Five Years Retired: Lessons Learned

eyenitnoy

Recycles dryer sheets
Joined
Jun 8, 2006
Messages
99
Hello Everyone:

I don't post a lot but I have been around here a very long time. I am now 5 years into my post-retirement FIRE life. At this point, I wanted to share where I was off in my planning. The purpose of this is so that readers who are in the saving and accumulation stage of things can potentially learn a thing or two and make a better plan. I want to be brief. And I won't be discussing in depth my own situation, but will just give some basic background information for context.

Background: Single, never married, no kids, retired under age 59.5 and still under that age. I started my FIRE planning before FIRE was even a thing, back in the 80s when I got my first job. I put my savings in index funds, avoided any and all debt, and was always well insured. And, yes, I am frugal.

ERRORS I MADE:

1. The biggest error, by far: Thinking I could control or choose my retirement date. I see this error all the time, usually implied, in posts on this forum. I developed a medical condition that caused me to be unable to perform my job duties. I couldn't control this and there is nothing I could do about it. If there is one thing I could have every reader take away from this post, this is it.

LESSON: Never assume you can control your "retirement" date. Always understand where your FIRE plan puts you if you have to stop working right now.

My FIRE plan really saved me. While I wasn't at the point I wanted to be, it turns out it was good enough and I didn't have to take some minimum wage type job to survive.

2. Disability: I had purchased private disability insurance. It wasn't cheap. I also counted on social security disability to kick in should something terrible happen. What unfolded, without giving details or wanting to get sidetracked in further discussions in this thread (it's not a social security disability thread) is that I was denied social security disability and my private policy, while it *did* pay out money was insufficient to replace in a major way my lost income. There were lots of limitations in the policy fine print.

LESSON: Buy the best disability insurance you can, but never assume it will be enough and never assume you will actually qualify for social security disability, even if you can't work your job. Be ready to live off your FIRE plan.

3. Expenses: I underestimated what I would spend, out of pocket, on medical expenses as well as underestimating my insurance costs. I purchased Obamacare insurance, getting about a 50% premium reduction via subsidies. But I nonetheless paid out of pocket thousands of dollars for various surgeries, eyeglasses, dental care, and hearing aids. In terms of insurance, in addition to Obamacare, I pay: Home, general umbrella liability, life insurance (term), and auto insurance. These add up to more than I expected or planned for.

LESSON: Be very careful when projecting medical expenses, and other insurance expenses. They easily can break your budget.

4. The 4% "rule." I spent countless hours, pre-retirement, planning, projecting, and otherwise thinking about how I was going to draw down my nest egg. So, what did I actually do it once retired? I spent what I wanted or needed to spend on the things I wanted or needed to buy.

LESSON: If you are a FIRE planner, you're probably already frugal. Trust yourself to do the right thing when the time comes. Go ahead and think about how you are going to spend your money if you want, but honestly, you'll probably just end up doing what I did. My "needs" spending is not flexible and my "wants" spending is modest, just like yours.

Summary: FIRE worked for me, but not at all how I expected. I remember well the dreams I had decades back of retiring to a beach in the tropics, toes in the sand and pina colada in hand. Well, that didn't happen. But what did happen was, when the unexpected occurred (i.e. life), FIRE allowed me to be prepared and turn what unprepared would have been a disaster into a comfortable, retired lifestyle. It allowed me to play the cards of life I was dealt in the best way possible.

I'm enjoying every day, I live well, and I focus on the good times ahead. And...I'm not stuck working some low pay job just in order to get by. FIRE works.

Good Luck with your planning.
 
Thank you for this. Sometimes we pre-Firee's get lost in the weeds of
firecalc/4%/etc etc.

What retirement might look like if forced to start today is an
interesting thought experiment.

PWF
 
Great post. Lots of things to think about.

Especially retirement date. I know several people who did not get to choose.

Either illness or the mistaken belief that they their employer could not replace them or that their employer was very 'loyal' to long term employees.

The reality is that spending hours on every spreadsheet imaginable, income and expense, and as above, fussing over that questionable 4% so called rule is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to retirement.
 
