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A Wake Up Call and My Plan for Early Retirement

Fisher Towers Moab, UT

Fisher Towers, Moab, UT

This whole  week has been devoted to the topic of early retirement do’s and don’ts. If you are sick of hearing about my take on leaving the world of working to pay bills, please go read one of these other awesome, inspiring posts this week.

Tonya at Budget and the Beach has inspired me to train for a half marathon. It will happen a few days after my 40th birthday. What a way to celebrate!

Alexa from Single Mom’s Income has quit her job to work from home,  and I think she’s going to make a ton more money.

Laurie, the frugal farmer is getting even more frugal.

Travis at Enemy of Debt has decided to man up. Did you know he and his wife will have paid off over $100K in credit card debt by this spring? Pretty amazing!

Why I Am So Obsessed

If you do want to hear more about early retirement, today I’m going to wrap up that topic by sharing my plan. Whenever I share with the world, that makes it real and seems to accelerate the process.

Another reason I’ve been thinking about early retirement happened on my way home from Fincon. I flew out of Albuquerque, which is a four hour drive from my house. After getting back to my car, I headed for the interstate, but realized I was really hungry. I generally don’t stop for a sit down meal by myself, but decided to hop into a Subway.

Of course, there was a family in line with several small children who could not make up their minds. It seemed to take forever for them to finish their order and pay. Finally, I got my sandwich and sat down to eat. I started reading Stephen King’s new book on the plane. It was fantastic, so I brought it in to read while I was eating. I got to a really exciting place and had to finish the chapter. All in all, I was probably in Subway for about 30 minutes before I remembered that I had a long drive ahead of me.

When I was about 20 minutes from home, state troopers had closed the road, and I had to take an insanely long detour. I had no idea what the problem was and pretty much forgot about it after getting back to the house, starting laundry, and all those things you have to do when returning from a trip.

I found out later in the week that there had been a terrible car accident that happened about 30 minutes before I got to the state troopers. A lady did not belt in her toddler, who proceeded to distract her mom by acting like a toddler and hopping all over the car. Mom veered into oncoming traffic, killing herself and two others in separate vehicles.

I am really thankful for not having breakfast, that slow family, and Stephen King! I have no way of knowing if I would have been in that lady’s path otherwise, but it certainly did make me consider life and if I’m really doing all the right things to have the best one possible. On that note, I’ll share my plans.

Goal: Be Able to Leave the Workforce by age 50


We have ten years to pay off debt, invest, and make sure monthly expenses are covered by non-salary assets. Jim should also be pretty close to being pension eligible by this time if he wants to retire.

Paying Off Debt

The only debt we have right now is in the form of mortgages. Our home is the big one. Right now, we owe $157,500. If we make our scheduled payments, it will be paid off in February of 2025. That’s too long, so we plan to make extra payments to retire that debt within the next 5 years. That means paying an extra $20,000 per year. Where on earth will we come up with that money? Well, my extra smart hubby got got a kick butt promotion this year, which brings in (can you guess?) an extra $20K per year. We are not going to buy a new car or add a room onto our house. You can argue about investments that will make more than the interest rate on our home loan, but we are going to pay off the house!

My newly acquired commercial building will be paid off in six years.

Our residential rental should have a pretty low balance by then, around $40K, so we can either take a couple of years to pay that off or let the tenants continue to pay the bills on that one. I kind of like the feel of no debt whatsoever, but we’ll see.

Decreased Monthly Expenses

After the house payment is gone, our monthly expenses drop dramatically. Utilities, groceries, insurance, and property taxes should be around $1200 per month. Health care is a big question mark. We pay $190 a month now, but I’ll go big and say $800/month in the future. Add $500 or so for whatever I’m forgetting, and I’d say we can project our necessary monthly expenses at around $2500 per month.

Rental property expenses should run around $400 a month for taxes and insurance for the commercial building, and $100 a month for the residential. We will always keep an emergency fund for repairs.

To cover the necessities, we will need $3000 a month after 2019. With Jim’s salary, my income from optometry work, rent, and online income we should have way more than enough to cover our expenses, and if we invest the excess, I think we’ll have  pretty good nest egg developed by 2023.

We don’t really know how much Jim’s pension will be as it’s based on  a percentage of his highest three years of salary, which we hope haven’t happened yet, but we ballpark around $3K per month. When he retires, we will have to add health insurance costs for him, but even with that included, we should be able to live off his pension plus a little bit from one of the other sources. We might even get an Obamacare subsidy! He may also be in a position he loves and not want to retire when he’s eligible. Likewise, I might want to continue to work a day or two a week. We have tons of options.

