Biggest Indicator Of A Successful Retirement: Your Lifestyle

One of the first things I learned from early retirees was as long as they remained frugal and practically gave up spending money foolishly, they could remain retired. But what kind of retirement do they have? They travel but they stay in hostels or couch surf. They own homes but they’re small. They eat well but they limit their food choice. Some have their own gardens or chickens or whatever.  They wear clothes but shun fashion. They furnish their abodes but pray at the altar of minimalism. They drive cars but they’re old clunkers. Better yet, they ride their bicycles back and fro.

I ask you………is that the kind of retirement lifestyle you want? It may work for the young but will it work in your 60s, 70s and 80s. I can’t envision myself trekking through Australia, lugging a back pack, chomping on field nuts and limiting my AirB&B spending quota to just $50 a day. First off, my legs hurt, my back hurts, I’m not as strong as I used to be and I like to take two naps a day. In other words, I don’t want a FIRE retirement. I want a good old-fashioned, take-it-easy, luxurious retirement as per my retirement coffers will allow.

stock image happy retirement.png
Stock photo. Happy Retirees.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you spend lavishly in retirement without having the cash to back up the lifestyle, you’ll go broke in no time. The secret to a successful retirement, IMHO, is to try to envision what kind of retirement lifestyle you want and then aim towards that goal. I personally am very happy living on a $25,000 to $30,000 lifestyle provided its a debt-free lifestyle. If I were burdened down with a mortgage, car payments, equity lines of credit and maxed out credit cards I’d need a hellava lot more money than what I projected. In my case, saving and leaning towards a higher annual retirement income lifestyle was nearly impossible. This was the biggest adjustment I had to make in my retirement planning. I had to face my own truth. I had to adjust to my own reality. Retirement money management is a constant balancing act for me because I know how darn well fast and quick one can fall of the wagon and lose.

There’s only one person in your circle of friends that you want to impress with your retirement lifestyle. You look at that person each and every morning when you get out of bed, ramble to the bathroom and stare into the mirror. It’s you. You want to impress yourself, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you’re doing good. That’s because you chose your retirement lifestyle long before anyone else thought about such things. You’re not going to play the blame game. Instead you’re going to learn how to make the best of what you’ve been given, spruce up what you’ve chosen and radiate your best foot forward.

To quote Steve Adcock, a succesful and well grounded early retiree (IMHO), who blogs over at Think,Save,Retire, lifestyle affects your retirement stability:

My rationale was simple: it is a person’s lifestyle that ultimately determines how long he or she can survive without a full-time job post-retirement. Meaning, a more frugal lifestyle will generally enable earlier retirement than a less frugal lifestyle, regardless of income. A person’s “fitness” is his or her ability to retire based on savings and spending post-retirement. The problem is a person’s level of savings is only half of the early retirement equation. The other half is dictated by our spending and how quickly we use our savings after we finally decide to retire. Lifestyle is a big factor in completing this equation.

If you want a successful retirement, regardless of what your ability to save or have saved was, retirement lifestyle is the key. “the less money that we spend (both before and after retirement), the easier this whole early retirement thing will ultimately be – regardless of your income or savings”. Steve Adcock.

24 comments

  1. Great topic! We are aiming to bring in the same amount of money (with our savings) as we bring in now. We like our lifestyle as it is, but would probably downsize because we don’t want to maintain a large home. Our savings are looking like it will be no problem to do so. Just switched to a Roth 401K so for the next 7 years our money will grow tax free. That should help!

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  2. Hey, I like the new look on the blog. Crispy clean. Very pretty.

    Such wisdom. I wish I had been able to save more beyond my retirement but we lived pretty much paycheck to paycheck when I was a single mom. PC has his military retirement and we have the health care through the military, but we would really struggle to get by on our retirement checks. We may have to try, though, when his job goes away next month. If we were mortgage-free that would make a huge difference.

    A lot to think about. And I like naps, too!

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    • Hi Leslie. Thank goodness for our great military. A blessing for sure.
      We were very determined to retire mortgage free. It makes a big difference.
      Thanks for your comment.

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  3. Hi Cindi, I read Steve’s post and his idea of post retirement lifestyle stability is a very important point. I strive for high stability by living below my means and continue even after 20 years to build my savings. There is some math that never gets mention in these articles. If you only spend what your investment makes in your first year of your thirty year retirement then in the second year the total available now only has to cover 29 years. As older retirees we have SS and pensions so our savings is one leg of our income stool. If we have $300,000 earning 4% that’s $12,000. If we can up this earning to 8% that’s now $24,000. After your first year you add that $12,000 extra to savings and earning 8% it will generate an extra $960 Annually. If you are living on $30.000 that $960 is a >3% raise for the next year. Lara

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    • Hi Lara. Steve makes such logical sense, doesn’t he? Have you watched his YouTube videos? I love his attitude.
      I like your math. Especially the decking years.
      Thanks, as always, for your comment.

