This is the last part in my early retirement series. If you are new to this series, you can read Part One: Deciding When (click here). Part Two: Building A Base (click here). Part Three: Securing an income (click here).

People who are already retired have a certain shyness about what they do all day long. It’s as if they are embarrassed or something. Or they have to prove to others that they are not wasting any of their time so they compel themselves to keep busy. I never did any of that. I’ve never felt awkward or ashamed that I retired early. In fact, I just think of it as another part of everyday life. It’s nothing special. I’m just in a position to do whatever it is what I want to do. Or nothing at all. That’s the whole purpose of freedom, isn’t it? No agenda. I am happy and content just being me.

When I first retired back in 2001 I had accumulated enough money to secure my own retirement. My husband’s retirement, however was a different story. He accumulated almost nothing for his own retirement. Because his work is sporadic, he dipped into his 401Ks and ROTH IRAs a bit too frequently. In fact, when we both relocated and downsized in 2001-2001, it took my husband over 2.5 years to find another job in our new location.

To get us off on the right foot, I worked a bunch of part time jobs to tide us over. But once he found a permanent position, I quit. For good. I used the part time jobs, however, as a stepping stone to learn all about the new area we had just moved to. I found out which town The Metro North train stopped closest to me whenever I wanted to head down to New York City. My fellow co-workers told me about the best/safest places to park my car at said train station, what stores were good for the best shopping, best groceries, best restaurants, best local attractions and museums, best hiking and biking trails, best parks, best one-day trips, best swimming lakes and on and on.

I knew if I wanted to become accustomed to my new location and surroundings I’d have to join clubs, be part of the community, join committees and volunteer. This was also a great way to meet my fellow neighbors and start building friendships. I learned very quickly that this new, rural community I moved to didn’t care what car I drove, what clothes I wore, how much jewelry adorned my body, what level of education I graduated with or how much money I had in the bank. There was a whole new set of judgment rules of which I got to live by. All that mattered was how many acres you owned. My next door neighbor owned 22 acres. The fellow across the street owned 10 acres. The nice couple around the corner owned 56 acres. What did I own? A measly 3.5 acres. We were the poor ‘kids’ on the block!

I joined the local garden club, the book club (the library became my new best friend). I sat on the Aging Committee. I volunteered at the assisted living home, the local hospital and I helped serve meals at the local church. I attended social functions and wrote articles about my experiences for the local newspaper. I took adult classes with The Lifetime Learning Institute at a local college. The college also had a gym and I opened up a membership with them. I took yoga lessons, dancing lessons, writing lessons, history lessons. I went out to lunch with my newly made girlfriends. I went to the independent theater with some of my classmates, watched top notch, different forms of film and stayed for the Q&A afterwards.

This went on for years. In other words, I was doing all the things most humans do when they retire. I was enjoying my life, enjoying my newfound freedom and taking time to stop and smell the roses. We traveled abroad at first going to Paris France and exploring all the top cities in Italy. Next we did local traveling and bought an RV (several, in fact, as each trip made me realize we needed a bigger and more spacious RV for our travels). We went to National Parks. We mastered the art of staying at a K.O.A. (our fave!). We wintered in Florida. We summered on several Atlantic Ocean beaches.

My husband and I quickly learned that if we were to sustain a lifestyle like this, on our limited financial resources, we had better learn to be frugal. Hubby learned how to do most of any work needed on the house or car himself. I mastered the art of using spreadsheets to track and control our spending. We set goals. We meet those goals. We save as much money when we could. We watch our pennies when we couldn’t. It’s been twenty years so far and I’m happy to report, we’re still going strong.

Here are some of the photo highlights from the last twenty years: Home of FDR (our fave spot), view from the top of the hill, summer produce, lake swimming, lunch out with the girls, fish fry at the yacht club, gas prices back in the day (coming back soon enough!) fall, spring, summer and winter snows, library books all about hiking the Adirondack mountains (Lake Placid is our fave), our barn in the snow, balloon festival (one of many, many festivals that happen in the great Hudson Valley, NY), our favorite picnic spot, under a weeping willow tree along the Hudson River, a selection of cowboy boots that only a small town in Florida would sell!!

We’ve finally settled on an RV model that will sustain us for the many more future traveling episodes to come. Our main goal is to drive out west and visit The Grand Canyon. We still have one more international trip planned and that is to take a cruise around the Greek Islands. We garden. We cook our own meals three times a day, seven times a week, twelve months a year. We’ve set up a lifestyle that is easy to maintain and we can look forward to. When we calculated how much money we need to live in our home, once you tally up the taxes, insurance, electricity, heat and maintenance, our monthly costs are about $760 a month in all. We’ve tried to re-settle in other areas, such as Florida but we keep coming back to this area. It suits us.

We live in the historic Hudson Valley (click here), snuggled close alongside the majestic Hudson River, home to FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt), the Vanderbilts, the Rockefeller Estate, the Livingston Manor, the West Point Academy, the Culinary Institute of America, and where the adventures of Ichabod Crane and the legend of Sleepy Hollow were born. Many a historical figure resided here along with other great national figures who helped shape what was to become America. There’s a lot of history where we live. It isn’t unusual to discover a new location where ‘George Washington slept here‘ is proudly placed on a placard for all to see.

So far we’ve survived the 2008 Housing Crash and The Pandemic of 2020 without much fret and we’re looking equally forward to this new hyperinflation challenge that is currently knocking at our front door. I am certain we will meet the challenge and prevail. Thanks to our mastering the life of frugality, we can make all of this sustainable. You don’t need a few million dollars to successfully retire. That’s the whole point of everything. Anyone can retire at any time they’d like. Some of us have been forced to retire sooner than we would have liked or planned for. Some of us planned extensively down to the last penny. Doesn’t matter. All you need is a dream and the determination to make it happen. Learn to bend with the wind and know that there is always another solution right down the road. Nothing is set in stone. Only your memories.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at: PhotosByCindi (at) yahoo (dot) com

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