HomeBusiness"I saved my money and invested wisely"

“I saved my money and invested wisely”

Fortune wants to interview retirees about life after leaving the workforce. If you are interested in sharing your story, please email senior writer Alicia Adamczyk at [email protected].

Since Chris Miller retired last year at age 54, he hasn’t thought much about work.

Instead, he wakes up, makes coffee and spends three hours on his tablet, reading the news and watching TV. He’ll check his to-do list – though most things can be pushed to another day – maybe play sports or pickle ball, and see if one of his friends can meet up.

It’s very different from the three decades he spent as a software engineer, not that he mind. His retirement shifted his priorities. He has spent his time traveling with his wife Michelle – who retired three months before him – across North America in their RV, watching 19 seasons of Gray’s Anatomy, DIY around the house, and even build a retirement calculator to help other people figure out how much money they’ll need when they retire. Michelle spends her days volunteering and taking care of kittens.

“Every day feels like Saturday,” Miller says Fortune.

It’s been a big, but welcome change. Miller worked long hours in the tech industry for most of his career, which enabled him to make significant savings. When his company announced layoffs last year, he decided it was time to take a break and negotiated a “favorable” severance package, which helped ease his transition into retirement (it’s also a common tactic among early retirees – if you can choose when you retire, you can optimize your exit package).

Miller began maximizing his retirement contributions in his 20s, but it wasn’t until around 30 that he became “obsessed” with the concept of retirement and how much he would need to save to live a comfortable life. At the time, he lived in Southern California and watched Silicon Valley workers kiss like outlaws during the Dotcom Boom. He decided to head north to try and join the gold rush. He got a job as a software engineer at a startup and “dreamed of getting rich right away.”

See also  Student loan borrowers face plenty of questions, budget woes, as October bills arrive

That didn’t happen; the Dotcom Boom was soon followed by the Dotcom Bust. Miller worked at four different startups, none of which were hugely successful. In the end, he decided to stay with a company he liked well enough and tried to build wealth the old fashioned way. “I saved my pennies and invested wisely,” he says.

In his spare time, he discovered the FIRE movement – financial independence, early retirement – through blogs like Mr. Money Mustache and went all in on early retirement.

“I knew I didn’t want to wait until I was 65” to stop working full time, he says. “I did my own spreadsheets and calculations, that was my hobby.”

Miller declined to share how much he had saved for retirement. But between him and his wife, it’s enough to live in a house in the Bay Area and travel in their RV with an annual withdrawal rate of about 4.5% to 5%, even in a declining market like 2022. While he may decides to go back to work one day, he says he won’t have to financially if they keep their lifestyle as it is now.

Find a purpose beyond the 9-to-5

When he first retired, Miller feared that his life would have no purpose. And while there are days when he’s not as busy as he’d like, remembering the things he disliked most about the business world — the commute is a big one — helps put things into perspective.

Moreover, taking it easy is not so bad, he thinks. After a lifetime of work, it’s okay not to be “highly productive” all the time.

See also  These ten stocks have the most exposure to China's 'stalled' economy, BofA warns

“People are afraid to sit on the couch, others find new passions. I’m in between,” he says. “I have all this free time and I use half of it to relax and the other half to do things that I didn’t do before. I don’t regret that.

“I’m happy to be able to drink my coffee for three hours in the morning,” he adds.

He has also found purpose in helping others achieve their retirement goals. Miller encourages other employees to conduct what’s called a Monte Carlo simulation, a type of analysis that helps predict whether an investor will have adequate retirement income given a range of possible market conditions and other details. It’s not a perfect analysis, of course – nothing can be – but it’s considered more thorough than a standard retirement income calculator that only assumes a standard rate of return each year.

Spending a few hours every now and then going through the numbers can help other savers stay on track. He also advises those interested in financial independence to keep careful track of their expenses so they know accurately how much they will need when they retire.

“If you retire, you choose to freeze your lifestyle expenses. They can’t really go up after you retire,” he says. “Be ready to make the conscious decision to always live that lifestyle and never again.”

And continue to monitor your financial development, even after you have retired. “Be prepared to make spending adjustments if things go wrong,” he says. “I’m hoping to buy a Tesla next year, but I’m delaying that gratification until our investments are fully recovered.”

Even those who haven’t worked as software engineers for decades can find the math that works for them, he says. “Someone else having half the wealth of mine doesn’t mean they can’t retire, they just have to live on half the budget,” he says. “Maybe that means living in a different state, or a smaller home. There’s always some math that works in any situation.”

See also  Jim Cramer says the Fed won't stop raising rates until prices fall — even if there are layoffs

Finally, Miller says early retirees need to be sure they’re “willing to trade money for time and potentially lose what fulfills you in life.” In the US, work gives many people a sense of purpose (especially high earners). But just because you don’t work full time doesn’t mean your life loses meaning – it could just turn into a different one.

“When I was working there were a lot of things I wish I could do that I just didn’t have time for. Traveling with a motorhome was number one on that list, and now I’m just living that dream,” he says , noting that he is currently on a 47-day trip across Canada. He and his wife have friends who also travel in their RVs, and they aim for a few weeks of trips each year.

The Chris Miller of 20 years ago wouldn’t believe he gave up his career for RV trips and pickle ball tournaments. He’s even turned down some offers for contract work over the past year because he enjoys his no-strings-attached days.

“Right now I’m really enjoying the lack of responsibility and the idea that I can wake up every day and just decide what I’m going to do that day,” he says. “I follow my heart, I do the things I’m passionate about.”

This story was originally on Fortune.com

More from Fortune:
5 side hustles where you can make over $20,000 a year, all while working from home
Do you want to earn extra money? This CD currently has an APY of 5.15%
Buy a house? Here’s how much you can save
This is how much money you need to make annually to comfortably buy a $600,000 home

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments