Yes, I’m Retiring With Just $500,000

* I’m in the process of moving, so my friend Purple from A Purple Life wrote an epic guest post for today. She has a not-so-harebrained-scheme to retire next year on half a million dollars. I admit that I wondered how exactly she was planning to pull it off when most early retirees save at least $1M. Here, she reveals her extraordinary plan to retire early (at age 30!) *

purple sunglasses on grey beach
Note: Some links are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

We’ve all heard the proclamations: You’re going to run out of money in retirement because of X. Whether it’s an underperforming market, robot automation or climate change, more often than not, these headlines in mainstream media seem to be meant to strike fear into our hearts. “Do I have enough?! Will I have enough if I work another year?? When will I have enough to be completely secure that I will never run out of money in retirement?!?”

As you might have suspected, there is no such thing as completely secure. There is no guarantee that anyone’s retirement will work out as planned or at all. There are risks involved in every decision and our job is to choose our path based on what makes the most sense to us and what allows us to sleep at night.

So I’m retiring next year with $500,000 and I’m completely comfortable quitting my job after I’ve amassed that amount. Here’s why:


Overall I’m fortunate that my life preferences also happen to be choices that help keep my expenses low while giving me a happy life. I think of each of these choices as levers that allow me to regulate how much I spend. Let’s dive into a few of them.

Solo Retirement

I am a solo retiree. I am lucky that no one relies on me financially or will in the future. My partner and I are never getting married, never having kids and keeping our finances completely separate.

I’m lucky that my parents have their own nest egg and have been happily retired for over 4 years. This $500,000 only needs to support me – not a husband, a pet or any children down the line.

Based on my spending during the last few years in the expensive cities of Seattle and NYC, I spend between $17,000 and $20,000 so a portfolio of half a million should sustain me, especially since, when retired, I will not need to live in some of the most expensive cities in the country.


I have never dreamed of owning a home. I don’t know if it’s my natural skepticism, fear of commitment or both, but I’ve always looked at owning a home (for me personally) as a chain around my ankle instead of the idyllic ‘roots’ people talk about – and this is before I even saw the numbers!

Luckily the finances behind owning a house in the expensive cities where I’ve spent my adult life, have further cemented my opinion: I never want to own a house. I heard a quote recently that made me laugh at its accuracy and cringe at its harsh truth:

“Rent is the ceiling. A mortgage is the floor,”

Meaning that rent is the most you will pay while your monthly mortgage is the minimum.

Knowing how much my rent and utilities are every month gives me comfort. Knowing that I can email my landlord when something breaks and have it fixed with no sweat off my brow or money out of my pocket, makes me feel warm inside. I know a lot of people in the financial independence community (the lovely host of this blog included!) that are fantastic DIYers and mechanical thinkers. I sadly do not belong to that group.

When something is broken, I don’t want to have to call multiple contractors, figure out the cost, negotiate, schedule their visit and then pay an unknown amount afterward. At a recent happy hour, a friend lamented that she had to pay a plumber $500 earlier that day to come to her house…and they didn’t even fix the problem! I’m way too protective of my free time to give my energy and cash to a pile of bricks.

And this leads to one last reason I have never been interested in owning a home: it is (basically) immovable. My life plan involves almost constant travel and having a house sitting empty or having to manage AirBnB guests from afar is not my idea of a good time or a happy retirement.


As I mentioned in this post, I grew up in Atlanta, GA and its lack of public transit and sidewalks (my parents are just getting them NOW) coupled with its horrendous traffic quickly put me off using cars as my main form of transportation.

When I drive through the suburbs where I grew up, I feel trapped because you literally are trapped unless you have a car – no sidewalks, no buses, no trains. The only saving grace has been the proliferation of Uber, but using rideshares is exorbitantly expensive when crossing the widespread burbs.

So after escaping the gridlocked hell that is Atlanta’s 18 lane highways, I decided to only live places where I do not need a car to get around. This had the added perk of dropping me in locations that had sidewalks to feed my love of walking and public transit to go anywhere I want without having to fight for parking.

This decision has also had the added benefit of dropping my lifestyle costs while giving me the walking and fresh air filled life I want. I intend to keep this habit up in retirement and supplement in rural areas with car sharing services and rental cars as I do now.

