"Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world." ~ Thomas Carlyle
The Cost of Living Is Cheap
Exclusive to STR
The cost of living is cheap. How do I know this? The proof is everywhere, for those who will see it. Bag ladies prove it every day; so do the poor, homeless veterans, and street people of all ages.
Many are living on the street by accident, others by choice, but somehow they still manage to survive for years, even in the harshest of climates. These people have no home, no food, no income, no pension, no IRA, no health insurance, and no savings, yet they live on. How do they do it?
They have learned to adapt to the worst of living conditions no matter what they were accustomed to before adopting their current lifestyle. Some of them are also mentally ill, but most will never seek treatment, let alone receive it.
Others would adamantly refuse to change their chosen lifestyle even if you paid them to do it. For this group, personal choice prevails. Anything else, by definition, is something less than freedom. This group understands that truth and no one has any moral justification to attempt to persuade its members to alter their lifestyles, as long as they are adults who have freely chosen them.
This group knows just how cheap the cost of living really is, at least in terms of dollars. The other costs of living on the street (health, injury, disease, victims of crime, longevity, etc.) can be substantial, but they go with the territory.
What's expensive is the cost of living the way you would like to live. Many people work two jobs just to keep up appearances, or to keep their heads above water, or to maintain a certain lifestyle'one that they really can't afford and would probably be much better off without'but who am I to judge the free choices of others?
The problem is that in many cases these choices are far from free; they are often products of 'something for nothing' thinking, the 'free lunch' mentality of the State, and the 'money from thin air' magic of the Fed. Easy credit, interest-only loans, refinancing, and artificially low interest rates all exacerbate the problem, resulting in millions of supposed adults who spend like drunken sailors on liberty, instead of saving for a rainy day.
These people are living a lie; they are all one paycheck from poverty, wondering why they just can't seem to make it work. They would be much better off if they first selected a simple lifestyle that will make them happy and then determine how much it will cost.
A simple lifestyle is not only much less expensive, it offers valuable free time for other enjoyable and inexpensive pursuits like thinking, reading, writing, walking, shooting, and fishing. Thoreau would agree completely.
Once a simple lifestyle is chosen, a budget can be constructed. The possibilities leap out at you once you realize that a large nest egg is not required. The key is simply having sufficient cash flow to support your chosen lifestyle. How you achieve this is up to you.
In my case, two early retirements will provide me with more than enough monthly cash flow to support my simple lifestyle, even without touching my reserves. Granted, for many people today, this won't work because most pension windows are rapidly closing.
Still, I highly recommend early retirement to everyone I know; it allows you to change the scenery, travel, start over, make new friends, move overseas, or all of the above.
Here's some of what I teach my students about early retirement:
- The happiest people in the word are those who are doing what they enjoy.
- Money is only a tool; it cannot buy happiness.
- Do what you love and the money will follow.
- If you have secured sufficient cash flow to support your chosen lifestyle, you don't need any more, so early retirement becomes an option.
- If your capital is working harder than you are, you don't need to work.
- When all of your insurance expenses are also covered, you can afford to retire.
- Work should become an option, not remain a requirement.
- Retirement should become an option, not remain a dream.
- Early retirement(s) offer freedom that wage slaves can only dream about.
- Inflation will eat you alive if you ignore it, so plan ahead.
Some people handle retirement much better than others, but timely preparation can ease the transition. Those who wait until the last minute to determine what they will do after retiring often do not fare very well.
Don't let this happen to you. Plan ahead. Start early and retire early.
The cost of living is cheap. Being happy is a choice; it's not about the money.
See my related essay, Get a Life.