I am delighted that this month’s Reader Case Study features a subject who is older than me! I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to bring you the story of Lucy, an active 57-year-old nurse with questions on her retirement and next career. Much as I love all the younguns’ I’ve featured in Case Studies, I was over the moon when I received Lucy’s email and her request to serve as a Case Study subject since there are so many positive financial lessons for all of us to embrace at any age. I’ve gotten some flack for not featuring more diversity in the Reader Case Studies, but I can only feature the people who submit studies to me. So if you consider yourself a “non-traditional” Case Study subject, please email me with your story!

Ok, ok, back to the topic at hand… Case Studies are financial and life dilemmas that a reader of Frugalwoods sends to me requesting that Frugalwoods nation weigh in. Then, Frugalwoods nation (that’s you!), reads through their situation and provides advice, encouragement, insight, and feedback in the comments section. For an example, check out last month’s case study. I also provide updates from our Case Study subjects at the bottom of each Case Study several weeks/months after their story is featured. To see what past Case Study participants have decided to do, check out the Case Study section and scroll to the bottom of the individual posts.

I probably don’t need to say the following because you all are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but, please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not to condemn.

With that I’ll let Lucy, this month’s case study subject, take it from here!

Lucy’s Story


Hello, Frugalwoods nation! I’m Lucy, I’m 57, and I work as a nurse at a teaching hospital in Boston, MA. I was born and raised in Kentucky, but came east for college and have lived in New England ever since. I’ve called a suburb outside of Boston home since 1991. My husband and I amicably divorced in 2007 and we have three wonderful children. I’m delighted to report that my oldest two are gainfully employed and living happily in Seattle and Brooklyn respectively, while my youngest is a student at the University of Massachusetts.

While in college, I studied Comparative Literature and spent my senior year in India. I returned to the United States wanting to do something that involved my hands, heart, and brain. For a year, I taught school in Kentucky and then moved back to New England in order to attend graduate school to become a nurse practitioner.

Lucy’s Career

I practiced as a nurse practitioner until five years ago when the Boston teaching hospital where I work began replacing nurse practitioners with physician’s assistants. I decided to continue working as a nurse because I find my work in an ambulatory high risk obstetrical unit caring for women from around the country and globe a very meaningful pursuit. Continuing my career as a nurse entailed increasing my hours from 32 to 40 per week, but with the same income.

Health care is undergoing a lot of changes and it increasingly feels as though nurses are asked to do more with fewer resources. There’s much more haggling with insurance companies and less direct patient care as well as talk of another nurses’ strike. Work takes a lot out of me and, despite living eight miles from the hospital, the commute takes 1.5 hours each way. Running to work takes the same amount of time as taking public transportation! I work four ten hour days (leaving home at 5:25am and returning at 7pm). I like working four days, but recently there have been murmurings that I may need to work five.  Most days I run to work and treasure the beauty and the quiet of running along the Charles River and over the bridge to Boston.

Lucy’s Home

Lucy’s home

In 2009, two years after my divorce, I bought my ex-husband’s share of the house we purchased together in 1991 because I love my home!

It’s comfortable and spacious enough that I can host friends and family regularly. The mortgage and upkeep are expensive, but I greatly enjoy my garden, my neighbors and friends (some of whom I’ve been in a book group with for 25 years!), and can run to work from home. I took on a roommate and his dog in 2016 and this has helped with some of the expenses. I don’t want to sell because I truly enjoy my home and it has proven to be a good investment.

Lucy’s Future

I feel as though I’m in a bind right now. My family, including my elderly parents, live elsewhere, my work is exhausting and too often I feel lonely and tired. I’d like to work fewer hours and in a less stressful environment, preferably with family nearby, but I’m reluctant to move because I can’t imagine making the same salary anywhere else (and, like I said, I love my house). For the next few years, I am helping put my youngest child through college–he is slated to graduate in 2020–and we both benefit from the health insurance and benefits offered through the hospital. I’d love to be in a mutually loving and supportive relationship, but dating in middle age is not easy. I’ve tried online dating and would rather run a marathon and have a colonoscopy than try that again! At the same time, I’m not sure how much longer I can live and work in a place far from my children and family of origin.  Something has to change.

Where Lucy Wants To Be In 10 Years:

  • Finances: I’d like to be financially independent with my mortgage paid off and able to retire from my current job. I’d like to be contributing to the world in some way, whether through working with the dying or taking care of grandchildren or volunteering with the PeaceCorps. I wouldn’t mind continuing to work wherever I find myself, but I don’t want to HAVE to work for financial reasons. Once my mortgage is paid off, I could rent my house out as the rent would more than cover the taxes, insurance, and upkeep.
  • Lifestyle: In ten years, I look forward to either helping my children with grandchildren (should I be so fortunate) or helping the world in some other way.  If I move and am not ready to sell, I have considered renting my house. I want to stay physically active (running, swimming, yoga), and I want to be outside as much as possible.  I love to write and for more than ten years have kept a daily gratitude journal. I like travel and in May am going to Israel and Palestine with monks from the Society of Saint John the Evangelists, a monastery in Cambridge where I worship on Sundays.
  • Career: I envision myself finished with my current job and doing something else. I love Atul Gawande’s writing and working with patients at the end of life has long held appeal for me. Or perhaps gardening.  Whatever it is, I want to slow down the pace.

