What Does It Take To Retire


I don’t know why, but it really bothers me when I read articles about how so few people are saving enough to retire. The statistics for non-savers in the US are staggering.

I credit Greg for getting us on the right road. I might be the frugal one in the family, but he had the foresight when he was in his 40s to aggressively move any pay raises, tax refunds, and bonuses into our retirement fund. We also maxed out our 401K deductions to as much as our respective companies would allow.

He’ll be the first to tell you that if he could do it over again, he would’ve started much earlier.

It’s hard. When you’re in your 20s and 30s, you’re not thinking about life forty years down the road. There’s always one more thing you want to buy, one more trip, and one more good time.

When I read articles about how badly people in the US are preparing for retirement, it scares me. They are not going to be happy when they realize how they’ll have to live their remaining years.

Although I’m retired I still freelance, which brings in a little money. I garden and raise animals for food which feeds us through most of the year. Someday soon, I hope to monetize this blog and that will help too. Maybe not now but if I continue providing good content it might pay off in a couple of years.

The point I’m trying to make is that’s it’s never too early to think about retirement. You might feel that you’re young and you have plenty of time, but I promise you, it goes by fast. So fast!

Tank snoozing
This is the life!

Everyone’s needs are different, but every little bit saved is that much more you can use for yourself when you’ve had it with the 9-5 grind. It’s liberating in a way I can’t describe. It’s also empowering because you don’t have to depend on anyone else.

There are plenty of ways to save money. The real test is to save it and not touch it. How good is your willpower? I’m not a financial expert, but these are the things we did to reach our goal.

• If you’re in the US, max out your 401K deductions or anywhere else where you can move your pre-tax money.

• Buy used instead of new for big ticket items.

• Ask for a raise, look for a better paying job, or take a second job.

• Pay off your debts. If you do nothing else, pay off your debts. That’ll put you ahead of the herd.

• Remember the rate of inflation. It goes up roughly 3% every year.

• Live below your means. For years, I bristled with envy every time our friends bought nicer houses, fancier cars, and went on exotic trips. But guess what? They couldn’t (and didn’t) retire when we did. We could’ve afforded the same luxuries, but we opted instead to put those funds in a money market account where it couldn’t be touched easily.

• Keep your eye on the prize. As I said earlier, it’s hard to imagine your life 30-40 years in the future, but retirement is like a huge, magnificent gift. Every day I wake up and smile knowing I don’t have to get up at o’dark thirty to fight traffic. Dallas during rush hour is like fighting for the last open spot on Earth. I was grumpy every day I had to drive through that mess.

Retirement is heaven, absolute heaven. Yes, I work hard on the farm, but it’s work I love, and it’s entirely on my terms.

In the end, it’s a choice. Looking back, I didn’t miss the fancy clothes or trips. I got something much better. I get to spend every day with my favorite person, and we don’t answer to anyone but each other. It’s a good life.

Are your retired or hoping to retire soon? What would you like to do when your day is all yours to command?



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  1. You gave excellent advice, Maria. The key is to begin early and to be consistent indeed. Sadly we didn’t take such advice when it was given to us in our early 30s; looking back it was one of those things I regret, but all I can do now is give that advice to younger people starting out. We are “okay” with things for retirement, we could be “better.”


    • Betty: Even if someone had told us to save more when we were in our thirties, we probably wouldn’t have. We probably spent more when we were in our thirties than at any other time in our life.

      Strangely, we still have a lot of that stuff. LOL! Antiques!!

  2. Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

    I opened my first IRA when I was 25. I’m fortunate enough to be on track with my retirement savings, but I plan to write as long as I’m able.

  3. Angela Brown

    Pay off your debts. If you do nothing else, pay off your debts. That’ll put you ahead of the herd.

    • Remember the rate of inflation. It goes up roughly 3% every year.

    • Live below your means
    These are the things I’m working on now to prepare for retiring. I’m looking to increase my savings input soon but I have a kiddo to prepare for as well, such as the possibility of college tuition.

    Lots to consider. Thank you for the tips.

  4. I can’t take any claim for retirement planning. I understood how important it was, but for most of my working life, I had poverty wages. We lived in slums and I still didn’t have enough to pay my bills. When I finally finished college (at 42) and finally got a good job, I did start saving, but that’s a drop in a bucket.

