At the end of this semester, I will be taking early retirement from my job as a college professor. I will have just turned 54 years old. How am I able to quit my job at such a young age? I actually started a retirement plan over 30 years ago. Despite some setbacks and detours, I was able to stick to that retirement plan. I am looking forward to reaping the rewards of my financial decisions soon.
I have listed here the most significant financial decisions I made throughout my adult life that most impacted my ability to take an early retirement.
Career Choice: Upon graduating college in 1979, I had some good job offers. I did not take the highest paying one, but I chose a career in the public sector with a generous pension plan and lifetime health benefits.
Followed a “Pay Myself First” Philosophy: What I mean by this is before I ever spent a penny from any paycheck, part of my pay was automatically deducted. The money went into a tax-deferred supplementary pension plan. I never missed the money and it grew into a substantial amount over the years. Also, I never felt guilty about spending the rest of my paycheck because I knew I was putting money away before I got my hands on it. In the end, it was the supplemental retirement account that put me “over the top” in terms of being able to take early retirement.
My Kids College Education: I sent my daughter to a good state university. My son was fortunate enough to attend a federal military academy. What that meant to me financially was that I did not put a lot of money away for college expenses nor did I take out college loans. Take it from me, a college professor; most states have relatively inexpensive colleges that will provide your child with an excellent education.
Pre-Nuptial Agreements: I weathered 2 divorces and came out financially intact because of well thought-out pre-nuptial agreements. The pre-nups helped to avoid costly attorney fees and protected my (and my ex-spouse’s) personal assets.
Avoiding Debt: Other than mortgages, I tried to avoid racking up any consumer debt. I wasn’t always as successful as I wish I had been. However, I think if I did avoid the credit card debt I accumulated, I would have retired 4 years ago. Now, I have no debt other than a small mortgage on my home.
Establishing a New Career: Let’s face it, at age 54 I’m not going to sit in a rocking chair all day. I still want to work even though I don’t have to. I have given myself a great opportunity to explore new options. I have leveraged my academic credentials, my love for travel, and my experience in writing to start a new business. I have written a best-selling book, “The Traveling Professor’s Guide to Paris”, I take small groups on tours to Europe, I will be writing another travel guide, and I run my website, www.travelingprofessor.com.
Professor Stephen C. Solosky will be retiring from Nassau Community College in New York at the end of 2010 after a 31 year career in education. He plans to enjoy his vacation home in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts, lecturing on traveling to Europe, writing a new travel guide book, taking small groups of travelers to Europe.
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