Lucy’s Finances


Net Income Amount Notes
Salary $6,122.74 After health, dental, vision, T pass, 403(b) deductions. $80 automatically re-routed to savings and $250/week routed directly to Joint Account (see below). After 403(b) is maxed out for the year, my paycheck increases by $1,804.
Rental Income $925.00
Monthly Total: $7,047.74  
Annual Total: $84,572.88


Item Amount Notes
Mortgage (including property taxes and insurance) $3,308.28 Interest rate of 3.375%, will be paid off 4/1/27; includes $500K umbrella insurance
Joint Account Contributions $1,083.33 Contribution to joint account with ex-husband to cover in-state tuition for our youngest child as well as his car insurance. When this child graduates in 2020, these monthly contributions will end.
Groceries, food (including restaurants), and household supplies $433.33 I shop at Market Basket and Trader Joe’s. This total includes all lunches at work, coffee out on weekends; I rarely go to restaurants.
Vacations and travel $250.00 Includes visits to see elderly parents & children living in other states
Charity $208.33 Monastery, PMC, 10Ks, walk for hunger
Gifts $150.00 For children, family, friends, and work colleagues
Utilities: Gas $137.00 For heating house and the gas stove
Car (insurance, gas, registration, maintenance, EZ pass) $134.67 2016 Honda Fit (paid for)
Cleaning person $120.00 Once a month cleaning person
Union Dues & RN Licensing Fees $103.50
Clothing $100.00
Home repairs and maintenance $100.00 Chimney sweep, plumbing issues, broken dishwasher, etc.
Entertainment $75.00 I go to a Broadway show once a year
Life insurance $66.52 20 yr term policy 3/7/08 $500K beneficiary
Utilities: Water $65.25
Haircuts, mani-pedi, and makeup $65.00
Utilities: Electric $60.40
YMCA membership $52.00
Cell phone $50.57 Provider is Verizon. I tried Ting last year but there was no service availabe at the hospital.
Internet $45.62
Gardening supplies $41.66
Jpay Donation $29.00 Non-tax deductible monthly support for prisoner
Medical expenses $20.00 Including contacts and glasses
The New York Times subscription $15.00
The New Yorker subscription $5.00
Total Monthly Expenses: $6,719.46  
Total Annual Expenses: $80,633.52  
Net Savings Per Month: $328.28 Most of this is saved for shorter-term needs such as a new car, iPhone, roof repairs, etc.


Item Amount Notes
House $859,958.00
403(b) $566,964.85 Retirement Account at Fidelity: includes $555, 947.42 Fidelity Total Market Index Premium Class and 11,017.43 Vanguart Inst Tr 2025
Traditional IRA $239,534.24 Vanguard Total Stock Mkt Index: 2669.24 shares =172,406.28 and Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund 6238.66 shares =67,127.96
Cash balance account (pension through work) $158,506.00
Joint Account (for youngest child) $41,022.16 Contributions to this will end in 2020
Life insurance $32,826.15 2 policies-whole life-death benefit 86K, one bought when I was born; I also have free life insurance for 1x my salary thru work and pay
Retiree Medical Savings Account $25,121.44 Offered through my employer.
Roth IRA $22,272.11 Vanguard Total Stock Mkt Index
Cash Savings $8,180.96
Taxable investment $5,262.34 Humana Stock @ Fidelity
Cash Checking $3,638.28
Acorn $1,616.45 An investment app that rounds up user purchases and invests the change in a robo-advisor managed portfolio. In addition to the rounding up of purchases, I authorized them to draw $10 a week from my checking account to invest. I’ve had the account for a couple of years invested in their most aggressive investment profile.
Total Assets: $1,964,902.98


Item Amount Notes
2016 Honda Fit $15,000 (Kelly Blue Book value) Paid off


Item Amount Notes
Mortgage balance $250,130.50
Home Equity Line of Credit $0.00 $97K line of credit to be used as an emergency fund if needed. There are no fees associated with this HELOC, which I’ve had open since 2011. If accessed, the interest rate would be prime rate minus 0.510%.
Total Debt: $250,130.50

Lucy’s Questions For You

  1. How much money do I need to retire?
  2. How can I pay off my mortgage sooner than 2027? I want to retire in 2025 when I am 65, if not sooner. My mortgage ends in 2027.
  3. Should I change my investments or asset allocations at all? Or do they seem correct?

Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Recommendations

Lucy’s garden

I have to start off with massive congratulations to Lucy for putting herself in an excellent financial position. She’s made some wonderful choices over the years and created quite the nest egg from which to ponder her retirement.

Having the ability to choose what she wants to do in retirement–and having the financial backing to actually retire–is fantastic. Weathering a divorce is no small financial feat and she appears to have emerged unscathed and in excellent financial shape. So, hats off to Lucy for a lifetime of fiscal prudence!!

And now, let’s address her questions in turn:

Lucy’s Question #1: How much money do I need to retire?

