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Old 02-07-2010, 12:31 PM   #21
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For me it was when I was 38. I'd always expected to retire in my mid to late 50's as that was when one came eligible in the Megacorp pension plans and I knew many colleagues in England that retired in their mid-50's, many of them continuing as contractors and consultants enjoying the freedom of working because they wanted to.

At 38 I switched companies and pension plans for the 3rd time and I realized that the chances of being this new company for the next 20 years or the pension plan still being available was actually quite small.

At that point, I got out the "weapons of math instruction" to calculate savings rates, projected net savings, estimated pension payments etc, and also started reading and educating myself on what it would take to retire at 55 which was when my current eligibility for ER was. (age + service = 80).

The next 17 years was spent executing the plan and I've been extremely lucky that I've kept my job and the pension plan has remained untouched.

Retired in Jan, 2010 at 55
Now it's adventure before dementia
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Old 02-07-2010, 01:02 PM   #22
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I knew when I took my first job out of graduate school (age 26) that I wanted to retire at 55. I had a good role model - my Dad retired at 57. But he had a government COLA'd pension and fully paid health care.

I plan to retire this August one month after I turn 55. I have stayed with the same employer for 26 years due to their "rule of 80" and employer subsidized health care until Medicare eligible. Turned down many, many opportunities to make 20% more money elsewhere. Maxed out 401(k)'s and IRA's since day one of first job.

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Old 02-07-2010, 01:03 PM   #23
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A lot of things had to fall into place for me to retire in 2008 at age 45.

The first thing to happen (unknowingly) was that I did not want to ever have kids. I made that decision at age 20.

The next thing to happen was to pay off my mortgage in 1998 when I was 35. The greatly reduced my monthly expenses.

Next was my company switching from not-for-profit to for-profit in 1997 and the ESOP which would grow in value by a factor of 30 in 11 years. Once my ESOP's value reached the $300k mark in 2008, I knew I had enough to retire.

In 2007, I found a bond fund with a good yield to put the ESOP's proceeds into once I knew I would be able to retire a year or two later. This covers my monthly expenses with room to spare (and I have other funds generating dividends as well as an IRA and, in about 15 years, a pension).

In 2008, I found an affordable individual HI policy which fit into my budget.

In 2001, my company relocated from Manhattan to Jersey City, New Jersey, making an already barely tolerable commute into one I could not tolerate very long (even on a part-time basis). I grew more miserable with working, especially starting in late 2003 when I could no longer telecommute. This is the biggest reason I left my company and retired. The HI issue and ESOP were second and third.

So the pieces fell together at different times and for different reasons, mostly in the 10 years leading up to my retirement 15 months ago. From 2005/6 and later, though, is when the serious planning took place.
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Old 02-07-2010, 02:02 PM   #24
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DH and I always believed/dreamed we would retire before the age of 60 even though it was not the norm (back in the day}. However way back when, we didn't know just how to go about reaching our goal. We worked, saved and took advantage of retirement accounts offered by our workplace.

It wasn't until about six years ago (when I was 46 and DH 49) that I started educating myself on investment directions, taxes and the SWR rule. Later, I found this forum and it opened my eyes on what we were doing right...and wrong. Changes were made and I continued (and continue) to educate myself.

Even though the workplace for my DH started to become toxic the last year he was at Megacorp, he stuck it out in order to receive a pension and medical benefits. We knew how important those benefits would be in order to live a relatively stress free retirement life.

