For years I had wanted to start a blog. More specifically, a blog in the personal finance field. I was frustrated seeing so many coworkers and friends going into debt at a young age, spending money they didn’t have to impress people they didn’t even know.
Then in 2011, I realized our family was going down the same path. Though we had a modest mortgage, we had two car payments, $50,000 in student loans, and had just agreed to buy a lake house with family (including the boat and wave runner). The hole we were digging was getting deeper and deeper.
When starting this blog in late 2017, FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) was never the goal. The plan was to document our journey (or pilgrimage) to financial independence and hopefully help others. We had already made great progress by 2017 and were in the final stages of paying off the mortgage. The blog ended up holding us accountable during the final stretch.
When Can I Retire from Corporate Life?
I like working. In fact, I will probably be one of those people that work in some capacity until the day I die. Working gives me purpose and meaning, and thankfully I have worked for an organization for 13 years that has provided this to me.
At the same time, even within a great organization, I had a terrible year that almost led me to quit and find other employment. Thankfully, I stuck it out and was able to transfer out of that area, but I was pretty miserable for a while. I wouldn’t say I liked going to work, carried stress home with me, and had trouble sleeping at night.
It was a reminder that even at a great organization, things could change on a dime with factors completely outside of my control. So, this pursuit of financial independence was never about retiring early; it was about having options. Options to quit a bad job or a bad boss without losing the home my family lives in. Options to maybe someday take a lower-paying job that may also come with lowered stress levels. And most importantly, options to ensure that I have the flexibility to spend plenty of time with my family no matter my work situation.
Even though my official retirement date will most likely be on my death bed, it seems like a good time to consider a retirement date from corporate life.
Who knows what the game plan will look like after that. It could include financial coaching, driving for Uber, coaching a high school or college baseball team, investing in real estate, or whatever opportunity.
The thing is, I don’t want to have the pressure of doing any of these things while having to worry about making a living from them. If I get paid, great, but with a family, I have a responsibility to take care of myself and them. So I will not put myself first above what is best for them. What is best for them and me is to continue doing what I’m doing for the foreseeable future.
With all that being said, I’m approaching 40, and the time has come to start thinking about a retirement date. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I have to retire at that date, but it is something to work towards.
Is Retiring at Age 55 Early Retirement?
For me, that magic date is 55 years old.
If that doesn’t sound like an early retirement date, Twitter thinks otherwise, and we all know that Twitter polls are an absolute fact. 🙂
There are a few reasons why this date makes sense.
- Kids Will Be Out of High School: My wife and I often fantasize about being snowbirds during the cold winter months. We love living in St. Louis most of the time. Spring and fall are beautiful around here. Summer means heat and humidity, but we spend a lot of time near water, so it doesn’t bother us. The initial cold around Thanksgiving and leading into Christmas makes the holidays feel like the holidays. But January through about mid-March is awful. It’s cold, the days are short, and there’s nothing to do. We can’t just pack up and move to Florida for three months while the kids are in school. But once they are out of school and hopefully off to college somewhere? You better believe we’ll be out of here.
- Health Insurance: Nobody works for the same organization for 30 years and then retires in this day and age, right? I would love to if it were up to me, assuming I don’t get stuck with a terrible boss or anything along the way. If I can survive the next 16 and a half years, I can get health insurance benefits for life. I understand it because we would have to pay the same amount as an employee, so it’s not free, but excellent insurance at a deep discount. Unfortunately, having good health insurance can be hard to come by in the US if retiring before Medicare kicks in.
- We Should Have Enough Money: One surprise after going through this thought exercise was finding out that we are Coast FI. Coast FI is when you have enough saved up to where projected compounding will result in becoming financially independent at some point in the future. Now, this is heavily reliant on future stock market growth. If the stock market takes a huge long-term dive or becomes stagnant, these numbers would look much different. At the same time, it’s encouraging to know that even with a relatively average growth rate of 7%, we would be comfortably FI by 62 and would have nearly enough at 55 years old to where just a little extra income could hold us over. Keep in mind this means never investing another dime when the reality is that I have 15+ years to continue investing, which will make retirement at 55 comfortable.
In Summary: When Can I Retire?
Combining these three factors seems to make sense to retire at age 55. In addition, my wife, who is a middle school teacher, would likely be able to retire around the same age. She has six years of retirement built up as a teacher and will likely be returning to work in a couple of years when our youngest is in kindergarten.
With all this being said, one of my other sayings is that humans are notoriously bad at predicting what we want to do in five years or more. This is one of the reasons why up until this point, I’ve put almost zero thought into a retirement date. Regardless, it’s good to have some plan, even if that changes. So when can I retire? Who knows, honestly.
Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.
I could have retired at 55, or younger but was having fun in my job. I did retire at sixty because I had so much invested that it felt insane to spend that much time making money I wouldn’t possibly ever spend. There was also personal liability associated with my job that could put my family’s future at risk, so I left. I had always expected to work until 70ish. But being super fat FI can change your attitude. I do still dabble at consulting, which satisfies my need to work, but only a few hours a week. I think your thinking about it now is smart, because the whole thing slipped up on me.
It’s always great to have options. Hopefully I’m having so much fun working at 55 that I want to keep going. I guess we’ll see! Congrats on your success!
Mr. 39 Months says
Good article. I like how you lay out FI and “Coast FI.” I think a lot of folks are like you and I, where we want to work and stay busy, even if we’ve hit our FI number. I think we are at the “coast FI” point (I”m 56) but still working. My job got bad a year ago, but I worked through it, and now its OK. I could be let go tomorrow and it wouldn’t kill me.
One of the reasons to pursue FI, as you say.
No doubt. Work is much more fun when you’re not worried about a lay-off crushing you. Awesome that you have options!
Gwen @ Fiery Millennials says
Lots of interesting points for you to consider with all the benefits and timing with the family. That health insurance and pension sounds amazing! Got any openings on your team?
Well, for someone like you we just might. 🙂
Denver Nario says
I’m in a situation that I’m always stressed out on my work lately. Trying hard to still go to work and still trying harder to produce outputs during working hours. So I kinda relate with your story. My boss is great. My colleagues are also great. But the work load is stressful. I love the nature of my work but at some point, there comes a time that you are going to be burned out. Currently, I am sticking with it and looking for ways to be happy at work because this is my bread and butter.
Hopefully you will be able to push through it. I was in a tough spot a few years ago. Had a good boss, great colleagues and worked for a good organization, but the workload and a few toxic clients made it tough. I was getting really burned out and was stressed a lot. I’m glad I hung on though because I’ve been in a really good spot the last few years. Hang in there, but also don’t be afraid to find something different if it gets to be too much. Thanks for stopping by!
Reading your retirement health care options has me feeling like the Spiderman meme when looking at my company. I work for a pretty large St Louis employer. Best thing about FI has been spreading knowledge to my younger co-workers.
It’s like rolling a snowball down the hill and theirs are all getting big already.
Always good to hear from a fellow St. Louisian! That’s awesome that you have been spreading FI knowledge with your younger co-workers. It’s great when the FI message click with people. And nothing replaces the ability to get started young. Time + compounding = magic