What Will We Do?

In ten years our daughter will be 16. While I don’t really want to think about that as we are still getting visits from the tooth fairy at the moment, I would like to be able to take her on a killer trip. Maybe we won’t take a year to travel the globe or maybe we will. You can bet we’ll hit the road for the summer at least. I can also get her involved with charity work I hope to be doing. I’m also going to explain every step we used to get into a good financial position.  She might think I’m lame, but if I give her the tools, they will always be there when she’s ready to use them.

We Are Not Special

There is nothing special about being able to retire early. Lots of people have done it who are much younger and smarter than us. A few years ago, we were sinking in credit card debt and basically living paycheck to paycheck. I am super dorky, but I actually have goosebumps as I’m writing this plan and realize how far we’ve come. You don’t have to make $500K a year to get your financial house in order. I realize we will have obstacles in the future that might postpone our plans. The good thing about plans is that they can be adjusted, but if you never have one, you can be sure of not retiring early. You might never get to retire at all. If today was your last day, can you say you’d be happy with all you’ve accomplished?

What’s your plan? Are you making the best use of your time?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. That’s a great plan Kim. Paying down the commercial and residential mortgage seems sensible. Whilst it may not be optimal from a returns perspective, it is essentially equal to zero risk saving and so I can’t really knock it.

    Even though its 10 years away, the killer trip is awesome! If you need anything extra to motivate you, this will surely help!

    Thanks for sharing, and good luck!! 🙂

    • I am long overdue to see the world! We still plan on investing long term, but the bulk of our “extra” money will go toward mortgage repayment.

    • It may sound strange, but I had second thoughts about paying off the mortgage AFTER it was paid off. It did not feel right to have all that money tied up in the house, but I also did not want a big debt to be hanging over my head. Eventually I reached a compromise by reassuming just as much mortgage debt ($25k) as I knew I could pay off any time I wanted out of my non-investment Discretionary Fund.

      Maybe this works for me because I am already “earlier retired” with more passive income than basic living expenses. But, regardless, it must be working for me because I no longer have those second thoughts.

  2. That’s a great goal, and you’re right, it’s going to be different for everyone. Our reasons, our motivations, and our resources will all vary. But valuing life and time over money is good perspective, thanks for sharing that with us.

    • I do have ambitious plans, but family and making the most of every day comes first, although it’s easy to get caught up in the shuffle and forget that sometimes.

  3. Oh my gosh, Kim – that accident – how sad, and totally preventable too. Funny how those things that “slow you up” turn out to be blessings, or maybe even lifesavers, in the end. I think there IS something special about being able to retire early, and I think it’s awesome that you guys have a plan and are going for it. In our PF blogging world, it’s no big deal, maybe, but to the “normal” world in America, it’s a pretty rare find. Excellent work on going for it, Kim, and thanks for the mention too!

    • I love blogging because it makes me such a better person as far as planning. My real world people do not understand and the ones I’ve told about retiring by 50 look at me like I’m a martian. We should always be thankful. You never know when something very inconvenient might be saving our lives.

  4. Wow I did not know Travis and his wife paid off over 100k! that’s pretty incredible and extremely impressive. As far as me, I think I am making the best use of my time right now. I’m learning new skills and trying to increase my income streams. I’m working hard at work and doing what I can to be an asset to my company. I don’t have any solid plans to retire early, but I would at least like the option to do work that I love and be able to “retire” from the corporate world, if I so choose.

    • I think you are doing great. Yes, meeting Travis and Vonnie was amazing. Their journey is amazing. Amazing is the word of the day!

  5. Wow, what a story Kim! That’s so sad about the accident, especially when it involves something like that. As for your plan, I think it’s awesome and excited to read about. It just goes to show you that you don’t have to be making absolute bank to get things straight and do what you want in life. I don’t know that it will necessarily be us, but with the way things are going I wouldn’t take it off the table.

    • We could probably be retired right now if we’d been smarter, but I don’t regret all the mistakes. They make me want to work harder. That accident was crazy. Who doesn’t buckle up their two year old? The car is the only place where you can tie them down without going to jail.

  6. That’s some impressive goals. I have no plans to retire early yet, but I am getting ready to start my retirement saving journey.

