- Early retirement may sound like a dream life, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
- Eight people who retired early shared with Business Insider the things they wish they would have known before retiring in their 20s or 30s.
- Some wished they had retired even earlier, while others wished they would have been more prepared to face criticism from friends, family, and people online.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Early retirement sounds like a dream. Not waiting until your 60s to escape the daily grind? Travelling the world with no end in sight? Sign us up.
But clocking out for good comes with some challenges beyond simply saving enough money to get there – for example, people may criticise you for retiring early, or it might take a while to relax afterward. There’s also a mindset shift you may need to make when you’re no longer working toward a huge financial goal.
Some of these realisations don’t hit until you’re well into the early-retirement game, spending your days leisurely, travelling throughout Europe for months on end, or blogging about your new lifestyle with a mountain view before you.
From the good to the bad, real people who managed to retire early shared with Business Insider what they wish they had known before embarking on early retirement.
It takes a while to slow down after retiring early
“It took me at least that long to feel comfortable doing nothing,” McCurry said. “I felt like I had to be productive for at least part of the day. Eventually, I realised that this is the rest of my life – time to enjoy it! I upped the time I spent in my hammock, caught up on my Netflix queue, and read a bunch of books.”
He added: “I put together a rough outline of what a typical week looks like for me, and I realised I felt happy and fulfilled when I had a whole lot of leisure activities plus a small amount of ‘work’ and intellectual stimulation during the week.”
Your goals and dreams will probably change — and that’s OK
“I wish I knew that retirement isn’t the goal – having more time is,” Grant Sabatier, who retired at 30 with $US1.25 million, told Business Insider. “And that retirement can really be anything you want it to be.
“You need to define what it means to you, not society or your parents. To me, early retirement simply meant having enough money so that I didn’t have to worry about money and could finally follow my passions and find new passions.
“Also, I wish I had known how much I was going to change,” said Sabatier, the author of the book “Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need” who runs the blog Millennial Money. “I spent five years and three months pretty much working nonstop to reach financial independence, and once I got there at the age of 30 and could retire early, I realised that I had changed a lot since I started – meaning my dreams, goals, and the things I liked to do were different than at 24.
“Do the best you can, and remember today is all you really have, so enjoy it while making sure to still invest in your future self. Money only matters if it helps you live a life you love.”
You can still make money after you retire early
“I wish I knew you will very likely continue to earn money once you’re retired,” J.P. Livingston, who runs a personal finance blog called The Money Habit and built a nest egg of more than $US2 million before retiring at 28, told Business Insider.
“When I was contemplating early retirement while working, I was very burnt out,” she said. “I imagined I would want to sit on the couch and eat bonbons, sleep in late, that kind of thing. I did do that, but it gets boring eventually, and I ended up getting active again with different hobbies and projects. Eventually, one or more of those projects yielded income. It’s hard to be awake for 60-plus hours a week and not find a single enjoyable way to earn some money.”
Livingston said she also wished she started a side hustle.
“I assumed any project that could make money would require loads of time – time that I didn’t feel like I had, given how burnt out I was at work,” she said. “But with less than five hours a week, I was able to build a $US60,000-plus income stream in less than a year doing things I enjoyed.”
Smart saving strategies, like travel hacking, never go out of style
“I wish I had known how easy and lucrative travel hacking can be,” Mr. Crazy Kicks, a blogger who retired at 34, told Business Insider. “While working a full-time job, I put a high value on my free time because it was so limited. I didn’t want to waste those precious hours saving pennies by clipping coupons. At the same time, we were spending thousands of dollars travelling.
“When I left my job and had more free time, I decided to give travel hacking a try,” he continued. “We signed up for a travel card and earned a hefty sign-up bonus with our regular spending. A few months later, we used that bonus to fly to Colorado for free and even earned another $US2,400 in travel credit in the process. Since then, we’ve signed up for dozens of cards and travelled to Spain, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Grenada – all for free.
“In the end, I don’t spend much more time earning free miles than I did searching for discounted airfare. Last year alone, we did about $US10,000 in free travel – well worth the time spent managing a few credit cards.”
You can retire before you think you’re totally ready
“I wish I knew that it’s OK to take the leap before you think you’re ready,” Joe Olson, who retired at 29 with his wife, Ali, told Business Insider. Together, they travel and run a blog called Adventuring Along.
“You will very likely be fine, and if you aren’t, there are so many opportunities in life, you can go earn more money later if it’s needed,” he added. “If you define ‘retirement failure’ as needing to go back to work for a few years and you instead delay your retirement to ensure that you’ll never have to go back, then you’re guaranteeing that retirement failure of working a few extra years – you’re just doing them up front.
“Launch into the unknown, embrace uncertainty and adventure, and rely on the skills that got you on the path to success to carry you through any hard times that may come up in retirement, instead of trying to build an impenetrable fortress that inevitably will have its own flaws.”
Money won’t always be the focus
“The one thing I wish I had known before early retirement is how unimportant and insignificant money would become after I retired,” Brandon of the Mad Fientist blog told Business Insider about retiring at 34.
“I always thought that I would spend my early retirement doing entrepreneurial things, but now that I have enough money, doing things for the sole purpose of getting more money doesn’t make sense anymore,” he said.
“Money has been the primary motivator for my entire adult life, but now that I have enough, I’ve had to find new sources of motivation, and that’s not something that I expected. Had I expected it, I could have been better prepared to enter this new phase of life.”
Finally leaving work is the hardest part
“I wish I knew to do it sooner,” Chris Reining, who retired at 37 and runs a blog, told Business Insider. “It was easy to set a goal to become financially free. Getting there was pretty hard. But quitting, retiring early, that was the hardest.
“Because the funny thing about money is you always feel like you need more – even when you have enough, you never have enough,” Reining said.
“That makes it scary to walk away, but it’s scarier to find yourself at the end of life knowing you wasted your precious time doing things you didn’t want to do,” he added. “Now that I’m here on the other side, I can’t imagine going back. It was one of the best decisions of my life. My only wish is doing it sooner.”
You may face criticism
“The amount of mental fortitude required isn’t something I think gets talked about enough,” Mr. Tako, who retired at 38 and writes the blog Mr. Tako Escapes, told Business Insider.
“The ability to withstand significant criticism of your life should not be understated when a person retires early,” he said. “Expect your friends, family, and online peeps to criticise this choice, especially if you’re younger. It really brings the ‘haters’ out of the woodwork.
“This is one of the reasons why I believe strongly in ‘stealth wealth,'” he added. “I’ve spent most of my life being different, but the amount of hate and disagreement received was very surprising.”
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