Saturday, September 17, 2016


1. Do You Ever Have Enough Money to Retire?

Will We Ever have Enough Money to Retire? 
     No, I don’t believe most people ever really have enough money. I have Googled “How much money do I need to retire?” and find all kinds of formulas for calculating the amount of money a person should have saved in a combination of IRA accounts, 401(k) accounts, bank accounts, and other assets, factoring in the amount of Social Security and other income you will have, to be self-supporting in the lifestyle you have become accustomed until you die. Every time I worked one of these calculations in the past few years, the dollar figure was always a scary, high amount that seemed unreachable.
     When I was 58 years old, I decided a better approach was to look at the amount of money I had saved and adjust my lifestyle downward to stretch my funds. Living simply, my savings would last until I could begin drawing from my IRA at age 59 ½ without penalty. Then I could begin drawing on my Social Security at age 62. Simplifying life and feeling okay with a lower standard of living in order to make it on less money was well worth it. I was able to retire from pharmacy before the age of 59! I am thankful that I realized I would never have enough money, according to the retirement formulas, and decided to find a way to retire early with the money I had at the age of 58.

2. Get out of the rat race before resentment and anger become irreversible! 

Escaping the Rat Race

     The “Rat Race”, according to is “an exhausting, unremitting, and usually competitive activity or routine, especially a pressured urban working life spent trying to get ahead with little time left for leisure, contemplation, etc.” Sound familiar? That describes my career exactly. I began to resent my job each morning I had to go to work.
     The last ten years of the thirty-five years I worked as a pharmacist had left me bitter about the current state of retail pharmacy practice: daily dealings with mean, rude customers, playing “the cop” with drug abusers fishing for more narcotic pain pills, and trying to satisfy corporate America’s demands for ever more productivity. Gone were the days of feeling appreciated by patients, doctors, and nurses for my knowledge and skills. I was ready to escape the madness, and I’m glad I did!     

     I was able to quit the practice of pharmacy while I still felt proud of my strong work ethic and the years I had served in health care, teaching people about proper use and potential side effects of their medications. I know in my heart that I have helped thousands of people with their health and wellness over the years, answered many questions about how medication and nutritional supplements can benefit their health, and I know that thousands of people have appreciated my help over the year. Then, about fifteen years ago, I began to see distressing changes in the people I served and in drug use and abuse. I was saddened by changes in the customers, with their lack of manners as they complained, even yelled at me or other associates at times about how long it took to get their prescription filled rather than thanking me for the helpful information I gave them during their counseling session with me. When monitoring narcotic pain pill use and abuse became the major focus of my day as a pharmacist, when customer rudeness left me wanting to wear a button that said “Mean People Suck!”, when the corporations pushed for the production of more prescriptions per pharmacist per day, without adequate regard to accuracy and quality of information relayed to the patient, I knew it was time to leave this profession. What a relief it was to quit my pharmacy career and begin my next phase of self-employment: writing books and blogs to help people discover healthy living in Mexico! And, maybe I would even have time to get my Zumba® instructor certification and begin teaching Zumba® classes! I am thankful that I quit my career as a pharmacist, got out of the rat race, and began doing work I enjoy, within my own time-frame!

3. No more rushing around and hurrying through the day. Then, incorporate a "siesta". 
A Siesta, Mexican-style, is a Mid-Day Rest

     Pre-retirement work routine: I started my day as a retail pharmacist for a small chain of stores with a bang, jumping out of bed at the sound of my annoying alarm ringtone, hopping into the shower still half asleep, guzzling my high-octane coffee while throwing together a sandwich, apple slices, and a diet Coke for lunch that day, and then gulping my breakfast of granola, yogurt, and banana. A quick brush of my teeth before swallowing a handful of vitamins and nutritional supplements to help my body fight off the bacteria, viruses, and spittle that would be coughed, sneezed, and spewed on me during the course of my day at the pharmacy. Hurriedly, I would grab my pharmacist smock, purse, lunch, water bottle, and fly out the door to unplug my electric hybrid Prius from its charger. After silently backing the battery-powered car out of the driveway, I would push it into gasoline-burning mode in a rush to make it to the pharmacy in time to punch the clock exactly at my scheduled shift start time, not one minute before or after. (Whew, my blood pressure just went up 20 points while reliving that in my mind!) Then the pharmacy phone started ringing and the pace increased. I had come to dread the hurry, hurry, hurry of my workdays.
     The pace of my life slowed down significantly after I retired and we moved to Mexico. I feel healthier because of it. What a wonderful feeling to wake in the morning when my body is rested, open my office door to the garden and settle at my desk to drink my caffeine-free coffee at a leisurely pace while catching up on emails and writing a page in my book. I would often fix a fruit smoothie to enjoy while Jon and I sat in our colorful flower garden, sipping the mixture of fresh tropical fruits, yogurt, and pineapple juice while listening to the birds sing. We would discuss how we planned to get our exercise that day, whether we would reach our 10,000 steps by attending a Zumba class, doing yoga, hiking the length of the beach, walking to town to have fish tacos for lunch and shop for groceries, or a combination of these healthy activities. Mornings became a time to look forward to.
     One lesson we were slow to learn during our retirement in Mexico was respecting and utilizing the tradition of siesta. During the first few months, we inevitably finished lunch and decided about 2:00 in the afternoon to run errands such as taking two loads of laundry to the lavandería or driving the golf cart to the welder to have a surfboard rack installed. Often, we would interrupt someone’s siesta or find the business closed from 2:00PM to 4:00PM, the traditional time when Mexicans have their main meal of the day and then rest. Once we fell into the pattern of eating lunch at 2:00PM like the Mexicans do, and then reading, gardening, resting on the porch swing, or doing other relaxing activities until 4:00PM, we understood the health benefit of siesta. We began planning our errands in town for 4:00PM or later. We often found that boogie-boarding afterward was a refreshing way to end our calm but eventful afternoon, and then we were ready to shower and dress in preparation for a walk to town for dinner. I am very thankful for this healthy, calm life change, including incorporating a siesta into the day!

