How Are You Building Your Retirement Success Story?

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Are you looking to retire in the distant future?

What age comes to mind when you think about your retirement? 65+?

Working until age 65+ might make sense if everyone was guaranteed to live to 100 with good health and financial stability during retirement, but that’s not the reality.

We each have a timer with no display, so the only way to ensure an abundant life is to capitalize on the time we do have.

My vision of this does not involve pleasing the boss with a timely report month after month after month after…”Oh hey, here’s your 1000th report, boss”.

Let’s face it, a large percentage of society would rather be doing something other than working the typical 9-to-5.

Here are some ideas of what could be on the redefined side of life:

Selling fresh-baked goods that people would happily pay to consume. Yum!

A part-time consulting business using your decade-old expertise in a particular industry. Nice!

World-explorer traveling to places people could only dream of and blogging all about it. Sign me up!

retirement success story

What’s Holding You Back?

Is it the fear of the unknown?

The lack of knowledge?

It could be a number of reasons you’re scared to make the leap to even start thinking about retiring, much less retiring prior to age 65.

You may be thinking something along these lines:

I have little money saved up, retirement is out of the question. Right now it is…

No, there’s no way, I only make $50k/year and it’s impossible. Maybe…

I’m raising a family, so there’s no chance for me, I might even have to work longer. I get it…

We all have circumstances that keep us in the workforce for a defined period of time.

You may not be able to retire in your 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s, but why not increase the odds of exiting the rat race by 65?


A Retirement Success Story

Wouldn’t the 9-to-5 be more effective if there was an end goal?

Sure, some of us have more pressing matters, like paying off debt, trying to make ends meet, big life purchases – heck who has money to save and invest when there are 3 or 4 mouths to feed.

Hey, I get it…

I reckon that my parents had this same mentality when I was growing up.

With 3 kids in the house to raise, my Dad worked overnight in a factory while my Mom worked at a fast food restaurant right down the street.

I can imagine how scary it must have been to not know if they could provide a life for us given the broken English they spoke. Was it worth raising us in the United States?

Why yes, because there is so much more opportunity here which at some point, each one of us takes for granted. *raises hand* myself included…

Do you want to know the ending of this story?

Designing Their Own Future

My parents made a clearer and brighter future by going into business for themselves. This is not the answer for everyone. For them, this was the only answer – due to limited education and poor English speaking skills.

Their solution was owning a small convenience store that they acquired as an earn-out business. They could control their destiny by correlating the work output with the amount of money that they made.

Even after this, my family never lived a lavish lifestyle, but we worried less about money and subsequently found ourselves with more food on the table.

Their yearly income was likely around $40k-$50k/year, so it made for a good living in the Southwest. This was considerably more than they made at their original day jobs combined.

What if I told you that my parents never placed one dime into investments, but they still were able to retire in their early 60’s?

Yes, they started with disadvantages. True, they had to incur the costs of raising a family. Still, they managed to do it.

Mind you, this was after almost two decades of working from morning to night, 7 days a week.

Even though they enjoyed working for themselves, after all those years, time had taken its toll. They didn’t have it in them to work much longer.

They were able to roll into retirement due to saving an effective nest egg, having a modest paid-off home, and securing one part-time job to stay busy.

This qualifies as a success story to me.

How Are You Building Your Retirement Success Story?

Do you remember these common statements I mentioned at the beginning of this article?

Here they are again as a quick reminder:

I have little money saved up, retirement is out of the question.

No, there’s no way, I only make $50k/year and it’s impossible.

I’m raising a family, so there’s no chance for me, I might even have to work longer. 

I didn’t plan this while writing, so it is pretty incredible in itself.

My parents fit into all three of these profiles at one point or another in their lifetime and they were still able to retire early!


Imagine if you were to take control of your life today and decided to work with purpose so that someday you could retire.

My parents didn’t know how to use investment accounts. To them, hard work in their business was their investment, and it worked for them.

However, had they combined this with the market investment options, it may have helped them retire even earlier and be even more comfortable now with their finances.

