The idea of retiring early can seem so far-fetched you've never considered trying to get there. Still, this select group of people is worth emulating in many ways, even if kicking back early isn't on your radar. Here are a few traits of early retirees you should consider adopting:
They save a lot. There are an exceptionally lucky few who inherit their wealth, but the vast majority of early retirees spend years saving to increase their stash, plugging away towards their goal until they've saved enough to buy their freedom. While you may not care to retire before everybody else, having a big cushion can give you the necessary ammo to take significant risks that can pay off big time. Perhaps it's a new job opportunity with a better career path that requires a short-term pay cut, or taking time off to obtain additional certifications to significantly lift your salary trajectory for the rest of your life. Whatever it is you want to do, having the comfort of not running out of money as soon as the paycheck stops offers choices.
They understand their spending habits. Talk to enough people who are financially independent and you'll realize they have a pretty firm grasp of how much they spend. After all, how could anyone who's not a billionaire know they can afford their lifestyle indefinitely unless they know how much they are spending? Yet, how many people know where their money is going? The good news is that once you start tracking your expenses, you are likely to find many areas to cut spending without affecting your quality of life.
They have an investment plan. No one is going to live off their savings for 40 to 50 years with all their money hidden under a mattress because inflation is relentlessly chipping away at their wealth. While not every early retiree is an expert in finance, they've all had to come up with a way to finance their lifestyle using their portfolio as the primary source of funds and deal with market volatility along the way. By learning about investing, you'll be able to increase your wealth much faster than if you just stick everything in a savings account thinking that's the safest place to put your money.
They pursue happiness instead of more income. It's obvious that quitting the rat race early is leaving salary on the table, but that's fine with those who retire early because they value freedom much more than a higher account balance. Unfortunately, many people in our consumer society do just the opposite, slaving away for long hours while sacrificing their health, family ties and happiness. The new smartphones sure are nice, but are they more important than all the other things you could be doing with your time?
They are optimistic. With the heavy reliance on investment returns to sustain a long retirement, you have to put quite a bit of faith in the stock market to leave your job. Early retirees are willing to make the leap, while pessimists who fear running out of money might work longer in order to save more and shorten the period of retirement they need to finance. But the power of optimism goes way beyond expecting lucrative investment returns. A positive attitude will help motivate you, which can lead to better opportunities, more promotions and ultimately a better retirement.
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