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Do I have enough money to retire early?

I was asked a question this week from someone aiming for a set financial number so that they can retire early and ride their bike. The good news is they've hit their magic number, so the next steps must be easy - bring on early retirement and lots of bike riding.


If only life was that simple! Instead, doubt starts to creep in - the question they asked:

Do I really have enough money to retire early?

As they said to me, every time a goal sits right in front of you, it can make you blink!


Of course, there can be various factors to consider as to whether a number is "enough". Are there dependents, what's the desired lifestyle, risk appetite and investment plans/strategy, etc? While I didn't dive into those details, I was able to say that my questioner's number would be more than enough to fund my lifestyle - and when I compare my early retirement spend to other FIRE blogs, I'm not even close to being a low cost early retiree.


So, what to do about those doubts? If I were revisiting my early retirement decision, I'd remind myself of these four things:


Our spending will reduce as we get older

My calculations erred on the side of caution because they assumed we'd continue to spend the same amount of money (inflation adjusted) each year. However, the reality is that our spend will decrease as we get older and do less things.


We could spend less if we had to

If we needed to reduce our spending, we could, and we'd still have a great life. I recently calculated that we could reduce our spend by 37% by cutting down on some, but not all, of our discretionary spend.


What if my investment pot did have a shortfall

What are we talking about here - maybe there's a 10% chance that I have a shortfall of 10%? Put another way, that would mean there's a small chance that I (only) might have to return to work a day a week or a few days a month. But before I did that, I should remember the aforementioned natural reduction in spending as we age and the ability to cut our costs (while still having a great life). In other words, the likelihood is that I could manage any shortfall without having to do any part time work.


We focus on the downsides, but what about the upsides

In our case, our calculations ignore that both Sally and I will be entitled to a state pension/social security when we are 67. That's a way off, but still it's a healthy insurance policy for our financial position. Maybe there are other things too, I'm not expecting an inheritance, and it's not a subject that one wants to think about, but for some it will be an injection to the investment pot some time down the line.


I completely understand a crisis of confidence about the "do I have enough money to retire early" question - I've been there with my own early retirement decision. It's not something to be reckless about but, at the same time, you don't want to get caught up in a series of "one more years" if that means foregoing the early retired life that you planned.


It is easy to blink when the decision time arrives. At that point, for sure, think about the money - it's important, but don't lose sight of why you wanted to get to FIRE in the first place, and of the actual early retirement life that you wanted to lead.


For me, this week's early retirement life was:


Monday

The Tour de France rest day was in our town. Sally and I went for a walk to spot the team busses and the pros out on their bikes and I got bike envy watching the mechanics working on the bikes. Calmed myself with coffee and cake at a cafe.


I recommend early retirement & riding your bike!

Tuesday

More Tour de France stuff: the carnival of promotional vehicles, the presentation of riders and then the start of the stage. The weather is super-hot, perfect for the afternoon barbecue that we had with friends.


Wednesday

Beautiful sunshine, so we decided to go away for a few days in the campervan.


Thursday

Still away in the campervan, and still enjoying the gorgeous weather. My cheap "campervan/picnic bike" served me well and I got over the col to visit Lac du Bourget near Aix-les-Bains.


Friday

Back from our campervan trip, writing this post, and about to head out for a run.


I'm confident that our finances are sufficient to support our current lifestyle. I'm also confident that if money got a little tighter, we could cut costs without cutting our quality of life. I also have the added comfort that when we're 67, we'll start to receive our state pension/social security payments.


Could our financial position be more bullet proof? I'm sure it could.


Would I want to trade last weeks early retirement life for working more years to make our financial situation more bullet proof? No way, I enjoy my early retirement life too much for that.

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andrewpetergrimes
andrewpetergrimes
20 Ιουλ 2022

Hi David, great post. I'm in Porto right now, 5 months in to my second attempt at early retirement. So far it's going well. Your post about money made me recall some of the chats I have had with people about retirement. Some feel they need to have so many layers of safety margin in their retirement savings that they end up spending time in a job they don't like, accumulating money they will not ever use. That's where your "worst case scenario" thinking is useful. If the worst that can happen is I have to go back to work part time, is that really so bad??

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David @iRetiredYoung
David @iRetiredYoung
20 Ιουλ 2022
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Hi Andrew, glad to hear that ER v2 is going well. I agree, if getting to lead the life I want (while I'm young and fit enough to make the most of it) means that I just might have to do just a very small amount of work later (when I'm probably less active anyway), then that seems to be an acceptable deal to me.

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Hi David,


A very interesting post. You weigh up the financial question and then go full monty into describing the joys of your week! All very inspiring.


I spend (waste) an inordinate amount of time in idle moments trying to work out in my mind what my retirement pot target should be. I have a figure in mind that all being well I should be able to hit in 4 years time when I hit 50. It neatly coincides with our youngest reaching 18 and at a conservative 3% withdrawal rate would provide for a comfortable retirement. Nevertheless there are nagging doubts. Can I really justify walking away from my career and hard earned and well rewarded position? Just a…


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Matthew,

You might find this blog of some interest: Finding Enough | The journey to financial independence and a world of choices

In essence, she has covered a lot of the same ground, albeit a bit younger and with a different household set up. She sort of went part-time from March 2021 and the posts from "semi-retirement-at-43" onwards may be of particular interest.

Hope this is of some help to you.

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Hi David, am very envious that you got to see the tour, I've been watching on TV and wondered if you were there and would be able to see it, must have been great.

We didn't get as far as the Alps in our old Hymer, we spent 2 months travelling around the central / western part of France, did 2700ks and really enjoyed it, France is so set up for 'Camping Car' travel.

Like you we've a couple of strategies worked out incase our funds run dry, mainly around some part time work, but I don't envisage needing them as we will flex our lifestyle to live within our means.

As the last 2 months have shown, living in…

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David @iRetiredYoung
David @iRetiredYoung
17 Ιουλ 2022
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Hi Dick, they're my sentiments exactly. I'm sure our finances will be OK, and we can reduce our spend in the unlikely event we needed to, and I would love life just as much. As to the TdF, I also saw them on the stage from Aigle to Chatel - I cycled with some friends to Morgins and watched as they climbed the Col. It's amazing the speed they come past going uphill and they look super composed. It was great to see on real life, although I do think the Tour is overall a made for TV event as it's much easier to follow the action that way.

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A timely post, for me. I’m a couple of months off finishing work; like you, I have quite a few years before any social security kicks in - so, despite all my planning, I’m beginning to question whether this is actually possible. I’ve started to look around at potential jobs - nothing excites me. Your post is just the kicker I need at this time - thanks!

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David @iRetiredYoung
David @iRetiredYoung
16 Ιουλ 2022
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I'm glad it's useful. As an analogy, I run for a hobby and if I enter a race, say a marathon, I train for it. As the race gets closer, there's a good chance that I start to worry, and that's when I have to remember to "trust the training". The same occurs as we approach FIRE, and "trust your planning" probably applies in just the same way as "trust the training" for my marathon.

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