Kayaking on a local lake 8-25-16.
Acadia National Park, Maine 9-12-15
About Our Income Russ Leonard 7-1-15
I just finished an interesting exercise, calculating our total lifetime income and comparing it to mean and median incomes both present and past. Considering how little we actually earned from our jobs, we have done very well. We were married in 1978. Until I retired on 6-27-14, I had steady employment with four different employers and had never collected unemployment. During those same years my wife had seven years where she did not work, about ten years of full time work and 20 years of part time work. In 1979 which was our first full year of marriage we had a combined income of about $23,000.00 with both of us working full time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in 1980 was $21,162.00. If you adjust our 1979 income for inflation it would be about $75,000.00 in today's dollars. The current U.S. median income is about $54,203.00 which is down from it's peak in 2008.
During our 37 years together we earned about 2.5 million dollars from our employers. That averages about $67,500.00 per year. My last year of full time work was 2013 and that was our peak combined earnings year of $124,000.00. So we have made decent money but certainly not big money. To put it in perspective, the CEO of the corporation that I worked for had a total compensation of about 30 million last year. So in one month he was paid what my wife and I earned combined in 37 years.
One thing that I did not do was maximize my earnings, but for reasons that made perfect sense to me. I always stayed up to date in training and technology for the positions I held over the years. I was approached on several occasions and offered jobs that in some cases would have more than doubled my earnings. Of course there was always a major catch. Most of these jobs required extensive travel, including months at a time in Asia. One potential employer said that they would only guarantee that I would be home 2 days per month. Being away from family, living in hotels and eating strange food had zero appeal to me. It was not a lifestyle for me no matter how much money I could have made.
The reason that I am sharing this is to show how income is just one piece of the puzzle. The other two pieces being spending habits and investing your savings. We limited wasteful spending, made slightly above average money, invested very conservatively and did just fine. Thoughtful spending and steady long term savings can provide exceptional results with average income. Together, time and compound interest are a wonderful thing.
About Our Lifestyle Russ Leonard 6-19-15
My wife and I have had and continue to have a great life together. We are both 100% sure that the accumulation of material things in no way equates to happiness. That is not to say that we each do not have our toys or hobbies. Over the years I have spent plenty of money, far more than my wife. We have bought 11 new cars in 37 years. I also had several old project muscle cars during that same time. It definitely kept me in the garage and out of trouble for many years. Some of the things that we have spent very little on or in some cases nothing at all may surprise you. You can only spend it once.
So far in 2015 I have spent $0 on clothing. My wife has spent $10.00. Over the last 30 years I have bought only one suit, one dress coat and one pair of dress shoes. I got some underwear and socks last Christmas from my wife. My wife will buy an occasional blouse or something. I doubt if she spends $100.00 a year on clothes. We have plenty. We do not buy more just to have something new. Now that I an no longer working, I can not see any need for new clothing for many years. Speaking of Christmas, we stopped exchanging gifts with family several years ago. We got to the point where we were exchanging gift cards because no one really needed anything. We love the Holidays. Gifts are not required to enjoy the quality time spent with family and friends.
I do not own and have never bought one piece of jewelry for myself in my life. We had a single ring wedding ceremony. Marilyn's engagement ring has great sentimental value. Yes, it is very small. Marilyn has never bought a single piece of real jewelry. She has bought a few pieces of costume jewelry for a few dollars. I doubt if she has ever spent more than $30.00 on a handbag or purse. I know what you are thinking. No, we are not cheap or miserly. We just do not associate any need or pleasure from certain material items. I have a 2005 Motorola silver Razr flip phone. One of the first models. I can't believe it still works great. My wife's flip phone is a little newer. We have basic service, no data. We do not text. We actually look at each other and talk. We do not have or see any need for the latest high tech electronics or computers. I am typing this at my basic desktop which is a few years old. It is only the second desktop computer that I have owned. Last year I "needed" a laptop to use with my auto guider for one of my telescopes. I bought a used, refurbished Dell for $100.00. It does the job. From the above article you already know that we do not have television. We are not cave people. We are not afraid of technology. My whole career involved the use of high tech electromechanical devices and computer controlled machinery. I had plenty of tech at work, I did not need it at home. The last piece of furniture we purchased was about 15 years ago. We have early American or Colonial type decor. It can't go out of style because it has already been out of style for 200 years. We last bought new kitchen appliances in 1993. They still look new and work fine. We will replace them when they no longer work. My wife has collected some glassware over the years and I have collected some bourbon. We have never been collectors of common things like stamps or baseball cards. We collect great memories.
When your combined income is only average and you want to save enough to retire early you make choices. Our choices may be different from the masses. We did not give anything up. We chose to travel. I am sure we spent well over a quarter of a million dollars on travel. It was worth every penny. For us it was the best choice. If we got to start over we would do it again.
Enjoying a late February 2015 walk at a local park.
My name is Russ Leonard. I retired at 57 years of age and have been married to my beautiful wife since 1978. On 6-27-14, I retired after a long career in Manufacturing, Management and Engineering. I don't have a large pension and I never inherited a dime. I never had a financial planner. I had a good middle class income and my wife worked primarily part time throughout our marriage. My wife retired on 10-31-15. We have lived a happy and modest life. We live in the same 1700 sq' house that we first moved into right after our Honeymoon. We spend money on the things that we truly need and enjoy. In our 37+ years together we have gone on over 100 major vacations.
When I was 40 years old, I decided that I would retire no later than my 59th birthday. I made no secret of my plans, but doubt if anyone took me seriously at the time. Up to that point we had saved some money but not nearly enough. We did have something going for us, no mortgage and no debt of any kind. I was 38 years old when we paid off the house. We had never up sized or kept up with the Joneses. As I previously said, we still live in that same house today. From that point on we saved 25-30% of our income. We put that money aside for the future and made sure we spent the rest and enjoyed life. As our income increased over the years our lifestyle did not change. We have never deprived ourselves, but we also do not waste money. We have had the same credit card since 1982 and have never paid a penny of interest.
I have exercised on a regular basis for 45 years, investing thousands of hours in my health. This has included weight lifting, cardio, endurance training, stretching, plyometrics and even some yoga. I enjoy travel, cooking, hiking and photography. I would consider myself an intermediate amateur astronomer. I am an auto enthusiast and have built performance cars from the ground up. I enjoy working in the yard and gardening. Most importantly I enjoy spending time with my wife. In other words I have many interests to keep myself busy and happy in retirement. I also have plenty of life experiences to share. Some funny, some not so. Oh, and one more thing. We don't have or watch television so I know we are a little different than most. Russ Leonard 4-16-15 updated 11-5-15