Charmagne Chi enjoys early retirement so much she has to remind herself to take a vacation.
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If this seems counterintuitive, it’s probably because Chee’s life now, two years after retiring from a 9-to-5 banking job at 42, doesn’t reflect the image in some people’s minds when they wanted to retire early. Let’s make a picture.
Chi doesn’t spend her days lounging on the beach, traveling the world or traveling Blogging About Early Retirement (though she does post update on tiktok, Instead, she works part-time for a local theater company in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, and pursues writing and other creative pursuits. Her husband, who quit his IT job two years ago, spends his time weight lifting, volunteering with the local search and rescue team, and fostering dogs.
“Now that my whole life is the only thing I want to do, it’s so hard to find time,” Chee explains. Luck, “Every day it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m just doing fun things,’ but then six weeks go by and I’m exhausted.”
And so the 44-year-old is busier than ever. But you don’t need to feel bad for that. That was the point of trying to save as much as possible at age 30, Chi says: It’s not that she didn’t want to work. She wanted to spend her days following her passion, without worrying about money. Some might say this doesn’t really count as early retirement, but Chi doesn’t need the money she earns from theater. He is free to do whatever he wants with his time.
“When you don’t have to spend 40, 50, 60 hours a week doing whatever will fill that time, that’s reason to retire early,” she says. “All I want to do is do creative things all day, every day, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Chi declined to say how much the couple had saved before deciding to quit their jobs, but she said the so-called leanfire— in which someone aiming for $1 million in savings before retiring—”wasn’t enough” for her and her husband to feel comfortable taking the plunge.
Chi first learned about the concept of early retirement on popular blogs such as Mr. Money Mustache; She and her husband often adopted the extreme austerity practices of the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) crowd to meet their needs and values.
Chi was refreshingly candid about how She and her husband were able to retire decades earlier than some. Of course, the couple implemented several tried-and-true early retirement money-saving strategies. They drive a vehicle, max out their 401k and IRA retirement accounts every year and cut down on unnecessary spending. He did not have children, which he called “a huge saving”.
But it was all possible, Chi says repeatedly, because of her and her husband’s privileges, especially their high-paying jobs while living in a relatively affordable city. She doesn’t have any major medical problems, she says, and no other major expenses that she has to account for. They student loan is not debt,
“I’m a white, able-bodied person who was raised by middle-class parents and didn’t have to pay for college,” she says. “Yeah, there was a lifestyle component. But it’s not just ‘avoid avocado toast,’ it’s such nonsense.”
That said, while many equally-privileged people feel they must drive certain types of cars, live in specific cities, or use a certain brand of skincare, life doesn’t have to be that way, she says. It was a big mindset change Chi himself took a few years into his career.
Someone who bikes everywhere to save money like Mr. Money Mustache might be on extreme ends, but Chee says the prospect of not needing two cars has made her rethink how she lives Was. From this he decided that the family really only needed one car. It won’t work for every household and individual financial situation, but questioning standard consumption habits can be helpful for those who want to save a little money.
“It made me question everything and research every purchase and decision I didn’t make before,” she says. Earlier in her career, she was buying the standard trappings of an upper-middle class: new clothes and expensive bags, getting her nails and hair done, seeing an esthetician regularly. He cut most of it when early retirement became his priority. “Those things didn’t make me happy … I didn’t know I wanted to retire early, but I knew I was in a privileged position and I wanted to take advantage of that to be financially healthy. “
And none of this can say that privilege saved Chi from burning out at her former job. He was having chest pain due to tension; When she retired, she took six months to “aggressively rest” before diving into her passion full-time.
“I definitely had luck and privilege. But a lot of people have luck and privilege,” she says. “They can meet their goals and be much happier if they make changes to their lifestyle.”
living a ‘small’ life
Chee is often asked how her family would handle an emergency, medical or otherwise, that might require one of them to return to work. These kinds of questions don’t phase him though; One of them will just get a job, she says. And a potential emergency expense isn’t a reason not to pursue a dream like early retirement.
“What if one of us has a disease … I think it could happen. But it could happen to anyone,” she says, noting that she had a major surgery last year And this did not deter his retirement in the slightest; They buy health insurance through the New York State Exchange, which does the work for them. “Any of those things that can happen to us can happen to anyone who had planned to work their whole life and now can’t.”
Chi says she and her husband try to “live as small as possible” so they can minimize big expenses, or at least be prepared for them when they come along. They love living in Buffalo, which offers access to community and the arts at an affordable price. They plan to live in their home for the rest of their lives.
She wishes that living small is something that more people in a similar financial situation will try.
“Even a 10% adjustment could give you enough money to leave a job you hate,” she says. “If you’re in that privileged group, take a look and just do it.”
This story was originally featured fortune.com
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