  7. Your story gave me chills. It’s always tragedies like those that really made me think. A couple years ago there was a triple fatality right outside the store I worked at. There was an elderly lady who fell asleep and swerved in the middle of the road killing herself and the passengers in other car. I completely freaked calling everyone I know to make sure it wasn’t them. It’s crazy how that accident had an impact on me.

    I think publicly announcing your retirement goals is very smart. If it wasn’t for me publicly announcing my plans to quit my job I never would’ve done it. Sometimes you find support in the places you least expect – like from all of your online friends who you’ve never met in person. From what I know of you you’ll crush those retirement goals!

    • It does make you take stock. A few years ago, a man walked into a lawyer’s office down the street from my office and shot and killed the lawyer. You never know, and I try to use things like that to make me appreciate today and make the best use of time. It’s amazing how quickly we forget and need reminders.

  8. Not dorky at all! I’m really envious that you’re making that happen. I hope at the very least can retire ON TIME, but need to make even more changes to make that happen. As far as the accident, sometimes when we lose our patience because something isn’t going our way, in the moment it’s hard to realize that someone might be having the worst day of their lives. I try to think about that when I come across angry people…that I should hold back my judgement because I have no idea what kind of day they had. Anyway, that’s a terrible story. 🙁 But so glad you are celebrating your bday with a half marathon! Anna signed up for the same one I’m doing!

    • I felt really sorry for the people in that accident but also really mad at the lady who didn’t buckle her kid in. I am amazed how many people don’t do that.

  9. Did I read that right that you are training for a half-marathon? Awesome! Getting rid of the mortgage debt opens up so many options. That’s where we are about at and I’m looking forward to planning our future minus that obligation.

  10. The trip with your daughter sounds like the perfect motivation for you to keep pushing on your financial goals.

  11. What a sad, scary and preventable tragedy. Sometimes it those brushes that give us perspective. Good for you for figuring out your retirement plans and sharing them. It does make them more real! Our plan is to continue working until our youngest graduates from high school. We both enjoy our work (which is one reason we plan to continue working) and it will help us have more money in our retirement too. 🙂 I love the idea of taking a killer trip with your daughter as part of your retirement celebration. Plus what a great way to show the reward and power of being financially savvy – retiring on your terms to do fabulous things!

  12. wow, kim.. that car accident story gives me the chills a bit. the same thing has happened to me a few times with car accidents, and i just have to think that god must have a plan for me and chose to keep me from being there at that exact time and place.

  13. That’s very sad to hear. Glad you are fine.
    So crazy how quickly time flies. Early retirement is absolutely worth it Kim.
    The funny thing I think about is this… sure in 5-10, whatever years our mortgages will be paid off.. but we will be 5-10, whatever more years older and that much closer to death.
    It’s really about the journey, so enjoy!

  14. So glad you weren’t near it. Random stuff like this that we can’t control is what makes me want to retire early as opposed to living YOLO and going nuts now.

  15. Exciting goals! My wife and I have not started to think about retirement plan. After reading your post, realize that we should start talking about it soon.

  16. So glad you avoided any chance of that accident, Kim!
    I agree about paying off the mortgage. It gives you so much more financial freedom. We are on our way to paying off our own mortgage as part of our retirement plan. A year ago, we refinanced from a 4.25% mortgage to a 2.85% one. That was the single best move we have made. We worked it to keep the payment the same, which cut years of the term of the loan. Now the mortgage loan is reducing by a big chunk every month. It’s our only debt and we hope to be free of it in a few years.
    Good luck in the half marathon!

  17. Hi Kim,
    Your plans are well thought out. Too often people say they’ll retire in 10 years without a plan. I usually don’t advocate fast mortgage pay down but if it cash flows for you then it’s a good idea. People think I’m nuts with my rental properties but once paid off it could mean anywhere between $7000-$10000 a month after expenses (depends on the year).

    • If it meant taking 10 years of not investing otherwise, it would not make sense, but I think we can continue our current level of investment in non-real estate accounts and pay off everything else. After that, we have a ton of cash flow every month.

  18. This plan is great! It’s always so exciting to see what other people’s plans for early retirement are.

    I remember rolling my eyes at my mom whenever she would give me financial advice. Now, I’m forever grateful for it! Don’t worry about being “boring” to your daughter – you never know, she may have a passion for it when she grows up!

  19. Lovely plan! Should probably tell my parents about this (:

  20. Thanks for sharing your insights 🙂

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