Most of the advice at Get Rich Slowly is targeted to people like me: middle-class Americans in their mid-thirties who have struggled with debt. But many other people have money questions, too. Christine is 54 and her husband is 62. They’re seeking quality resources about planning for retirement:

You and most of your readers are at a different life stage than I am.  I’ve done the heavy frugality thing already. From a couple of decades ahead of you, I can report that your way of looking at things will carry you pretty gently through the economic rough patches.  Being free of debt (except a reasonable mortgage), knowing how to cut back spending when you need to, keeping some emergency money, having insurance against the big catastrophes, and discovering various ways of earning money all work together to keep things going when the unexpected happens.  

My husband and I never had high incomes — we’re a teacher and a librarian — but at this point in my life, I feel rich.  When something breaks, we get it fixed.  If we had to quit work tomorrow we’d be okay, though we might be taking hiking trips to Colorado rather than Argentina or Europe.

We’re looking at retirement in the near-term, but we have a lot of questions.  When should we retire? Obviously the longer we wait, the safer we’ll be financially. But we run the risk of not being able to have the active vacations that we enjoy when we are older.  Can we kayak in Alaska in our 80′s?  And how do we balance our age difference?  And we won’t be traveling all the time.  What will we do with the rest of our lives?

Some early retirement books I’ve seen tend to gloss over the difficulties, especially health insurance, though they often have some useful information.  I’ve also been looking for a blog about these issues, but I’m not finding it. Can you or your readers offer some advice for this end of the get rich slowly journey?

This is a good opportunity for older readers to chime in. I’ve read very little about traditional retirement. Most of my research has focused on early retirement (or semi-retirement). I’ve read (or browsed) books such as:

  • Cashing in on the American Dream: How to Retire at 35 by Paul Terhorst. This 1988 book is out-of-print and, in many ways, out-of-date, but it’s considered a classic in the small body of early retirement literature. I began to read it a couple of months ago, and found the broad advice inspirational (though the specific advice was no longer applicable).
  • Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich is a modern book similar to Terhorst’s. The author has a blog about experiments in lifestyle design, which is his euphemism for creative semi-retirement. Though I don’t agree with all that Ferriss has to say, he’s jam-packed with ideas. This is a good book for motivated young adults. [My review.]
  • Work Less, Live More: The Way to Semi-Retirement by Bob Clyatt describes techniques for leaving the traditional job path years (or decades) before the traditional retirement age of 65. This book is like a toned-down, practical version of The 4-Hour Workweek. I like it. A lot.
  • Die Broke by Stephen M. Pollan offers a non-traditional retirement program designed to maximize the use of your retirement savings. Most of this book is a catalog of tips on specific subjects, including health insurance.
  • Fred Brock’s Retire on Less Than You Think argues that the traditional rule of thumb — you’ll need 80% of your pre-retirement salary during later years — is misguided. He focuses on expenses not income. This book contains a 23-page chapter devoted to the problem of health insurance.

Of these, I’d most recommend Clyatt’s Work Less, Live More. The advice is solid, he cites his sources, and he points readers to additional material. Of course, you can also find useful information on the internet:

  • The Simple Living discussion forums are not geared toward early retirement, but many of the participants are pursuing its close cousin, financial independence. (FIRE is a common acronym for “financial independence/retire early”.)
  • Bob Clyatt has a web site that includes a list of financial independence and early retirement resources.
  • Tim Ferriss’ blog is targeted at young adults who are looking to pursue non-traditional careers. He’s all about designing a lifestyle that suits your goals.
  • Perhaps the best online resource is the Early Retirement Forum. There’s a wealth of information here. If you’re at all interested in the subject, put it on your list of monthly reads.

I’m still in the early stages of researching early retirement and financial independence. (Long-term goals never seemed attainable until I dug myself out of debt.) The best I can offer Christine are these lists of books and links. My hope is that you, the readers, can give her more.

Are you further along the road to getting rich slowly? Do you have practical advice? What have you learned? How much money does a person really need in retirement? What about health insurance? What should Christine and her husband consider as they contemplate this decision?

Please note that while I’ve steered my response toward early retirement, Christine is really asking about retirement in general.