How I Planned My Early Retirement

First off, you must know this one fact about me: I don’t think like other people. I don’t do things like other people. I don’t reason like other people. I live by my own rules. Because of this, I have very few “close” friends (but many acquaintances). Most people think I am weird, strange, rude, obnoxious, opinionated but they only come to that conclusion when I reveal a part of myself to them. So, I have learned over the years NOT to let anyone know anything about me.

I didn’t plan my retirement as most financials advisors would recommend: save your money and invest. I lost twice in the stock market and I have no intention of making three times a charm. I understand that our current stock market is at an all time high and sometimes I sit and calculate how much more money I would have now if I had just stayed the course. The stock market is a fool’s game and anyone who bases their life on it, is, IMHO, a fool. See? I’ve ticked you off already.

When the economy and the stock market took a dump in 2008 and gazillions of people watched their portfolios wither and die, DH and I spent our time laughing at everyone from the sidelines. That’s because The Great Recession had no effect on our financial standing whatsoever. As people were losing their homes due to foreclosure, facing massive job losses, income disruptions, repossessions etc. DH and I just cruised through the greatest financial upheaval in history. Why were we unscathed? Because in 2001 we made a conscious effort to get out of debt, live without a mortgage and own cars without loans. We suffered greatly in order to stay out of debt. I knew ahead of time that DH and I were to avoid any involvement with banks at all costs. Everyone laughed at us and said we were crazy.

Who’s laughing now?

Since I was a child, I dreamed and calculated my retirement. I always knew how I wanted to live my life once I no longer needed to work for a living. Back in 1997, one of my bosses once asked me how I saw myself in retirement. I didn’t have to think long before I gave him an answer. I told him I envisioned myself owning three homes: one in the mountains, one on the beach and one in paradise (where ever that might be). Now, ask yourself…….was this a normal answer to a normal question? No. I told my boss that my retirement would be spent by me traveling and living in each of my three homes throughout the different seasons of the year.

When it came time for me to actually plan out my retirement, I did it backwards. I didn’t say to myself that I planned to live on $60,000 a year, nor $100,000 a year and then work and save towards that goal. No, I did it the opposite. I figured out how much guaranteed income I was going to positively receive ($2,700 a month or roughly $32,400 a year) and I channeled and geared my life downwardly until I reached the point where I could comfortably live on $32,400 a year AND own my three dream homes.

  • Note: DH and I are currently living on $36,700 a year BUT that’s because he is still working. Once he stops, we will have no problem whatsoever to live on $32,400 (or less) a year.

At 50 years of age, I retired. (DH is planning to fully retire at 62, eighteen months from now). I owned a home in the mountains, a home near the beach and my paradise image of the 3rd home turned out to be an RV. (I’ve gone through a series of at least 4 to 5 RVs since 2001) I came to realize owning an RV is really my ticket to paradise because I can travel/drive to any location that gives me joy.

One piece of advice from a financial expert that I do follow is the proven fact that two retirees, at the age of 65, will need approximately $260,000 in cash, at that point in their lives, to cover the next 20 years of Medicare co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance premiums etc. etc. etc.

I don’t think consciously about frugality every single day because I knowingly am living my life already at its lowest price point. I check my bank balances each and every day and I check my consumer credit once a week. I always know my bank balance, cash holdings, credit score each and every day. Without even thinking I know what I can afford, what I can spend, what I can buy, how I can comfortably live within my parameters.  I know how much I can spend on groceries each week, how much my newish sneakers would cost, how much gas I can put in my car, what kind of clothes I can safely buy, how much I can spend if and when I sit down in either a restaurant or fash food joint. I know all these things consciously before I step outside my home.

Should higher expenses creep my way, I can weekly change my budget, make cuts to the expenditures, find another path through the maze and painlessly adjust my life accordingly. There is NO lifestyle inflation here. While most people think they need MORE money to manage their retirement lives (think inflation), I find ways to stay within my guidelines and I never give increases a second look.  I call it: needs vs. wants. As long as you are covering your four walls (roof over your head, food on the table, transportation and necessary utilites i.e. electricity, heat/ac & hot water) everything else is just noise.

I don’t know anyone else who lives like DH and me. I have met a few retirees who’ve come close and these few have become our very dear friends. I suppose like-minded people are attracted to each other as some kind of kindred spirit or communal acceptance. I know that DH and I can’t really associate with people who are rich or spend large sums of money (whether real or on credit). We can’t take cruises or travel internationally. We can’t go out to restaurants or see expensive shows or concerts. We can’t go to functions that require formal dress attire. Because of this we’ve had to say ‘NO’ a lot and decline most invitations. (thus you lose potential friends) I can’t go to jewelry parties, lunch out with the girls or take up expensive sports (like tennis or golf) because I simply do not have the money to do so. I wouldn’t even try to rearrange my budget to do these things because in the scheme of things I do NOT think they are important.

