To get there, Brandon (who doesn’t use his last name online for privacy reasons) chose to live frugally in rural Vermont, where he managed to save and invest about 70% of his after-tax income.
In 2014, Brandon and his wife — who has no interest in retiring early and keeps her finances largely separate from her husband’s — moved to Scotland, where he continued to work for a few more years, eventually putting away enough to allow him to retire at 34.
“It’s always been about ‘financial independence’ for me and not really ‘early retirement,'” he told Business Insider. “I never wanted to stop working, but rather I wanted to have the time and freedom to work on things that are important to me.”
But his journey to financial independence taught him a valuable lesson: Saving isn’t everything.
When an audience member asked Brandon and this panelists to share what kept them motivated on the path to financial independence during an episode of his “Financial Independence Podcast,” he responded that instead of struggling to stick to his savings goals, he coped with putting away too much.
“[I] went so hardcore that I made myself really unhappy during the process,” he says. “I just didn’t want to do anything that involved spending money. I just wanted to get there as soon as possible.”
While Brandon advocates financial independence, he stresses that anyone striving for early retirement should avoid becoming so obsessed with it that they isolate themselves.
“Focus on the power that you’re getting along the way with all that money that you’re saving up, and use that power to make your life a lot better along the way,” he says. “Don’t sacrifice happiness for that final number in the bank.”
Early retirement is supposed to be freeing and empowering, not constricting. By avoiding anything that involved spending money, Brandon ended up dodging his friends and depriving himself of even the little things that brought him joy.
“One extra dollar in your bank account is not going to make you really happier,” he warns.
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