First Person: Planning for a Simple Retirement

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Retirement still seems like a long way off for me, but since I recently turned 40 I've been setting my goals for the future. My primary goal is to have enough money to be reasonably comfortable in retirement. In order to be able to make it even with a reduced Social Security benefit, I am putting aside as much money as I can while I'm young. My plan is to keep my retirement as simple as possible. Since I enjoy a minimalist lifestyle now, I don't anticipate my attitude will change when I'm older.

According to a recent article by MSNMoney, it's possible to be happy on a shoestring budget in retirement. In fact, some people who are part of the "voluntary simplicity movement" manage just fine living in studio apartments or humble abodes.

Having an inexpensive place to live

One of the most basic needs that humans have is shelter. I want to be able to control the cost of my shelter as much as possible. By owning a home outright, I won't have to worry about the cost of renting going up. However, I know I can't predict whether my homeowner's insurance or property taxes will go up. If my parents had stayed in Maryland instead of moving 25 years ago, they would have been able to pay off their home. However, the property taxes would be some of the highest in the country. I don't know whether property taxes will stay low in my area, but I will be better able to manage the bill if I don't have a mortgage. In order to be mortgage free in retirement, I'm paying an extra $500 to my mortgage company every month. If I lived in my current 1,800-square foot home with 4 bedrooms during retirement, I'd feel as though I was doing quite well.

Growing my own food in retirement

I plan to grow much of my own food during retirement. I am amending the soil in my Florida yard so I can grow a variety of vegetables. Living in Florida, I can take advantage of two growing seasons because of the mild climate. I am also learning to freeze and can jellies and vegetables. By investing in the canning equipment now, I will not have to worry about the added expenses during retirement.

Retiring in place

Instead of having to go searching for a retirement home, we plan to retire in place. We purchased a home with only one level so we won't have to worry about climbing steep staircases. We also live within walking distance to various shopping centers and our church as well as golf course. We may be able to trade our car in for a golf cart when we are older.

Having a sense of purpose

I've noticed a lot of the older people I know are depressed in retirement because they have no real sense of purpose anymore. I hope to be able to babysit for my relatives or volunteer. I also plan to keep working in retirement so that I am not sitting around the house with nothing to do except gossip.

In addition to paying off my mortgage before retirement, I'm also saving in my 401(k) and Roth IRA so that I can afford simple vacations and everyday expenses. I am trying not to get too complicated about my investing strategies for retirement. By dollar cost averaging into different mutual funds and exchange traded funds, I hope to have what I need for my simple retirement in another 25 or 30 years.

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More from this contributor:

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