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my kitchen table with ‘finds’ from Goodwill

I can not take anyone out to dinner BUT I sure as heck can cook you up a great meal that’ll be better than any restaurant you might wander in to. One thing DH and I will NOT scrimp on is the quality of food. We may buy food at a discounted price BUT you can be assured that the food we served is always top shelf!

As DH and I progress through our early retirement, we realize it’s only possible because we keep changing our bottom line. We keep going through downsizing and re-prioritizing what is important to us. Living in a nice home, driving a nice (reliable) car, living in both the mountains and the beach is primo importante (very, very important). Having the freedom an RV allots us to travel well is currently possible again for us, in part, due to a new series of innovations. We are in the middle of mastering boondocking, which is free camping (click here). Boondocking wasn’t as prevelant in 2001 as it is today. Our new, modern RV comes equipped to encompass the new trends in camping, making boondocking easy for us now (i.e it’s solar-ready) So, you see, life is a series of constant changes. We always know the bottom line. We just have to keep altering our path to stay on our course.

Most people, don’t want to live this way. Rather than living with less as their retirement progresses, they want to live with more. And for that they’ll need more money and they’ll need to watch the foolishness of the stock market. Only to survive yet another Great Recession.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

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12 thoughts on “How I Planned My Early Retirement

  1. Cindi, I really enjoyed reading this particular post! Your insight in having a comfortable retirement without going over your head in spending is right on. I got out of the stock market a long time ago after losing half of the principal to one of the many downturns. Very scary and upsetting. Never made a lot of money and had three kids to support as a divorced mom. Slow going but made back $$ with a little extra. Don’t do the dining out thing either! Although I’m definitely not the cook you are based on those photos! Talk about Better Homes & Gardens! Don’t spend time shopping as a hobby. Hiking, bicycle riding, reading-those are things that are enjoyable without worrying about expenses. Also love the camping idea! You really sound like your retirement is going to be a very enjoyable time of life, as it should be!

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    • Thanks Sue. I love to read. I must read several hours a day! But I like to read current events and things that are happening NOW. Not much into fiction. I love biographies.
      Thanks for the compliment you shared on reading this particular blog post. I don’t like the stock market. I used to have customers who depended so much on the balance of their stock holdings, it was almost ridiculous. One week they could afford to buy a computer from me. Next week, if the market was down, they couldn’t buy anything. I couldn’t understand how people could live like that. Slow and steady. Best way IMHO.
      Hubby and I are both excellent cooks. We compete against each other but no matter who wins, we each still win. Because the end result is good food! LOL.
      We like hiking, walking, swimming and soon we’ll be back bicycling when we get to some of our RV sites (and Florida). Can’t ride a bike too well up here in the mountains. Unless you have thighs of steel!
      Thanks, as always for your comments.

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  2. What about health insurance? I am getting close to retirement and will be living on about the same amount as you. Like you, I don’t see that as a problem because I have always been relatively frugal. But I am concerned about obtaining health insurance until I reach Medicare age.

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    • Hi Susan. We live in New York State and NYS has excellent programs for health insurance in addition to Obamacare (however that may now turn out, NYS has plenty of other options for us to choose from). Since most of our later years have been self-employed, we always got out health insurance through one of NYS plans. It used to be called Healthy NY.
      Since Obamacare started, we have had three of our last providers file for bankruptcy leaving my husband stranded. (I’m already on Medicare for the last 2 years). This is where NYS stepped in, with a new program for people who do not earn a lot of money. Because of this excellent program, my husband CAN NOT ever leave NYS or take up residence any where else. He has to stay put till he himself turns 65 in another 4 (a bit less) years. DH has some serious heart issues and we can not take the chance with another provider at this point.
      So, I hear you!
      I don’t know what state you live in or how old you are. You may want to sign up with Obamacare and hope if it transitions, you’ll be included. Otherwise, find an individual plan and just pay and pay till you reach 65.
      Hope my answer helped.

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  3. I notice you have removed the blog on resiliency, where you disclosed the tough times in your life and I think coming back from times like those we hold tightly to avoiding debt and are gun shy to invest where risk is involved. The longer we are away from the financial losses or mistakes we have a tendency to reframe how we view them. If we don’t learn from our mistakes then we will repeat them until the lightbulb goes on and we change our habits.
    The advisor who first suggested the 4% retirement withdrawal rate came out with a book recently and said if you have your lifestyle expenses cover and don’t need to take risks-don’t. 🍀 Lara

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  4. I don’t know why the back arrows did not bring me to it, thanks for sending the link. I think it’s been five years I have been reading your blog when you were living on $28,000 for your needs and you posted a lot about your actions on getting better cable prices and rising medical insurance cost. We can only finagle or sacrifice things so far, then the reality of increase cost needs to come from somewhere. It seems DH working and your writing fills the savings coffers and then it comes out to bridge the gaps. So It will be interesting to follow you when you hit the trail increasing cost, and Nick gives up work to see how you fulfill the gap.
    I too don’t think like other people and hesitate sharing in social gatherings to avoid confrontation. I do think a lot of people hide behind a facade of wealth when they are up to their ears in credit card debt.
    I convinced my DH to use the new 401K starting in the 1980s with its match when it was introduced and that guaranteed match or return made all the difference in our retirement savings. Thus we paid our future selves first and then managed our lifestyle with the take home pay. 🍀Lara

