Time to recall some old wisdom to discover a recipe for early retirement. The 3 Rs is not new but it remains profound. It is applicable on retirement and personal development alike.
It is quite possible that the original phrase “the 3 Rs” is more than 1 600 years old! Yes, that is not a typo; it could indeed be that old. St Augustine, a Roman African, theologian and philosopher, used the phrase in his writing of Confessions.
In this article, I am going to adapt the phrase to turn it into an early retirement plan. If not a plan, then at least a way to approach an early retirement plan.
What do the 3 Rs stand for?
READING, WRITING and ARITHMETIC.
In slang: Reading, Riting and Rithmetic!
The term is somewhat ironic, since someone with rudimentary language education would know that two of the original words do not actually begin with the letter R.
Ironic or not, the 3 Rs have for a long time been the fundamentals of a good education, and I suspect that will remain true far into the future. Technology might enable different methods, but the underlying fundamentals will remain.
Some people think they need the skill of reading to finish school or acquire a certain qualification. Although true, it is very far from the whole truth. To achieve your full potential, you will need reading throughout your entire life.
Reading is an essential skill and has many advantages including the following:
- It improves knowledge and understanding;
- Analytical thinking gets better;
- As other writers’ work are absorbed, own writing skills develop.
By reading just 30 minutes per day, a simple habit everyone can learn, you will likely read more than two books a month! To drive my point home, and to offer some motivation, the online magazine Entrepreneur mentions reading as the foremost habit of millionaires; they read two or more books per month.
How can reading help to retire early?
Reading will have an impact on your early retirement planning at different levels.
Reading about retirement in general and all its many facets in particular, will create a deep understanding of the subject.
Thinking back to when I just started my working career, I knew precious little about retirement. My basic understanding was “you reach a certain age, you stop working and you hope you have enough to live off”.
It was only through reading that the fog lifted for me, and I started to appreciate that there are so much more to it. Including the many options of adjusting savings, planning the age at which you want to retire and the impact of losing a job or enjoying a sabbatical.
A deeper understanding makes it clear that early retirement is synonymous with financial independence.
Whereas understanding is identifying with something, knowledge is comprehension. It is what you need to know, in order to plan your early retirement.
The time value of money is probably the first thing to read up. It is the principle that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar promised in future. More than just comprehending the principle, you should also understand how variables such as interest and inflation effect it.
Another basic but ultra-important aspect – which you must teach your children – is compound interest. Alternatively called interest on interest. It is a simple principle, but its effect on long-term savings is profound.
You do not have to become a hard-core investment guru, but having knowledge about a broad variety of retirement aspects will prove to be invaluable.
- Learning from others
Learning from others – generally a better way to learn anything – is underestimated. Why do you want to re-invent the wheel if there is so much literature available regarding early retirement and how other people achieved it?
It is not only about the subject of retirement. There are many examples, some in the form of autobiographies, about lifestyles and methods people have used to achieve their retirement goals.
Working towards retirement goals is the ultimate ultra-marathon. Most will start somewhere in their twenties, aiming for something in their fifties or sixties.
That gives fresh meaning to the phrase “in it for the long haul!”
It is therefore imperative to keep your motivation intact and reading up on both subject matter and general motivational material, will supply that support.
Writing is similar to money. In itself and by itself, it does not mean much. It is when you start to apply your writing, that it becomes valuable.
How does writing fit into a recipe for early retirement?
I am a big proponent for creating and maintaining a “dreambook.” It is a scrapbook of sorts, but instead of presenting history, it focusses on the future. It is a book in which your dreams and goals are written down, highlighted by way of pictures or images. Although images alone could do the trick, the magic comes from the writing.
A dreambook creates a strong emotional attachment to your dreams and goals.
- Setting goals
Strong emotions are not enough. Your retirement goals must be in writing, in order to forge a practical plan to achieve them.
This overall plan should spell out exactly what you want to achieve, together with your strategy of how you plan to do that.
Now that you have your dreams, overall plan and strategy written down, it is time to go one level deeper and prepare your money plan. Or your budget, if you prefer the latter.
Writing is not just about words, it is equally applicable to numbers. The more fluent you are with numbers, the easier you will create and maintain your money plan.
- Negotiating, asking and instructing
Setting written goals and developing a money plan is a solid start. At some point though, you will have to communicate important decisions pertaining to these.
Whether it is acquiring an investment, disposing of one, asking pertinent questions about risk and return, or giving instructions about your strategy, the better you can communicate in writing, the more efficiently you will get things done.
Arithmetic. Whether you love it or hate it, it is the third leg of the stool!
You do not have to be or become a numbers genius. You do however have to learn a few concepts and be able to apply it.
The good news? There are sufficient books on the topic. In addition, since we are living in a digital age, there are sufficient videos on the internet to explain virtually anything. (I’ll be happy to classify that as reading!)
How does arithmetic help early retirement planning?
- Plan your wealth
Having your goals, strategy and money plan written down is already significant in terms of progress.
If you can now add the skill of planning your savings by using a few variables, you will cook with gas! Start using interest rates, regular as well as lump sum contributions and periods of no contribution as variables.
The more you play with these variables, the more you will get a feel of how compound interest and the time value of money work.
- Look at different scenarios
Closely related to the previous point, you can test various scenarios by learning to apply your number skills.
Robert Burns’s poem of 1785 produced the modern-day phrase “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” My take on it is that, regardless how careful you construct a plan, you should also test that plan by looking at various scenarios. The classic what-if analysis.
- Interpret reports
At some point in time, you will receive a report about the performance of your investment(s). As your wealth grows, these reports will become more frequent and more important.
You will need more than the ability to read to interpret these properly. You will also have to apply your number skills to evaluate progress and identify areas of improvement, if any.
Reading, riting and rithmetic. Honour the basics, and they will serve you well.
“The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live” – Mortimer Adler
I would love to have your thoughts on the 3 Rs! And specifically on how it can influence your early retirement plan?
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