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August 13, 2008


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This post is giving me the giggles. I think that you and your friend Amy are outliers because I know lots of accountants and not all of them earn high salaries, are able to retire early, or dress well. As in any field, a person really has to have a knack for that type of work in order to be successful.

Taylor will remember these seemingly trivial conversations, albeit maybe in her subconscious. Hopefully, she'll really think this through and make the right decisions based on her own natural talents. For example, I'm sure that you've worked with accountants who are good with numbers but fall short because they're unable to take it to the next level.

Are you going to tell us how you, Doug, and Amy were able to retire in your 30s and early 40s? My guess is a combination of working hard, taking risks, and being in the right place at the right time. I'm doubtful that this type of early retirement could have been achieved by just moving up the ranks in a Fortune 500 comapany.

Retired Syd

I think I'll have to write another post to really answer your great questions, but here's my first attempt.

I'm going to get in trouble with another friend of mine when I start this way: my own personal feeling is that I was incredibly lucky (right place at the right time). But I have a friend that says "Sydney, why do you always do that, discount your role. You were successful because of your efforts, NOT because you were lucky." I can hear her voice in my head and also those voices in my head doubting what she says.

But I will tell you this--I got lucky in that I was able to retire to a higher standard than I was initially planning on. But I was always saving and planning to retire by 45. If I had been less "lucky", then I would have had accumulated less, but my standard of living would have been less as well (requiring less to retire). We always lived within our means, not going into debt and aggressively paying down mortgages.

You are right that most accountants aren't rolling in the dough such that THEY feel they could retire young. But then again, early retirement isn't really a goal for all accountants--or all people in general. I knew I wanted it from the day I started working, so I worked to save what all the retirement programs told me I would have to, to retire young.

As a side note, none of the other young retirees I know were actually accountants.

Retired Syd

Oh, and as another side note, most of the accountants I knew didn't really dress very well . . .


Thanks for being so down-to-earth in your responses. I agree with your friend that you shouldn't discount your success as being mere luck. You had a plan from the beginning and you were smart enough to seek out good opportunities to make it happen. This is admirable because most people just go about their working days on auto-pilot.

Just for the record, I'm an accounting/finance professional and I'm content with this path. However, I know a lot of accountants who chose this field because they're good with numbers and it was a safe, practical choice. Most of them are very intelligent and graduated from great schools, but they're not very good at their jobs. This can be a real downer on their self-esteems and especially hurtful when they hit their 30s and beyond. I just wanted to emphasize that both your and your friend's success stories are not typical of the average accountant.

Also, thanks for being OK with sharing your journey to and in early retirement with your readers. I'll continue to live vicariously through you until my own early retirement arrives!

Retired Syd

I agree with you totally. It sucks to be in a field where you don't feel good about what you are doing and how you are progressing. Another good reason for going forward with a path that is something you are passionate about even if you know there's not a lot of money in it. It's more important to feel good about yourself, really.

And to be fair, you are also right that we are outliers being retired so young (but you could probably say that about people retiring young from any profession).

But you have to admit Taylor's mom is well intentioned. She doesn't want her to have to struggle with money. While she is really joking a bit about the future possibility of retiring so young--she is right that this is one of those safe and solid careers. You won't have to wait tables at night to make ends meet!

(Ironically, if you saw me and my best friend at lunch--another former finance person--you would die in hysterics at us figuring out the tip. It's hard to believe we both did that for a living!)


You bring up important issues in considering a career. I went with what I loved--languages and teaching, and now make barely enough to survive. Sometimes I wish my mom had encouraged me to be more practical, rather than just telling me to pursue what I loved--the a world of ideas, art, and literature (I majored in English and European Studies in college).

But then again, I got to travel the world, teach in different countries, and learn different languages. I also enjoy teaching.

Now, at 30, I'm trying to find ways for me and my husband to retire at least by the age of 50, probably abroad in a country where the dollar goes a long way.

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