We're doing a retirement 'test run' this year, and by December 31 we'll know exactly how much we need to leave our jobs

view original post
  • Experts recommend having enough money saved to live on 80% of your pre-retirement income.
  • My husband and I hope to retire in a few years, so we’re doing a “test run” this year.
  • This article is part of the “Re/Thinking Re/Tirement” series focused on inspiring financial planning for a different type of future than the 9-to-5 life allows. 

My husband is eligible for retirement this year, but he’s not quite ready to hang up his button-down shirts and the occasional tie. For now, we’re reading, prepping, talking about, and experimenting with what retirement will look like financially for us. We’re treating this year as a retirement test drive, keeping a close eye on our spending to see how we can afford to make retirement work.

Besides talking about our love of road trips and the possibility of taking more of those, we read that most experts recommend that you have 80% of your pre-retirement income available to you when you retire. Those experts are saying if you make $70,000, you need to have access to $56,000 a year in savings and investments to live comfortably. If you make $100,000, you need to have $80,000. We don’t plan to fully retire, continuing to work in at least some capacity, but we don’t want to be tied to jobs, so we need to have a good sense of how much retirement will actually cost.

We’re tracking our expenses to see how much we really need to have saved

In our case, the numbers seem almost impossible, so we are spending our “test” year tracking our expenses to see how much of our income we spend and how much we will need to have saved to retire comfortably. 

To start, we’re keeping close track of our spending, looking at our grocery bills, take-out, and entertainment spending ( streaming services and cultural events like museums included). We are also keeping track of the bills, like homeowners and car insurance , cell phones, electricity, the occasional trip to see family, or a short vacation. This year we aren’t cutting back on anything because we want to see how much we spend in a typical year. We are trying to see if we live the way we want to live, how much does that cost? 

The biggest problem with our plan is guessing the monthly cost of healthcare. How can anyone predict how much getting older will cost, with office visits, medication, surgeries, etc.? So, we are factoring in our insurance costs plus $300 per month for co-pays (our co-pays average $35) and medication (our medications now cost approximately $15 per month). Medication is tricky, though, because if my husband needs a new EpiPen for an allergic reaction or an inhaler for his breathing, that could easily wipe out a month or more of what we are anticipating. 

There’s room to cut back

One place we know we could cut back if it turns out we need to is in entertainment. For instance, we don’t need two streaming services when one has more than we could watch in a year. Also, we could cut back on take-out and buy annual passes to our local attractions, like the zoo and museums, and that would give us fun things to do any day in retirement but only cost us one fee instead of repeatedly paying each time we felt like going. 

Another way to save that we will be researching, even if it turns out we don’t need to, is shopping around for less expensive carriers for our insurance and possibly dropping some coverage (like earthquake) altogether because it is so costly.

I’m hoping by December 31, we will discover that we live below 80% of our pre-retirement income. Still, if we don’t, we will be able to calculate how much money we will have to bring in every month from side gigs to live comfortably, because neither my husband nor I plan on retiring 100%. These figures will be valuable for knowing how much we both have to work in our retirement. It could be the difference between working when we feel like it and taking a consistent, 20-hour-a-week job.