The answer is that it depends entirely upon how much you spend every year. There is no one-size-fits-all, magic “you may now retire” number for everyone because this dollar amount is calibrated–in full–on what you spend every year. There’s really no other way to calculate it. It’s no simpler or more complicated than that. But this question leads me to what I see as the huge, overarching elephant for Lucy to ponder as she contemplates retirement…

Lucy’s House

Lucy owns a fabulous home in an even more fabulous suburb of Boston. Since I happen to personally know this real estate market better than most (as my husband and I own a rental property in Cambridge, MA), I can speak to this with a bit more knowledge. The value of a home–and its potential for resale or rental–is almost ENTIRELY dependent upon the market in which it is located. Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all dollar amount for retirement, there’s also no guarantee that a home will be a sound investment (in many markets, it’s not). But fortunately for Lucy, she owns in one of those red hot areas of the country. However, this also means that by living in her home, it’s a majorly undervalued asset. In reading through Lucy’s case and finances, whether or not to sell her home is actually her biggest, and most crucial, decision to figure out. The value of her house–and percentage of her net worth that it represents–is enormous and dwarfs everything else.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but she needs to decide what’s more important for her future: 1) to live in her house; or 2) to sell the house and use the proceeds as part of her broader portfolio and have the option to do just about anything with her time.

Staying In The House

Lucy’s backdoor

The argument for Lucy to stay in her house is that she loves it and greatly enjoys where she lives. And that is a perfectly fine thing! It wouldn’t be wrong for Lucy to remain in her home, but it would limit her financial agility since the house is worth so much more than she’s extracting from it (in a financial sense).

Her decision to have a roommate is an excellent one (bravo!) and if she does want to remain in her home, this is one way to defray some of the expense. Not selling her home isn’t the most financially optimal thing to do, but if it’s what she wants to do, then that is just fine. As long as she knows she is spending money on her living situation in order to increase her happiness, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Other than being a place to live, the home is not currently providing her with a return on her investment.

Selling The House

On the other hand, if Lucy is open to selling her home, it’s likely she could retire much sooner than her projected date of 2025. She should run the numbers herself (as I am not a financial professional), but I believe if she sold her home and finished contributing to the Joint Account for her youngest child when he graduates from college in 2020, she could retire at that point. Easily. And with plenty of money. I think this for two reasons:

  1. Selling the house would net her quite a bit of cash
  2. Her expenses would decrease quite a bit if she no longer owned such a large home

Digging into #2 for a moment, without the house, she’d eliminate the following from her monthly budget:

House-related Expense Amount
Mortgage $3,308.28
Utilities: Gas $137.00
Cleaning person $120.00
Home repairs and maintenance $100.00
Utilities: Water $65.25
Utilities: Electric $60.40
Gardening Supplies $41.66
Monthly Total: $3,832.59
Annual Total: $45,991.08

Additionally, given the fact that she’ll be finished contributing to the Joint Account for her son’s college education in two years, that’ll be another $1,083.33 per month ($12,999.96 per year) saved. The elimination of all house-related expenses, and the Joint Account contributions, would save Lucy $58,991.04 per year, which coincidentally, is in the ballpark of her annual take-home pay. Obviously she will need to live somewhere and will still have utility bills to pay; however, if she were to downsize to a condo or apartment, her monthly outlay would likely be much less. This could be particularly true if she were to relocate outside of the Boston area in order to be closer to her kid(s) or parents, which is something she mentioned possibly wanting to explore. Without the heavy overhead of the house, and without the Joint Account contributions, she could retire to a lower cost of living area quite easily.

As a sidenote for consideration: since Lucy is single, she will receive a $250K exclusion on the capital gains taxes for the sale of her home (meaning that she won’t be charged taxes on the first $250K of capital gains). If she does decide to sell the house, she can put the money into diversified investments that meet her risk tolerance and income needs and then go do whatever she wants.

While Lucy said that she loves her house and doesn’t want to sell it, she also noted that she feels as though she’s currently in a bind and that something has to change about her life. Selling the house would grant her a significant amount of financial freedom and stability, so I’d say it’s something to at least consider.

Renting The House

Lucy mentioned the possibility of renting out her home and I’d encourage her to explore the numbers on this in greater depth. Her suburb is a good place for rentals, but it’s not the hottest in the Boston area and I have a sneaking suspicion she’d do better by selling. However, this is another area where running the numbers will be crucial! Lucy should have both a realtor and a rental agent come out to the property (they do this for free and it’s how we decided to rent our place) and have them assess the home for its monthly rental and potential sale prices. If she decides to rent, she’ll need to factor in the cost of a property manager (unless she wants to self-manage), a maintence fund, a vacancy fund, insurance, repairs, etc. For more on how to be a landlord, I recommend the site BiggerPockets.com.

Where Does Lucy Want To Be And What Does She Want To Do?

Lucy’s kids

The house consideration really boils down to the question of what Lucy wants to do and where she wants to live. If she is interested in retiring sooner rather than later, she should sell the house and downsize dramatically. Conversely, if she’d prefer to stay in the house and continue working, she should plan for a slightly later retirement.

Either option is fine and it’s much more a question of what she wants to do as opposed to a financial quandary. From a financial perspective, this house is a fantastic (though currently underutilized) asset and she’ll do very well when she decides to sell it and move on.

