We all have dreams of full financial independence — not having to work for an income anymore, being able to spend your days as you please, be it traveling, volunteering, or taking up a small job on your own time. Despite the hangover we still feel from the crash of 2008, retirement — and early retirement at that — is completely feasible. It takes a lot of planning and discipline, but with a little planning and a lot of follow-through, you can easily live a life of financial independence as young as 35 or 45.
Step one, naturally, is to have a good plan in place. Consult a trusted financial advisor about the best place to store money for steady growth. There are lots of options for secure funds that won’t penalize you for early withdrawals like IRAs. A diverse investment portfolio with healthy mutual funds will help prepare you for early financial independence. Perhaps the deadliest cancer to early retirement is the issue of inflation, which could cut your purchasing power in half over the course of a few years. In your planning to save, make sure you have a good cushion in case inflation gets out of control.
Preparing for early retirement is also going to require some serious changes in lifestyle, probably including some combination of earning more and spending less. On the “earning” side, you can try for a higher position at your current company by picking up some extra skills at classes or talking with managers about how accelerate your upward movement. Also, today’s gig economy is booming, so there are plenty of side hustles you can take up during evenings and weekends, including tutoring, ride services, and flipping merchandise online.
On the spending side, becoming financial independent may require a brand new mindset or habit. The less you spend on your everyday life, the more you can save for retirement. Some bloggers who’ve retired early describe how they significantly downsized their living space, exchanged big cars for either small, efficient cars or bus passes, and shopped sparingly and carefully. Little bits add up over time, so even small habits like frequent restaurant dining or clothing shopping may need to be tamed in order to bank extra money for your impending financial independence.
When you have a goal as huge and long-term as retirement, the real key is accountability. The same way that people trying to get in shape have a gym buddy to hold them to their goals, you may want to find a friend or colleague to make sure you’re not straying too far from your goals of savings. The blogosphere offers lots of potential accountability, so keeping a regular online journal on how you’re taking steps towards financial independence may motivate you, since all your readers will be keeping an eye on you.
Speaking of the blogosphere, there’s a whole community of people saving for or enjoying early retirement online who have shared their tips and tricks. If you need some extra help or have run into a wall, check out blogs like Mr. Money Mustache or The Power of Thrift to see if they or any commenters have run into similar problems and how to jump those hurdles. When all else fails, consult those who’ve been there before.