A couple years ago, I took my two daughters for a rare treat at a fast food restaurant. I went up to order and noticed that the lady working the cash register was at least 80. She was frail, having a difficult time with the job and did not look the slightest bit happy to be there. It was a sad scene.
Since that day, I have thought about her often. I don’t think she was working there for social aspects or to keep busy. I had worked at this same place when I was a teen and it was a miserable experience. My 15-year-old knees ached by the end of the shift. I can’t imagine what her knees felt like at 80. I have to conclude that she was working there because she needed the money. That thought terrifies me. Running out of money and not being able to enjoy life after years in the rat race is a nightmare for me.
At this point, you may be thinking that this lady’s story is an argument against early retirement. She must have planned badly and run out of money. However, I think that the lesson to be learned is quite the opposite. Successfully planning for early retirement is the best insurance against winding up working at the golden arches in your golden years. I’ll go a step beyond and insist that early retirement is less risky than the traditional retirement path. Here is why:
I know my financial situation very well
Anyone who is considering early retirement has to plan carefully (a topic for another post). I keep track of all income and expenses, dutifully logging them. I will do this up until the day I retire and after. When the day comes to bail from the rat race, I will have at least 1500 days of records to go by. Since I am hyper-aware of exactly how much money I need to live on, I will know exactly when I’m ready to retire.
Contrast this with the attitude I see among those whose retirement is decades away. My 44-year-old friend told me that he’s ‘too young to worry about retirement.’ People don’t like to think long term, so they don’t. What happens when 55 sneaks up on you and you have nothing saved? Go talk to that 80-year-old lady. Maybe they need someone for the drive-thru…
I have my priorities figured out and am a better person for it
Some would say that early retirement requires too many compromises. I disagree. I’ll never have a 4000 square foot home. I’ll never have a fancy car. I’m not going to be vacationing at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora. However, I’ve also come to realize that these things don’t provide long term happiness. That big house means higher taxes and more to clean. Expensive cars have expensive insurance and expensive parts. Some of my favorite vacations are where we go camping and leave all the electronics at home.
Since coming to terms with all of this, I am a happier person. I’m not jealous of others who have more. I am content with what I have and am better for it. Good times with friends and family is really what counts.
My health is the best its been in years
I can relate when I hear Girl Meets Debt fretting about turning 30. This year, I’ll be 40. Where did the time go?
On the other hand, it doesn’t bother me much because I’m in the best shape of my life. I recently lost my 15-pound gut and my blood pressure went down 20 points. A couple weeks ago, I did 192 flights on the mini-escalator-torture machine at the gym. That is almost climbing the
Sears Willis Tower twice!
Early retirement is a big motivation for staying in shape. Chronic medical conditions brought on by an unhealthy lifestyle would eat into my retirement budget. Also, what is the point of retirement if you can’t have an active life? My early retirement dreams are causing me to eat healthier and work out more. I feel great!
A side benefit of early retirement is that I’ll be able to exercise more once I don’t have a 9-5. I love biking, but I have no time to go for a 60-mile ride during the work week.
If I fail, its OK
My plan to retire in 1500 days may very well fail. It may take 1800 or even 2000 days to build my nest egg. If my portfolio falls flat on its’ face and I have to work an extra couple of years, then I’m retiring at 45 instead of 43. People have faced worse hardships.
Now, think about what happens if you’re planning to retire at 67 and fail. Are you going to be able to continue working at your current job when you’re in your 70’s? If you should lose your job, are you going to be able to find similar work at that age? I’m a software developer and I sure as hell don’t want to be competing with 25-year-old brains when I’m in my golden years.
Go for it
Friends give me grief all the time about my early retirement plans: “Your brain will turn to mush because you won’t be challenging your mental facilities with a job.” “You’ll die young!” “You’ll run out of money!” However, I argue with all of these points. I’m convinced that early retirement will make my life even better. I’ll be able to exercise more. I’ll know my future is secure because I’ve planned carefully. I’ll be able to write software all day (I actually enjoy writing code) as opposed to many of the boring tasks that I have to do currently at my job. I’ll have all the time in the world to do whatever I want, and it won’t be working in fast food.
Readers, what do you think? Do you have early retirement dreams and if so, how have they changed you? Do people argue with you about them?
*Mr. 1500 toy does not come with GI Joe Kung Fu grip, but he will come with a Mrs. 1500 action figure. The Mr. 1500 action figure, while finding Barbie very attractive, could never tolerate her dream houses and Corvettes.
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