The Unattainable

Is Early Retirement the real goal?

I discuss the topic of Early Retirement quite extensively on this blog. While it is not always at the forefront, it definitely lurks in the background. Spending, saving, investing... the accumulation of financial assets.

Early Retirement often evokes a bad image. To some, it suggests a capable person who is so incredibly lazy they want to be deliberately unproductive. To a neo-Marxist, an early retiree is the capitalist exploiter controlling means of production and living off the stolen labour of others.

Honestly, it is neither of these things and those who criticize Early Retirement from these broad positions either don't understand what Early Retirement actually is, or they deliberately choose to attack the idea because it is easier to attack another than discipline yourself.

Early Retirement is the pursuit of personal independence from the financial perspective. It is esacping from the necessity to work and do the bidding of others who actually have the ability to control. It is exactly what every capitalist, socialist, communist, individualist, collectivist wants: freedom. (However you define that word).

The difference is those who are willing to exercise great control over their personal lives and take calculated risks with the resources they've earned don't have it in their nature to complain about the success of someone else. When you don't worry about others, you can focus on bettering yourself.

Individuals who achieve Early Retirement standards by their own hard work and pursuit of a solid understanding of risk and investment are not going to sit in a hammock for decades and whither away like a discarded zucchini. The creativity and hard work required for personal financial success somehow tends to propagate more success in further ventures.

The great thing about Early Retirement is that it is entirely possible to achieve. That is precisely why I discuss the strategies in detail, track our own path and share that online, and continuously pore over tens of thousands of numbers in massive spreadsheets searching for better ways to invest money.

Canadians are way better off that we like to admit and we have massive potential to save, invest, and retire early without absolute reliance on government benefits. We just need to stop spending like fools.

No new vehicles, smaller houses, less furniture, less utilities, less restaurants, less convenience services, less clothes, less shoes, less household trinkets, less less less. The irony of course is that having less also means less stress which means a drastically better life overall.

The Investment Savings Rules

Lets talk truth when it comes to saving, investing, and Early Retirement.

If you plan to retire around age sixty where you expect some government benefits to come your way in the near future, you need to have invested an amount of money equal to at least 20 times your annual spending. That's $1,000,000 if you are spending $50,000 a year.

If you plan to retire earlier, you need to have invested at least 25 times your annual spending. That's $1.25 million if you are spending $50,000 a year.

If you want to be extra safe, never needing to work again, and are retiring young, you need to have invested 30 times your annual spending. That's $1.5 million if your are spending $50,000 a year.

Summed up, for the typical Canadian couple renting a house, you need to save and have invested between $1 million and $1.5 million. The amount would be around $300,000 less if you own a paid-off house.

Over a million dollars is a lot of money, so how do you get there?

The Importance of Early Discipline

Time and investment returns are a huge factor. The earlier you start saving and investing in productive assets, the better off you'll be and the easier it is. Also, the higher your investment returns are, the faster you will hit your goals.

While not impossible, it is not always easy to invest for higher returns. It requires even greater discipline and I view it as more of a bonus rather than a reliable factor in financial planning.

Assuming more standard 6% net returns after inflation, here are the monthly saving numbers required to make a comfortable retirement at age 55 happen.

Source: TheRichMoose.com

The older you start, the more difficult it is. If you start saving after you are thirty years old, you will likely never retire early barring amazing investment returns or some other financial windfall. Realistically there's only so much you can save when the typical household in Canada earns around $80,000 per year.

Some Advice for the Young(er than me)

The math, the power of compounding gains over time, clearly shows that the earlier you start saving and investing that money the better off you will be. This kind of thinking ahead can put you way in front of peers who follow conventional wisdom.

The destructiveness of acting like a teenager with your finances when you are well into your twenties or thirties cannot be made more clear by this chart. The exponential financial damage is huge. It ruins your personal freedom in ways that can't be totally computed.

I'm personally a huge fan of skipping university and picking a trade or apprenticeship educated career instead. If you graduate from high school and go directly into a trade, you can be a ticketed journeyman in your early 20s earning $30 to $50 per hour. You avoid student debt and the lavish lifestyle expectations that often come along with working in a field that is full of people with degrees. Trades careers present business ownership opportunities and specialization opportunities that you often can't find in many degree requiring fields.

But even if you do decide it is worthwhile for you to go to university, or if you are already on that path, it's not too late to make sure you are doing it correctly. Live how a student used to live (ie. poor). Work hard in the summer. Avoid student debt at all costs. Get a job right away, even if the pay isn't what your academic advisor promised it would be. Choose a degree in business, sciences, or engineering. Learn how to code or at least be savvy with tech stuff beyond simple user knowledge.

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2 Replies to “The Unattainable”

  1. I liked your “discarded zucchini” methaphore.

    I personally think studying is not a big deal in Canada if you have half-caring parents. They can open a RESP for you; deposit 2.5k yearly (the gov will add .5k annually); then invest it all for 17-18 years. You can study anything you want on that money and be debt free. Just make sure to study something that would allow you to make a living.

    I am speechless when I see people studying “just history” as a career. There are no jobs in fields like that.

    Or you can study in Quebec; where tuition is almost free.

    1. Daren (Editor) says:

      You bet Yanniel, the RESP program is great but I’m sure the vast majority of parents don’t take advantage of it.
      The humanities & social sciences fields are absurd and a massive waste of tax payers resources. Meanwhile there is a huge under-appreciation for vocational and technical education where students actually learn to do something, think critically, and contemplate real world applications.

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