Armchair Millionaire Community Bulletin - Dropping Out of the Rat Race

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The thought of simply chucking it all and escaping the treadmill of work and a materialistic lifestyle can be highly seductive. But look carefully before you go there -- you may find that you're giving up a lot more than the job stress, and changing your life in ways you never could have imagined.

The many heartfelt comments we had about dropping out of the rat race from members of the Armchair Millionaire community are telling of just how many struggle with balancing work and life. Here are two comments from folks who have succeeded in dropping out:

"Four years ago my wife and I, 38 and 48 respectively, took our proceeds from a business that we sold and left the office for good, hopefully. We aren't mega rich but so far it appears that buying what we need and doing what we want can be sustained with minimal income. Kids in school have kept down the travel but that restriction ends soon as our youngest heads off to school." --Joseph S.

"We left the rat race at 52 and 51 years old. During our working time we lived well below our means. We did not live a life of deprivation, just that we didn't buy the stuff we didn't need. Being retired is great, although the days do seem to go by more quickly." --Alan and Kay

As Americans, we're generally taught and encouraged to get on a defined track. It starts with school when we're youngsters, moves on to a job and career as we become adults, and continues on most of our lives until we retire, usually sometime in our 60s. You're proposing jumping that track completely.

That's a big move, and for some people could be very rewarding. But before you take that first big step, consider all the angles. My checklist will get you started on the big issues.

The Armchair Millionaire's Checklist for Dropping Out of the Rat Race

Be realistic about how big the change will be. We're not talking about simply retiring at age 55. Dropping out of the rat race means a serious lifestyle shift. To be able to afford to give up that high-powered job, you'll probably need to substantially downsize all aspects of your life--house, car and entertainment budget included. For many people, it even means moving abroad to a country where living is cheaper. It may be just fine with you for your life to look completely different, but be sure of that ahead of time.

Envision your new life. Many people just want to escape their jobs, and fail to envision how they will fill their days once that job is gone. Make sure you're clear about what you really want to do. What does your ideal day look like? Will you have plenty to do to give your life some meaningful structure? You may find out that you don't need a new life at all, but just a healthy dose of balance in your current one.

Consider what you'll lose. Stressful as it is, your job probably gives you a lot that you may take for granted. It may keep you intellectually challenged, or surround you with a community of people, or provide you with your primary identity. If nothing else, it may give you health and pension benefits. How will you fill these gaps?

Don't rule out work. You want to dump your high-stress job, but don't rule out taking a lower-stress full- or part-time job. It will still allow you to leave your work at the office and call your time mostly your own. And it can make a world of difference in helping making ends meet.

Plan like crazy. If you think planning for a regular retirement is a chore, wait until you try planning for this. If you end up living in poverty, that high-stress job is going to start looking very good again. Get help from a financial planner to determine if you really can afford it. At a minimum, you'll need to consider your living expenses, investment returns, a safe rate of withdrawal rate, the impact of inflation and your life expectancy.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The thought of simply chucking it all and escaping the treadmill of work and a materialistic lifestyle can be highly seductive. And for some, it’s not entirely out of reach. But plan carefully before you leap. By removing yourself from the rat race and accepting a “subsistence” lifestyle, you may find that you’ve exchanged one kind of stress for another.

THE ARMCHAIR MILLIONAIRE WEEKLY SURVEY: What's the best education money can buy? Log on to and let us know.

Lewis Schiff is a contributor to, the Web sites for CNN and Money Magazine. His newest report, "How to Know When You Are Rich," is now available at .


Lewis Schiff

Armchair Millionaire


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