“Just Quit”: How To Retire Early & What To Do Then

tiny house PortlandiaOkay, so, here’s the plan. First we retire super early — possibly even before we reach the new “middle age” — and then we move to a tiny house community.

How will we achieve this goal? Let’s break it down.

Retiring early, I’m realizing, can mean different things. It can be a move to a place where the cultural assumption is not that everyone’s trying to make it big but rather that everyone’s trying to live their best life. Maybe that means taking on one or several part-time jobs, or semi-lucrative hobbies, “Portlandia”-style. In Asheville this past weekend, I met several artists — dedicated professionals with studios and sales — who are also therapists or instructors. They were so cheerful it was almost surreal.

My mother-in-law backed up my impression: “Nobody gets rich, but nobody cares. People are here to be happy, not rich.”

That sounds like retirement to me, and why wait until you’re old to enjoy it? Vox reports:

Seven in 10 Americans are disengaged from their jobs, according to Gallup. That’s more than two-thirds of us who are unfulfilled by our work, just dragging our sorry selves to and from the office every day.

One community has an attractive answer: just quit.

A burgeoning online community advocates early retirement. And they’re not talking about people quitting in their 50s or early 60s. They mean retiring before age 40 — perhaps even in their 20s.

How do you do it? Deferred gratification. You prioritize saving above all else.

aggressive saving is far more important than any investment wizardry, says one early retiree.

“Even if we put 100 percent of our savings into bonds, we still could have achieved it,” says Paul Novell, 46, who retired from a career as an electrical engineer at 38 and lives with his wife, Nina Fussing, in an RV (currently they are in Bend, Oregon). Because you don’t have a lot of years to work before you retire, he says, aiming for huge returns to create that nest egg is misguided — he considers investing far less important than cutting back on expenses.

Americans’ biggest expenses are the ones to cut back on: housing, transportation, and food.

“While many of my coworkers were maybe leasing a new BMW SUV, I sold my car and started riding my bike. And when one of my coworkers was spending $50,000 remodeling his kitchen, we moved into a small apartment that was in a very walkable neighborhood,” says Jacobson, who along with his wife, Winnie Tseng, blogs about the early retirement life at Go Curry Cracker. Likewise, he says, Tseng learned how to cook well enough that they started eating out far less. …

You need to stack a bunch of the savings choices on top of each other — moving to a cheaper neighborhood, cooking all your meals at home, biking to work, buying clothing only rarely, cutting out expensive coffees, not indulging your kids. And when you’re done, you’ll have a new lifestyle, one that’s unorthodox in a consumerist society.

Keeping your eye on the ball this way, the article implies, requires willpower and dedication and an ability to earn real money in the first place. It also seems to help greatly to start with education, luck, and health; to have likeminded companions; and to make good romantic decisions. A thrifty partner is going to make a huge, positive difference in your ability to both plan and save. By contrast, having to date a lot, or getting together with someone who prefers to live in the moment, won’t.

Once you do quit the rat race, what then? How should you spend your next several decades? Why, with your likeminded companions in Bestie Row, of course.

Four couples who had been best friends for 20 years decided they were going to trump living in the same town. No way were they going to let the business of life keep them from enjoying that special connection that they’d grown to love. So they decided to literally create their own “Bestie Row.” They all were fans of the tiny house movement, and decided to build their own little compound based around that idea. …

Their individual homes are 400 sq. ft. cabins, running around $40,000 each.

You don’t have to choose a location in Texas Hill Country, either. You could make or join a DIY Tiny House Community in — where else? — Portland.

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