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    • Lara, I don’t know a single retiree (especially in Florida) regardless if they are rich or poor, or have a gazillion Mercedes Benz parked in their driveway, who doesn’t hustle to earn some extra money on the side. They all have the same reason: they need a little extra money to go out and enjoy life. or pay a few bills. Whether its the girls having jewelry parties, or the guys fixing cars or giving personal golf lessons, everybody is earning a bit more money than their pensions, Social Security or investments make them per month. For almost everyone, their passive income is just NOT enough. Perhaps its because they are ‘out there’ doing stuff, taking cruises, partying….I just don’t know. But DH and I have come to the same conclusion. We’re both going to hustle, for like forever, to bring in some extra cash throughout our retirement. I earn some extra money through blogging and I do some internet promotions for people. DH plans on continuing with his job BUT only a few days throughout the year. He also plans to get involved with an automotive group that do drag racing because he loves to work on fast cars. Even my sister went back to school to become a professional portrait photographer and has just set up shop inside her home. Her husband makes glass objects/bowls etc. on the side, in addition to his day job.
      Come September, we’re cancelling our cable service for good. Thanks to streaming and an antenna, we don’t need cable anymore. DH’s monthly medical premiums have gone down from (the highest) $456 a month to (the lowest) $20. That’s been a godsend, especially since we are STILL paying off some of his medical bills when he had his heart event (old medical insurance coverage….the bills come in dribs and drabs)
      If for some reason, we can’t manage, we’ll just sell the NY home and that should cover us for like almost forever. We’re preparing the house for an eventual sale anyway. Just in case.

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      • How lucky for you to,reduce the health insurance on NY program to $20 a month. I would stay a NY resident till Nick gets on Medicare too. What would you pay in comparison if you were just in Florida and in their system?
        So Nick no longer needs Fox News since the change in programs? Or does the antenna get you Fox? I visited a friend in a large city, who had a Roku antenna and the programs kept fading out and it was frustrating to say the least.
        IMHO, if everyone in Florida needs a side hustle to survive What does that say about our preparation for retirement and skills in money management or our many fears. If supposedly wealthy retirees also need it, these are probably those casting a false reality, swimming in hidden over extended debt. My brother and wife moved to Florida and fill their time with church related volunteer work and I believe there are quite a few people that don’t do paying side hustles but keep busy with volunteer activities, either in their communities or watching grandchildren. As you said like mInded people have a tendency to gravitate to each other. 🍀Lara

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      • HI Lara, for Nick to get similar health coverage in Florida, the monthly premium alone would be $1,200. So, yup! we’re staying in NY. LOL.
        We were able to stream in FOX news via our OnDemand account from the Fl condo BUT Spectrum just stopped all of that. realistically, with all the crap that is going on in the FOX News headquarters, Nick and I are contend to read a book or watch a YouTube video instead. LOL!!
        The main reason why the retirees I know tell me they hustle on the side for some extra cash is to use that money for entertainment, vacations, hobbies etc. Their retirement income covers the basics (which as we all know is constantly going up) but some of them want to go sailing, race corvettes, take a bunch of cruises, buy more professional hobby equipment (like a $5,000 camera, as per my sister!) Some guys told me they just want some extra cash in their pockets that their wives don’t know about….maybe to play cards or whatever. I don’t think most financial planners put into their retirement predictions the costs of entertainment. At least, I’ve never seen it. But its something I now think about. I’s like to go to Cuba one day and that was something that wasn’t possible before so I didn’t plan for it. Now, I will.

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  5. I am one of those people who invested in the stock market from the beginning and have fared quite well even with the crashes. We are sitting on over $1.1M, and hope to have over $2M by the time we retire. We are very conservative investors, and perhaps that $1.1M should have been $2M by now if we took more risks. During retirement, we plan on having a side savings account (not in the stock market) when the market goes down (as it historically has over the last 70 years) and use it until the market recovers, as it has always done. The stock market is not for all. It is VERY risky, for sure, but is the only way we could hedge our retirement. We have not received a large inheritance, nor do we see one in the future. Over the next six years, with the market being high, we will be socking our money away in other accounts, and paying off our mortgage. When market crashes, we will begin to buy again.
    What you did works for you. It gives you peace of mind. Hopefully the money will last, but you have two properties, and one could easily be sold if need be. And, if I’ve learned anything from you Cindi, you are one resilient woman.

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    • Thanks Sharon. Our plan is to sell the NY house eventually. And then when we are 80ish or so, sell the Florida condo and go live in some beautiful assisted living facility. We’ll see.
      For people who invest in the stock market, one rule of thumb is to have at least two years cash safely held in an FDIC bank account. It takes at least two years for the stock market to recover and then you can get back to business. At least that’s what some financial advisors recommend. You are a very strong person to have stayed on course. I give you credit for that!
      Thanks for sharing and as always, for your comments.

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