How to Escape the Rat Race and Live the Life you Want

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How to escape the rat race

Are you sick of working? Do you wish you could escape the rat race, quit your 9-5 job, and spend the rest of your life doing what you really love? If so, I might have something for you.

It’s astonishing how easy it is to get stuck in what, for most of us, seems to be the only path that exists. You’re probably familiar with the path I’m referring to, which can be summed up in the following 3 steps:

  1. You work a potentially unfulfilling job for at least 40 years to pay the bills.
  2. You retire at 65, if you’re lucky (the elderly people you sometimes see working in stores and shops probably aren’t doing it for their health).
  3. At 65, 70, or maybe even 75, you retire with the hope that you’ll be lucky enough to enjoy at least a few years of retirement before becoming sick or passing away.

This is the path that most of us are on, and we’ve seen many people follow it to the end. But is it really the only option we have? Is it possible that there are some real alternatives?

I’m here to tell you that there are definitely some options, although they do require some effort. I’m not going to give you get-rich-quick schemes to escape the rat race, because there aren’t any. There’s no magic pill to swallow or mystical secret to discover.

I will, however, provide you with perspectives that you may not have thought about before. I’m also going to encourage you to reconsider your current lifestyle and (I hope) open doors to new opportunities in your life. In the end, you’re the one who must decide what path suits you best. Only you know what you’re ready and willing to do to escape the rat race. You can escape it, there’s no doubt about that. But will you? That’s the question.

In this article I’m going to cover 5 different paths. This can be a pretty complicated topic, considering there are as many life paths as there are people. To keep it simple, however, I decided to provide a generalized example of each path I’m discussing. So bear with me for clarity’s sake.

The 4 Life Paths:

  1. The Traditional 9-5 Job
  2. The Passion-Oriented Lifestyle
  3. The Vacation-Oriented Lifestyle
  4. The Early Retirement Path

You might be wondering why I listed just four paths when I said I would be discussing five. Well, there’s a bonus one!

1. The Traditional 9-5 Job

This is, by far, the most common life path. You have a standard 9-5 job and you swing between tolerating it and downright hating it. You aren’t growing as a person, you’re potentially stuck professionally, and you certainly aren’t excited about your job. You’re totally unfulfilled, but you’re scraping by. You’re paying the bills, putting food on the table, and keeping a roof over your head.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re lucky enough to make a decent amount of money. In this case, you’re living a comfortable life complete with a nice house, a good car, and some money to burn. Yet the comfort and security doesn’t seem to make up for the fact that you’ll have to work well into your sixties or seventies to maintain it, cursing your job and wishing you could escape the rat race and do what you love.

Does any of this sound like you?

2. The Passion-Oriented Lifestyle

You spend time doing what you love every single day. You wake up in the morning excited to start the day, and work doesn’t feel like work to you. You may not be earning a lot of money, but you do what you love. You’re also satisfied with what you have because you aren’t a big spender. Your house may be smaller than your neighbor’s and your car might be older and cheaper than the ones your friends have, but that doesn’t really bother you.

I would guess this life path isn’t that common, because most people haven’t really found out what they love to do*. In one of his most famous speeches, Steve Jobs said, “You’ve got to find what you love”. I couldn’t agree more with that. If you haven’t found your passion yet, I encourage you to keep looking and figure it out. Whether it takes a year, a decade, or two, it will be worth it.

*See Step 4: Find Your Life Purpose.

3. The Vacation-Oriented Lifestyle

If this is your life, then you alternate work and vacations. You generally take a few months of downtime over the course of the year, or perhaps you take a one-year break from time to time. You’re obviously not making as much money as people who work all year long, but you aren’t an extravagant person to begin with. A simple lifestyle is fine by you, and it’s more than worth the ability to enjoy your long breaks.

It might be difficult for you to have a conventional career and climbing the corporate ladder might be downright impossible. You’ve got few complaints regardless. After all, you never planned on fully joining the rat race to begin with.

