When I share my early retirement goal with other people (outside of the blog), I generally receive some variation of the following response:
“That’s not possible. You have to live on rice and beans to make that happen.”
Feel free to replace “you have to live on rice and beans” with any other creative phrase intended to emphasize the poverty one must apparently live in to reach early retirement. Some examples might include “you have to live in a shack”, “you have to make $200,000 a year or more”, “you have to win the lottery”, etc.
I’ve heard it all.
The Impossibility of Early Retirement
Most recently I was told about the impossibility of early retirement by one of my brother’s friends. He happened to be at our house bragging about his impressive ability to snag a $50,000 truck from a local dealership for the low price of only $38,000.
“My dad taught me how to negotiate. It just runs in the family blood, I guess”, he humbly explained.
He began to ask me about my career plans: when I would buy a home and a new car since I had a full time job now. As we talked, somehow the concept of early retirement was brought up, to which my brother’s friend responded:
“Sorry to burst your bubble, but I really don’t think that’s possible. I know guys who make $200,000 a year and they’ll still have to work until they’re 65. It’s just the way it is now.”
It’s just the way it is now?
I didn’t even know where to begin. Should I tell him about the idea of the hedonic treadmill, the plague of consumerism, or the mindless spending phenomenon? Or should I start with the power of compound interest, the simple math behind early retirement, or the power of a side hustle? Should I mention the power of intentional living and how it can single-handedly transform your spending patterns and the way you live?
Where should I begin?
I ended up trying to explain the math behind the 4% rule and how you simply needed to accrue 25 times your annual spending to retire. But the more I tried, the more he seemed to shake his head. It was like trying to stop the tide from rolling in with a sand castle. I couldn’t change his way of thinking.
The Impossibility of Changing Human Behavior
When I used to encounter people who were completely bewildered by the idea of early retirement, I would always attempt to get on my financial pulpit and preach about the joy of conquering money and living a life of freedom. I genuinely wanted to share this massive life hack with people.
But over time I realized that if the idea of financial independence was completely foreign to someone, it was unlikely that I’d be able to convince them of it’s merits through one simple conversation.
Early retirement is simply a concept that people must warm up to on their own.
There is very little I can say to convince people to start living differently, especially if everything I say completely contradicts the lifestyle they’re currently living. More often than not, people simply get offended when I talk about early retirement.
This has led to an important realization I have finally had:
It’s okay for other people to think early retirement is a ridiculous idea.
It’s not my job to convert people from mindless spenders to happy savers. To think that I could undo years upon years of living a consumer-oriented lifestyle through a single conversation is naive. It’s unrealistic.
Of course I want people to discover the joy of intentional living, of living a meaningful life with less stuff, of the possibility of acquiring wealth simply by having the right mindset. I would love if I could convince everyone I know of the possibility of financial independence. But it’s difficult to change human behavior. People are simply set in their ways. And that’s okay.
Sooner or later most people eventually realize they must get a grip on their finances. But it’s not my job to go out and find these people. When people are ready, they look for help, advice, recommendations, and wisdom.
The best I can do is simply share what I have found to make me happy and let people decide on their own terms whether or not they agree. People will only change their behavior once they have convinced themselves that it is in their best interest to do so.
I would never wish for an outsider to convince me that I need to change my habits, so why should I try to convince others they need to change? The more I focus on myself and the less I try to tell other people how to live, the happier we both are. Live and let live.
I strongly suggest using free financial tools like Personal Capital to track your net worth, spending habits, and cash flow to help keep an eye on your money. The more you track your finances, the better you get at growing your wealth!
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