My Goal Isn’t to Retire Early

Notice how in my blog’s title it doesn’t say anything about financial independence or retirement? My goal isn’t to retire early. I’m not against having the funds to do so, but that isn’t my goal per se.

My real goal is balance:

  1. A home I enjoy
  2. A sense of community, possibly including a healthy romantic relationship
  3. A way of being intellectually stimulated on a regular basis, possibly with a career
  4. A good level of fitness
  5. A way of providing for myself financially, whether that is through paid work or investments

On my home

As I’ve talked about many times, I absolutely love my condo. I love  the location, the rooms, and everything about it. This home really does make me happy.

On community

I am incredibly happy with my boyfriend. We have actually been friends since college, which is a pretty awesome way to start a relationship. He accepts me for who I am and I accept him for who he is. I’ve also gotten the go ahead to ease back into playing sports, which I would have been far more excited about if I hadn’t also caught a cold around the same time. I think that’s finally gone now :)

On intellectual stimulation

As you guys have probably deduced from some of my posts lately, I haven’t really been happy in my current job. I’ve spent quite a bit of time introspecting on what I like and dislike about my job and what I would change about it if I could. I eventually realized that I couldn’t change my current job into a job I would like and started the process of 8 am and 5 pm coffees to find a new job. I talked to many groups within my company and ended up choosing a job with the first group I talked to. I’m excited about the manager, the product the group is working on and the part of the product they’re working on, as well as the opportunities for growth there, and my future coworkers seem pretty cool too. Once I accepted the new job, I felt a huge relief to have that stress off my shoulders. I’ll be starting the new job in the new year and taking a bit of time off between jobs, so I don’t have much time left at my current job. It’s hard to focus when I know I’m leaving and I’m excited about my new job!

On fitness

I love walking places instead of driving. It is not only less stressful

On finances

My plan was always to save the residual. I never set out to save 50% of my income. I set out to spend the money I wanted to spend and then save the rest since there’s no reason to spend money I don’t want to.

For people who are naturally savers, I think that saving the residual is actually a better way to go about things than saving first. For people who are naturally spenders, I think that saving first is probably better. (I wouldn’t really know though since I’m more naturally a saver.)

Since I stopped paying Social Security tax with my July paycheck, I’ve been saving about $3,000/month AFTER maxing out my 401(k) and HSA and on top of saving all of my bonuses. But my spending plan also calls for spending ~$3,400/month if you include the mortgage. I don’t think that you can really call me all that frugal anymore when you add all of my expenses up. $3,400/month to spend for a single person is a LOT of money. But then when you look at the fact that I’m saving close to 80% of my net income, it no longer seems like a lot. I am on track to increase my net worth by about $135,000 this year. That means I had $135,000 (*figure includes investment gains) in income that I saw no reason to spend.

If you look at my budget, there is a ton of lifestyle inflation. I live by myself and spend about $1,700/month on housing when you throw in all utilities. I spend ~$4,000/year on travel. I eat out a fair amount – upwards of $200/month worth. I spend $100/month on sports and fitness. But, other than all the moving last year, I have been reasonably consistent in my spending since graduating from college. So it’s not like my lifestyle has increased with my income increases (which have been pretty significant!) I will come close to my 2011 spending this year.

I don’t coupon. I don’t hound myself for spending so long as I enjoy the thing I spent my money on. I think I’ve finally found my balance with my finances.

I’ve been keeping track of my credit card spending in a Google doc and otherwise not checking on things other than to enter receipts into my overall spreadsheet once a week and reconcile with my bank accounts once a month. Everything is on auto-pay and it is surprisingly awesome.

On retiring early

Most people who retire early find some other way to occupy their daytime hours, often with self-employment. As I’ve learned from the last few months of boredom at work, I am not someone who could sit around doing nothing. I will always find some activity to keep my mind and body active. I’m most happy when I’m reasonably busy. That’s even when my apartment is the cleanest! Perhaps at some point, I will find a career that I enjoy more than writing software and transition to that or take an extended sabbatical to travel or something similar, but that is not my intention now or in the near future. I’m simply saving my large residual of money after enjoying my life, to provide myself with some more options down the road when I do want them.

I’m going to continue to save the residual and to enjoy my life while hopefully also enjoying and kicking butt at my new job!


15 thoughts on “My Goal Isn’t to Retire Early

  1. Leigh,

    Congrats on the new job! I think the lifestyle inflation you have is more than justified considering the fact that you put aside 80% of your earned income. I’ve always felt that life should be about balance, so if you’re kicking ass in the income department, why not enjoy yourself a bit?

    In regards to retiring early, or becoming financially independent, there are many bloggers who are out to do this.. I think the ones who have this direct goal in mind are likely the ones who are tired of their current job/career, and need a change of scenery. Either that, or they just want the time and freedom to do as they please. Something like a sabbatical may be appropriate, but I really do believe you can reach the point where you seriously never, ever want to go back… I’m getting to that point now. I don’t think I could ever just sit around all day doing nothing… and that’s not the point of my journey. I just want to free up my days to take on other/different challenges in life. Even different careers. The financial independence part just means I don’t have to worry about money anymore. So, I can work at a ski resort for minimum wage if I feel like it. I’m becoming dull, and I don’t like that feeling.

