Mark retired last week. He turns 47 in November. I’m 43 and have been working part time for the last several years. So how did we manage to retire at 46? The short version: We made a plan. We stuck to it. We retired. The End.
Here’s the long version:
Now it’s almost time to untie our dock lines and set sail on our open ended adventure. (As I sit in the cockpit and write this post, we have 40 days until estimated departure) Exciting news, right? But how did we really get to this point?
The 5 year rundown of how we ended up at this point – and no – it wasn’t “Luck”
A long time ago I (Jennifer) got burned out working in cubicles. I hate them. But I’m good with a variety of computer software, and efficient. I’m great at streamlining processes, once I learn them. Unfortunately, that usually means I streamline myself into boredom. And I don’t do boredom, in a cubicle, well. (Throw me on a beach with a book, and I’m am proficient in doing nothing!) I have things to do. I can’t sit inside your gray imitation walls and pretend to be busy. I just can’t.
So I figured out how we could live without my salary. In those early days, I cut down our bills by reducing cable to the bare minimum required for internet and basic entertainment. I cooked at home. We had a pool at our house and invited friends over for cookouts instead of going to expensive restaurants and bars. I was never a believer in name brands, but still managed to reduce my shopping expenses by buying things on clearance, etc. We rented Redbox movies for $1 instead of blowing $30 at the theater. I reviewed and modified our cell phone plans to only include what we actually needed/used. We paid off our cars and repaired them, vs buying new(er) ones.
Each time Mark was promoted, we took the associated pay raises and directed that money to our savings/stock market accounts automatically. We never saw the money, so we couldn’t spend it. I reduced our weekly expenses to about 1 day of his pay. Crazy, but doable. We used that money we’d stashed away to buy our first rental property. I managed it. It was a challenge, but for the most part it was easy enough. We bought two more over the next few years in the same manner. I continued to manage them and maintain them myself, because I can – and it was another obvious way to save money vs paying a property manager.
Five years ago, we came up with our cruising plan. As we’d already done well streamlining, we knew it was time for something bigger. We sold the house and bought a condo. We went from our 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage with an art studio and pool in the backyard to a 2 bedroom/2 bath condo with no yard work and a pool maintained buy the condo association. We saved both money and time. We got rid of junk. We sold things on Craigslist. We implemented our One In/One Out rule – where if you buy a shirt, you get rid of a shirt, etc. We more often than not got rid of 17 shirts/shoes/pants/cups, whatever. Because once you start clearing things out, you can’t really stop. It’s addictive. That feeling of lightness that comes along with less is like a drug. Less to clean. Less to store. Less to organize. Less to insure. Less, less, less. It became our mantra.
Four years ago I started Culinary School. We knew we’d be in Savannah until our daughter graduated college. I wanted to learn to do something well – something that I love. Something that I can do anywhere. Four years ago I also got cancer. It makes some people uncomfortable when I talk about it. But it’s a fact, and I have no problem talking about it. And it did not impact our plans. Not negatively, at least. I had a year of surgeries. It gave me free time to read sailing blogs and shop for boats. It gave us motivation – because what is more of an eye opener than to face the fact that, yes, we CAN die. We WILL die. While I can’t say that cancer/eventual death is a positive thing, it’s not a negative thing. It is just a thing.
Three years ago, we narrowed down our boat search to a monohull. We originally looked at power boats. But those were expensive. The fuel alone would keep us needing to have a steady income. We wanted out of the rat race – not to tie ourselves to it even more. We moved on to trawlers. They travel more slowly and are a bit more fuel efficient. But research showed that it just wasn’t enough of a reduction in fuel to make it work. If we’re tied to fuel, we’re tied to land. In came sailing. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it sooner, but we were always power boaters. We looked at catamarans, and finally felt like we were on the right path. Unfortunately, all of our cash was tied up in rentals. Rentals bring in passive(ish) income. We couldn’t really justify spending six figures on a boat that would not be bringing in money. We contemplated selling rentals and getting a charter worthy catamaran. Ultimately, we decided we didn’t want our home to also be our business. We begrudgingly looked at monohulls.
I say begrudgingly because they all seemed so small and dark to us. Our transition from our 1350 sq ft home to our 925 sq ft condo was easy enough. But from 925 to 300? Could we really do that? We researched and researched. We narrowed it down to a production boat. There’s a lot of debate over production boats (boats that are made in high quantities vs more custom built boats). Mark builds high production luxury air craft. Well, at least he used to. We weighed what we felt were the pro’s and con’s of production boats (Beneteau, Catalina, Jeanneau, Bavaria, etc) with smaller batch boats. Our choice was to go production. It’s not for everyone. But it is for us. We plan to be fair weather sailors – and really just hop from island to island.
We found Luna Sea in the summer of 2013. She was bright and roomy and well loved. We brought her home having never sailed before the sea trial. We played with her and learned her systems. We learned to maintain her and decided what upgrades we wanted to make. We started staying on her longer and longer, while keeping the condo and managing the rentals and working full time (Mark) and part time (me). We took her out for a day, then a weekend, then a week or two. We made her our second home.
Two years ago we continued to work on her and learn about her. We also continued to make time to travel and explore islands via plane. I made sure to visit every grocery store I could find. I like to know what’s available out there so I know what to stock up on before we leave. We continued to downsize and save. We made saving a game. We kept working. We kept planning and researching and learning. We started living on the boat full time.
One year ago I graduated from Culinary school. Our daughter graduated from college. And we kept plugging along. We kept saving. We kept learning about sailing and our boat. And weather and provisioning and how to check into other countries when you live on a boat. We sold one rental and paid off the other 2.
This year we sold our condo. We walked away from that little safety net and haven’t looked back. We’ve wrapped up projects. Mark retired. I’m selling my car. Mark is cleaning his right now – and will have it ready to sell soon. We’re spending time with friends. We’re learning to slow down. We’re turning our rentals over to a property manager/friend. We are tying up all of our loose ends and getting ready to go.
We have worked our asses off for 5+ years. We have planned. We have saved. We have stuck to our self imposed limitations and been rewarded. We are just about ready to go. What’s next? Who knows. But I am excited to see what adventures are ahead!