A few months ago, I was browsing the web for information on how to handle early retirement. I eventually found my way here, and have been perusing ever since. This place is an amazing support group to counterbalance the subliminal (and sometimes overt) consumption pressures that society, coworkers, and even family provide.
I haven't quite hit 30 and recently (a bit over a year ago) divested myself of the "graduate student" moniker. Those extra three (well, five total, I guess) letters from a good university after the BS certainly make a difference in both job prospects and income level.
In the past year I have been able to pay off somewhat over half of the debt I accrued as a student (I paid my way through an expensive undergrad with a combination of scholarships, work, and student loans. Grad school was fortunately paid for). This removes all high-interest debt, albeit I will retain a moderate balance of low interest rate debt. Even though I cannot take student loan tax deductions, it behooves me to invest in equities (it's even low enough to more than break even with present CD rates, including the tax burden). I have no debt other than these student loans.
As of this year, I am beginning to invest a decent sum of money in after-tax accounts. The 401k is maxed for tax purposes and I also receive a minimal company match. I am not eligible for tax-deductable or ROTH IRA accounts, and I don't see the benefits of an after-tax IRA due to my present and expected future lifestyle and expenditures.
I live in a high income-tax state, am in a high tax bracket, and have no significant deductions. I will pay double in taxes what I spend this year; rent and student loan repayment constitute over 60% of those expenditures.
The local real estate market is, in my opinion, hyper-inflated and does not represent true affordability. Rent for an equivalent property is less than 40% of purchase price/taxes/etc. assuming tax deductions. I don't see affordable housing to be a reasonable scenario within the next several years (it would take >50% decrease, in my opinion).
Right now I'm trying to figure out monetary allocation into the best long-term investment vehicles. Unless I want to be an active trader, I need to determine the best mix of non-correlated index funds (with so much readily available information anymore, I'm wondering how long any market will be non-correlated). Being that I have a background in math, have audited some theoretical economics courses, and don't feel like spending 90% of my non-working hours doing company research, that knocks out the active trader aspect.
Barring any major unexpected circumstances, I anticipate being FI in around 10 years assuming my market allocation returns >4% per year after inflation. Retirement should come soon after that; I have too many hobbies and nowhere near enough time in which to do them, now.
Anyway, I can't exactly discuss these plans with colleagues, some of the family wouldn't quite understand (and no reason to create any type of rift), and friends simply don't have the same perspective. Image seems to be of more import than financial independence; friends that make a fraction of what I do have brand new cars, the newest HD TV, and think shopping is a hobby.
So all in all, I guess what I'm looking for is early-retirement anonymous - a place to remember to live below my means and not feel like a complete societal outcast.
Now if I could only find that cute someone who felt the same way