    I was lucky to find and marry a great guy who not only understood the necessity of retirement preparation, but who also had the opportunity to carry out his plans. So we are safely retired and have the means to enjoy it. We budget to the penny, though! Nothing is ever certain.

  5. Instead of going on fabulous vacations and buying expensive cars we paid off all our debt, and then began socking away our income as much as possible. I used some of mine to buy the kids decent cars and pay their college tuition, but we still mostly bank everything we make.

    My guy and I can definitely retire now, but we’re both still working so we can save a bit more and keep the kids on his medical insurance for as long as possible. Since we both love our jobs it’s not a hassle. When the day comes that I can retire — probably in about seven years — I plan to write and quilt. I think he’s going to annihilate the crab grass. 🙂

    • Lynn: It’s a good feeling knowing you can retire at any time. During Greg’s last year, every day was a cakewalk because he knew he could leave at any time.

      re: crab grass
      LOL! Everyone should have a mission I guess.
      PS I hope is foot is better.

  6. JackieBCentralTexas

    My husband still envies his friends their fabulous vacations but we are solvent and they are always in debt so we both do not envy that at all.

    He hoped to retire at 55 but circumstances did not work out so now he is shooting for 9 more years at 65 and when he does stop working for the man he is probably going to start his own small business as he cannot be idle for long.

    Maria my husband started us on his 401K journey as soon before we were married and thank goodness we both love to save because in the future we only have ourselves to depend on and that nice nest egg that we managed to accumulate over all these years is going to be the difference between us living in our home or living in a cardboard box someday.

    The only concern we really have is health insurance once my husband is no longer under the umbrella of an employer, with my medical expenses that is going to be a real problem.

  7. One piece of advice from Himself: When you get a raise, put all or most of it into retirement funds. Keep living on your lower salary so you don’t get used to living at a higher standard. When you retire, chances are you’ll have to live on less than you were making those last few years of work. If you don’t get used to the higher standard of living, you won’t feel the pain so much when you retire.

    And oh, that health care! The thins is, if we were actually paying and getting health CARE, it wouldn’t cost so much. But no, we’re paying for INSURANCE, which demands middlemen, profits, and advertising. We’re playing both ends of the game in this country, and it is not going to work. We’ll either end up with single payer or nothing.

    • Marlene: This is something we’ve always done. One year, we lived on my meager wages and socked away all of his earnings. It gave us a huge boost to our savings. We used it to put a substantial downpayment on a house but it came back to us in dividends when we paid it off early.

  8. If only people would listen to your advice. So few young people are willing to take on a second job. All our sons work extra jobs or overtime and my daughter has worked her entire time in college. I hope we’ve set good examples for them. There’s no rule that says working only 40 hours per week will get you where you need to be.
    Susan Says

    • Susan:
      re: There’s no rule that says working only 40 hours per week…
      That reminds me of a funny story. The manager of my department called me on the carpet one day because Personnel said I was working TOO many hours. I was averaging 70 hrs a week. I was young and liked my job. Since the company ran 7 days a week (Chicago Tribune Newspaper) I worked whenever they asked me.

      I’m all for kids enjoying their childhood but when they get to working age, they need to work all they can while they can. You’ll never have the energy you had as a young adult again. Might as well put it to use. 🙂

      PS I’m sure your kids will do great. You’ve given them fine examples.

  9. Your photo (sorry, not the essay) moved me today. My Lucy is doing poorly. I actually had an appointment for the vet (the rainbow bridge kind of appt) at 10:30 today. But I couldn’t go through it. I told the vet tech never mind. I’m so torn up. Lucy hasn’t eaten in over a week, but she looks up at me with those big brown eyes of love…. Dang that knot in my stomach.

    • Oh, Mac. I’m so sorry.

      The picture is of our Tanky before he died. As he got older we used to call him retired. He only woofed for special appearances. It broke Greg’s heart when I posted this picture, but this is how I like to remember him.

      I know you’ll do what’s right for Lucy. She probably knows already.

      Hugs, my friend. We know what you’re going through.

  10. Mike keyton

    I’ve been fortunate. Teaching here has a reasonable pension, as well as the state pension everyone eventually gets. I was doubly fortunate because I retired early at a slightly reduced pension. BUT that works out better because Actuaries originally worked out the generous teachers pension on the basis that if they stayed working until the very end, most teachers died within a year of retiring! Hopefully I’ll collect mine for many years to come

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