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50 and Less Than 5 Years from Early Retirement: I Have Big Plans!
Old 07-27-2018, 06:26 AM   #1
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50 and Less Than 5 Years from Early Retirement: I Have Big Plans!

Greetings all. I love this forum and now that I’m less than 5 years away from retirement, I decided to officially join the discussions.

I’m a 50 year old single woman with no kids, working for Megacorp in the Pacific Northwest (not Microsoft, Amazon, Nike or Boeing). It’s a cubicle-dweller job, not a fancy management role. I believe my role is at risk of downsizing which frankly, I would welcome it. They offer an 8 month severance package, but I’d receive no retiree health benefits. I’m not volunteering for a package but if it happens, so be it. I’m mentally ready.

I have $1.7M of invested assets, mostly in tax-deferred accounts. Asset allocation is 95% stocks / 5% cash. I’ve been very lazy and it’s mostly in S&P 500 index fund with a tiny bit of international and REIT. It’s my primary focus this summer address AA with a mindful approach with the goal of diversification and reduced risk. I’m doing my research now as part of a larger effort to get my affairs in order. The forum has provided excellent feedback to me in this post: Need Feedback: Getting My Affairs in Order

My goal for retirement is to start with an epic North American road trip, camping out of an SUV for several months, using state and national campgrounds with the occasional hotel thrown in once a week or so. I got the idea from these guys: Nomads With a Van: Our Minivan Conversion Story. My plan is to actually sleep in the car to avoid the hassle of tent set up/break down. It’s more nimble and cheaper than an RV, and if done right, can be very comfortable. I’ll start shopping and outfitting an SUV in the next couple of years and start taking it for weekend outings to prepare.

After the road trip, I plan to spend spring/summer/fall in the Pacific Northwest, and to winter in Hawaii and Texas, where I have family.

I’d pull the trigger on retirement now if I had a crystal ball to predict two things: (1) ACA health insurance subsidies - hopefully they'll continue as my preference is ACA over healthshare ministry coverage, and (2) future housing expenses for wintering in HI/TX. I don’t want to wear out my welcome with family, so I expect to do airbnb/VRBO for extended winter stays.

Thanks for reading. Planning for retirement is so much fun, I can only hope the real thing is as good as the anticipation.
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Old 07-27-2018, 07:30 AM   #2
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Iíd pull the trigger on retirement now if I had a crystal ball to predict two things: (1) ACA health insurance subsidies - hopefully they'll continue as my preference is ACA over healthshare ministry coverage, and .....
Welcome to the forum and congrats on your future retirement. Based on some info in another ACA related thread, just wondering if you'll run into any issues with an ACA plan if you're traveling most of the time out of your coverage area. Might be something to consider and look into.
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:09 AM   #3
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Welcome bevette. I had come across that Nomads site before, thinking about converting a van, but more for short trips rather than full-time. I think their cons list is missing a lot of things that an RV has that they don't. They don't have a bathroom--though you could get a marine toilet. They don't have climate control unless they start the van. I'm surprised they didn't figure out the screens until later. I already have screening cut for my forester, which I hold in place with magnets, rather than tape. No shower, though they could get a bag shower which you just put in the sun to warm up. No room to sit at a table inside if the weather is bad, which they note in a different post about when van life sucks. I doubt there's room to stand in the van. No generator or big batteries to run powered appliances without starting the van. That's more of a luxury than a necessity, but again, if it's raining and you don't have shelter, where are you going to cook?

Not saying you can't do the van, but I think it's disingenuous to list 3 simple cons and infer that it's all the same otherwise.
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Old 07-27-2018, 09:28 AM   #4
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Nice intro, bevette! If you haven't found them already, we have a helpful list of things to think about as you are planning your next moves:

Some Important Questions to Answer
Getting your AA aligned is a great thing to do this year as part of your preparation, for sure.

