Several years ago I discovered the concept of financial independence, and the idea was a revelation. Life too often becomes a series of developed habits, and the process of questioning the basic assumptions behind those habits and envisioning a system where your investments can do the work for you to fund your lifestyle in perpetuity was a life-changing exercise.
As an engineer with a math minor, I was especially taken by a few prominent retirement studies on the subject of safe withdrawal rates. They famously came to the conclusion that for a traditional mix of stocks and bonds one could have retired with a 4% safe withdrawal rate, adjusted their expenses for inflation each year, and had a successful 30-year retirement with a high amount of certainty historically. The process they used for back-testing retirement scenarios was fascinating, and the results form the backbone of the vast majority of retirement advice today.
So I dove in and explored the data and assumptions and engaged full-force in various early retirement communities online. I played with a few of the prominent retirement calculators out there and tinkered relentlessly. Anyone else who has done the same can understand how intoxicating it all can be.
So much so, that after building my own models I realized a lot of people totally misinterpret the conclusions and get it all wrong!