Thanks again to JP for contributing this post last week. I love the conversation it spurred in the comments section. There is so much I wanted to comment on myself I think I’ll tackle a couple points here in a blog post.
A few of you shared my admiration of JP’s attaining retirement at such a young age. In my view that is what is most amazing. One commenter expressed some skepticism about whether JP is really retired or just between jobs, and also about the $2 million she had amassed by the age of 28. Another had issues with JP’s choice to live in only 325 square feet, and wondered whether she would be able to keep that up into her 40’s and beyond. And with others, the conversation revolved around whether they would even want to retire in a big city in the first place.
On the first two issues, I know at least two people from the high-tech world who achieved that kind of money by the time they were 28, neither of whom is retired yet. Because neither of them would have accepted the lifestyle choices that would have been necessary to live on that for the rest of their lives. Or maybe they just love work, or maybe some combination of both. As to whether JP is actually “between jobs” rather than retired--with five or six decades of life in front of her, who knows, maybe JP would do some work for money again in the future. I did for a couple years at one point during my eight years of retirement. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t retired before I did that, or that I’m not retired now.
On the issue of living in 325 square feet—again, who knows whether she will always live in 325 square feet in the future. That’s the metric that works for her right now, but like I said five or six decades is a long time. She points out that in real estate a “trinity” of factors is in play: price, location, and size, and “you can have any two . . but not all three.” Maybe at some point JP will swap size for location if she feels a need for more space and less city. These are the tradeoffs most people have to juggle in life, JP is no different.
In fact, the exact same thing can be said about retirement, except the trinity of factors for retirement is work, assets, and lifestyle.
I myself am a city girl, yet I live in the suburbs. Oh yeah, and in 4,000 square feet. Had I decided to retire to a studio apartment in San Francisco, I probably could have retired at least ten years earlier. But, at least right now, I enjoy the space. Will I want all this space when I’m 70 or 80, probably not. So I’ll move! Could I have afforded a 4,000 square foot house in San Francisco instead of the suburbs? Sure, but I would have had to work probably 20 more years to achieve that.
Work, assets, and lifestyle.
If you want to retire young, actually at any age really, you fiddle with the give-and-take between this trinity of factors.
You want to stop work but don’t have enough assets to continue your current lifestyle? Well then you’re going to have to adjust your lifestyle to fit your current assets. The lifestyle you have now is non-negotiable? Then you’re going to have to work until you amass the assets to support that lifestyle. Or maybe you cut back on work and cut back on lifestyle in some way to make the numbers work without having to choose one or the other.
Maybe you live in the city of your desires in 325 square feet, or an hour away in 4,000. You just have to jiggle the pieces of the puzzle together until it makes the picture you want for your own life.
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