Don’t think early retirement is possible? Okay, you may have a point

63 thoughts on “Don’t think early retirement is possible? Okay, you may have a point”

  1. Hey Steve, what are all the programming languages that you know? If things ever get tough, and you want to get back to working, we can always help you out. You would make six figures without stress, politics nor commuting 🙂 .

    We are always looking for good coders, it’s easir to find a client than to find a good coder. And I know you are a good coder, I have seen some of your work.

    99to1percent recently posted…How I Paid Off My $40K Student Loans Before Graduating Plus other kickass student debt payoff stories from other money nerds

    1. The language I’m most familiar with is PHP, but I have quite a bit of experience with database design using both structured as well as unstructured DBMSs. And I totally agree, it’s tough to find good coders. Most of us are just lazy. 🙂

        1. Interesting discussion & leads to a good point. Being able to retire early is also aided by having good career earnings. I chose the computer science field in 1979 because the pay was projected to be very strong for at least the next few decades.
          Graduating in 1982, I wrapped up a 28-year career (retiring in 2010) developing software and integrating avionics systems in military aircraft. (If you see an F-35 (JSF), F-22, B-2,…..going as far back as the F-111 (no longer flown), my software is in those.)
          Being in that field lead to a good Income, providing the opportunity to invest more, and ultimately for my wife and I to retire early.

          1. Great post Brian! I started working in Computer science in 1985 (BA Math/CSci, MS CSci). Lots of embedded software over the years. I had great pay in maybe half of my 32 years, so I socked away much of that in stocks. My main interest all these years was fitness though. And now at 58 I find I need more rest to recover from daily workouts. So that is why I am looking at quitting my job in the next four years. I need more sleep and no alarm clock! I’ve been enlightened about Bitcoin in early 2015 and have bought low. So it is an unexpected windfall how the price gained. It and my traditional investments are just about enough to make me retire in a decent part of Orange County, California.

  2. I’m with you, early retirement may not be foolproof, but a creative, resourceful, and flexible person will be able to figure it out 🙂

    And I love the part about being bored. As long as I got out there and pursued things I am interested in, I think I would be overwhelmed with things to do in early retirement!

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

  3. As an early retiree I can tell you this: when the 2001 Great Recession hit, the only way we survived was by NOT being in any sort of debt. Period. No mortgage, no car loans, no credit cards, no consumer type debt of any kind. We were then able to pay all our bills, on time and without any worry. Of course we stayed home A LOT but that’s the point. When times get tough, the tough shrink back into their safe zone.
    Fast forward to today and yes, we have a bit of credit card debt (zero interest) but if the sh**t hits the fan and we couldn’t pay, there really isn’t much ‘they’ can do to ya. We don’t care much about FICO scores in our early retirement. And as for inflation, we just shop differently. i.e instead of porterhouse steak, we buy chopped steak. (FYI: we don’t eat beef but I just used it as an example). You get the idea. We early retirees adjust.

  4. I tend not to bring up FIRE in the “real” world as I don’t like confrontation or people thinking I’m weirder than they already do 🙂 Health insurance is definitely one I’ve heard that I don’t think you mentioned.

  5. Great post Steve. One thing you mentioned that I don’t see discussed too often is that so many things are way cheaper now than they were 10 or 20 years ago. I remember my roommate buying a color TV in 1993 for our apartment, paying $250 in 1992 dollars for a 21-inch old-school CRT TV. That $250 in 1992 is the equivalent of $500 now, and it was a low-end TV. You can get a pretty good 40+ inch flat screen now for that price. I get it, outsourcing to China etc can’t keep bringing prices down forever, but inflation does not affect everything equally. In addition, simple competition can bring prices down. Flying is a great example of that. In the 70’s flying was expensive, a typical 2-hr domestic ticket would be about $300. Well it’s still $300 in today’s dollars, which is less than half of the equivalent price.

    And how can people be bored in their free time? That one always baffles me….

  6. Knowledge dropped.

    My biggest issue is that if I leave the doctor work force for more than 2 years then its hard to get back in. That’s why i Think my transition will be to part time before no time work. Gives me more wiggle room.

    Keep living the life you want. Forget the naysayers!

    1. Part-time work sounds like an excellent compromise, Dads. And no worries – I don’t let the naysayers bother me. They do, however, provide excellent fodder for blog posts. 🙂

  7. To me, this reiterates two of the most valuable assets that people in the FI community tend to have: planning skills and flexibility. Sure, the pile of income generating savings is what actually makes ER possible, but the ability to plan ahead and to be flexible are the keys in each of the responses you gave. By being willing to change things up as the market changes, I think early retirement becomes way more doable than just a static SWR number would suggest.

  8. Totally agree with all of these arguments.

    When it comes to the whole ‘you’re screwed if the economy goes down’ my thought is: yes, it’s a calculated risk. But also if you’ve got the wherewithall to retire early – especially in your 30s or 40s – you probably have the ability to earn a little bit of extra income to keep yourself afloat for a while for your portfolio to recover.

