Update: See the end of the post for a complete list of links to those who’ve taken the challenge. And if we’ve missed one, please leave it in the comments so we can add it!
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost, excerpt from The Road Not Taken
Something funny has recently struck us: The whole notion of early retirement is this crazy divergent, even subversive, act, one that is still super rare in the big world outside of this FIRE blog community. To retire early, you have to reject a lot of conventional wisdom and social norms, and think differently. And yet, there seems to be developing something like the Early Retirement Commandments, with certain key tenets. Here’s what an excerpt of the Commandments might look like:
Thou shalt live by the 4 percent rule, excepting when thou art more conservative, and then thou shall live by the 3 percent rule.
Thou shalt make thy choosing between Vanguard index funds or dividend-yielding stocks.
Thou shalt employ the backdoor Roth conversion if thy 401(k) is of goodly size, which it must be, because thou has maxed it lo these many years.
Thou shalt be frugal in all things, and shall not partake of worldly temptations like cable television. Bigger riches await those who partake only of self-powered travel.
Thou shalt feel at a disadvantage if thou art unmarried, with children, or employed in a non-IT or engineering career.
The funny thing we realized is this: If early retirement is this subversive act that rejects the notion that we have to work until 65 just because most people do, then in truth, we shouldn’t feel like we have to follow any of these rules, including the Early Retirement Commandments.
Not to say any of the verses in the Commandments aren’t good ideas, but getting on the path to early retirement is a bit like taking the red pill: We realize that everything we thought was true, on some level, isn’t. Maybe this new knowledge is discombobulating at first (bonus points if you uttered a Neo/Keanu-like Whoa), but it’s also incredibly freeing. We realize that we’re free to define our own path in life, and to make our own rules.
With that freedom in mind, we’re issuing a challenge:
The Road Less Traveled Challenge
Here’s the challenge: Instead of talking about what we’re all doing that’s the same (saving at a high rate, optimizing our budgets, etc.), let’s celebrate what we’re each doing that’s unique.
If you’re on the path to FIRE, or even contemplating getting on the path, you’re already on the road less traveled, and there’s no chance that’s the only way you think differently from the herd. So let’s talk about all of it!
Need inspiration? Here are a whole bunch of unicorns forging their own paths:
Matt and Daniel at the Resume Gap, who hit FI before age 30 (seriously!), and are now traveling the U.S. in a tricked out minivan and begin their overseas travel soon.
Maggie at Northern Expenditure who is saving for early retirement or maybe entrepreneurial FI with her husband and three kids.
Amanda at Dream Beyond Debt who is just starting her FI journey as a single woman in her 40s.
Steve and Courtney at Think Save Retire who have already sold their house and moved into an Airstream, and who will travel the continent full-time after they quit at the end of the year.
Jeremy and Winnie at Go Curry Cracker, who travel the world full-time with a toddler in tow and have no home base.
The Eat the Financial Elephant family who plan to live as “dirtbag millionaires” after they retire next year, and spend their time chasing outdoor adventures.
Amber Tree Leaves, who is taking the slow and steady approach to saving for early retirement, and in the meantime is enjoying things like ski trips in the Alps with his wife and daughters. (They live in Belgium! It’s not as far a trip as it would be from North America.)
Robert & Robin Charlton, who retired in their early 40s without ever earning six figures combined, and now live a fabulous life of travel from a small home base in Boulder.
The Slowly Sipping Coffee family, who don’t call it “early retirement,” and instead talk about a “fully funded lifestyle change.” That change recently included Mrs. SSC leaving her high-paid megacorp job for a higher ed teaching position that pays peanuts comparatively.
The Frugalwoods, who have boldly ventured into the woods of rural Vermont despite never having gardened or lived in a rural area before.
Some of those folks are taking a less-traveled road to get to early retirement, and some have created a less traveled-to destination.
Your Road Less Traveled
This isn’t just about the big, bold differences, or things you’re doing that no one else in the history of the world has ever done. Your road less traveled could be made up of lots of little things:
Ways you’re diverging from the Commandments in your early retirement planning
Life choices you’re making that are different from those around you in real life
Big plans you have for early retirement that get you crazy fired up
Whatever your road less traveled looks like, we challenge you to share it so that we can all celebrate our unique journeys. You can share it in the comments here, if you blog you can write your own post about it and link back, or you can just take a moment to high five yourself mentally if you’re not big into sharing. :-)
Our Road Less Traveled
Since we’re laying down the challenge, we’ll go first:
Our journey to early retirement grew from a love of the outdoors, and a desire to reach more remote places and higher summits. We long to undertake weeks-long expeditions that aren’t compatible with American levels of vacation. We dream about chasing powder around the hemisphere in an endless winter, and might very well be crazy for wanting to camp for months at a time in the depths of winter. And though we loved our life in the big city, we moved to a small mountain town five years ago to be closer to the outdoors and snow. Backcountry skiing has become our primary form of self-powered travel.
We’re currently planning our exits from a career field where people are unironically called “lifers,” meaning both the term that you’re expected to work in the field, and what you’re expected to devote to it. We work hard and care about doing a good job, but we’re eager to devote our lives elsewhere.
We’re following lots of the Early Retirement Commandments, but never at the expense of enjoying life today. We’re not super frugal, we don’t follow a budget and we find the 4 percent rule too simplistic for us, at least until we reach age 60. (Though we do keep our house freakishly cold in the winter — maybe so we’re acclimated to the cold when we do our endless winter?) We’re willing to live lean in our first 19 years or so of retirement to ensure that we have a healthy cushion to support us in our later years, counter to the oft-cited idea that older people spend less.
We have done a lot of thinking about it, and believe that our purpose in early retirement (and in life!) is to find adventure, explore our creativity and find ways to leave the world in better shape than we found it. We’re already living this purpose in little ways now, but can’t wait to amplify that — soon! I dream of spending days writing and editing video, Mr. ONL dreams of creating new mountain bike trails and scouting potential first descents (first person to ski down a slope, which usually requires climbing up it first).
Oh, and we’re super goofy (there may be some serious Peter Pan syndrome going on around here), we dance like no one’s watching, and we should probably be embarrassed by how much we love our dogs.
Share with all of us — what’s your road less traveled? Let’s celebrate our unique journeys!
And check out these great posts by folks who’ve taken the challenge! Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed yours. :-)
- The Resume Gap
- Slowly Sipping Coffee
- Middle Class Dad
- Nurse on Fire
- Fiery Millennials
- HackNow RetireEarly
- Changing Our Default
- Creating My Kaleidoscope
- Purple Sweatpants
- It’s a Kate Life
- Debt Free in Three Years
- ZJ Thorne
- Apathy Ends
- The Beauty Without
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