Lucy’s Question #2: How can I pay off my mortgage sooner than 2027? I want to retire in 2025 when I am 65, if not sooner.  My mortgage ends in 2027.

First off, Lucy doesn’t need to pay off the mortgage before selling the house if she decides that’s the route she wants to go. And, as mentioned, if she were to sell the house, I believe she could go ahead and retire at that point. However, if Lucy wants to stay in the house and work until 2025, there are only two ways to pay a mortgage off faster:

  1. Reduce expenses
  2. Increase income

First option: Reduce expenses. Let’s take a look at Lucy’s expenses to see what she could eliminate. Lucy’s spending is perfectly fine, but if she wants to either pay off her mortgage faster or retire sooner, then she does have a lot of low-hanging fruit that could be eliminated:

If Lucy decided to eliminate all of these expenses, she’d save an additional $632.57 per month and $7,590.84 per year, which would make a significant dent in her mortgage payments and enable her to retire sooner.

As I’m always fond of saying when reviewing expenses in Reader Case Studies, your expenses are very personal choices and everyone has to make the decisions that are best for them. It’s not wrong for Lucy to spend this money, but since she asked how she could pay her mortgage off faster, this is one answer. This all ties into where Lucy wants to be in the future and what sort of life she envisions for herself as she nears retirement.

Second option: Increase income. The only other way to have more money every month is to increase your income. Lucy has already done a fabulous job of this by taking on a tenant in her home. I don’t know if there are any professional advances Lucy could make at work to increase her salary or if she could take on another renter in her home, but those would be the obvious first two steps. Alternately, she could explore any number of side hustles that would net her more money every month. The combination of reduced expenses and increased income would, obviously, jet Lucy towards her goals even faster.

Lucy’s Question #3: Should I change my investments or asset allocations at all? Or do they seem correct?

Lucy and her daughter

Lucy’s investments look pretty good, though I’m not sure about the Humana stock and the Acorn account and question what the fees are on both of those. Ideally, you want the lowest fees possible, which both Vanguard and Fidelity offer and so I’m delighted to see that Lucy is invested with them. Since she didn’t include the fees of any of her holdings above, I advise she do a quick check on the fees for all of her accounts (available on their websites) since fees are what can absolutely cripple your net worth over the long run.

I personally am a fan of streamlining and combining investment accounts into a broadly diversified asset base, but all in the same account. There’s no diversity gain by holding various different investment accounts, as long as you’re in low-fee index funds because an index fund means you’re invested across the entire stock market. For the sake of simplicity, I’d close the Humana and Acorn accounts and lump them in with her other investments, but that’s largely a personal choice.

In general, you want to reduce the risk exposure of your investments as you near traditional retirement age in order to insulate your money against potential market downturns. When you are young, you want to invest aggressively in order to take advantage of the overarching gains that history demonstrates will occur in the market over your decades and decades of investing.

But since Lucy is 57, she should think about reducing her risk, which usually means increasing bond exposure. What I recommend to Lucy is that she read both the book The Simple Path To Wealth, which has great overviews on how to manage your assets throughout your lifetime, and also check out this article on Michael Kitces’ site: The Portfolio Size Effect And Using A Bond Tent To Navigate The Retirement Danger Zone. As I’m not a financial advisor, I am loathe to give advice any more specific than that.

HELOC As Emergency Fund

Lucy didn’t ask about this specifically, but I need to weigh in and share that I do not like anything to be an emergency fund other than cold, hard cash that is immediately available to you from your checking account. Anything other than that–a car, a paid-off house, your grandmother’s china, a HELOC–is NOT an emergency fund. An emergency fund is something you can withdraw, at a moment’s notice, as you’re standing in the police station, the fire station, the hospital… you get the picture.

Lucy’s view of The Charles river

Additionally, a HELOC (home equity line of credit) is usually contingent upon your employment and so if you lose your job, it’s entirely possible that your HELOC may no longer be valid, which would negate its role as an emergency fund in the event that you lost your job (which is one of the primary reasons to have an emergency fund). At the end of the day, a HELOC is not your money and could be rescinded. At best, a HELOC is a high risk emergency fund that might not actually be there for you when you need it. Furthermore, Lucy would have to pay interest on the HELOC if she were to access the money in the event of an emergency, which again, partially negates the point of an emergency fund. A true emergency fund is three to six months’ worth of living expenses held in an easily accessible checking or savings account. Nothing else on earth should be considered an emergency fund. 

Fortunately, Lucy already has $11,819.24 across her savings and checking accounts, which is a fabulous start to an emergency fund. I strongly urge Lucy to stop considering the HELOC an emergency fund and work to build that $11,819.24 up to the range of $20,158.38 (which would be three months’ worth of spending) to $40,316.76 (six months’ worth of expenses). Since emergency fund totals are based off of one’s monthly spending, if Lucy were to reduce her expenses, she could skate by with a smaller emergency fund. At present, her $11,819.24 would cover less than two months’ worth of expenses.

Savings Accounts Side Note

One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to keep it in a high-interest savings account. With these accounts, interest works in YOUR favor (as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you). Having money in a no (or low) interest savings account is a waste of resources because your money is sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:

  • Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.
  • Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 1.70% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,085.67. That means you earned $85.67 just by having your money in a high-interest account.