Personally, having done the "sleep in the vehicle" style of camping back in my 20s, I wouldn't do it again, but YMMV. If I was going to do the single camping travel thing, I'd get a small class B RV (could be used if budget is a concern). Not having A/C and facilities and a refrigerator is too much for me to give up at this point. But the important thing is to do what makes YOU happy!
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Old 07-27-2018, 09:52 AM   #5
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Good luck with your plans. To reduce the tent set up time, I bought an instant tent last year. We haven't used it for camping yet, but did a test set up in the backyard and it was pretty quick. Here is a video of an instant set up in 60 seconds:
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Old 07-27-2018, 12:43 PM   #6
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@Carpediem: That’s a very good point about health insurance coverage while traveling. I have also read that ACA coverage is limited to one's home state. I might be able to address this with temporary travel coverage while road tripping and wintering. I’ve only heard of travel insurance for overseas travel, so I’ll need to do further research to see if this is a option for out-of-state travel.

@RunningBum and @MBAustin: I agree that camping out of a car is roughing it. I have a lot of experience with backpacking and car camping and frankly, sleeping in a car and not having a tent to mess with sounds like paradise to me. Here are some ways I plan to mitigate the downsides of sleeping in the car:

(1) Limit overnight spots to campgrounds with shower and toilet amenities and do occasional hotel stays. No off-grid boondocking.

(2) Use a Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV for the trip. Hybrids can be set to ‘ready mode’ to run A/C throughout the night. The car will turn on periodically to keep the charge. There are many examples on the interwebs of Prius owners doing this. A Highlander will feel like a palace compared to a Prius.

(3) Simplify meals as follows: use a cooler that plugs into a cigarette lighter for fresh fruit, veg and bread, then create meals with simple packaged foods such as canned tuna/chicken/beans, dehydrated meals (I’ve collected many recipes, plus there’s always REI and 'just add water' grocery store soups and the like), oatmeal, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, etc. When in town to do laundry and gas up, I’ll treat myself to restaurant meals. But basically, limit all cooking to only needing to boil water, which can be done with a kettle that plugs into the cigarette lighter, making for cooking in inclement weather quite awesome.

The idea is to keep things extremely simple as this is a short-term adventure, not a long-term way of life. I’m not interested in the expense or hassle of an RV. But who knows, if I fall in love with this way of life, I just might find myself camp hosting in a 24-footer one day.

