One of the advantages of having almost nothing means that you have nothing to lose. With little savings and investments, I consider the stock market fluctuations more of a "pulse of America" thing than a "What's happening to my money". Not that the first isn't as important as the second, it just allows me to be lightly removed from the day to day heart palpitations of some.
That said, retirement on $30,000 isn't a lot. It certainly would be more if there wasn't a $1200 mortgage in the mix, and the attendant house expenses. Even if you add in streams of income which range from $500 a month slightly upward, life can be a bit tight.
Looking around the web, there are all kinds of solutions on how to live on this kind of retirement. Advise ranges from selling the house (a reasonable alternative in the long term for me, but not necessarily in the short term) and renting, to living in an RV or on a boat, to traveling overseas-or a combination of all of the above. The general consensus seems to be that on my base income, I should run away, or live in a tent. Wisdom seems to say that without $500,000 in investments, in this country at least, I am doomed. At one time, I probably would have thought so myself.
One of my daily reads is the blog Get Rich Slowly. Although I think the blog concentrates more on income and less on frugality and simplicity, it has a wide range of articles. Today's subject is the Kaderlis, who retired at 38 and live on about $30,000 annually. While neither I nor my husband (who loved his job) would have necessarily been interested in early retirement, the fact that they live on an amount similar to mine caught my eye. I'm always interested in seeing how others live, especially when they live with joy.
Here's the thing though. I love travel as much as the next adventurer. Seven years in Europe and being a road trip warrior should show that. But for me (and for many I expect) being a nomad is not a reasonable course of life all the time, through all of retirement. Does a trip to Thailand sound great?? You bet. Does spending my life on a boat in the far east sound like a solution? Not for me. The same with an expat lifestyle at this point in my life. When my husband was living, we had intended to retire in Germany. I've pretty much decided that's too far for me alone, with kids in the Cayman Islands and Texas. I like being able to visit family easily when the mood strikes, having a home and home base, have regular activities and a routine-others may call it a "rut". I call it comforting, especially for a single retiree (more on those of us singles later on). It may be that because of those expat, traveling years, I'm more into routine and home now, who knows.
I believe that with planning and foresight, one can live on limited income in the US. Many people do this, some with more grace and ease than others. It may (and has) require short term sacrifices and the willingness to make required changes. I probably could not live this lifestyle in Washington DC these days. Were I there, I would probably have had to sell my house and walk away. But it can be done. When people comment on my lifestyle and say "well, but you only spend (fill in the blank)", my answer is simply this: for lack of a better phrase, I positioned myself in a place that I knew I could manage financially.
Do I have everything I want? Yes. Do I have everything I want all the time? Absolutely not. Do I live the same pre-retirement lifestyle as before my husband died? Nope. But none of that means that life now is not good, manageable, even enjoyable. Most of the time I manage to live extremely richly on my limited income. I manage to eat out (just not every day), to travel, to have a pet, to enjoy various recreations and hobbies, to have a life for lack of a better phrase. While I regret the personal decisions and life events that got me to this place, the place itself is manageable and full of enjoyment.
So I'll keep my extreme retirement right where I am, and let that other couple hop on the boat and sail off into the sunset.