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      • No haven’t watch his videos but I will check them out.
        My mentor is a math nerd like me and challenged me to do a few tables:
        First take your total savings from the example and list what it earns starting after your first year at 4%,5%,6% up to 15%. Then match each of these percentages to something that earns this percentage. I was amazed that I found something for each increment!
        Evaluate risk and possible growth potential. Then invest. So the second year you have spent the $30,960. But at 8% growth once again you have an extra $12,000 in your account which can make another $960 upping your income to $31,920. You now have $24,000 more in your savings. The third year brings your savings to $36,000. Your income is at $32, 880.
        The compounding at these higher interest rates blows my nerdy math mind away! Lara

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  4. So a 3% raise every year probably will solve the problem of inflation and the added savings can always be tapped if it exceeds 3%.
    By year three you could start increasing what you spend and only put $11,000 in savings, then $10,000, Do the math for yourself! It’s an eye opener! 👍😃Lara

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  5. Inspiring post – like I’ve said before, I’m taking notes and paying attention to your words of wisdom about retirement. I’m in the dreaming about it stage! xx

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  6. You and I were early retirees-me at 45 and you at 50 ? Right! I did it to do care giving for my parents. My DH continued working to help my kids through college, get the best pension with over thirty years in his pension credits and increase his 401k. When he retired at 54 we had the same as his take home pay to live on.
    In our married life we always lived below our means but enjoyed a wonderful lifestyle with vacations, eating out, and activities with our families. We were always in the middle class. We weren’t trying to keep up with the Jones and carefully bought what we needed and was content with what we had and replaced the essentials when they broke down. We were satisfied with our lifestyle.
    At 60, I got my widows pension and started increasing my lifestyle inflation because I could with the added pension. I became complacent on making my savings work harder because I set up the higher earning brokerage CDs that were long term when baNks were paying pittance and I now had available again what my husband made if I needed it.
    Then I started reading the FIRE community blogs and the lightbulb went on that my money ( my employees) are not working very hard for me. I bit the bullet and started bigger Roth conversions with the lower tax bite thanks to articles by Fritz at Retirement Manifesto. ChaChing from now on earnings on this money is tax free money.
    I also wasn’t taking advantage of all the rewards that I could get very easily! These rewards are amazing! In the three years I have up my rewards game It has provided over $2000 in free groceries, $500 in gas discounts, five day family vacation on Cape Cod, a flight to Tampa/Sarasota and to Albuquerque, New Mexico, almost $2000 in my brokerage account, $700 in my checking, $200 credit on Amazon purchases. This year will bring even greater rewards.
    My lifestyle just keeps getting better and I am loving retirement because I am being proactive. I am hiring help for the things I really don’t like doing anymore. My snow plowing cost $140 total and spring clean up $100. Grass cutting runs $40. Small price to pay and eliminate something I hate doing.
    Yes, I get too body aches but sleep seems to cure them overnight or stretching. Lara

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    • The early retirees, FIRE are only doing well financially because the stock market is doing very well now. They have never been through a downturn or an honest-to-goodness recession. It’s amazing to me how complacent people can become. It may be all wine and roses now but what will happen if there is a downturn and you’re in your 60s and you can’t make the losses back?
      I don’t see it the way you are experiencing it. My money is not increasing because I keep withdrawing the interest out monthly in order to live on it. The credit cards only offered rewards to lure people into using their credit cards. Now, as the economy prospers its getting tougher to get those good reward cards. It’s also getting harder to get zero interest cards to do balance transfers. Prices of everything is rising so fast no amount of successful investing can keep up with it.
      Two years ago I bought a mattress for $600. Today that same mattress is $1000. last year hubby bought shoes for $40. Yesterday he bought the same shoes and they cost him $72. That doesn’t sound like 3% inflation rates to me. Products are rising at least by 50%. Can’t make 50% on your money. The Swan Factor here are the new tariffs the govt is imposing. Nobody calculated that in to any equation.
      The FIRE community is going to be in for a huge wake-up call within two years. I hope you have a cash cushion to fall back on when the poop hits the fan. Trump can make just one wrong move and everything can come crashing down.
      BTW: I despise Fritz at The Retirement Manifesto and he knows it! He’s like a Mr.-know-it-all. Yuck!

