Retired at 50

Is it possible for someone who doesn't run a hedge fund or win the lottery to retire at 50 (or so)? Yes. Five people explain how they did just that - and how they made the transition to full-time not working.

Doug Nordman
Doug Nordman
Age: 46
Retirement Age: 41
Residence: Mililani, Hawaii
Career: Officer, U.S. Navy
"After 20 years of active service in the military, you can retire with a pension worth about half your final basic pay. I've read that more than 85 percent of officers who retire start a second career. I went through all the assessments, which said I should be a nuclear engineer or a midlevel manager. That was pretty much what I was doing.

"I was griping about it to my dad, and he asked, 'Didn't you save anything over the last 20 years?' I had never thought of that before. So in June 2002, after my 20 years were up, I retired.

"My wife and I have always tracked our expenses and lived below our means. We were able to figure out what our expenses would be, and we have a portfolio large enough to sustain us through the remainder of our lives. Part of that is in a Thrift Savings Plan, which is like a 401(k) for government and military employees. I also receive $36,000 a year from my pension, which covers our mortgage, groceries and most other expenses.

"My wife, who was also in the Navy, is in the reserves, and that can pay as much as $15,000 a year, though usually it is much less. Health care and inflation are solved by the military. The pension comes with a cost-of-living adjustment, and you get cheap health insurance - $460 a year covers the family.

What are you going to do all day? I call it being responsible for your own entertainment. Now I have the chance to do all the things I have always wanted to do. There is surfing, for example. I check the surf every morning. If the day is going to be good for surf, it doesn't matter what home improvement projects I might have on my to-do list - I adjust my day to allow for a few hours for surfing. I gotta have my priorities! Boredom has never been a problem. My daughter, who is 14, has turned into a surf monster, so on her days off or the weekend we're both down there.

"I have been growing my hair since the day I retired. The joke is that I have saved hundreds of dollars by not having haircuts. For 40 years - first at home, then in the military - people told me how long my hair had to be. This is the first time in my life that I was ever in charge of my own hair length. It sounds silly, but it is my version of a teenage rebellion and a midlife crisis, all at once."

John Greene

Nancy Mueller

Connie Davies

Bruce Entin

Doug Nordman
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