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Thank you for this. Sometimes we pre-Firee's get lost in the weeds of firecalc/4%/etc etc.
FIRECALC and the SWR 4% rule are meant to be axes at best, not scalpels. And not guarantees, just past history of 30 year or whatever you choose results.

And even though some of us will get to choose our retirement date, it's certainly wise to be prepared to retire earlier or later for a variety of reasons. We've all heard stories of people who had to retire earlier, or later than planned.
 
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Hello Everyone:

I don't post a lot but I have been around here a very long time. I am now 5 years into my post-retirement FIRE life. At this point, I wanted to share where I was off in my planning. The purpose of this is so that readers who are in the saving and accumulation stage of things can potentially learn a thing or two and make a better plan. I want to be brief. And I won't be discussing in depth my own situation, but will just give some basic background information for context.

Background: Single, never married, no kids, retired under age 59.5 and still under that age. I started my FIRE planning before FIRE was even a thing, back in the 80s when I got my first job. I put my savings in index funds, avoided any and all debt, and was always well insured. And, yes, I am frugal.

ERRORS I MADE:

1. The biggest error, by far: Thinking I could control or choose my retirement date. I see this error all the time, usually implied, in posts on this forum. I developed a medical condition that caused me to be unable to perform my job duties. I couldn't control this and there is nothing I could do about it. If there is one thing I could have every reader take away from this post, this is it.

LESSON: Never assume you can control your "retirement" date. Always understand where your FIRE plan puts you if you have to stop working right now.

My FIRE plan really saved me. While I wasn't at the point I wanted to be, it turns out it was good enough and I didn't have to take some minimum wage type job to survive.

2. Disability: I had purchased private disability insurance. It wasn't cheap. I also counted on social security disability to kick in should something terrible happen. What unfolded, without giving details or wanting to get sidetracked in further discussions in this thread (it's not a social security disability thread) is that I was denied social security disability and my private policy, while it *did* pay out money was insufficient to replace in a major way my lost income. There were lots of limitations in the policy fine print.

LESSON: Buy the best disability insurance you can, but never assume it will be enough and never assume you will actually qualify for social security disability, even if you can't work your job. Be ready to live off your FIRE plan.

3. Expenses: I underestimated what I would spend, out of pocket, on medical expenses as well as underestimating my insurance costs. I purchased Obamacare insurance, getting about a 50% premium reduction via subsidies. But I nonetheless paid out of pocket thousands of dollars for various surgeries, eyeglasses, dental care, and hearing aids. In terms of insurance, in addition to Obamacare, I pay: Home, general umbrella liability, life insurance (term), and auto insurance. These add up to more than I expected or planned for.

LESSON: Be very careful when projecting medical expenses, and other insurance expenses. They easily can break your budget.

4. The 4% "rule." I spent countless hours, pre-retirement, planning, projecting, and otherwise thinking about how I was going to draw down my nest egg. So, what did I actually do it once retired? I spent what I wanted or needed to spend on the things I wanted or needed to buy.

LESSON: If you are a FIRE planner, you're probably already frugal. Trust yourself to do the right thing when the time comes. Go ahead and think about how you are going to spend your money if you want, but honestly, you'll probably just end up doing what I did. My "needs" spending is not flexible and my "wants" spending is modest, just like yours.

Summary: FIRE worked for me, but not at all how I expected. I remember well the dreams I had decades back of retiring to a beach in the tropics, toes in the sand and pina colada in hand. Well, that didn't happen. But what did happen was, when the unexpected occurred (i.e. life), FIRE allowed me to be prepared and turn what unprepared would have been a disaster into a comfortable, retired lifestyle. It allowed me to play the cards of life I was dealt in the best way possible.

I'm enjoying every day, I live well, and I focus on the good times ahead. And...I'm not stuck working some low pay job just in order to get by. FIRE works.

Good Luck with your planning.
Good post, but scared me a little for your current situation-the last bit was a relief (I'm enjoying every day....).
 
Thanks for taking the time to post this. Some good nuggets in there for those of use still in the accumulation phase. Sorry to hear about your health problems. I keep having to remind my DH that we need a large medical expenses cushion in retirement. (he never worries about anything, which is good for his health but not so much for mine ha!)
 
