Many people who retire early prefer to spend their money the same way

Experiences take precedence over things during early retirement. Maridav/Shutterstock
  • Many early retirees prefer to spend their money the same way: on experiences.
  • To them, experiences provide more value than things, which take up space and create short-lived excitement.
  • Experiences can take shape in the form of travel, hobbies, caring for family, and passions.

In the world of early retirement, money loses its significance – so say at least four of the early retireesI’ve talked to.

But if money doesn’t really matter during early retirement and becomes “unimportant,” as Brandon of the blog Mad Fientist, who retired early at age 34, previously told Business Insider, how do early retirees decide when money is worth spending?

The answer is consistent among many: Early retirees prefer to spend money on experiences, not things.

“Things lose value, but early retirees understand that experiences tend to appreciate within our heads,” Steve Adcock, the blogger behind Think Save Retire, who retired early at the age of 35, previously wrote in a post published on Business Insider.

He added: “Today, I would much rather take an inexpensive vacation to somewhere I love (like Sedona, Arizona, for example) than get stuff wrapped up as gifts. Early retirees are over ‘stuff’ and have often found that the less stuff they have, the more simple life becomes.”

He and his wife give each other “the gift of experiences,” travelling everywhere from Key West to Glacier National Park and visiting the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in between.

For many early retirees, experiences provide more value for the money

This is an example of what blogger Mr. Crazy Kicks, who retired at age 34, calls an early retirement lifestyle. The key, he previously said, is maximizing happiness per dollar – put your money where your heart is, but get the most bang for your buck.

“Having an early retirement lifestyle doesn’t mean depriving yourself, it just means leading a more exciting and fulfilling life that is not dependent on spending large sums of cash,” he wrote, adding that happiness is often drawn from doing fulfilling things that involve passions, like caring for family, enjoying good food, or pursuing hobbies. It’s what he calls the most important part of defining your early retirement lifestyle.

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“Too often we throw money at things because they are important to us without weighing our return on investment,” he wrote.

He used holiday gifts as an example. The excitement they elicit is short-lived and burdens loved ones with material junk; making memories through a home-cooked meal or activities can have a more meaningful impact on relationships, he said.

It’s a similar train of thought that helps Emmy-nominated Hollywood producer Travis Shakespeare, who spent a year directing the documentary “Playing with FIRE,” in which he interviewed more than a dozen early retirees, decide what’s worth – or not worth – spending money on. He asks himself one question: “If I were going to die tomorrow, where will this land on my value scale?”

When it comes down to it, experiences outweigh material items for Shakespeare. He rented a tuxedo for the Emmy’s because he doesn’t own one, but he splurged on his dream trip to celebrate his 50th birthday on a luxury safari in Tanzania.

“I was like, ‘There’s no way I want to walk off this planet without spending three weeks on the Savannah in Tanzania’ because that’s an incredible experience for a human being to be able to encounter,” he said. For him, the experience was 100% worth the money.