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how retirement on a sub-7-figure nest egg at [well below standard retirement age] was able to happen,

I didn’t actually pull the trigger, but I had put contingency plans to do just that in place during the financial crisis when skilled jobs I was qualified for were scarce.

There are a few things to recognize that would have made it possible:
1) it’s expensive to work.
2) it’s expensive to owe money.
3) costs can vary dramatically by location.
4) even in 2022, a family of four can usually find a way to be above the poverty level on a less than $40,000 income ( ). That $40,000 income is the “4% rule” on a $1,000,000 nest egg…
5) if your income isn’t too high, your taxes can be remarkably low.
6) if nobody is working outside the home, you could probably get away with one “rolls canardly” type car for a household.

Basically, the worst case contingency plan was to sell our home, use the equity to pay cash for a house in a much lower cost, much lower taxed community about 35 miles away, and “turtle up”. Even without subsidized health insurance (the plan was based on the “COBRA/HIPPA” published guaranteed insurance backstop rates at the time), we could have lived a similar lifestyle in a lower cost, lower taxed area for around $2,500 per month, including a small “buffer” to save for things like car repairs, basic medical expenses, etc.

That “about 35 miles away” community would have still put us within an hour or so of downtown (outside of rush hour) and all the amenities that involves…

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