4. Do what you want, when you want! No more schedules!

We Take Walks on the Sayulita Beach When We Want

And Hikes Where We Want: Susan Cr. Falls, OR
     Pre-retirement exercise routine: I rushed from work to the YMCA for a work-out or Zumba class. Since we have retired early and moved to Mexico, we have so many exercise options in Sayulita, we can go to Zumba at 9:00AM or Yoga at 10:00AM or Pilates at 10:30AM or take a morning walk on the beach and go to Salsa lessons at 7:00PM, and those are just a few of the options. Now, we exercise the way we want, when we want.
     Pre-retirement travel: I requested time off months in advance and hoped it would be granted by my boss. Of course, my vacations had to be juggled around other pharmacists’ vacations and the company’s “No Vacation Black-out” periods such as Thanksgiving through New Year’s. A short two-week trip to Mazatlán in February had to suffice for years. When I became frustrated with these restrictions, I changed my status to “On Call Pharmacist” and took a leave of absence once a year so we could pack up the motorhome and travel to Mexico for six months at a stretch. I called that “semi-retirement” and we enjoyed it very much. But the culture shock of returning to the United States after six to seven months away was incredibly difficult. The people in the U.S. seemed meaner, ruder, more in a hurry, and even more focused on making a dollar than they had been before our travels. It was time to retire and escape this rat race. I am so thankful that I was able to retire even though we hadn't saved enough money, according to those formulas. I am thankful that we figured out a way to change our lifestyle to manage with the amount of money I had saved “before the age of 59”. Now we can fly or drive between Mexico and the United States when we want to. No more company schedules dictating when we can travel and how long we can be away!
     Pre-retirement grocery shopping and dining out: I would get off work in Oregon at 6:00PM or 7:00PM, drive to the closest supermarket and grab a basketful of groceries to hold us over for the week—$200! By the time I got home after work and grocery shopping and then put the food away, I was too tired to cook. We would go out for dinner—$75! Now, in Sayulita, we walk a half mile to town every two or three days, shop for fresh produce, fish or meat, and staples for a few days—400 pesos ($24US). I actually looked forward to preparing stir-fried vegetables to accompany the steak Jon would grill on the barbecue at home. The next day we would go to a restaurant for a nice dinner of a fresh vegetables salad, grilled red snapper, wine, flan for dessert, and tip—$500 pesos ($30US)! I am so thankful that we retired even though we didn’t have enough money saved, by U.S. standards, and found a wonderful lifestyle in Mexico that is simple, unhurried and unscheduled, inexpensive, and healthy, where I can do what I want, when I want.

5. Retire while you’re still young and healthy enough to have the time and energy to participate in sports, exercise, and traveling. Forget that procrastination phrase: "When I retire, I'm going to ...."

Fun Zumba Class at Bahia Fitness in Bucerias, Nayarit

Zumba with Efren at Shanti Studio in Puerto Vallarta

     At 58 years old, before retirement, I loved to boogie-board, Stand-Up Paddleboard, ride bikes, take five mile hikes in the forest, walk Bella, our dachshund, three miles on the beach, garden, read fiction novels, play Frisbee and paddle ball on the beach, go to Zumba® and Yoga classes, and so many other healthy activities, but there was never enough time when I was working as a pharmacist. No more procrastinating--it was time to focus on a healthy lifestyle! Now that I've retired before the age of 59, I have the time and energy to do some of these activities every day, and still have time to write a bit on my books and blogs each morning and to read for hours at the end of the day. When I was working as a pharmacist, I rarely had the time or energy for these activities to improve my physical fitness and mental health. Working full-time left little time for a healthy lifestyle. Often I would say, as many do, "when I retire, I will exercise more, garden more, read more, write more…". It was time to stop procrastinating, retire from pharmacy, and begin doing the things I love.
     I am so thankful that I made the decision to retire “before the age of 59”, while I was young enough and healthy enough to really enjoy life and all of the activities I love. I am thankful that I feel healthier because I get more physical activity now that I am retired than I did when I worked as a pharmacist.

6. Have time to leisurely shop for groceries and cook healthy meals. 
Fresh-Picked Pineapples for 18 pesos each! ($1 U.S.)

