Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why Retire Early?

I'll give only the short answer here--you don't need to know all of my political, educational, and personal finance views right up front. Basically, I've spent way too much of my life following a schedule. A friend once said my parents probably scheduled my conception in their Day-timers, and it's entirely possible. I'm not and have never been terribly busy, but almost every day of my life (the exceptions being vacations and short periods of unemployment), I've had somewhere I was supposed to be. First it was daycare, then school, then college classes, then work. I've never had a big break between commitments--since age 17, the longest I've ever been unemployed was a month.

I have a lot of interests and a lot of things I want to do before I die. I want the freedom to explore these things. Most of all, I want my time to be my own. I've never had enough time to devote to my interests. I read several books a week. I work on my novel almost every day. I send emails to people who know about my interests and I get emails back and I surf blogs and websites until I get eyestrain. It's not enough, and I don't think it can ever be enough when most of my waking hours are spent working, getting to work, or thinking about work.

I want to have time to explore my interests, and I want to be able to wake up in the morning and decide what to do with my day. I want to be able to sleep until 9:00. I want to be able to spend the entire day at the library or at a thrift shop. I want to be able to take a vacation without having to calculate my vacation time and get it cleared with my boss and make sure it doesn't conflict with anything important at work.

Self-employment would give me a lot of those things. A few months ago, I had a choice between trying to grow my freelancing business into a full-time income and taking the job I'm in now. I decided the job offer was too good to pass up (my title includes the word "director," and I'm 27), but I still freelance and feel pretty confident that I could expand it into a full-time gig with a minimum of effort. But ultimately, I don't want to be spending forty or more hours on that every week either. I want to be free of having to spend my time earning or trying to earn money.

I could also be a Bohemian. Squat in abandoned buildings with a group of friends. Sing on the street. Sell vintage clothes on eBay. Dumpster dive. Actually, a lot of that is appealing to me, and some of it I hope to explore as part of my early retirement. But I don't burn my candle at both ends, I want to live to be old, and I don't want to be poor and old. There's no romance in living without heat and health insurance when you're 60. (There's not much romance in it now. I like telling stories about the unheated apartment I lived in, but it sure wasn't fun when I was wearing my hat indoors and couldn't afford to put my clothes in the dryer at the laundromat.)

I don't want to quit my job at 35 and never earn another cent again. My goal is to be able to quit full-time employment in my thirties and never have to work again--to have enough investment income to meet my basic needs. The authors of Your Money or Your Life call this financial independence (FI). I like Charles Long's idea of "casual income"--earning money from things like selling off extra possessions or doing an odd job for someone when the opportunity presents itself. I also have some business ideas I'd like to explore--starting a publishing company, freelance writing, a decluttering service--all of which could potentially earn me extra money post-FI. But these are things I'd do mainly for fulfillment rather than pay. That's what I want my life to be about: exploring my interests and finding fulfillment. And if pinching my pennies until they squeak earns me the time to do that, it's more than worthwhile.


Super Saver said...


Good luck on your goal of retiring by 35. I look forward to reading about your progress.

Scarlett said...


- Elizabeth

Sam said...

Found your blog via Early Retirement Extreme. I am 27 and married like yourself and plan on retiring at 35. I blog about my goals in a rather holistic fashion. I too look forward to reading about your journey.

calgirlfinance said...

Great blog! I found you on Early Retirement Extreme. I also have it as my goal to retire when I am 35, but I am a bit older than you since I am 28 right now. I have a lot of challenges to my goal - one being that my husband does not see the value of early retirement. I am hoping that reading Your Money or Your Life together will give him a more positive view of retirement. He thinks of it as sitting at home, doing nothing all day. I know I would get bored doing that. I want to have the freedom to stay at home with my future children! I think I would probably want to work part time for the social interaction. So my goal at 35 is to have enough alternate income and investment to contribute to our household. My husband is still planning on working, but maybe he will change his mind after our reading!

Scarlett said...

@calgirl: Thanks for commenting! My boyfriend would love to retire early, but I haven't been able to convince him yet that it's possible. I'd like to stay home with my possible child/children, too--in particular, to be able to homeschool he/she/them.

Anonymous said...

E, I am financially independent and doing many of the things you write interest you. I am a writer and publisher, for instance. I also rehab real estate, which you don't mention.

I too pursured total FI until I got there and now, looking back, I realize total FI was not necessary (for me, your mileage may vary).

Now, this might sound funny, but here it is: three day workweeks leave me enough time to satisfy my pursuit of other interests.

You can read more on my blog here: http://thedebtwhisperer.blogspot.com/2008/02/three-day-workweek.html

I think I spent ten years more than was necessary working five days a week when I could have jumped to a three day work week that much sooner.

Since FI, I have found the following issues impacting my nest egg: Inflation, investment yield, and health insurance costs. Working three days a week, instead of relying entirely on investment income relieves a lot of the pressure on your savings.

And, besides, I like working, just not five days a week! Good luck, Ron.

Scarlett said...


Thanks for commenting! It's great to hear from someone who's achieved FI. Part-time work (or, more likely, freelance work) is definitely something I'm keeping in mind as my nest egg grows.

- Elizabeth

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