Previously you've heard me mention about Jacob at EarlyRetirementExtreme.com (posts: Live like no one else – part 1 and Live like no one else – part 2) and how he became financially independent at 31 and retired extremely early at 33. He is a guy that is constantly challenging the norms of thinking and that is proof in how he daily lives his life. I thought Jacob's life would offer our readers a different perspective on being thrifty and how that can help in getting to retirement early. Today I had the pleasure of interviewing him and hope this interview will give you all a glimpse of how he lives thrifty in retirement.
What single factor do you contribute to being able to retire at 33 years old?
I stopped being a consumer! I found ways to be happy without buying stuff and started making things myself or getting them in other ways (swapping, bartering). Most importantly though, you don't need to buy a lot of stuff to be happy! Also, I decided that spending a lot of money on my residence was silly when I wasn't spending much time there other than eating and sleeping—you only need a bed, a sink, and a stove for that. Another crazy choice I avoided was to live faraway from my job and other interest. I have never lived further away than what can be reached in 15 minutes of biking. At that distance, going by car would only cut off a couple of minutes; down to 12 minutes. It's not really worth it paying $8000 in car ownership just to save a couple of minutes under those circumstances. Hence, while I was working I was able to save between 50 and 90% of my income which came to an average of 75-80%.
Why did you want to retire early?
I wanted and want to align my interests with how I spend my time without being subject to the usual restrictions and demands like meetings, office politics, not being able to do what I'm currently inspired to do and worst of all being bored on the job. If found that this was a pretty easy thing to achieve once I realized how my financial situation would change if I no longer pursued the usual status symbols (oversized homes and overpriced cars) and started having fun in ways that did not revolve around unwrapping new electronic gadgets.
This does not mean I'm averse to working. Rather than retiring, I wanted the financial independence to avoid “selling my freedom to choose” to an employer for 50 hours a week. Currently, I am working on developing my blog community and a second book. I am not stressed for lack of money though. If I want to take a random day off, I can do that. Also, having financial freedom, it means I can set my own terms in pretty much all agreements.
Is extreme early retirement everything it cracked up to be? What do you do with your time?
I wrote a post about what's good about it.
I think it's different for everybody. Once you're retired, if you did not know who you were, you will learn it very quickly. Many people completely identify with their job. They think “I'm a lawyer, so I should adopt the lifestyle of other lawyers”. A lot of people seem to believe they have to be “the average of their 5 closest friends”. Yikes! All that attitude results in is a bunch of bland boring average. Due to 20 years of schooling followed by 15 years working under managers, many will not know what to do unless there's someone there telling them what to do. Many have focused so much on their career, that they essentially have no life outside of work. No friends outside of work. No hobbies worth speaking off i.e. mowing the lawn and watching TV. Obviously, one-dimensional people have a much steeper learning curve breaking out of that pattern.
Why should others retire early?
Because nobody should have to work 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year for 40 years of their life just to be happy. That said, the concept of “retirement” is not really applicable. Retirement makes sense if you think of a person as being a part of an organization much like a cog is a part of a machine. Once the cog wears out, you retire and replace it. Modern management has done much to make most employees easily replaceable.
So the goal should not be to retire in the traditional sense but rather to regain one's autonomy and independence.
What is your thriftiest tip for the threethriftyguys.com readers?
Don't look to Walmart for your solution. Whenever there's a problem most people naturally turn to department stores for their solutions. My favorite example, trite as it is, is reusing envelopes. It is normal to buy bubble wrap envelopes for 75c apiece. However, you can achieve the same protection with discarded bubble wrap, the top of a clean pizza box, and some tape. Similarly, if people want to BBQ. Rather than digging a hole in the ground and making a firepit, they go out and get this 15000 BTU propane monster which then sits idle on the patio for most of the year. My thriftiest tip is thus to start being more creative and stop thinking of shopping whenever there's an issue.