Living Simply – HumbleDollar

HOW MUCH INCOME do I need to retire? That’s a question many Americans have. I recently learned the hard way how different the answers can be.

On a Facebook group, a person posted the question, “Can I retire on $40,000 a year?” I thought the question was about living on $40,000 a year after earning a much higher salary. I was wrong and insensitive. I replied from my life perspective that it would be tough to live on that amount for 30-plus years in retirement. My property taxes and homeowners’ association fees alone are more than half that amount, and in normal times we spend $20,000 annually on travel.

Other members of the group took me to task, and rightly so. Then I recalled that tens of millions of Americans live on that amount or less for their entire life. The median retirement income is $47,357, which means half of retirees live on less. By some estimates, 40% of retirees get by solely on their monthly Social Security check.

What about lifestyle? Again, the comments from others brought me back to reality. Those living on $40,000 a year or less often described themselves as doing fine, enjoying retirement, and even being able to travel and live comfortably. It became clear that what makes people comfortable and able to enjoy life isn’t all about income.

I like staying in nice hotels, book mini-suites when I take cruises and rent houses in Florida in the winter. By contrast, one person said their desired travel was a road trip—sleeping in the back of their minivan and stopping at free campgrounds.

A woman described her comfortable lifestyle as having no debt, not going out to eat and living frugally, just as she had done her entire life. The words “living simply” popped up frequently.

When their mortgage is paid off and the kids are out of the house, one couple planned to retire “easily” on $40,000 a year at ages 54 and 56. Retiring at 54 is truly beyond my comprehension.

Is living simply and having enough to “get by” a sound retirement goal? Or is it what many people must settle for based on their circumstances? When I hear people talk about retiring before age 60, and living frugally to do so, I believe these retirees are living too close to the edge. They’re too optimistic—and perhaps naïve—about the next 30 or 40 years.

Maintaining your preretirement lifestyle may sound easy. But the nature of expenses in retirement, plus inflation and the ups and downs of the stock market, say otherwise. I retired at 67, when I was sure that my retirement income would equal the base pay I earned before retiring.

Did I miss out on a decade or more of enjoying retirement? Did I trade some of my present leisure years for greater security? I did, and intentionally so. I don’t feel cheated, but I do feel financially secure.

Source: Living Simply – HumbleDollar

Some people carry their retirement lifestyle to the extreme and some have no choice. Have you ever heard of the nomadic retirees who constantly travel in old RVs with very low incomes.

4 comments

  1. I was planning to retire at 68 but was offered a modest retirement bonus at 67 so retired “early”. The basis of my retirement date was to provide for my current standard of living with pension and Social Security. Most of the people I know retired younger than me and are struggling financially. It is not fun to be old and poor. I don’t think you were a bit insensitive.

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  2. I retired at 58, and I am so glad I did. We are somewhere between what you describe as “living simply” – and having enough to get by and where you are with the nice hotels. suites on cruises and a house in Florida during the winter. I have no desire to live the lifestyle that you enjoy. We are happy with where we are and what we can do. Good health and time are immeasurably valuable.

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    1. My life is mostly reading, writing, spending time with 11 grandchildren, occasional golf in season. I worked from age 18 to 67, many years two jobs. We lived on one salary raising four children and gave up many of the so called necessaries to do so. Before retirement vacations were short road trips with the children. We never took them to Disney. We were only able to travel starting the year before I retired. My goal in working until I did was to assure we were financially secure and my wife was too should she survive me. I could not have retired in my fifties as I was still paying off sixteen years of college costs.

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  3. My ideal of a secure retirement is having the ability to fix, have repaired, or replace anything I need. If I have money for a few wants, that’s great. We buy more things used now not because we have to but often the quality is better. We also don’t have to buy some things of quality because we aren’t going to live long enough to see it break. We rather spend that money else where like the grandkids.

    Back when I was working, we would go to Las Vegas, try to do a year worth of living, and forget the pressures of the job all in one week. It was a great time but now, I get no enjoyment even walking by a casino. We go to see live shows and national acts at our local theater for 1/10 the cost of the tickets. No hotel or airline expenses either.

    I started out my working career only being able to afford to camp in the back of my truck in state parks for a vacation. My back now thanks me that I can afford hotels but I would do that again if that was the only way and not even think twice about it. It wasca good time.

    My wife and I would like to travel overseas again but we don’t have to. There is so much to see in this country. We have been to over 115 National Parks and Historic sites and countless other state and local sites along the way. Being retired a slow drive through a state is more relaxing now than flying or drive I-95 to get to Walt Disney World.

    My neighbor who is probably one of those average income people is happy to drive from NJ to the Outter Banks in NC. He told me that he could go there and fish everyday. It is all prospective. He lives simply and dreams big within his budget therefore he is happy.

    I retired at 55. I was lucky that I got a pension and medical or I couldn’t have done it. But I don’t regret it. We got two great years in traveling before Covid-19. My knee has kept me medically sidelined for the past 9 months. I am glad I didn’t have to deal with it while working. I know too many people who worked too long and had too short of a retirement as a result.

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