Hello Everyone:

I don't post a lot but I have been around here a very long time. I am now 5 years into my post-retirement FIRE life. At this point, I wanted to share where I was off in my planning. The purpose of this is so that readers who are in the saving and accumulation stage of things can potentially learn a thing or two and make a better plan. I want to be brief. And I won't be discussing in depth my own situation, but will just give some basic background information for context.

Background: Single, never married, no kids, retired under age 59.5 and still under that age. I started my FIRE planning before FIRE was even a thing, back in the 80s when I got my first job. I put my savings in index funds, avoided any and all debt, and was always well insured. And, yes, I am frugal.

ERRORS I MADE:

1. The biggest error, by far: Thinking I could control or choose my retirement date. I see this error all the time, usually implied, in posts on this forum. I developed a medical condition that caused me to be unable to perform my job duties. I couldn't control this and there is nothing I could do about it. If there is one thing I could have every reader take away from this post, this is it.

LESSON: Never assume you can control your "retirement" date. Always understand where your FIRE plan puts you if you have to stop working right now.

My FIRE plan really saved me. While I wasn't at the point I wanted to be, it turns out it was good enough and I didn't have to take some minimum wage type job to survive.

2. Disability: I had purchased private disability insurance. It wasn't cheap. I also counted on social security disability to kick in should something terrible happen. What unfolded, without giving details or wanting to get sidetracked in further discussions in this thread (it's not a social security disability thread) is that I was denied social security disability and my private policy, while it *did* pay out money was insufficient to replace in a major way my lost income. There were lots of limitations in the policy fine print.

LESSON: Buy the best disability insurance you can, but never assume it will be enough and never assume you will actually qualify for social security disability, even if you can't work your job. Be ready to live off your FIRE plan.

3. Expenses: I underestimated what I would spend, out of pocket, on medical expenses as well as underestimating my insurance costs. I purchased Obamacare insurance, getting about a 50% premium reduction via subsidies. But I nonetheless paid out of pocket thousands of dollars for various surgeries, eyeglasses, dental care, and hearing aids. In terms of insurance, in addition to Obamacare, I pay: Home, general umbrella liability, life insurance (term), and auto insurance. These add up to more than I expected or planned for.

LESSON: Be very careful when projecting medical expenses, and other insurance expenses. They easily can break your budget.

4. The 4% "rule." I spent countless hours, pre-retirement, planning, projecting, and otherwise thinking about how I was going to draw down my nest egg. So, what did I actually do it once retired? I spent what I wanted or needed to spend on the things I wanted or needed to buy.

LESSON: If you are a FIRE planner, you're probably already frugal. Trust yourself to do the right thing when the time comes. Go ahead and think about how you are going to spend your money if you want, but honestly, you'll probably just end up doing what I did. My "needs" spending is not flexible and my "wants" spending is modest, just like yours.

Summary: FIRE worked for me, but not at all how I expected. I remember well the dreams I had decades back of retiring to a beach in the tropics, toes in the sand and pina colada in hand. Well, that didn't happen. But what did happen was, when the unexpected occurred (i.e. life), FIRE allowed me to be prepared and turn what unprepared would have been a disaster into a comfortable, retired lifestyle. It allowed me to play the cards of life I was dealt in the best way possible.

I'm enjoying every day, I live well, and I focus on the good times ahead. And...I'm not stuck working some low pay job just in order to get by. FIRE works.

Good Luck with your planning.

I hope you get at least some days on the beach with the Pina Colada.
 
Summary: FIRE worked for me, but not at all how I expected. I remember well the dreams I had decades back of retiring to a beach in the tropics, toes in the sand and pina colada in hand. Well, that didn't happen. But what did happen was, when the unexpected occurred (i.e. life), FIRE allowed me to be prepared and turn what unprepared would have been a disaster into a comfortable, retired lifestyle. It allowed me to play the cards of life I was dealt in the best way possible.

I'm enjoying every day, I live well, and I focus on the good times ahead. And...I'm not stuck working some low pay job just in order to get by. FIRE works.

Good Luck with your planning.

Thanks for the information sharing. I agree that FIRE preparation starts early, as you pointed out the decision is not always based on your best timing or circumstances. Hopefully your medical issues still allow for a long and happy retirement. Your positive attitude shows through.
 