But What If Large Unforeseen Expenses Pop Up?

The giant purple elephant in the room when discussing retirement for US citizens is our insanely expensive healthcare costs. This is the most often cited unforeseen expense I hear when discussing any nest egg in this country, but of course I have a plan:

Medical Tourism

Overall, if I am diagnosed with a disease that requires continuous treatment, I will move to another country with more affordable medical care (which is basically any other country…) However, if something happens to me while I’m in the US or I’m unable to travel, I will be carrying global insurance for those worst-case scenarios, such as breaking my leg or getting hit by a car. After my bills are paid I can reassess my plan and if I need to shift anything, which leads me to:


In case you haven’t heard the term before, geo-arbitrage is moving somewhere where the cost of living is less. In my case I will be looking for places where I can have a similar or better quality of life for less than I spend on that life in the US. Doing this introduces the ultimate spending flexibility: less cost for the same lifestyle. There are several countries I love that are on my travel list for the first few years of retirement and fit the bill, such as Mexico, Costa Rica and Thailand.

But Does The Math Even Work?

When running scenarios in cFIREsim, it shows that my $500,000 would suffice even in the worst market downturns of the last 147 years — even for a 70-year retirement. All it would take would be decreasing my spending to $16,500 during down markets, which is an easy feat for me if necessary.

The past obviously doesn’t predict the future, but even I was surprised that reducing my spending by such a small amount in a few cases could lead to such a high success rate despite everything our country has been through in the last 147 years.

Based on these calculations, I would have been safe retiring in any of the last 147 years and in many scenarios, I would have finished my 70-year retirement with a great deal more than I started with (inflation adjusted).

Oh and I forgot to mention that this calculation does not assume a spending ceiling – meaning in good years I can spend more than $20,000 if I so choose. That’s a concept I first read about in the awesome book Work Less, Live More which touts a flexible withdrawal rate of 4% of your current portfolio every year (instead of 4% of your starting amount as the Trinity Study uses). I have tweaked this idea to suit my purposes and was happily surprised at the optimistic result.

So those are my spending levers. The life I love already has some built-in efficiencies and I have plans for how to combat unexpected expenses in the most vulnerable first 5-10 years of retirement, but there is another set of levers to consider.


Going Back To Work

Unlike a lot of traditionally aged retirees that quit because of health issues or are forced out due to their age or ability – I can easily get another job if necessary. I don’t delude myself to think it would be at the same rate, since I would have been out of the workforce for a while, or even at the same level, but it would be more than I need to live on.

If I’ve learned anything after getting 6 jobs in 7 years it’s that it is not very difficult for me to find a job – even if it’s not in my field. There are so many ways to make money and the amount I need to live on (especially if I leave the US) is fairly small. Though outside of having a failed retirement and going back to full-time work, there is another possibility: that I will earn money accidentally in retirement.

“If You Earn Money You’re Not Retired!”

…Says who? Every retiree I know earns at least a little bit of money doing things they enjoy. Even my parents own a rental property. When I quit my job next year I’m looking at (hopefully) 70 years of retirement.

I never said I would never make another dime. I’m not planning on it and am not intentionally trying to (because: see my large amount of laziness), but based on other early retirees, it happens sometimes.

If it does, I wouldn’t be going after this money, but accepting it for something I enjoy doing and would happily do for free. While I am not factoring earning any more money (or collecting social security) into my plans, the possibility would of course also decrease my chance of retirement failure.

So I have several levers I can pull. In my mind, I have the ultimate flexibility because adjusting my life will not interrupt anyone else’s and I enjoy the variety inherent in change.


After reading the above you might think I’m a little off my rocker. Yes I have Plans A, B and C, but there’s no way this will work right? I share your concerns and that is exactly the reason I read everything I can about the risks of early retirement. The likes of Early Retirement Now and Our Next Life have made me seriously think about my plan from many angles and adjust accordingly. They make great and valid points about the risks inherent in pulling this trigger and I take what they say very seriously, but I also weigh those risks against another one (queue morbid organ music): Death.

