Brad Rice didn’t think much about when to retire. He just wanted to retire rich.
He imagined a few million dollars in the bank, a boat, and a lot of travel. But like many of us in our 20s and 30s, he wasn’t really thinking about why he wanted to retire rich, let alone how he would get there.
Until he realized he couldn’t wait until his 60s to get what he really wanted out of retirement.
Brad, 29, worked long hours as a consultant for cloud computing company Salesforce. His wife Ashley is a speech pathologist.
In 2013, while on vacation in Hawaii, they accidentally booked a hotel on Molokai, an island less than a quarter the size of Rhode Island and with no traffic lights or shopping malls.
The accident was a chance awakening for both Brad and Ashley.
The couple applauded the slow life of the community, the connection people made with each other – instead of their phones – and the care with which they kept their island.
At the end of the trip, it seemed like the wrong approach to working for decades in order to be able to afford retired travel.
“We kind of had this awakening that said, ‘Well, let’s retire early instead,” said Brad. “From then on, it got easy: don’t stop marketing and consuming and stop messing with this pursuit to deal with happiness. “
He continued to work long hours, but instead of going back to their old spending habits, Brad and Ashley cut their spending and saved more each month.
They cut wires, ate more at home, and ran out of retirement accounts. In their early years, they made tremendous strides towards their early retirement goals – until the birth of their daughter Evelyn Kate in 2016.
Children change everything, don’t they? They have big plans and then they give you a tiny human.
Brad didn’t want to work long hours to retire early if that meant missing first words, first steps, and everything else that came with being a father. So he decided to develop his own version of early retirement.
How he traded his retirement dreams for a better life
Since he and Ashley had already lived and saved frugally, Brad had the freedom to take a cut in pay for a casual job.
“I had a lot of bandwidth in my budget to say, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to save anytime soon, I’m not going to retire this early, but I’m going to enjoy my life today,” he said.
He knew the minimum salary he would get and that he wanted to work closer to home. That’s why he used LinkedIn to reach local businesses.
For every 20 messages he sent, the average was one response.
Finally, a representative of a small company that had employed a contractor emailed him saying he wanted to work with someone in the house. But the company couldn’t pay him what he wanted to work full-time.
He used his years of experience and some Glassdoor research into the company’s previous salaries to negotiate a part-time job.
After a month-long test of fitting him into a long lunch at his fast-paced job he hadn’t quit, the smaller company hired him part-time. He took a 50% wage cut to quit his stressful job and take on the part-time role.
Why this 50% wage cut was absolutely worth it
Brad, Ashley, and Evelyn Kate had to cut their expenses even further – well, Evelyn Kate not so much.
They had already got rid of the cable, but they also eliminated Netflix and called their insurance and internet companies to negotiate lower monthly rates.
Because his new job was closer to home, Brad convinced Ashley that she could drive to a car and he could bike to work.
It rained two of the first three days he cycled to work and the temperatures were in his 30s. On the fourth day the weather was perfect. But when he got on his bike to ride home, he found that his rear tire was completely burned out.
Its resilience paid off. Now he likes to ride his bike to work. He saves money, is in the best shape of his life and less worried about repairs for one car.
“It will take a lot more than a flat tire and some cold weather to give up that lifestyle change,” he said.
Working part-time means that he can take regular dance breaks with his daughter. It also gave him the time to start counseling on the side.
Now he works 20 hours a week in his part-time job. The income he makes from the 10 hours a week he spends on his side business has canceled out the wage cut he made.
“I can make as much money in half the time,” said Brad. “I just didn’t realize it until I took this opportunity.”
Even though they have slowed down in saving, Brad and Ashley are still planning to retire early. His new side business and the sale of her car are a couple of years off her timeline.
In the meantime, they will hang out with their daughter and travel more on a budget.
“Even if I had to sacrifice early retirement, the fact that I can spend five extra hours a day with my child would be worth noting early retirement,” said Brad. “It was a breeze.”
Jen Smith works for The Penny Hoarder and shares tips on saving money and paying off debt on Instagram @savingwithspunk.