     The strangest change for me after early retirement was that I began to enjoy shopping for groceries. The big difference was that I began to shop locally, saving money (and my sanity) by shopping for healthy foods at the many tiendas, small stores all over Sayulita, and at the wonderful Sayulita Friday Market that provide fresh produce, fresh fish or meat, and all kinds of specialty items. “Shopping local” has taken on a whole new meaning for me, allowing me to look forward to walking to the community stores and vendors each week, shopping at a leisurely pace, enjoying the experience of browsing and choosing vegetables and fruit fresh from the farm, and beef or chicken from a family-run meat market.
     My hatred of grocery shopping had become clinical when I lived in the United States. If you haven't experience this, it sounds crazy, I know, but it was real! I googled “grocery shopping phobia”, wondering if there is an actual condition that describes my aversion toward grocery shopping, and found many posts about “Supermarket Phobia” and “Grocery Store Anxiety”. Wow! I’m not alone in this loathing for walking through the doors of a large store, but my anxiety developed from too many years of practicing pharmacy in stores owned by monstrous corporations. In my position as a Traveling Pharmacist, I worked at many “Big-Box” store pharmacies including Wal-Mart, Costco, Bi-Mart, and K-Mart. I had also worked for many prescription-crunching chain supermarket drugstores, some of which were Rite-Aid, Safeway, Ray’s, and Albertsons. When I retired, I avoided these stores unless I had no other option for finding a product, or their deep-discount prices drew me in during our once a year stock-up shopping when we visit the United States. For years after I quit practicing pharmacy, I could not walk into one of these corporate giants—the very idea brought on flashbacks of stressful experiences. I had been traumatized by the supermarkets! Jon would gladly take my shopping list and go in to buy what we needed while I sat in the motorhome or took Bella for a walk. In Mexico, I find that the atmosphere in supermarkets is more mellow, with the people shopping calmly, speaking politely to each other and the cashiers, and the experience is not stressful or overwhelming like it is in the U.S. So I do occasionally shop at supermarkets in the Riviera Nayarit area such as Mega or Soriana, even Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Costco, when we need some specialty items. But, now, I “shop local” for almost everything we need, right in Sayulita, and enjoy it.
     I am thankful that I now enjoy leisurely grocery shopping in Sayulita, Mexico and the surrounding area. Our diet is so much healthier now that we are retired and have the time and the desire to shop for fresh groceries and to prepare flavorful, good-quality meals.
I Enjoy More Time Cooking: Pork Carnitas on the Barbecue

7. More time to spend with children, grandchildren, and other family and friends.
Camping with Family at Farewell Bend Campground, OR

     Sure, everyone who is retired has more time to spend with family and friends. But, if I had waited until I was 66 years old to retire, another eight years of working in pharmacy, our oldest granddaughter would have graduated from high school and been on to college—we would have missed so much more of her childhood. Since we retired when she was only ten years old , we were able to begin visiting more often and staying longer, sharing in her first experiences with her new tree-house, buying her first hover-board, going on weekend camping and fishing trips, taking leisurely nature trail walks with her and her mom and dog, Jack, and preparing for a huge life change, her first day of middle school. We are thankful that we retired early so we can spend more time with our son, daughter-in-law, and oldest granddaughter, being with her during her preteen years, through high school, and whatever her future holds.
     Our daughter and son-in-law have two young daughters that we look forward to seeing when we travel to Oregon. When our daughter was pregnant, I was retired and was able to travel to her home to be with her for the last two weeks of her pregnancies and for her deliveries. We spent many enjoyable hours together while we waited for each baby to decide to join the world, taking walks, talking about her future with one, and then two children. I was able to be there to help her with the babies’ deliveries—what a precious gift that I will never forget! I am thankful that early retirement allows me the flexibility to take as much time to visit our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters as we want, when we want. We now have the time and we still have the energy to play with the little ones as they grow up. I can’t wait to get back there and play on the trampoline with the two-year-old!
     When our fourth granddaughter was born, our son and his partner lived across the country in North Carolina. At the time, we were living in our motorhome full-time, traveling around Mexico. We were able to plan our trip to exit Mexico by way of Texas and head to North Carolina, getting our first look at some of the southern states. We are thankful that we were able to drive to their home and spend several days with them when our granddaughter was only three months old. Such a sweet time in life!
     We enjoy spending precious time with my mom whenever we travel to Oregon. We miss her terribly now that we live in Mexico ten months per year and I know she misses us, too. We are thankful that we are retired now and have the time to drive our motorhome or make the short flight back and forth from Mexico to Oregon to visit Mom. 
     We really enjoy making our annual trip around Oregon in our motorhome, spending time with each of our family members, sometimes two or three times in the two months that we are in Oregon. We feel so fortunate to have been able to retire before I had reached the age of 59 and before we had saved “enough” money to retire. Life is short, so we have decided to enjoy each day to the max, living a healthy lifestyle in a Mexican city we love, and then visiting our family as much as possible on our vacations to Oregon. I am thankful for “Retirement Before the Age of 59”.

     Look for my upcoming eBook on Amazon, "Retirement Before the Age of 59".
My Upcoming eBook Available Soon on