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?
I agree with you. Personally, I want my journey to be reasonably fun. I understand the joy of saving and seeing the egg nest grow--I regularly save about 70% of my salary at the moment--but I'm not going to do the extreme way of eating lentil soup and tuna 6 days a week for years like earlyretirementextreme!
Imagine doing that lentil diet for 6 years, looking forward to the day you can eat a succulent, juicy steak everyday, and get hit by a car, just one day from The Steak Day. *shudder*
Posted by: Ray | September 08, 2008 at 05:22 AM
Great post - it underscores that we can make pretty big mistakes and still accomplish early retirement if we really want to. I've been planning to write about some of the big mistakes I made along the way. One of the biggest - ahem -was being *heavily* invested in individual tech stocks just before the tech bubble burst in 2000. I'm not proud of it, just telling it like it is. Which is why I now go spouting off about asset allocation at every opportunity!
Posted by: R | September 08, 2008 at 06:03 PM
@R--You were not alone in being heavily invested in tech stocks back then. I was right there with ya sista. I left that one out, among others.
But the mistake of buying a vacation home actually erased some of the potential for that mistake as I sold a bunch of stock to buy the home (which at the time seemed foolish, but in retrospect was a MUCH better investment.)
Posted by: Retired Syd | September 08, 2008 at 09:34 PM
You know there are ways to make your retirement a bit more comfortable if you've had a rocky road up to the point of retirement. This is coming from someone who's made a lot of the same mistakes that you've listed in this post, RetiredSyd. After I retired I had one life insurance policy too many, so I sold it in what is called a life insurance settlement. There are a lot of options out there. You can check out sites like http://www.lsettlements.com.
Posted by: Harvey | September 17, 2008 at 10:48 PM