Do you have the confidence to retire early?

Published August 24, 2016   Posted in How to Think

I have a lot of problems, but confidence isn’t one of them. I wake up every morning and know that our ultimate goal is right around the corner. There’s nothing that can stop us from throwing in the towel at the end of the year, finished with corporate America.

Pinterest: Do you have the confidence to retire early?We’re barreling full speed ahead toward quitting full-time work and exploring our beautiful nation in our Airstream. Things are working out perfectly. Our savings is on autopilot. Our homes are sold. We already live in our Airstream.

The only thing left is for the clock to strike “retire”.

In this blog post, I’m doing something different. Instead of the traditional narrative, I’m interviewing myself from the standpoint of a skeptic. His (or her) questions are in bold.

Let’s start this thing off with a bang, shall we?

The “Mr. Skeptic” interview

You’re an asshole for being so confident.

Come on, Mr. Skeptic – no need to name call. I’m confident because I know that whatever happens, we’ll be okay. I know that we’ll be okay because we roll with the punches and don’t mind stepping outside of our comfort zones. We compromise. We pick and choose our battles. Nobody wins by expecting perfection and settling for nothing less.

I am confident in everything I do, not because I’m arrogant and believe that I’m perfect, but because our mindset is more than half the battle. If we believe that things will go right, they usuallyΒ will.

What makes you think nothing will go wrong?

Hold the phone, professor. I never said thatΒ nothing will go wrong. I recognize the fact that things don’t always go to plan. We could screw this whole thing up. We could wind up crawling back into corporate America with our tails between our legs, begging for…

Then why take the chance when you have such an awesome job?

Because life is short. I don’t want an awesome job. I want no job. We are playing the odds with this one. Sure, everything could go straight to hell with this plan, but more than likely, it won’t.

But you said that anything can happen; why won’t your plan go to hell?

Failure is a moving target that we aren’t aimed at. We adjust as we go. To us, failure means rejoining corporate America because we need the paycheck. If we find that our money isn’t lasting us as long as we had anticipated, we adjust. We take on temporary or seasonal work here and there. Or, we spend less. We do whatever we have to do to make things work.

Oh, so you plan to work. That isn’t retirement.Β 

You can call it whatever you want; I refuse to argue the true definition of retirement. Ideally, we only work when we want to. Interesting work. Maybe we don’t work for a couple of years, then tackle a project or two down the line. Maybe we take on seasonal jobs over the holidays to rake in some dough. I’m not concerned with how YOU define retirement. I’m concerned with one thing and one thing only – our happiness.

What happens if you hate living in your 200 square foot shack?

Charlie, our Airstream, is a wonderful home and provides all the space that we need to live comfortably. But if it turns out that we no longer enjoy it, we move on. We do what anybody else would do in that situation – we try something different. We pick out a nice spot on the beach, or settle into a cottage in the mountains, or go where ever we feel the most comfortable. Even overseas!

It sounds a lot like you’re changing the meaning of “success” so you never fail.

Like I said, we fail if we need to crawl back into corporate America. Whether or not things happen exactly as we expect them to today isn’t how we define success. Life happens. Things change. If we expect to go through life and have everything magically work out exactly how we expect, we’re going to be extremely frustrated people. We are realists, and so we adjust.

Our goal is freedom.

I think your confidence borders on arrogance.

I’m okay with that. My wife and I have a plan and we’re seeing it through. It has taken several years to get to this point, and we’re damn proud of what we have accomplished as well as what we plan to do in the future. This isn’t luck, nor is it right for everyone. It is right for us, and we’re going for it. If you aren’t confident enough to see it through, then you probably shouldn’t quit your job.

I have no plans to quit my job; I like money.

So do I, which is why I choose to keep mine rather than spend it. Dough is nothing more than a means to an end. That end is happiness. Like Mr. 1500 said recently, money is just a facilitator.

That Mr. 1500 is a pretty cool dude, isn’t he?

Yeah, he’s like the shiznit of personal finance.

We track our net worth using Personal Capital


47 responses to “Do you have the confidence to retire early?”

  1. I enjoyed your “interview” and agree that confidence is half if not more of the battle! I’m sure that some people actually react like your interviewer when they hear that you are getting out early.

