Growing up in a traditional Asian household, I was taught to follow this exact formula.
- Study hard
- Attend a top college
- Get a high paying job
- Work until age 65
- Retire and enjoy life
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with this path.
My parents worked full time for 40+ years and lived happy and fulfilling lives. My Mom is a world renowned microbiologist who discovered a cure for a rare disease called Glycogen Storage Disease.
Meanwhile, my Dad had a successful career as an electrical engineer until he retired in his 60s.
Working until age 65 was my end game until my senior year in college when I began interviewing for full time jobs.
“Wait a sec. You mean I have to come to this office for 8-10 hours per day, 5 days a week?”
“What? I only get 2 weeks of vacation per year?”
After 4 years of blissful freedom during my college years, I was suddenly forced to work 8-10 hours a day for the next 44 years? No thanks!
This post is about how to retire early and how to enjoy life now as opposed to waiting until you are 65. For those of you who are making decent money and struggling to get by, this post also covers what I call the “disease of more”.
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What Does It Mean To Retire Early?
The official Webster’s definition of “retire” is to leave one’s job and cease to work, typically upon reaching the normal age for leaving employment.
Everyone always has a rosy view of quitting their jobs but the truth is that retirement sucks unless you know what makes you fulfilled.
My friend Nellie Akalp made an extremely large sum of money selling her first company and thought that she was done. So she traveled the world living large until she realized that she was bored, unhappy and couldn’t stand retired life anymore.
Within 6 months of retirement, she decided to start another company! In the end, “retirement” for Nellie was the excitement of starting a brand new business.
For most people, retirement is the freedom to do whatever makes you happy and not the Webster’s dictionary definition.
Learning How To Retire Early
First off, you don’t have to wait until you are 65 to retire and retiring early doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your day job either if you enjoy working.
For example, towards the latter half of my career as an engineering director, I considered myself retired because I loved my job. Every day, I looked forward to going into the office because I enjoyed solving complex engineering problems and hanging around smart people.
The biggest myth of retirement is the belief that you have to suffer now so you can reap the benefits later. Why wait until you are old and shriveled to enjoy your life?
Why be happy at the end when you can be happy during the entire journey?
If you want to learn how to retire early, you must figure how to spend time doing the things you love while minimizing the activities you hate.
Here’s my exact formula on how to retire early!
Keep Your Expenses Low
With our two 7 figure businesses, my wife and I make way more money than we spend. And in theory, we could buy a gigantic house, get a lambo or go on extravagant vacations but we’ve purposely chosen to live beneath our means.
As it stands, we don’t have to worry about money at all.
When you keep your expenses in check, your mind is at peace because you don’t have to worry about the basic necessities to survive.
Most people inflate their lifestyles as soon as they have a little bit of money in the bank. And whenever you upgrade your lifestyle, your expectations increase and you constantly need more money to maintain it.
Here’s a perfect example. A friend of mine recently stretched himself thin to buy a gigantic house. Don’t get me wrong, the house is beautiful. But his water bill alone now is $1200/month and his electricity bill is $1500/month.
When you factor in the huge mortgage payment and property tax bills, my friend essentially bought himself a really nice prison because he now has to bust his butt to maintain his estate.
Here’s the truth about money.
Having more cash in the bank always equals more freedom but spending more money rarely leads to more happiness.
If you look back on your fondest memories, did they cost a lot of money?
For example, I’ll never look back and think about how buying an expensive car changed my life. But I will always remember the look on my daughter’s face when I taught her how to ride a bike for the first time.
Every dollar in your bank account represents freedom. Will buying that expensive house with a huge mortgage bring enough happiness to offset the potential loss of your freedom and peace of mind?
The goal of keeping your expenses low is to get to the point where you can say that you’re done. You make more than you spend so you can do whatever the heck you want and hang out with whoever you want.
Start Planting Your Money Seeds
Once you have your expenses in check, it’s time to plant your money seeds. When you work a day job, you are trading time for money. As a result, your earning potential is forever capped by the number of hours in a day.
In order to deposit more freedom coins into your bank account, you need to create an asset that makes you money while you sleep.
There are many different ways to create income generating assets. Here’s a short of list of the multiple streams of income that make me over 2M per year.
- BumblebeeLinens.com – I started selling handkerchiefs online in 2007 and today, it’s a 7 figure business.
- MyWifeQuitHerJob.com – My blog and podcast collectively generate over 7 figures in profit every single year. MyWifeQuitHerJob.com is my passion project and I run it for both fun and profit.
- SellersSummit.com – My annual ecommerce conference is another passion project that brings people together and makes me happy while generating 6 figures per year.
- Investments – I invest in small companies as an angel investor as well as stocks and mutual funds.
- You Tube – My YouTube channel is an up and coming income source that is just starting to make decent money. Click here to subscribe
If you are struggling to find an income generating asset to start, the easiest way to find business ideas is to look at how you spend your time.
- Do you enjoy playing tennis?
- Do you play a lot of computer games?
- Are you a coffee connoisseur?
We are all major geeks in certain areas and the key to retiring early is to leverage your interests and turn them into income generating properties.
