(Photo details: Doug serving my birthday martini last week in what I call the Christmas Room (the living room)--an admittedly underused room of my house.)
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.
Guest Post: Radical Retirement
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Good to see your posts again Sydney. Some strong reactions from people regarding NYC - I'm visiting for the first time next September from the UK, so the excitement is mounting! I lived in London during my 20s and loved the buzz, the bars, restaurants, theatres, museums and an exciting job near to Fleet St. Over time the crowds and the congestion got to me and I moved to Sydney, which I enjoyed for several years. I'm now back in my home town and I love it. So, take the best from whatever situation you're in, and once it begins to pall, make some changes. I live in a house that I love in the outer suburbs. Craved something closer to the action for some time, but so glad I didn't take on extra mortgage to achieve this or I would still be slaving away at my old job. We all have to cut our cloth accordingly.
Posted by: CMW | December 19, 2016 at 06:51 PM
Yes, JP's guest post definitely 'spurred' conversation in the comment section. Thought-provocation is what great blogging is all about! Thanks for following up with a few of these points in this blog, Syd. The points that both you and JP made regarding "fiddling with a trinity of factors' is sound advice. The details that you gave in this post helped to bring further clarity to this issue.
PS Happy Birthday, Syd!
Posted by: Donna | December 19, 2016 at 10:20 PM
I like your post and JP's with their clear reminders that the "trinity" of work, assets, and lifestyle drive retirement. However, it seems to me two additional points made are equally important. One is that retirement is a phase of life and within that phase people change, grow, develop, move, make new or different choices. I hope JP lives a long life and if she does, chances are her life will look different over time as she develops and grows. The other point is the simple idea that people are different. You live in 4000 square feet, JP lives in 325 square feet, I live in 1600 square feet in a mountain town. These are simply differences that probably reflect personal preferences and not what is right or wrong. In my experience, some may be less comfortable with choices that fall outside what they consider normative.
I enjoyed the posts and the martinis look tempting.
Posted by: GailD | December 20, 2016 at 06:48 AM
CMW: I have always loved visiting Manhattan. I know a lot of people hate it, and I don't disagree with their criticisms of NYC. But I still love it and enjoy every minute I'm there. I'm sure you'll have a great time. There's still no other city I love as much even with its faults. (Although I could never live with the winters. Loud, dirty, smelly, crowded? Yeah, I could live with all that, but not the cold! Guess I'm a California sissy.)
Donna: I'm with you, love a blog post that gets me thinking.
Gail: Yep, city vs. country, big vs. small, retire early or later? Everyone is different.
Posted by: Retired Syd | December 20, 2016 at 09:37 AM
"You live in 4000 square feet, JP lives in 325 square feet, I live in 1600 square feet in a mountain town. These are simply differences that probably reflect personal preferences and not what is right or wrong. In my experience, some may be less comfortable with choices that fall outside what they consider normative."
So true! I've lived in a studio apt. at 18 years old. A 3,300 SF home on a lake in my 20's only to leave that to buy a 1,300 SF condo to a house currently with just under 2,200 SF. My favorite? That 1,300 SF condo and the house we have now at 2,200 SF. I still dream about that condo though - I loved it so much. So for our 2nd place for our weekends and vacations we are going to build a tiny house (288 SF) on our lake property we also have. The best of both worlds in moderation - for us. I think...
If only we could see into the future think of the brilliant decisions we'd make and the money we'd save! Maybe JP has that ability. Or she's just smarter than some of us. ;)
Posted by: Peace of Mind | December 20, 2016 at 12:21 PM
I remember taking a job -- coincidentally, when I was 28 -- where the office was closed on Fridays in May (for a reason too obscure to explain here). At first I thought -- Great! Extra days off! But after the second or third Friday, I realized my wife and all my friends were working, so there was really not much for me to do, and no one to do it with. I was glad when I moved on to another jobs a few years later, where we got the time off when everyone else was off. All by way of saying . . . what do you do if you're 28 and retired, even in NY? Go to restaurants and musuems and the theater by yourself? Hang out with the 70-year-olds?
Posted by: Tom Sightings | December 20, 2016 at 01:11 PM
Peace of Mind: Or when you're really ready you just make it work.
Tom: Well I imagine you do the same things you do at 53, like take piano lessons or something. I'm taking jazz piano class three days a week at the community college. One of my new friends from class is 92 years old. She probably has as many friends her age to hang out with as JP does at 28. In any case, some of my favorite retirement days are the ones where I have the house all to myself.
Posted by: Retired Syd | December 20, 2016 at 01:41 PM
I read the earlier post and found the discussion interesting. As for me, I live in about 625 square feet in a studio apartment just outside NYC. I have lived here for nearly 28 years (I am 53 now). I worked in NYC (or nearby Jersey City, New Jersey) for 23 years (19 of the ~28 years I have lived here) but the barely tolerable commute became intolerable. I retired 8 years ago at age 45.
There are times I wish I had moved to a slightly bigger place in my co-op complex but real estate prices were high in 1989 and I hadn't saved up enough to buy a one-bedroom with a bigger kitchen. I can see myself one day moving to a bigger place, maybe even a small house, just to have some more room. I'd have to make sure it fit into my budget (it probably would once I turn 60) ; around here, the property taxes would be huge!
Posted by: deegee | December 21, 2016 at 07:00 AM
Happy New Year Syd. Your tree looks lovely.
Posted by: Fred | December 29, 2016 at 09:46 AM
One about money is that I always believe everything is actually UNDERSTATED rather than overstated due to Stealth Wealth.
There's more money out there than one knows.
I'm sure the $2M net worth is described in detail on her sight somewhere.
Posted by: Financial Samurai | December 31, 2016 at 08:48 AM
Great post, and I heartily agree about the trinity. I retired at 53 almost two years ago. I own my 1,100 sqft home in a low COLA. I live very comfortably on my defined benefit pension. My daughter and her family just moved two and a half hours away to a higher COLA for her husband's work. If I choose to move to be closer to my grandchildren I would have to move into a smaller home. My decision to retire (and whether I could afford to) was based on living in my current home. I have made lots of renovations and love my home. It is the perfect size for me and my myriad of hobbies. I have decided to stay put as it isn't too far to drive to visit, but that doesn't mean I won't want to downsize when I am older. We will see what the future brings.
Posted by: Jacqui583 | January 19, 2017 at 06:18 AM
Hi Syd, interesting article. How were your holidays? Miss reading your blog. Will you be writing soon or have you officially retired?
Posted by: Rose | January 24, 2017 at 05:47 AM
Good article, looking forward to the next one.
Posted by: Sally | March 26, 2017 at 04:32 AM
"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."
Very true statement.
Living in Australia, there is an expectation from people that you must accumulate real estate assets. However, with prices in some parts of the country 12 x the average income, to do so you risk sacrificing lifestyle.
As someone who thinks lifestyle should be prioritised, I took great pleasure reading your article.
Posted by: Jane | March 29, 2017 at 03:45 AM
Greetings! Great post as always - really enjoy reading up on your financial advice and how you made retiring early work so well for you. I definitely agree with your points about JP here - everyone has different lifestyle and spending preferences. I'm glad to see that you can see where she's coming from.
I was wondering if you ever considered Housesitting as a means for travel and income. It is a low-maintenance job and has the benefit of free accommodation. Housesitters have the chance to experience a different lifestyle in a new location. I recommend visiting a website like Housesitter.com to view opportunities for you!
Posted by: Cheryl Coleman | May 19, 2017 at 10:40 AM