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What It’s Like to Retire Early

What It's Like to Retire Early :: Mint.com/blog

We all hear stories about people who retired early, but don’t give them too much thought. That’s because, once we read the actual testimonials, we inevitably find tales like:

“I scored millions in the stock market overnight and haven’t worked a day since!”

“Thanks to the $750,000 a year I made as CEO of Corporate Corporations Inc., I retired at 40 and am loving it!”

“I found a discarded Mega Million ticket worth $100 million and now own three private islands in Dubai!”

Those stories are all well and good, but most of us aren’t CEOs or stock market wizards, and the most we ever find on a discarded lottery ticket is five bucks.

Yet wouldn’t we all want to retire early anyhow?

We could finally do what we wanted to do, instead of what we had to do, and not worry how to afford our next meal.

But how to do it, if you don’t have a ton of money at your disposal?

You can always do what these people did. Their income was nothing to brag about, and still they achieved early retirement.

If that’s not enough, far from simply milling about, these early retirees are making every second of their new life count.

Read their stories, and be inspired. If they can do it, there’s no reason you can’t either.

Mr. Money Mustache (Retired at 30)

Mr. Money Mustache is the alter-ego of Jeff, who retired at age 30 on a normal salary, with no fat pensions to fall back on. After retirement, he became a father, and yet he found no need to return to work.

His secret?

As he put it, “spending much less than you earn is the way to get rich. The ONLY way.”

And far from punishing yourself by living like a hobo until retirement, Jeff preaches a focus on self-reliance and happiness — a fun frugality, if you will.

He and his family have no TV, cook and fix things on their own, indulge in free activities such as the beach and the library, smartphones with ridiculously low monthly plans ($10 for unlimited talk and text sounds sexy, to say the least), and avoid as much useless debt as humanly possible.

Mix in a bit of basic investing, and he no longer has to work a day in his life.

Well, except for the Mr. Money Mustache blog, which he doesn’t even HAVE to run. He chooses to operate it, in order to help people get to the same level he’s at.

Deegee (Retired at 45)

Deegee started planning for early retirement at age 20.

Part of his ability to do so was lifestyle choices, such as not children and not smoking, which equaled a lot of saved cash.

But other things he did to save money for retirement were less life choices, and more pure fiscal common sense that any of us, including those with kids and/or cigarette habits, can emulate.

He paid off credit card bills in full every time. He paid off over half of his student loans before it started to gain interest. He paid cash for his car.

His day-to-day lifestyle is very frugal, and as self-sufficient as possible (learning to cook is a major, major plus.)

All this led to a debt-free life as of 1998, a part-time schedule by 2001, and retirement in 2013.

Since then, the 47-year-old Deegee has focused all his time on what he truly cares about, such as his girlfriend, dancing, and volunteer work at local schools.

Akaisha and Billy Kaderli (Retired at 38)

The Kaderlis retired in 1991 at age 38, thanks to a combination of hard work and meticulous penny-watching.

Most of us keep a budget of some sorts — that’s what Mint.com is all about, after all — but Akaisha and Billy took it a new level.

They track every cent they spend, and update their spreadsheet every day, in order to quickly pinpoint any cash-sucking trends and deal with them accordingly.

Two runs to McDonald’s in the past week? Never again!

If keeping this meticulous a budget sounds difficult, time-consuming, or tedious, Akaisha and Billy would disagree.

The typical update only takes two minutes or so; you can barely butter toast with that little time!

So never let it be said that keeping track of expenses is a full-time job, when in fact it’s barely a bathroom break.

In addition, while they did retire with $500,000 or so in the bank, they’ve been living on less than $30,000 a year ever since their retirement.

After all, if you’re not great at investing, you have to make the money you have last.

The Kaderlis don’t just stay at home either, mainly because the world is their home.

While remaining frugal and keeping expenses low, they’ve been travelling the planet since retirement, finding the best deals, along with with amazing beauty and tons of fun in every corner of the globe.

Just as long as they continue to, as they put it, treat retirement like “a lifestyle – not a vacation,” they’ll never have to put up with an office ever again.

These three stories prove beyond any doubt that early retirement and extreme saving is entirely possible, even if you don’t make a million dollars a year or have the ability to turn a dollar into a fortune at Wall Street.

Even if your end result isn’t retirement at age 40, following the steps these people have taken to changing their lives will make yours easier to handle, and far more fun and fulfilling to boot.

Mary Hiers is a personal finance writer who helps people earn more and spend less.