When Can I Retire

I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to podcasts and reading up on the extreme early retirement community and I’ve noticed a side effect. I’m ashamed that I’m not going to retire in my 30’s or early 40’s.

I love listening to podcasts of the people who sold everything, bought an RV and are now retired. Or the canon of the subject – MMM – and his ability to stoically handle any obstacle whether it be freezing weather, endless biking or a boring lunch, which led him to retire at 30. And inside I want to join the club. I really want to go back to the days of living in my 490 square foot condo and focus on buying nothing and experiencing everything. But there’s a problem.

I’ve had horrible lifestyle creep since my early working days.

It all started with a new car to ferry myself to my new job after graduating which I financed. I held onto it for 11 years, but still, not off to a good start. 

2004 toyota echo

Not even the cool blurred photo effects can make it look cool. What was I thinking picking gas mileage and Toyota reliability over cool at 21.

Then it was the lunches at work. Then the craft beer on weekends. Then the nice TV (42" Panasonic plasma), dinners out every Friday, etc. I was still in a small condo, but it was getting more expensive.

Then the big ones came. Wedding at a golf course in the mountains. House. Kids. Another, bigger vehicle, bought new. And along with a new house in the suburbs comes all the fixings. Buying and laying grass, building a fence, developing the basement, filling it with furniture, buying a bigger TV (still Panasonic plasma, but 65"), buying more TV’s, fixing things that break and paying more for commuting further.

Then comes the surprise changes. Like when I changed jobs to leave a company that was having serious issues for a better opportunity, but paid less. The right choice for my life, but another hit to the wallet.

Fast forward to today and we’re a family that’s financially responsible. But we eat out too often, take trips that require a plane and prefer places that lean more towards the four star. My wife is also taking some time off to raise the kids so not only has our spending grown, our income has fallen. Add in some random online shopping for some trendy yoga pants (my wife) or the best way to get rid of bad wifi (me) and it all starts to seriously eat into your savings rate.

What’s left is that I’m likely not going to retire comfortably at our current spending level until I’m… 55. What used to be a great marketing campaign – Freedom 55 – has become the equivalent of a participation medal compared to the financial athlete’s in the early retirement scene. Worse yet, that’s 20 years off for me. How many books read in an RV is that? How many coffee’s sitting on a small condo’s balcony, letting the day take you where it pleases?

I’ve been trying to finish this thought by coming up with a reason why it’s okay to spend more and retire later. Or why the things I’m spending our money on is worth it and it’s all just us optimizing for our particular version of happiness. But I can’t. It’s just become habit. So I’d like to finish with a warning instead.

It’s much harder to break your spending habits then develop good ones as your income increases. So if you’re young and reading this make sure every time you get a bump in income to automatically invest a large portion. Don’t let lifestyle creep take it away. It’s easier to live like yesterday than to go back 10 years.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts on how we're increasing income and reducing spending so we can lower our retirement age. After all, other people have gone from high to low spending. We can too. Although maybe not to the same degree. The kids have been missing the beach!

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