Somewhere along the way from the beginning of our school years to when we become adults and start working towards retirement, it seems like a lot of us forget how to really pursue our dreams. We are doing something, but I’m not sure many of us are actually pursuing a specific dream or set of dreams.
I wouldn’t trade my first 20 years of marriage for anything, but I’d love to go back to 1995 or so, when we had been married a few years with the knowledge I have now about life, money, and the possibilities that exist for early retirement. The whole idea of what I thought was the American Dream, to own a house, drive nice cars, and retire at age 65, has sent us down a much longer path than what we could have taken.
By 1995, I started focusing on retirement. I wasn’t putting a ton of money in, but by 2000 I was in great shape, especially if I was thinking about retirement being another 35 years away. My wife was focused on getting into the school systems, and the thought of a pension was a driving factor. Investing for retirement wasn’t a priority for her. A few of those years, we drove over 60,000 miles combined. How much money did that really cost us?!?!
I’m not sure we would have found a better path to the incomes we’re earning now, but we have increased our lifestyle some as the income rose. Mostly in housing, and somewhat in other areas like food, cars, and clothing. We have a fine, typical lifestyle, but I wonder how much differently we could have done things if we knew what we know now? We’re already more conservative and more “boring” than many of our friends, but what if from 1992-2012 we were pursuing the dream we’re pursuing now, the one of early retirement? Could I have retired at 35 or 40 instead of maybe semi-retiring at age 50?
A few months ago, I came across a blog called Mr. Money Mustache, or MMM. I don’t remember how I stumbled across it, but it was probably in preparation for the Legacy Journey class we were leading. MMM sums up what it takes to retire super early in one post. He would call my wife and me complainypants, because at this point we’re not selling our home and moving within walking or biking distance of where I work. But deep down I sort of want to; the neighborhood beside where i now work was an area we dreaming of living in 1992. Just a couple miles away is a great neighborhood we almost bought a house in back in 2009. In between the two is an area we dreamed of in 2006.
Where we live is probably our biggest deterrent to early retirement. If we could make the move, we could probably either pay cash or pay off a house withing a year or two in one of those neighborhoods above. I could stop driving my car much, and sell at least one car of the three we own. Maybe two. After that, giving up cable and reducing our spending on food would really be the last two things on our list. We could probably be truly financially independent in 5 years instead of semi-retired.
I’m not complaining, things are pretty good. Especially with the focus we’ve had the last four years about being intentional about dreaming and then pursuing those dreams. But what if we’d been dreaming of retiring at age 40 since we got married? What choices would we have made? Why in the world didn’t someone tell us what was possible? Why didn’t I get some sort of sage advice in high school from other than something like “you need to stop dreaming so much; most people just can’t be something they’re not.” It was like since we are born into where we are, we can’t really change the course of our life. What utter crap!
Many of us are made to fear failure. To be afraid of what others will think if we don’t follow the herd. MMM is not the only place to learn about retiring really early. jlcollinsnh, Afford Anything, 1500 Days, the Frugal Woods; all share recipes and recommendations for really pursing your dreams. Don’t live someone else’s dream for you! No matter how old you are, but especially if you’re young – take some time his month and really think about what you want from this life, then put a plan in place to go get it!