And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low (or no) interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person. Be the person who earns money while sleeping. Rack up the interest and prosper. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.

In summary, I advise Lucy to do the following:

  1. Save up a true emergency fund.
  2. Determine when she truly wants to retire from her current career and what she’d like to pursue next.
  3. If she decides she wants to retire sooner, I advise she target 2020 for her retirement since her youngest son will graduate from college and she’ll no longer have the monthly Joint Account contribution.
  4. If she elects to target 2020 for retirement, she should determine whether it’ll be more financially advantageous to sell or rent her home. This two-year runway will give her plenty of time to research the rental vs. sale market and decide where she wants to go next in the world.
  5. If she decides she’d rather stay in her home and continue working, she should consider if she wants to pursue paying off her mortgage more quickly, in which case she can reference the above suggestions on reducing expenses and/or increasing income.
  6. Lucy should check in on the fees and risk exposure of all of her investments to ensure that she’s decreasing her exposure to risk as she nears retirement.
  7. Enjoy retirement! Lucy has put herself in a wonderful financial position to enjoy retirement and I wish her all the very best with whatever she decides!

Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Lucy? She and I will both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask any clarifying questions!

Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (mrs@frugalwoods.com) your brief story and we’ll talk.

Updated April 11, 2018 with Lucy’s decisions:

Thank you so much to the Frugalwoods readers for all of your insights! I actually printed out every page of your helpful comments so that I could review them in detail. I really appreciate your input. I am delighted to share that I’m now dating a wonderful man who is a widower and, like me, has three grown children. We are enjoying getting to know one another and it’s lovely to have him in my life. Recently we’ve started talking about our finances, which makes me feel like we’re starting off on the right foot. I’m getting ready to take a paid FMLA leave from work in order to help my ailing father in Kentucky. I’m still undecided about selling my house and changing jobs, but I am glad to have all of your advice as I move forward!


Updated 1/22/19 with more info from Lucy:

When I requested doing a case study with Ms. Frugalwoods I was 57, divorced for ten years, an empty nester with questions about what to do next with my life and career and finances.  I wanted to be in a long term mutually supportive and happy relationship but online dating had not proved fruitful.  My case study was titled “At Age 57, It’s Not Over Yet”.  The process of participating in the Case Study-outlining my goals for finances, career and lifestyle, assembling the financial information and submitting it for Ms. Frugalwoods’ analysis and recommendations- was illuminating and rewarding.  Honestly just sitting down and truly considering what my goals were, what I value and what needed to happen to make progress was valuable in itself.

Shortly after submitting my case study information in 2017 I met a wonderful widower online!  We are engaged to be married this June.  The case study gave me the confidence that I could live within my means and achieve my goals with certain changes.  Now my life and financial situation has changed substantially.  My partner has more financial resources and lives in Boston so I’ll be moving there.  However I am more fiscally attentive to the everyday expenses of life (I’ve had to be) and the increased confidence I developed through the process of doing the case study has allowed me to ask for things like biweekly conversations about finances and goals (romantic eh?!).  I would not have had this confidence otherwise.   Because we have six children between us and have both been married before we are doing a prenup.  The prenup requires a financial planner to review our budgets and investments and this has further encouraged us to talk about our finances and to consider how we want to live.

I don’t think the Case Study saved me money but it did keep me on a path of being fiscally responsible.  When my housemate of two years moved in with his girlfriend I found another housemate equally wonderful.  As I prepare to move to Boston my fiancé and I have decided to try to rent my house as I’m not ready to sell and it remains a good investment.   As we do renovations on his place we are trying to make thoughtful decisions financially-what truly needs to be done, what would bring our families joy.  We’ve made what seem like small decisions-not replacing couches b/c the ones we have are comfortable and good for children and dogs-but are important.  What do we value-a new contemporary couch or something that’s just fine and that we won’t worry about when a dog jumps on it?  These decisions come up all the time.  Do we need a new counter or can we make this work?  Shall we go out for dinner or make dinner together at home? For me the main benefits of the Case Study have been to clarify my life goals and to discover more options than I had imagined and finally, to give me the confidence that living frugally and within my means is something I can be proud of (in a quiet, nonjudgmental way of course!).

I regularly read Mrs. Frugalwoods and her positive approach to people and their financial dilemmas, as well as her honesty and humor, distinguish her from other bloggers.  Opening up about one’s finances and dreams and goals is a vulnerable process and more than once when I was working on my case study I thought about backing out.  It felt too risky.  I am so happy that I didn’t.  Having Mrs. Frugalwoods’ thoughtful attention and nonjudgmental and encouraging advice gave me the courage and confidence to consider options I would not have otherwise.  I felt stronger as a woman, more empowered from the process, and in a place financially and emotionally to welcome a partner and a whole new adventure in this phase of life.  Turns out it wasn’t too late, in fact it’s the beginning of a whole new chapter. 


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  1. Lucy is doing amazing!!! She will be eligible for social security in a couple of years. Based on her current rate of spending about $80k a year, (although it should dip in by 2020 and when she’s ready to retire), she would need $2m. With what she’ll receive with social security and her savings, I would think that she’s well positioned to live closer to family or stay where she’s at.

