Making retirement work even though market weirdness

Published January 27, 2016   Posted in How to Retire

My wife and I are being stubborn – there is no way that we’re going to let market conditions this year (and the last half of 2015) effect our planned retirement target – end of 2016 for me and February of 2017 for my wife.

We just lost over $26,000 in the stock market, but we are still retiring early!But, we are also facing the cold hard facts: we probably won’t have as much money going into retirement that we had initially thought. We made our cash projections in early 2015 when the market was doing fairly well. Our estimates were conservative, but certainly not THIS conservative!

Then, the latter half of 2015 hit and put a stop to the delicious gravy train that investors giddily ate up for several years.  Okay, so things were returning back to “normal” – or correcting, if you will. No big deal. And that continued through the end of the year.

And thus far into 2016, things have become even worse. We had the worst 4-day stretch to begin a calendar year in history. And plummeting oil prices are continuing to send stocks straight down.

And to all this, I only have two words: Who Cares!

From our beautiful trip to Glacier National Park, Montana during the summer of 2015.

From our beautiful trip to Glacier National Park, Montana during the summer of 2015.

We don’t give a flying whip about the market downturn.  In fact, going into retirement in a down market will make its eventual (and historically “guaranteed”) upswing that much sweeter. We might have accidentally timed this whole thing incredibly well. Better for the market to go through its weirdness this year – when we are still working – than next – when we aren’t.

Still, we will not have as much money as we had planned on quittin’ day. What now? For the record, I’ve detailed our post-retirement goals in case you missed it. The tl;dr version: We are selling everything, buying an Airstream RV and traveling the country full time with our dogs in tow.

What to do with less money going into retirement

Essentially, there are three things that we could do in response to the market’s bearish growls. It all comes down to the same principles that any early retiree thinks about most – increasing income and reducing expenses. Same stuff, different day.

1. Work longer – Though we wholeheartedly reject the idea of working longer, it is an option and falls squarely in the increasing income category. Working longer at steady, well-paying jobs could definitely add lots of additional green to our stash.

2. Find odd-jobs – After retirement, there is always the option of finding things to do while on the road, or even finding remote work that we can do with an internet connection, another increasing income strategy. We’re talking part-time work, here – nothing full time. After all, the goal is to escape full time jobs, not simply replace a full time job with another.

3. Work camp more – Work camping is ingenious. It’s a deal where campers work 15 to 20 hours a week for the campground in exchange for a free campsite that usually includes electric, water and sewer – hello reducing expenses! Essentially, this means that campers live rent-free while work camping. If you are camping on a budget, it’s a great deal, and work camping gigs are available all around the country. Some even pay you a small hourly wage in addition to a free camp site.

4. Curtail our “local consumption” spending – As we travel, we would like to visit local coffee shops and breweries every now and again to experience a little bit of the culture as well as support local businesses. While we probably will do this some, we may not choose to kick back a beer at a local brewery or cup of Joe at a local coffee shop quite as often – further reducing expenses.

Our planned retirement adjustments

We anticipate taking a little from columns 2, 3 and 4 from above. While we had planned to work camp anyway, we may look for more opportunities fairly soon after we start into our new lifestyle to help keep our costs down. In addition, I may look for some remote blogging work as I travel and maybe even before we officially retire. This will help generate some additional cash on a monthly basis and keep us from withdrawing too much from our portfolio, at least in the first couple of years after we call it quits from full time work.

Remember, the formative early retirement years are the first few right after retirement. If we can keep our stash well maintained and relatively level through this period, we significantly increase our chances of living out the rest of our lives on the investments that we have built today.

There are any number of options to bump up our income a bit more or reduce expenses, but there are two primary elements of our retirement that we won’t sacrifice on:

Our Airstream – This will be our full time home and there is no way that we’d sacrifice on this cost by getting a lower quality model. We want a used, well-maintained Airstream that’s move-in ready with a clean interior and exterior, working appliances and functional plumbing. If things are outdated a bit on the inside, that part is fine – we can fine-tune the aesthetics to make it our own as we go and as finances allow.

Our truck – This sucker will pull our home across the country for years to come, so we naturally want the best that money can buy. We definitely aren’t looking for a brand new truck, which could set us back $40 or $50k for a well-equipped diesel towing machine.  We are thinking more in the $30k price range and 2008 to 2010 model years. A Dodge Ram 2500 would do the trick.

