Introduction: Welcome to the first post by Mrs. Money Mustache herself. Long a lurker on this blog, she finally has some things to say to balance Mr. Money Mustache’s manly voice.
There are many people that dream of retiring early. I was never one of those people. The idea of retirement in my 30s didn’t make any sense to me as I was just starting out in an exciting new career in software.
When Mr. Money Mustache spoke of retirement, I would think to myself: “Why?” I like my job. I like going to work and hanging out with co-workers, some of who happen to be my friends. I’m challenging my brain and feel good about things. I am happy.
You might feel the same way. I’ve met many people that do. They are happy working and for them, it’s a good life. Why retire?
For me, the reason appeared when we were ready to start a family. I became frugal and saved money so I could be home with my child. It was a no-brainer, as they say.
Early retirement is not about having a lot of money. It’s about having choices. It’s about finding yourself. You need to discard that old stuffy image of retirement where couples buy an RV and take up touring the country, or just sit around at home and occasionally play golf. Early retirement is a lifestyle and it is unique for everyone.
Frankly, I don’t really like the words “early retirement”, as it doesn’t convey the true meaning. For me, it was life-changing and unexpected. It changed me in unthinkable ways. It brought me all kinds of things: happiness, balance, change, freedom, time, travel, family, motherhood, and health. But, most of all, I found myself.
When you’re in the midst of all of this money-saving, a change comes over you. At first it’s subtle and you barely notice it, but after practicing all these Mustachian principles for a few years, you find yourself suddenly free from society’s expectations of you. You’re in another realm altogether.
You don’t care if you wear the same pair of pants three days in a row. You don’t care if you don’t know last night’s hockey scores. You might actually start to feel sick in big department stores from all the excess. And, you are beginning to feel happier.
It takes a while to reach this level of anti-consumption, but if you keep it up, you’ll get there. And, when you do, things start to make a lot more sense. Saving money becomes ridiculously easy. You will suddenly realize why depression and health problems so often go along with debt problems. You learn about yourself because you’ve shed your skin of consumer culture. You’ve taken a step back and you can finally see yourself and everything around you much more clearly. You figure out what matters and what doesn’t. And, you learn this much earlier than most people which means you have the rest of your life to be happy.
One of the best compliments I ever received was when a wise older woman told me that I had figured out what life was all about much earlier than most. We all know what life’s really about in theory, but until you can truly separate yourself from how we’ve been molded by society, you don’t really get it.
It often strikes me as quite incredible that our culture could have gone a completely different route — one where there was a greater sense of community and less emphasis on money and spending. It also amazes me that in many ways, the ways we used to live were much more satisfying.
When you hear stories or read books about people who have less yet are still somehow living happily, there is always a common thread: a sense of community. Groups of women sitting around canning tomatoes together and laughing, kids running around outdoors inventing games, farmers tending to the fields and helping each other out. This might not seem like your idea of a good time, but these kinds of activities and unity feed our souls. We don’t get much of this anymore and when we do, it is often based in an activity that revolves around spending money.
You don’t need to have money to discover this. You don’t need to retire. But for me, becoming frugal in order to save money helped me discover this hidden secret of life. I have found myself and have found a lifestyle that benefits me and my family. I can teach my child early on that you don’t need money to be happy. Not just by telling him about it, but by showing him. I can choose hikes instead of manicures and camping trips instead of Disneyland, and I know that I am much happier for it.
You can live this secret life too!