A Note of Cynicism

Richard Quinn

DO YOU HAVE A LOT of stuff—all those things that fill your basement, attic and garage? Dealing with these accumulated possessions is hard. But there are folks who have figured it out: They sell everything, even their house and car.

I regularly read blogs written by people who “retired” in their 30s and 40s, all of them living in stressless financial bliss. These folks live frugally off their dividends, other passive income and, of course, by sharing their acquired expertise on their moneymaking websites. I’m addicted to these blogs. I don’t want to miss the latest message about their successful minimalist lifestyle.

If you detect a note of cynicism from someone who worked from age 14 to 67, you’re very perceptive.

Some of these retirees are self-described nomads who sold almost all their possessions and now travel around the world at will. Several live outside the U.S. at far lower costs or in relatively remote areas of the U.S. Some live in an RV fulltime. One man sent me a note saying he lives very well in an upscale condo community on less than $1,000 a month. It wasn’t until his fourth message that he mentioned it was in Thailand.

Often, these retirees claim to be living on incomes that most others would view as subsistence level and even in need of public assistance. Indeed, there are those who intentionally keep their income low to benefit from various government subsidies and tax credits, while at the time crowing about their seven-figure net worth. Hey, its all legal.

There are many tradeoffs involved in being a nine-to-five dropout, most of which few people would be willing or able to accept. On the other hand, there are lessons to be learned, like having lots of stuff isn’t necessary for happiness. Clearly, there are different definitions of happiness. Still, I take much of the “wisdom” from these super-early retirees with a large grain of salt.

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