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You Really Can Retire Early

Updated on September 12, 2014

Who needs a job?

The working world has certainly seen better days. While you may be reading this because you are tired of working long hours for an unappreciative boss, it's increasingly likely today that you are somebody who has been pushed out of the employment marketplace and have become tired of looking for a way back in.

So the question is - can you retire? Do you have the resources to make an early retirement work? Is this really an option for an unemployed worker?

Most of us will immediately think of the money question. Do you have enough money? But chances are, you have other unrealized resources at your disposal - that you may not even be thinking about.

First I'll tell you about myself. Than we'll look at how you might make it work for yourself.

How I retired at age 45 - without a fortune

I'm writing this article from firsthand experience. I retired from my last job at age 45.

The question I asked myself before I made this happen was, "What kind of retirement do I want?" My answer to myself at that moment was "whatever will get me out of this job."

Chances are, if you aren't a senior citizen yet, you still want to be busy. You just don't want the kind of tiring, stressful "job" you had before. So we're talking today about a "working" retirement, not a "tanning myself on the beach" retirement (but there's still plenty of time to go to the beach.)

So, you're still young enough that you'll want activites to occupy yourself. Can those activities be both enjoyable and profitable? Of course they can.

First, the money question. I'm about to show that you won't need the amount of money you would need for a traditional retirement - but you will certainly need some. It will get you through the period where you discover and develop opportunities. I had enough money to get me through a couple of years, but it turned out that about one year's worth was plenty.

My theory was this: I don't know for sure what I'll be successful at. So let's explore several opportunities simultaneously. If I can develop several different easy or enjoyable sources of income, I won't need to be "great" at any one of them.

Another advantage of this approach is that you are not at the mercy of any single employer or income source. If one of them fails, you are still basically financially sound.

Here are the initial income sources I found for myself:

- I learned enough about computer programming to write a simple software application that I could sell through software download websites. After one year, this was earning me about $5,000 annually.

- My wife and I started an eBay business. We would visit estate auctions and storage bin auctions, and find items to resell in online auctions. This also got us about $5,000 per year, plus another $1,000 in commissions helping neighbors sell their items on eBay.

- I did a few freelance video production jobs for clients of my former employer. Of course this was similar to what my job used to be. But as a freelancer, I could get more money and do the work in a more relaxed way. Doing this just once or twice per month added $10,000 to my yearly income.

- The spouse kept her easy part-time job, worth about $7,500 per year.

- I did part-time volunteer work for a local non-profit movie palace. Many communities have projects like this - an 80-year-old movie theater restoration project. This may sound like a job, but it was really a way to watch free movies and concerts! And while projecting movies, I would have my computer with me, working on my other businesses. Once I proved my worth as a volunteer, I was added to the payroll for another $7,500 per year.

Add all that up, it amounted to an income of $36,000 per year. And that was without touching my savings, except for the time it took to get my opportunities going.

Now, fast-forward. All the above is 10 years in the past for me. And many of the opportunities have expanded over the last few years. My little software application now earns over $20,000 per year. I've combined the eBay business with my software and video businesses, and now sell my own videos and computer applications on eBay. The freelance video production business earns more too, some years a lot more. Am I really retired if I work that much? I guess it boils down to what you think makes a good retirement.

To me it's about being in control of my time, and enjoying my life.

When my senior years approach, I can easily scale everything down to exactly the level I need, replacing income with social security and 401K/IRA savings withdrawals.

Making early retirement happen for yourself

Of course, my own story is just one example. You will need to assess your own strengths and resources, and find opportunities that are a good fit for you. What do you like to do? If you play an instrument, consider joining a band. If you like photography, you can be a weekend wedding photographer. If you like to sit at your computer, look at an eBay business or other internet opportunities.

Look right here on Hubpages, many people have shared their experiences about income opportunities that work for them. My contribution is really to tell you not to put all your eggs in one basket. Explore several income ideas, and hopefully make at least a little bit from all of them. Then after a time, if you are like me, you should find one or more of your ventures becoming amazingly successful.

And by the way, "amazingly successful" is usually a very slow process. Almost nothing works overnight, or on the first try.

Sad but true story: I had a good friend once ask me to help her build a website to sell her homemade jewelry. Her jewelry was beautiful, and we built a wonderful website to sell it from. Unfortunately, she became discouraged within a month when her venture didn't look like an immediate success, and pulled the plug. Of course, there was nothing wrong with her jewelry, or with her website, or with her idea to build a business around her talent. Her problem was the unrealistic expectations she created for herself.

If you are an anxious person, you will need to reach deep inside yourself to find some patience. It's one of the critical factors for success. If instant success were so easy, everyone would do it! The truth is that anything worthwhile will take time and effort.

This is why it's so important to focus your energy on work ideas you love doing. Then the amount of time and effort will cease to matter - because you will be having fun.

Examine expenses, too

Your chances for success while being job-free will be enhanced if you also take a look at your cost of living. When making my move away from my former job, I moved to a less expensive home, sold my second car, and looked at all of my bills for places to make cuts.

Then I created a budget, and strictly enforced it with my spouse.

Many will find this to be the least fun suggestion in this article. But preserving savings is a very wise thing to do. It gives you more time to find and develop your new income streams.

You won't need to budget forever. Sooner or later, your income will be booming. And this time, you'll be the boss.

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    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      I like the idea of not looking on retirement like 'all day sitting on the beach' but more 'being in control of your time'. May I add one more observation? Being without debts can be huge part of success on your path to early retirement!

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      This is inspiring.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      I know from experience that financial success in freelance endeavors on the internet takes effort, time, and diversification. i picture my "retirement" to be similar to yours. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • NightMagic profile image

      NightMagic 6 years ago

      Good lens. I'm in the process of making money at home too & just working part time at something I love. You're right, patience is the key.

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 6 years ago

      Nice article, I love reading about 'think outside the box' types of earning ideas over your typical job. I find myself on the path that you are in my own version, which is the only way it can be done anyways for the most part. I like the 'don't put your eggs all in one basket' concept, especially since I prefer variety. Nice to her about your freedom to live your life as you want, that's most important for me:)