    At the end of the day I tend to ignore most of the arguments against early retirement as few of them seem to be based in actual facts, and tend to be more reflective of the person trying to argue that point.

  9. Mission accomplished, excellent responses without being an a’hole! I think another argument that’s common is the uncertainty about healthcare costs and future medical expenses. So plan for it, take care of yourself, eat well, exercise, etc.

  10. The last example is the one that drives me crazy. I mean seriously – your mind is unable to come up with things to do outside of your work life? I’m pretty sure I could come up with about a million and one interesting things to get involved with. From taking some classes, to volunteering, to walks in the park, to playing with my kid, to reading a good book, to learning how to play the guitar, to working out more, to…….

    1. I agree. A corollary to this is when people say they love their work. I then ask “If you were FI and your boss asked you to work for free, would you do it?”

      Usually they say “No”. To which I reply, “Why not, I thought you loved your work?” I get nothing but puzzled expressions.

      But really, it makes me feel like everybody is programmed like a robot to want to go to a paying job.

    2. I’m a little confused by that, too…I mean, “no hobbies”? Your job is the only thing that keeps you waking up in the morning. With all due respect, that just sounds horrible.

  11. Point number 1 is the key. Early retirees are adaptable and we will make it work somehow. If you can’t adapt, then early retirement probably wouldn’t be your goal anyway.
    I’m afraid of #3, though. Inflation isn’t bad, but there are just more stuff to spend money on every year. 20 years ago, we didn’t need smart phone, data plan, laptop, etc… Now, these things are indispensable. There will be more stuff to spend money on in the future. That’s lifestyle inflation and we can’t escape all of it. We’ll see how it goes…

    1. Lifestyle inflation is even worse in my opinion because it’s more all-encompassing. You need to “look the part” simply because you earn more money and, as a result, you do a LOT of additional spending. Not good!

  12. Yeah, FF brought up a good one I hear a lot, healthcare. Also, if you have kids, college savings comes up. Just yesterday in fact I was having the discussion with a co-worker that “if I’m still working here full time when I’m 50, something seriously went wrong, or I’d be really well off or maybe both…” He asked about college savings and was shocked that we’ve already hit ~$50k for each kid.

    My point was, it was a priority to get them funded well and early because we won’t be contributing to those accounts soon.

    We even had the “well what would you do if you ertired at 50 or 45?” After 5 minutes of explaining what I would most likely do, he agreed it sounded fairly well thought out. We’re going to have a follow up conversation on investing later this week. He was fairly receptive to the 4% discussion, or 25x discussion and “how do you figure out what you need?” kind of discussion. I’m looking forward to having a more in depth talk about that one later on this week. 🙂

    You bring up some really valid points though, and hit most of the topics I hear the most criticism on.

    1. Yup, healthcare is the biggest one that gets asked a lot. A Health Share works for us, but it also won’t work for everyone.

      Good luck in your discussion! Actually, I’d love to hear how it goes. 🙂

  13. Good arguments. There’s one other secret about early retirement. If you don’t talk about early retirement, nobody will ever question your early retirement situation.

    For example, I retired almost 6 years ago and my wife retired almost 4 years ago now. Yet, nobody considers Financial Samurai an early retirement blog, and often times it’s not included in the FIRE movement as well. While a lot of couples where one works and one is retired are considered.

    The reason being, I just write about mostly other subject matters and get on with life.


    1. Totally true, Samurai! I like talking about ER – it’s fun, and it’s always interesting to see the reactions of people. Most of them have been positive, though – which, I suppose, is good.

  14. I found my way over to your blog after seeing your t-shirt on the youtube channel. You have some nice pieces here.

    My issue for early retirement (and at 56, it’s not that early) is not financial but psychological. My wife genuinely likes her job and business. She has committed to selling within 5 years but I’m ready to hit the road next year. Relationships are a negotiation, and we are still in talks over a compromise resolution.

    1. Thanks Brewed Journey! There’s nothing wrong with liking your job. Would it be something that she’d be able to do from the road? Or part-time? Maybe seasonal travel? I’m sure you’ve talked about those things. And you’re right, relationships are all a negotiation! 🙂

  15. Excellent post Steve! I’ve heard most of these criticisms myself,and they really don’t matter to most of us that have achieved FIRE… we have plans and solutions to deal with them.

    At some point, you just have to ignore the critics and do your own thing!

  16. Good comments. We’re in good shape with all of them:
    1 – we overshot our retirement savings goal w/o including social security in the calculation. And we have no debt. Finances are not an issue.
    2 – we have no plans to work an 8-5 job again. During these past 7 years of early retirement, I ran for local public office, was elected twice (barely part-time), and now (term-limited) have opportunities and contacts I didn’t know existed before.
    3 – As for inflation, not even worrying about it. Our portfolio is invested and diversified such that it should grow and keep up with inflation. And there’s still social security waiting out there for us (eventually).
    Finally, boredom has not been an issue. We’re still in touch with some of our former co-workers, our families , and other retirees. We joke that we’re so busy in retirement we wonder how we ever found time to work! Plus, we have 3 grandkids now that we didn’t have 7 years ago when we retired. Never bored.

