You Don't Need a Million Dollars to Retire!

What made me think that I could retire early? Many people think that this is just a dream and not an option. Today, I want to share my story on how I mentally got there and how I figured out that I could retire early. Let’s dive in!

Five years ago, my life looked completely different than it does now. I was working a desk job after I had decided to take a break from health care and do something less stressful that would still bring money in.

At that time, my daughter introduced me to decluttering. I had always stored a lot of things, some for other people, some for my kids, some just because someone had given them away and I thought I had use for them. We lived in the country and had a lot of storage space and no dumpster, so it was only natural that I was accumulating tons of stuff.

Once I started decluttering, I ran across magazines that I had saved to look at later, and as I was going through them, I started saving pages that gave me ideas, inspired me or felt important. I started a folder of things that caught my eye, and this folder was the beginning of changing my world.

I realized that the physical items were taking up so much of the mental space in my head, and yet I was not obtaining the things I really wanted, like a garden, a flower bed, a beautiful outdoor space. I could reasonably make those visions come true and design a life that I wanted for myself, just had to shift my focus.


This was a totally new experience for me, and I was in my 50s. I started studying things like manifesting. Whether you believe it or not, it helps shift your mindset into believing that dreams are possible, that you can say goodbye to your boring routine and achieve your goals. This was the best time in my life to do that because I was now an empty nester.

I then started practicing mantras. I got these wooden beads which I would move one by one and repeat my mantra, which was “it is going to be okay”. This makes your mind memorize the comforting message and whenever you are in distress, the mantra will pop into your head. I wanted to make some changes in my life but I was also scared about those changes, so every time I took a step towards those changes, I would hear this voice in my head saying “it is going to be okay”.

I realized through that process that all my dreams were possible, and that I had become stagnant in thinking that my life as it was then was all that was available to me. And it was not that I was unhappy, I had just become complacent with the idea that this was how my life was going to play out.

So I started dreaming again. I started planning and putting numbers on a page to see what early retirement might look like, how I could fund that, and if it would be possible for me to stop work to fund that. As I did that, I realized that it could be possible sooner than I thought. I hear so many people say that there is no way for them to retire, and I wonder if they have ever really put those numbers to a page.

Once you decide you want it badly enough and are willing to make some sacrifices and spend less money on some things in order to have more left for this, it suddenly looks way simpler than you might have imagined, but you have to put it down on paper to know what those areas are. This is how I realized we could retire early if we lived frugally and started living on this retirement budget.

My husband had always believed that you need a million dollars to retire, but when I started putting down the numbers and the projections, I found out we did not need anywhere near that, if I did not want to live extravagantly.

Even traveling is possible on a budget, and I have done a lot of inexpensive travel in my life. It does not take away from the experience; in fact, it enhances it because I know I have more opportunity to travel again if I can save money on my current travels.

Outdoor seating

So for the first time since my kids, who I used to have many dreams for, moved out, I started dreaming again, and those were realistic dreams. I knew I could actually live out the life that I had dreamed of. I started making plans through my vision folder, just collecting pictures of things I found attractive that fit my imagined lifestyle.

And I realized that there were themes in there. There were crafts I wanted to do, interesting recipes, pretty gardens with flowers, beautiful sceneries that made me feel at peace, destinations that were on my bucket list. Many of those pictures had nature in them, so I realized that that is something that I have to incorporate into my life wherever I am.

This was a great soul-seeking experience, being able to pick out my favorites, review them and see what things were truly important to me and would become part of my new life. I was also surprised to find that all of those things were realistic. My folder was not full of mansions or sports cars, but rather of attainable and reasonable things that I loved.

This is how this all started. In this day and age, you might want to use Pinterest instead of an actual folder and cut-outs from magazines, but the idea remains the same. What are the things that make you happy? For me, those are nature, travel, living in the country, having peace and quiet. That is a quality of life for me, so that is what I prioritize.

Retiring without being rich

You really have to put a pen to paper, define what you want and see what is realistic and what can you start working on to make it happen. So whatever your way is, I encourage you to do some soul-searching and start making your dreams come true.

Have you ever done something you used to think would be impossible? What are your dreams right now that perhaps seem unattainable? Share in the comments!

Next, read all about My Experience of Early Retirement and Living Alone for the First Time.

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