Engaging Data creates absolutely amazing data visualizations and one of them struck me right in the heart (see below). It shows the possibility of my portfolio balance being at different levels during each year of retirement and compares it to the probability of me dying during that time. That grey ‘death’ section sure is large and imposing – and I suspect this longevity data is based on white female numbers – from everything I’ve read, me being a black female decreases my long living prospects further.

To be frank, I’m not afraid to be a failed retiree. My absolute worst case scenario is that I have a bad sequence of returns in the first 5-10 years and/or large unforeseen expenses that I can’t recover from and I have to go back to work. I will have just had a relaxing, multi-year sabbatical after a decade of working my ass off. Joel from FI 180 has a great quote that perfectly encapsulates my feelings on the subject:

“My worst case scenario is everyone else’s every day scenario.”

I’m not afraid to fail, but I am afraid to spend the most active years of my life attached to a computer doing someone else’s bidding. I am afraid of running out of time with the people I love. My main objective in retirement is to spend more time with my loved ones and I can’t do that if they’re not around. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Everything is a risk and this is the level of risk I am comfortable with.


Aside from attaching myself to the level of risk I’m comfortable with, I have another reason I feel confident in my plans. I will be a 3rd generation early retiree. My Mom retired at 55 and her parents retired at 50. The world has been through so many changes during that time and they have always been able to figure it out.

In retirement my only ‘job’ will be to plot, plan and discover how to keep my retirement going. That’s it. All I need to do is solve the challenges that come at me and after watching the last two generations of my family do just that with a lot more against them – I feel confident I can do the same.  

So what do you think? Am I going to fail? Am I saving too little? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Grrat read. You got this! I look forward to following your journey into retirement. Thanks for linking the cfire calculator. I’m not sure why it took me so long to find it.

        1. Great article. You are mindful of who you are and apply it in an inspirational way. There are no guarantees in life despite how hard we plan and prepare so yes..go for it..and have a great journey!

      1. Do you think you will look back in 50 years and regret your decision to stop contributing to life and society?

        1. Do you think that working a daily grind 9 to 5 job is the only way to contribute to life and society? Do you think it’s possible that she could still be earning money and paying taxes while not chained to her desk?

          I can see her writing books, speaking, and drawing income from her investments. She could always pick up an odd job here and there if she so desires.

          I personally think her options would be greater if she bumped her retirement goal up to 750,000 or 1 million, but I think in her situation, she will make it

          1. Very well put 🙂 . My job (marketing) definitely doesn’t contribute anything positive to society. I know that I could do a lot more for the world without spending 60 hours a week doing that nonsense.

            And you’re right: My options would definitely be greater with a higher sum 🙂 , but right now the trade off of working longer to reach that isn’t worth it to me. Surprisingly this pandemic has actually further solidified that for me. My time on this earth and with my loved ones is limited and unknown so I’m ready to take the leap now and see what happens. A job will always be there. And thank you!

          2. My apologies if this has already been asked – why do you consider it ethical to move to another country where you have not contributed in terms of taxes (or anything else to date) to take advantage of their healthcare system when you fall sick? Than you.

    1. This is so inspiring! May I ask, tho, how you can access your retirement money? My 401k doesn’t allow till I am 59 and a half. How can I follow your journey?

      1. I so admire your bravery! I have enough savings that I know I already reached my financial independence, and yet I’m so afraid to retire early. Good luck on your journey.

    2. Good luck to you. I was nervous about taking the gamble to leave the workforce at 56. Absolutely loving it. Both my parents died young so my decision was simplified. Hope it works out for you. I’m sure it will as you’ve looked at the variables.

  2. I love this so much!! That Engaging Data graph hit me right in the feels. Since I’m a little ways from our FI number (5.5 years isn’t that far but still), I’m finding it a good momentum for finding ways to add some of those mini-retirements in our plan ASAP. If you factor in these graphs for all of the people we love and want to spend time with it makes it even more important for us to do so.

    You’ve got a great plan that you’ve put so much thought into and I can’t wait to see you start putting it in place very soon! Great work!

    1. Yay!! And right on the graph?! It’s crazy and a great way to think about these things. As you know, I love the idea of your mini-retirements. Get on it lady! And that’s a great point – the chart would be a lot more gray if we factor in older loved ones 🙁 . Even more motivation for us to live the life we want now! And thank you 🙂 . Let’s see what happens!