    1. Actually, she will not be eligible for social security for FIVE years, at age 62, and this would be at a reduced rate. She will be eligible for the full social security at age 67. Also, in her request for advice, she didn’t mention the amount that she expects or hopes to get from social security. So it seems that she is only counting for sure you what she knows for sure—the current value of her home & investments—which is a good idea!

  2. Hi Lucy, thank you so much for sharing your story! You have a beautiful home. You must also have had a lot of beautiful memories living in it, so I understand why you don’t want to sell it.

    Below are my suggestions:
    – It’s great that you have a tenant, but I think you can have one or two more to further defray or even cover the whole monthly mortgage payment.
    – Selling the house and downsizing will definitely help you retire faster. I tend to feel at home after I live in a new place for a while.
    – Reducing or eliminating most or all of the subscriptions.
    – Lowering your food expenses.

    You might not feel comfortable with these changes. But I believe that prioritization and sacrifice are necessary when we want to achieve our goals.

    Good luck!

  3. Excellent Job Lucy! The one thing that struck me is that most of her non-tax deferred net worth is tied up in her primary residence. I have no idea what kind of taxes are paid on a property like this, but I am sure you could lower your housing expense in other parts of the country. I would look into geographic arbitrage, particularly moving south. She could really lower her expenses. Location is really a preference though and if she loves where she lives, then the decision is made.

  4. Hi Lucy,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I agree with MrsFW, that if you really want to retire early, you might need to sell your house, and maybe move into LCOL area close to family?

    Also some of those expenses can be cut such as subscription to newspapers and cleaning services. You do need to build a real emergency fund that can cover at least 6 months of expenses.

    And good for you for running to work for 3 hrs/day #Goals Lol

  5. Thanks for sharing your story Lucy! And I agree with Mrs. Frugalwoods recommendations, especially closing the acorns account, since you’d probably be better off contributing to a taxable Vanguard/Fidelity account with lower fees.

    If you sell the house and move closer to family I imagine you’d be ready to retire now. Cost of living in Boston is crazy high! But selling the house is a deeply personal choice and you will be ready to retire soonish regardless of your choice!

    The challenge I see is losing the health insurance connected to your job. Depending on where you move there may be reasonable options on the health care exchange, but that is definitely not guaranteed. I live in a small-medium Midwest city and there are good options still since there are lots of doctors. Rural or smaller cities don’t seem to fare as well. Go through the exchange website and see what types of plans you’d be looking at before relocating!

    The other option that I know lots of nurses near me do is retire, then return as a contractor for a higher hourly wage, but no benefits. I wonder if you relocate, would you be able to get a contractor job to meet more people in your new area and earn a little extra income.

  6. Way to go, Lucy! You sound like you really have your act together and are in an awesome place to retire soon. 🙂

    Your house – your home – is a major accomplishment, between buying it out from your ex, managing it financially and physically (I’m also a single female homeowner!) and weathering all the storms in it alone. Your home did so many things for you in the past, so I understand the emotional attachment to it, and the feeling of not yet being ready to sell. The only thing I’d like to point out is that for all the things your house has done for you in the past, with establishing your independence and making it through, might it be time to reflect on what it can still do in the future? It seems it might be holding you back from retiring and moving closer to family. The saying goes, “If you wouldn’t buy it, you should probably sell it.” Now that you’ve weathered the storms, it might be time to let a new family weather some of their own in the house. Also, I want to put in a plug for downsizing – you can always rent a bigger house when needed or pay for a room at a local hotel for guests. My dad does that, and I honestly love staying at the hotel. It’s a nice break in the evening to have some time alone to unwind, and I don’t feel guilty about him cleaning up after me, in addition to the space that’s just not even being used when I am not there. 😉

    1. Great point about downsizing and then having guests stay at a hotel, if needed. I used to do that when visiting my own dad and loved it, too! It gave us all some space later in the evening and I think when my kids were younger and loud it was good to give Dad a break, much as he loved us. 🙂

  7. I just wanted to drop a huge thank you for the work you do. I had a high risk pregnancy and spent a good bit of it at a fancy teaching hospital. Your work is so deeply appreciated. When it comes, I hope your retirement is rich in all of life’s good gifts.

  8. A couple of thoughts (I have admittedly skimmed this one…):
    1) I wonder if Airbnb would be a better option for Lucy than a roommate (or in addition short term for extra income) – that way, she could have her whole house available to enjoy on the holidays and such, and make extra money when she wants to. She’s in a great location for it!
    2) I wonder if a bike would make her work commute less onerous. I know she likes to run and would still do that when she has time – but it might make the commute better if she did need to go to a 5 day schedule. It kind of sounds like the commute is really the problematic part of her work schedule…
    3) I wonder whether there are other job options where she might be able to work as an NP and still feel like she’s helping people in a meaningful way (I’m thinking of some of the higher risk outpatient clinics for low income women). I also think this would be better in other markets – whether NP’s or PA’s are used seems to be quite variable by location. I would think (but don’t know) that working as an NP would be better financially and intellectually than working as an RN.

