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Extreme early retirement thrills and spills

An extra-long retirement leaves a lot of time to either celebrate or regret the decision to opt out of work early. Some of our readers wrote in and shared their stories about the ups and downs of extreme early retirement. While every financial situation is unique, hopefully their accumulated wisdom will help you decide if extreme early retirement is something you should consider.

Plotting retirement as a teen
I retired at age 46 -- early retirement from the phone company coupled with free health benefits and phone service made it a no-brainer choice, especially when I found out I could take my retirement in cash and control my own investments.

I started saving when I was 16 for retirement, when I met my wife. She now agrees, but always felt I was crazy at 16 to worry about retirement. Now she is elated. She is also retired and we been traveling for three years, getting to Europe and most of the U.S.

More than five years ago, my daughter passed away, and we are raising our grandson. He spends weekends with his dad, but both my wife and I take care of him all week. His dad is a great dad but has to work, and my grandson would not have had the necessary therapies he needed, as he is handicapped.

Getting up at 6 a.m. daily, coupled with the daily grind (homework, etc.), has been quite tough, but we all need to play the hand dealt to us. Now we plan nice vacations with him and with my son, daughter-in-law and other grandson.

We realized a long time ago that as non-professionals, all we had to work with was the power of compounding and our retirement plan (only I worked most of our lives). With the proper planning, we may not live the dream we originally planned, but we will certainly live and enjoy our lives as best we can.

We did realize that returns that are not realistic or that are out of line with the rest of the investment world were not the answer. There is no free lunch! You need to start small and always have a no-touch fund. Touch it when you retire, and don't go crazy, and life can still be sweet. We are seeing it through our kids' and grandkids' eyes.
-- Alan, Florida

Next: "... It's sure nice having the choice."
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