I am an early retiree. I have been living that life for some time. Many years ago (before it became popular) my wife and I chose to live significantly below our means so we could achieved financial independence. I am now living what you are planning, so I think I can provide more of a sense of the big picture.
Here’s the piece you (and a few others in this thread) seem to be missing… Living below your means isn’t about postponing gratification. In other words, it’s not about giving up products and experiences when you’re young so you can have them when you’re old. That’s not it at all.
What it’s really about is freedom. Most people are, in many ways, slaves. I was a slave. Beginning at age five I was forced to get up in the morning and go somewhere I didn’t really want to go, and do things I didn’t really want to do. Elementary school. Then high school. Then college. Then work. And throughout all those years there was an undertone of fear. Fear that you’ll get in trouble with Mom and Dad if your grades suck. Fear that your performance in college won’t result in a decent job. Fear that you’ll lose your job, and that your family will suffer, if you don’t kiss up to the right people, or meet your quotas, or because some asshole above you decides to eliminate your job… always that nagging worry and fear in the background.
When it comes right down to it, usually you really don’t want to be there. And many of us really don’t want to be doing whatever they make us do. Maybe you’re even forced to do shiet you don’t feel right about, just to survive (cutting corners, speed over quality, turning a blind eye, not being totally honest…). Dealing with assholes. Dealing with office politics. Dragging your ass out of bed at 6 AM. Forcing yourself to go to bed at 10 PM so you don’t feel like shiet at 6 AM. Driving through horrendous traffic. Other people having the power to wreak economic harm on you, and your wife, and your kids (which is a very bad way to be harmed because it involves having decent food, safe shelter, safe transportation, etc.). Many people live just a few weeks, or months, away from financial ruin or homelessness. Always on the edge. Always needing to rely on others for access to a job, or for a loan, or so you can meet your job expectations, or ____ . This isn’t living a life that is free. Not really. It’s living a life in economic bondage. It can be a rather benign type of bondage, but it sure as hell isn’t freedom because your choices are limited, your time belongs to someone else, and there’s always that undertone of worry and fear. "What if?…". "How long can we survive?…". "Will I meet my quotas?….".
So this isn’t about postponing cool shiet from youth to old age. Not at all. It’s about escaping from the economic bondage of a wage slave. It’s about freedom. It’s about removing all that fear and worry from your life. It’s about removing all the bullshiet from your life. It’s about getting out from under those above you who have the power to harm you and your family by eliminating your job, or by tossing you to the curb because maybe they don’t like your attitude. It’s about realizing that nobody should have the power to harm you like that. It’s about wanting to get out from under somebody else’s thumb. You’re legally free to walk away from your job tomorrow, but if you don’t have the economic freedom to do that, you’re not free at all. It’s about being free to sleep as late as you want, stay up as late as you want, and spend your time doing whatever you want. It’s about realizing that there is no security unless you make it.
So it’s all about freedom – not "stuff". The sooner you start working toward untying those bonds, the sooner you will be free. The more you deny yourself now, the sooner you will be free. And you really need to do it when you have the opportunity, because there’s no guarantee that you will even have a job five years from now. And after you have attained your freedom, there’s nothing that will stop you from continuing to work if you’re lucky enough to have a job you look forward to going to (or have a job at all). But it will be YOUR choice.
So that’s what it’s really about, or at least that’s what it was about for me. And I’ve got to tell you, achieving financial freedom was the best decision we ever made. I thank my lucky stars every day that we decided to go that route. Most of my peers will die at their desks without ever having experienced what it’s like to truly be free. Yet I live every day exactly as I choose, and with no economic worries, no stress, and no fear. We become so conditioned to the worries and fear that we think we are free when we’re really not. It isn’t until you truly experience this freedom that you realize what you have been missing. The relief and overall sense of peace and happiness is astounding. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t worth it.