  9. If you volunteer to teach a fitness or swim lesson class at the YMCA, your membership is typically waived. That may be a way to save that money and become more a part of the community there, which appears to be thriving for many women your age in my area.

  10. Another aspect to consider re the house: As you get older you may find that a two-story house is not an ideal retirement house (stairs!) and may cost more to maintain. You may have to hire people to do those ladder involving tasks that you may currently do yourself.

  11. Your house is not what brings you joy, it is all of the memories in it, the convenience of it’s location, the hobbies it allows you to pursue in it , the peace you feel inside of it, the pride you feel from owning it, the ability it has to house your family and visitors, but not the building itself. The building is just a building. The building doesn’t feel anything. Its ok to let it go, it won’t take those other parts away from you.

    Best of luck with your upcoming decisions.

    1. We are in the same situation with our daughters out of the house — mostly! It’s quite tough to separate the building from the memories. 🏠 Plus, we put a gargantuan amount of renovation work into it so it’s quite comfortable. And,
      we paid off the mortgage. Good luck! You are in an enviable position, Lucy.

    2. RowB, I agree with what you are saying, but I will add that at age 57 (I’m 55) it feels harder to uproot oneself and start all over someplace new, even a low cost of living area. Above all else it means making new friends and losing a support network, as well as losing the intimate knowledge of a city/town/region one may love well. My husband is studying to be a minister (at age 56) and this is something we are facing, the possibility of having to relocate for work in a few years. And at my age, I’m probably unlikely to find a new job.

  12. I’d also like to extend my congratulations to Lucy – you are in an amazing position and it sounds like you’ve got a great family, career and neighborhood! Your house looks gorgeous BTW. Awesome that you run to work too. Despite its high price of admission, Boston is a pretty great place to stay active and take advantage of non-car options. You mentioned that you would like to end up near your kids in the future – unfortunately Seattle and Brooklyn are not exactly LCOL escapes. I would suggest waiting a few years until your kids are in a position of having their own families to see where they end up – they might just move back home! I have my parents nearby to help with my son and it is so so great! Both for their relationship with their grandson and for my relationship with them. We were fairly settled here (also in the Boston area!) before they moved here though.

    Is it possible for you to start working part-time at your job? That might help with the stress you feel, but still keep you in the game as you decide to figure out where to live/when to retire.

  13. This is such a great story for me. I am 64 and working towards retirement in 6 or 7 years. From Lucy’s expenses and your recommendations, I see that I am doing pretty well. I am trying to be as frugal as possible and doing more things around the house myself. I LOVE Lucy’s garden and can see why she would like to stay in her house. Thank you, Lucy, for submitting this! I wish I could give more feedback…

  14. A lot of communities give seniors a propert tax exemption of up to $300,000 every year (where I live). Does her community do that? That would reduce the property tax expense after retirement.

  15. I just want to suggest Page Plus as a low-cost cell phone provider – they use Verizon’s network, so you get service everywhere Verizon does!

  16. Awesome job Lucy, I’d say you are better positioned financially than the vast majority of Americans. I agree with Mrs. Frugalwoods about the emergency fund, a HEOC is not a good choice and you should strive to build your fund in cash. Try to find a money market fund ith at least some interest. Credit Unions also offer better interest for savings accounts than regular banks.

    I would also agree that there’s ample trade-space to bring down expenses in your budget. While you my not want to cut everything that Mrs. Frugalwoods recommended and go to bare bones, you can mix and match and get rid of the things that provide less value. It’s all about compromise.

    Good luck!

  17. FYI – HELOC interest is not deductible in the current tax plan, which will affect 2018 and later.

    Cell phone – Tracfone on Verizon would be less expensive, might have somewhat slower data, but would let her keep her phone and network. There are other MVNOs on Verizon as well, but I think Tracfone best lets you tailor it to your usage. Everything – minutes, texts, data, “days of service” – rolls over as long as you keep the line active.

    Her house, which she loves, is the boat anchor here. I totally get that she doesn’t want to sell, but ultimately she should think about it more. She loves the house, but the location has become an issue. “At the same time, I’m not sure how much longer I can live and work in a place far from my children and family of origin. Something has to change.” A condo townhouse (so she could have some garden) that she could be gone from without worrying about upkeep and so on would work better. Even though she really doesn’t want to sell she should seriously look in whatever location she’d like to be. She doesn’t have to hurry, and can look until she finds what she wants.

    And I have to add what we’re hearing from our older (cough-cough) friends (we’re older than Lucy) – “your kids don’t want your junk”. Friends that moved into a life-care community that had no kids, but lots of antiques and things, found there was no market for their stuff. While the title is ominous, there is a new book out titled “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter”. Don’t keep a house (and stuff) because you think you’re saving things for your kids.

  18. Congrats on your success Lucy. It seems like you are in a great place. I also concur with Mrs. Frugalwoods advice. The house decision is a difficult one. Selling it will put you in a killer financial position but it’s hard to sell your home. One other option that was not discussed is changing jobs. It seems like you are currently working below your skill level. Is there another place with an easier commute that you can earn more while using less of your time again?

