I Could Retire Next Year At The Age of 28— But I Won’t.

I have a plan. I mapped it out a few years ago and I’ve been sticking to it— save $1,200,000 by the age of 32. It is a cautious plan that assumes I could double my expenses in retirement. It even has a buffer of $200,000 for just-in-case scenarios. Yet recently I’ve been wondering if this is the right plan for me.

FIRE Plan Inspirations

I keep tabs on others’ FIRE journeys, and one that sticks out to me is that of my friend A Purple Life. She is retiring this year with $500,000 in the bank. Reading her story made me realize— I could do that too. Her goal is to decompress and shed a decade’s worth of stress from a demanding job. Her plan includes Mai Tais on a beach, traveling on luxury airlines using credit card points, and rocking a nomadic life for the foreseeable future. She will see loved ones, stay with friends, and read lots of books— this is a DREAM!

While sitting with a bit of envy, it struck me that I’m not too far behind. I could feasibly save $500,000 by next year. I have about the same yearly expenses as Purple (less than $20k a year). I could meet her at Playa Del Carmen, bring a book, and let all work-related anxieties melt away. In just one year I could start my work-free life.

I could retire next year by the age of 28.

I won’t, but I could.

woman reading on the beach
This could be me next year.

FIRE Plan Differences

Less Lifestyle Flexibility

Every FIRE plan will look a little different, depending on a myriad of factors. Here are a couple key differences between my plan and Purple’s:

  1. Purple has a partner that can work remotely full-time, but my partner has committed the next five years to medical residency in one spot.
  2. She can lower her expenses by living in lower-cost of living areas, but I’m following Mr. Mechanic to California, where my rent will be triple what I currently pay.
  3. Purple has fully committed to a child-free life, and although I think I don’t want children, I don’t want money to be a limiting factor in case I change my mind.

All-in-all, it boils down to flexibility. Her flexibility allows her to take on more risk because she can adapt quickly. My situation is a little less flexible, so taking on the same amount of risk doesn’t make sense.

Lifestyle Inflation Expectations

I am also hedging against lifestyle inflation. While I have happily lived on less than $20k for the last few years, what happens if my partner wants to spend more money when he makes more money? I just searched average salaries for a radiologist and almost fell out of my chair. I knew doctors make a lot of money, but the average for Mr. Mechanic’s field is over $400,000 a year.

Before I started talking about financial independence, Mr. Mechanic dreamed of all-inclusive vacations and second homes at the base of a ski lift. While he’s willing to reconsider a mountain home in the pursuit of a simpler life, he still wants us to budget in some lifestyle upgrades. Visions of heli-skiing on the weekends got him through his medical board exams, after all!

If I stop working too early, I either wouldn’t be able to participate or he would need to cover my expenses. I’d like to get ahead of any resentment by couching the financial imbalance in our relationship, where we currently keep our finances split. As partners-in-life, we’ll likely have to figure something out sooner or later because even my engineering salary can’t compete!

We would both like to go heli-skiing one day.

Enjoy The Journey of FI

Even after I consider the differences in my and Purple’s FIRE plans, it is so tempting to contemplate moving up the timeline. I want to write a book, to coach people on their finances, and to pick up some design work. Though I could feasibly start doing those things on the side, I end up drained after a full day at the office. I could ‘coast to FI’ by cutting down my hours and working part-time, but I earn a high salary with a lot of flexibility, so the trade doesn’t seem worth it.

Sometimes when I get sidetracked thinking about all the options, I remind myself to pause. Financial independence is not a race. It’s not a panacea. In the end, it’s just a journey we should stop and enjoy.

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy. -Guillaume ApollinaireClick To Tweet

When I think about the above, I remind myself that I don’t have to wait until I’m 32 to start living. Even though I am not planning on retiring next year, I should still make time and space for the things that matter.

I can still visit Purple on the beach and learn from her early retirement escapades. I can start planning what I’d like to write about (a finance book? A fictional dystopia? Both!?) and design logos and resumes for fun. I’m going to keep working, get better at what I do, and develop more passions over time. So, even though I could retire next year, I won’t. I have bigger plans.

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    1. Do you mean currently or in general? There are still plenty of cards offering decent bonuses, and people like Purple optimize their credit card spending and reward points to get the most out of them. If this changes in the future, I’m sure she will adapt.

      1. Damn right 😉 . But also my Mom has been retired for 5 years and hasn’t had any trouble opening credit cards in that time. She actually does it a lot more often than I do while I still have a FT salary.

  1. I really like this. Everyone is at a different stage in life, has different circumstances and has different partners. The main power of FI is it’s ability to give you options. By reaching $500K next year you are giving yourself the biggest gift of all. The “options” gift. The option to choose not work in toxic environments and to do what makes you happy. I think that’s a pretty big milestone on the way to your grand goal of $1.2M.

