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<2) It appears if one is willing to settle for a spartan lifestyle for the first few years of retirement, then one could retire a few years earlier.

Example: [...]

I know, I know.... statement #2 seems painfully obvious. And yet some may overlook it as they continue to work whilst waiting for their nest egg to reach critical mass.

Have any of you retirees out there attempted an early retirement along the lines of #2? If so, I would love to hear how it worked out.>

I am not sure if I have or not. In late 1989, my employer wanted to reduce the number of employees, but did not wish to fire or lay off anyone. They arranged that those who so chose could retire right away and start collecting their defined-benefit retirement plan immediately instead of waiting until age 65. There was a penalty for early retirement (1/2% for each month before you achieve age 65, or something like that), but they allowed you to add 5 years to the age you used to calculate the penalties. So I retired at age 50 and since I used age 55, I paid no serious penalty. When all is said and done, though, I am living at about 40% of my former income. Since I will be 60 this year (10 years later), I can now start taking my money from my IRA if I choose. However, since I do not know how long I will live (my mother is still alive, so I better assume I will go at least 25 more years), and since the only thing worse than being poor at a young age is being poor or destitute at an old age, I hesitate to start spending the money. To be specific, I am making it on about $25K a year (before taxes), but I always feel a little poor (even though I have a lot in my IRA). If I trusted the stock market to perform as it has over the last 10 years or so, and inflation to remain fairly low, I could easily double my gross annual income, perhaps triple it, and never run out of money. I read a book proclaiming the end of inflation and found it well reasoned (at least for the looooong term, say the next couple of hundred years), but in the short term (say, the next 40 years), I fear to rely on its predictions too much. Since I have no heirs that need the money (though I imagine they will appreciate it), it seems dumb to die with an estate that will enrich the lawyers and tax collectors. But I would really hate to be 99 years old, in fairly good health, and have no money other than social security and a $24000/year (before taxes) pension. I do not know about inflation in general, but my annualized property tax increase is about 9% a year, and that now exceeds the P&I of my mortgage (almost paid off).
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