Retiring early seems to be the dream of the millennial generation. Books like 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris make it so easy to visualize—find your muse, travel the world and generally screw the man. It all sounds so simple and lovely.
The best thing is that it’s totally possible.
Tim is right. You CAN retire early. You CAN travel the world (or do nothing at all, if that’s your jam). You just have to plan for it. And if you have someone you love in your life, that plan should include both of you.
I know, I know. That part sounds like it might not be as fun as creating Pinterest boards of all of the exotic locations you plan to go and the food you’ll eat when you get there.
But it also doesn’t have to be that bad.
If you want to know the truth, finances bore the crap out of me. You’re probably wondering why I went to the trouble of creating my course, 90-Day Finance Fix, if I’m not interested in finance that much. The reason is that I’m also simultaneously fascinated with numbers, because plugging a few metrics into a spreadsheet means that you can make predictions of how / when you can meet a goal.
I’ve always said that 90% of the work is creating the plan. Then you just have to stick to it!
If you want a bit more comprehensive plan you can learn more about 90-Day Finance Fix here.
For now, let’s get into the strategies that can help you retire early!
1. Uhh…get out of debt
Ok, so this one is pretty straightforward. Obviously, the interest you pay on debt can stack more money owed onto what you already owe, so the faster you can get out of debt the faster you’ll be on track to financial freedom.
The toughest thing about getting out of debt (and I would know…I graduated with significant five-figure student loans) is the mental hurdle that accompany paying off the debt. Looking at that number at the bottom of your credit card bill, student loan, car payment, etc typically causes my brain to scream, “I can’t do this!” It seems insurmountable.
I live in Colorado, and a huge pastime here in the mile-high city is climbing 14ers. There are 53 mountains in Colorado that rise to an elevation of 14,000 feet or higher. They range in difficulty from strenuous hikes to perilous cliffs you need mountaineering equipment to scale.
Getting out of debt is like climbing a 14er. If you’re standing at the bottom and look up at the top, it seems pretty impossible. But take it step by step and it’s really not so bad. Coming up with a plan to pay off your debt is the same thing. If you divide and conquer and pay just a bit more each month, you’ll be done with it before you know it!
One of the best resources I’ve seen on all different types of debt is DebtKnowMore.com. The experts at this blog have a ton of good tips on strategies to get out of debt in a relatively painless way. Check them out!
2. Calculate what you really need
How much money would it take for you to be able to retire at age 40? How about age 50? Good news.
You probably need less than you think!
When I first started thinking about this topic, I assumed I’d need something crazy, like maybe $10 million. But if you sit down some night (glass of red wine in hand) and calculate what you spend on a monthly basis, it’s probably a LOT less than you think.
J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy has a fabulous early retirement spreadsheet all ready to go. He explains the method behind the numbers and you can see the numbers he needs to retire early.
Even if you’re not a huge spreadsheet nerd like I am, it’s EXTREMELY fun to play with the numbers and see when you could feasibly retire if you lower your expenses, or increase your income, or both!
3. Figure out what your hourly rate is
One thing that really chaps my ass about a lot of personal finance advice is when they basically handcuff you to a budget and tell you not to spend a dime.
Don’t buy a latte! That will add up to $10,000 over the course of a year!!!
UGH I’m so sick of the fucking latte advice. If you want a latte, buy one. But, before you buy that or anything else, you need to consider your hourly rate. If you’re an hourly worker, this is easy. If you’re a salaried employee, you should divide your salary by the number of hours you work in a year. That’s your hourly rate.
Now, before you buy anything compare the cost to the amount of hours you would have to work to earn it. The new Apple Macbook is $1599. If your annual salary is $60K, assuming that you work 2,080 hours a year, your hourly rate is $28.85. That means it will take you over 55 hours of work to earn the computer. Is it worth it? To some of you, yes. To others, no.
