A year ago, I issued the Use It Up Challenge, and lots of you took it on. (Tell me how it went!) But there was part of the challenge that we took on specifically — the nothing new year — that we didn’t fully live up to. So we’re leveling up this year. Also, it’s a big time for my friend Cait Flanders, and to celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of her book. Come enter!
As total newbs to this whole early retirement thing, though admittedly newbs who’ve thought about this stuff a ton, we find ourselves now wrestling with a very practical question: Should we spend what we budgeted for this year, or aim to spend less, maybe a lot less? There are good reasons for either approach, so let’s talk about what those are.
In just two short months, we’ll be retired and living on a constrained income for the first time in ages. But we’re not worried, because we have a whole bunch of ways to live beyond that budget, especially once we have time to invest in research and deal-finding. (Plus, we can live a pretty sweet life for not a lot of money, so it doesn’t take much budget stretching to feel like we’re living a life of luxury.) Check out our plan for living beyond our budget — and then let us know what we missed!
The question of whether 4 percent is a safe withdrawal rate, as the “4 percent rule” suggests has been — and will continue to be — debated endlessly. Fortunately, this isn’t more of that debate. Instead, let’s look at whether the fundamental underlying assumption of the 4 percent rule — level spending every year — is actually realistic and safe to plan around. (Spoiler: it’s not.)
I know you’ve heard this one before: the narrative of “working a job you hate to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.” It’s what I’ve come to call the Fight Club narrative, a distinct strand of the FI movement that posits consumerism as public enemy number 1. And while it’s a compelling narrative, here’s my case for why it’s harmful, and what we should be talking about instead.
Vicki Robin’s book Your Money or Your Life had a huge impact on how I view money, asking us to equate money we might spend with the life force it represents, in other words, the time it took to earn it. And while that’s a great starting point for shifting our thinking about money and spending, I have a different proposal for how we should think of that money to speed our progress toward financial independence, focusing not on how long the money took to earn, but on how much time it buys us back.
Today I’m (finally) sharing something that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, but haven’t tackled because there is no easy formula: how to determine what is “enough” to save for early retirement. “Enough” is perhaps the centrally important concept to early retirement, but it can feel overwhelming to quantify your own. Here’s a breakdown on how we calculated ours, and how you can do the same for your own circumstances.