    Cheers and good luck!

    1. It’s good to recognize how everyone will approach FI a different way, but in the end it gives us all more options. Cheers to that!

  2. “I want to write a book, to coach people on their finances, and to pick up some design work.”

    Oh I remember that feeling. Coming home after a long day at work it’s tough to start entirely new projects from scratch. I’ve found it can be just as hard when you’re retired! It’s tough to build up momentum on a new project at first. That won’t change. In some ways it gets harder after retirement, especially if you develop a “I don’t need to do that” mindset (which I’ve definitely been in a constant battle with lately). “I don’t need to do that” and “I’ll do that later” are both tough, but can be overcome with a little momentum! I’ve found even just sitting down to flush out an idea while watching TV can inspire action – or make it clear I don’t want to do it. 😅

    1. This is what I’m talking about by learning from current early retirees! I could definitely see momentum being a key factor to action. This blog is one example of energy expended outside of work, and if I’m honest with myself there is likely room for more projects if I wanted to pick them up. It’s always good to remember that these things don’t magically change in retirement.

  3. Good luck! Everyone has to find their own path in life. What is right for me might not be the right path for you. Anyway, who knows how your partner’s career is going to turn out. Plenty of doctors get burn out too. Try to minimize lifestyle inflation.

  4. we figured out differing salaries as a couple a few times, even with mostly separate bank accounts. when i moved to our house where we still live i didn’t have a job and we lived on one income. then we had similar incomes for about 10 years but i kept all my overtime blood money to invest. then mrs. me most her job so we sorted through that and shifted some things around. you’ll figure it out when one partner can make so much more for their time.

    i think you’ll also figure out pretty quickly what’s worth splurging and what’s not. but you gotta try out a few things. i remember going to lunch in new orleans with friends a few years ago and the tab was a few hundred bucks. i would do it again but would not do other things that rang hollow but cost less.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts on this, it’s a good reminder that we’ll figure it out as we go. I don’t think we’ll fundamentally change our views towards what we value and therefore how we spend our money. I can imagine that spending a few hundred on a valuable experience like a night out in New Orleans with friends would definitely be worth it, whereas I can imagine also that heli-skiing or other such adventures might be fun once but not ultra-frequently. It’s comforting to know we probably don’t need to worry about this as much as we are.

  5. The point about financial independence not being a race…that is something I have to remind myself all. the. time. I’m still in the “paying back student loans” phase of the process (sigh) and sometimes it gets SO frustrating. I just want to be done so we can move on with our life. I think with personal finance, at every stage, it’s important to remember that the journey and the destination both matter. Good luck!

    1. I’m impressed that you’re thinking about FI at all while still paying back loans… you’ll get there!

  6. I think this is a really good reminder that you have to enjoy the process of financial independence as well as the end goal! There is no way that people can live and maintain a life with a lifestyle they dislike. I, for one, know that I probably won’t retire (that) early even if I have the financial capabilities! It’s just not the life I see for myself. I’ve never read your blog before but today you’ve definitely gained a new, fascinated subscriber!

    1. Thanks for subscribing! It’s good to identify how you want to live your life as early as you can, and save for it.

  7. Love your blog, heard about it on ChooseFI and I’m going to follow you avidly from now on. I’m truly inspired by your drive- choosing mech engineering as a career and then pivoting to software engineering. I’m very much interested in it myself b/c I love the flexibility that it offers. Currently I’m in healthcare and I love what I do and I have no kids but my husband and I would like to have a family and we hope that one of us would be able to financially retire soon after kids- if at all possible. Therefore, we both think that IT/tech jobs would make sense, however, neither of us have the background but we both possess the desire to learn and grow- can you recommend resources that you specifically used when you changed directions? – we would like to try a bootcamp that’s not crazy expensive and/or low cost/free courses that may be out there. Thanks so much! Keep up the passion for FI and living! We’ll all get there someday but it’s more about the journey than the destination anyway 🙂

  8. I think there is this paradox in undergoing the journey towards Early Retirement. There comes a point where you realize that the true power and value of choosing this path is not at the end goal but along the way to it! Where suddenly you notice that you’ve acquired a kind of lifestyle flexibility, and a certain trust in your capabilities that no matter where you go from here, you’ll be alright. Even tho you haven’t reached that goal of lump sum money you need for officially retiring, you feel like you’ve already made it! It’s a good feeling. And I think you’re somewhere along there. Congrats! Good writing by the way, keep it up!

  9. I hope you don’t feel like it’s a competition where you have to explain how wealthy you are to make yourself feel better about your situation.

    Everybody is at a different stage in their lives. Try to enjoy yours more and stop comparing.

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