Our dream came true.
There's no need to complicate, our time is short..
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Old 02-07-2010, 02:03 PM   #25
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For me it was a series of events probably (hope I am closer to answering your original question this time);
  • I have always been pretty frugal, definitely lived below my means with little debt. Always saved all I could. Got over the "desire for (material) things" by the time I was 30 (luckily).
  • I'm an Engineer so I am very comfortable with numbers, investing was a fun/interesting challenge to me. However, I had no training from my family - Dad has COLA'd pension and lifetime health care (so he didn't have a clue).
  • There were certainly others, but
    • First influential book, Walden - roughly my 20's.
    • Second, Your Money or Your Life - roughly my 30's.
    • Third, The Millionaire Next Door - roughly my 40's.
    • Fourth, The Four Pillars of Investing - late 40's.
    • Fifth influential read, learned about 4% SWR, and studied underlying work carefully.
  • Realized I was already FI - with comfortably more than 25X expected retirement expenses.
  • Started thinking about early retirement.
  • I am 55 now, may keep working until 50X or may "retire" from my first career (33 yrs so far) in the next year or two, and work at something else that is more enjoyable, less stress and less money. Work has it's rewards beyond $ IMO, but it would be really nice to not (occasionally) wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work.
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Target AA: 60% equity funds / 35% bond funds / 5% cash
Target WR: Approx 2.5% Approx 20% SI (secure income, SS only)
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Old 02-07-2010, 02:59 PM   #26
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I first knew I would retire early back in early 2000 at age 51. I am a scientist with an engineering background and never had the slightest interest in money or personal finance until that time. I was looking at my job benefits one day, and (*click!*) the pension looked really, really small for me no matter when I might retire.

To repeat a story I have posted many times (long time members can skip the rest of this paragraph), my net worth was negative after my 1998 divorce and by early 2000 it was about zero or a little less and I was renting. After looking at the size of pension I might get eventually, I wrote my dear brother a "poor me" e-mail about how I would never be able to retire and how I would still be working at 95. He wrote me a "tough love" e-mail back, telling me that I could certainly retire and to stop talking like that. He also said he knows me and my strength in mathematics, and that i was perfectly capable of figuring out how to do that and he wasn't going to help. I decided to put everything into figuring this out just to prove to him that he was wrong. And before too long I had a rudimentary plan that I worked on every day.

Anyway, I figured that people retire at 65-66 so I planned to retire at 62 to give me a cushion in case things got delayed. When I considered what a turkey my supervisor was, I decided my earliest date of retirement eligibility (at age 61.5) would be an even better goal and tentatively revised my plan.

My early decisions I would now categorize as Really Stupid, but I learned as time went on. For example, by the summer of 2000 my car was awful and causing enough delays to endanger my job, and my credit was worse than terrible so I bought a new car using money from the retirement account that I had had at my prior job. I got better at these things as I read and learned more.

There were obstacles along the way such as Hurricane Katrina but by that time I wasn't about to give up.
"You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." - - - C. Columbus
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Old 02-07-2010, 03:02 PM   #27
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I was 14 and peddling my newspaper bike through 6" of snow.

It took me another 40 years, but I did it.
Yes, I have achieved work / life balance.
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Old 02-07-2010, 03:16 PM   #28
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I worked for the local government, and a lot of people there were retiring at 55 or 60. When I realized those bennies were no longer offered to younger people like me, I decided to figure out a way to do it on my own.

It helped hugely when DH joined the workforce, so we started to have some money to invest. Before then we weren't living paycheck to paycheck, but we didn't have too much left over either on my meager salary. Serious saving started when I was 27.

I am still not sure when we will actually reach FIRE. Still a long way to go and many things could change. But I know it will be in our 50s at the latest, and that is OK with me. Just knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel alone is a source of strength.

It really does feel like a big secret. I think it's because it's such a taboo to talk about money. People are working 10+ more years than they need to -- if they only learned to save and envision FIRE.
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Old 02-07-2010, 03:17 PM   #29
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I was 26. DW and I had just bought a condo, were putting away excess money every month and I sort of thought "is this it?". Work all day, watch TV at night after dinner, and get a taste of freedom on weekends and vacations did not seem that fulfilling. I knew no examples of anything better, since dad worked until 70 (self employed) and my FIL remains firmly wedded to the Protestant work ethic. But then I ran across John Greaney's site one day and fireworks went off. I consider myself forever indebted to him for the inspiration.

It reamins unclear when I will get there, courtesy of two market collapses in my relatively short working life. If I do not go postal, I could retire for sure from my current job at age 50. Very much hoping it is sooner, but I am the breadwinner and we have two kids.
"Neither my companion or I carry firearms on our persons. We depend on the goodwill of our fellow man and the forbearance of reptiles."

