Bylaw 1.7(a)(4-3) of this blog’s charter states… ‘A topical post relevant to retirement must be published at least three times a year.
What, this again?!
With all that the pandemic has tossed at us this year, I fully admit to ignoring the above blog obligation. I had hoped that it would somehow get lost in the hubbub of mask wearing, social distancing, and trying to look hip as I say the name “AstraZeneca” in front of others.
Unfortunately, those bean counters at the ‘Snakes home office sent me a reminder earlier this week that I’m overdue for this update. Just as I was about to cross over that December finish line too. Persnickety creeps.
The lesson I take from this keeps coming back: one never really gets away from management, even the ones I invent for literary purposes. Our previous bosses, whether they even realize it, manage to find a way to remain in our various states of awareness. I know this because I still have dreams in which I’ve overspent my procurement budget.
So on that somewhat ethereal note, I am duty-bound to offer an update on this retirement journey of mine. Since the six of you out there have been spared from this all year, I caution you that we will not tolerate any whining or griping. Just take your medicine and know that that regular programing is just around the corner and will be presented in time for the holidays.
Welcome to my six year retirement celebration party! Although a few months late (it was actually August) I now formally make a classification change of early retirement to simply retirement. The distinction, as I’ll explain a little further below, has to do both with age and an important financial milestone taking place early next year.
But I still celebrate now. Why? Because in spite of sweating through the previous four years of nervously watching an orange-shaded dude who seemed determined to chip away at earned entitlements, we made it through financially unscathed and without having to touch any of our retirement savings. 1
According to the Society of Actuaries, while most pre-retirees expect to work to age 65, the average retirement age remains at about age 60 (AARP Bulletin, Nov. 2020, p. 14). I retired at age 55, but I did so with a luxury not offered to most Americans anymore: a monthly pension, plus a continuation of my former employer’s health insurance in which I share the expenses for it.
The pension, less the health insurance deduction, is not enough to live on by itself. This is where my diabolical plan for early retirement came into being: to depend on my lovely bride to continue to work full time and bring home the figurative bacon.
What I lack in actual finesse, I more than make up in guile.
I was not naive at the start of this journey. Many such retirement schemes fail because of overly-optimistic budget assumptions, similar to those of politicians who are desperate to curry favor with voters. Since I only have a constituency of one, albeit a crucial one, I was able to persuade my voter with reasonable income and living expense estimates. Well, I do recall a few glasses of wine that that aided in that endeavor.
Fortunately the plan worked. Between what Gorgeous earns, and what I scrape together from my part-time job, we’ve managed to live comfortably and within our means. Though the pandemic has affected her business –Gorgeous is a professional psychic; her income is down by roughly 40% this year — it’s also been a fortuitous (and slightly incongruous) period where we’ve even managed to save a few dollars because expenses are actually lower.
2020 hasn’t been a retirement dream by any stretch of the imagination, but thankfully it also hasn’t been a nightmare for us either.
I am turning 61 in a few short weeks. During a recent review with our financial advisor, we came to an understanding that I could begin distributions from my 401(k) starting next year; it comes a year earlier than I had originally planned. But with some home renovations in the offing, post-vaccine, I wanted to be a little more liquid than we have been. And who knows, by mid-to-late summer 2021 is it possible some of us might even — GASP — actually go somewhere besides the grocery store?
Some financial limits need to still stay in place. For instance, I remain obligated to make a monthly alimony payment to my ex-wife, which keeps a line item from the earlier pre-retirement forecast, certainly in our current budget, and for now at least, in future ones too. This means that the $5,000, restored, Bluetooth-enabled mid-century modern stereo console that I’ve been salivating over has to wait a few more years.
However, with the start of distributions, I can declare my early retirement period to officially be over. Any celebratory victory ends quickly, though, because there is still so much ahead to navigate. The start of both Medicare and Social Security, five years and (at least) seven years for me respectively, plus eventual distributions from Gorgeous’ retirement accounts loom in the distance.
Still, at least no one is calling my victory fake.
Until next time…
1. I did take a small one-time distribution in 2017 to add cushion to the down payment purchase of our home.