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Retirement: A Journey Not a Destination

Financial Journey (featured column)
by Karen Kuebler

Planning for early retirement takes complete commitment, focus, and lots of hard work. But it can be the most fantastic journey.

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Do you ever dream about being financially independent? Does the idea seem like an impossibility for you? Some years ago I began to dream of being able to retire at a relatively young age. I actually prefer the idea of *financial independence* vs. *retirement.* Many people choose to do some type of work, or follow their passion, rather than retire altogether. That’s the nice part of being financially independent. It creates a situation in which you have choices and options. At the age of 30, I became really committed to the idea of being able to retire before I was 50 years old. I didn’t have a clue how to accomplish this, but I *knew* I would! And, I did! Four years ago, my husband and I built our retirement home and moved into it when I was 46 years old. Let me tell you... if we could achieve this dream, anyone *can* achieve their dreams. It takes complete commitment, focus, and lots of hard work. But it can be the most fantastic journey!

I also want to explain my choice of title for this article because this was a very important discovery for me along the way. Through the years I have found myself *so* focused on my goals, retirement included, that I often forget to enjoy the journey along the way. When I finally reach my goal, I expect something to occur, like the Land of Oz to appear or something. And guess what? It doesn’t! I learned many things as we worked toward retirement, but I believe the most important was to enjoy every step of the journey along the way toward my goals!

Our journey was filled with highs and lows, probably like many of you reading this now.

My husband and I have been married almost 23 years. Our Anniversary is April 1st. My husband had 2 children from a previous marriage, one of whom was still living at home when we married. I had two boys, 6 and 8, years old. For many years we were focused on putting our family together and raising our children. Thoughts of retirement and/or financial independence were the furthest thing from our mind. We lived in the Silicon Valley area when we first married.

I was in a job that held no challenge and no future for me. I was also working for a man who was considered by most to be a tyrant. As life will do, it provided us an opportunity we didn’t expect. I became horribly ill with strep throat and missed a week of work. I had been attending night classes, taking Accounting courses at the time. I remember taking a test when I was sick, sitting in a desk outdoors so I wouldn’t contaminate anyone!

While I was at home sick that week, my husband was thinking how nice it would be if I didn’t have to go back to face the tyrant. He also wanted me to be able to realize my long-term dream of going back to school full-time and getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Business. At the rate I was going at night, it would take another 10 years! He brought out the calculator, and each day would go over the numbers with me. I was the one who was reluctant to quit. It’s also a twist, because I’m the one who loves to play with the calculator. My husband calls it my binky! Can’t go anywhere without it! His calculations proved that we wouldn’t be losing much in income if I quit, after considering taxes, costs associated with child care, and other necessities for working women.

Maybe it was my weakened condition, but by the end of the week he had me convinced to quit. My initial goal wasn’t to be a stay-at-home mom, but this really turned out to be one of the best outcomes. Our boys were 9, 11, and 18 by this time. I registered for school full-time to complete my B.S. in Finance. I was able to schedule my classes around the children’s schedules.

This was a major life choice for our family, and for me in particular. We had the challenges of a family with one income, a large mortgage payment, and quite a bit of debt racked up in credit cards during the time I had been working. We have struggled, learned and triumphed over the last 23 years! We learned about getting out from under heavy debt, how to live a daily life of frugality and actually *enjoy* it, and how to set goals and accomplish them one by one. We learned how to save every dime and the importance of good investing. We learned how to become very resourceful and creative to achieve our dreams. It *really* is possible to achieve your financial dreams, however extraordinary they might seem, through a series of very ordinary steps. Our journey is living proof!

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