Wednesday, 9 March 2016

How To Retire In 3 Years Or Less

If retirement sounds good, then why wait? Here are some steps on how to retire in three years or less. Of course this is just one of many ways to go about retirement, and you can fine-tune it to suit your wants and needs. This article is meant to bring hope and inspiration to those who want to get out of the rat race as soon as possible; those who feel restrained and limited by the general lifestyle imposed on them by society; those who don't fit society's mold.

I was "one of those people" who did not fit into society. From an early age I was thinking about retirement. How wonderful it would be to retire early and start doing the things I was really meant to be doing; things that I felt a huge desire to do, to make a difference in the world (such as learning about self-sustainability). But retirement seemed impossible to achieve in a short time. After all: don’t we need money to survive? Well, I have put it to the test and in fact, the answer is: no, we don’t need money, so you could retire today if you wanted to. But if you insist on having some money (for example enough to buy land and build your own off-the-grid, self-sustainable tiny home or community), then here is a plan for you.

1. (optional) Find a job that is not too labor intensive and (reasonably) enjoyable
Key features are:
-          You get enough freedom and autonomy to avoid stress.
-          There are not too many hard deadlines. Deadlines cause stress, which can prevent you from exploring other activities outside your job.
-          You are not too attached to outcomes or perfectionistic about it. This is something you can work on by practicing letting go.
-          Ideally the work you do is somehow meaningful to you / you are passionate about the work you do and the contributions you make to others and the world.
I was extremely lucky to find a PhD student position with a topic I am very interested in. PhD positions (if interesting and meaningful) are very suitable for the early retirement plan, because you get a lot of freedom, opportunities for self-development and (in most countries) an OK salary. It is also always a temporary position, and mine happens to last for 3 years: more than enough to get ready to retire comfortably with a backup plan, while doing what matters to me.

Cats and dogs never retire: why bother? Their job is to enjoy life.
2. Find a way to live for free
Stop spending money for a few years, long enough to save up the amount of money you need to feel safe enough to step out of the work force. (Read more on how to do that here.) If you can, find a way to save your entire income. This is what I am doing at the moment. Not only will your savings add up very quickly, but you will also learn the important skill of survival without money, and you will experience a whole new way of being when you are not using money. It has been the most incredible journey for me so far, and it just keeps getting better. The experience of living in this new way has been tremendously valuable and rewarding. I would not trade it for any amount of money.
Living for free doesn't mean you stop contributing. In fact, contribution is the cornerstone of this lifestyle. And that is exactly what makes it so rewarding. Giving to others and helping wherever possible is a natural tendency we all possess, and in my experience it is the most meaningful way to live life. It is also easier to live this way when you live without money, because you tend to be more naturally focused on what you can give than on what you can get out of each situation.
But since I still have a job and an income, I happen to be saving some money along the way as well. To me this is just a bonus, and definitely not the main goal anymore. I don't know whether I will need it or use it in the future. I am not thinking about it. I am hardly ever aware that I even have a bank account, because I have not used my debit card since December 2014.
The moneyless lifestyle also helps you change your views on the world and to let go of myths and long-held beliefs about what life should and should not look like, and it helps you to get clear about what is really important to you and what you really want and need. It also helps significantly reduce stress levels, which saves up so much energy for more meaningful things. While you are living for free, you will no longer have to stress about bills or about potentially getting fired, because you can support yourself without any income. This means you can focus all your efforts on following your inner voice and maintaining your own integrity.

3. Get yourself a tiny home on wheels and find a place to settle down
You can build a tiny home from found materials, or things that people give away. If you have practiced living simply in the meantime, you know that you won't need that much space or stuff. And once you have your tiny home, you are all set. You do not need building permission for a house on wheels, and so your property taxes will not be so much (and maybe even non-existent if you can find some land you can use). You may be able to arrange to live on someone else’s land (for example, many farmers would be happy to have a site manager who can take over chores when they are away). Just ask around! You never know whose lives you could actually enrich by asking the question. Alternatively, you can find a community you can join or set up your own.

My current home

That's it!
Up to three years of salary is generally more than enough to get the chance to buy some land after the experience -or at least build a mobile home- and retire; if that is what you would want to do. Life is about increasing your number of options, because options create freedom. And options are created through open-mindedness and creative thinking; not through money. The (over-)use of money can make the mind dull and un-creative, because it can get everything done in the same way. But when that way fails (e.g. you run out of money), it leaves you at a loss if you haven't practiced mental flexibility and creative problem solving.

If step one doesn’t work for you, and you absolutely cannot find the right job for yourself, just go straight to step 2 and see where life takes you. If you keep an open mind you will be surprised what will show up for you. And remember you have nothing to lose! My heart was telling me to retire years ago. Other people just laughed at me, told me that I was crazy or said that ‘this is not how the world works’. I am glad I took a risk and followed my own voice. It doesn’t matter what other people say; it is not their journey – it is yours. They are not laughing anymore, because they see now what I saw before I started: that it is realistic and possible. No one can deny it or belittle your ambitions once you are living the dream; leading the way for others to go beyond what they imagined to be true or possible.

Your new life awaits you! If you believe you can make it happen, you will.

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  1. Your article just pushed me over my edge, in a good way. For 2 years I have been trying to save and retire but nothing works. So guess I'll just build my tiny home live for free and work for my land. Hopefully in 2 years I will be retired living the life I want, even if it is crazy and goes against the mainstream. Thank you.

    1. That is amazing! Best of luck to you and thanks for getting in touch. I am sure it will be a rewarding experience for you! (freedom always is :))

  2. Thanx for your article. It really expresses the way I feel at the moment! Though it's a bit harder when you have a boyfriend that doesn't want to give up his house and live in a mobile home. Your article makes me feel like I'm not the only one. Colleagues tell me I'm crazy that I want to retire already! But work is not something I live for. So right now, I'm trying to work less and try to be as much self-sufficient as possible. Hope to read more from you and your retirement. Would be nice to stay in contact.

    1. That is cool Ilona! You should definitely try it out, maybe he will love it too :) Downsizing is something you can get used to very quickly. You should visit if you are ever in Norway; would be fun!

  3. Hi liselotte. Tx Ur so inspiring n I am on this journey too.... But I find it hard to meet like minded people n friends... So at the moment I only have 1 friend who don't freak out in some way re my lifestyle n that can feel lonely. Have you experienced this N what to do about it? Thanx. Storm