What say you? Has the downturn in the market forced your hand into making changes to your anticipated post-retirement lifestyle? Have you considered pushing your date back?

We track our net worth using Personal Capital


27 responses to “Making retirement work even though market weirdness”

  1. Ernie says:

    What’s that you say? There was a downturn in the market?! Honestly, unless they talk about this stuff in the sports section (or on blogs I read like yours) I’m never going to hear about it.

    • Steve says:

      Ha! I like your attitude, Ernie. You’re right that paying attention to the market probably isn’t the best thing to do when you’re in it for the long term, as we are. I guess curiosity just gets the better of me! 🙂

    • Lauren says:

      What about those in for the short or medium term?

  2. These are awesome options, Steve! Especially the ones that involve a bit of low-stress work – my grandmother retired early-ish on a solid company pension (those were the days!) and has worked on and off helping out at her favourite golf course for big chunks of her long retirement. While she doesn’t need the money, she loves getting out of the house and socializing with people, and it does provide a nice boost! That kind of gig – where you do it primarily because you like it, and hey, extra cash is nice – might be just the thing to enjoy a few more local beers! (Which are a particular favourite of mine too – if you ever detour up to Ottawa, Canada during your travels I’ll hook you up with stellar local recommendations!)

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Des! I think your grandmother did it exactly right – working because you enjoy what you do is a feeling unlike any other. Unfortunately, I haven’t had that feeling in a long time, so I’m looking forward to getting myself into the position where I can pick and choose the work that I do a little more discriminately. 🙂

      And I will certainly take you up on those recommendations if we are ever in the Ottawa area. In fact, one of our goals is to travel East to West across Canada one of these years to take in the beautiful landscape. We hear it’s pretty amazing up there. 🙂

  3. Since we’re still several years off and hope to save more this year than we did last year, all I have to say is: tank, baby tank! If you sell your house and put the money in a down market, you’re that much better off when it comes back up, right? 🙂

  4. Since our retirement date is not currently in the near-term, the downturn has caused us to questions anything. If anything, it has pushed us to up our contributions so we can take advantage of declining stock prices.

    In my eyes, I wouldn’t think a market downturn would effect your retirement timeline because if you are as close as the two of you are to retirement, I would think you both have planned for what would happen in the short-term if something like this happened. You guys seem to have a great plan and I’m glad that the recent downturn won’t be changing it!

    • Steve says:

      I like that attitude, Thias – and truthfully, unless you’re dealing with extenuating circumstances, the market doing what the market usually does every 5 or so years shouldn’t REALLY effect the larger plans. 🙂

  5. I anticipate this market downturn to be temporary, at least I hope! Definitely take advantage of these stable stocks that have lower prices, hopefully it will make up for what you are loosing. Don’t push your date back, you made a goal and you can achieve it! Good luck!

    • Steve says:

      Hey FF – yeah, it’ll definitely be temporary. How temporary? Yeah, that’s the part that I am not sure about. But the market does this stuff every now and again. Stocks are on sale at the moment. Let’s buy ’em up! 🙂

  6. John says:

    I “retired” from full time work on 1/1/16, so needless to say it’s not thrilling to then have the worst calendar year start of all time! But here’s the deal: we built a portfolio within our risk tolerance and risk need. So while we’re not ecstatic about the drop, I’m not worried about it either. No changes to the portfolio other than (1) a small equity purchase that was already planned, and (2) moving a few bond fund investments to stocks to take advantage of the discounted prices!

    We don’t plan any lifestyle changes as our SWR was low enough to ride out temporary storms like this.


    • Steve says:

      “We built a portfolio within our risk tolerance and risk need” – beautifully said, John. There will always be certain risk inherent in a plan like this, and the risk that we build into our lifestyles SHOULD account for much of it, less something catastrophic happens.

