In today’s world, it is quite impossible to stay out of the rat race. From our childhood itself, we are trained for relentlessly pursuing this skewed definition of success; that society has conditioned us into believing is the only one available to us. Age old social institutions like the family and school are the prime instruments that take up the task of preparing every individual for participating in this endless, pointless pursuit for what is essentially, simply financial stability and security.
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As a 21 year old middle class Indian, my entire life has been a preparation for being a part of this race, something that no one ever asked my opinion for. All my life, everything that my parents did for me has been an investment. An investment for my potential success in life. This is not to say that I am not grateful for them for all that they have done for me, or that they did it as a well calculated life insurance policy that would eventually mature. All their sacrifices have made me who I am today, and everything they did was done out of love and genuine concern for my future.
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But is tirelessly racing against time for over 30 years of your lifetime really worth it all? Is this the price we have to pay for the sacrifices made by our parents during our childhood? Are the “rewards” we reap at the end of our working lives truly proportional to the continued struggle we are subjected to for the majority of our lives? By selling ourselves to people we work for, aren’t we denying ourselves of having a shot at true happ and mastery over our destiny? Even if we are aware of these difficult questions, we’ve never really given much thought into what the answers may be. Perhaps we’re not ready to face these answers ourselves. Perhaps we don’t know any other way of living this one life we have been gifted with, apart from running in relentless pursuit for something we aren’t even certain of.
Early retirement is an option to fix an early release from this rat race of a life that never quite seems to leave us with enough time to the things we really want to. Some might call it yet another unnecessary aspect of the millennial culture; how we millennials have found a way to ruin the basic purpose of man’s existence in a capitalist society by cutting it short. But for many, it is a legitimate and perfectly viable option for taking charge of their own lives and following their own dreams. On the face of it, early retirement seems like a good way of having the best of both worlds really. Not only does one get to experience a taste of a full fledged working life in the harsh corporate world, but they also get to take a step back and take a breather while the rest of the world rushes past in mad frenzy. You get to spend your days doing what you really want to, while also ensuring a more or less secure future for you and your immediate family.
But what exactly is early retirement and how does one go about it? A quick Google search will reveal several lifestyle blogs glorifying how retiring at 40 was the best decision they’ve ever taken. You will see photos of them traveling, trying exotic cuisines and being the poster children for the phrase “live life to the fullest”. To the unknown eye, they might seem like they’re living their life one day at a time, but in reality it is not nearly as spontaneous as it looks like.
Early retirement is a commitment that you have to make to yourself and be capable of following through. It is a lifestyle choice that requires a whole lot of planning and smart decision making skills. If you are seriously considering this, make sure that you do your research and planning well in advance before you make the switch. It might look like one big adventure, but it is something that needs to be meticulously planned because once you’ve chosen this option, going back to your previous lifestyle may not be possible in some cases.
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If you’re considering retiring at 40 or even sometime around your 50s, it’s best to start planning well in advance, preferably as soon as you start working. The sooner you start saving, the sooner you can retire in peace and not worry about your expenses. The basic idea behind early retirement is to keep your expenses at a minimum, and save as much as possible in a short span of time. Even when there’s a hike in your salary, it is imperative to keep your expenses low. This means that you can’t do most of the things that most people usually do when they start working. When people just start working, for the initial years, it’s okay if they spend some money on themselves and splurge a little. They have a lot of time to make up for this expenditure. But for someone gearing up for early retirement, this is the hardest part. While your friends may be out partying and having fine dining experiences, this is the time when you need to keep a track of every penny and invest your money smartly. You might feel left out, but motivate yourself by reminding yourself of all the fun things you can do later. Shared housing, carpooling and having a minimalist lifestyle can help you save a lot of money. Nowadays, you can even get in touch with financial advisers who will help you map out your expenses. You also need to decide early on whether you’d want a family or not when you’re retiring. Having children is another ballgame entirely, and requires additional planning. You ought to be able to provide sufficiently for your child even when you’re not earning anymore. Again, there are plenty of early retirees with children who manage to live happy, comfortable lives; you just need to work for it accordingly.
A common misconception that people have about early retirement is that you completely stop doing any kind of work that earns you money. There are several early retirees out there who work part time in various fields, or provide consultancy services in their own respective fields. You can also put your love for travel to use and volunteer at various places. Organic farming is one such sector where volunteer work is quite satisfying. These farms are usually located in remote areas far from the urban centres, and provide fooding and lodging in exchange for volunteering. You can also work with several NGOs and continue contributing to the society. The basic concept of early retirement is doing things on your own terms, it doesn’t mean that you completely give up doing any kind of productive work. The best part about working in these jobs is that you still manage to make some income, no matter how meagre that might be. You can even channelise your passions fruitfully and make a living out of it. Pick up that rusty old guitar that has remained a showpiece in your room for all this while; finish that murder mystery novel you have been writing since you were in college. This is the time that you live your life with no regrets.
A lot of people believe that early retirement is selfish. They think it’s synonymous to quitting. I’ve come across several people, especially from the previous generations, who think that those who retire early do so because they have been professionally unsuccessful and are taking the easy way out. Of course, they completely disregard the amount of forethought and groundwork required for this. Early retirement also has its drawbacks. This is not a decision that you can undo very easily. It will be difficult to find another job later in life if you’re retiring at 40. Employers won’t be willing to give a job to someone who’s been out of touch with the job market for so long. It can also pose to be a problem later if you don’t take this decision without consulting those who are in your immediate family and are financially dependent on you. The biggest issue with early retirement is the depleting financial resources. It does have its perks, though, but don’t be so blinded by their glimmer that you don’t consider the bigger picture.
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At the end of the day, we all have only one life. How we choose to spend it is completely our decision. Early next offers us that advantage to have a shot at living on our own terms. Sure, you have to slog through the initial years of your professional life and work extra hard to save up. But once you make the switch, you have the whole world at your feet to discover. Instead of waiting till 60, you get to do whatever you want at an age where you’re physically fit and healthy enough to enjoy those things. It may be the path less chosen, but who knows, that might be what makes all the difference.
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