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Hey, I Can Retire Right Now!

It's disgusting. I look around me at all these people fervently socking money away for retirement, and they're just so greedy and stupid. A lot of them want to accumulate an entire million dollars before they retire. A million dollars! Incredible as it seems, some want even more than that. They may be 50 years old, with $1.2 million socked away, and they don't just retire -- they want more. More, more, more.

Me? I can retire right now.

It doesn't take much
Retirement isn't quite as expensive as it sounds, you know. Sure, Robert Brokamp, editor of our Rule Your Retirement newsletter, has suggested that we should conservatively plan to withdraw 4% of our nest egg each year if we want it to last. With a million-dollar nest egg, that would yield $40,000 per year. Isn't that enough, people?

Robert has profiled lots of people who have retired early and well -- sometimes with not very much money. One couple, for example, retired at age 38. Many couples seem to be living in retirement today on between $20,000 and $40,000 per year. I bet many of them are leaving lights on when they leave rooms -- if they mustered a little discipline, they'd probably be able to live on $10,000 per year, don't you think?

How I'd retire now
I don't have a million dollars in the bank (or a brokerage account) -- nowhere near it, actually. I do have a good bit more than nothing, though. Let's say it's $100,000. If I withdraw 4% per year, as Robert suggested, that will net me a cushy ... $4,000.

[Thoughtful pause.]

Hmmm. ... OK, it's not quite as much as I expected. So let's just be a little less conservative and go with a 6% withdrawal rate per year, which gives me $6,000 a year. If my money runs out early, well, I do have some family members whom I can bless with extended visits. But I'll just think positively and assume that it won't come to that. (Editor's note: This just in from Selena's family: "We're thinking positively, too.")

Six grand per year. I'll probably have to move from my current home, an hour from expensive Boston, and look for cheaper accommodations. Forbes recently listed 60 of the cheapest places to live -- but the average home price on that list isn't as inexpensive as I thought. The best bet from the list seems to be Bismarck, N.D., which has a typical home value of $210,000. Forbes said some nice things about the place, and then added: "You may not like the temperature extremes -- Bismarck's high and low records are 114 degrees and -61 degrees, respectively -- or the constant wind, but with 300 sunny days per year, it's unlikely you'll turn suicidal over it." Sounds promising.

Downsize, downsize, downsize
Of course, I won't be able to afford a $210,000 home, so I poked through the region's home listings and found a gem on McKinley Avenue -- the sellers are asking just $32,000 for three bedrooms in 900 square feet. Better still, the taxes seem to be $144 per year, which is a tiny fraction of what I pay now (if, that is, I read the listing correctly). Pay attention, you oversavers: This is how you can retire well (and soon) -- by downsizing a bit. Sure, you make a few concessions, moving away from family and friends, enduring winters of below-zero temperatures, having half as much space for all your stuff ... but you can get by on a lot less money this way.

Still, I'll be living on $6,000 per year. That's $500 per month, or roughly $125 per week. Will I be able to afford health care on that? Will I be able to even eat on that?

The big picture
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. The idea of retiring on $100,000 isn't too appealing to most of us. Fortunately, most of us can do better than that -- much better. Here are a few ideas:

  • It's critical to have a plan. Know how much you'll need to retire on, and what income it will generate for you. Know how you'll get there, too. Explore all your options, such as IRAs and 401(k) plans.

  • If you have $100,000, and you invest it for 10 years in carefully selected stocks that grow briskly, you'll do well. Fellow Fool Tim Hanson detailed the past decade's best performers, such as Chico's (NYSE: CHS  ) , which grew by more than 3,500% in that period. (Even a 2,000% return would turn $100,000 into $2.1 million.) John Reeves, meanwhile, reviewed that period's larger outstanding performers, such as General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , each of which advanced more than 500% in that time period, turning $100,000 into more than $600,000. Heck, just a market-average annual return of 10% would turn $100,000 into more than $250,000 in a decade.

  • You don't even need phenomenal stock price growth, if you're invested over the long haul in stocks that pay solid but growing dividends. Some current significant yielders include Diageo (NYSE: DEO  ) , paying around 4.5%; Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , with 4.4%; Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , with 3.1%; and Fifth Third Bancorp (Nasdaq: FITB  ) , with 3.8%.

  • By planning and investing now, you can build a much bigger nest egg for your golden days. If you'd like some Foolish guides for practical advice and inspiring examples, Robert and the Rule Your Retirement newsletter service can be a big help. (You can try out the service for 30 days with a free trial available, and there's no obligation whatsoever.)

  • And finally, know that it is possible to retire on less than you think. You can live on considerably less than you live on now. You might fill your retirement days with volunteering and an enjoyable part-time job, and your evenings playing card and board games with friends. That doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Here's to a happy retirement, friend!

(Consider forwarding this article to anyone you care about. Just click on the "Email this Page" link near the bottom of the page.)

SelenaMaranjianhas decided to wait a while before retiring, even though she's actually been to Bismarck (in July) and liked it. She's fortunate that she likes her job and she owns shares of Pfizer. Pfizer is an Inside Value recommendation. Diageo and Bank of America are Income Investor recommendations. For more about Selena, viewher bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written:The Motley Fool Money GuideandThe Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.


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Selena Maranjian
TMFSelena

Selena Maranjian has been writing for the Fool since 1996 and covers basic investing and personal finance topics. She also prepares the Fool's syndicated newspaper column and has written or co-written a number of Fool books. For more financial and non-financial fare (as well as silly things), follow her on Twitter...

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