@daylatedollarshort: that’s a very cool tent! You’ll have to let me know if it delivers on its promises.
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Old 07-27-2018, 12:47 PM   #7
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I have $1.7M of invested assets, mostly in tax-deferred accounts. Asset allocation is 95% stocks / 5% cash. Iíve been very lazy and itís mostly in S&P 500 index fund with a tiny bit of international and REIT. Itís my primary focus this summer address AA with a mindful approach with the goal of diversification and reduced risk.
Are you going to use a SEPP (IRS 72t) to tap your tax-deferred assets early? Have you considered taxes in your retirement plan? The down side to having nearly all tax-deferred assets is how to access them early, and that they are nearly 100% taxable. Maybe consider annual conversions to ROTH IRAs.
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Old 07-27-2018, 12:51 PM   #8
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I have also read that ACA coverage is limited to one's home state.
This is not the case. The insurer and policy determine the geographical coverage. Policies that offer broad coverage across the US, such as BCBS BlueCard, are available in many locations. A tool like HealthSherpa will help you determine if such a policy is available in your area of residence.
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Old 07-27-2018, 12:54 PM   #9
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Are you going to use a SEPP (IRS 72t) to tap your tax-deferred assets early? Have you considered taxes in your retirement plan? The down side to having nearly all tax-deferred assets is how to access them early, and that they are nearly 100% taxable. Maybe consider annual conversions to ROTH IRAs.
I plan to use a Roth conversion ladder to tap the tax-advantaged funds early. I don't like the idea of being locked into 72t distributions. I prefer to have flexibility. I can always invoke a 72t distribution after a couple of years if I decide to change my withdrawal strategy, but I do not plan to lead with it.
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Old 07-27-2018, 12:55 PM   #10
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This is not the case. The insurer and policy determine the geographical coverage. Policies that offer broad coverage across the US, such as BCBS BlueCard, are available in many locations. A tool like HealthSherpa will help you determine if such a policy is available in your area of residence.
That's helpful information. Thank you!
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Old 07-27-2018, 12:59 PM   #11
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Check out bob well cheap rv living YouTube channel and look at info about the rubber tramp rondavue. Rtr. A lot of people are doing what you want to do some out of necessity and others by choice. Good luck
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Old 07-27-2018, 01:15 PM   #12
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Curious why you'd go with an SUV like a Highlander instead of a minivan like a Sienna? Cargo space is 83 cu ft vs 150 for the Sienna. Similar price, Sienna is only a bit larger externally, and similar MPG. Maybe you aren't so concerned with size, or maybe there's something I'm missing. I guess it could be the hybrid. That's a good point about being able to use the A/C.
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Old 07-27-2018, 01:21 PM   #13
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Curious why you'd go with an SUV like a Highlander instead of a minivan like a Sienna? Cargo space is 83 cu ft vs 150 for the Sienna. Similar price, Sienna is only a bit larger externally, and similar MPG. Maybe you aren't so concerned with size, or maybe there's something I'm missing. I guess it could be the hybrid. That's a good point about being able to use the A/C.
I'd love to have the extra space a minivan offers, but I need the extra ground clearance of an SUV. I've bottomed out in my car more times than I can count driving to trailheads around here. If someone would just make a high-ground clearance, hybrid minivan I'd be first in line to buy!
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Old 07-27-2018, 01:24 PM   #14
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Curious why you'd go with an SUV like a Highlander instead of a minivan like a Sienna? Cargo space is 83 cu ft vs 150 for the Sienna. Similar price, Sienna is only a bit larger externally, and similar MPG.
^ What RB said. If I was going to live in my vehicle I'd want as much room as I could get within the size vehicle I wanted to drive.

I'd also consider something like the Ford Transit Connect van.
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Old 07-27-2018, 03:47 PM   #15
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^ What RB said. If I was going to live in my vehicle I'd want as much room as I could get within the size vehicle I wanted to drive.

I'd also consider something like the Ford Transit Connect van.
Brother just got fully loaded Winnebago Travato for low 80's and it is super nice!
https://www.lichtsinn.com/product/ne...-59g-860867-13
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:22 PM   #16
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Welcome to the forum, I think a class B RV (full size van size) would work a lot better for you. A smaller SUV like a Highlander is going to get very small after a few days. The Class B will allow you to have a real table, bed, kitchen space and a bathroom. In a campground you just plug into the electric then your frig and other electrical needs are covered. Class B will also have a small heater and A/C to make inside more comfortable when outside is not so nice. One other consideration is the class B allows some privacy vs a SUV. Think about it, because it will make a big difference in your trip memories.


I was like you with nearly all equities. I have been becoming a better balance with some fixed income, although I still hold a bigger equity portion than many on here do. It's a mindset change, and a logical change to go from accumulation mode and into withdrawal mode on retirement savings.
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Old 07-31-2018, 11:58 AM   #17
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bevette, just saw this, seems like it could be a reasonable RV-type option. Not in production yet but it sounds like it will be.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/car...adass-minivan/
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Old 07-31-2018, 09:40 PM   #18
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bevette, just saw this, seems like it could be a reasonable RV-type option. Not in production yet but it sounds like it will be.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/car...adass-minivan/
Yep, that's basically my dream car.
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Old 07-31-2018, 10:36 PM   #19
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You sound "ready". With your savings figures and frugal spending plan, you should be able to RE anytime. Good Luck !!!
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Old 08-01-2018, 07:18 AM   #20
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Yep, that's basically my dream car.
You should check into the Ford Flex.... a huge box that I think could easily be retrofitted for traveling/camping.
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