Working until nearly 70 years of age can be a depressing thought for many people. The truth is most people just don’t love their job that much and there are other things they would rather spend their limited time doing.
The good news is there are options for those who dream of escaping the rat race while they are still young enough (and healthy enough) to pursue other interests. One option, of course, is changing careers or even starting a business that better aligns with a person’s interests and values. Another option is to retire early. Very early.
There is a small, but growing, movement that rejects the notion of working until traditional retirement age. This movement focuses instead on the idea of retiring early – sometimes as early as 30 years old. A number of websites and blogs have even been created to demonstrate how it is possible to be financially independent at an early age.
The basic premise of achieving financial independence, and thus being able to retire early, is counter-cultural. We live in a society that accepts consumerism as normal and good. Achieving early financial independence, at least for most people, requires choosing to live simply, and inexpensively, while saving and investing every dollar possible.
Achieving financial independence in only a few years typically requires saving 70-80 percent of one’s income. This is possible for some people if they have the motivation. Many people, however, do not earn enough money to be able to save three-fourths of their income no matter how cheaply they try to live. Trying to bank three-fourths of a minimum wage income would probably require living in your parent’s basement and eating ramen for every meal.
Early retirement still could be an option for most everyone, though people with lower incomes or those with some unavoidable expenses would probably need more than five years to achieve financial independence. Even if it takes 10 or 20 years it would still be a big improvement over needing to work until 70 or later out of necessity.
Not everyone is interested in retiring early. Some people are fortunate to work in careers they love and plan to continue working as long as possible. Achieving financial independence early still offers many benefits though, as it provides the freedom to change career directions with less concern about the financial impact, as well as providing security against disability or economic downturns.