I always imagined someone would have to drag me out of my classroom kicking and screaming at 80 years old because I’d refuse to retire. My continuing health issues have changed that view. Now I’m looking at the possibility of early* retirement.
In order to get my pension, I have to work until I’m 55 (16 more years). Unfortunately, if my pain increases and my energy decreases at the same rate it has been the past year, I may not make it that far. I love teaching. I’ve cut just about everything from my life but that and have taken up hobbies that I can do at home like gardening so that I still have the energy to do it, but I get home from a day of teaching and I’m done. Lately, I’ve been going to bed by 5:30pm more often than not.
That means that there is a decent chance I won’t make it long enough to get my pension. I’ll still get what I put into it, but minus the employer contributions and the interest, it’s not enough to live off of, so I’ve been doing some early retirement research just in case. If I don’t need it, great! Maybe we’ll get my meds balanced in such a way that I can keep going indefinitely, but I’m certainly not going to leave my husband hanging should I have to go part time or even quit before I reach 55.
I’ve been contributing to a 403(b) since I started teaching, but I haven’t maxed out my contributions yet because I was looking at it as supplemental. Now that it may be my main source of income, I’ve increased my contributions, and I’ll do another increase in September of 2017 when I get my next raise and max it out. I also finally opened an IRA and just deposited the max amount for this year. I’ll deposit the max amount again in January and then just let it sit until 2018 when I hope to make the max deposit yet again (and annually thereafter). We’re doing a lot of work on the house this coming year, so that’s about all I can do for now.
I’m also finally hounding my husband to get his employer-matched 401(k) started. That’s free money we haven’t been getting for ten years! Again, with my pension plan, it hasn’t been much of a concern, but if that’s going to go away, it’s urgent that we have backups.
With our current mortgage payments, we should pay off the house on my 55th birthday. If I’m able to work until then, it’s perfect: we retire with a lower income but no mortgage to worry about. We’ll be absolutely comfortable. If I can’t work that long, though, we won’t have enough money to pay ahead, so the mortgage will hang out with us several years longer. Let’s say I only have ten years left in me, though; by then we would have paid the mortgage down quite a lot, and the regular payments would be mostly principal by then anyway, so it wouldn’t be so bad. We’d survive. Worst case, we’d have enough equity in the place to sell and buy a smaller place, but I really am attached to this house and neighborhood and hope we don’t have to do that.
My rheumatologist seems to be pretty positive about my prognosis, so I try to be, too, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t prepare for the worst.
*I’ve been reading some blogs like Pretend to Be Poor and Mr. Money Moustache that define early retirement as very early retirement — like, younger than I am now. I respect that. The fact is, though, I adore my job. If I retire early, it’s going to be out of necessity, not because I want to. That said, I appreciate their tips as they are going to help me prepare the for the possibility of a relatively early retirement should that be the path I need to take.