I work with a lot of people that have early retirement as their primary goal. For many people this means retiring in their 50s. It is pretty common for me to meet with people that have this on their radar. However, it is not very common to meet people who have accomplished this goal. The majority of people who I have seen accomplish this goal have something in common; their expenses are manageable. Having manageable expenses does not mean sacrificing what you want. It means that you are living below your means prior to retirement, and that you can live within or even below your means in retirement.
A couple of things that you can do to make your expenses manageable are simplifying your expenses and minimizing or eliminating debt.
Simplifying your expenses begins with knowing where your money is going. It is impossible to have a handle on your expenses if you do not know what they are. People often get analysis paralysis when it comes to determining where their money is going. They try to look through their checkbook or credit card statements for the previous year. All this effort is not necessary. Estimating your expenses will be fine. It is more important that you have an idea of where your money is going than it is to have your data be perfect. The data will always be flawed because there are unexpected expenses or variable expenses that do not happen every year. Having a list of expense categories and estimating these expenses are a good starting point.
Eliminating or minimizing your debt will help simplify your expenses. It would be ideal to not have any debt in retirement, however there are some situations like having a mortgage that can be beneficial. There are those who believe you should always have a mortgage since your investments should earn more than the mortgage interest (less the tax deduction). The math is sound, however in real life, being mortgage free often makes a retiree feel more comfortable and the additional money you earn may be minimal. Before you make this decision, it would be a good idea to run some numbers.
Whether your goal is to retire early or achieve financial independence and work forever, it is never too early to know where your money is going and eliminate your debt. Following in the footsteps of other people who have achieved financial independence should help you achieve your financial goals.