    It’s always amazing to me how people just want to go with the flow and do what is expected of them without taking charge of their lives and trying to shape the life they want. They are too worried that others will judge them, I suppose.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Jon! Yup, I’ve heard a lot of these comments, both in person and also online when early retirement goes mainstream. Same ol’ story, really. πŸ™‚

  2. A pre-emptive strike against the angry mob. I like it!

    Or is it reactive? Did you receive a deluge of nasty comments when Forbes featured you? The skeptics seem to come out and attack like soccer hooligans when FIRE folks are featured front page. And they all assume you’ve not considered any of the above. Strong work.


    • Steve says:

      Actually, the Forbes piece generated mainly positive feedback. It was the Business Insider article a while back that spurred on some hate, interestingly enough. I have a theory about why, but I probably shouldn’t openly state that theory in public! πŸ˜‰

      • Oh, come on, Steve, tell us. It’ll be our little secret. πŸ˜‰

        Glad to hear there was some love sprinkled in with the hate.

        • Steve says:

          Hah! Check out the comments on the Business Insider article…some of them are pretty darn creative.

          • Josh says:

            I missed the business insider article. It seems like the comments sections are always full of neat little treats! Glad to see that there were some on board even though there were a few nay-sayers.

            Confidence and of course flexibility are key to early retirement. Most of us will earn some income throughout our early retirement doing the things we choose to do. Even those at traditional retirement age tend to do the same, but without the IRP hot on their tails.

          • Steve says:

            Hah! Yup, I enjoyed reading through the comments, actually. The thing is I remember being *those exact people* in an earlier phase of my life, criticizing other people’s decision to improve their lives because I was stuck in a rut and didn’t know how to escape. Oh, how times have changed.

  3. Ha I love the interview. I like your confidence. If you weren’t confident as you are about to make such a big life changing decision, you’d be in trouble!

    Also, no shame in picking up side jobs on the occasion to provide a cushion! If you are ever in Charlotte and need a meal let me know :).

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Green Swan. I believe that if you aren’t confident that your early retirement plans will work, you probably shouldn’t retire early to begin with. Your attitude, in such a case, will help to ensure that you fail.

      I’ll definitely keep ya in mind! My brother just moved from North Carolina, in fact. Spent a lot of time in your state. πŸ™‚

  4. Marc says:

    I love it. Good on you guys for setting a challenging goal and seeing it through! That’s something that should make you proud and confident. Only a couple of months left…hang in there!

  5. Ray Ray says:

    Great interview!

    I love this – Failure is a moving target that we aren’t aimed at. We adjust as we go.
    what a great way to look at it!

    • Steve says:

      Appreciate the comment, Ray Ray. It’s all in your attitude, and believe it or not, failure is a tough goal to reach if you’re trying to succeed. πŸ™‚

  6. Mr. PIE says:

    Ha Ha!
    Crawling back to corporate America….a thoroughly unpleasant thought……

    As Eminem teaches us to be confident in Lose Yourself:
    “Success is my only mother****ing option, failure’s not”


    “You can do anything you set your mind to man”.

    Crank it up loud, hit the road and don’t waste away in the office with the headphones on.

    • Steve says:

      Unpleasant indeed, Mr. PIE! That is definitely the worst case scenario in our book, one that we will do almost anything to avoid. And strangely enough, thought I don’t listen to Eminem, I do know that particular tune. I can practically see the music video in my head, now. πŸ™‚

  7. Kate says:

    It says a lot about our country when people are more scared to fail (e.g. return to corporate America) than attempt to live out their dreams. What has happened to us? Are we just cynical or have we become soft?

    I really hope that more people realize that we only have one chance to live this life. For so many, that realization will come too late. Blogs like yours are a wake up call regarding what is possible, when you plan and are willing to modify your lifestyle to live for the future rather than just today.

    • Steve says:

      One life to live for sure…and that one life is short, and spending half of our productive years commuting to and from an office doesn’t sound like a good use of our time. In fact, it sounds downright horrific!

  8. Josh says:

    I love this post because you are speaking as a man that is on the cusp of really not having to care what anyone else thinks. That’s got to be such an amazing feeling and I have to admit I’m jealous!

