My Mom: “We just met with our financial planner and she says we can retire whenever we want.”
Me: “What??? Seriously? Are you going to do it?”
My Mom: “I think so! I’m tired of working.”
Me: “Can I interview you for my blog? This is awesome.”
My Mom: “I’d love to be famous!”
That’s how a chat went down with my mother recently 🙂 Completely out of the blue as if they’d been pondering retirement for years like we do here on this blog, haha…
But nope! She literally just found out she can retire any time she wants and then started considering it. Although it’s not very surprising as I learned almost everything I know about money from my parents – especially in frugality (I’m a lot riskier with my cash/career than they are though).
But what I love the most about this is that it shows another side to the “early retirement” game and that it’s not just for the hardcore. Yeah there are people who figured it out early and just KILLED it to be able to quit working in their 30’s (Mr. Money Mustache, Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker), but for the majority of people it’ll be a much longer path than that. And one probably closer to my parents’ than what we see in the media, or hell – even on this blog. That doesn’t mean we stop trying to hit financial independence sooner than later, just that it’s quite alright to do so in your 40s or 50s, or even early 60s, so long as you actually HIT it. No one wants to work until the end of their days!
Anyways, I called up my mom to ask her a bunch of questions on how her and my dad got to this point, and the juicy secrets are laid out below. Though spoiler alert: there are no secrets 😉
Enjoy! Parts of the interview are paraphrased so it’s easier to understand…
First, tell my audience how old you are mom (sorry, I have to ask :))
I’m a young 59! Your father is 60.
How long have you and dad been working for?
I’ve worked on and off while raising you kids mostly part-time, but for the past 16 years I’ve been working full-time for the same company. Your father has been working non-stop since he was out of college supporting our family. (J$: my father was in the military so we moved every 2-3 years growing up which I absolutely loved!)
What was the first thing that went through your head when you found out you could retire at any time?
Excitement, and peace of mind. As well as a little bit of nervousness. Because you know – you’re retiring! – it’s the end of your working career! What if something happens and you don’t have a job now? What do you do?
Our financial advisor made it really easy to accept though and asked us what’s taking us so long. She told us we could have retired a couple of years ago which gave us the confidence to do it. I wasn’t even thinking about it – my employer started offering buy outs so I thought “let me look into this” which is why we brought it up to our planner to begin with. I’m happy I did!
Was this the plan all long, or did it kinda “just happen” as time went on?
We’ve been planning for retirement our entire working lives – saving and investing as much as we could – but we didn’t think we’d retire until we’re 65 because that’s “the time” when you normally do it. And then when we found out this info, it was like, “well why keep working?” If we’re so comfortable now, why work when I can be with my family more and my grand kids, and work in my yard, and you know – not rush around and ENJOY life. You never know when it’s going to be the end.
So did you officially put in your notice, then?
I did! I wanted to give them a few months to wrap stuff up and get a new person ready, but they asked if I could stay on for an additional month until the end of November. So I said that was fine, and starting December 1st I’ll be retired for good. Your father will keep working, but we’ll see how long that lasts!
What did you do to get to this point?
(My mom just rattled these off, so figured easier to read in bullet points than one long paragraph)
- We invested in mutual funds
- We put all our pay increases into investments
- We didn’t splurge
- We led a very meager, but comfortable life
- We didn’t over do shopping, clothes, makeup, etc
- We budgeted all our family trips
- We didn’t go out to eat all the time
- We watched what we spent
- We were never really into material things
- We pretended all our extra money wasn’t there
- I didn’t buy you kids all the Nikes and Converses you wanted (J$: I remember!!! Haha…)
- We shopped sales, compared prices
- And we never put anything on a credit card we couldn’t pay off at the end of the month
Do you and dad feel like you missed out on anything while doing this? Any regrets?
No… I guess we’re pretty low maintenance. We’re lucky because we did so much when we were younger. We experienced college, we experienced traveling the world. We did so much before we got married, so when it came down to settling down and starting our family, we were ready. And then we traveled even more with the military.
I guess there is one thing though. All the houses we really wanted were always a little bit more than we can afford. We had the money for it, but we weren’t willing to make the sacrifice. We had cars to pay for, your college education, retirement, etc. So we always picked the 2nd best house. It would have been nice to splurge, but then who knows if we’d be here now.
How do you guys manage your money?
I’m the manager of the household budget and day-to-day operations, your dad is in charge of the investments. We have 1 main checking account with Navy Federal which everything funnels through, 1 main savings account for “wants” and other future expenses with $150 automatic transfers into it every month (we set it up 15 years ago to save for a new deck, and once we had enough we just kept it going!), 1 money market account for our “emergency fund” through Fidelity, and then our brokerage and retirement accounts: IRAs, 401(k)s, etc (also with Fidelity).
