Dozens of calculators show how to acheive an early retirement. But none I’ve seen show why you should retire early.
If any such calculator existed, it certainly wouldn’t measure dollars. Dollars divulge the how of early retirement, but never the why of it. Any calculator that measured the why of retirement would have to measure something far more valuable than money—it would have to measure your precious hours of freedom.
At its highest and best use, money is a storehouse of freedom. As you save your earnings, you accumulate future free hours. This process liberates your life from the shackles of economic necessity. There’s a good catchphrase that describes this worthwhile pursuit: Financial Independence and Early Retirement (FIRE). With FIRE, bells of freedom peal—and with a steadily increasing store of liberty, you steadily improve your prospects for lasting happiness.
Today’s post introduces an entirely new type of calculator that helps you figure out the why of early retirement: yFIRECalc. yFIRECalc has nothing directly to do with your net worth; instead, it addresses the most important asset that any of us own: invaluable time.
The calculator is easy to operate. When you input data, including your age, work commitments, and date of early retirement, yFIRECalc quantifies the personal freedom you stand to gain. Results are stated in hours, days, weeks, months, and years. The calculator also tells you what percentage of your remaining lifespan will be spent in freedom instead of working. And yes, there will be pie charts.
The Why of yFireCalc
Why use this new calculator?
First, yFIRECalc is a great motivator. You can try out different scenarios. You can explore the tradeoffs between working longer to save more money or retiring sooner to gain more freedom. You can see what happens if you commit to a part-time job. Once you’ve run a few forecasts, early retirement becomes more tangible—and the more tangible your escape from the rat race becomes the more likely it will occur as scheduled. More often than not, what gets done is what gets measured.
Second, yFIRECalc provides greater insights than mere guesstimates. For example, if you plan to retire at age 56 and your standard Social Security retirement age is 67, you might say you’ve gained 11 years of freedom. But this quick take misses much.
- Hours in Support of Employment. Your current job consumes more of your life than just the hours spent at your desk. It takes time to suit up in the morning and wind down at night. It takes time to commute, fly to distant meetings, and appear at company events you’d rather not attend. Your weekends might be interupted by urgent emails and frantic phone calls. The calculator prompts you to count all these hours as part of your current job commitment. Without such a formal accounting, it’s easy to underestimate how much time your job is extracting from your life.
- Existing Free Hours. Your current job might be demanding, but it doesn’t consume 100 percent of your waking hours. You already enjoy some measure of freedom—evenings, weekends, vacation time. The calculator accounts for these free hours, which in turn prevents it from overstating your post-retirement gains.
- Post-Retirement Employment. You might be considering semi-retirement. If you intend to work part time the calculator doesn’t count these projected hours of labor as hours of freedom—unless, of course, they’re spent joyfully at your dream job (in which case you can treat them as free).
Finally, yFIRECalc reveals basic truths that evade financial calculators. Each year we live we each get the same amount of time as anyone else: 8,760 hours (plus 24 bonus hours in leap years). That’s all the time Bill Gates gets to enjoy and that’s all you receive as well. When it comes to trading work for freedom, the world drives a hard bargain. For most of us, the lion’s share of our lives gets eaten up by our labors. But it doesn’t take billionaire resources to amass a billionaire’s share of free hours. That’s the promise FIRE makes to those who spend less now in order to buy more liberty later.
How to Enter Your Data
Lines 1 through 3 require no explanation. Here’s how to input lines 4 through 8:
Line 4: Enter your anticipated date of early retirement. Don’t worry if you haven’t yet worked out a precise day yet. Input a ballpark time of when you’d like to see it happen. If you like, you can play around with different forecasts.
Line 5: Enter the average hours per week spent on your job, minus your average annual vacation (e.g., if you receive three weeks leave per year, lower your hours estimate by about 5.7 percent [3 weeks / 52 weeks = 5.75%]). Be inclusive. Include commutes, entertaining clients, professional relations, committee meetings, annual picnics, weekend emails, and continuing education. For many, this time consumes enormous hours. Upon retirement, it all frees up for personal use.
Line 6: Different people require different amounts of sleep. Estimate your weekly snooze time.
Line 7: If your early retirement will involve part time work, enter your anticipated weekly commitment. Include all related time such as commutes, client entertaining, committee work, etc. (see explanation of line 5 above).
Line 8: The calculator uses your sixty-seventh birthday as the benchmark date for a final and complete retirement (after which it’s assumed you no longer work). If you want to use some other day instead, overwrite the date that appears in the red box.
Once you input lines 1 through 8, lines 9 through 28 will populate with revealing information about how much extra freedom you’ll come to enjoy in future years. This data reveals much about the why of early retirement.
yFIRECalc Version 1.0
1. To review the male and female life expectancy charts upon which yFIRECalc is based, click the tab below the calculator that reads “Life Expectancy.”
2. The pie charts project your time spent at sleep, work, or liberty between today’s date (as reported on line 1) and your benchmark retirement date (as reported on line 8).
3. Although yFIRECalc allows for the entry of part-time work after your early retirement (see line 7) it assumes that you will stop all work by the date of your benchmark retirement (see line 8). If you expect to keep working beyond that time, change line 8 to accurately reflect when you will finally cease your labors.
4. Lines 27-28 project your time spent at sleep, work, or liberty between today’s date and the end of your life expectancy as projected in line 12. The sooner you retire, the bigger the difference between these two stated percentages.
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If you have any questions, remarks, or critiques about yFIRECalc 1.0, don’t keep them to yourself. Please drop me an email or leave a comment below. I’ll do my best to work any feedback into future versions of this calculator.
If you’d like to explore other Frugal Fringe calculators, click any of the following:
- Frugalometer: Compare Your Spending and Saving to Others Who Earn the Same Income
- Worthometer: Compare Your Net Worth to National Surveys
- How to Compare Your Income to Others (Without Being Rude)
- Compare Your Adjusted Gross Income to Others by Age and Filing Status [Using 2011 IRS Data]
- Compare Your Adjusted Gross Income to Others by Age and Filing Status [Using 2012 IRS Data]
- Compare Your Student Loan Debt to National Studies—What’s Your Percentile?
- Worthometer Canada: Compare Your Net Worth to Others (Without Being Rude)