    • Thanks! I do believe you can reach that point too, but since I’m so far from it, I would rather concentrate on finding balance with my life today and save the residual. I’m not saying I won’t retire early, just that I don’t want to strive towards that as a goal right now. I will continue to stash plenty of funds and I will probably be able to retire early some day regardless of whether I make it a goal.

  2. Good luck on the new job! I too did an inter-company job change for my current job and it worked out great. Great and hard to argue with goals. On leaving/not leaving a career once you have enough money, you haven’t said this, but a lot of people say they do or would continue to work for non-monetary reasons and I am always skeptical. Even when you really like your job, it’s hard to disentangle the money you get paid for your job from whatever satisfaction you get from your job (that is, if you are not worth 100Ms and working a minimum wage or unpaid job or something like that). I have soon to retire coworkers and one (who has more than hit his number), often talks about, as ideas, jobs or job like activities he would do when retired. I’ve tried a thought exercise – if you were given $XM dollars (depends on the person and their salary, but $10M is often sufficient), would you still want to do that job like activity in retirement. The answer is usually no, in which case part of the reason to keep working, at least semi-subconsciously is the money they pay you.

    I have a hard time imagining (and maybe this is just me), doing anything someone would pay me to do, if I got enough (and enough is where it gets tricky) money without working otherwise. Maybe if I entirely set my own schedule and worked as little as I wished – and even then, not so sure, because realistically, there would still probably be some responsibility-like feeling if I didn’t do anything for a while that I could do without.

    • Thanks! I did this last year too, but I’m more hopeful that this new job will work out than this current one :)

      I would probably quit my job once I’m FI with a reasonable safety margin, but I don’t want to make that my goal since it’s still too many years out (probably 5-10 years out), especially with the general life variables of my mid to late twenties. Finding a job that takes about 20 hours a week would probably be perfect for some degree of social interaction without there being too much responsibility.

      Do you think you’ll quit when you reach your number?

      • I’m planning on working a few years extra to create a buffer beyond the bare minimum (probably around 3 years from hitting bare minimum if all goes well, so also probably >5 years away). Haven’t determined precisely what that number beyond the bare minimum is. It partially depends on how tempted I am to quit, once I am able to vs things I’d like to be able to afford.

        I don’t spend very much now and don’t feel like I am skimping, but there are things I don’t have/do like doorman, eating out every day, that I do value and would work extra for (just an issue of how much). I’ve modeled on the flexible retirement planner website a few scenarios with high spending increases 10 years down the line and they do test really well, so delaying expenditure increases is a feasible approach.

        I don’t see myself working a shorter workweek and continuing to work – I think I would completely need to detach whatever I do for social interaction from making money. Interestingly when I take sick days I noticed a ridiculous number of young people in my neighborhood going about their day not working, which makes me wander how many people don’t work (realistically, most probably are just working for themselves or something). I am kind of curious to see what the doesn’t work a real job during the day social scene is like.

        • “I am kind of curious to see what the doesn’t work a real job during the day social scene is like.”

          Out of curiosity, how much do you spend now? I feel like I don’t spend that much, but my expenses will total about $40k all in this year and about half of that is housing.

          I’m half-worried that I’ll quit for the heck of it in a few years and then figure out something else to do…

        • About 20K total, about 15k is non-housing (no mortgage and unusually low maintenance). Does not count transit and health insurance which work almost entirely pays for. Also, I use miles for free flights.

          If you mean after you hit you are FI- quitting for the heck of it is probably a positive as people, including me, tend to create more of a safety margin than they need (and also probably a pleasurable thing to do). If before, I’m afraid of having to go back to work if I quit before I have enough for high probability of never needing to go back.

        • Taking out housing and health insurance turns my number for this year into about 20k as well. Some days that feels like a huge number (especially when you add in housing), but other days, I feel somewhat frugal.

          As much as all my spreadsheets will probably have a safety margin built in, I have a feeling I will end up quitting for the heck of it out of a huff one day. We’ll see! I would far prefer to have a high enough probability to not need to ever go back before quitting though…

  3. I like your attitude. I think the beauty of being financially secure and eventually financially independent is that you can still pursue your interests without hesitation. Your current status of being very secure allows you to seek out better opportunities rather than accept what you have out of fear of losing it. Full financial independence means there is no need to wonder if you could be making more money doing something different, yet less fulfilling. I’m about 7-9 years away from being fully financially independent at my current rate, but due to commitments to the military I won’t be able to “quit” for another 14. Like you, I’m not sure I’ll ever completely quit work because I will always want to do something to challenge myself mentally and physically. But knowing that I will not NEED to look for a job when I leave the military allows me to take the orders and positions within the military that are more enjoyable. I don’t have to worry about making rank, command, and connections on the outside. I worry about what is going to bring me the most happiness and, consequently, allow me to be the most productive. And once I’m out I can choose what I find the most rewarding since I won’t actually need anything.

    • I love your description and perspective! Thank you so much for sharing. I would say that I’m probably 5-10 years away from being financially independent at my expected rate. I could get there earlier or later, but who knows what life will throw at me!

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