If you read a lot of blogs about early retirement, you might be a little discouraged about your own progress in saving, or perhaps are kicking yourself for not starting earlier. Don't throw in the towel!
Even though I knew pretty early in my career I wanted to attempt to retire early, that doesn't mean I actually did anything about it. When I got my first job out of college, my take-home pay was $1,300 per month. My rent was $675 and my car payment was $111. The remaining 500 bucks went to groceries, lunches (not the same thing, unfortunately), drinks out with co-workers, insurance, utilities, and my growing VISA bill. Conspicuously missing from this list: contributions to my 401(k) plan.
Add to that the following things I did not do to help the situation:
Get a roommate and lower my rent and utility bills. I wanted to live alone and that was that.
Sell my car. I lived in San Francisco where the public transportation was great. I rarely used my car (it provided more parking tickets than actual transportation.) I could have saved money by selling the car and renting one when I needed it.
Bring my lunch to work. Taboo!!! It was kind of an unwritten rule at my employer, one of the "Big 8" accounting firms, that you DID NOT bring your lunch to work. You ate out. You circulated. You were to see and be seen.
Go without new suits, a living room couch, a nice briefcase, or those drinks with co-workers. I charged 'em!
About three or four years into my career (after I slew the VISA monster), I did begin saving for retirement. But not all the actions took I took over those years were consistent with the dream of early retirement.
I cut back to a part time work schedule. At one point, I thought it was just going to be too daunting to save up enough to retire early; and frankly, I just didn't want to work so much anymore. So I decided to give up on early retirement and work part-time instead.
I bought a vacation home. With early retirement off the table, I decided to try for a part-time retired life by escaping to the country on the weekends.
We upgraded to a bigger house--twice!
After my husband's company went belly up, I returned to full-time work. And with that full-time work came the full-time desire to be retired. So I jumped back on the bandwagon.
Yes, I probably would have been able to retire earlier if I started saving earlier, or if I hadn't given up and taken some side-trips along the way. But in the end, did it really matter that much? Maybe it took a little longer to get here, but veering off course a few times made the journey a little more pleasant.
If you feel like you're waiting your whole life to start enjoying it, then what's the point?