Sacrifices related to retiring early
I had the interview with Brian Bienkowski of debt.com lately. One question Brian asked was: “How did you retire early, you must have made sacrifices?”
A good question. It gives me a new perspective to look back at my journey. What sacrifices did I make in order to retire early?
No fancy clothes or handbags:
Several years ago, a friend of mine came to visit me. She was from Beijing. She asked if there was any Coach store close by. I had no clue what Coach was. The coach for a sports team? She laughed about my ignorance.
The brand of clothes or handbags doesn’t matter to me. Is it a sacrifice for not owning the name brand? No, not in my case. Even if I had tons of money today, I would wear the same clothes, and use the same handbag. To me, handbag is just a bag to put my junk in.
Have not traveled much:
This might be a real sacrifice.
There are still many places in US and China I have not visited yet. In terms of international travels, compared with my friends, I’m far behind. I have visited some countries, but not that many.
Do I like to see those places? Yes, absolutely.
Am I very anxious to see the world right now? No. I got plenty of time to travel in the near future (I hope).
Why wait? There are two reasons:
First is the money concern. I don’t like to follow a tour group, as it’s too rigid, too rushing, with much less privacy. Living in a hostel is not working for me. I love food. Enjoying the great food is one of my top travel purposes. That means some decent amount of money is required, in order to travel slowly and (relatively) comfortably.
During those wealth accumulation years, I chose to spend less on travel. Retiring early was my priority.
There is an old Chinese saying: “Don’t try to pick up the sesame while losing the watermelon.” It says priority matters.
In my case, retiring early was my watermelon. Travel was like the sesame scattered on the streets. It’s nice to have both, if the hands are not full. But, if the resource (like money) is limited, and I can’t have both, I would rather choose retiring early than travel.
Now I’m retired. Money is still a concern in some way. A big question is the uncertainty of the health insurance. I like to be cautious on spending. Just make sure I’m prepared no matter what happens tomorrow.
When time is right, definitely I’ll start traveling a little bit more.
Another reason I didn’t travel much is: I’m a homebody. Sometimes I might like to travel. But many times I love staying at home.
Even a 5-star hotel can’t beat the home. I joked to my friends that, my home is the 6-star hotel. This is so called: “Golden nest, silver nest, not as good as my own clay nest.”
No fancy car:
This is my definition of a fancy car: a brand new car that costs at least $35K.
My car is a regular Japanese one, the one a thief could steal and drive around easily without causing any attention.
What I need is a reliable car, not a fancy one. I usually keep driving the same car for at least 130K miles.
During my last job as an engineer, quite a lot of my coworkers had better and fancier cars. One guy was saying that, his car loan payment was higher than his monthly mortgage.
I don’t feel it’s really a sacrifice to me. A fancy car is something that is nice to have. But, I’m totally happy staying with the regular Japanese model for the rest of my life.
No fancy house:
Central Ohio is a place with low cost of living. Luckily, that was the big driver that made my early retirement possible. Thank you, Ohio, I love you.
If a house costs more than $350K, that’s a fancy house to me.
When I bought my first house, it was a stretch financially, mainly because I had worked for only one year and a half. But the house price was way below the fancy standard.
Many years later, I sold the first house, and bought the 2nd one. Price wise, the 2nd house was much lower than the 1st one. A downsize to me.
The amenities of the two houses are similar. The big difference is the school district. The school for the 1st house is great, and the school for the 2nd house is so-so. As our kids were already adults, school district was not an issue.
Another thing is that, I became more realistic when buying the 2nd house. An old house is perfectly fine, as long as it’s in a good neighborhood, and suits our needs.
Is it a real sacrifice for not owning a fancy house? Not necessarily. I need a comfortable place to live for sure. But I don’t need a big mansion with 3000 to 4000 square feet.
Plus that would be a big hassle to maintain. I would be too frugal to ask for the professional cleaning service. Cleaning that big house myself? Thank you, no, that’s not my hobby. I’m too lazy to do that. I would rather spend that time enjoying a book.
Do I feel bad my house or car don’t look that flashy as the Joneses? No, I don’t feel bad at all. When my friends come to visit, some may not be impressed by the house or the car I have. Hey, that’s totally fine. It’s not my plan to impress anyone either.
Of the four things I listed above, only one is a real sacrifice: travel. The other three are just what I did differently from some of my peers. I’m probably a gal who is wired weirdly, and doesn’t care much about material stuff.
Overall, I don’t feel I sacrificed or gave up too much in order to retire early. The retirement journey was not a deprived one. Instead, it’s a pleasant (sometimes boring) journey. It is very rewarding at the end.
Questions to you:
- If you are already retired, what sacrifices did you make if any?
- If someone plans to retire early, do you think sacrifices are needed? If yes, what sacrifices?