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.

Having no debt during retirement is an absolute must for me but I still wouldn’t be able to deal with budget FI. Having ~$40,000 a year to pay for health insurance, property/car insurance, gas, food, utilities, internet, cellphone, etc. doesn’t leave much for fun stuff. I look at FI as the ultimate goal. Goals are supposed to be the best situation I can strive for based on my personal wants. Baseline FI would allow me to pay all the bills AND have fun. Whereas budget FI is allowing just enough to cover expenses.
Also withdrawing 4% in a bear market guarantees reduced future withdrawals whereas quality dividend stocks continue to pay and increase dividends through bear markets and recessions. Hundreds of stocks maintained and even increased their dividends through the 2008 recession. These are the types of companies that you want to invest in for dividend income!
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If you are new to the financial planning process, it’s important to remember you don’t need to go from zero to sixty overnight. Just like a fitness trainer would be hesitant to recommend an all-out body straining routine on your first day in the gym, I wouldn’t expect someone to start implementing advanced planning techniques in the first week. Pick a reasonable and attainable goal, and get used to achieving small wins on your track to financial independence.

Industrialization emphasized the role of technology. Many jobs were automated. Machines replaced some workers while other workers became more specialized. Labour specialization became critical to economic success. However, physical capital, as it came to be known, consisting of both the natural capital and the infrastructural capital, became the focus of the analysis of wealth.[citation needed]


I realize this is not directed at me, but let me give you my current retirement “job”. I hold rehab notes for real estate investors. I carefully underwrite (evaluate) the deal and my returns are 1% a month. That $250,000 would generate $2500 a month. My cash utilization is also very high. My retirement job has a great following now, I rarely have enough capital to meet all the needs.
I recall an article about this very topic from a long time ago (early 1990s?) in the Wall Street Journal. They also outlined three levels of retirement financial readiness that they described in food terms as “beer and pretzels”, “steak and wine”, and “champagne and caviar”. I recall their nest egg targets were 2M, 6M, and 20M in USD for these ranges. These would be much higher today after adjusting for inflation.
The wealth of households amounts to US$280 trillion (2017). According to the eighth edition of the Global Wealth Report, in the year to mid-2017, total global wealth rose at a rate of 6.4%, the fastest pace since 2012 and reached US$280 trillion, a gain of US$16.7 trillion. This reflected widespread gains in equity markets matched by similar rises in non-financial assets, which moved above the pre-crisis year 2007's level for the first time this year. Wealth growth also outpaced population growth, so that global mean wealth per adult grew by 4.9% and reached a new record high of US$56,540 per adult. Tim Harford has asserted that a small child has greater wealth than the 2 billion poorest people in the world combined, since a small child has no debt.[23]
As for Sam’s levels, this is the reason I started to pursue more sources of passive income. I wanted to at least partially break the chain of being tied totally to a market return. I am nowhere near Sam’s league in terms of assets or passive income but it now represents a decent amount of our total income. I worry less about market returns and more about the viability of the income stream persisting. I use 3 fintech platforms for real estate which represents about 12% of my overall portfolio, a closed end fund designed for income, a high quality MLP and at this time a boatload of cash since I think bonds represent a bad value.

The 4% rule has a failure rate based on overall market movement and time in the market. If you need to cover 20 years the 4% rule is extremely safe. If you need to cover 40-50-60 years because of early FI it starts to get riskier. Why not arrange your investments so you achieve a 4% yield, then you will never need to sell shares and can live an infinite amount of time without working? To boot, invest in some dividend growth stocks and you will get an inflation-busting 6% average annual raise on your income as well!
Hi Sam, interesting post as always. I’m always very curious about how you arrive at your estimates. It would be great if you could show us the math! (actually I’m very curious about this in your 401k value post) Anyway, in this post you mention: “need between $800,000 – $1,600,000 – to replicate 40,000 a year in passive income” This is a bit bigger than the standard 4% approach. I can see that you are cautious, I’m just wondering about how I could replicate some of the math too.
I personally do not consider any capital gains or paper gains as part of my retirement income. Any capital gains are one off. It’s safer this way because it’s important to focus on building recurring passive income sources. Hopefully, my gains from my rental house sale in 2017 will be properly deployed to earn future income. But I’m not touching those gains for spending.

I have about 1 year’s worth of expenses saved. Hoping to get to 25x expenses by the time I’m 30. I’m currently 23 and just starting my first job out of college. I think I can definitely achieve that, but I’m nervous about performing well at work. Hopefully it all works out and I can choose to quit if I’d like early in life. I’m hoping I actually enjoy work, but I am thinking that is asking for too much…

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Industrialization emphasized the role of technology. Many jobs were automated. Machines replaced some workers while other workers became more specialized. Labour specialization became critical to economic success. However, physical capital, as it came to be known, consisting of both the natural capital (raw materials from nature) and the infrastructural capital (facilitating technology), became the focus of the analysis of wealth. Adam Smith saw wealth creation as the combination of materials, labour, land, and technology in such a way as to capture a profit (excess above the cost of production).[10]

I am not the poster boy suckup or the golden boy on the team. Those guys work on the new stuff and they attend meetings all day to show how busy they are. They do the dog and pony shows to mgmt. I make 172K a year and I only work 10-20 hours a week from home. When there are problems or after hours or late weekend work then it can be stressful. Being on 24×7 online support sucks but that is part of the job. I am the ONLY one that knows my systems so if they want to get rid of me than so be it. I just want to gracefully try my best to make it to 55 and just retire.
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By paying myself first I was able to accomplish two goals – being able to invest and then spend less overall since there was less money in my account after the month was over. I made sure that savings were definitely happening, and I had peace of mind that money was actually being saved. The great thing is, once you get this started with the right funds, you then have it automatically taken out, which is even less work for you to manage.
The wealth of households amounts to US$280 trillion (2017). According to the eighth edition of the Global Wealth Report, in the year to mid-2017, total global wealth rose at a rate of 6.4%, the fastest pace since 2012 and reached US$280 trillion, a gain of US$16.7 trillion. This reflected widespread gains in equity markets matched by similar rises in non-financial assets, which moved above the pre-crisis year 2007's level for the first time this year. Wealth growth also outpaced population growth, so that global mean wealth per adult grew by 4.9% and reached a new record high of US$56,540 per adult. Tim Harford has asserted that a small child has greater wealth than the 2 billion poorest people in the world combined, since a small child has no debt.[23]

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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