I am not really a big fan of lists of tips of “small actionable steps”. While fun, at least as long as they’re short, I don’t find such lists very helpful(*), mostly because they either list things I’m already doing (turn the light off hen you leave the room) or things that do not apply (clip coupons). The tips I enjoy the most are the “maybe you should look into this”-type of tips. Pointers that would require some research on my part but which I would not otherwise have thought of myself in a million years or maybe two or three years anyway 🙂 .

(*) I am well aware that for people just jumping into the subject of personal finance such lists can be immensely motivating and empowering and so they are very useful at the transition/recruitment stage. However, once one sees the principles behind the lists, they become less useful and almost trivial.

With that caveat in mind, here are my tips for extreme early retirement.

  1. Ordinary personal finance is much too restricted to consider discussing retiring early or gaining any kind of financial freedom; it will mostly tell you how to gain promotions, set up retirement plans, pay down mortgages and car loans, and get benefits and other things that keep people bound to their jobs. To understand how you fit into the larger scheme, read books on economics (like McConnell and Brue) and ecology (like Richard Brewer) and try to apply the ideas to your own life.
  2. Everything you need to know about functional minimalism can be learned from good boat keeping for passage making and blue ocean cruising. Some of these people cruise the world on their own ship for down to $6000 a year.
  3. Become a strategist. It is much more important to do the right things compared to doing things right. Normally the suggestions are to read Sun Tzu or Musashi, but I think you will be way better off with a few textbooks on operations management. Pay particular attention to kaizen, just-in-time (inventory management), the fifth discipline (the systems approach), and total quality management.
  4. Do at least one major thing different from everybody else (for instance, I don’t have a driver’s license). If you are going to retire 20 years before everybody else, you might as well get used to being different. Always leave your comfort zone. Remember: Comfort is nothing compared to freedom (at least for a small percentile anyway 😛 ).
  5. Find a neutral hobby and become skilled enough at it to make money on it (you need to put in about 1000 hours before that happens). Everything I’ve made money on after retiring [from] my career started as hobbies. It does not matter if you are not earning a lot or nothing at all in the beginning. The important thing is that is has a reasonable chance to make you something whether it is money or connections. For instance, jet skiing is disqualified but knitting is in.

PS: Sorry for being a bad blogger lately. We’re busy working on a seven figure R&D grant proposal for a new power plant design to decrease (y)our dependence on oil imports.

Originally posted 2009-05-11 14:15:37.