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You Could Retire Tomorrow, If You Wanted To

You could retire tomorrow if you wanted to.

It doesn’t matter how much money you have right now, whether you’re in debt or not, or even how many possessions you have.

If you really wanted to, you could walk out of your job and retire no matter your situation. You’d even be able to sustain this for the rest of your life.

Sounds pretty nice, right!?

You may be thinking, “That’s impossible! There’s no way I could do that without going on government assistance, winning the lottery or stumbling upon some unknown massive inheritance.”

However, I assure you that it is, in fact, possible for anyone.

And I have proof.

Meet Daniel Suelo

You may have seen this story a long time ago. This is the man who lives on no money.

Yep, you heard that right. Nothing, zip, zilch.

Daniel Suelo lives completely money free.

Back in 2000, sick of living in the modern consumer driven, money focused world, he simply got out of it.

He put the last money he had in a phone booth, walked away, and has lived money free, for the most part*, ever since.

Daniel lives in caves and camps in the wilderness in Utah, where he forages and scavenges for his food every day.

He has very few possessions and lives a simple life of solitude, away from civilization.

In his own words,

“I don’t use or accept money or conscious barter – don’t take food stamps or other government dole. My philosophy is to use only what is freely given or discarded and what is already present and already running, whether or not I existed”

This man is no hermit or hobo. He is college educated with a good upbringing. He simply wants nothing to do with money.

The only public assistance he utilizes is the occasional trip to the public library which he uses to read and update his blog to spread to word. Hardly a taxpayer’s burden.

He doesn’t plan to reverse course, and will live this way the rest of his life.

Not a Traditional Retirement

I know what you’re thinking.

“That’s not retirement. He still has to find himself food every day for the rest of his life.”

While this is true, is that really considered work?

In the traditional sense, he walked away from his job and never went back. That’s what people do when they retire!

After all, there are many people who become Financially Independent and leave their job who consider themselves retired, even though they still work.

They simply are doing what they want, instead of working because they have to. Is this not what Daniel is doing?

According to Mr. Money Mustache’s post, if you save 100% of your income you could retire right now.

Daniel makes no money and he spends no money.

While technically an undefined savings rate, he lives for free and has maintained living for free.

Fight it all you want, but this is retirement.

An extreme method of retirement? Absolutely. This is taking frugality to the highest level there is.

To the average American, Daniel is probably seen as a crazy person. No one in their right mind would ever voluntarily choose this.

To those seeking Financial Independence though?

Extreme, to be sure, but believe it or not he shares many qualities that people striving for Financial Independence exhibit.

Uber frugal living?

Minimalist lifestyle?

Small ecological footprint?

Dumpster diving? (For some)

Retire early?

Blog? (For those that blog about it).

Aside from the whole “disliking money” aspect, he sure sounds like he would be on board with the Financial Independence movement.

Would you retire now?

So what does this mean for your future retirement plans?

Probably nothing.

For a vast majority of people there are too many drawbacks to this lifestyle. People have simply become too accustomed to at least having the basic luxuries in life (housing, food, running water, etc) to even think about doing so.

As for people with families, it would be virtually impossible to do this (though Daniel suggests communal living as a way around this on his blog).

It is interesting to think about though.

The principles he lives by are some that we all can take and implement into our daily lives:

  • Limit your contributions to the wastefulness of our society (Consume less)
  • Give to others and don’t expect anything in return
  • Don’t let money control you, control money (and leave it behind if you want)
  • Live peaceful and happy, try not to get consumed with the stress of the modern age

These are things that we all can do more of, regardless of whether we choose this lifestyle or not.

Personally, I like the current plan I have and am going to stick to it for the time being. But it is good to know that there is a tried and tested backup plan if things don’t work out!

How about you, could you retire tomorrow and live like this?

Let me know in the comments!

*Daniel had to rejoin civilization in 2015 to care for his elderly, dying parents. He still rejects money and actually set up camp at a nearby river instead of living in his mother’s house.

29 thoughts to “You Could Retire Tomorrow, If You Wanted To”

  1. Interesting post. I could never live that way, but to each their own. Who am I to criticize the way another person chooses to live? I say good for him if he is comfortable and content with the lifestyle! That’s what it’s all about in the end.

  2. Yeah that kind of life isn’t for me. I may not need much, but I still like my creature comforts, a comfy bed and running water among them! There are definitely still takeaways from that kind of lifestyle though, especially the reduced ecological footprint and being content with how you’re living.

    I love that the library is the only publicly-funded resource he relies on. This yet again proves that libraries are the best!

    1. Totally agree there, I definitely wouldn’t enjoy living my whole life like this so it’s not for me either. I thoroughly enjoy a nice comfy bed as well 🙂

      Haha right though? More funding for libraries please!!

