My name is Steve, and I just retired at the age of 35
It’s pretty damn surreal right now. I have achieved my ultimate goal. As of this year, I am done with full-time work. Like, “done” done. Unless something absolutely catastrophic happens, I will never set foot in an office again as a member of their full-time work staff. That’s it, and at the age of 35, I’m free.
Best damn Christmas gift ever. My 401k is stacked, and now I am free to pursue everything that I’ve always wanted to pursue but felt like I couldn’t due to the amount of time it takes to maintain a full-time job. If I’m honest with myself, today isn’t just the day that I officially retire.
If all goes according to plan, today is the day where I put up or shut up. It’s the day to see if my investment and saving strategy has truly worked, offering me the sense of freedom of a less regimented lifestyle and financial security.
All that talk about happiness and finding your true passion in life? Blog post after blog post about working your ass off in business month after month to receive an income that allows for future financial independence and early retirement? About the plan of retiring TO something rather than FROM something? Yeah, it’s all culminating right-the-hell-now. It’s my time. “Okay Steve, now do it!” It’s time to put my money where my mouth is, literally. It’s time to make the things I actually care about, happen.
Before going into talking about this major shift in lifestyle I am about to experience, I’d like to reiterate how much hard work goes in achieving early retirement.
How much money do I need to retire at 35?
When I began carving out my plan to retire by the age of 35, there were a few important things I thought about and did in order to successfully pull it off.
First, I needed to define how much I should be saving each year leading up to my end goal. I did this by taking a deeper look into my current cost of living and created a spreadsheet that projected how much my wife and I would need to save in order to live comfortably for the rest our lives while not working. I reconciled those current and predicted future cost of living with my yearly income and focused on saving a big percentage of my salary and making significant contributions to my IRA.
I also refined my investment portfolio and got a proper evaluation of my estate in order to gain a better understanding of my net worth and how much I would need to grow it before I stopped working.
How much money do you need to retire comfortably?
Many people ask me this question and the answer is relative. You need to define what “comfortable” means to you. For me and my wife, we like to live a fairly simple life. We are not extravagant people. Yes, we splurge here and there on food and entertainment, but one thing we knew for sure is that we needed to be saving and consistently investing in our future estate in order to eventually be able to stop working.
Without saving, there is no early retirement.
In sum, take a look at your personal finances and list out the things you’d like to maintain in your current lifestyle so you can set yourself up to live comfortably when you retire. By analyzing your current and future cost of living, you can create a saving plan the allows you to achieve your early retirement goals.
Now to the fun stuff...
Yes, it’s awesome knowing that I won’t have to sit through another mind-numbing conference call again. Or come up with a bunch of bullshit to fill my annual performance review. Or be asked to fly across the country and spend weeks at a client site doing work I don’t particularly enjoy.
Or listen to senior management stroke our collective egos so hard that it would literally make me hurt. Or “All Staff” meetings where you’re fed cheap pizza to avoid paying for your time.
But, it’s more than that too.
It is my time to ditch the primary accumulation phase of my life and usher in the phase where I actually do those things that I want to do. investing my time doing more self-nurturing and social activities. No looking back. No sabbatical. No "I might return to work one day". When it comes to my early retirement strategy and pursuing my passion projects, I'm all in.
It's starting off on the right track.
First, I am working with the one and only J$ at Rockstar Finance on some awesome projects – projects that I thoroughly enjoy. I am also working with a friend of ours here in Tucson to produce some video content. I am toying with the idea of offering videography services to people in the future, and it would all build on the work that I’m putting in right now.
I have the luxury of pursuing these projects without an expectation of receiving income. But on the other hand, I know it will come. My wife and I designed our retirement plans so we won’t NEED to earn another dime in retirement, but the more additional income we earn doing things that we enjoy, the larger our estate will be and the more comfortable our retirement will be – and by that, I mean more visits to breweries around the country each year.
While we may not need our comfort zones as much as we once had, we do always try to save and be cognizant of growing our IRA in order to maintain a high level of comfort for the future.
What am I looking forward to the most?
Intentional focus - Intentional focus – I am at an age where I am looking forward to the new-found freedom of investing my time in the things that bring value and satisfaction to my life. Every day that I sit down at my computer in the morning is another day to focus completely and entirely on my passion projects. This blog. Other web development projects. Photography and videography.
The truth is that full-time jobs require an incredible investment of time and attention – and the more income we make, the more attention that we generally need to devote to these jobs. By the end of the day, many of us are drained – both physically and mentally. Our ability to focus on other projects becomes compromised and inhibited by this constant “attention suck,” and we do this year on end.
Taking breaks - I am looking forward to the days where I can take a break if I feel like I need one without answering to people like my boss or submitting a request for PTO (Paid Time Off…vacation).
Perhaps I will re-design my week so Wednesday and Thursday becomes my weekend. But truthfully, and in true “Steve fashion’, I’ll probably just play this by ear and take each day as it comes. If I feel like I need a day off, I’ll take it rather than having to save up vacation days for when I am feeling totally drained. Otherwise, I’ll focus and work, even if that means that I am engaged and focused six or seven days a week. If it feels good, I’m doing it.
There is a new sense of security that comes from doing work you actually enjoy…weekends aren’t quite as necessary to replenish your excitement reserves that full-time work steals from us every freaking work day.
Living off peak - From a social standpoint, I want to live off peak and stay in on the weekends when everybody else is out and about flooding the streets with traffic, creating long lines at stores and crowding entertainment venues. The popular peak times during the day should be when my wife and I stay in.
When you aren’t working a full-time job during the day, you get to use that time to take care of those “life tasks”, like grocery shopping, renewing your driver’s license, doing your tax returns, gassing up your car – at 10am instead of rush hour or the weekend.
A few other things that come to mind:
- Checking one less email account
- Keeping fewer machines powered up (work laptop)
- No more performance reviews at the end of the year
- Unlimited vacation time
- Nap time no longer a frowned-upon activity!
- No more performance reviews
- Did I mention no more performance reviews?
I just retired - now what?
We are at my in-laws through the day after Christmas, then we drive to my folk's place to spend a little time with them - and I get to enjoy all that with no work horizon. There's nothing that I am dreading come January 2nd. No conference calls. No time sheets. When we return to Tucson, I begin my next life, which my wife has promised will include regular "Honey Do" lists because, you know...I got the time or something like that.
But right now, my task is to enjoy this feeling of immense satisfaction. Job done, but the real work is just beginning. My life's work, free of holding down a job. It should be an amazing ride.
Today feels like a damn good day for a hike.