[A reader pointed out to me that many homeless actually work, sometimes at multiple jobs. I apologize. It goes without saying many homeless didn’t choose to be homeless and they don’t prefer that way. Still the point is the spectrum of lifestyles is very wide, much wider than most people think.]
After reading many articles on early retirement, I come to realize that some homeless retired early, and as a corollary, everyone is already financially independent now.
Even when you apply the strictest rules, let alone the squishy whatever-I-say-it-means declarations, you can’t deny that some homeless retired early. They weren’t homeless from day one. They used to work. Now they don’t. They had a change in pace. It’s not just temporary. They aren’t looking for a job. They settled into their lifestyle. They shed their attachment to material possessions and creature comfort. They don’t drive a car. Many don’t even have a bicycle.
Because they don’t work, whatever income they receive, by definition is passive income. Their passive income covers 100% of their expenses. They have health care. Although they don’t have much of a portfolio, they also have a super-safe withdrawal rate. They have one thing that many people don’t have: freedom. They have full control over their time.
This lifestyle is available to everyone. All you need is to challenge the conventional thinking. With whatever anyone has at this moment, they can probably do much better than the homeless if they simply call it quits and retire early, right now. The idea that someone can’t retire is simply not true. Anyone can retire, right now. The only question is what lifestyle they want after they retire. Because nobody “has to” work, everyone is financially independent. You work not because you have to but because you want to.
Over the Independence Day weekend I heard on the radio some state governments shut down due to disagreement over budget. Rather than celebrating the temporary freedom the shutdown had brought, a state employee interviewed on the radio was mad she wouldn’t be asked to come in to work (NPR: Maine’s Government Remains Closed After Gov. LePage Refuses To Sign Budget Bill). It shows that freedom is not on everyone’s top of the list. Wanting a better lifestyle is. I don’t see anything wrong with it.
Once you realize you already have freedom and you always had it, you no longer ask the question “When can I retire?” You can retire whenever you want to. The only difference is what you want to try to accomplish before you retire and what lifestyle you want after you retire. You have full control over that difference. You decide what you work on, when to stop, and what lifestyle is acceptable to you.
Everyone makes this tradeoff between freedom and lifestyle. Even those who say freedom is absolutely their number one priority only say so. Their actions tell a different story. They could’ve had freedom much sooner by settling into a lifestyle that costs much less. They chose not to. Everyone draws a line. The difference is where the line is drawn between homeless and mansions, not whether there is a line or not.
Therefore if you want freedom, don’t think you are stuck at something you don’t like only because you don’t have enough money yet. If you are willing to think outside the box you can always find ways to make it work. On the other hand, if you prefer a better lifestyle, don’t let early retirement porn make you feel you are inadequate somehow. You can retire. You just chose not to.
And that’s assuming the only purpose for working is to achieve a desired lifestyle, which is not true at all. See previous posts Waste Money Now Or Waste Money Later and Staying In Your Job After Financial Independence.