It has been nine months since I called it quits from work. A full-term pregnancy. It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve learned quite a bit about what it takes to actually turn early retirement into a reality. You gotta be a special kind of person.
Throughout these pages, I try to make one thing very clear: Early retirement is not for everyone. My goal with this blog isn’t to convince anyone that early retirement is “the way to go”. It won’t be for all people. And, that’s okay. The fact is most people would rather spend a lot more money during the course of their lives and, as a result, work a hell of a lot longer as a result. That’s cool, too.
There are a few not-so-obvious characteristics that make early retirement much, much sweeter.
Whatever floats your boat.
That said, early retirement is possible for a lot more of us than we probably think. But, early retirement takes guts. You need to be properly motivated. But, that’s not all. There are a few other not-so-obvious tricks that make early retirement way sweeter.
You ready for the knowledge drop? Here goes!
You don’t just “hate work”
Hating work is easy. I admit that the primary motivator of my early retirement has been a hatred of work. I despised working for companies on big projects with large customers. The status reports and performance reviews. The never-ending drive for advancement. The “always-on” email support. The “I quit” letter I always wanted to send. It wasn’t for me.
But, that hatred also wasn’t the only motivator.
You’re setting your ass up for failure if your only focus is retiring FROM, rather than TO, something.
If all you got is a hatred of work, you will find yourself miserable
I love what I do – I work with Information Technology. Especially web-based stuff. I’m all over it. I enjoy the challenge of creating something out of nothing. And, I love seeing something getting built that I had a hand in building. It’s like watching a baby being born…only, you know, a hell of a lot less messy. And painful.
If all you got is a hatred of work, you will probably find yourself miserable without anything else to do. Yes, work can suck, but there are other options out there aside from quitting your job without any prospects if you hate what you do. Sabbaticals work. Another career field might also work. More education? Maybe.
If hating work is all you got, try your best to maintain that full-time income while considering your options.
You have hobbies
There are only so many books you can read before starting to need something else in your life.
You will be bored if you don’t have hobbies. I promise you. The idea of waking up in the morning with an entire day’s worth of hours in front of you and ripe for the taking is cool to think about, but without something productive to fill those hours with, you’re going to drive yourself insane.
There are only so many books you can read before starting to need something else in your life. Something to make you feel productive and accomplished.
In my case, it’s partly the blog. As many of you know, I also work with J$ at Rockstar Finance designing the Directory system that we recently put together. Information Technology remains a huge time-fill in my day, and without the confines of a full-time job and huge clients on the other end of an email trail, I’m enjoying this much, much better.
Photography is another hobby of mine. I arm myself with my Sony A6300 almost everywhere that I go, and within the past couple of years, started a YouTube channel with my wife. We have over 4,300 subscribers thus far and we’re pumping out four to five videos every damn week. It takes a lot of time, but I enjoy it.
That’s what hobbies are supposed to be.
You have a plan to support yourself and your family
From paying the bills to meandering your way through the insanely complicated and expensive waters that surround the whole health care fiasco in the United States, early retirement cannot be complete without a means to actually support yourself without that dependable money train.
How will you support yourself without a full-time income?
Investments and real estate income through rental properties are both popular options. Side hustles are also wise choices. Know that your financial shit is on point before considering early retirement as an option.
For us, my wife and I keep a lot of cash in an Ally savings account. We have about three years of living expenses stashed away, which is our primary source of usable (read: spendable) cash to ride us through our first several years of early retirement.
We’re also hustling away at our side hustles, like income through this blog, YouTube and other affiliate networks. This income accounts for nearly a third – and some months, half – of our monthly expenses. Thanks to the market over the past several months, we’ve amassed an additional $50,000 in net worth since my wife and I quit our jobs. That doesn’t hurt, either.
A quick point: Our early retirement plan does not depend on our side hustles. Our extremely frugal lifestyle living in our Airstream 100% and traveling the country for a living keeps our costs way down, and our net worth of over $930,000 (as of the writing of this post) is more than enough to sustain our lifestyle. Our side hustles are for fun and for a little extra spending money. Why?
Cause I like breweries, and I’m retired. This is what being retired is all about.
You are willing to accept risk
I believe life gets more satisfying with the more risks we take.
Early retirement is a risk. There’s no doubt about it. Especially at our age (36 for me, 32 for my wife), we are taking a risk by calling it quits this early from corporate America. Both my wife and I are okay with that.
In fact, I like risk. I believe life gets more satisfying with the more risks we take. It’s boring otherwise, at least to me.
Life is too short to sit back and hope everything falls into place before making a move. We don’t need a couple million bucks to sustain our lives. We want to travel NOW while we are still young and active. Screw the whole “just one more year” syndrome. That just isn’t us.
And if you’re an early retiree (or future early retiree), it probably isn’t you, either. The earlier in life that you call it quits, the more risk you’re accepting. And good for you. Risks make us stronger people. We learn from every risk we take – to include the risks that we probably shouldn’t take. We become wiser people, confident in ourselves and the world around us.
I had absolutely no reservation with calling it quits at 35, and neither did my wife at 32.
You have a plan if the shit hits the fan
I’m confident and optimistic to a fault. I believe that things will work out because I believe that my wife and I have the flexibility and determination to make it happen. You might be the same way. But, what if things don’t work out? I’m not talking about stumbling blocks here and there. I’m talking catastrophe. The shit has hit the fan and splattered all over the place, creating one hell of a mess to clean up.
What happens then? Do you go back to work? Do you reduce your spending? Does your lifestyle lend itself to a drastic reduction in expenses in relatively short order? Or, maybe you have a bank account full of green backs sitting at the ready in case you need them. If this is the case, I wanna become friends with you! 😉
For my wife and I, we have a couple of tricks up our sleeves. As full-time travelers, our lifestyle can be almost as cheap as we need it to be. We might boondock more to save on campground fees. Or, perhaps we’d consider work camping at a campground, which puts you to work around the campground in exchange for a free full-hookup campsite. I could also hustle more with my blog and a few other opportunities that I could call in.
Basically, there are ways for us to cut expenses and increase income if it comes to it. And truthfully, you don’t need any of these fall backs if you are okay with going back to work. That’s a perfectly legit fail safe! Just be aware that if you’re out of work for five years, how realistic are your chances of rejoining the workforce doing what you were doing before you peaced out?
If you’re an early retiree – or an aspiring early retiree – how many of these traits fit your personality? Anyone out there completely averse to risk?
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.