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Old 02-07-2010, 09:14 PM   #30
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In 1975 my dad retired from the Navy... One of things he said that I remember was "why would I want to stay in and work for half pay?" I was 12 at the time. My Dad left the service and was accepted into one of the early Physician Assistant programs and became a PA and retired for the second time about 10 years ago.
"The four most dangerous words in investing are 'This time it's different.'" - Sir John Templeton
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Old 02-07-2010, 10:18 PM   #31
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I knew I wanted to retire early back around 2002 (I was 37) when I read Cashing in on the American Dream, YMOYL and others, like many here. I was also dealing with a crappy boss at the time and wanted not to ever again have to put up with the b.s. and not have f*** you money. So I decided to forget about my silly ideas of what work I thought would make me happy and go for what paid the most - which oddly enough, gave the most freedom and fun work too. At the same time, I kept my expenses at or lower where they were when I was just breaking even. I job hopped around for the last 7 years, not consciously looking, but having opportunities come my way - which brought a bigger paycheque every time.

I knew I could do it after I hit an amount saved that I knew would give me a SWR of around 3-4%. And I had a strong desire to be fully retired before 45, which I will be. Another factor that lessens my worry a bit, although I'm not counting on it in my projections at all (and it's kind of embarrassing), is that, like Meadhb, I'll likely be the beneficiary of an inheritance at some point in the next 10 years. Hopefully longer, but there aren't a whole lot of centenarians out there. Very fortunate to be Canadian in that respect and therefore not subject to inheritance taxes.
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Don’t struggle so much, the best things happen when not expected. — Gabriel García Márquez
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Old 02-08-2010, 02:20 AM   #32
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Hmm - understanding savings came to me when I was about to leave the service for graduate school - I wanted to be able to pay cash the first year's tuition at a top school. Amazed me and my then husband at how much we'd been wasting even on our meager 2Lt salaries in southern CA (very expensive place to live). Flash forward, knew to pre-pay the mortgage on my first house, so had a pretty good profit for next house - also read You can Retire at 35 by Terhorst - also, Tightwad Gazette, Your Money or Your Life.....still am not there, but wow, amazing how financial security in general can help you and your attitude. Issue is mental one with current husband and I - need to get over the "what will you do between 1300-1600 everyday?" Yes, I know it will eventually fall into place (hopefully I don't get sucked up into trying to combat the local rock crusher from crushing rocks next door and 'jarring' my life!) I see us retired in 5-6 years.

All in all it's actually been an great ride - doing things frugally is an intellectual and creative challenge - or just doing without as a mental and 'willpower' challenge. We truly need very little - it's managing the wants that makes early retirement possible.
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Old 02-08-2010, 04:43 AM   #33
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I was 32 and had just changed jobs, thinking it would improve my career and overall happiness. When I realized that the job wasn't so much the problem, but being in megacorp in general was making me miserable, I started planning for ER. I thought it would take about 10-12 years; it actually took about 15 years. I left megacorp at age 47. Some would say I'm not really retired, since I teach a few classes every week now, but I'm out of megacorp and working less than 10 hours a week so I've gotten where I wanted to be (for now).

It was after this turning point in my life that I started reading a lot of books like Your Money or Your Life, which helped me along the way.
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Old 02-08-2010, 05:24 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by tgotch View Post
Which brings me to my question, when/how did you find out/know you could retire early?
Originally Posted by tgotch View Post
Maybe I phrased my question wrong.
What I meant to say was, when did you start thinking (or planning) about early retirement. Did something "click" in your head (like it did for me with a colleague living it), or was it something else?
In college I affirmed many times that I was wasting money, so I got better at cutting expenses and discovered that I enjoyed the frugality game. The submarine lifestyle is perhaps a degree of deprivation frugality that would cause prison riots, but once you're accustomed to that standard of living then it's very easy to pile up the savings. The Navy also makes it easy for you to spend so much time at work that you don't have a lot of free time to spend money.

My (also working) spouse and I kept saving a large percentage of our combined income (usually over 50%, as high as 80% during deployments) until we bought a house. Even after that we kept trying to bank one income or at least save all of our pay raises. Retirement planning was pretty primitive in the 1980s but the world's biggest bull market helped paper over the cracks.

