Mike and Lauren are in their late twenties. A few years ago, the couple made a bold decision: to retire early. How early are we talking? By the time Mike turns 31! That might not be the kind of goal the average person sets for himself or herself, but it doesn't have to be to learn from the couple's efforts.
Recently, Mike and Lauren offered up a video on the two most important things you need if you want to retire early. Surprisingly, it isn't a big salary, or wise investments. In fact, very little of it directly has to do with money.
Having experienced the ups and downs of a mini-retirement myself, I think Mike and Lauren are on to something, here. Do you have the two things necessary to retire early? Read below to find out.
The ability to think differently
The predictable path in life is fairly well worn: school until your twenties, work until your sixties, then retirement. Though we all intellectually know that there are thousands of different ways to deviate from this path, few of us are willing to admit that doing so can be a scary and anxiety-producing decision.
The fear of the unknown alone can keep us from wandering too far "off course."
Mike and Lauren believe the ability to not only think differently, but to act on those thoughts, is the first requirement to retire early, especially for those who want to accomplish the goal much earlier than usual.
As Lauren said, those who retire extremely early "think differently from the masses, and it allows them to get what they want out of life." Some of the things they do that are different: "fix their own plumbing issues, buy older cars, consider having roommates, ride their bikes to work, move overseas, self-insure, and teach themselves new skills."
I would also throw in there that early retirees think of retirement differently, too. These people don't think of it as purely leisure time for golf and grandkids. Instead, they view themselves as "financially independent" instead of "retired." That means they can work when they want to, on what they want, in the fashion that they want to.
Therein lies one of the biggest ways early retirees think differently. It's not so much that people desire to retire because they want to do absolutely nothing; it's that they want to have a say over how they develop their passions.
As Wes Moss, author of You Can Retire Earlier than You Think, writes in his book, it's crucial for any retiree to have at least three core pursuits. These are pastimes that give people meaning and transcend our outdated definition of what "work" is.
Not caring what other people think... to a point
If you suddenly decide to change the priorities in your life to help you retire early -- driving an older car, eating out less, living in a smaller house -- you need to be willing to accept the consequences this action can have when it comes to how you are perceived.
On one hand, many of your acquaintances, co-workers, and even close friends might start to wonder if you're having money problems. For some people, a simple explanation of your goals is enough to take care of the problem.
But for others, especially those who attach their self-worth to their possessions, it can be very difficult to scale back as needed to retire early. You can start to worry constantly about "looking poor" -- as Mike and Lauren put it.
Obviously, if that's how you identify yourself, retiring early may not be for you.
And although Mike and Lauren didn't talk about it specifically, not caring what others think can also be a double-edged sword. Instead of thinking you're poor, some of your friends might start to become resentful of your new pursuits. This is especially true if -- even when you may not intend to -- you come off as judgmental and self-righteous in explaining your new life course.
This can quickly lead to serious strains on relationships that are important to you. Losing important relationships because of this often isn't a very good trade off for retiring early. That's why it's infinitely important to remember that everyone has their own path and their own circumstances. While explaining your decision to attempt early retirement, be sure to leave room for other options as well.
All the efforts in the world to retire early will likely be a waste if you don't first have these social, emotional, and intellectual expectations in place. If you'd like more concrete decisions you can make to retire early, I suggest taking a look at a popular article on the topic I wrote earlier this year.