one of the things that excites (and terrifies) us about early retirement is how different it is from the usual path of working until 60+ and retiring to florida. we often find ourselves thinking about the sign-off emails that we’ll send at work in, oh, 2.5 years. (yeah, kinda cart before the horse.) these pretend emails we write in our heads are full of answers to the questions we expect people to ask:
how did we do it? it’s not that hard actually… just spend less than you earn and save a lot…
what will be do instead? why, we have a long list of adventures to undertake and creative projects to tackle…
why didn’t we want to work forever? well, we wanted something different for our lives…
maybe by the end of 2017, early retirement won’t be such a subversive idea, and more people will be doing it. but we work in sectors with especially career-minded, ambitious, committed people, and we suspect we’ll get more than a few head scratches in reaction to our news. and we like knowing that. we like feeling like we’re breaking the mold, especially since we’ve been the very model of the mold for so much of our lives, or at least our careers and the schooling that preceded them.
we like the thought of doing something different, and bucking tradition. it makes us feel like we’ve figured out some secret, and we get to reap the benefits along with very few others. it’s completely silly and a little childish, but we sorta think we have the secret treasure map (along with all of you on a similar path!), and it makes us feel special. we bet you feel kinda special, too.
but us being us, we’ve also asked ourselves the questions that naturally follow: does that mean we want to buck all traditions? what are the other secret treasure maps out there that we could find and follow? should we forgo all traditional modes of living and live off the land somewhere, travel forever or adopt an rv lifestyle? what about a tiny house? what if we went entirely off-grid in every sense of the word, or join a commune, or volunteer to go to mars? what if we moved to the high planes of south america and got a flock of llamas? what if we give all our money away and walk the earth like the ascetics of india?
somewhere in that conversation, we start to tense up and get that nervous look in our eyes, because we don’t want those things. despite the ways we’re choosing to live nontraditionally (early retirement, not having kids, making earth-friendly choices like buying food with no packaging, etc.), we’re still down with tradition in some pretty big ways. and we’re okay with that, too.
planning for early retirement has been a great thought experiment in finding our guard rails for when we want to buck tradition and when we want to embrace it. we absolutely expect our vision to evolve and maybe even change abruptly over time, but right now here’s where we are:
quit our jobs by the end of 2017, regardless of how much we’ve saved. this one is nontraditional even in the early retirement world. our financial independence day is date-bound, not dollar-bound, for reasons that will be clear when we pull the ripcord. we’re determined to get as close to our ideal number by that date, but we’re committed to walking away from our careers and hustling to make it work regardless.
have a home base that’s comfortable and private. even though we plan to travel a lot of the time after we quit, we definitely desire a home to come back to, preferably one with no shared walls. for now, that means staying put in our house, but we could downsize in the future. we don’t ever expect to be full-time nomads, though, nor full-time rv’ers. part of it is practical — we have a lot of outdoor gear that needs a home, most of which is essential to our outdoor passions — and part of it is metaphysical — we want the grounding effect of a proper “home.” the building, the permanent address, the memories, all of it.
embrace discomfort when we travel. while we want our home to be comfortable, we don’t want that for our travels. just the thought of a cruise makes us mildly nauseous (and not just the idea of seasickness), and same goes for a group bus tour. instead, we love getting off the beaten path, roughing it as much as possible, and experiencing life that you can’t find through the kind of sheltered travels that so many americans limit themselves to. we love camping, and someday plan to have a camping vehicle so we can criss-cross the continent, visit every national and provincial park, and drive down to tierra del fuego — but we don’t plan to get a big, honking rv. we plan to get a little tiny camping van with just the bare essentials. and even though we’re way past the “youth hostel” age cut-off, we’re still game to stay in hostels and pensions around the world, or couch surf with local families. good things happen when you get off the gringo trail. and sometimes the bad things that also happen make for the best stories and personal growth.
spend a lot of time with family. though we aren’t creating a family of our own, unless you count dogs, we are tight with both of our families and want to spend as much time with them as we can in retirement. sure, it might mean we park our hippie camping van in front of their homes for longer than their neighbors would like, or meet up for outdoor adventures, but family is a priority for us.
embrace radical self-reliance. we’ve never been to burning man, though we expect that to change in retirement, but one of its precepts that we love is “radical self-reliance,” the idea of being totally prepared for all situations, and taking responsibility for yourself in all situations. given society’s focus on outsourcing everything possible, this is a pretty nontraditional idea, one we wrote about here. of course we mean the basics — we’ll mow our own lawn, shovel our own snow, renovate our own kitchen — but we also envision making our own clothes, making virtually all of our own food (including condiments!), and making every household product we use (to supplement the beauty products we already make). this self-reliance is as much about saving money as it is about being active participants in our own lives. we want to know how to do everything, be able to handle our business even if we can’t afford to pay someone for their help, and get the satisfaction that comes from knowing we did something. just like with climbing mountains, we don’t crave the easy way.
other questions we haven’t figured out yet. will we dumpster dive for food? we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. how about live a car-free existence? doubtful. and some answers are obvious: we plan to stay married, for example. that’s pretty darn traditional. ;-)
that leads us to a big set of questions for you all today! so curious what you’ve figured out for your own life and future. what traditions are you rejecting or embracing? what have we not considered for our own list? any predictions for the future of the early retirement idea? will it come to be seen as mainstream anytime soon? will young people start planning their lives and careers differently as a matter of course, not divergence? we’d love to hear your thoughts!