      1. I’m 42. Have saved 300k and very comfortably live on $700-$1000 a month. I will be retiring in 3-5 years. Sooner if my current employment were to end for some reason. I can always return to work. Odds are, I will be able to choose part time positions that enhance my retirement, such as volunteering.

    2. I think you are doing well in most areas, but selling yourself short in others. I take so much joy in problem solving and fixing issues in the properties that I have owned. Fixing things for $20 in raw materials that would typically be farmed out for thousands of dollars of repairs… I get a certain satisfaction from that. Working retirement? Yes! With some real-world problem solving to boot. Learning how things work and how things can be repaired is my way of engaging with the real world

    1. Thanks Nate! I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted. There seem to be so few blogs of retirees that writing regularly (which I totally understand, but wish wasn’t the case) so that’s my goal after I pull the trigger!

  3. Purple, it’s clear you’ve put thought into this, and I congratulate you in that regard. Personally I do know several single income people who retired on similar sums that have some regrets. Housing is a big one — all of them have changed their tune on the desire to own a home. I’m nearly 35 and so much of my perspective has changed since I was 30. I think so long as you plan for the all the unforeseen ways that we as individuals evolve, you won’t be eating puppy chow 😉 I enjoy following both of you (Mechanic and Purple Life) and I appreciate your perspectives.

    1. Hi There! That’s interesting to hear about your friends that have regrets after retiring on similar sums. I’m actually surprised to hear housing is one of them. While I do not pretend to know what Future Me will want – if I do change my tune on housing I don’t see that as a wrench in my plans. Outside major cities houses are quite affordable – even more so abroad in the countries I’m looking at traveling to for long periods of time. Totally agree I can’t know what Future me will want and I try to address that with my general flexibility. So glad you enjoy our perspectives! We’ll keep them coming 😉 .

      1. Hello there from South Africa!!
        I think what you are planning to do is AWESOME and I wish you nothing but the best!!!!

  4. Major well thought out plan. Nice! I like your ability to be able to pick up and go freely to obtain what you need (geoarbitrage, medical tourism,…). I think you’re going to do just fine. Even if you ‘fail’ doesn’t look like you’ll have an problems finding ways to suffice. And that is such a neat fact that you’re 3rd gen to a line of early retirees.

    1. Thank you! Being able to pick up and go at any time is a luxury for sure that really helps with my plan. And yeah ‘failure’ in this case is a pretty humorous concept to me because it’s still at the very least a long sabbatical. And yeah on 3rd gen FIRE – it’s pretty crazy. If my parents and grandparents can have a successful early retirement with wildcards like kids, houses and cars to take care of I think I can figure things out for just my little ol’ self 🙂 .

    1. Did I miss how you’re planning to pay for health insurance? I love how you have truly thought things out and it’s challenging me to rethink my spending.
      Thank you!

  5. You’re my hero! Not because you are retiring or that you’ll do so on $500k. You are a hero for educating yourself on finances and how to wisely spend YOUR time and YOUR money. It is clear you did your homework to determine what makes YOU happy and free to do as you chose. Not only do you have a plan, you have backup plans based on potential risks. That’s commendable and a smart move, an educated move.

    The “number” is different for everyone. One’s $500k can be $5 million for someone else. There are choices to be made for sure. I believe you and others can do a lot to increase the changes of success by focusing on establishing recurring revenue. Outside of your $500k investments/savings, setup a few income streams and get paid over and over without spending much additional time working. My wife and I do that by what we call income stacking.

    We play the credit card and online savings account game (sign-up bonuses), we own rental property, we download apps that pay us more when we shop at grocery stores, we blog and share the info to help others succeed, and so on.

    Thanks for spending the time to post your plan(s). It is inspiring.

    1. Haha – thank you! I don’t think I’ve been called a hero before. Completely agree the target number is completely based on the person involved. Great to hear about your recurring revenue. We’ll see if that happens for me accidentally 😉 , but if not as I mention it’s a possibility for combating sequence of returns risk if things go sideways early on. I don’t think I’ve heard the term “income stacking” before – will add it to my research list! I’m 4/5 on your revenue streams 😉 the only one I don’t have is a rental property. I just got into cash back apps recently and am loving how I get money for doing nothing basically. Sounds like you’ve got a lot of good side hustles going! And anytime – so glad I could help inspire!

