Home > How I Retired Early

How I Retired Early

November 16th, 2007 at 02:59 pm

Many of you already know my story, but maybe some of you don’t….

I retired at age 58. I didn’t have a lot of money – still don’t – but I had a 403b through my work which I had been contributing to (modestly) for 23 years. Because my years of service plus my age equaled 70, I was eligible to retire and draw from my fund without penalty.

However, the proceeds from the fund are quite slim, and I had debt, a house payment, and all the various expenses that go with owning a home. I didn’t think retirement was an option – maybe not even till age 70!

Enter my cousin. She is a retired real estate agent, who is on disability for a rare disorder known as NCS. She is financially secure, but her health problems were making everyday living difficult. After her husband left her several years ago, she was struggling on her own. She and I began to talk. We talked and talked and talked, and the upshot is that I decided to take my early retirement and move in with her.

I sold my house and paid off my debt. I moved from Indiana to North Carolina. Meanwhile, she had built on an extra “suite” to her house so that I would have a comfortable area of my own. She covers all the housing expenses, though we argue about things like light bulbs and toilet paper. I think I should pay for my own, she thinks I shouldn’t.

Food was a sticking point at first. Our original plan was to split the grocery bill, which seems logical, but when I realized that she spent four to six times as much on her groceries as I did, I honestly told her I could not afford to spend that much. We struck up a deal that, since I was going to do the cooking and shopping anyway, she would pay for the groceries, and I would contribute my skills in keeping food costs down.

Some of you know she has been hard to convince! She likes her comforts, and it’s been hard to persuade her that cutting the food bill does not mean beans and rice every day! But we are slowly arriving at an area of compromise, and I think she appreciates my efforts to keep her costs in line.

I realize that I have been very lucky to have this unusual opportunity. There are drawbacks, of course. I had to move farther away from my children and some dear friends. And most importantly, I have chosen a life in which I am dependent on my cousin’s continuing goodwill. Some people wouldn’t be able to do that, but I trust her to the core. She has even willed her house to me, knowing that I would be financially compromised if she were to pass away prematurely.

I understand that not everyone can retire early, but everyone can keep their eyes open to opportunity and be willing to make big changes. I could have turned down this offer and plodded on as before, but I have taken a leap and changed my life for the better.

It is totally awesome to wake up each morning – and go back to sleep if I want to!

7 Responses to “How I Retired Early”

  1. ceejay74 Says:

    Thanks! I knew some of your story but it was nice to hear all the way through. Even if people don't have the exact same opportunity you do, it's good that you share your experience because hopefully it will let some people know they can consider other living arrangements if they want to. It is a great way to save money, and it created a symbiotic relationship where both of you benefit from the arrangement.

  2. fern Says:

    Thanks so much for posting your story. I, too, had gleaned bits and pieces of your story, but hearing the whole thing told here is very interesting.

    I think the important thing to learn from your story is that if you are willing to be open to new possiblities, and think outside the box, sometimes you can find a way to achieve your goals (in this case, early retirement) by approaching it in a novel way.

    You are fortunate to have a family member you seem to get along with and who also is very generous. I am sure she also appreciates having someone there living with her. I don't know what her disability is, but chronic health problems often make people feel vulnerable and at risk, so it must be a very good feeling to have not just a friend, but a family member in the house.

    I'm jealous! I hope to do what you've done at age 60, just a mere 12 years from now.

  3. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Glad to have heard the whole story. I think I had maybe missed just one blog, leaving the continuity interrupted.

    To me, this seems like a normal and genuine way for things to be. If one has a genuine, trusting relationship with friends or family, then yes, of course living together and mutually helping one another is the natural thing.

    In our culture I think for the most part we really have lost the ability to do this. It is even something I warn friends who move to the US from other countries about--how their family cohesiveness can degrade if they take on more typically American ways of living, moving for jobs, etc. I see some of them arrive here with extended family all in the same household and they seem so supportive of each other, but then one by one the younger ones grow up move away and become so unitary and disconnected from everyone else. Cool to see that you have managed the opposite.

    I have one sister and one friend with whom I have talked about living together in old age should we find ourselves alone. There is real security in knowing that there are people out there who "have your back," while you have theirs as well.

  4. katwoman Says:

    What a wonderful arrangement!

    When I get together with a few of my long time friends we joke about getting places to live close to one another so that we can take care of each other in our old age. Glad to see it can really work out!

  5. Broken Arrow Says:

    Wow, glad you decided to share, because before, all I knew was that you were moving to North Carolina. You get to retire early, you get to help out a family member. Win-win!

  6. scfr Says:

    Your story is very inspiring, and a great reminder of what can happen when you keep an open mind!

    Two of my mom's friends did something similar. They are 2 single women. They went together and bought a house in a retirement community that has a casita (guest house) on the property. The friend with more money paid for and lives in the main house, and the friend with less money paid for and lives in the casita. They have separate residences but live on the same property and are there to help each other out when needed.

  7. librarylady Says:

    Loved hearing your story and yes, it is a win-win situation. I'm sure your cousin is happy to have your companionship and vice/versa. Getting older myself, I may be looking for a similar situation someday.
    Great job!

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