When it comes to early retirement, there’s no discounting the importance of having enough money saved to retire early, but many early retirees will tell you the truth: money doesn’t really matter once you get there.
Brandon of the blog Mad Fientist, who retired at age 34, previously told Business Insider he wishes he knew how “unimportant and insignificant” money would be after retiring early.
“I always thought that I would spend my early retirement doing entrepreneurial things, but now that I have enough money, doing things for the sole purpose of getting more money doesn’t make sense anymore,” Brandon said. “Money has been the primary motivator for my entire adult life, but now that I have enough, I’ve had to find new sources of motivation.”
Money is so unimportant to early retirees that in hindsight, many said they wish they didn’t wait so long to retire early, even if they didn’t have as much money saved as they would have liked. For them, you can’t put a price on the value of early retirement.
Consider John from ESI Money: after a few calculations, he realized that by retiring at 52 instead of the official retirement age of 65, he gave up $3.1 million in earnings.
But to him, it was the best $3.1 million he ever spent, for several reasons: it wouldn’t have changed his lifestyle, he probably added a few extra years to his life by escaping the stress of work, and he found early retirement way more enjoyable than working.
“Imagine 13 years of life enjoyment in retirement versus 13 years of life enjoyment if I remained working — especially in the last 13 years of my career,” he wrote. “What is that life enjoyment worth?”
‘Money is infinite, but time is not’
The enjoyment John speaks of doesn’t depend on a dollar, but instead on two other factors — time and lifestyle.
Grant Sabatier, who retired at age 30 with $1.25 million and runs the blog Millennial Money, has said financial independence has always been about time, not money. “If you view money as the goal, then you miss the point,” he wrote in a post published on Business Insider. “Money is infinite, but time is not.”
He explained that time becomes more valuable as we age because we have less of it left — but the concept doesn’t frequently align with people’s perspectives on valuing their own time or how they think about money in their lives.
“To me, early retirement simply meant having enough money so that I didn’t have to worry about money and could finally follow my passions and find new passions,” Sabatier wrote on Business Insider.
In addition to time, early retirement is also about your lifestyle, according to blogger Mr. Crazy Kicks, who retired at age 34. In fact, he says, an early retirement lifestyle is something you should develop while preparing to retire early.
“Instead of living in a cardboard box eating ramen to save money, one should pursue financial independence by honing a lifestyle that is based on living well for less,” he wrote in a post previously published on Business Insider. “The goal is to continuously cut excess spending while building your own early retirement lifestyle that doesn’t depend on tons of cash for happiness.”
The key, he says, is maximizing happiness per dollar — put your money where your heart is, but get the most bang for your buck.