  6. I’m going to be forthright here. While the numbers might make sense for now I believe your making a mistake. You have the big surprises to your target covered. I commend your in depth well thought out analysis. But…
    People change a lot over time, especially in your early thirties. I am fundamentally not the same person at 38 I was at 29. Priorities change. Life changes and wants change.
    Your analysis is so cut to the bone that you haven’t allowed for those changes to occur. I’d at least ensure I have some optional income streams like a side hustle going if I were looking to cut at such a young age with such a low figure.

    1. It sounds like between your comment and Mr. CC I need to write another post about how I’m planning for Future Me and what she might want. I know that I have no idea who I’ll be in 5 or 10 years and that’s why I tried to base my plan around flexibility – if I change my mind about buying a house I’ll buy one. If I end up needing a car I’ll work that into my plans. The fact that my plan has no spending ceiling and will allow me to spend more than $20K in up years if I want to makes me comfortable with this plan, but like I said I can’t predict the future. As for a side hustle, I don’t want to rely on one for my plan to work, but if I accidentally start one that would be icing on the cake. We’ll see what happens.

    2. I agree with fulltimefunance. Your life expectation should be another 70 years. $500k for 70 years? That wont work. Not sure if the skills you have to offer the world but would it make more sense to quit your job and do something as a microbusiness that is fulfilling yet makes some income to offset inflation and economic shifts? We are in a bull market. It wont last. It never does.

      Check out for some alternative strategies including financial sustainability that might be a better fit for you.

      1. So what exactly is your argument behind your comment “That won’t work”? Genuinely curious. As for my skills: I’m in marketing and personally don’t want to do any type of work at a job if I don’t have to. I’m also not interested in starting a business myself – that sounds like more work than a full time job. As for the current bull market – I don’t see how that has any baring on my plan. Of course they don’t last forever – I didn’t imply they do.

  7. This is a wonderfully unique plan, which is perfect. There are no guarantees and we all need unique plans that fit our lifestyles and goals. Best of luck on your amazing adventures!

  8. everything should be fine. i just quit a good job at your age with nothing lined up. it was like a mini-retirement but that phrase didn’t exist then. y’know what? i ended up with different priorities and ended up doing the same kind of work and the world didn’t end when i changed my mind and put down roots. you don’t sign any contract that says this is what you’ll do forever as changing course is always an option.

    1. “everything should be fine.” Haha – I always love your approach freddy: straight and to the point. That sounds like a fun mini-retirement! Completely agree that changing course is always an option and that I don’t know who I’ll be or what I’ll want specifically in a decade or more, but that’s half the fun 😉 .

  9. It looks like you’ve got a whole lot of good options to choose from, you’re not locked into any single plan or by dependents, and that very flexibility makes it seem like it’s much more likely to succeed. This reminds me of my grand-aunt who is done with kids, done with her grandkids who are grown, and lives on comfortably $900 a month because she doesn’t need much. I bet she still saves on that income, too!

    1. Yes – trying to have a lot of options and do my best to combat the uncertainty of the future. Also I might need to put this on my mirror so I can think of it daily: “that very flexibility makes it seem like it’s much more likely to succeed.” You’re completely right. And your grand-aunt sounds awesome – also $900 a month?! Where does she live?? I need to learn her secrets 🙂 .

  10. This was an awesome read! I think it really puts the idea of retirement in a different perspective in that, everyone’s number can and will be different. Although math is no fun, it’s important to run the numbers correctly if earlier retirement is in your plans.

    Seems like you got this nailed down, nice work and best of luck!

    1. So glad you liked it!! Completely agree everyone’s number (and risk tolerance) seems to be different. And what do you mean math is no fun?!?! 😉 Completely agree it’s important to run the numbers through many different calculators and scenarios while building your plan…and backup plans. Thanks so much!

    1. Thank you! I think so too 🙂 . And oooh on you maybe needing less than you currently think – keep me posted on that! And yes – that grey graph kinda terrified me when I first saw it. Definitely a huge motivator!

