How to ER: Early retirees leave their comfort zone

41 thoughts on “How to ER: Early retirees leave their comfort zone”

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Staying comfortable doesn’t lead to being, or loving, a remarkable life. I’ll be the first to admit that I routinely stay in my comfort zone but I have been trying to venture out more and more lately and have been seeing positive results, like paying off our student loans quickly. I can’t remember who said it but I love this quote “Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens.” If you never make yourself uncomfortable, then you will never push yourself to do something truly great, there just isn’t the incentive. Great post Steve!

    1. Thanks Thias – appreciate your comment. I like that quote. The magic does indeed happen outside of where we find the majority of our comfort, because magic isn’t doing the same things that we’ve always done. Magic is something very, very different. 🙂

  2. I have found my greatest successes have come when I force myself out of my comfort zone. Before fully commuting myself to saving most of what I earn, I, too was on the earn and spend program. It’s amazing how comfortable we are to slave away at jobs each day, only to have junk to show for it. Junk in the form of big houses, expensive cars, big cable pa makes, etc. And what do people look forward to most each year? Their vacations. All we want is our time. Earn and spend doesn’t get us there. Since feeling the FIRE, my comfort zone has changed to earn and save. I couldn’t imagine going back to my old way of living.

    What’s that saying…
    “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” -Neale Donald Walsch

    Mrs. Mad Money Monster

    1. Spot on, Mrs. MMM. Junk in the form of homes in suburbs, cars and other expensive toys was the order of the day for me too. I had never heard of that particular quote, but I like it!

  3. “A couple of years ago, I had a routine in life that I very rarely wavered from.” I think that’s the key breaking the routine, those bad habits we fall into and just continue to repeat. We did them for years and racked up six figures in debt it wasn’t until we made a conscious decisions to change the routine and those habits did we begin to win with our money.

    1. What a change, Brian – from six figure debt numbers to the path towards financial independence. Definitely well done, and I bet your future self will thank you for the choices you’re making today. 🙂

  4. FYI 70% of sunglasses in the world are made by one company named Luxxotica and yes they manufacture Oakleys.

    And yes they’ll make anything from cheapie sunglasses, mid-range, to the expensive brand name ones. I used to shop out of habit like buying too much makeup (and I’m a minimalist with makeup!), eating out a lot, and once I scaled back I found a new comfort zone. I no longer shop out of habit.

    I do have an iPhone and an HDTV (no cable, I play video games and movies) but this was all saved up for before it was bought. Yes I do have a couple of toys. I’ll wait months before getting something just to see if I still want it. Sometimes I’m like a goldfish and I lose interest in something pretty fast, so I’ve learned to wait. I was the last of my friends to buy a smartphone.

    I also refocused focus my attention on hobbies like drawing, reading, hiking. I find them more fulfilling than going to a store. A typical night for me and my boyfriend is watching Netflix, playing a video game, drawing, reading, knitting (my thing, not his, ha ha), etc. =)

    My track coach in high school used to say that our ability to run is mind-based too. I’ve found pretty much 99% of things in this world are mind-based. =)

    1. Oh, I definitely agree 100% – life is all in the head. Our minds will tell us some pretty interesting things, and those things may or may not actually help us to better our lives. But once we take control of our minds, we control our very livelihoods! 🙂

      Thanks for the comment, Jaime!

  5. I’m curious – did stepping out of your comfort zone challenge your identity? So as you were making all of these changes in your life, was there a part of you that felt like you were losing yourself and not being true to who you are? I just read this fascinating article about identity and behavior/attitude change, and I’m curious what that looked like for you. Thanks Steve!

    1. Hey Ernie – for me, no, it wasn’t like that at all. But then again, I was changing my life ultimately because I found a problem with how I was living before. If anything, I realized that I wasn’t being true to myself by sticking to the same old routine, day after day. I needed to step outside of my comfort zone to regain my identity. I had lost it in my drive towards needless consumption. 🙂

      1. That makes sense. Looking back I can see seasons in my own life where I knew I should be handling my finances differently but didn’t want to simply because I failed to find a problem with how I was currently living. I’m very thankful my eyes have been opened to a different way of handling money!

  6. I used to be scared to step out of my comfort zone and now I somewhat thrive on it. Conventional norms are boring. I want to chart my own path which doesn’t exactly come natural to me, it’s been an acquired taste along the way. I sold my Cadillac too, I stopped going out so much, I care less about my clothes, and say “no” more often.

