In August, Brandon — better known as the Mad Fientist — retired at just 34 years old.
To get there, Brandon (who doesn't use his last name online for privacy reasons) chose to live frugally in rural Vermont, where he managed to save and invest about 70% of his after-tax income.
In 2014, Brandon and his wife —who has no interest in retiring early and keeps her finances largely separate from her husband's — moved to Scotland, where he continued to work for a few more years, eventually putting away enough to allow him to retire at 34.
"It's always been about 'financial independence' for me and not really 'early retirement,'" he told Business Insider. "I never wanted to stop working, but rather I wanted to have the time and freedom to work on things that are important to me."
But his journey to financial independence taught him a valuable lesson: Saving isn't everything.
When an audience member asked Brandon and this panelists to share what kept them motivated on the path to financial independence during an episode of his "Financial Independence Podcast," he responded that instead of struggling to stick to his savings goals, he coped with putting away too much.
RELATED: 10 surprising facts about retirement:
10 Surprising Facts About Retirement Life
10 Surprising Facts About Retirement Life
After decades of accumulating enough money to retire, it can be psychologically and emotionally challenging to spend down that money and watch your nest egg get smaller each year. "They are going to feel like they spent a lifetime accumulating this pile, and the idea of spending this down is just repulsive to them," says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and co-author of "Falling Short: The Coming Retirement Crisis and What to Do About It." "For anyone who is retiring, I would give them permission to spend their money," she says.
Saving enough to retire is not your final goal. You should also develop a plan to make that money last the rest of your life. "You need to understand how you can minimize your risk in the portfolio, but you also need a component of that strategy that gives you growth because you need to stay ahead of inflation and taxes," says Laura Mattia, a certified financial planner and wealth management principal for Baron Financial Group in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
Social Security is a significant source of income for most retirees. Almost all retirees (86 percent) receive income from Social Security, and Social Security payments make up at least half of the retirement income of 65 percent of retirees and comprise 90 percent of retirement income for 36 percent of retirees. "Most seniors do not have much income other than Social Security," says Nancy Altman, co-director of the Strengthen Social Security coalition and co-author of "Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn't Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All." The average monthly retirement benefit was $1,282 in December 2014.
High medical care bills don't go away once you qualify for Medicare. Although Medicare covers a large amount of the medical treatments older people need, there are several popular services that it doesn't. For example, Medicare won't cover routine eye exams, eyeglass, dental care or hearing aids. And Medicare only covers up to 100 days in a nursing home. Retirees who require additional long-term care will need to find another way to pay for it. And while many preventive care services are covered by Medicare with no cost-sharing requirements, if something concerning is found, additional tests and procedures will be considered diagnostic, and copays and coinsurance are likely to apply. "You really need to understand what health benefits you can receive from Medicare and check how it will cover any ongoing health issues," says Christopher Rhim, a certified financial planner for Green View Advisors in Norwich, Vermont.
Without a job to go to every day, you could find yourself spending an increasing amount of time alone. Some 44 percent of Americans ages 65 and older live alone, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Unless you sign up for a volunteer position or make an effort to socialize on a regular basis, you could become bored and lonely.
If you outlive your spouse or divorce, you might find yourself single again in retirement. While just over half (55 percent) of Americans age 65 and older are married, the rest are widowed (28 percent), divorced (12 percent), separated (1 percent) or never married (5 percent), according to census data. Some of these single seniors begin meeting new people and dating. There are a variety of online dating services that cater to people over 50.
As attractive as it sounds to move to the Sunbelt, most retirees don't relocate for retirement. Only 5.7 percent of Americans age 65 and older moved to a new residence between 2009 and 2013, and the people who do move most often relocate to the same state and even the same county, the Census Bureau found. Only 1 percent of retirees moved to a new state, and just 0.3 percent went overseas. Relocating to a new community in retirement often means leaving behind family and a support system that can be difficult to rebuild in a new place.
While the act of aging is an expected part of retirement, the loss of independence typically isn't as welcome. There may come a time when you can't drive, shovel your own walkway or climb on a chair to change a light bulb. You may even eventually need help with meals and bathing. Although the beginning of retirement is often full of fun and adventures, it's also a good time to make contingency plans for later down the road when you might not be able to care for yourself.
Retirees spend over half of their leisure time watching TV. Seniors ages 65 to 74 tune in for 3.92 hours on weekdays, and those 75 and older watch TV for an average of 4.15 hours each day, according to the 2013 American Time Use Survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Compared to the overall population, retirees ages 65 to 74 spend extra time lingering over meals, working on home improvement or garden projects and shopping, the American Time Use Survey found. Retirees also spend more time reading, relaxing and volunteering than younger folks.
"[I] went so hardcore that I made myself really unhappy during the process," he says. "I just didn't want to do anything that involved spending money. I just wanted to get there as soon as possible."
While Brandon advocates financial independence, he stresses that anyone striving for early retirement should avoid becoming so obsessed with it that they isolate themselves.
"Focus on the power that you're getting along the way with all that money that you're saving up, and use that power to make your life a lot better along the way," he says. "Don't sacrifice happiness for that final number in the bank."
Early retirement is supposed to be freeing and empowering, not constricting. By avoiding anything that involved spending money, Brandon ended up dodging his friends and depriving himself of even the little things that brought him joy.
"One extra dollar in your bank account is not going to make you really happier," he warns.