Anyone Can Retire Early–Just Look at this Loser

It’s a red letter day in the FIRE blogging community. Our good friends at Our Next Life, Mark and Tanja, recently gave notice at their jobs and are headed for a life of eternal sunshine with spotless minds.

Good for them. Seriously, good for them.

They’re coming-out party has been well circulated in the press, being highlighted by such mainstream outfits like Marketwatch and Money. The treble and bass of early retirement serenade seem to sound alike, and Our Next Life’s song is no different…

(Cue the voice of the guy from Unsolved Mysteries)

Disillusioned by the prospect of a lifetime of work–particularly unnerving given Tanja’s family history of later-life disease–Mark and Tanja buckled down six years ago and made saving a priority. They don’t reveal their exact numbers, but they do say their income was above the Roth threshold of $196,000 and that they live a relatively frugal lifestyle. Now, at the ages of 40 and 38, Mark and Tanja are calling it quits to travel, relax, and spend more time in nature.

This is, obviously, a tremendous accomplishment. But unsurprisingly, not everyone thinks so…

When I first read the Marketwatch article, there were two, and only two, comments:

@BillHIllify: No Kids? I’m guessing…..and of course the obligatory reference to Mr. Spongestache


@AngelaJohnson: No mention of kids without which many could retire much earlier. No need for someone’s Mickey Mouse blog on how to do it. Two people with good paying jobs and no kids are complete morons if they can’t retire early. Raising a kid to 18 involves somewhere around $250,000 jobs (sp). Now multiple (sp) that by at least 2 and there’s the reason everyone is working till near death. Secret to retiring well on a modest income; don’t have kids, it’s that easy.

I looked at the article again today and the comments have deformed into a political debate with two folks claiming each other should have been aborted at birth and, consistent with Godwin’s Law, is brimming with Nazi references. So, please go read the article, but feel free to steer clear of the comments stream.

At any rate, if you were to read those first two comments, you might say, “What a couple of HATERS! It’s still an amazing story! And, regardless of their favored position in life, we can ALL learn a valuable lesson from Mark and Tanja.”

I, however, do not say that. Rather, when I listen to those two commenters, I think,yeah, I can kinda understand where they’re coming from.”

I mean, think about it. Mark and Tanja make over $200k per year and have no kids. With that income, they could easily save 60-75% of their salary while still living a comfortable lifestyle. In a rising market, they could amass a net worth of $1M in six years or so. Honestly, I kinda get where
@AngelaJohnson is coming from.

This is not a new realization for me, either. I look around at the FIRE success stories and I see a lot of family and job circumstances that don’t relate to average Americans.

  • Mark and Tanja at Our Next life were DINKs making 4x the national average.
  • Mr. Money Mustache and his wife both worked until retirement, and the wife for a period thereafter. And, they have “hobbies” like building houses and being real estate agents. One kid.
  • Joe at “Retire” by 40 still has a working spouse. Sure, she could quit today and they’d be fine, but they still have the comfort and security of that income and the health insurance. And once again, one kid.
  • Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme had no kids and, to my knowledge, no spouse either.
  • My favorite FIRE blog, LivingAFI, retired at 37. Two incomes, no kids.
  • Justin at Root of Good “retired” at 33 with three kids. But, like Joe at Retire by 40, still has a working spouse.

It goes on and on like this. Thankfully, J. Money at Rockstar Finance has a blog directory which can be filtered by those with Kids/No Kids, and one/two incomes.  So its important to think if you Are prepared to create your financial life work for YOU and be in control of your financial future? If so, then I suggest you read this article now site! It will help you improve your financial habits and set you on the road to financial freedom.

Note: Before I go further, I want to stress that kids are not nearly as expensive as most studies claim them to be. In fact, kids are about as expensive as you want them to be. However, and this is big, while the direct costs of kids are usually overstated, the opportunity cost of kids is severe.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Anyone who retires seriously early had to sacrifice, save, and stay disciplined above and beyond the average person. Early retirement is rarely easy, as evidenced by the millions of wealthy people working into their sixties. But, I can sympathize with a person who is disillusioned with these profiles of early retirees who have great incomes and no kids. It creates an easy excuse as to why early retirement isn’t possible for everyone.

Enter: Retire29. I know I haven’t reached the promised land, yet, so I lack total credibility. However, the result is essentially a foregone conclusion for me, with a net worth of $607k and rising. Whether I retire in 3 years (age 35) or 6 years (age 38), it’ll still be too early. And…

If I Can Do It, Anyone Can Do It.

I mean that. In a world where it’s hard to differentiate one blog from another, I want to be
the voice for the average guy. I want to emphasize the reasonableness of early retirement for an average family. I want you to read this post and say to yourself, “well, if that loser can do it,
then I have absolutely no excuses.”

Here we go…

I’m Averse to Completing Things and am a Serial Procrastinator

I look around at my compadres in the FIRE community and I see a lot of really driven folks. They wake early, the work hard, they write, they cook dinner, and they rest for eight hours.

That is not me.

First off, I have ADD. And not “Like Omigod! I am so ADD when I’m watching Netflix!” I mean clinically-diagnosed and medicated attention-deficit disorder. You should see how many incomplete projects I have around the house. It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. I make at least one to-do list every day and I don’t think that I’ve ever checked all the blocks before another list is already underway. I forget things on cars, get on the wrong bus, and have a helluva time reading more than a few pages of anything at once.

Secondly, I procrastinate like it’s going out of style. It’s really, really bad. It should be on my tombstone: “Retire29: The Man Who Died at the Last Minute.” I need deadlines to do anything. I can’t even do the dishes without some sort of timer/song/TED Talk playing on my phone. You can imagine the success rate I have for those “life goal” things that don’t have a deadline.

No Close Family & Support System

We have two kids, ages 4 and 0.7 and, God willing, more to come one day. My wife hasn’t worked in five years. These kids need diapers, clothes, and things to do.

As far as support system….what support system? We don’t have any extended family within 500 miles of us. We have great parents, but they live far away. When we need a babysitter, we pay for it. It’s been this way since my wife and I each turned 18 (a fact of life when joining the Army).

Unstable Income, Expensive Location

Income? What Income. No, I joke. I do have an income, but it’s not exorbitant. In fact, it’s decidedly below average for our zip code–a high cost of living DC suburb in Northern Virginia. To my credit, my income is juiced by the ~$1,100 in dividends (and growing) I receive each month, but from what I can tell, the financial markets are available to everyone and the basis of those dividends is my own earned income.

My wife has some of her own money from back when she worked which is essentially a “Hairstylist and Nails” budget, but most everything else comes from one paycheck.

There are no trust funds or lottery winnings. My wife and I both started out working at McDonalds and I’ve continued to work ever since I turned 15.

So, So Many Mistakes

Not that

How It Works:



Work Hard

Think Rich

1 Comment

  1. Anytime a FIRE blogger goes on a mainstream site the comment stream never ceases to amaze me. Yeah, for a lot of those that you mentioned they had a great set up with high paying jobs and not having kids, by choice or by nature, certainly helped. I think too many people just see that and how the situation isn’t the exact same as what theirs is so clearly there’s no way it can happen for them. I don’t understand how people can’t take the applicable lessons and use them as they can.

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