  7. Mr. SSC says:

    Even though we’re still a couple years out, we’ve short term switched to stocking up our cash reserves more than stocks. Our thought is that if we need cash in 3-9 months, and we have stocked it away, $5k will still be $5k. We’re still investing, but with the whirlwinds going through our industry, we’re fairly confident one of us won’t make it through the year this year with a full time job. 🙂 So we’re hedging against that and that alone. Otherwise, yes, I say, BUY, BUY, BUY and just wait for the up cycle.
    The market swing has caused us to re-evaluate our plans too. We may delay our Lifestyle Change, or if we can find a way to get jobs that will work outside of Houston in the meantime, we are close enough we could go ahead and take them and just realize things could be “tight” for a few years. If I could trade “tight” and mtns for “comfy” and Houston, I’d do it in a heartbeat. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Hey Mr. SSC – yeah, we are loading up our savings a little bit more as well, though that has nothing to do with the stock market. We are doing that to better position us to make a cash offer for our next home-on-wheels. But I definitely like your plan and it looks like it’s a solid one. BUY BUY BUY is right, baby! There’s a 20% off sale in the market right now. We can’t afford not to buy. 🙂

  8. Carl Pascale says:


    I think that you’ve got the right approach to dealing with the market downturn. It’s something of the moment, not the long-term. Five years from now few of us will remember and, if we stay invested, it won’t matter. In the meantime limiting your withdrawals and continuing to invest are both worthwhile responses.

    I’m fortunate to have been able to retire four years ago at 55. My wife and I now live on one third of the income we earned previously. Thanks to my pension and disability coverage for my wife we don’t need to tap retirement savings until we face RMD at 70. As a result, we take the same ‘do nothing’ approach we took during the last downturn.

    I really enjoy your posts. It’s remarkable how life can be transformed when you focus on purpose more than things.

    • Steve says:

      “Five years from now few of us will remember and, if we stay invested, it won’t matter.” – Excellent point, Carl, and thank you very much for the kind words regarding the blog. I appreciate it a ton. 🙂

  9. Stockbeard says:

    Hey Steve, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, the market downturn is definitely impacting my plans. I had in mind to retire by the end of 2016/early 2017, but Instead I’ll probably suck it up, find a way for my company to pay for my family’s move back to Japan, and keep working for their JP office for “OMY”

    Glad to see you and your wife are brave enough to not change your goals. 2016 was a stretch for me under “good” conditions, so I won’t take the risk, unless the second half of the year turns out to be insanely good.

    • Steve says:

      Yeah, the “One More Year” syndrome. It happens. We are trying our very, very best to avoid that, but you never know what the future will bring us. I think we are more open to part time work opportunities by keeping our plans at this point. I don’t know if it’s us being “Brave” or just downright “Stupid”, but we’ll see. The future holds that answer, and I’m anxious to find out what it is! 😉

  10. I am seven working days away from giving my early notice and there is no freaking way that I am going to not do that because of current market conditions. We are carrying enough cash – about three years – to weather the storm, and have other secure investments if we ended up in an awful economy. We can also reduce our discretionary spending, which we will probably do, just to be responsible.

    • Steve says:

      Amen to that, MrFireStation, and congrats on being so damn close to your retirement date! Carrying cash is wonderful in these kinds of markets, so it definitely looks like you are doing this exactly right. Just be responsible is spot on.

      Enjoy your last remaining days in an office. 😉

  11. I’m too far away from FI for these little blips to really effect anything. No matter what happens, I’m sure you’ll make it work 🙂

  12. This is something we’re asking ourselves a lot these days. We’ve basically lost all of our head start going into this year, putting us back on track for an end of 2017 quit date. But we know there is still a lot of year left, and we’re now buying even more shares each month than we were when they were trading at a higher price, so in some ways we’re making *faster* progress, even if the balance sheet doesn’t reflect that. So who knows? Quitting this year could still happen, but it would definitely require some adjustments along the lines of what you two are contemplating. We plan to stay in our home, so don’t have those same options for cutting costs, but we can definitely work on the income side of things!

    In any case, glad to hear that you guys aren’t slowing your plan down for a little market correction! 🙂

    • Steve says:

      You guys have the right attitude about buying – this is exactly the right time to send more money into the market while prices are low. Values will increase in the future, which will make this little blip a thing of the past. 🙂

  13. Hannah says:

    Although you might not be totally retired, you’ll be unjobbed, and I’m sure that will suit you just fine. Once you’ve taken a break, I’m sure one of your money making ideas won’t sound half bad.

    • Steve says:

      That is probably true, Hannah – once I have forgotten about the typical “having a job” nonsense of life, I probably will be ready to tackle something. It definitely won’t be full-time office work, but something that I actually enjoy doing.

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