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      • Yes , we are in very different places in our financial circumstances. I do not have to touch my investment income to cover my living expenses so it continues to have the opportunity to grow. Two years younger then you I have been through all the same recessions and economic cycles. But from your blog we definitely have had different financial experiences and outcomes because of how we approach handling our money. I never have made a killing on real estate. Mine was from saving and contributing to the new 401k when they became available and not touching them for 21 years of contributions.
        Most of the Fire community I follow are in their 40s and 50s and have been through the Great Recession starting in 2007, some even suffered through the dot.com and tech wreck of 2000 as adults. None of us are complacent. All give themselves a three year – 4 year cash cushion at least. None of the ones I admire live an extreme frugaI lifestyle, they are enjoying following their passions. They use RVs or Hotels to travel. I have a good cash cushion also so I can weather a downturn and I am enjoying my passions.
        I never have used zero balance transfer credit cards because they always have a 3% transfer fee. I prefer to pay my credit card balances in full each month. I save for large ticket items before I put them on a credit card so when the bill comes due it’s already in my account. Last year for me was a big whammy with tornado damage (May) and septic, well, and sump pump replacements and repairs, and 2 new bathroom sinks and vanities, ( all in Nov) but that is what my emergency fund was set aside for -the unexpected. Changing my investment strategy in May after the tornado thanks to the retired IBM executive mentoring me was a Godsend. The higher dividends and interest plus some capital gains has totally replaced my emergency funds. So it’s there for the next emergency in less then six months.So do you also despise me because I seek wisdom and knowledge and are willing to take more risk? Or tips from others who you despise? or perhaps it’s a bit of jealousy ? Lara

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      • Lara, I would never, ever despise you. That’s insane. You’re so good and honest and down to earth. put that thought out of your head!!!!
        Fritz from The Retirement Manifesto has an attitude problem. He thinks “I retired” and now he knows everything. He doesn’t. I like to follow people who have been retired for a while. A minimum of at least 5 years. In the beginning of retirement EVERYONE is a success story. Till life and reality step in. I also like to hear stories of people who lost it all and then recovered. Those are my true heroes!
        FYI: some credit cards offer balance transfers with no fee. Chase Slate is one of them, when they have their promos.
        If things ever went sour for you, God forbid, I’m certain you would have family step in and help you. I’m not that fortunate. My kids can’t help me and my sister would rob me blind if I ever let my guard down. She did once before (stole 2 blank signed checks out of my draw and cashed them!) Just last year my sister stole all my food, remember? If I ever fell on hard times, she’d destroy me.
        So, because I really have no one to help me should I befall any trouble, I am super, duper careful with my money.

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  7. FYI:Except last year my annual personal inflation has been less then 2% for the 21 years I have been in retirement. My SAS sandals retail were $20 dollar higher but the store had $25 coupon good on any shoe so I paid $5 less. Shopping Kohl’s for my winter wardrobe replacement of 2 winter sweaters and 4 long sleeve tops with their sales I spent less then $70 in November. I’ve seen in increase in gas by 10 cents this month and my groceries are free with the gift card from Xfinity. This will probably cover three months of my grocery bills, so at least a 25% grocery budget reduction. Using more natural gas because March has been colder and I am keeping my house warmer too. Not sure how much more I will use but Well worth it. Supplemental Health insurance and prescription coverage a little less and dental a little more. Electricity down $10 on my monthly budget plan, monthly cable up $7 dollars. Property tax up $150, charging it on rewards card reduce this By $57 dollar after their convenience charge. So far this year I am running one tenth of one percent inflation on my living expenses. Leaving lots of wiggle room 2.9% left for the rest of the year! Lara

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  8. Heads upShop Rite has Tutorrossa tomatoes, mozzarella, eggs, and ricotta on sale at great prices starting Sunday! Lasagna time! No lamb sales yet. Lara

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    • See what I mean? You’re a great lady! I was in shop rite yesterday and they had Australian leg of lamb @$5.99 a pound marked down from$7.99 a pound. I had to buy it for my SIL for this weekend. Oh well.

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      • $2 off the lamb is not bad!
        The older my daughter gets the more she is a pragmatist and I am not sure if I want to live with either my son or daughter if I am sick. I have some of my Dad “independent at any cost philosophy “. As far as helping out with moneyI know they would but I would hope I maintain my needs with my own assets. Lara

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    • Janette, I looked all through my comment section, plus the follow up emails (i Get duplicate copies of all comments). The last comment you made, that I got and posted had to do with our being the best managers of our own money. About you also inheriting money. Other than that, I have nothing.
      Can you please send it again?
      You do know that I would never not post comments, especially from you!!!!
      Thanks for following up.
      Thank you so much for your comments.

      Like

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