  11. I think you’ve thought everything out pretty carefully. I’d still be worried about employability after several years out of the workforce, but I’m not well-versed in how much employers really care about such things. So I could be inflating it. And since you don’t need a lot of money, as you said you have a wider range of job options.

    I’m still figuring out how much I spend in a year now that I’m single, so I’ll be interested to see where I land. Certainly more than you spend, but no one’s perfect I suppose.

    1. Thank you! And the employability comment is totally fair. In marketing it’s pretty common for people to have pretty large gaps in their resume and so far I’ve never heard of it being an issue. Also having a gap doesn’t mean I was doing nothing – even if I just keep up with my blog that’s ‘building my content marketing/social media etc skills’ that applies to directly to my line of work and shows I wasn’t just out of the loop for years. Also even if I have to go back to an entry level job in my field (highly unlikely, but just in case) I would still be able to cover all my expenses easily. Super curious what your new calculation show! And that’s true – no one is perfect, including me 🙂 .

  12. You have such confidence and verve in your writing. Love your life plan and your awareness of what-if scenarios. You’re going to rock! I hope after you retire you write a book. I’d buy it. Thanks for posting this, FM!

    1. Aw thank you!! So glad you like it and yes – my planner brain loves to try and think of a plan for even the most obscure of scenarios, but I just stuck to the big ones here. That’s so flattering about the book, but I might have to leave that honor to awesome authors like Financial Mechanic 🙂 . I’m technically already a published author so I already checked that box 😉 .

  13. Fellow car-free person loving your post!

    I’ve heard the FI_180 quote about “My worst-case scenario is everyone else’s best-case scenario.” I thought about it for a while — the issue there is that I’d have no trouble going back to work now, but if I’m 75 years old or even 55, it could be much more difficult.

    The other thing I’ve considered is later in life expenses. For example, if I got a knee injury, I may not be able to walk / bike. Better transit areas are generally more expensive. I may want to go to a nursing home that costs more than social security will give me — or I may want to stay in my own home.

    I’m thinking about moving to Mexico at some point in the next 10 years for a while, but assuming I come back to the States, I may not want to move to Mexico when I’m 80 in order to afford a heart surgery.

    Our Next Life had a great post on this that talked more about the fact that while elderly people spend less on consumer goods, they often have huge health-related expenses.

    1. Hi fellow car-free person!

      Totally agree with your points and greatly enjoyed that ONL post – that one helped me shape my plan. I should know in the first 5-10 years if this thing is going to work long term (the window with the most sequence of returns risk) so I’d be max 40 when I try to get another job if all goes sideways.

      Personally I’m not concerned about it since marketing jobs are plentiful and a lot are remote. Also blogging has opened a whole new world of marketing work possibilities – even as small as helping blogger friends with their sites.

      As for healthcare and the consequences of aging (not being able to walk and needing a car) I’m thinking along the same lines: if I have large expenses when I get old and have passed that most vulnerable time without issue I should have the money to make it work.

      Also an aside (morbid alert): after my parents pass away I’m not planning to stay in the US so at least traveling to another country for a large surgery like you mention won’t be a problem since I’ll already be there and am planning to pick my new home based on healthcare affordability, outcomes and other important factors. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      1. I mean, I plan to stay healthy my whole life anyway. If all goes well, I’ll be biking well into my 80s and 90s. ? I’m just trying to plan around some extra contingencies.

        This is fantastic. I’ve enjoyed following you and am excited to continue to follow your adventures.

  14. It’s obvious you’ve thought this through. I personally think you will succeed, if nothing more than to spite those who said you can’t 😉
    Two observations:
    First, although you have separate finances from your partner, you do live together and split expenses, so it is *sort of* like you are retiring with $1M.
    Second, from reading many of your blog posts, you seem to like to go against societal norms… And maybe this extends to the FIRE society as well. I appreciate that you encourage people to question you so you can be sure you’ve looked at all angles.

    1. I mean, I plan to stay healthy my whole life anyway. If all goes well, I’ll be biking well into my 80s and 90s. 😀 I’m just trying to plan around some extra contingencies.

      This is fantastic. I’ve enjoyed following you and am excited to continue to follow your adventures.