As much as I love writing, you may have noticed that I can be a little slow to get blogs out. I know you guys are hungry to learn more about creating freedom in your lives and early retirement strategies, so I thought it could be really fun to tap my expansive network of blogger friends to share their unique experiences and wisdom.
Today I am excited to do a Q&A session with my friend, Anita, writer of the blog: The Power Of Thrift, who managed to retire at the ripe old age of 33. We met because I reached out to her after I read about her on the Mr. Money Mustache blog. Something she mentioned about loneliness in travel struck a chord with me and I just wanted to share some things that had worked for me. It was two Winters ago when I was living in Spain on a 3 month housesit and despite making new friends daily, I was noticing a yearning for my deep friendships back home in COLD Colorado. We got to talking about travel, pen palled our travel schedules back and forth for a few months and finally met up in Denver. We’ve been friends and even travel buddies, ever since.
ZM: How did you first land on the idea of Early Retirement?
AD: I read Your Money or Your Life when I was a teenager and learned the correct way to think about money. Enough is enough. Focus on living your life instead of earning money just to earn and keep up with the Joneses. Then I put “retire early” on my life bucket list and kind of kept it in the back of my mind.
ZM: Interesting. It seems like bucket lists have really caught on in the past few years. I don’t love lists because they make me feel antsy about all I have yet to finish. What has your experience been with your list and has it changed over the years?
AD: I LOVE lists. I’m afraid without my to-do lists, I’d sit on my couch and smoke all day instead of going out and doing life. If there’s something that doesn’t get done that day, no big deal, it can go on tomorrow’s list.
So far it’s worked really well. I spend very little time watching tv now that I’m retired and use my lists to kind of plot out my life. I have daily to-do lists, monthly to-do lists, grocery lists, life bucket lists, list of reasons why people like dogs. Honestly, I’m constantly making stupid lists. It helps me make sense of the world.
ZM: What were your biggest obstacles and wins in accomplishing your early retirement goal?
AD: Biggest win: was landing a job in “Big Law” when I was in law school. The starting salary was $160,000 and something clicked in my brain. If I made four times what the average person made, could I retire four times earlier? I reread YMOYL and actively plotted my early retirement.
Biggest obstacle: I spent three years working in insurance after undergrad, kind of drifting and not really doing anything. I saved money, but didn’t have any goals. Three years! It feels very wasted looking back on it now.
ZM: What were your visions or motivators through the journey?
AD: Futureme.org is one of my favorite websites. I set a calendar reminder every month to send myself a letter to the future. I’d get emails from my past self “Hey, you have $44k left in student loan debt. Out of it yet?” I’d cheer and realize how far I’d come. It’s great!
I also kept a physical wall chart with my expenses and my projected passive income on my closet door. Every morning, I’d look at it while getting dressed and remember what I was working towards.
ZM: Can you tell us more specifics on your strategy? How did you decide how much you needed, where to put it, and how to track it?
I spent a year paying off my student loans and then I spent a year reading a ton of investment books. I settled on the lazy route - a total stock market index fund from Vanguard. I use the 4% rule to determine my theoretical projected passive income. Save about 25 times your yearly expenses and you should be fine. Theoretically, 98% of the time.
ZM: What advice would you give someone who is just getting started?
AD: First get in the mindset that it’s possible. Read and learn as much as you can. Craft your plan. It doesn’t matter what you do, only that you do.
ZM: How does it feel on the other side?
AD: I’m happier now than I ever thought it possible to be. I feel like I’m as in control of my own story as it is possible to be. I’m attacking other life bucket list items. I’m sleeping in. It’s more awesome than I can explain to you with mere human words.
ZM: What are some unexpected pluses and minuses of the early retirement lifestyle?
AD: We’ve talked about this quite a bit in real life. :) The longer that I’m retired, the harder I find it to relate to people in the “real” world. It can be a little isolating. I’m single with no kids, so the loneliness can be palpable at times. I also think I have almost too many options open to me and my brain freezes at the possibilities. It’s fantastic, but it’s also daunting. Sometimes, I have no idea what I should be doing.
ZM: What do you think are the keys to a life well lived?
AD: Are you doing what you want with your day? Are you spending your life how you want? When you are telling yourself the story of your life, are you entertained by the story? That’s the goal to work towards.
ZM: What are you excited about in your life right now?
AD: I just published a book! It was life bucket list item #6. My first attempt was a truly terrible mystery novel that I wrote as a kid, so it’s been a long time coming.
My book is called “Operation Enough! How to Retire Remarkably Early” It’s about my operation to retire as soon as possible so I can cackle at my alarm clock every morning.
And there you have it. Another inspiring example of what can be done at a young age.
Check out Anita’s blog: www.thepowerofthrift.com for more in-depth stories about her path to Early Retirement.