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How to Retire Early

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Here are some of the core principles that can help you become financially successful, and retire sooner too.

This list comes from the article How I Retired Early, written shortly after I retired, explaining how I became financially independent. That original article is pretty long, so here are just the action items….

I found that financial independence is made up of one part family support, one part career choices, one part money management, and one part personal habits and attitudes. It’s not a quick or easy list, but there are things here that you can work on every day!

Family

  • If you were fortunate to be born into a family that values integrity, economy, and hard work, be grateful. If not, do your best to create that environment around you now.
  • Work to create a stable, long-term relationship with a partner who shares your financial values.

Career

  • Do work that you love.
  • Identify your gifts, and find a career path that leverages those.
  • If possible, pursue a high-paying career in a technical field. If that’s not possible, at least be aware of the financial and career implications of your college education choices.
  • Look for mentors and long-term professional relationships that complement your skills and personality.
  • If possible, find a job that provides retirement health benefits. (In the U.S., that means mostly government and large company jobs.)
  • Be prepared to work hard, very hard, at certain points in your career.
  • Value communication skills — written and spoken.
  • Get along well with others.

Money

  • Live on less than you make.
  • Track and be aware of your expenses. Figure out the few areas you should indulge to enjoy life. Spend there, and cut back everywhere else.
  • Avoid credit card debt entirely. Pay off car loans early. Hold a 15-year mortgage and/or pay it off early.
  • Max out retirement contributions. Put raises and bonuses into investments, not a fancier lifestyle.
  • Value financial education. Find a mentor, in person or in print, to help you become a confident investor.
  • Adhere to a few bedrock investing principles: diversification, patience, simplicity, low expenses.
  • Compute your net worth regularly, and know your overall portfolio returns each year.

Personal

  • Cultivate patience. Take life one day at a time.
  • When you are the recipient of generosity, make the most of it. Say “thank you” and move ahead.
  • Don’t sacrifice the present for the future. Never postpone quality time with your loved ones, even if it means working longer in the end.

Comments

  1. I like the points you made, it is good to read these points every month, so that we are consciously aware of them and we implement them on an ongoing basis.

  2. Darrow Kirkpatrick says:

    Yes, financial independence is a long-term process. It's good to start early and make progress every day. I hope that some of the lessons I learned along the way will save others time!

  3. I know this is a very broad question, but I am 22 years old and I've got my sights set on retiring early, or at least moving to part time work. I am very new to your site so I apologize if this info is somewhere else. What do you think the most important place to start is for a young person? Stocks? Bonds? Savings account?

    Thanks

  4. Darrow Kirkpatrick says:

    Hi Ryan. Thanks for the question, and kudos to you for thinking about this early in your career. That gives you a huge advantage right out of the gate!

    Before investing, there are some basics like getting out of debt, if any, and building some emergency savings in a safe, insured bank account. The conventional advice is 3-6 months living expenses, enough to float you between jobs, if necessary.

    Then I think the most important thing for a young person is to learn. Read everything you can on investing and personal finance. Conventional advice for somebody with a long time frame is to invest almost exclusively in stocks. But that may or may not suit your personality. I'd consider buying small amounts each of a low-cost passive index stock fund, and a low-cost broad bond fund, and begin to get the real-world experience of owning and monitoring your own investments. Good luck!

  5. Could you retire if your spouse didn't work and most importantly, her job provides the critical health benefits?

  6. Darrow Kirkpatrick says:

    Hi BobC. See my FAQ with answers to this and related questions. Thanks for the comment.