  17. Great read! I often hear the “I’d be so bored if I retired early” not only about early retirement, but also about working from home/working for yourself. It’s funny the excuses people make because this one is definitely an excuse. Considering the average person is not in love with their job and cannot wait until the weekend, I don’t get how I hear the last one all the time.

    1. You and me both, Michelle. If your job is the only thing that’s keeping you going, I’d say that’s a HUGE problem that needs to be remedied, and fast.

  18. I think you nailed it with this one. Yup there are risks to retiring early but you can mitigate them. I really wish I was one of those people who “would be bored” without my job. Unfortunately, I can think of about a million other things to do. That’s why I’m chasing FI. Personally, I never see myself being a $0 income retiree. I’d love to not have to pressure to earn though.

  19. I think it is the word “Retirement” that most folks get hung up on. If we’d concentrate on the FI part in discussions most would argue less about whether what we are doing is sane. “Financial Independence” implies that work, or any money making endeavor, is optional. In my experience very few will argue whether you are FI. It is only when you invoke “R” that things get dodgy.

    1. It’s very true, there’s a huge difference between FI and ER. In my opinion, FI should definitely be the goal of every living soul in a first world country. The ER part, though, is completely optional. It won’t be right for everyone.

  20. Your entire point on inflation = absolutely beautiful my man. The entire post was on point.

    The last point: my husband likes his job enough but I’m the creative/entrepreneurial one so his fire could mean a partner in crime for me. Theres other things I want to with my life with my life parner. His main concern is health insurance (legit point since it is so so expensive right now.)

    1. Thanks, Lily! Very much appreciate the kind words. And yup, health insurance is definitely a legitimate concern. We do the Health Share thing that’s worked out very well for us thus far.

  21. Nice article! I am going to retire between 42 months and 8 years. It won’t quite be an early retirement since i will be 62 in 42 months. The thing i will look forward to most will be to wake up when i want to and whrn i am rested enough. Not from any alarm on my phone or watch!

  22. I can’t speak for all early retirees out there, but I’m guessing most have other sources of income that might actually match or beat their former salaries once they leave traditional work.. Once you start working on something your passionate about, income tends to rise to higher levels because money is by-product of great work. Like you said, most early retirees are retiring TO something, not FROM something.

  23. Early retirees are resourceful people. They figure stuff out and know when to scale back and forth. The one other thing you could have added is about health insurance. No idea how to navigate that in early retirement.

  24. What if you were a same sex couple? How would the “Health Share Thing” work out for you then? (Full disclosure: Hetero and even kinda religious)

    I agree that most arguments against FIRE are thin.

    But…the “health care costs in the US are hard to cover without an employer” argument remains, as far as I’m concerned, unresolved by this post and your comments.

    1. True, I didn’t mention healthcare in the article. But, I’m unconvinced that a single post about healthcare would magically provide a solution to a problem that is so dynamic and circumstantial. For us, a health share works. For others, it won’t.

      1. So health-care inflation isn’t a “legit concern” since you happen to be heterosexual and apparently unconcerned with an anti-choice agenda?

        Of course a single post won’t “magically provide a solution”. It’s a complicated problem…and a serious barrier to FI for a lot of people. Something that at least deserves mention in a post on this topic.

        By ignoring a legitimate argument against your ideal, you have failed your objective at not being an asshole in your response.

  25. Hello Steve and other aspiring early retirees… At the risk of being frowned upon, I’d like to invite you to retire in the Philippines in case of a recession. I’ll personally serve as a virtual guide. You’ll have more bang for your buck 🙂

  26. Good post Steve. My biggest criticism of the FIRE movement is the magical thinking that one you hit the 4% rule you are good no matter what because if things get bad you can:

    cut expenses
    get another job
    social security
    blah, blah, blah…

    And this stuff does work most of the time. But no one ever thinks that they will become sick, or get divorced, or they will want to increase their spending from 40k to 60k a year, or they will have kids, etc. They take their current situation and project it infinitely (50 years) into the future. Everyone assumes they will be able to jump back into the job market, although when you look at how many people in their 50s and 60s are on disability this may not always be true. There is a lot of hand waving and dismissing of legitimate concerns at times.

    And health care expenses absolutely destroy many people. Everyone who blogs about FIRE is young and healthy. It is really hard and expensive to hedge against the massive inflation in health care expenses as you age from 40-medicare age, even with insurance.

    I love the concept of FIRE. I think everyone should strive towards financial independence, but retiring early will be the wrong decision for some percentage of people due to multiple factors that are uncontrollable and unpredictable. I’m still going to do it, of course, but I know there is a risk.

    On the flip side though, many of the criticism of FIRE comes from people that simply do not understand the math behind it. It is possible for most people. Not everyone can retire at 39 or whatever, but almost no one should have to work into their mid 60’s if they make freedom their priority.

  27. I know early retirement is possible. I come from a family of early retirees. My parents retired in their early 50’s. My goal is to retire within the next 7 years or earlier if I win the lottery!

Leave a Reply