    Thanks for sharing and I hope you truly enjoy your retirement!

  9. Nice interview! Haters will be haters. But they are useful in a way. It’s like kicking the tires before you drive. If you have the confidence to counter them (imaginary or real) and a good answer to everything they bring up, you are ready to retire. Oh, wait, we knew that you are ready to retire… But good to reconfirm every once in a while! πŸ™‚

  10. My favorite line – “We are realists, and so we adjust.” This is along the lines of solution-focused thinking that I learned a lot about a few years back. If something isn’t working – you do something different. It’s always looking forward and not worrying about what has already happened. If something doesn’t work well – adjust. Speaks to your flexibility too – which is a huge asset in defining retirement!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Vicki for your comment. Yup, our plan is to just go with the flow and see where it takes us. Either way, we’ll be happy to have escaped another three decades working in corporate America. πŸ™‚

  11. Maarten says:

    Talking of being confident can sound arrogant but it’s confidence nonetheless. Love it. Early retirement can bring its own challenges and concerns but, they are your challenges and your concerns, not that of your boss. If you’re able to do what you are doing any challenge can be met head on.

    Also I don’t think having to crawl back to corporate america is a failure, like you mentioned its a means to an end. Should you find yourself in a new situation where your original plan/portfolio won’t meet your needs, you can always go back to corporate America to beef it up. You may once in a while loose a battle but you haven’t lost the war.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Maarten! Your state of mind is a huge influencer when it comes to early retirement or, quite frankly, anything else in life. If you stay positive, then things tend to work out. πŸ™‚

  12. There are definitely a lot of skeptics out there. You hit the nail on the head that it’s a moving target and you’ll have to adjust as you go. I’m very excited for you guys (and slightly jealous!) and can’t wait to hear about your adventures as you are on this path.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to hear more skepticism as well as I get closer to FI! πŸ™‚

    — Jim

    • Steve says:

      Hey Jim – appreciate the comment and the kind words. Only a few more months now. And trust me, the skepticism will soon fall on deaf ears the closer you get to FI. Why? Because you’ll be more confident in your ability to control your own destiny. πŸ™‚

  13. I am totally afraid to fail, but I am more scared not to try.

  14. I think what most skeptics believe is that failure isn’t an option. Once you quit, you never go back — or so they believe.

    But failure isn’t a bad thing. Failure at early retirement won’t look too bad. In most cases, only a part-time job would be needed.

    Sure, you probably won’t get the same job, but for anyone willing to work it’s not a bad thing!

    • Steve says:

      It’s true that failure isn’t a bad thing. It’s also true that early retirement isn’t some “point of no return”. Why you may not get your very same job back, you probably *don’t want that very same job back*. After all, that’s what you’re escaping.

  15. Jack says:

    Interesting approach. I can see the Airstream life growing stale after a few years, but there’s no reason to be trapped in a single abode, or a single location.

    Personally, I’m hoping to hear updates from the mid-Atlantic by then, after you’ve come down with “continent fever” (feeling that the East and West coasts closing in on you – an expensive version of cabin fever) and need to sail the globe for a few years.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Jack! My folks full-time RV’ed for 13 years, so people definitely do stick with this lifestyle for a while. We’ll see how we do, though. We definitely do harbor ambitions to go overseas. One day, it’ll happen!

  16. Shavano says:

    I have been following your blog for a while now. I am really appreciating your insights particularly on the psychological piece of early retirement. My husband and I have been both lucky and relatively frugal over our lives, and are sitting on a good nest egg, and the past couple of years I have retiring debt (home and one of our rental properties still have mortgages) with an eye to early retirement (I’m currently 51, so it’s not that early compared to some of you crazy bloggers, haha). I guess the thing I’m kind of facing now is the feeling of *failure* about walking away early (or early-ish). As in, couldn’t I have achieved more professionally? Isn’t there some *perfect* way of using my skills that I just haven’t found yet, some way of downshifting or changing careers? Am I willing to walk away from all I’ve achieved and built up over time? My husband was inadvertently retired at a layoff when he was 57, 7 years ago, and hasn’t ever worked again, mostly because he wouldn’t be able to replace his job and it just worked with our family (our kids are now highschoolers, and it was great having him home). But he struggled with feeling irrelevant and kind of humbled and “out of it” afterwards. So while I would love nothing more than leisure to pursue other things, including lots of camping all around the west, a longtime love of mine, I can see it may be a mental process to letting go of the whole “career” thing and feeling like we need to maximize the career, particularly if we’ve worked pretty hard to get where we are. Kind of rambling post, thanks for reading!