My hope is that you gain both the realization that retirement is possible, as well as the motivation to research and plan the “how” of it.

The Wealth Formula 

Consider taking the steps to plan out your retirement success story today.

In order to do that, the finances have to be in check.

You can’t build a stable future on a rocky foundation.

The formula I have always abided by is:

Earning power + Saving power + Investing power

= financial security | build wealth | financial freedomretire early | options | a life defined by ME

The portion after the equal sign is what this equation means to ME.

Finish this equation with what matters to YOU.

Let’s break down this formula.

retirement success story

The Formula Breakdown

#1 – Earning Power

Maximize your earnings.

Have a salary or income that most effectively mirrors the value that you are able to provide. If you aren’t happy with your salary output or know that you have the ability to make more money, then help yourself.

When I started my first career as a hair stylist, I did it for about 2 years before I decided that I had more earning potential with a college degree.

At the time, I was making ~$750 every two weeks, which I knew wasn’t going to be enough to provide the security I needed.

I went back to school and worked full-time to get my undergrad, MBA, and a certification in my degree field.

I did this for two main reasons –

1) to prove to myself I could do it, and

2) to earn more money

In the end, I checked both these boxes. Check. Check.

This is why I am a huge proponent that if you are taking the traditional route and working for a company, getting a college education is the greatest investment you can make for yourself. I will put a disclaimer in here that it does depend on your degree field.

If you work in an industry that awards promotions then it would be beneficial to work towards that end. Why work for $25/hr when you could be making $30/hr? That is a potential $10,400/year increase!

In my case, I went from making ~$15/hr in my early 20’s to ~$24/hr at the age of 25. By the time I hit age 30, I was making ~$40/hr. Of course, this was all before my job loss!

Careers widely vary and the opportunities for an increase in income can come in the form of promotions, bonuses, annual adjustments, or raises.

You know best what your company appreciates and therefore how to get promoted. In my experience, I have been promoted in the past by getting certified, being open to new projects, producing great work output, and making my boss’s job easier.

Alternatively, if you have a job that doesn’t offer promotions, there may be opportunities to work additional hours for more pay.

An example I have is with teachers – first, make sure you work in the district that pays the most in the area. After that, consider extra duties like after-school programs, coaching, summer courses. And then if you really want to increase your income, additional education can move you into administration.

Of course, as with anything, weigh the pros and cons of additional schooling.

Read more about increasing income: Money Mindset: Conquer Your Goals By Redefining Your Finances

Related articles:

#2 – Saving power

Streamline your expenses to maximize the surplus/savings.

When expenses fluctuate too much or there are too many variables, you never know how much you actually have to work with.

That’s why it’s essential to budget and track all the money coming in and out. An easy way to do that is to either use a financial aggregator like Personal Capital and Mint – or your own budgeting tool.

Budgets differ, there are needs that only you can account for yourself.

For instance, as much as I want to make each dollar count in my budget, I also want to enjoy life. I don’t live my life pinching pennies, but I also don’t want to be up a creek without a paddle.

It’s the balance you’re seeking that will sustain the longevity of your plans.

Related articles:

#3 – Investing power

Put your money to work in a growth vehicle – business, real estate, and/or stock market are the most common.

If you are like most folks:

You may be saving in your company’s 401k, getting the company match, and updating your yearly contributions.

You’re on the right track.

If you are consistently contributing then you may be able to retire someday.

You won’t know for sure until you start planning how much you will need in retirement.

Let’s review a way to know how much of a nest egg you will need:

A rule of thumb is to take your annual expenses by 25. Let’s say your annual spend is $50k, using the Multiply by 25 rule, you will need $1.25M ($50k x 25).

The “Multiply By 25 rule” is simply a way to estimate the necessary nest egg by taking desired annual income by 25.

This is another way of looking at the 4% rule which is used for considering how much to withdraw during retirement.

These methods assume a real rate of return of at least 4% (considering inflation).

For a more conservative approach use “33” as your factor, instead of “25”.

I know, $1.25M seems bonkers.

