the Hardest Part of Retiring Early

  • Brandon is a “super-saver” who achieved financial independence six years ago, but has had trouble breaking his frugal habits.
  • Now, he’s forcing himself to spend his savings like he planned, even if that means giving it away.
  • Saving money is a good thing, he’s found, but not if it’s at the expense of your quality of life.

A lot of people dream of hitting financial independence and retiring early, but it can be hard to save enough when the temptation to spend is everywhere.

Brandon, the blogger and podcaster “Mad Fientist” who uses only his first name online, does not have that problem. In fact, his problem is the opposite. He describes himself as a “super saver,” and said that he saves “way too much, actually,” even after retiring six years ago at age 34.

Now that he’s hit his goal of financial independence, his next struggle is psychological rather than material: He wants to learn how to comfortably spend the money he saved up for years.

“I’ve always been obsessed with money for some reason,” Brandon told Insider. To no longer be motivated to save by his end goal, he continued, “is really weird.”

He’s forcing himself to spend money, even if he has to give it away

In addition to the income he gleans from Mad Fientist, Brandon also has a passive income stream from a credit card search tool he built several years ago, and his household expenses are between $40,000 and $50,000 per year.

When Brandon set out to achieve financial independence, he planned for an annual withdrawal rate of 3.5%. However, he spends so little that he hasn’t even had to tap into his portfolio. “I’m trying to force myself to at least spend what the portfolio can produce,” Brandon said. So far, this task has been easier said than done.

“I can’t force myself to be inefficient with money, I can’t force myself to waste it, and we’re both happy with how we spend, so I’m trying to get more comfortable with giving it away,” Brandon said of his lifestyle with his wife, Jill. “I’m being more generous with friends and family, which has been maybe one of the best changes.”

“I used to be the guy that would go to a dinner with 12 people, drink water, and then be pissed off for two days when somebody else like ordered like five cocktails and we just split the bill at the end,” he added. “I would never say anything, but I would always like stew on it. And now I want to be the person that buys the first round at least, or tries to get the check at dinner.”

He’s also trying to be more spontaneously generous. “I try to be as great of a tipper as I can be,” Brandon said.

PFI GOBankingratesLooking back, he wishes he hadn’t saved every penny

One of the regrets that Brandon has from his “pre-FI” days is not that he didn’t splurge for things, but that he missed out on experiences with friends and loved ones in an attempt to save as much money as possible.

For example, he missed out on the bachelor party of a close friend, because he was living in Scotland at the time and didn’t want to fly to America for the bachelor party and then fly back across the Atlantic four weeks later in order to attend the wedding. Another time, he passed up on an opportunity to go to Las Vegas for the weekend with his friends.

“I can’t get that back,” Brandon said.

He finds that Jill has been helpful in changing his approach to spending. Her mindset is the opposite of his: If she had money, she would spend it and not think about it anymore, while he would perseverate on every little purchase. He said that she’s brought him from being an extreme saver to a more happy medium.

Additionally, he uses his connections through Mad Fientist to talk with other personal finance influencers such as Ramit Sethi, author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” about his spending mindset.

He told Insider that he once told Sethi that he wanted to be more like him, “because there’s no need to do some of the things I do these days, like stressing about a $5 or $20 expense, or searching for airline tickets for three hours to save $50.”

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