My first job as a mechanical drafter was at a company called Peerless Chain. To the employees, it was known as “Cheerless Pain”. I wasn’t thinking about retirement at the tender age of 20, but the company had yearly profit-sharing that went into an account for my old age. Unfortunately, I quit before I was fully vested, and most of the money went back to the company.

I worked temp jobs for a few years after that, so I didn’t have profit sharing or an IRA, or a 401k. Nor did I have health insurance, sick time or vacation time, for that matter. By the time I settled into another permanent job at “Brand X”, I was 27 and I knew it would be wise to start saving.


Stay at “Brand X”  and invest my profit sharing, and later 401k, in mutual funds until I turn 65. When I projected out my earnings over the next 38 years, I figured I’d have about $3,000,000 in investments.

The reality was that I was laid off after fifteen years with “Brand X”. They were bought out by a large corporation, and everyone got the sack. A few years before that happened, I spent 75% of my retirement account. Don’t ask me what I spent it on. It seemed really important at the time.

After eight months of unemployment, I was hired by “Brand Y”.


Stay at “Brand Y” and invest my 401k in mutual funds until I turn 66 years and 8 months (thanks, Reagan). Since I was basically starting over, I knew I couldn’t save millions, but maybe $800,000 was possible.

The reality was that I was doing pretty well saving and investing for several years. Then the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. Being in an aerospace engineering company, things were pretty harrowing for a while. Then, when the economy totally collapsed (thanks, Bush), I got laid off again.

I was only out of work for about a month when I was hired for my current position with “The Company”. I was able to take my entire retirement account (what was left after the crash) with me.


I realized I couldn’t make it to 66 years and 8 months. I decided to retire at 56 years, 6 months. I planned on moving to Mexico where the cost of living is low.

Unfortunately, you can’t make penalty-free withdrawals from your retirement accounts until you’re 59-and-a-half. I thought it was 56-and-a-half. Oops.

The other problem was that Mexico had gotten extremely dangerous over the years. I didn’t want to live in constant fear.


Stay at “The Company” and keep adding to my 401k until I can retire at 59-and-a-half. Sell my house and move to a small town to lower my cost of living.

Sad to say, my financial adviser felt this plan was unrealistic (harumph). He didn’t think I’d have nearly enough money to retire at that young(ish) age.

Also, I hate small towns.


Stay at “The Company” and keep adding to my 401k until I can collect Social Security at age 62.

This is the most realistic plan, assuming “The Company” doesn’t get sick of me and kick me out on my full and generous bottom. I just got a new boss who’s about 25 years younger than me, so we’ll see. If I do get laid off, I always have the nuclear option.


Sell the house, cash out my retirement account, and live the high life in Las Vegas until the cash runs out. Then take a Thelma-and-Louise style tour of the Grand Canyon.

Stay tuned…

p.s. After Mom saw “Thelma and Louise” she told me, “I just don’t know why girls these days can’t have fun without shooting somebody”!