Cmdr. Robert Chambers
Cmdr. Robert Chambers was born and raised south of Boston. As part of his 24-year military career, Chambers served in the Persian Gulf and completed a tour in Afghanistan before returning to Washington, D.C. He was in the Pentagon when it was hit on Sept. 11, 2001. Now he is retired and lives in Carmel, Calif., with his wife and two teenage boys.
"The unique thing about the military is that you can start collecting your pension once you hit 20 years of service," he says. Once Chambers retired from the military, he taught high school for two years. When his boys were in ninth grade, he decided to take some time off to spend time with them. He was 49 at the time.
To be able to retire at 49, Chambers started collecting his military pension and took advantage of the health benefits available for military retirees. His wife continues to work and earns a modest salary. The bulk of their living expenses comes from his pension and his wife's income, but they save a large portion of her $40,000 salary.
The Chamberses have always lived within their means, but weren't immune to mistakes and speed bumps. For example, in 2008, their mutual funds dropped in value by $200,000. They keep their expenses low and avoid the trap of buying expensive things.