    1. Hey Fervent – yeah, it has definitely been an acquired taste for me as well. I think just like anything, it takes practice, and the more that we do it, the better we get.

  7. Living in your comfort zone all the time means there’s no growth. You’re just doing things you’re comfortable with and you won’t challenge yourself at all. Test our comfort zone is extremely important in changing your life. Great post.

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Tawcan – never getting out of your comfort zone ultimately means no growth…or at least, very little. And what fun is life anyway if you’re always just going through the motions of your routine?

  8. Great article Steve!

    Fear is such a powerful emotion that people avoid. And yet, if we all examine our lives, we’d find that the moments we walked beyond fear, is where our life’s greatest treasures were found.

    I just got back from a 6 day Tony Robbin’s seminar, and he kept saying, “What if Life doesn’t happen TO you, but rather FOR you?” Such a powerful and simple question that can literally change the quality of our lives.

    Thanks for being an example of someone willing to walk outside your comfort zone, so that you can inspire others to do the same.

    Life is too short to live comfortably. 🙂

    1. “Life is too short to live comfortably” – Ha, perfect! While there’s nothing wrong with comforts here and there, if we always remain in what we feel is comfortable, then we’re missing out on everything that life can offer. And I think you’re right, it’s very, very much a fear-based decision.

  9. Definitely agree that stepping out of your comfort zone is critical for growth, and growth is critical for success.

    But sometimes you need to stay in your comfort zone. Case in point, raising a baby, I’m so far out of my comfort zone so far, that I’m growing even faster than he is. At the same time, the rest of my life is entirely routine, or at least as routine as I can make it. My slim grasp on sanity depends on maintaining that routine in every other aspect of my life, in order to have the mental capacity to grow so rapidly elsewhere.

    Change is good. Growth is good. Just keep it below the redline so you don’t blow your engine…

    1. Point well taken, Jack – if your entire life is lived outside of what you consider comfortable, that definitely can be a source of stress and frustration. You’re being forced outside of that zone with raising a baby, for sure! 🙂

  10. I often wonder about my comfort zone in terms of my career. I’ve changed districts, grade levels, and content areas – but I often come to the conclusion that I’d be a lot farther along in goals like finance if I switched careers entirely. There IS money in teaching, contrary to what some might say. The problem is it takes a few decades to get there. But I figure if I’m already doing what I love, why leave my comfort zone in terms of my career? I don’t want to chase dollars. I guess I’m happy to push outside it in some areas of my life, but I also don’t want to leave my comfort zone only for the sake of leaving it if that makes sense 🙂

    1. Hey Penny – I completely understand what you’re saying, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with staying where you are if you truly do enjoy your job. Changing careers just for the sake of money I think you’d probably regret in the long run anyway.

      Thanks for your comment!

  11. Powerful article!
    I couldn’t agree more, it’s all in the mind. But I’d say it’s possible to gradually change things without getting out of your comfort zone. Arguably, I stepped of my comfort zone by changing job positions (with no salary increase) in my company. And that backfired: I hate the job, and it put me on the sidelines for a promotion (while I was on track to get a promotion in the former position)

    Sometimes, doing *more* of the stuff from your comfort zone is exactly what you need to become successful. My own hobby is now a side income, and it’s right there in the middle of my comfort zone.

    1. Hey Stockbeard – I would argue that the fact you’re even engaging yourself in a side hustle means you stepped outside of your comfort zone to make that happen. You may be very comfortable with what you’re doing in that hustle, but there are a LOT of people who just can’t make that leap into moving their passion into a money-making endeavor. You’re probably outside of your comfort zone more than you think! 🙂

  12. Hey Steve, I’m on board with leaving the comfort zone! I think some other great areas it applies to are choosing a college (getting away from home), career (don’t be afraid to take a promotion elsewhere), and a lot of other areas. Top performers are usually comfortable doing something new and different.

    1. Good call, Adam – agreed, there are so many areas of our lives where getting out of our comfort zones can have a truly amazing impact. You hit on several. I chose a college a thousand or so miles away from home! 🙂

  13. It’s easy to live life without making progress on long-term goals. Small sacrifices along the way have snowballed into huge savings and financial independence for us. Early retirement is now just 3+ months away. We’re so far ahead, we’ve committed all of our earnings in this final year of work to future philanthropy.