I see a lot of posts on Boglehead where the poster has a narrow view on medical expenses and only talks about insurance ( and maybe OOP insurable costs) but completely misses potential risk of uninsurable costs. There are some blockbuster drugs that are not covered by Part D that can set one back some significant coin.
 
I guess I was lucky. All along I had planned to retire on the federal government's "MRA+10" schedule (minimum retirement age plus 10 years' service), which would have had me retire on November 7th, 2009. This was the earliest possible day for me to retire with retirement benefits. I discovered a few months beforehand that this was a Saturday, and was concerned about that, so I changed it to Monday, November 9th just to be careful to make sure I had worked the full 10 years. Otherwise, no problems with the date.

As for spending, I spent a few years living on my projected retirement spending while I was still working, just to see if it was reasonable. It was. No problems. After I retired, I realized that most of the time I really didn't need 4% or any % because I had my mini-pension, TSP MRA, and social security to cover my expenses. So, I don't withdraw anything unless some "bumpy expense" comes up (like getting both a new roof and new water heater last year).

All in all, everything worked out as planned (probably due to sheer dumb luck).

Oh, and the other thing that wasn't a problem? I didn't retire TO anything, despite reading over and over and over (and over and over) that I simply must. Well, maybe you could say I retired to a life of leisure and doing whatever I feel like? But that's about it. It's just like a super long weekend to me. I probably have the happiest retirement of anybody here and I thoroughly recommend retirement to anyone who can swing it. :D
 
Retirement date choosing...

We had a guy at work - Quasi State organization




We all took walks around the block on breaks.
"Bob" had started in 1959 and this was 1991, so he at "the" point of retiring. SO THAT was frequently the topic on our walks. He was always "one more quarter" will get me $X more pension + I can defer $XX more income.


One day he had a MASSIVE heart attack. Ended up with a transplant & a COMPLETELY different retirement than he planned.


The lesson for ME was - Don't stay ONE SINGLE DAY longer than you have to.


I was deferring pretty heavy the last 5-10 years (Max both 457 AND 401(k) plans.


Once i realized that my retirement net cash income [No more DEFERRING income & No more 7.65% to SS] was CLOSE enough to my pre-retirement cash flow... I was GONE.
 
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Great insight.

One of my hobbies is amateur (ham) radio. Due to working full-time my time on air has been non-existent (my choice) but I miss it. I have an antenna tower in the backyard that has not been setup, I have a nice hexbeam antenna still in the box, although I painted it before I got busy and I'm chomping at the bit to get back on the air at all times of the day and night and not be restricted by a work schedule. I've started planning setting up the tower (I invested BTD money on this), rotator, mast and beam and getting it done just requires a lot of time, something I don't have much of now. All of this equipment costs $1000's of BTD money and it has been sitting idle in the shed and garage.

So, I will have something to retire to and it is motivating me to cut myself off. Unfortunately, it is so difficult to walk away from my current role. I have multiple projects around the house to work on, too. Ham radio, though, is going to be my savior in old age. As long as I have brain function I can get on the air, even without physical mobility so it is a really good "grow old with" hobby.

Thanks again, for the insight.
 
Good post. I had a similar experience in retiring before I expected due to disability. I had long term disability through my employer, but didn't realize that it was capped at a payout of four years and even with that it had a fixed maximum. Fortunately I sailed through the Social Security Disability process and could count on medicare insurance early.

I also found that I spent what I wanted/needed whenever I wanted, but this amount was far less than I envisioned. I too thought I would live overseas on the beach somewhere, but that never happened. After eight years I still haven't withdrawn any money from my retirement accounts.

The biggest surprise for me, though, is that I do not miss working at all and enjoy being retired much more than I thought I would. I do feel, however, that I could have retired earlier, had plenty of money and would have been able to enjoy a couple of healthy years.
 
Thanks for the insights from your experience. I'm sure it will be very useful to many of our younger folks still waiting to FIRE. Best luck with your retirement. Check back often.
 
As I see it there are three areas to consider:
The first is money...are you financially able
The second is health...are you physically able to do what you want to do
The third is more tricky and I'll just call it "Life".

Life can get in the way of your retirement plans. Family issues mainly. In retirement we had planned to spend two months each summer on the Amalfi Coast. Unfortunately, "life" intervened and, short story, a family issue surfaced that now prevents us from travelling more than a week or so at a time.