That’s why it’s beneficial to start investing earlier.

Here are three scenarios looking at investing starting at age 20, 30, & 40:


→ Starting balance: $0

→ Annual return: 4%

→ Retirement age goal: 55

→ Monthly contributions: $1,500


20 years old: $1,378,769 (630k in contributions, ~750k in compound growth advantage)

30 years old: $779,611 (450k in contributions)

40 years old: $374,841 (270k in contributions)

As you can see, compound interest will be your best friend in this process. It takes time to build up a nest egg.

Every little bit helps when you’re working to build wealth. Don’t get discouraged, start taking action!

Related articles:

For Really, Early Retirement Folks – by decades

If you’re looking to retire from the 9-5 quite a bit earlier (in 10-15 years), you will need to adjust your earn + save + invest equation considerably.

Look at it this way. Retiring decades earlier necessitates that an excess of money is invested in a growth vehicle sooner.

You’re likely thinking there’s no way in heck you’re getting to “nest egg money” by 65, much less in a shortened time period.

As I have learned, it’s definitely possible.

It’s just the question of how realistic your FI/RE number is and how long it will take to achieve it (since there are a number of factors that can go wrong).

I believe that these types of decisions generally don’t come out of the blue…there has to be some force that makes you reconsider everything you’ve ever worked for.

I talk about mine briefly here >> The Original Goal Of Retiring Early.

A lot has changed from the very beginning to how I feel about it now. 

Now, FI/RE isn’t quite black and white for me. There’s a definite grey area. I’m finding that I’ll be content being financially independent and working a fulfilling 9-5. Either way, I’ll be able to make decisions on what I want to do, not what I have to do.

Isn’t that the ultimate freedom?

You have the power to redefine your 9-5, too!

Let’s Review

Don’t worry if you are starting from zero right now, or even have a negative net worth – you have to start somewhere.

When I first started, I did not know one iota about how to grow my money. All I knew was that I wasn’t happy going from a 3% CD rate to .5%.

At that point, investing in the market meant I could potentially grow my money over the long-run. All I had to be was consistent and patient.

If you are interested in starting, again the first step is to get your finances in check.

Try out my budget and tracking spreadsheet that is super simple to use and get to know your take-home pay + monthly expenses + annual, bi-annual, and one-off expenses.

If you are already familiar with all those figures, then use it as a tool to check hypothetically what you can change to streamline your expenses.

Learn more about the Budget + Tracking Spreadsheet

After taking control of your finances, start reviewing the growth vehicles you are most interested in pursuing.

To get started an understanding of saving vs. investing, read this article: Investing: Why To Grow Your Money Beyond Savings

NOW, is the making of your retirement success story beginning TODAY?

Full-Time Dollars

Read more about my mission HERE.

*As with all financial and investment decisions, consult a professional. Read disclaimer here.

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Last edit 5/9/2018


  • Mrs. Defined Sight

    First of all, wow – what an amazing inspirational story from your family. They definitely know the value of working hard. They have a successful end result – being able to retire and a pretty successful kiddo too that is extremely smart and on defined mission! Great breakdown of the numbers…and action identified for the age groups they are in. Keep it up!

  • Tom from Dividends Diversify

    Hi HP, Having left the Corporate World for work as a part time teacher, I like to think I’m living my retirement success story even though I’m not really retired. I think it’s important to retire to something, not retire to get away from something (full time work). Tom

  • timeinthemarket

    I’m still in the middle of my success story and hope to get there somewhere in the next ten years. I’m working on mini zing my expenses while trying to up my earnings via some side hustles. I’m not in too much of a hurry right now as I like my job but that doesn’t mean that won’t change in a few years so I’m always on the lookout for what’s next and how I can improve my chances at my goal to retire early being a success.

    • Full-Time Dollars

      Hey there! Completely agree with the whole job concept because that can change on a dime for different reasons. I think as long as you enjoy the ride getting to early retirement, it’s well worth it. I learned some lessons the past couple years that have been invaluable in showing me more of what I am looking for in the next chapter. Thanks for stopping by!

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