People ask me how I retired at age 42. Here's the story.
I grew up in an immigrant family who fled the Communists for the U.S.. Money was tight. When I was in college, my personal budget was $5,000. When I graduated, I got a job as a paralegal at the Justice Department and made $25,000 and spent $15,000. I felt rich! I was spending literally three times more than I was used to. I decided then and there, philosophically, environmentally, financially, that that amount was **enough** to make me happy. So I decided that that was what I was going to spend annually from there on out. Since then, I've had jobs as a corporate lawyer at $150,000 and jobs as a Quaker schoolteacher at $30,000 and everything in between. But each year, I only spent $15,000 (now $25,000 through inflation) and invested everything else. When I got laid off 3 years ago, I realized that I had made enough money not to have to work anymore. A major key is keeping a tight lid on expenses: I need a smaller nest egg to produce the annual passive income I need.
The big thing about financial freedom is you get to do what you truly want with your life. Do you care about your health? I play soccer and take naps everyday. Do you care about your relationships? I get to travel to see family when I want and vacation with my friends when I want. Do you want to make a positive impact? I get to create PUGS and enact the vision of what I want in the world.
People can't imagine saving enough to gain financial freedom. Or thinking about money causes a lot of anxiety so they avoid it. But I think that stems from lack of education. Most people were taught this when they were young. Their parents didn't teach them and they certainly were taught this in school. But avoidance is a really bad strategy. The average American has $60,000 in their 401k at retirement. That's not nearly enough to fund 20 years of not working, especially with the upcoming crisis in Social Security.