Back in September of 2016, Brandon (aka: Mad Fientist) wrote an article for Business Insider about seven pieces of financial advice about retiring early from a guy who retired at 34. The article contained incredible wisdom.
Oh, and damn you, Brandon, for beating me to early retirement by a year. 🙂
In the article, Brandon argues for financial automation, which can have a profound effect on our ability to save and pay off our credit cards. We use automation all the time. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a check to pay off a bill.
Equally important, figure out what truly brings you happiness. Through my many financial mistakes, I learned the expensive way that buying stupid crap doesn’t bring me happiness. It never had, but I steadfastly ignored that realization for many of my younger years after joining the workforce. I wanted to look like a successful businessperson.
Next, throw out your television and start creating rather than consuming. Ridding your life of “entertainment decay” is a tough hill to climb, but once you crest the summit, the ride down is absolute gold. The things that you thought you couldn’t live without…you realize that you can.
What does it mean to “create”? It can mean anything – writing a blog post, knitting, photography. It can even mean creating a better YOU in the gym or on the track. In other words, DO STUFF. Don’t sit and let stuff happen to you. Be proactive.
Other techniques, like experimenting with your life, traveling overseas and focusing on what you can control round out the article. Completely wise advice.
But, we aren’t done yet.
My advice for retiring early
I can’t possibly say it any better than Brandon did, but allow me to add a few additional elements to this equation.
1. Learn how to reflect
Reflection is a super powerful technique that lets us examine ourselves. Reflection should be a realistic, honest and non-judgmental process through and through. You’re not beating yourself up. You’re identifying your strengths and weaknesses.
Life tip: Very few decisions are set in stone and nonreversible. In my life, I make the very best decision that I can at the time. I go about my life and take notice of how that decision is affecting me. If I screwed up, I make a change. No harm, no foul. The process repeats and I continuously improve.
I’m not perfect. I don’t strive for perfection because that’s a game nobody can win.
2. Destroy your comfort zones
I’ve written about this one before: Comfort zones crush our ability to improve our lives. They keep us wrapped up in a cocoon of mush, complacent and completely relaxed. Reflection and bettering our lives is often the furthest thing from our minds when we’re in these zones.
Instead of going to the gym to begin that new fitness program, we give ourselves an excuse to stay home. Rather than dropping by the neighborhood pot luck to meet the neighbors and network, we catch the latest episode of [insert popular TV sitcom here because I honestly have no idea].
It is natural to want comfort. And occasionally, there’s nothing wrong with a little time in our comfort zones. But spending too much time in this zone is detrimental to our progress. Get out of it.
3. Take smart risks
Let’s face it: Early retirement is a risk. I freely admit that retiring at 35 was a risky move, but I’m proud to say that I’ve done it anyway. Against all odds, and in the face of incredible criticism from the general population, I am “risking it” by retiring in my 30s. I believe it was a smart risk to take.
The “just one more year” syndrome never entered into the equation. In fact, it was quite the opposite. “Why can’t I just retire now?” was much more common.
I believe that if we never take any risks, we won’t lead lives nearly as exciting as we could have. Without risks, we remain typical worker bees, sitting in traffic for hours and staring into computer monitors from cold office buildings for the large majority of daylight hours. Every once in a while, we play. We vacation. We take a camping trip. We enjoy ourselves without caring about what’s going on at the office.
But then we return…and the cycle loops and begins again. I’m willing to take the risk.
4. Be relentlessly positive
A Facebook friend of mine posted a message on her wall recently. She told her Facebook friends that she’s had a string of bad luck lately. Actually, it was a bit longer than just…”lately”. Apparently, her “bad luck” began in earnest in 2011.
Unfortunately, she’s a terribly negative person. She assumes that the world is out to get her, that something bad looms around the corner, that things just don’t work out in her favor.
As we know from the placebo effect, things tend to happen in our lives that we expect to happen. If we expect things to go wrong, things generally will. But on the flip side, we tend to lead much happier lives when we focus on the positives. When we expect things to go right, our subconscious mind intuitively shifts our attention to those things that make us happy.
It’s a remarkably dependable phenomenon.
5. Be confident
I am annoyingly confident. I firmly believe that what we are doing is the absolute right thing, and we’ve made our decision. We are jumping in head first and not looking back. I quit a high paying and relatively low stress job in the Information Technology industry for a life of freedom.
And I’m damn proud of what we’re doing.
Confidence is very different than arrogance. I don’t believe that I’m “always right”. I believe that I make the very best decisions that I can based on the information I have at the time. If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong. Big deal. We fix it and move on.
Life sucks when we spend it second-guessing ourselves. So, I don’t. I believe that things will work out. I know that we are flexible and will roll with the punches.
I’m not worried about health care (gasp!). I don’t care who our president is. I refuse to let external factors that I cannot control dictate my life. The only thing that I can control is me. My life. My reactions. My motivations.
Confidence is key to keeping a sound mind and determined future.
Is there anything that I missed? What other pieces of advice can you think of that Brandon and I haven’t covered in these articles?