ever I happen to stop. I fly by the seat of my pants, so I definitely need someone around to keep me grounded! 🙂

  9. Thanks Steve, for sharing these habits and relating them to your personal experience. The illustrations are very helpful.

    My favorite is the suggestion to spend money on experiences, not things. Have you noticed that many people today, regardless of the generation, don’t REALLY enjoy experiences because they’re too busy recording video or taking pictures to be in the moment? That drives me crazy.

    1. People are distracted a LOT these days. Check it out – I’ve seen people at the gym reading a newspaper while on an exercise machine. No, not a treadmill. An actual resistance machine (leg extension), completely distracted by whatever they are reading. I guess the last thing that you’d want to be, while at the gym, is actually focused on what you’re doing! 🙂

  10. Great list – certainly rings true for us. I also notice that they devote a lot of time to their health and relationships. These are the things that drive long-term happiness and can’t be tracked in a spreadsheet.

    1. Thanks MrFireStation. True, very good point about their health and relationships. Those two elements substantially affect your quality of life, no doubt about it.

  11. Interesting observations that I think most of us on the path to FIRE understand, but probably have taken for granted. As I read through these habits, I tried to see if I could come up with some not mentioned (and I probably won’t come with anything new). However, it got me thinking about a trait that’s probably intrinsic to all FIRErs; facing adversity head-on.

    I would argue that to pursue FIRE and be successful, you’ve got to have grit to face and conquer the obstacles that you encounter along the way. We may not be actual mountain climbers, but we are definitely psychological mountain climbers. After all, it takes a lot of fortitude to reach the peak of the FI summit.

    1. Very true, LazyFIGuy. Psychology plays an interesting role in all of this…just believing that cutting off your source of income at such an early age can definitely be a mental puzzle…not only making it happy, but believing that it can happen. A part of this, I think, goes to optimism.

      Thanks for the comment!

  12. For me, and for many others I assume, the biggest challenge has been the “stuff.” Making money came relatively easy. Although as a freelancer, making money in the beginning is more difficult than making money in a job.

    But breaking the spending habit is what requires behavior change and real willpower. Once you make a conscious decision to stop the frivolous spending, it gets easier. Just taking the first step was the hardest.

    Thanks for sharing some of your good habits. It’s easier to replace a bad habit with a good one than to just quit cold turkey.

    1. I definitely agree, Financial Slacker – the first step always seems to be the toughest, but once that initial step is taken, the road has a way of getting easier and easier to travel. The closer we get, the easier things become.

Leave a Reply