Wow, look at all that I gave up. I held a pretty good work-from-home job that allowed me to work 100% remote, get paid damn good money and live a relatively stress and carefree life, all the while enjoying a dependable paycheck. I gave all that up to retire early.
What is wrong with me?
I recognize how good I had it before hanging up my hat in 2016. There are a lot of people who would love to have been in that position.
And I would be an idiot not to reflect on what exactly I gave up to achieve financial independence and early retirement from full-time work. The fact is life doesn’t suck, and frankly, never really has.
I had a good job that wasn’t at risk of ever going away. It’s dependable. My boss was a great guy.
I got to wake up every morning, take a shower and stumble a couple of steps to my computer and start work. No commute. No traffic.
This job allowed me to be 100% location independent, and considering our lifestyle of full-time travel, that job very much appeared to have been a match made in heaven. I got to work from anywhere so long as I had an internet connection. I made good money and brought in that almighty paycheck every two weeks.
Why did I decide to give all that up?
Life phases of an early retiree to the rescue!
Anyone who has ever retired from full-time work gets to experience at least two phases of their life. The first phase is the accumulation phase, acquired through full-time jobs and occasional long working hours, and the second becomes what I like to call the freedom phase.
When I consider the position that I was in when I worked a full-time job – and especially all that I gave up, it is helpful to remember that jobs keep us trapped in that first phase of life, the phase that demands full-time work in order to pay the bills and save hordes of cash.
Sure, this part of my life is going extremely well, but that is also because I actively made the choices necessary for this phase to have turned out relatively awesome.
Most of us have a hell of a lot more control over our lives than we think or care to admit.
But as emotionally-driven human beings, it is natural to second guess the decision to give up everything that we have, all that stuff we bought and those things that we’ve built for ourselves over the years as full-time drones of corporate America.
“I’m in a good place,” you might say. “Yes, I’d love to retire early, but look at what I’ve built for myself. Look at how much money I am making. Do I really want to give this all up?”
In my case, the answer is a resounding “YES”, and the reason is simple. Why prolong the accumulation phase if you have already accumulated?
If the accumulation phase turned out this awesome, it only follows that the freedom phase, which is the easier of the two phases, will turn out even more awesome. In fact, both my wife and I have ensured that!
Over the years, we learn from our mistakes, develop a sense of who we truly are and what makes us tick, and we begin to feel more and more comfortable as people living in society.
We find comfort in whatever truly makes us happy and devise a way to maintain a relatively productive life even through building careers, changing jobs, getting married (and divorced), having kids, dogs, buying and selling homes, jury duty, whatever.
Let’s face it: the first phase is the hardest part of life! And if we managed to build such a successful existence for ourselves even throughout the challenges, tribulations and relentless distractions of the accumulation phase, what makes us believe that the freedom phase will be any less awesome?
What prevents us from making good decisions here, too?
The steady job, nice paycheck and comfortable working conditions all went away. And I’m glad to have given all that up because the truth of the matter is something truly wonderful.
I am not “giving up” what I have built as much as I am transitioning into my freedom phase, and that is the phase of life that I actually want to be in. Badly.
In 2016, it was time to make that transition.
I am thankful to have accomplished so much as a mid-30’s schmuck, but those accomplishments are phase one accomplishments. Now it’s time for the next phase of my life, the phase where I reap the rewards from those accomplishments and begin living the life that I truly want to live.
After all, don’t most of us painstakingly go through phase one so we can enjoy phase two? Forget “how good you have it”. Look at the numbers. Consider your goals. If you are prepared to transition into the freedom phase of your life, then you need
You’re moving on. It’s old hat.
Because, almost by definition, the freedom phase will be better – regardless of what you happened to build or the successes that you enjoyed while working full-time for a nameless corporation.
Congratulate yourself on a job well done, reward yourself by pounding a gallon of ice cream for dinner, and then begin tackling your new life by putting into place the foundation necessary to achieve similar successes.
Believe me, success will become you in your next phase of life.
After all, you’ve become used to success. You made enough mistakes in your life to know how to avoid them in the future. You are comfortable, experienced and skilled in your own skin and instinctively know when something feels right – and wrong.
In other words, you’ve mastered your life and totally rocked the hardest part of it. Now, you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Enjoy it. Grab it. And never look back.
This post was originally published in June 2016 but has been updated using the Revise and Republish content strategy.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.