We know quite a few people who's retirement plans were scuttled by a seriously I'll grandchild, a daughter needing more attention than planned, or a parent suddenly needing real-time help etc.

For us, we had already traveled the world extensively, lived in Europe, Japan and Asia and in a way were a bit travel weary so we substituted Amalfi for two new luxury cars every three years and installed a pool. World events also make staying home now a bit more comfortable as well.

No regrets, but, still, sometimes things don't go as planned. The moral: do it ASAP.
 
When I first ER'd about 3 years ago, I was a Type A person. I had goals, and felt like I needed to accomplish something every day. I volunteered, but driving to the office, picking up a field vehicle, driving to a remote site over a rock road, and setting up barricades felt a lot like w$rk. So even though the site had amazing views, I gave it up! Now, I do feel better if I accomplish something (like staining a wood working project or fixing a sprinkler head), but many days I don't really accomplish much. [Going grocery shopping now counts as an accomplishment]. Health issues have kept me from diving as much as I'd planned, and I do miss it.
 
This post hits home. My knee issues and medical expenses were ugly last year and I don't see an end in sight. Indeed, my left knee replacement has me WORSE off than before at 5+ months in. Best laid plans and all...
In some ways, I wish I had kept working (which was from home), as at least I would be earning income while I am sitting around. We'll see how it all plays out this year. Trying to trust in the Lord!
 
Interesting you mention fixing a sprinkler head. I find these tasks, albeit mundane, to be significant accomplishments in my to-do list. Tasks like this require knowledge, technique, tools, parts, preparation and thought to execute on. For me, this is a project, not a task because if you do it wrong the results could be really bad but if you do it right you can derive satisfaction from getting it done and done right.

I have this project I'm working on now, setting up a catch basin for a drain pipe that will hopefully work to mitigate some local flooding in our side yard. I do believe I've over-engineered this task but once I'm done I feel it will look like a real professional did it. I'm installing a sump pump and going to have it automatically pump excess run-off to the front yard and into the lawn area where the excess water can percolate down to the groundwater. I've done quite a bit of research on this and when I'm done it will feel like a nice achievement.

No permit due to my laziness but I can always pull the pump out if we ever sell the house which we don't plan to.

When I first ER'd about 3 years ago, I was a Type A person. I had goals, and felt like I needed to accomplish something every day. I volunteered, but driving to the office, picking up a field vehicle, driving to a remote site over a rock road, and setting up barricades felt a lot like w$rk. So even though the site had amazing views, I gave it up! Now, I do feel better if I accomplish something (like staining a wood working project or fixing a sprinkler head), but many days I don't really accomplish much. [Going grocery shopping now counts as an accomplishment]. Health issues have kept me from diving as much as I'd planned, and I do miss it.
 
He was always "one more quarter" will get me $X more pension + I can defer $XX more income.

One day he had a MASSIVE heart attack. Ended up with a transplant & a COMPLETELY different retirement than he planned.

The lesson for ME was - Don't stay ONE SINGLE DAY longer than you have to.


So true. During my time at MegaCorp I had 4 co-workers die of cancer. None of them made it to retirement. I feel fortunate and often think about my co-workers that didn't make it.
 
As I see it there are three areas to consider:
The first is money...are you financially able
The second is health...are you physically able to do what you want to do
The third is more tricky and I'll just call it "Life".

Life can get in the way of your retirement plans. Family issues mainly. In retirement we had planned to spend two months each summer on the Amalfi Coast. Unfortunately, "life" intervened and, short story, a family issue surfaced that now prevents us from travelling more than a week or so at a time.

We know quite a few people who's retirement plans were scuttled by a seriously I'll grandchild, a daughter needing more attention than planned, or a parent suddenly needing real-time help etc.

For us, we had already traveled the world extensively, lived in Europe, Japan and Asia and in a way were a bit travel weary so we substituted Amalfi for two new luxury cars every three years and installed a pool. World events also make staying home now a bit more comfortable as well.

No regrets, but, still, sometimes things don't go as planned. The moral: do it ASAP.


Good summary and examples. Also, good conclusion.
 
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