Live Simply With Style

Retire Early

For most people, retirement age is 65—an arbitrary number that dates back to Germany in the 1920s when few people were expected to live that long, much less retire. In more recent times, corporations have found it advantageous to offer "early retirement" as a way of cutting costs. We define retirement as a change from working full-time for a company or organization to a more fluid, self-directed mode. In this retirement phase, you may choose to play, volunteer, even take on some traditional work—but it will be on your schedule.

In our case, we "retired" when Ford was 43 and Mara was 39. Since that moment, we've traveled and camped extensively, written several books, taken thousands of photographs, served on many volunteer boards, helped with projects we believe in, and become grandparents. Retirement is busy; it's far from boring.

To retire "early" requires you to have a plan for meeting your monetary needs and your psychological/emotional challenges. It's possible, if that's what you want.


A Quick Primer On How To Save:

Are you living adequately on your current income (you have shelter, food, clothing, transportation, etc.)? If so, then from this point forward, for every salary increase, direct deposit at least half into a savings account, the rest can be used to up your standard of living. For every gift or unusual monetary amount you receive, deposit 90% of it into the savings and spend 10% on your most pressing desire. This pattern can result in a large nest egg fairly quickly. As the savings increase, you can read on how to invest safely for additional returns (do it yourself; experts care about their income, not yours). Use the books below for more guidance.

A Quick Primer On Why You Need Less Than What The Media Proclaims:

When you are retired, you have time to analyze all your options and make smart decisions. You can elect to cook all your meals, shop thrift stores for clothes, exercise readily to lower the chance of medical bills, live somewhere that's beautiful and affordable. We're amazed at how much "bang for the buck" one can obtain with a little creative thinking. Once you understand what's a necessity and what's a nicety, you can be freed of compulsive money gathering.

A Quick Primer On Setting Your Goal:

We were able to retire early because we chose a life that would demand very little in the way of money. We camped and cooked as we slowly traveled North America. Our monthly outflow was less than one-third of our previous budget! Our savings, including the equity in the house we sold, provided enough interest and dividends to more than cover our new way of living. Consequently, over the next ten years, we were able to save and invest more than when we were both working two full-time jobs! Your "breakaway fund" will be different from ours depending on how you expect to live. Remember that frugality is not the same as denial, indeed, it may open up qualitatively better options.

A Quick Primer On Mental Challenges:

With new ventures available to early retirees such as travel, education, relocation, or writing the great American novel—you must realize that your experiences may not measure up to your dreams. You might endure a frustrating trip, encounter a poor teacher, find our new location full of unfriendly people, or run headlong into writer's block. The idea is to have balanced expectations and be prepared to adjust and adapt.

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