    1. 3+ months away is awesome! I’m looking forward to following your progress, and especially how early retirement treats you come March or so. Well done!

  14. Breaking habits is what started it for us. We realized our monthly credit card bill was always ridiculously high, so we did a 2 month challenge to see if we could cut it by 20%. We ended up cutting it by almost 50% just by not going shopping when we’re bored, and mindless spending like you mentioned. It was a few years after that before we got onto the FI train, and for me, even longer, but mainly because it was outside of my comfort zone and accepted school of thought on how you function in society. You don’t just quit a high paying job you love just to have time to do stuff you WANT to do, lol.

    Recently with this oil industry volatility, it has made us question and play out multiple what if scenarios and the biggest thing that came from it? We realized we’re totally comfortable with our spending and lifestyle now, which is sustainable with less paying jobs and our savings where it is currently. More importantly, we both would be ok finding more rewarding, time freeing jobs if it meant we were able to up our quality of life, even though we may not be 100% to our FI number. It will be quite the decision making time if we both get let go.

    Our comfort zone has definitely shifted quite a bit from a few years ago, and it will probably keep shifting as our situations change. Like you said, it didn’t happen overnight, but it has happened and it’s been awesome for peace of mind that comes along with it.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mr. SSC – I see a lot of my past in what you described. And, the ability to honestly say that you’re comfortable with your level of spending relative to your net worth I think is the most important element of retiring early. If you can look yourself in the mirror and state unequivocally that you’re comfortable with everything, then hey, I tend to believe that’s all we really need.

  15. The most uncomfortable I’ve felt while saving for FIRE was the fear of offending others with my frugality. You don’t want to be known as cheap!

    Fortunately I got past those feelings and followed my own path. Maybe I dropped some friends along the way but it’s hard to tell since I’m rich enough with friendships these days. And they are probably more authentic friendships too!

    1. True that regarding authentic friends. If friendship means spending money, then I’d question how well-rooted that relationship is in the first place. 🙂

  16. I am glad I just stumbled onto your site and your journey to FI. I used to follow the DividentMantra site but it is now ruined. I miss following Jason’s journey and posts.

    I enjoy reading how other people reach FI.

    I am not sure if I would call it stepping out of our comfort zone. We just realized what is important and made changes. In 2009, my wife and I went to Hawaii and we realized that we were SO happy with just our backpacks. When we returned home, we stopped buying dust collectors for the house and stuff for us. We stopped consumering and just buy essentials. We cut 15K from our expenses and we currently save 86% of our income in hopes to retire in Hawaii one day. It is our pipe dream. We realized that buying excessive stuff does not make us more happy.

    We are over 50 and reached FI two years ago by investing only in muni bonds for tax free passive income. Since we worry too much, we try to have passive income triple our expenses in case one income stream is gone. We have munis, 401K and pensions. Our current plan is to work till 55 to double our pensions and to get medical coverage when we retire. Our company is outsourcing so it would be nice to get a package instead of working till 55.

    You are making great progress toward your goal at such a young age! I wish we realized what is really important in life 20+ years ago instead of wasting so much money for so many years.

    1. Hi AJ – that sounds like a wonderful plan – I know someone who’s dream is to retire in Hawaii as well, but his involves the typical lifestyle of spending money, which’ll keep him at the office long after you’re retired. Good for you for prioritizing your future. Retirement won’t be long now! 🙂

      And I agree regarding Dividend Mantra’s site. I too enjoyed reading his journey.

  17. High five for changing so many of your ways — I know your story, but I still think it’s super impressive that you were willing to sell so many of your old “toys” and change your habits so dramatically. While we can’t say for sure since we’re not early retired yet, we sure feel like we’re asking some tough questions and getting outside of our comfort zone on the way to early retirement. But then this funny thing happens when you get outside your comfort zone: suddenly that comfort zone gets bigger, and you’re back in it. So you have to work to get back outside it again and again, because it keeps expanding. 🙂 Nice problem to have, wouldn’t you say?

    1. Ha! True that, ONL – our comfort zones not only change, but they expand as well, and a continuous drive to keep ourselves improving through goal-oriented endeavors is the only thing standing between us achieving our own definitions of success and, well, living a life of mediocrity! 🙂

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