THREE YEARS AGO, Jim and I decided to retire to Spain. We were attracted by the promise of excellent health care, warm weather, low cost of living and travel throughout Europe. From there, we’d also be able to fly with relative easy to both the U.S. and Asia, allowing us to maintain family connections. All of this gave us a great quality of life for almost three years.
Then COVID-19 hit. Like everyone else,
JIM AND I RECENTLY moved from Granada, our first home in Spain, to Alicante, a city by the Mediterranean. The move gives us the opportunity to walk along the coast each day.
A few weeks ago, we hiked a rugged coastal trail that’s part of a nature preserve, with an ancient Roman dock still partially visible. Along the coastline, you can also see how layers of sand have built up over the centuries, compacting together to form the breathtaking sandstone hills we enjoy today.
RESEARCHERS HAVE spent decades probing the connection between money and happiness. For instance, a much-cited 2010 study by academics Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found that folks tend to feel happier the more money they make—but only up to a point, which they estimated to be about $75,000 a year.
But using only income to measure the link between money and happiness is incomplete. Another study, entitled “How Your Bank Balance Buys Happiness,” analyzed the connection to people’s “cash on hand.” The researchers found that having more money in checking and savings accounts was associated with higher levels of life satisfaction.
IN MID-MARCH, I went into lockdown with optimistic thoughts. Perhaps it would give me time to perfect my Spanish, master classical guitar, write more blog posts, start online courses and even begin the book that Jim and I often discuss writing together.
I’ve accomplished none of my grand plans. Instead, I’ve been consumed by reading COVID-19 news. I’ve slept poorly and eaten too much. I remain perpetually exhausted. I struggle to focus and lack creativity.
THE MOST POPULAR retirement income strategy is built around the so-called 4% rule. Three-quarters of financial advisors say they use some variation on this approach. But is it safe?
The 4% rule specifies that you withdraw 4% of your nest egg’s value in the first year of retirement. Thereafter, you increase the dollar amount withdrawn each year at the inflation rate. Based on historical U.S. stock and bond returns, that strategy should carry you safely through a 30-year retirement.
WE ALL KNOW financial literacy is important. But it’s especially important if you’re a woman.
According to the Gates Foundation, “No matter where you are born, your life will be harder if you are born a girl.” Today is Equal Pay Day—the day when U.S. women finally earn enough to “catch up” with men’s earnings from the previous year. Women in the U.S. earn 82% of what men do for equivalent work and,
WHILE JIM AND I cooked dinner the other night, we talked about the old cars we drove when we were younger—and how they tended to pull to one side if we took our hands off the steering wheel. We humans have a similar tendency: We head in one direction unless we make a conscious effort to be more rational.
That brings me to the coronavirus and accompanying stock market plunge. We all have gut reactions to news like this.
RETIREMENT ISN’T just about reaching some magic savings number. You also need a strategy for turning that pile of savings into a reliable stream of retirement income that’ll last for the rest of your life.
In academic lingo, it’s about changing from accumulation to decumulation—and it’s a topic that my husband Jim and I grapple with, as we figure out how best to cover our retirement expenses. There are three common strategies:
I CONSIDER MYSELF a retirement newbie. I only quit fulltime work in May 2018. Still, it doesn’t take long to pick up a few things about life in retirement. Here are four insights I’ve gained over the past year and a half:
1. It’s important to have a plan. I have witnessed how some retirees, without a plan or direction, struggle to fill the empty time. Here in Spain, for some retirees it can become an endless Groundhog Day cycle of daily drinking and tapas hopping.
MUCH CRITICISM is leveled against millennials, often defined as those born between 1981 and 1996. The criticism is frequently directed at their money and career decisions, including their purportedly foolish spending, excessive borrowing, job-hopping, self-absorption and sense of entitlement.
The perception is so pervasive that even millennials buy into this view of themselves.
But I wouldn’t be too quick to criticize millennials or compare them unfavorably to older generations. Each generation confronts its own unique challenges and difficulties,
THE EARLY RETIREMENT movement has many naysayers and outright haters. My husband Jim and I can sympathize: We sometimes get strong pushback when we share our strategies for living frugally.
“That seems like a lot of work,” some people respond. “It sounds like you don’t have much fun,” others say. Some even accuse us of lying.
I readily admit it takes effort to be frugal. But then again, it takes work and sacrifice to exercise regularly,
HOLDING DOWN living expenses is one part of the equation in achieving financial independence. But the other part is diligently and consistently saving and investing money.
On that score, my husband Jim and I enjoyed four “lucky breaks” that accelerated our push for financial independence. Together, they helped catapult us into early retirement in just 15 years.
1. The Great Recession may have caused much short-term financial harm, but it also offered a great long-term opportunity.
JIM AND I GOT married 16 years ago in our modest home. We spent just $500 and only invited immediate family members. Back then, we didn’t have any clue where life would take us. Neither of us planned to retire early, let alone retire abroad.
Still, how we got married was a sign of how we wanted to live—in a financially prudent manner. We set out to keep our living costs under control, and that set us on a path to financial independence,
I JUST ATTENDED the Madrid Open, a major clay court tennis tournament. It’s one of nine Masters series tournaments, ranked just below Grand Slams like Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. It was amazing to witness the players’ speed and agility at such close range.
Because it was early in the tournament, most of the matches I saw were part of the first and second round, with top 10 players pitted against contenders outside of the top 100.
ON APRIL 3, my husband Jim and I were among 262 pilgrims who made our way into Santiago de Compostela to receive an official pilgrim’s certificate for completing the required distance along one of the famous El Camino’s several routes—the most popular of which is some 500 miles. We were now certified peregrinos, or pilgrims.
Because it was early in the season, ours was one of the slow days for Camino completion.