On August 1, 2016, Brandon officially retired.
The 34-year-old software developer and blogger behind the Mad Fientist — who doesn’t use his last name online for privacy reasons — had been planning and saving to retire early for years.
While he doesn’t disclose exact numbers, he says the hardest part of saving enough money to retire decades early was the opposite of what you’d expect: It was being tempted to save too much.
“I’d never been a spender,” Brandon told Business Insider. “For the first 5 to 7 years of my career, I wasn’t saving for anything in particular. I was just saving because I wanted a portfolio. Then I learned about financial independence, and I was like, ‘This is perfect. This is what I’m saving for.'”
Brandon, who is married but keeps his finances largely separate from his wife Jill, an optometrist who isn’t interested in retiring, was talking about the concept of financial independence (FI) as pursued and documented by an online community of bloggers and readers seeking to save enough that they can stop working and “retire.”
But then, he said, he got a little carried away, saving about 70% of his after tax income. “I went the opposite way and started cutting back so much that I didn’t want to do anything that costs money,” he said. Between living 45 minutes from any major cities or towns, working a full-time job, building his website, and getting a part-time Masters degree, he felt that every minute of his day could and should be productive.
“The business and the isolation combined, that sort of compounded,” he said. “I’d spend money hanging out with friends and I’d be miserable. Then I’d wonder, what was the point of spending money to be miserable when I could be miserable at home and get some stuff done?”
By that point, he recalled, “I’d already hit my number and I wasn’t any happier. I’d been working so hard for that goal, but I wasn’t happier, which was still a surprise to me. I went so hardcore with it that I sacrificed my happiness on the way.”
Looking back, he said, “I should have used more money to make our lives better. I could have done more fun things, but I was so focused on that end goal that nothing else really mattered.”
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