Saturday, September 12, 2015

Retired at 55 - 10 weeks in - Never been happier

Contrary to all predictions by half my friends and all my family, I am not bored. I still get up at 6:00 am every day, I blink my eyes and it's noon or dinner time or past my bedtime. Happens every day. Every morning is now like a Saturday of a three day weekend.

I will admit I am starting to slow down a bit. I've been a little under the weather the past week or so. By that I mean I live in the sub tropics and there is a thunderstorm rolling in every day at about 2:00 pm. Today I headed out around 9:00 and it was already threatening.

The big question I get is how am I able to afford to be retired when most of my friends are swimming in debt. Right there is the big secret to my success.

I started working at 15. My Dad set me up working summers in a huge bank from the day school let out till it started back up. Minimum wage - $1.76 an hour. I had a SS# and even filed tax forms. I spent 4 years in college. With the money I saved (no I was not allowed to spend a dime of my summer earnings) and the job I worked, I paid for my entire education as I went. No Loans. The night job I was working was in a computer room which turned into a 35 year career in Programming, Network Administration, and Management. I went to school full time. I worked up to 50 hour weeks. I graduated college a semester early after changing my major without a counselor so I missed the big graduation walk. Didn't matter. I already had a career path and I was many steps ahead on it.

I managed to acquire my first credit card in 1982, the year I graduated college, and have yet to this very day pay dime of interest on it. I've never paid more than two years on a car loan and currently I own two homes free and clear.

Does that make me rich? Hardly. I was at the bottom of middle class earnings and my pension is 42% of my pay. Yes I have a pension but until my other house sells money will be a bit tight. So why does anyone care?

My goal from my early 20's was always to retire early and enjoy the best years of my life. The road to this goal was pretty rocky with some real show stopper moments but in the end I succeeded. Not the way I envisioned and at the destruction of my career path but hey - whatever works right?

I was talking to young waiter/college student while on my Disney trip. He was fascinated to find out I was retired. I was given a few tips when I was his age so I thought it would be paying forward to pass them along. Here is pretty much what I told him with a bit more detail.

1) Never pay interest - If you can't afford it, you don't need it. I calculated I saved $72,000 in interest on my 30 year condo loan. I paid it off in 10 years. A lot of financial sacrifice but dude - I saved $72K. Same with cars and credit cards - Interest is poison. Why let other people spend your money.

2) Pick a career you like early. Life is a building process. If you are just working a job, hopping jobs, taking breaks, you will never get ahead. I chose computers as they change every day. It keeps you motivated to not only keep up but to get ahead.

3) The money is in management. It's the one hard truth I learned from my first boss. Do your best, be the best at what you do. Then work your way up to making other people do it so you can collect a bigger paycheck. I fought the jump a long time but in the end it was the best decision to move up.

4) Stay Married...... I sucked at this one. It cost me a fortune more than once. 99% of millionaires managed to somehow not get divorced. Had I not made some very poor personal decisions I would have quite easily exited the work world with 2-5 million bucks in the bank. At 40 years old I found myself homeless with one paycheck in the account and owing my lawyer.  Hence the career ending local government job and meager pension. There is something to be said for having a clearly defined and traumatic worst day of your life but I could dedicate a whole book to that subject.

5) Never give up. Every day is a new day. Find a way to do better, improve yourself, save money, earn more money. Hyper activity is not something to be medicated away - Its a gift.

6) Set clearly defined goals.... My first wife used to scoff at my documented "Five Year Plan". I found her lack of faith disturbing. I made a 30 year plan at 25 to retire at 55. All the ever evolving smaller plans were just to keep me on track. Not everything works out. Sometimes in the most catastrophic ways. Sometimes you paint yourself so far into a corner there is no way out. Well I got news. Paint dries quick enough and if you are in a bigger hurry - just make a mess and move on.

It does not really matter what your goal is. Mine was pretty simple in the end for me. Did not seem simple along the way but I persisted. Many of my friends have goals that I think are crazy, unrealistic, impossible to achieve. For me at least. I am watching them every day take a step closer to achievements I could never hope to.  My last piece of advice - do what you love. You get one life. You will struggle most of the way through it so make it count when you reach your goal.


  1. The best lesson I ever learned is that stuff is just stuff. And mostly, you don't need it! I've saved a fortune that way AND thereby got to do more of what I love doing :D

  2. I found out that after two divorces and a really bad break up that my stuff is not my stuff. Including houses and cars. Now all I collect is memories.

  3. We are moving house - we have 4 kids and a dog and so much stuff! i have organised for the Salvation Army to come and collect our old furniture, a rubbish clean up bin and also professional cleaners to come after we have it all cleared out - but how oh how do i pack all the stuff and sort it? What is a good method or way to do it? Where do i get all the boxes and stuff?
    moving packers toronto

  4. Why not start out with an RV ? Move if you must. No taxes except for the purchase.No property taxes and cheap to own. NO property tax just a vehicle registration. Gas or Diesel too high....stay put....want to see the country pull out on the road and GOOOOOO! You can still (also) have a get-around vehicle, car, boat, motorcycle what ever works for you.Think about the cost of hotels, gas,plane fare....Hate the can have what you want on your terms!

  5. I have actually given the RV idea quite a bit of thought. I'm not really sure it fits my footloose and fancy free lifestyle. I like having a homebase that is an actual home. when I travel I like to be very free. That may require some couch surfing due to limited funding, but I have a really nice house in South Florida for my friends to visit in the winter.