If you know me well, or have at least read my “ABOUT ME” page, you know that our goal is to retire early. Not to come squealing into the 65-years-of-age retirement finish line at the last second, but to beat that mark by a wide margin. I’m often asked by people, “Why?”…to which I reply…”Why not?” There is nothing that says I have to wait until Social Security kicks in to enjoy a life of financial independence. I want to sleep in ’til noon if I like, take a bike ride with my husband in the middle of the afternoon or even travel for months at a time to far-away places.
But it takes dedication and commitment. We all know that anything you truly want, way deep down, is worth some sacrifice. We currently put away just over 60% of our net income into investments. Between our extreme savings rate, and the true magic of compound interest, the balance will grow quickly. Our target is $1.25 million dollars, and according to several calculators, we’ll get there in less than 8 years.
Now that I’ve answered the “Why do you want to retire early?”, I’ll answer those that ask, “What gave you that crazy idea in the first place?”
It was the second wake-up call.
Near the end of 2012, the day after Christmas in fact, my husband started a new job. A few months later, he came home to tell me he’d found out something rather morbid that day. He was told that Sam*, the guy formerly in his position, had died…at work. Sam was in his early 60’s and was only months away from retirement. 7 months, to be exact. Other employees recalled him coming into work each morning with a cheery announcement of how many working days he had left…he could see the day coming where he would finally walk out the door to start the next chapter of his life. He didn’t know that day would never come.
Naturally, I asked my husband what happened.
It’s November 20th, two days before Thanksgiving. Sam stands up from his desk, grabs his coffee cup and begins walking down the main hallway. Without warning…he collapses. Coworkers rush to him, and immediately begin CPR. He was having a heart attack. While the efforts to resuscitate continue, the paramedics arrive. But it was too late. He died right there on the floor.
Days after hearing that story, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I started asking myself things like…”Am I going to work and save for 40 years just to end up dying before I can enjoy it?”…”Am I doing all I can to reach my financial goals?”…”Can I reach them any faster?”
What was once a plan to put in 40 years with a respectable savings effort, has become a determination to save/invest our way to retirement in less than 8 years from now. You only have one life to live. Are you going to (a) make changes to live life on your terms as soon as possible, (b) come squealing into the retirement finish line at 65…or (c) never have enough to retire at all?
A few days into his new job, my husband is sitting at his desk, in Sam’s old office. He rolls over to the computer, and opens a spreadsheet that is sitting on the desktop.
He calls out to his manager, “What are these numbers on the right-hand side?”
“That’s Sam’s countdown. To retirement.”
* Name has been changed to respect privacy