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One step at a time. For early retirement, it goes like this.

Step one: Do I want to live my life without having to work for a living? Yes or no? That question must be answered first and the answer must be yes or that is the end of the decision making process.

Step two: Do I have a financial plan to stop having to work for a living? Yes or no? That question must be answered BEFORE moving on to thinking about anything else and if the answer is no, then a plan needs to be formulated.

You could argue that depending on where you will live and with what standard of living, you cannot determine what income will be needed and therefore cannot formulate a plan for step two.

I would counter argue that no, you don't need to determine where or with what standard of living IF you plan for where and at what standard using a high cost country as your baseline and a relatively decent standard of living with that baseline, you do not need to chose a country or a standard of living before formulating your step two financial plan.

I would advise taking that approach for the following reasons. If you can afford to live in say Canada without having to work, then you can afford to live in any equal or lower cost country obviously. If you can afford a reasonable standard of living in Canada, then you can afford the same or better standard of living in any equal or lower cost country. In other words, aim for a high goal and you will have a much larger field of choices when you get to that goal and THEN look at where you want to live and with what standard of living.

Again, speaking from personal experience and meeting others who have retired early, I've never met anyone who had a problem with moving to a lower cost environment at a later date but I HAVE met people who found later on that they wanted to move to a higher cost country and to a higher standard of living.

What you are happy to accept at 30, 40 or even 50, may not be acceptable any more if and when you get to 65-70. Here is a simple example. Ignoring Covid 19 for the moment, my wife and I like to travel. That has been a significant part of our lifestyle. But with age, we will no longer fly cattle class, we want to fly only direct A to B flights, we want more comfort in where we stay and in general just as little hassle as possible. That translates to paying more. Our interests haven't changed, it is what we are willing to put up with in following those interests that has changed. If we had retired with only enough income to afford to fly cattle class and put up with having 2 or 3 connections to get to a destination because that is what got us the lowest priced ticket, that would mean decreasing our happiness in regards to travel.

So really what I am saying is plan for a higher cost than you need to begin with. As in my own case, I expected to be able to live on $12k per year initially, I planned for an income of $36k. The only reasonable way to expect to have enough later on is to plan for more than enough to start with. That also eliminates having to decide where you will live or whether you might want to send children to school in a higher cost country etc. as some posters here are saying you have to think about before you start.

It's a kind of 'plan for the worst, hope for the best' kind of thing with 'worst' meaning you need to plan for higher costs and 'best' meaning you never actually get to the point of 'worst' and so have more money than you need. No one ever had a problem deciding what to do with too much money.
 

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I agree with the advice above from @Longtimeago and have been doing my planning using similar reasoning. Plan for the worst, and plan for a high cost of living at the outset.

Again I'm not fully retired but am about 80% of the way there.
 

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I should have made it clear that my plan was intended to allow for continued growth of capital. It was not based on any kind of SWR.

That's an important distinction. If my plan was based on an SWR, it would have required me to have far more capital before I could retire. If you retire at 40, you would have to amass enough capital to fund an SWR based on at least a 50 year time period. Most people using an SWR plan do not plan beyond 30 or so years.

If you retire at 40 with a plan to continue to grow capital above the rate of inflation, then your income at 40 does not have to cover 50 years of potential inflation IF you are growing the capital above the rate of inflation each year as you go along. That's why as in my example above, I planned for 12/12/12 with 12 being actual living expenses, 12 discretionary spending and 12 for adding on to existing capital. That is an ENDLESS plan.

Early retirement is not an ending, it is simply a beginning of a new phase in our lives. Why then would anyone act as if it were an ending and a countdown to dying? SWR does just that, you count down your capital with the hope that you will die before the capital runs out.

It all depends entirely on what questions you ask and answer for yourself when you are in the financial planning stage of getting to your early retirement. For example, if you ask, 'how much capital do I need to retire', you will get an entirely different answer than if you ask, 'how can I retire in 10 years from today?' Two simple questions but each will lead you down an entirely different path of questions and answers to get to the goal.
 
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