I’m Ready To Retire

I'd like to spend my days in this hammock in our garden

I’d like to spend my days in this hammock in our garden

The few people I’ve told in real life about our early retirement plans often ask the same questions: “What took you down this path”, “Do you hate your job that much?”, “Do you want to spend more time with your children”, and my personal favorite, “Are you lazy?”.

There wasn’t a single moment that brought us here, and to a certain extent we’ve been on this path for a while. Now we’re just more focused and hope to achieve financial freedom sooner than we would have otherwise. The MC explained earlier why he thinks 35 is a good age to retire, but if we had it my way,  we’d retire even sooner. Here’s my side of the story.

The beginning

As far as I can remember, I’ve been good at saving money and not interested in spending it on the latest technological device or fashion trend. I’ve always been goal driven and this was especially evident in my financial life. My natural tendency to save combined with my desire to optimize wherever possible, made the thought of retiring early plausible.

However, I wasn’t sure that I wanted, or that you could, retire before the “official age”. I was brought up on the philosophy of if you work hard, you get to play hard; work in this case being paid employment. My father had a fulfilling career and still works part time after he officially retired. My mother was a stay-at-home parent, and now that I look back on it, that was something I very much loved and appreciated.  I was also thankfully taught that you did not need to spend much in order to live a happy life. My family lived below their means, we were told to avoid debt whenever possible, always had a single family car, an average sized home, and nothing more than the basic necessities. However, there were some things my parents splurged on, like travel for example. We would often take a yearly family trip that everyone looked forward to.

I was raised to value two things: education and the importance of earning your own money. Since I was fourteen, I’ve had some sort of paid employment: tutoring, teaching piano, babysitting, etc. Even then, I remember the joy of watching my savings grow and never had the desire to spend much of it.

Early adulthood

MosquitoNetProject

Delivering mosquito nets as part of a Malaria project in western Kenya

Fresh out of school, I decided I didn’t want to follow the standard routine and start working immediately as a corporate engineer. So I took off for six months half way across the world, to east Africa. Now, I’ve always wanted to travel the world, but with a student loan that wasn’t going to be quite feasible at the time. Instead, I was fortunate to find a partially subsidized internship – housing and airfare were covered. I was ecstatic to go off and save the world! How naive my younger self was!

I spent ~$500 a month during those 6 months abroad – basically all the savings I had accumulated to that point. The experience was worth every penny.

Start of a career and a life of extravagance

Upon returning home, I had to finally face reality. I was lucky enough to find a job that was interesting and aligned with my career goals at the time. This started the successful career building phase of my life: I was able to form relationships, professionally and personally, and contribute to projects that I thought would help others. It was rewarding, which is important to me in a job.

The MC was a grad student for most of this period, and that helped us be mindful of our spending and concentrate on the important things in life (and develop an appreciation for free food!). We were mostly good about preventing lifestyle inflation, but there are things I could have done better.

Without thinking about it too much, I was saving nearly 50% of my income, but making decisions that I now think of as sub-optimal: driving nearly 40-60 miles to and from work (~1.5 hours/day), regularly buying my lunch, spending a lot on clothes, and the list goes on. I may have been doing better than the average American, but this was definitely not something I am proud of in hindsight!

I had my share of delicious cocktails back in the day! Now they are homemade cocktails whenever possible.

Happy hour cocktails!

Life was grand: I had found a wonderful, kind, and passionate partner whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life with; I had a successful and fulfilling career (for the most part) – I was kicking ass and taking names at work, as The MC would always tell me each morning before I headed to work; we were also traveling and exploring this beautiful planet whenever we got the chance. What more could a gal ask for?

My Next life

(if I may borrow the saying from our friends over at Our Next Life)

After nearly 8 years of working and ‘moving up the ladder’, I realized that it did not necessarily make me happy. I was constantly counting how many vacation days I had left and getting bummed if I did not have enough days to go on a trip I wanted to take. Work was also becoming more demanding and I found my job to be less rewarding. I wanted to slow down. One of the first things I changed was cut out the unnecessary spending. I went a whole year without buying any clothes (I am onto my second year now), I brought my commute down to almost 0 miles (by working remotely), and downsized our living space to a 775 sq ft home, which while expensive due to location, did help us to get rid of a lot of things we realized we did not need. Not only did this greatly increase our savings rate, but I had more time to do things I did not have the time to do before – which at times was doing nothing – but I am totally ok with that!

Starting around that time, the MC and I started to consider early retirement more seriously and sat down to figure out what we needed to do to achieve this by age 35. I felt 10 years of working in a demanding, yet successful, career is just the right amount of time. The relationships I gained, variety of experiences, and skills I learned will always be with me. But it’s time to move onto bigger and better things, one of those being able to watch my Little Man grow up and be present for every minute of it.

That is why I chose to go on the journey to achieve financial freedom.

Little man's first sunset. Hope to share many more firsts with him.

Little man’s first sunset. Hope to share many more firsts with him.

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8 Responses

  1. I can understand those sentiments. I, however, come from the opposite side of things. I was unable to work a real job for most of my 20s. I was on disability for about 5 years. My husband had health problems and had trouble keeping a job. After a year and a half, his very understanding boss had to let him go. Between disability, unemployment and a contract gig, we brought in $3,100 a month (with $1,200 going to our rent and his high-risk insurance). Meanwhile, we were trying to pay off student loans and medical debt.

    We lost a lot of time that most people (hopefully) spend contributing to IRAs. I do have a job I can do from home. My boss is very generous, but there’s no retirement match or anything like that.

    So if we’re very lucky, we’ll be able to retirement at the normal age. Even so, after years of relying on a meager check from the government, I’m wary of going back to that. It’s more likely that I’ll just go down to part-time.
    I didn’t find a job I could work

    • The DJ says:

      Everyone’s story is different. Sounds like you have a plan forward and as long as you have flexibility, you will make it work. All the best!

  2. Thanks for the shout-out!

    Love reading about your journey, and how you decided to retire early. Would also love to know how you got on the same page about it!

    • The DJ says:

      Thanks, onl! You guys motivated me to write a little more about how I started the path to financial freedom. Hope you guys enjoy your weekend and get to spend it outdoors and on the bike again – keep sharing those beautiful pictures 🙂

  3. Haha, did someone really ask if you’re lazy? That’s a riot!

    Your East Africa trip sounds super interesting! I wanted to do something like that after graduating but was too much of a weenie. I believe individuals CAN save the world though, so perhaps I’m still naive. 🙂

    • The DJ says:

      Yes, I do get asked whether I am lazy (although, I am known to be a sloth at times ;)). I long for the day when I can return to East Africa, I hope to go back sometime. It’s a magical place – definitely check it out if you can and let me know if you want any recommendations!

  4. Ditching The Grind says:

    This is an awesome post and pretty much describes exactly how I feel. Best of luck to you guys!

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