Your free time provides the opportunity to learn new skills that, if chosen wisely, may help you generate money in the coming years. The biggest perk of The Vacation-Oriented Lifestyle is that you don’t have to wait for retirement to enjoy your life.

You don’t know how long you’ll be around and whether you’ll be healthy enough to enjoy your life after retirement, so you’re committed to enjoy it while you can.

Can you relate to this?

4. The Early Retirement Path

You’re determined to get out of the rat race as fast as you can. You don’t follow the “save 10% of your income and invest it for your retirement” mantra that investors love so much. Why? Because you’re not about to stay at your job for 40 years! You’re entering a different league. Your personal mantra is this: “I’m saving 60 to 80% of my income and investing it until I have enough money to leave the system. Then I can start focusing on what I really want to do.”

When you save that much of your money each month it totally changes the game, doesn’t it? In fact, some people manage to retire in their twenties after working for just five years! That isn’t exactly common, but retiring in your forties, fifties, or even in your thirties is quite feasible. Working into your sixties or seventies just isn’t acceptable to you.

For you, vacations on exotic beaches just drain your yearly savings and decrease your chances of ditching the hamster wheel. No expensive cars, designer clothes, or luxury homes for you. You must break free as soon as possible, even if you’re a bit uncomfortable in the meantime!

More About Early Retirement

I’m going to get into more detail about the early retirement lifestyle because I’ve found it’s especially appealing, especially for those of you who aren’t particularly materialistic. It can be implemented with the following 3 steps:

  1. Save 60 to 80% of your income.
  2. Invest your money in index funds or other assets (but make sure you know the risks involved!).
  3. Retire when you have enough passive income from investments to sustain your lifestyle until you die. Of course, the more frugal you are, the earlier you can retire.

Can I Really Save 60~80% of My Income?

You’re probably wondering about this, and I can see why. It does sound like a pretty high amount of money to save, but it’s more practical than you think. While it’s true that saving money is easier the higher your salary is, you don’t need to be rich to enjoy an early retirement. It’s possible even for those with an average salary, and, if you look into it, you’ll find several people who have made it happen. You don’t necessarily need to save 60% or more of your income. In fact, there may be some months where that just isn’t possible. Try to aim as close to that as you can, though, because the more you save the faster you can retire.

That said, let’s look at a few ways that you can come as close to saving 60-80% of your income as possible. Consider the following 8 tips:

  1. Save on rent and gas by downsizing to a smaller home or apartment that’s close to your job.
  2. Sell your car, or forgo buying one in the first place. If you really need one, get something cheap and use it only when you must.
  3. Cook your own meals and avoid going out to eat dinner. This will make your wallet bigger and your waist smaller
  4. Buy clothes on an as-needed basis. It’s okay to buy something expensive occasionally, but limit these purchases to clothing items that will last at least ten years and/or have a high resale value.
  5. Buy only second-hand stuff, and, as mentioned earlier, aim for things that have a high resale value when possible. These days, most second-hand products are only a fraction of their original price. Say thank you to your consumerist friends! 🙂
  6. Repair things on your own and make your own stuff whenever you can. Become a DIY King or Queen!
  7. Make purchases based on needs, not wants.
  8. Choose hobbies that are inexpensive or free, such as walking, running, reading, or having a coffee with friends. Whenever possible, choose hobbies that can turn into revenue in the future. You can use your free time to build skills that can be monetized, like writing, programming, or blogging.

The Potential Caveat (And Why It Doesn’t Matter)

As you’ve probably noticed by now, we aren’t talking about a luxurious retirement where you can sail around on your yacht everyday (although you could easily spend a lot of time in beautiful but inexpensive countries).

The Early Retirement Path assumes that you’ll maintain the same frugal lifestyle that you led before retirement. By doing that, you can live off of your passive income without using your capital assets.

