Early retirement ideology is the belief that you as an employee rather than your employer should decide when your paid employment career ends.
It does not mean that you stop doing any kind of work after your retirement date.
Early retirement is about having the freedom to do the work that carries true meaning for you instead of continuing in a job that no longer fulfils you emotionally.
Given that the idea of voluntarily retiring early is unique, it is often misunderstood.
In popular perception the idea of early retirement can come across as suited for someone who is averse to work.
To dispel this notion and understand the concept it is useful to understand the ideology behind it.
The Ideology of Early Retirement
The ideology of early retirement is finding your uniquely personal balance within the 3 dynamic life factors of Time, Wealth & Health.
These 3 factors play a key role in how each of us experiences what life has to offer in its entirety.
Early retirement is you making an active choice about where your sweet spot lies within these 3 factors.
Now let us dig a little deeper to see how each of these factors play out.
Time & Early Retirement Ideology
It all starts the day you are born.
Assuming a life expectancy of 100 years (which is getting more likely with advances in medical science), you are given a set time on this planet.
So, you effectively start your life with 100 years on the countdown timer.
As each year passes by, you are left with 1 year less to do whatever you want to accomplish during your lifetime.
Ultimately as you turn 100 years old, the timer runs down to zero and you say farewell to this planet.
The image below depicts this relationship with the x axis showing your age starting from 0 and going to 100.
All of us come programmed with this pre-set clock and there is nothing within our control to change this timeline.
This is the broad period within which everything in our life happens.
Time is the precious commodity that allows you to invest in your relationships, pursue meaningful work and experience personal freedom.
All of them form the core elements of a happy life.
Wealth & Early Retirement Ideology
Your wealth chart works exactly the opposite of your time chart.
We start off with a zero-bank balance and build it up over time as the years go by.
There is no end state as to how much or till when you can keep earning money.
If you have the right skills and ability, you can keep increasing your wealth with each passing year.
The sky is the limit when it comes to building wealth.
For sake of simplicity, we assume that you will hit your peak wealth in the year you turn 100.
This is assuming you never stop bringing in income.
The longer you work or let your investments compound, the more money you can accumulate.
Health & Early Retirement Ideology
Just like fixing the time we have on this planet, nature has decided the trajectory of our health too.
We start out as infants with extremely limited mobility.
There is not much we can accomplish on our own without someone else taking care of our daily needs.
We reach peak mobility during our youth.
This is the high point of your health cycle when you can climb mountains and do cartwheels.
You can also take up intense sports or other physically demanding tasks.
Thereafter once we enter our senior years, the mobility starts to go down again.
Some things in life are best done during your youth when you are still in the pink of your health.
Mobility here refers to your mental and physical health condition.
Higher mobility allows us to operate independently without any external support.
Of course, we can influence the number of years we spend at peak mobility.
A combination of diet and exercise can ensure that you spend a greater number of years with good mobility.
The reverse is true if you make bad lifestyle choices.
However, it is still a matter of when (and not if) your physical and mental ability to do things starts to go down.
The Sweet Spot of Early Retirement
The sweet spot of early retirement is the zone highlighted in blue colour.
This is the zone when you experience the factors of time, wealth, and health in the best possible combination.
If you retire any earlier, you may not have sufficient wealth to support you for the rest of your life.
On the other hand, what if you delay your retirement beyond the sweet spot zone?
You will compromise on your health and time remaining may not be in your favour.
As you will notice the sweet spot is presented as a broad zone and not a specific age.
That is because this is not a purely mathematical equation that you are trying to solve.
There may be other factors unique to you that need consideration when deciding the right time for you.
This includes other financial or family obligations that you may be required to fulfil as an individual.
Everyone is unique and so will be the location of this sweet spot for you.
What makes sense for someone else may not make sense for you.
You may prioritise your health over more money while someone else may prefer greater financial security even if it means a later date for retirement.
The sweet spot must be the right one for you based on your values and personality.
Finding Your Personal Balance
Now that we understand how each of these factors plays out, how does this relate to the idea of early retirement?
The traditional and passive approach to retirement is to let your employer decide when your salary stops coming in i.e., your official retirement date as per your employment contract.
You continue in your current role even if you don’t particularly like your job because that is the template the society has set for you.
It also means you may never take the time to imagine what life could be like if you could quit your job before the official retirement age.
Finally, the day you officially retire, you may come to realise that you no longer have your health or time on your side.
Once that happens, feelings of regret can come rushing into your life.
You may have the money, but little energy or time left to pursue something more meaningful to you.
The early retirement ideology seeks to avoid this deferred feeling of regret by making an active life choice.
Early retirement is about taking active control of when you leave your paid employment.
It is about you (not your employer) deciding when you have the financial and emotional means to leave your job.
The decision to retire early is not an impulsive decision. It is shaped by the philosophy and ideology of early retirement.
It is about first building a passive income to support yourself financially for the rest of your life once you quit your job.
This involves finding your personal answer to the question of how much money do I need to retire early in India?
That is turn allows you to pursue true meaningful work even if doing that work does not offer any monetary compensation in return.
But What if I Do Love My Job?
If your job involves doing something personally meaningful it means you are part of a fortunate minority.
Very few people end up in a job that relates 100% with what they want to do in life.
Early retirement does not mean leaving your job even if you find meaning in it.
You should absolutely continue in your job if you find true meaning in it rather than just as a means of earning an income.
Financial independence gives you the optionality to leave your job if you no longer find meaning in it at some stage in the future.
Once you are financially independent, you may even come to realise that your current job is not your true calling.
It is only when you force yourself to think about what life could be that you find your true calling in life.
The ideology of early retirement forces you to think about your real priorities in life.
Priorities that go beyond what you do in your day job.
Early retirement is about reaching a life stage where you get to do more of things you love and less of things you do not love as much.
Your health, wealth and the time on your hands play a key role in your overall wellbeing.
You reach your sweet spot when your health, wealth and time are in harmony with your life values.
You are now ready to pursue something that is truly meaningful to you.
Early retirement ideology is about getting the right balance between these 3 factors.
You can now transition from personally meaningless employment towards meaningful work that also fulfils you emotionally.
Dushyant Choudhary is the founder of dushyantnomics, a retirement blog for Indians. Dushyant retired early from his 9-5 corporate life after a successful international career. He brings his knowledge and experience to his current role where he’s dedicated to helping professionals achieve a fulfilling retirement.