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You are suggesting that because the risk free rate of return is 2.5% anybody who is not obtaining that return is not invested “properly”. However, risk is a real thing and it affects investment returns, and everybody invests with different objectives in mind. I would argue that anybody pursuing financial independence that is 100% invested in ten year bonds is not properly invested because the return from that portfolio will likely only keep up with inflation (if that). Whereas somebody who is pursuing financial independence would be better served in a balanced portfolio including stocks, bonds and maybe other asset classes. This portfolio is more than likely to return less than 2.5% in any given year, but is a more “proper” asset allocation to meet his objectives than is investing 100% of the portfolio in 10 year bonds.
For those of you looking to retire early with financial freedom, think about what your bare minimum retirement would look like. Could you move to a place with a lower cost of living? Would you give up going out to dinner? Work towards a nest egg that will support this bare-bones lifestyle. You probably will decide against moving to that cabin in the woods without running water, but it might be nice to know you could. Considering your bare minimum retirement, and knowing you have enough money saved to at least cover some standard of living in your early retirement, will also influence other life choices you may make along the way.
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Assuming you are doing pretty well and are happy with your current standard of living, what would you need to maintain your standard of living in retirement? Knowing you are on track to accumulate a nest egg to support that lifestyle is a big win. Gold medals go to those who have accumulated enough assets, or passive income streams, to be in a position to retire well.