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July 19, 2020, 12:22 p.m. EDT

Why early retirement IS all it’s cracked up to be

Debunking the top 5 myths of early retirement

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By Steve Adcock

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Sometimes, the stuff that people say about early retirement (and early retirees) is terrible. It is assumed that early retirement is the end of productive life and that unless we’re swimming in millions in cold hard cash, early retirement will eat us alive.

Today, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to debunk five of the most common of these myths, which also happen to be the ones that I hear most often.

As I said in my one-year early retirement performance review , early retirement is all that it’s cracked up to be.

It’s a remarkable feeling of control, each and every day. It didn’t take long before I forgot entirely that I didn’t have any major income coming in. That part just didn’t matter. My wife — the money master in the family — worked the budget so we are able to travel the country and have fun doing it without much thought about our financial picture.

I rarely get bored, but that’s also because I had set up a plan of attack. I knew what I wanted to do with myself before I quit. That’s essential. If you have no hobbies, then you probably won’t be happy sitting at home doing nothing. Doing nothing isn’t what early retirement is all about .

Here are the biggest myths of early retirement:

You will completely lose your purpose in life

To believe a statement like this, you must also believe that your job is the only source of purpose in your life. Respectfully, that just sounds devastating. A single point of failure. And, it does not represent my life. At all.

There is more to life than your job. At least, there should be.

What keeps me busy and full of purpose in early retirement?

Full-time travel. We sold both of our homes and travel the country for a living. Full-time. Our Airstream is our home. Yes, our only home. We pulled out of the KOA in Tucson, Ariz., April 1 of 2017 and began our new lives of travel (we are temporarily back in the KOA, but we’re leaving once again for permanent travel).

Rockstar Finance. For near the entire year of 2016, I worked closely with J$ as his primary technical resource. I built out the entire Rockstar Directory from scratch (with J$ delivering the vision, of course). Today, I manage the operational side of Rockstar Finance after ESI Money bought Rockstar Finance , and I couldn’t be happier. [ESI Money columns also appear on MarketWatch.]

YouTube channel. My wife and I spend time running a growing YouTube channel . I’m the one filming the majority of the videos, and I’m also the guy who edits the videos and puts together the final product. Our talking videos only take about 30 minutes to edit, but hiking and exploration videos can take hours to edit with music. It’s fun, though!

Fitness. I’m a fitness fanatic. In fact, I used to be that guy who went to the gym multiple times a day on some days. Yes, an actual “gym rat”. Now, I’m working out at more reasonable intervals and enjoying more time away from the gym. This year, I will be taking my Planet Fitness gym membership with me around the country.

As you can tell, I’ve been busy, but not too busy where I’ve felt overwhelmed by the work I was doing. Everything that I do is a passion. But still, there is a balance that needs to be maintained throughout early retirement. The idea is to keep that buttery sweet feeling of freedom and combine it with satisfying work that makes you feel productive, accomplished and useful.

$1 million at retirement is nothing, you’ll need more

It might surprise many of you to know that we didn’t have $1 million saved when we officially set sail in our Airstream . That’s right, we aren’t one of those “rich people”, though we are rich enough to make our lifestyle work.

When you live at or below your means and actually care about where your money is going, people can live quite well on far less than a million. Live like kings, in fact.

A million bucks is a wonderful milestone, but we don’t need to reach it before retiring early. There is nothing inherently magical about the million-dollar figure, aside from all those zeros. It’s a completely arbitrary number. In fact, we may never need to reach it to keep our jobless dreams alive, and here is why.

Four years of living expenses in short-term savings. We have almost four years of living expenses in our Ally savings account, which will provide a nice little buffer once the next recession hits. Until then, we live off our monthly cash flow from our passion projects (this cash flow was a complete surprise, by the way) and by depositing dividends into our checking account rather than reinvesting them (this was a recent change).

Also, my wife drew a salary as she finished up a work commitment during the winter of 2017. Best of all, we are earning more and more with our passion projects. In March of 2018, we funded half of our lifestyle with just the money we earned from these projects. Amazing.

Our lifestyle is cheap. We spend in the neighborhood of $30,000 to $35,000 a year. We do this by boondocking as much as possible on BLM land, which is free government-owned wilderness to call home — usually for a maximum of 14 days before you need to move on. Find a spot, park your rig and enjoy nature. Of course, no hookups (electric, water and sewer) available, so you’ll have to provide your own power, water and hold on to your waste products or dispose of them safely (thank you for making that job easier, Mr. Composting Toilet).

We remain completely flexible and willing to change. Flexibility happens to be a critical element of our postretirement lifestyle. If things don’t work out exactly like we planned, we change. We find a solution. It might include us working a seasonal job or two. Or, maybe we look for ways to reduce our spending. Choosing a lower cost of living area is another idea, to include overseas travel to areas like Thailand and Costa Rica. When you’re retired, your options are virtually limitless.

It is amazing what the impact of earning $15,000+ a year through our passion projects has on our long-term probability of success.

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