Although staying frugal for life is technically part of The Early Retirement Path, it’s not as restrictive as it might sound. This model assumes that you won’t generate any revenue at all after you “retire”, but in reality you probably will. Consider the following reasons that you’re likely to continue making money after your retirement:

  1. The chances that you’ll completely retire are slim. You’ll probably have the urge to work part-time or create a new business. You may even feel so passionately about what you’re doing that you work full-time. The exciting thing is that you’ll have enough money to live simply without having to work. That gives you the freedom to focus on what truly matters to you.
  2. If your passion centers around self-improvement or something creative, you’ll probably get a lot of work done in those areas. When you have the time and safety net to focus on what you really love, money tends to follow.
  3. You’ll have plenty of time to learn new things that can be monetized. You could, for instance, learn skills that allow you to do freelance work online.
  4. You may inherit money from your family (although I wouldn’t count on that!)
  5. You’ll likely collect some money from social security or pension plans in the future.

Technically speaking, this is less of a retirement plan and more of an escape route. It allows you to leave the system with a safety net so that you can pursue your passion.

And now for the BONUS lifestyle:

5. The Very Early Retirement Path

This is The Early-Retirement Path on steroids! It adds passive, online income to The Early Retirement Lifestyle. It requires that you not only save most of your income, but spend your free time building passive income as well. This is a powerful combination that will help you escape the rat race even earlier.

There are several different ways to generate passive online income, but let’s examine three of the most common ones:

  1. Affiliate marketing (selling someone else’s product on your website). It’s what I’m doing in this article.
  2. Creating your own products (eBooks, online courses, podcasts, etc). Personally, I’ve been using K Money Mastery (affiliate link) to help me publish books on Amazon. I highly recommended it if you want to start generating passive income online.
  3. Hosting ads on your blog or website.

You don’t necessarily need to have a blog to generate passive income online, but it tends to make the process easier. Building passive income requires hard work, but it’s certainly very appealing. So if you have something you’re passionate or knowledgeable about (or if you just have a nerdy side) building a blog in your spare could be a great way to get started.

A Word on Investments

Most financial advisors will tell you to save at least 10% of your income and invest it, and it is indeed a wise thing to do. In most cases, simply saving 10% of your income each month should provide you with enough money to retire at 65. Of course, if you want to retire early and have a safety net, you should save and invest more! You can learn more here: Myth #3 Mutual Funds – Are You Investing Your Money Wisely? .

What lifestyle should you choose?

This article contains 5 different life paths, all of which have their unique pros and cons. None of them rely on get-rich-quick schemes, and all come with their own set of challenges. Some of them may seem impossible to you, but that’s probably because you haven’t heard much about them before. Or, it might be because you aren’t ready to give up your creature comforts and take the leap of faith required to do what you really want to do. That said, there’s no harm in giving them some thought.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how much free time you want, how much money you need, and on how you want to retire.

I hope that you’ll use this simple roadmap to take stock of what really matters to you and make sure you’re taking the path that’s right for you.

Everyone’s situation is different, but hopefully this article will open your eyes to new possibilities and help you escape the rat race!

So which path would you choose? Leave a comment below and let me know your ideal lifestyle.


Check out these resources if you want to delve deeper into the topics in this article.

On finding what you love:

On passive income:

  • Smartpassiveincome.com This is a great site to start with if you want to build passive income online. This blog offers many podcasts and free resources, and the man who runs it is honest and transparent.
  • K Money Mastery  This is a step-by-step method for making money with Kindle publishing that I’ve benefitted from.

On early retirement:

On investing:


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Comments 2

  • Very thought provoking article Thibaut. For me, it’s got to be number 2, the passion orientated lifestyle. I agree you don’t need a lot of money to be happy or inspired but why spend any days of your life doing things you don’t want to do and being places you don’t want to be. I can’t wait 5 or 10 years for that.

    • Hello Joe. Thanks for the comment! I think everybody is different. Leaving your job to do what you love might be a scary thing to do so people might want to use their free time to build the skills they need to create the life they want. It is not all black or white. Some people might have an “okay” job, or might want to learn as much as they can from their job before quiting and building their own business. Other people have a family and need to take that into account while considering their options. Having said that, I do not recommend people to stay at a job they hate for 5 to 10 years!

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