I’ve been reading the early retirement blogs, and I generally like what they have to say. I currently save about 44% of my income, and I can definitely get that down to 60% over the course of the next year (after some home repairs). The only debt we have is the mortgage, and that should be gone within 15 years at current payments and even faster if we increase payments as we plan to do next year.
There is some advice that is impossible for me and/or I am simply not willing to do, though, and so I wanted to spend some time responding to it — not to whine, but to try and come up with alternatives if possible. Writing is how I think. Let’s see what I can come up with for each of these issues:
Biking Nearly Everywhere:
I actually have a bike, but I haven’t touched it because of my disability. Wheelchairing places is really slow, and my upper body joints don’t always play nice. Plus, if it’s for shopping, there isn’t much I can carry as wheelchairs are not nearly as efficient as bikes.
Much like with walking, I could probably go a short distance on a bike — maybe to the corner store. When I get my bike fixed up, I can try that and see if that causes me less pain than walking/wheelchairing.
For now, I keep my scooter at work to get around campus. It hurts too much to load and unload it weekly like I did last year. But the good thing is that it can go ten miles on a single charge, and I can get shopping basket attachments. In the summer, I could easily take it to the local farmer’s market. It’s slow (max 4 mph), but for a two mile trip and maybe half an hour of browsing, it shouldn’t be bad.
As far as savings go, it probably won’t help much since now I have a super cool (used, cheap) electric car, but it would be nice to get some fresh air.
Not Much Insurance and/or High Deductibles:
I average five doctor appointments/month (some months are really bad, others I get away with just two), and I, unfortunately, visit urgent care and emergency rooms frequently enough that people remember me. I need amazing health insurance like the kind I get from my employer. Should I be forced into early retirement due to my disability, I imagine I’d end up with MediCal for the period between early retirement and Medicare eligibility, but I wonder if I have to be at a certain level of poverty to qualify. Alternately, I could be forced into retirement but my husband would keep working and I could be on his insurance.
Maybe I’ll save up enough that I can afford my own insurance on my passive income. I can try for that.
We also pay a pittance for life insurance and disability insurance (I’m not disabled enough for that to kick in yet, but if I do get to the point where I can’t work, it will give me 80% of my income for quite a while). We also have Long Term Care insurance on my dad and my husband (my mom and I weren’t eligible due to health issues). The LTC may not have been the wisest choice financially now that I know more about investing, but it’s cheap enough that I’ll hang onto it. I think it would be bad to tell my dad, “Oh, by the way, I’m cutting your option for aging with dignity.”
We can probably increase the deductibles on our car insurance, though, and save a bit monthly.
Downsizing Our Living Space and/or Moving to a Less Expensive Area:
We got this house at an incredible discount because it has some very odd, er, features that we’ve been remedying slowly. Many much smaller houses actually cost more than our house. It’s plenty big for the two of us, and when my brother and his girlfriend were in a bad place, we were able to make room for them. Being able to help out like that is important to us. We’ve got a big front yard (for a city house), a tiny back yard, about 1200 square feet of living space, and a nice patio. It’s not extravagant. It’s probably more than we absolutely need, but I like it. To move somewhere cheaper, we’d end up pretty far from our families, and that’s really not okay with me. Besides, we’d also have to job hunt.
When we near retirement, moving might be more of a possibility, but for now, I think we’re fine. In fact, we’re paying $200/month less on our mortgage than we were on our previous tiny apartment rent (I’m not counting the amount we’re paying ahead). Plus, with our two roommates, we get an extra $500/month. We’re not budgeting that; instead, we’re using it for home repairs which, in the long run, will increase the value of this home should we decide to sell later. What we don’t need for home repairs, we can invest at the end of each year. We don’t know how long we’ll have roommates, which is why we don’t budget that money, but for now it makes this place somewhat profitable. Someday, we may need that space for my parents.
I’m sure we could save money on our dwelling, but only at increased hardship to see our families and work, and that’s not worth it to me. The house stays.
A lot of money-saving blogs spend time telling people how to save massive amounts by not using air conditioning. We don’t have air conditioning. Done.
Short of getting solar panels (which is an eventual goal), there’s really not much we can do to cut our utility bills. When I tell people how little we pay in electricity for a house with four people (and now an electric car! Yes, I’m excited about that), they’re generally shocked. Our gas and water (we’re in a drought and we do conserve) are equally cheap. We have LED bulbs and enough windows for natural light during the day. The curtains block out heat pretty well in the summer (though our summers are harsh and it does get uncomfortable).
I recently cut our cell phone bill in half and I’m considering getting rid of our internet land line.
We don’t have cable, but we do subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now (everyone needs some John Oliver), and Amazon Prime. We’re going to be getting rid of Hulu, and I’m considering getting rid of Amazon Prime. I have an Audible account that has saved me about $200 in German learning materials over paying for them separately. I’ve almost completed my collection (it will be done August 19th), at which point that subscription will go, too.
Cut Gym Memberships
The world used to be my gym when I could hike and dance and such, but I can’t do that anymore. I need machines and pools. In fact, lifting weights and Tai Chi are the only two exercises proven to decrease pain with my particular disease. The weights and the pool are at the gym. The Tai Chi is at the top of the tallest hill in the area and free, but I haven’t been yet. Also, my husband is big-time lifter and goes to the gym daily (I only make it daily during the summer). We more than get our money’s worth out of these memberships, and I negotiated cheaper fees when we joined. Yes, it’s something we can cut if we ever end up in financial dire straights, but for now, the investment in our health is worth it. It may actually be the very thing that allows me to get to retirement (remember, I don’t want to retire earlier than 55 if I can help it!).
Well, call me a ComplainyPants if you like, but these are my excuses. I can shave a little off most categories, but not much. I’m still planning to go from 44% savings to 60% savings in twelve months, so it’s not like these excuses mean I’m going to give up, they’re just my individual stopping points and the reason I won’t be trying for, say, 75% savings.