Retirement Age: 50
Residence: Gilbert, Ariz.
Career: Phone company manager"I didn't anticipate retiring quite this early. I started as a repair technician at Michigan Bell when I was in my early 20s; after a lot of mergers, by the time I retired, I was a midlevel manager at Qwest Communications, overseeing implementation and repair for some of our biggest clients.
"Over time the corporate culture changed. So when I became pension eligible on my 50th birthday, I thought about it long and hard, counted up all my pennies, and realized, 'I don't have to do this anymore!'
"There are no two ways about it: Retiring is scarier as a single woman. Housing, utilities, property taxes - none of this costs any less on a single income.
"My son and daughter live with me. Robert, 25, is a theater student; Millicent, 23, is applying to an MBA program. They also both work. I make sure the home front is going so that when they have some downtime they can relax. I do cooking and starching of shirts. I am an odd person, in that ironing doesn't bother me!
"I miss the day-to-day camaraderie ofbeing on the job, but not having a schedule is really nice. Next year I am going to start to travel. I have more than a half-million air miles from traveling for work, so that should get me going nicely.
"When I retired, Qwest Communications was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. I had a defined benefit plan that was worth $520,000. I took that as a lump sum and rolled it into an IRA at Charles Schwab. I also had a 401(k) with about $275,000 in it, which I had started at a young age, increasing my contribution to 15 percent in the last five years of my employment.
"The safe withdrawal rate from a retirement account is 4 percent, so if you can live at 4 percent, then you are golden. My investments have grown to more than$1.1 million. I live on investments and after-tax savings. I have not yet touched my pension or 401(k).
"I used a financial adviser for about a year after retirement; now I am pretty much an individual investor, reading a lot of financial planning materials. I am basically 100 percent into mutual funds, but I am getting ready to get into stock picking. There is no one more interested in my financial security than me."