  3. I quite enjoy camping for extended periods (a week or two), but I sure do enjoy my house after that. I do love his perspective of not being a burden on the planet, and he’s got me beat on ecological footprint every day of the week. I do hope he stays healthy though, because one bad illness / permanent health problem makes this kind of lifestyle a problem. Just one reason why people used to not live near as long as now 😉

    1. I’m the same way after being gone from my apt for an extended period, nothing like being home!

      So true though, his blog is actually pretty fascinating as he has a long list of FAQs that he answers. He actually claims that he gets sick LESS often now living in the wild than when he was “in civilization”. Crazy right!?

      As far as the lifespan goes it seems like he’s not too concerned with that and has accepted he’ll die eventually when his time is up. But I got your point 🙂

      1. Right – I could understand getting sick less. But there are some things outside of our control which makes a life like that less possible. I just like hedging bets is all. No arguing that he isn’t living his best life.

  4. I wouldn’t retire now if that would be my lifestyle just because that doesn’t interest me…at least not long term.

    Retirement is such a loaded word. I think that we are all changing different lifestyles instead of going after “retirement”.

    1. I’m with you there, to me it’s just not worth it. I also agree with that too. So few of us are actually going for a true retirement that we need to come up with a better word for it!

  5. Completely agree — this could be very compelling for someone who loves camping, hunting, fishing, and foraging, but I can’t imagine giving up my tech. Still, I’m looking forward to that middle ground, sharing a lot of the same values but in a more society-traditional way:
    – All of the lessons outlined by YFK
    – Reuse instead of purchase new
    – Raise, forage, or plant our own food (bees, chickens, produce…)
    – Use the hell out of our public libraries

    1. Very true! It is difficult to imagine living that way permanently, as many people can do it for short spurts at a time (weekends, week trips, etc) but long term it’s too much.

      I like that plan though! The middle ground seems like a fair trade and your plan seems very sustainable 🙂

  6. A small note about his decision is that, should he get injured, sick, etc. his choices are largely limited to either dying or being a burden on his family.

    1. Absolutely that’s very true. I can’t answer for him, but based on his writing it seems he is definitely aware that when he can longer get his own food, he will die. As his whole philosophy is to not be a burden on anyone or anything, I can’t imagine he would choose any other option other than dying.

      I suppose that’s just something you’d have to accept before choosing this kind of lifestyle.

  7. Wow, thanks for sharing such a fascinating story, I will definitely be reading the blog now. I adore camping but my techy programmer hubs would die without internet for long stretches, so… nope. But it’s a good reminder that we all create our own cages. Our creature comforts and niceties are the things we have to keep working to pay for, so the less reliant we are on those, the less reliant we are on the money to support them, i.e. the J-O-B. “Retirement” is possible at any time, but only under extreme circumstances. I have so many questions, so I guess I’ll head over to the FAQ page…

    1. I find his way of life so fascinating! I could not do that long term either, but it is very interesting to think about.

      I definitely spent a good amount of time reading through that FAQ list.. 😂

  8. True, I guess we’d have to see whether he could stick to it.

    Reminds me of the quote: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”


    1. Yes it’s a fascinating lifestyle for sure. I learned a lot from the FAQ section of his website. Not sure I could ever live like this but it makes you think about your priorities in life and what’s actually important to you!

  9. This reminds me of a book I read a loooonnggg time ago when I was in middle school. I, of course, can’t remember the name of it because my brain is fried by motherhood. But it is still one of my favorite books ever. What a neat guy.

  10. Interesting blog posting. I admire extremely frugal people but for so many of us it’s unrealistic. We work to maintain a certain lifestyle, many aspire to have more. The world is truly our oyster and if you work like a ancient Hebrew slave to obtain a certain lifestyle, then you can obtain it all.
    I am winding down my spending (I’m still savings 30% of my income even now) to a point where I’ll be able to retire and live on $70k/year.
    I do believe we all buy too much “stuff.” I’m as guilty as anyone but I’d rather be six feet under than live in a cave and most probably feel the same way when they really think about it because that’s a tremendous sacrifice.
    Regardless, it’s an interesring article and you made a great point. We all should cut back and if we had to we could retire. I’ll be reading your blog.

    1. Thanks for reading!

      Yes you bring up a great point, this lifestyle really is truly an ultimate sacrifice; you give up the earnings potential where you could obtain a much more luxurious lifestyle in retirement.

      Congrats on your current plan! It must have taken a lot of hard work and patience to get to that level 🙂

  11. This story makes even Jacob at ERE look like a hedonistic spendypants 🙂 It really makes you think about what one truly needs to be happy.
    Also, I love how supportive the comment section is. The FIRE community is the best!

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