For example, my tennis instructor lost a chunk of his students during COVID-19 and the California wildfires so he created an online business selling virtual tennis coaching. His YouTube channel is growing rapidly and he just launched his first successful digital product.
Another friend of mine is proficient in Microsoft Excel, so he created an online course teaching others how to master spreadsheets.
My cousin loves running 100 mile races so he created a custom massager for leg cramps.
We all possess knowledge in random areas of our lives that can lead to a course or a product.
If you can start a business in an area that you love, it no longer feels like work!
Here are tutorials that I offer on MyWifeQuitHerJob.com that will help you plant your first money seed!
- Start An Online Store – If want to sell physical products online, this 6 day mini course teach you how to get started.
- Start A Blog – If want to make money from digital products, affiliate marketing and advertising, this 6 day mini course teach you how.
- Sell On Amazon – Leverage Amazon’s large built in audience to make money selling physical products, books and more!
Know Your Number And Stop Setting Meaningless Goals
If you plant your money seeds and consistently nurture your money generating assets, they will eventually blossom and grow. But at some point, you may come down with a syndrome known as “The Disease Of More”.
Remember, learning how to retire early is about achieving financial freedom, not working harder for the sake of making more money than you can spend.
When my wife and I started BumblebeeLinens.com, it became successful in a relatively short period of time. Within a year, the business replaced my wife’s 6 figure salary and it quickly grew to a 7 figure business.
In fact, we met our financial objectives with our handkerchief business in year 1 but we wanted more!
Early on, my wife and I set aggressive sales goals to grow the business and they were extremely stressful to achieve. One year, we were 50K short of our “artificial” holiday sales goal so we put together a last minute blitz of email campaigns to make up for it.
While we hit our number, my wife and I had to work 12 hour days during the holidays to fulfill these orders because we were short on staff.
Another time, we got featured on the NBC Today Show which 7X’ed our daily revenue and we had to bust our butts to ship everything out.
The problem with setting goals is that they are meaningless. You reach an artificial milestone, pat yourself on the back and then move the goal posts further away.
One thing no business owner will ever tell you is that growing fast sucks! You won’t have the infrastructure in place to handle the volume and the growth will consume your life.
Instead of setting meaningless goals and growing for the sake of growing, sit down and figure out how much you need to make to achieve financial freedom and work towards that number.
Retiring early is about understanding how much you need to make to be free and not letting money dictate your decision making.
Plan Out Your Perfect Day
Growing up, my parents taught me that paying your dues and suffering now always leads to success later in life. And for the most part, I agree with this philosophy.
You have to pay it forward and work hard now to reap the rewards later. But I strongly disagree with the “suffering” part.
Early retirement does not have to be about sacrificing your happiness now to achieve a better future.
Instead, you should do the complete opposite. Think about what you makes you happy right now and work it into your schedule.
Take a step back to understand your needs and design them into your life.
For example, even though running my two 7 figure business can suck sometimes, I always structure my week to include several of what I call “perfect days”.
Here’s what makes me happy
- Having lunch with my wife
- Going on walks with the family
- Playing ultimate frisbee
- Playing tennis
- Participating in my kid’s volleyball and tennis practices
- Playing computer games with my friends
Designing the perfect day is about working in what you love to do into your daily routine. Stringing multiple “perfect days” together is my definition of how to retire early.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about my personality.
As long as I schedule any of the above activities into my day, I feel great despite the daily grind of running my businesses. My perfect days make the journey enjoyable and I’m not “suffering” along the way.
Stop telling yourself that you’ll be happy when you get to the end and instead, structure your life so you’re happy the whole way there!
Finding Meaning In Your Work
The other secret about how to retire early is finding meaning in what you do.
Personally, I never plan to “retire” in the traditional sense of the term. Instead, I intend to run MyWifeQuitHerJob.com until I can no longer type or produce videos or podcasts.
In my mind, I’m already retired because I enjoy my work. As a former electrical engineer who worked with computers all day, I never thought that I’d enjoy teaching but I love it!
Whenever a student tells me that they’ve quit their jobs as a result of my teachings, it leaves a warm feeling in my heart.
Retiring early isn’t about quitting. It’s about finding activities that you love to do that don’t feel like work even though it might technically be considered work:)
How To Retire Early Instead Of Waiting Until You Are 65
In order to figure out how to retire early, you first have to understand your monetary and psychological needs.
- How much money do you need to survive comfortably?
- How do you want to spend your days?
- Who do you want to be around?
Make a list of activities that make up your perfect day and make a list of things you hate to do.
Once you know what you want, you should study the lives of people you want to emulate.
For example, my friends Polly and Ed started 2 multi million dollar companies in BeauCoup and Tiny Prints while still spending plenty of time with their kids.
In fact, Polly and Ed were my role models who I tried to copy when I first started Bumblebee Linens.
Here are their podcast episodes in case you want to learn more from this amazing couple.
Then, plant your money seeds by starting a business that takes advantage of your interests and knowledge.
Make sure you incorporate a few perfect days into your week and enjoy the journey!
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.