How I Did It
At age 35, I decided to retire by the time I reached 50. I got there two years early.
By David Hochman


"When I came out of college, I got the idea to retire early. By age 35 I was an electronics engineer making about $145,000, and I decided to go for it. 'Let's shoot for 50,' I said. First, my wife Brenda and I made the difficult decision not to have children. We estimated that we could trim a quarter of a million dollars out of our living costs over the next 15 years. Then we put all of Brenda's $65,000 salary (as a project coordinator at a nuclear plant) and any bonuses into savings or to pay down our $200,000 mortgage. We figured we'd need $500,000 in cash to retire. That quickly became $1 million and eventually $2 million. I took 30% of my income and put it into my 401(k) and other investments for our nest egg. Since I traveled a lot for work, I put all my expenses on my personal credit card, then paid it off with a personal check. Why let the company get the credit rating and airline miles? Then when the company reimbursed me, the check went into our retirement bucket.

As we closed in on retirement, we got hard-core. We switched from banks to credit unions, which offer higher interest. We sold our home and put everything in it on eBay. I retired in 2002 at age 48--seven years younger than my father was when he retired. We've spent the past few winters sailing. Our new mantra is "preserve your capital," so we rent an $800 apartment in Florida instead of owning. We buy catastrophic health-care insurance and drive an '88 Ford Bronco. And I don't buy suits anymore since, to tell the truth, I'm in shorts and a T-shirt most of the time."