I’ve blogged several times about my short-term goals and my frugal rules, but I haven’t talked much so far about my long-range plan. Since I’m not Tim Ferris, how exactly do I intend to be able to retire in my thirties?
First, let me define what I mean when I talk about “early retirement.” By my midthirties (or, in the back-up “Leah” scenario, my early forties), I want to have enough reliable income from my nest egg to be able to cover my basic needs for the rest of my life. I will continue to add money to my investments after that point, but I would like to be able to take on only the amount and type of work that I want to do. I don’t want to have to work full-time or go into an office on a regular schedule (I hate getting up in the mornings, and I currently “sleep in” until ).
Right now, I can cover my basic needs (food, shelter, utilities, healthcare) with about $1000-$1300 a month. Last month I spent just over $1600 total. I didn’t feel deprived. With my all-time lows challenge, I plan to decrease my spending to the point where I do feel deprived, and then go back up one level so I’m at the level of “just enough.”
My savings goal is $2650 a month, which is about 75% of my net salary. I also make some money from freelance editing, which varies a lot by month. Since I’m busy enough at my day job, I’m not currently pursuing new freelance gigs, but am simply taking the ones that are offered to me.
So far, so good. But what about the variables?
There are a huge number of variables. I don’t know 100% if R. and I will be getting married. I don’t know if I’ll have a child (though I know I wouldn’t want more than two) and I don’t know how much it will cost if I do. I don’t know if I’ll buy a place—probably, eventually, but I have no idea when it will become financially wise and I don’t know if we’ll choose to move somewhere cheaper in order to make our real estate money go further.
And then there’s this recession. I believe the market will rebound eventually, but who knows how long that will take? My estimates are based on very conservative returns of 3–7%, but it’s always possible that even those returns won’t happen in the next eight years. Even if they do, inflation may very well increase my basic expenses pre-retirement.
I’ve read Your Money or Your Life and The Tightwad Gazette* enough times that I think the dangers of inflation are greatly exaggerated, or at the very least avoidable by making more frugal lifestyle choices. But when the price of a dozen eggs at Aldi doubles in just over a year, even I have to pay attention.
My Inflation Plan
I’m hoping my salary will keep pace with inflation—my current employer gives cost-of-living increases of about 4% a year. This is lower than the CPI rate of inflation, but probably pretty close to my personal rate of inflation, since I’m not directly affected by changes in oil prices. (Rising oil prices affect everyone through increased costs of transporting goods and increased costs of running public transportation. But I do think the rate of inflation of my personal expenses will be a bit lower than the norm since I don’t have a car to fill up.)
If it doesn’t, I have three options:
- Increase my income by looking for a more lucrative job. It’s probably possible. I’m underpaid for the job I’m doing. This is fair, since I’m also underqualified, but in a couple of years I’ll be “experienced” and could probably command a higher salary elsewhere, especially at a larger company.
- Seek out more freelance work. Again, I think this is pretty plausible. I have a good resume for my freelance work, there are thousands of possible clients, and the work isn’t dependent on my finding local clients.
- Decrease my savings. Last resort!
There are three other variables that are on my mind when I think about my future:
- Health insurance and healthcare expenses
- Marriage and family
- Buying a house or condo
Each of these deserves its own post, so I’ll save them for…da da...the future! (that was terrible, I know). Look for posts on my concerns and predictions in each of these areas sometime in the next few weeks. Subscribe to my RSS feed to make sure you don't miss out!