What’s more important: Earning more or spending less?
I think it depends on where you are in life. As long as you’re not sacrificing and being ridiculous (never eating out, afraid of spending $2.00 here or $5.00 there) then spending less is best I think. Having good money is important, but I’d rather spend less than have more so I can spend time with my family and not have to work my ass off (<- my mom cursed! She never curses!). I think too many people these days are keeping up with their neighbors and always upgrading technology and doing all this stuff that doesn’t really make you happy. It’s out of hand.
How much does it cost you and dad to live your current lifestyle?
We’ll probably spend $1,500-$1,700/month once we finish paying off the house. That will be done shortly with the proceeds from our rental property.
What will your income streams look like when you’re retired?
Your dad has a pension from the military which will cover our living expenses, and then I’ll have a partial one as well. If we want to take a large trip or an emergency comes up, we’ll start pulling from our investments. They should continue to grow in the meantime.
Where is the bulk of your money invested?
Most of our investments are in mutual funds and a few stocks here and there, but not many.
Did you guys have any financial role models growing up?
No, not really… I admired how much grandpa was able to travel growing up, so I really wanted to be able to do that. But I think deep down your dad and I are just natural savers. We lived paycheck to paycheck in those early years while having you kids and before dad started making more, so we weren’t always saving a lot. Once we hit our 30’s and started living on base we were able to ramp it up a lot more. (J$: My parents had us when they were in their early 20’s)
Are you worried about what you’re going to do with all your free time?
Nope. (Laughs) As long as you kids keep having grandbabies! I think I’ll be fine… Dad and I both want to take some free classes at the college, I have all my hobbies and my gardening and reading. I want to do a lot of traveling.
What’s the first thing you’re gonna do on your first “forever” day off?
Sleep in! And just really slow down and appreciate life… I’m always rushing around and I’m at the time of my life where I just want to sit here and enjoy it. I want to read, go somewhere leisurely and not rush. Maybe go to the pool and then read some more. I just want to relax and go in slow motion. And talk to God more too and try to be a better child of his.
Any last tips for my fine readers?
(She told me half of these over the phone, and then later emailed me some more :))
- Don’t sacrifice your family in order to have more of a career and all your “wants”
- You’ll be able to afford more later – live each stage of your life
- Be patient. People never want to save up for things – they just want it now. And they’re never satisfied.
- Be content with your things
- No secret shopping behind your partner’s back
- Be creative with your spending. You can still eat out and do fun activities but in a cheaper way.
- Spend money on your kids (classes, musical lessons) instead of on yourself all the time
- Help them with college (J$: My mom and dad had their school covered by their parents, so they in turn paid for ours, and now we’ll be carrying on the tradition as well for our kids. Which is why we already have two 529s going! :))
- Go to thrift shops or yard sales to find thing you need. Why pay store prices?
- Never make quick decisions. If possible, think about it overnight and weigh the options. Is it necessary? Is it a want or an immediately need or one that can be put off for a while?
- Compare prices to find deals, what stores will match a sale at another store, where the best deals are for snacks, etc. Use coupons!
- Always get second opinions when making an important decision regarding your health, people you need to hire to do jobs around the house, etc. Never take one quote – get at least 3 and ask others who they use for certain things.
- Do things in moderation
- Be mature with your money
So in a nutshell, spend less than you earn, bank the rest, and then let time do it’s thing. And if you can finagle yourself a pension or two, even better 🙂
What I think I liked the most about this though, is that my mom didn’t have to think too long to pull the trigger. She turned in her notice within DAYS and was ready to move on to the next stage. I don’t know if I could do that so easily. I’d always be thinking of all that extra money I could earn with just one or two more years to go, even if it didn’t increase my quality of life!
That’s what I love about my mom – she’s so content and knows what’s important in life: family. I should have documented how many times she said that word in our conversation – it means everything to her! And I hope I’m smart enough to realize when it’s my time to throw in the towel too.
But for now, gotta keep on hustling and banking that money! Those dollars aren’t going to earn themselves! 🙂
UPDATE: My mother has officially retired!! Let’s see how it goes!
PS: My mom also says to allow your parents to help you out in life. They love to do it and would rather do so when they’re alive than when they’re not! So let them pay for dinners every now and then! 🙂
[Photo of cute boy who’s not me and his mom who’s not mine by Jackel51927]