Financing the full-time lifestyle

  • Tom on a self-guided hike in the Badlands in South Dakota.

By Tom Nichols

You’re probably wondering how a couple of 50-somethings are paying for their touring lifestyle. Sure looks like they’re having a good time in early retirement, but they’re probably headed for financial disaster in a few years!

After all, any financial planner will tell you that your retirement spending must be based on a 30-35-year horizon as life expectancies are hitting 85 and beyond. We agree. You’ll also be told to replace at least 70 percent of your pre-retirement income to enjoy a respectable Boomer life. On that one we respectfully disagree.

You’ve seen the commercials from financial institutions. They appeal to our lust for consuming. You can have enough money stashed away to buy a sailboat, start a small business, retrain for a second career, or lounge at your beach house.

Our generation refuses to settle for the simple 20th century retirement pleasures our parents enjoyed like visiting with friends at the coffee shop or tavern, fishing, and picnicking at the local lake or vacationing at the home of family and friends.

Just beware folks, those images of exotic travel, yoga camps and business start-ups are probably a mirage.

Consider a 2015 retirement savings snapshot from Fidelity: The average 401(k) balance held by savers of 10 years or more is $248,000. Applying a standard 4 percent withdrawal formula, an average account could provide about $10,000 annually. You’re going to need your annual Social Security benefits, say $22,000, to lift yourself out of poverty.

Unless you have a spouse with a similar 401(k) balance and Social Security income, you won’t get anywhere near replacing 70 percent of your current household income. (Unless you or a spouse have a defined benefit pension or an expensive home or inherited wealth to cash in.)

If not, it seems to me there are two choices: Work until you drop, or figure out how to live on 50 percent of your current income.

Take our lead. Begin simplifying and live more richly on much less money.

Watch for my next blog post that will show you how we’re downshifting from 150k a year to 60k, which includes a rolling home and inexpensive entertainment like hiking.


  1. Reply
    Laura Stone July 11, 2015

    I’m glad you’re writing about this. I’ve been looking at different retirement scenarios, and wondering about that 70 percent number as well. I think it may be a critical goal if your income is modest, and all of your income is going to basics. For those of us fortunate to have choices, I think it’s reasonable to decide to live with less if it means having more time to do the things you really want.

    • Reply
      Tom Nichols July 14, 2015

      Glad you’re reading. Hope to have more soon on the $60,000 life. Hope you had fun at IKEA. Tom

  2. Reply
    Dan July 11, 2015

    Great article. I look forward to future post! You guys are an inspiration:)

  3. Reply July 11, 2015

    Nick, Nick! Looking forward to reading your next post. Enjoy your visit to Central Illinois.

    Your former roomie.

    • Reply
      Tom Nichols July 14, 2015

      Bill, So glad you’re reading the blog. It’s great to be back in the home country for awhile. Tom

  4. Reply
    Kirstin July 30, 2015

    Oooh, I’m so glad I found your blog! Can’t wait to devour it all.

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols July 30, 2015

      Yea! Let me know what you think.

      • Reply
        Kirstin July 30, 2015

        Devouring it at a rapid rate. Love your writing, Judy!

        Your second cousin twice removed (or something like that?)


  5. Reply
    Dee Hall September 10, 2015

    Guys: Been really loving your missives from the road. Andy and I would love to do something similar — in about 10 years. We hope you consider a possible trip up here to Wisconsin. We can offer you real beds, real cheese and really good beer! If you come in winter, we can cross-country ski. If it’s summer, we can spend time at one of the four lakes in the city, the UW-Madison Memorial Union Terrace and great biking. Let us know! And check out our current gig, running an investigative news service, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Hope to hear from you guys!!

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols September 10, 2015

      Dee, Glad you’re enjoying the blog. We plan to be in Wisconson next year in July and would love to get together. I saw your move to the Center with Andy. What great fun you must be having. We’ll keep in touch and connect next summer. Judy

      • Reply
        Dee September 10, 2015

        Sounds great! We’ll be gone for about 6 days in early July (the 5th-11th) but in town before and after that. Hope we can connect!!

  6. Reply
    Vicki and Chuck Wynne September 21, 2015

    Hi Tom and Judy
    We have so enjoyed your blog and we read with great intrerest how you have planned this for 4 years!
    Chuck thinks you need to get your article out for broader circulation, it would be very eye opening for many Americans.
    We are on the way to the beach, loving our retirement! Chuck’s golf game is great too, in the low 70’s.
    Plan on parking that epic van in our driveway next year!
    Give us a call when you are at your moms, Chuck would love to talk to Tom.
    Vicki and Chuck

  7. Reply
    Diane owens March 16, 2016

    Hi I would like to subscribe to your blog. Thanks!

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