Obviously this doesn’t take into consideration money you will need for retirement at all. But what it does do is make you think twice. Especially when I was a student making $10 per hour, remembering that a latte was 15 minutes of work made me never want to buy one. Forget about buying a computer. Perhaps that’s a sign that I hated my job.
4. Earn side cash via teaching an online course
Online courses are all the rage right now! I LOVE taking them and of course, I am also teaching one! 90-Day Finance Fix is my pride and joy—I love helping people who are having trouble figuring out what the hell to do with their finances as a couple get everything organized and sorted out. What’s better than allowing people to just ENJOY the person they love!?
Think of everything you love doing and everything you’re good at.
What inspires you?
What happened on the nights when you were so excited you couldn’t fall asleep?
What gets your dorkdom up and running?
The thing is, there’s something about you that you completely take for granted that others would LOVE to be good at! Maybe you’re super zen and are never anxious (if so, please start a class because I need to take that one). Maybe you are excellent at watercolor painting. Whatever it is, I bet there are people out there that want to learn how to do it, and are willing to pay you for it.
If you aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend you check out Femtrepreneur.co by Mariah Coz. I’m taking her course Your First 1K and it’s incredibly insightful. She has a Find Your Niche workbook that can help you remember the things you’re good at and find your passion. If it helped me, it can absolutely help you! Also, it’s not just for the ladies. Even though her site and brand is Femtrepreneur, any of her techniques are just as easy to follow if you’re a dude.
5. Negotiate a higher salary
I love, love, love The Financial Diet. Not only is the design of the site extremely cool, but they have an entire section of their site dedicated to negotiating!
I’ve read so many articles about women and the glass ceiling, and the fact that women are still paid less than men infuriates me. The thing is, in speaking with my female friends vs male friends, most of my gal pals are terrified to ask more money.
What reason should I give?
I don’t know what words to use to ask.
I’m not sure I deserve more money.
Whether you are male or female, you have the right to ask for a raise. You have the right to a promotion. There are absolutely companies that have set salaries for each role. But you never know until you ask! The worst they can say is, “No.”
As someone who has hired and fired a lot of people in my day, I can tell you that most of the time, we aren’t sure who we can get for what salary. Earlier this year I was hiring interns and set the rate at $12 per hour. Nobody applied. Not a single person. I upped the rate and finally got two applications. One of those people asked for $15 an hour. The other one didn’t. Can you guess who got paid more?
Just ask. Seriously. Do it.
6. Cut the fat
Okay, you knew this was coming. You already know that unless you have a job that pays extremely well, or you earned your money the old-fashioned way (ehrm, inheritance), you can’t just spend money willy-nilly.
When you’re in a couple, that means you need to be extra-careful not to indulge in “financial infidelity,” which is basically spending a lot of money and hiding it from your partner. Now, I’ll never be one of those bloggers who advocates a crazy-strict budget that inhibits your ability to live your life. Personally, I keep a semi-vague budget that allows me to have fun but is still reasonable.
However, you should really ask yourself if there are things you’re spending your money on that aren’t really adding to your enjoyment of life. For me, the downfall is lunch with friends. I’ll spend $15 or $20 multiple times a week, when I actually enjoy taking a walk with that same friend a whole lot more. A few of my friends have talked about this and ended up deciding we ALL prefer this type of hang-out, especially in the summer when the weather is amazing and we want to be outside enjoying it.
You can cut the fat simply by being conscious of what you’re spending money on and whether or not it’s equal to the enjoyment you get out of it.
7. Fight lifestyle creep
A huge issue in our culture is “lifestyle creep.” Basically this means that the more money you spend, the more you find you need. If you’re ever wondering how that CEO making $350,000 a year can go broke, this is the reason!
Ben Carlson, CFA and author of the blog A Wealth of Common Sense references this issue in his excellent article How to Retire Early. I’m a subscriber to this blog and a big fan of Ben’s. He’s always teaching me something new about asset management or investing.
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