In my later 30s, about five years before retirement, I became aware of the military's transition-planning materials and software. Extensive use of these resources showed that all of my mid-level nuclear-engineering skills and training-command experience would be extremely useful to me as... a mid-level nuclear engineering manager or a teacher. Maybe both!

At that point I heard a loud "CLICK", and that's when I knew I needed a better plan. I read Dominguez' "Your Money Or Your Life". From there I moved on to the Terhorst's book. A year or so later I was kvetching to my Dad about the Navy's transition process, he said "Why would you want to work after you retire? Didn't you save enough money?" and I knew that ER was my new avocation.

Around 2000, a couple years before my Navy retirement, we were pretty sure that we had it all lined up. We kept checking the math as the markets declined. When the markets re-opened after 9/11, we ran the calculations again with our "new" ER portfolio and figured that we'd just survived the worst case. That's when we knew we could ER.

Everyone has their own indicator. Dory36, founder of this board, used to say that you went through your working days with a bucket in each hand-- one for collecting the assets you'd need to achieve FI and the other for collecting the BS you had to deal with on the job. When your FI bucket finally filled up then your BS bucket tended to overflow much more quickly.

The book written on, "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement", on sale now! For more info see "About Me" in my profile.
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Old 02-08-2010, 06:39 AM   #35
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I knew about 10 years ago - when I was around 45. I knew I had to put together a financial plan - which I did. I didn't put together a rock solid work exit strategy. As part owner of a company, I found that it is not as simple as announcing your retirement and walking out the door. Part time work seems to have temporarily fixed this problem.

Books, online research (this forum), friends and relatives have been a great info source for the transition to full retirement. After 2 years of working part time, I'm ready to work less part time and devote all my time to just goofing around.
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Old 02-08-2010, 08:12 AM   #36
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Boy, was I late to this party.

The very concept of ER didn't enter my brain until this past July. I had just married a wonderful woman, and we had decided to blend our financial assets together. Separately, our individual finances were solid if unspectacular - I brought more liquid cash to the table and some nice recreational property, while she owned some Vancouver real estate which had doubled in value in 5 years. When we looked at our combined resources, it was a revelation to us... if we pay off our mortgage before we hit 40 (two years from now), save at the pace we are now, at age 45 we should have some ER possibilities open to us. We have decent shot at hitting 1 mill in networth at 40 years old - something absolutely inconceivable to me just a few years ago.

I would say I am more obsessed with this than she is, but then again, she likes her job much more than I like mine.
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Old 02-08-2010, 10:30 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I read Dominguez' "Your Money Or Your Life". From there I moved on to the Terhorst's book.
It was the same two books that caused my transformation. I wonder how much they've shaved from the US GDP since they came out?
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Old 02-08-2010, 11:49 AM   #38
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Suddenly I found myself -like all workers older than 52- forcefully early retired with a nice compensation and compensation..... I really only had a month or so to assimilate what was going to happen when got laid off....
I get by with a little help from my friends....ta ta ta ta ta...
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Old 02-08-2010, 11:57 AM   #39
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26 or 27 or about 1 year into my first job. I was re-orged out of a job after about 6 month into my first job in California, and I spent the next 6 months knocking on doors both inside and outside the company for the next job. Right there and then, I knew that I wanted to steer my own ship instead of being blown around by the vagary of some big bosse's political moves. My second job in Colorado saw me work with with an insane woman who happened to be a Michigan alumna. Yeah, so much for the theory that your fellow alumni are your best network! Those two events pretty much solidified my goal for FI. Besides, I always have been a hard worker and good saver, so saving money was never a problem.
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Old 02-08-2010, 12:45 PM   #40
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In 2000, age 30, I stumbled across Greaney's site and forum while trying to fix my finances after realizing that the more money I made, the less I had left over. It had simply never occurred to me before.

Almost 10 years later I am headed in the right direction, but think I'll be lucky to retire by 55. Then again, that's about 15 years away. A lot can happen.

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