Is early retirement worth all the savings, planning and discipline to get there? There are days that I doubt that fact. For an early retirement blog you think that would be a sacrilegious statement and that I should be struck down by lightning, but the fact is that never happens.
The journey to early retirement is a very long one and it is all about self-discipline. The fact of the matter is you can stop trying to get there at any time. No one is making you save your money or pay down your mortgage. You can toss your plan out the window one-day in frustration and go buy a new car instead or take a cruise. Other than your spouse no one will likely even try to stop you (and depending if your spouse isn’t on board with the plan they may even help you pick the cruise package).
To choose early retirement over a ‘normal’ middle class existence is to set yourself apart from others. Humans unfortunately aren’t built to spend your lives apart from others. We are social animals and thus seek acceptance and belonging from others. We build communities not isolated existences for the most part. So by choosing early retirement you are accepting a certain amount of loneliness that will never go away as you will never be fully accepted by some people.
That is a fairly high price to pay for freedom. So I get why people want to give up at times. The world can be fairly brutal at times and in our self imposed isolation can be hard to justify. We can tell ourselves we don’t need stuff, but we still look at the latest movie, book, electronic or clothes ads and think that would be nice to have. We tell ourselves we don’t need that morning coffee and a muffin, but at times we really just want that muffin and the budget can go to hell. We tell ourselves we don’t need to eat out, but it is really nice to have a meal where you don’t have to cook or clean up.
So what is the solution? Give up, but just a little bit. To combat these feelings might I suggest some ‘un-savings.’ What is ‘un-savings’, it basically money you put aside for the express reason of buying stuff you don’t need, that morning muffin or a meal out when you had a crappy day. Go ahead and buy some social acceptance with our peers with a round of golf, shopping trip or what ever else everyone is doing this weekend. Make ‘un-savings’ a regular line item in your savings plan and push off your early retirement target by a year or two if need be.
Then if you really want go ahead and plan to buy that new car or cruise (just save up for it in advance and skip the credit card). There is nothing stopping you for living today a little bit more if you need. I’m taking a week long trip to Hawaii with my wife this winter and we are budgeting about $400/day for eating out, shopping and tourist attractions. To put that $400/day in context our normal spending on those things is that amount for a month.
Then recall you are not alone, there are lots of early retirement blogs out there for you to read other people’s stories and leave comments to discuss issues that come up. Early retirees are not a big group of people, but they still exist just about everywhere.
So is early retirement worth it? Most of the time I think so, but just like everyone else I do have my days of doubt. Maybe I just need to buy a muffin on the way to work this morning. What do you think?