In one of the more interesting books I've read recently, the author managed to do just this. He worked as a research assistant for a few years after receiving a PhD in physics, and claims that anyone can retire early after investing 75% of one's income in stocks, bonds, and other assets after just a few years of work and then living a radically limited lifestyle.
The book is Early Retirement Extreme: A philosophical and practical guide to financial independence by a fellow named Jacob Lund Fisker, who claims to live on a mere $7,000 per year.
He does this by maintaining miniscule housing costs (a few hundred dollars per month), keeping a vegetable garden, and not wasting money on restaurants, alcohol, nice clothing, and the other expenses that young professionals get tripped up in.
What do you get in return for all these sacrifices? Being able to live the lifestyle of a "Renaissance Man" who can pursue employment and projects based on how enjoyable they are rather than the income that they generate.
There are a few important things to keep in mind about this book/lifestyle:
- "Retirement" here does not mean "to do nothing and live on a golf course," as it does for most people. It simply means the ability to comfortably live on such a limited income that you can pursue whatever interests you have.
- This book is not a "cookbook" that will give you a set plan to achieve and implement this lifestyle, although there are many ideas. It's more of a philosophy book that espouses a "do it yourself" ethic and defends a non-consumerist lifestyle.
- It's clearly best suited for a certain type of person: independent, naturally curious, and perhaps most importantly, the support of a spouse/partner who puts up with it. I can't imagine trying to date and meet women while doing this, although the author is married.
A major criticism of this lifestyle is that it would require you to make inordinate sacrifices at a young age. This may be true, but the alternative may be to stay locked to a job you don't like in order to buy things you don't need before retiring as an old man. This actually seems much worse.
Personally, I don't think that I'm going to be subsisting on a diet of lentils and a life of no travel any time soon. But this book has forced me to re-think my lifestyle in some important ways, namely in terms of thinking of each dollar I have as being one step nearer to financial independence rather than as a means to buy something.
A good summary of this philosophy is here.
Monkeys, what do you think? Is this something you would consider trying, or do you want another yacht to water ski behind?