there is no downplaying this fact: retiring early is a huge gamble.
at least one of us is not a gambler by nature, preferring things to be predictable, controllable and known (even if those concepts are themselves just illusions). but this is, for us, that rare thing in life that’s so worth doing that it’s also worth a pretty substantial risk.
taking ourselves out of the job market when careers are only requiring more and more skills. banking on investments when the stock market never comes with guarantees. giving up well-paid jobs in exchange for no pay at all. these are all big risks. the kind of risks that are easy to lose sleep over.
in addition to saving what we believe will allow us to live comfortably indefinitely, we have several back-up measures in place, just in case:
- health insurance — to insulate us from bankrupting medical expenses
- owning our house — we could always sell and downsize or move to free up money
- emergency fund — we have some extra dollars socked away outside of our money to live on, to pay for unexpected emergencies
- flexible attitude — we can always live on less if we need to, by traveling less or not at all, avoiding non-essential purchases, curbing our grocery budget, etc.
- willingness to work if needed — as we talked about in our definition of retirement, we don’t want to have to work, but we certainly will if we need to.
of course, none of these measures will guarantee anything, but nothing in life is guaranteed. we could lose our jobs tomorrow and have all of this fall through before we ever retire. we could get sick or get in an accident. life is about balancing risks, and for us, this plan with backup measures in place feels like an acceptable level of risk.
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Conversely, you also need to evaluate the opportunity cost risk of wasting months and years of your young adult life tethered to a work desk when you could have used all of that time pursuing much more enjoyable, satisfying, and rewarding pursuits. As the saying goes, no one ever lies on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time putting in hours at the office.