Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Retiring in your 30s

I was at a bachelor party last weekend. It was a good time. Well organized. I saw some people there that I hadn't seen in a long time.

One guy I was a bit surprised what he's doing today. He's pretty much retired. He's my age though, late 30s. He's pretty laid back these days. When I knew him in the past he was pretty straightforward, more focused and corporate. Not like wall street type but a regular steady salary guy. He did industrial engineering at TUNS and he'd been a production manager at a local factory for several years.

He said he'd left the factory and just moved on. He'd been taking a course on the south shore for three months learning to build musical instruments. He stayed on after the course and worked with the instructor for a few months before coming back to town. Since coming back to town he's done some cabinetry since he likes it and is good at it. He's not full time at that, just doing occasional projects for himself and people he knows.

He's never been married and he lived well but modestly. He said he has savings and he realized he doesn't need to spend his life making other people rich. He might get a part time job down the road but he's procrastinating that as long as he can.

The thing about early retirement is that you associate it with stock option scores, lottery, or owning a successful business. But for a man living by himself with a regular white collar job and living modestly it is very much possible to be in your late 30s or early 40s with several hundred thousand in savings. That means that if you want you can maintain your modest lifestyle indefinitely without requiring new monthly income.

Its not an isolated story. I heard about a guy in BC who was an engineer in his mid 30s. In the early 2000s he got caught in the telecom crash and cashed out a generous severance package. Combined with his savings he had around half a million put away. He lived modestly by himself and realized he didn't have to go back to work; so he didn't.

A couple of years later around 2004-2005 an old colleague told him that the tech market had improved and there were jobs around and he should return to the workforce after sitting out the tech recession. He thought about it and just said, Nah. He just didn't want to.

I envy them a bit, having the choice to say screw it and just doing what they want. I don't blame them at all for trading a modest lifestyle for the option to leave the rat race, traffic, cubicles, overtime, office, and pursue their own interests.

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