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May 25, 2019, 10:45 a.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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When your expenses are low, every earned dollar is that much more valuable to your lifestyle. Earning an extra $15,000 a year for someone who spends $100,000 is one thing. But, an extra $15,000 a year for a couple who doesn’t spend a penny over $35,000 suddenly becomes meaningful earnings.

If you earn money after retirement, then you aren’t retired

To the retirement police, you can’t be retired if you’re making money by doing work. Doing work, after all, is what people do “for a living”, and therefore, if you do something postretirement that generates cash, you’re not actually retired.

Because you’re still making a living.

As most of us in the financial independence and early retirement community know, our lives don’t simply stop once we reach retirement (in many cases, it’s quite the opposite). We don’t sit and stare out the window. Many of us still choose to “work” after we’ve quit our jobs.

In fact, the earlier that one retires, the more likely it is he or she will spend their time doing something productive, even if that generates additional cash. Retirement means you are no longer beholden to a job to sustain your life. It doesn’t mean that you’re done being productive.

Work, you see, is what we love. Jobs, on the other hand, drain our lifeblood from our souls. This difference is fundamental.

Retirement to me is a way of life that exists once your net worth and passive income support you and your family for the duration of your lives without holding another job. Ultimately, that means one can sit and stare out of the window for the next 50 years if they like, literally doing nothing.

But, early retirees don’t do that.

Early retirement in a trailer sounds like a life of destitution

In mid-November of 2015, my retirement renaissance article got picked up by Business Insider. Business Insider often does publish personal finance material, but they are far from an early retirement resource. The publication is well read among the general population.

The article describes my transition from a fairly big spender to an aggressive saver with a goal of retiring at 35 in pursuit of a life of freedom and choice. I mentioned that I no longer care about spending eight to 10 hours a day confined to an office and prefer to live life on my terms. I’m not following the traditional society-approved path in life. Neither are those like me.

I have chosen a very different path in life, and naturally, the comments reflected that. Those who dare walk in a different direction from society’s traditions must be sticking their fingers in the eyes of everybody else…I guess.

I think my favorite comment was this: “So basically this man lives a quasi-destitute life in the present so that he can ‘retire’ at 35?”

Destitute. Is this truly what Americans believe a life of maximum saving and a freedom of choice truly means? Destitution?

Let’s take a look at my life of destitution, shall we? My wife and I have never been more happy or healthy.

We travel the country full-time and wander our nation’s wilderness, exploring our national parks and experiencing our cities. We wake up happy every day.

Also, our carbon footprint is incredibly small. Our 500 watts of roof-mounted solar panels enable us to generate our own power during daylight hours and our composting toilet reduces the amount of sewage we generate to zero. That’s right, no sewage. Ever.

However, we don’t live in a 4,000-square-foot house with multiple sitting rooms, glass display cases, a separate dining room and nook, a 500-square-foot en-suite bathroom and a marble foyer. We aren’t permanently connected to the grid and paying $200 a month for electric service. No mortgage. No debt.

Talk about destitution.

The 4% Trinity Study rule is antiquated and outdated. There is no way you won’t run out of money

Contrary to popular critique, the 4% safe withdrawal rate is not some one-size-fits-all approach that people — come hell or high water — must blindly and stubbornly adhere to for the duration of their retirements.

Instead, a large majority of us are using the 4% rule as a guideline.

Meaning, we use the 4% number as a starting point. As well-known personal finance and early retiree blogger Mr. Money Mustache writes (and one who happens to believe in the 4% principle), there are no guarantees in life and we should always adjust our expenditures based on economic conditions. We start at the 4% rule, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t adjust.

The truth is there’s no way to tell whether or not we will run out of money. Sadly, I don’t have one of those magic 8-balls. Life is entirely organic; it’s not some equation that is consistently solvable by a calculator. Life doesn’t work like that.

We did use the 4% guideline to ballpark enough wealth to call it quits. But, we also know that early retirement isn’t the end of productive work. Opportunities to earn additional income are all over society, and these are opportunities that we never saw because our full-time jobs kept our subconscious minds from accepting them. Without full-time work, our vision instantly becomes much more clear.

In other words, we’re people who are fully capable of change and flexibility. Early retirement requires both of these habits.

Are there any other myths about early retirement that you’ve heard?

This column originally appeared on ThinkSaveRetire. It was modified and published with permission .

Steve Adcock retired from full-time work at the age of 35 and travels the country with his wife in their Airstream travel trailer with their two rescued dogs. He blogs about money, travel and their journey at ThinkSaveRetire.com.

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