    • Steve says:

      Thank you for your wonderful comment, Shavano! It is very true that having a sense of purpose after retirement is a very, very big deal. In my case, working a job wasn’t really providing that purpose for me. I succeeded, certainly. But, big deal…when all is said and done, I’m not going to lay on my death bed thinking about all those wonderful days I spent in the office.

      No, it’s going to be those adventures that we will soon have. Hiking a 14’er. Bike riding 50 miles in a single day. Hurriedly putting in our Airstream awnings ahead of a super strong thunderstorm that’s liable to tear them right off the rig!

      It’s those moments that I will remember. And you never know what opportunities will surface once you have the time to look for them. Jobs, I’ve found, aren’t our only opportunities to feel productive. There is SO MUCH out there that we can get involved with. In my case, jobs just get in the way.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      • Shavano says:

        Thanks for writing back! You are definitely very much farther down the road of bucking the conventional wisdom and mainstream viewpoint that one is very much one’s job and that reaching the apex in one’s career is a key goal to strive for! I am trying to still that little voice in my head that tells me that retiring early is the equivalent of slinking out of the room and admitting failure. Funny that this belief should be so strongly ingrained in me. It sounds as if you never took this belief on very strongly, or have cheerfully abandoned it along the way! That is awesome! You are absolutely correct, there is so much out there to do and explore and the 9-5 grind, and in my case multiple clients to answer to, just completely closes us off from being able to get out there. But it is interesting how much of a change in perspective early retirement is (well, at least for me) and takes some significant mental processing! I am again so impressed with how you are approaching it! You mentioned hiking 14ers, maybe you noticed my username? I’ve hiked quite a few of them. Like life most of the fun is in the exploration and beauty, and sometimes epic adventures, along the way to the top.

  17. Joe says:

    Nice interview! Mr. Skeptic is kind of a douche, though… hahaha..
    Yeah, the worse that can happen is you’d have find a full time job. That’s no worse than now.
    I have one addition. I felt confidence because I’ve been generally lucky my whole life. Things just seem to work out. Once I was prepared, I went for it.
    Hang in there, it’ll be over soon.

    • Steve says:

      Yeah, Mr. Skeptic is kinda a douche. πŸ™‚

      I’m trying my best to hang in there. I know very well that things could be a lot worse for me right now, so putting things into perspective helps me to remain focused.

  18. I love the honesty of this post! πŸ™‚

    Early retirement *is* a scary thing, but just because something is scary doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it!

    • Steve says:

      True that, Coach Brad. In fact, we tend to remember the scary things in life, not those things we feel comfortable with. Go figure, eh? πŸ˜‰

  19. Jef Miles says:

    Haha nice work there!
    I agree with all of your answers here & a cool format that you’ve presented it in

    What’s the date for early “retirement” then?

  20. Hahaha this was such a clever post, I loved it! Especially the last question. I think it’s good to remember to visualize the possibility of early retirement actually happening. It’s an attainable goal but not a lot of people know the steps to get there so the confidence may not actually be present.

    Most people that aren’t the success achievers attribute the wealth creation through luck, but we personal finance bloggers know better. Takes years of planning, taking risks, and working hard. After those years are up, everyone can call us an overnight success all they want, however!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, Finance Solver. When people chalk things up to luck, what they are doing is giving *themselves* an excuse not to achieve similar levels of success. When a good amount of luck is involved, after all, there wasn’t much that he or she actually DID to reach their goal. They just kinda stood there, I suppose, letting themselves get showered with all kinds of flowery luck.

      If only that was how life actually worked. πŸ™‚

  21. Haha I like the interview. Confidence in your decision has to be there. Without it, you may constantly be questioning your decision and that’s when things could really go. Enjoyed the post!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Dollar Engineer. Confidence really is everything. I know it sounds corny, but if you *think* you can achieve something, you probably will!

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