This probably makes me weird, but I was thinking about retiring before I ever got my first real full-time job.
I went through college during the healthy economic times of the late 90s. Everything was great! Employers flocked to job fairs to hire young talent. Signing bonuses were commonplace. And a bachelor’s degree–oh yes–this was the ticket to landing a good paying job. As I neared graduation, the promise of gainful employment was inevitable and intoxicating!
Until it wasn’t.
Just months before graduating in 2002, rumors and media reports of a tough job market circulated, and those once busy job fairs became more scarce and more competitive. And there I was–graduating into the start of a receding job market.
At home, my dad was laid off in his mid-50s after 25 years as a white collar mechanical engineer—a job he really enjoyed. It was dad and daughter job searching together.
Enter the original retire early light bulb moment
Job searching alongside my dad at that time in his life gave me my original early retirement light bulb moment: I’ll be damned if I’m still stuck in the rat race in my mid 50s!
After we fought over space in front of the bathroom mirror getting dressed up for our interviews, I watched my dad go on interview after interview for jobs he wasn’t excited about. And he had little to show for them in terms of offers. Let’s face it–he was at a tough stage of life for a job search, especially in a slow job market. And while it paid fine and was in his field, he ended up having to take a stressful position at an automotive plant. On contract. On third shift. With the longest commute of his life.
From experiencing job search woes right along with my dad, I knew the minute I could start saving for retirement, I would. When I landed my modest first salaried job a few months later, I did just that. My username for my account? Retire@54. I was going to be bold and retire in my 50s!
The more recent retire early pivot
Consuming all the standard financial advice, I gathered that saving 10% of your salary would put you in decent shape for retirement. But since I wanted to get out of the rate race a little early, I bumped my percentage to 15% and considered that pretty fantastic.
With a frugal upbringing, I kept my major expenses like housing low, and I avoided credit card debt. Again, all great stuff.
Here I was, with a fantastic husband, a couple of kids, and a ranch in the suburbs. But I also had a demanding job in the city, and over the years I increasingly felt, well, less enthused about another 20 years in the workforce. It just seemed so long.
I legitimately like my career field. But I’d sure like it more if it wasn’t required to have my butt in an office chair 40 hours a week. Simply put, I wanted to reclaim more of my life. I thought it was impossible to jump off the hamster wheel before I had a full head of grey hair until I stumbled upon the Mad Fientist podcast in early 2017.
I listened to his explanation of buying your freedom at any age: Amassing enough money that your investments could fund your lifestyle indefinitely. Working would then be a choice, not a necessity. Your time would be yours once again. Financial independence! Mind. Blown. Hell. Yes.
An accelerated FI journey
Buying my freedom is my “Why of FI.” More time for my family. More time for the things I love to do. More room to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. More choices. More room to breathe.
Searching for additional resources about financial independence led me to the ChooseFI community–all like-minds pursuing or already at financial independence. I already had my “Why of FI” and now I found my “how.”
From credit card rewards, to slashing expenses, to optimizing taxes, my family has turned marginal improvements in our finances over the last year into a big change for our future. These steps have put Mr. sureFIRE and I on a path to reclaim five or 10 extra years of freedom from having to work.
When your “Why” is crystal clear, taking steps in the right direction is more simple, and also exciting!