    1. This was also my thought: Is the place you are working at the best for your abilities and training? Have you met with your supervisor and discussed changing your hours, duties, or salary? What else is available at other hospitals or places with work structured differently?
      You have undergone big changes with the divorce and the children moving out. The memories of your wonderful home can’t be taken from you. How can you best take care of yourself now?

  19. There are a lot of free gardening exchanges on Facebook to lessen the gardening expenses. I also suggest the one time investment in perennials as you pay for them once and enjoy them long term.

  20. Just as an aside, if she still chooses to be employed, I would suggest a job change sooner than later. I work part-time at a nursing home and I love my job and all my co-workers are very supportive. She could look at potentially getting a nursing job in long-term care or hospice (like the VNA). These fields are always hiring qualified RNs and the work is very rewarding and much slower than the pace of a hospital and she would get the direct care component that is important to her.

  21. I have one light and one deep comment:

    – Light: reduce the amount you contribute monthly to your 403b. Take the entire year to max out if your employer contributes a %. The faster you fill it, the less the employer puts in (they only match on months you contribute).

    – Heavy: my husband left me and I initially kept our house. We’d been there almost a decade and, like you, I was socially entrenched in my neighborhood (although, given your work hours, is that social life as much as you’d like?). I spent over a year coming to the decision that I was going to let the house go. I needed that year in therapy, and making peace with that decision. I, too, took on renters that ended up becoming friends. Beyond the financial freedom it will give you, I cannot express how freeing letting go of your house will FEEL. I was afraid I would regret it, that I would not have the same relationship with my old neighbors, that I would miss everything about living there… Almost two years later, my fears have proven unfounded.

    You have repeated multiple times you don’t want to let that house go, but it’s clearly the biggest hurdle for financial independence. Humor me and try a mental exercise and think of all the “coulds” in life if you didn’t live at your house (just play along). Keep that going for a year and see if you can’t make peace with your house – thank it for all the amazing memories you will cherish, and the financial freedom it’s going to allow you to pursue NEW dreams.

    1. Regarding the employer match, it might not work the way that you think. 403b plans can differ than 401k plans. In my 403b, there is a mandatory employee contribution (5%), an employer contribution (10%), and elective contribution (up to 18,500 in 2018). My employer contribution IS NOT a match. Also, if Lucy has variable income, as I do, it is impossible to use a percentage for retirement contributions. There are also some tax advantages for front loading your retirement fund as well.

    2. Lauren, I am in the same position of wanting to let go of my house and downsize, but have good friends here in the neighborhood. I am coming to realize that if they are truly friends, we will keep in touch and still socialize though I may live in another part of our mid-size town. Thank you for your thoughts on this. It came at a good time for me. 🙂

      1. Any update on your situation, Chris? Mine was bittersweet – my ex and I had worked so hard finishing out the partially renovated house, so there was a lot to release. And, it was time for the next chapter to start with a new beau. We initially got in over our heads with a horrible mold problem at the new house that took over a year to remedy, and cost me being on antibiotics that entire time (it was bad). However, now that we’re past that, life suddenly gotten very simple with our 830 square foot bungalow. We spend a lot of time in the huge park that’s within walking distance with our dog, and in the hot tub out back.

  22. Well done, Lucy — as a fellow 50-ish woman, I enjoyed reading about your situation.

    It sounds to me like you really like profession, but the circumstances are less than ideal. Perhaps you could look into being an NP at a college? There are SO.MANY.COLLEGES in the Boston area, and NPs with experience and the desire to work with the college-age population, especially women’s issues, can be a rewarding way to continue in a profession that you love. The hours are usually good (many times they are 35 hour a week jobs), the time off is usually phenomenal, some positions could be 9- or 10-month positions (giving you the whole summer off to garden!), and benefits like retirement and insurance are good to great (my current college contributes 8% to my retirement, not a match!).

    The downside is that the pay might not be what you are accustomed to making (I honestly have no idea), but if you look at it as maybe your “early retirement” job, it could keep you in the workforce for a few more years, but at a much more relaxed pace.

    Just something for you to look into… Best of luck!

  23. A few random thoughts:

    • Cancel/cash in the insurance policies the day your youngest graduates college.

    • It there a way to “partition” the house so you can add a roommate? That would add little to your expenses but boost your income.

    • Have you estimated your Social Security benefits? You can do this on the SSA website. With your $1.3 in savings, and early SS benefits slated to begin in a few years, you might be golden.

    I also want to address the Relationship thing. My situation isn’t so different from yours: I was widowed (for the second time) in 2010, the same month I retired early at age 54. I had just moved to a very rural area in a distant state, my late husband’s dream retirement location. In 2014 I realized I didn’t want to stay in that area and I did want to find a new partner. So I addressed that as a project and about 18 months later I returned to my native region to be with my new partner.

    Whether you want a new partner or not is ENTIRELY your choice. But, yes, at your age, it’s a real challenge. If it’s an important goal for you, you won’t be successful if you’re half-hearted about it. Think about what you want, make a plan and work the plan. Remember that every requirement you have narrows your pool. For instance if a man in good health is important to you (sounds like it is, as it was for me) that’s limiting; a surprising number of single men our age are not in good shape. Just be clear-eyed about the process. I don’t mean to sound cold ( my new partner is amazing and we’re like a couple teenagers in love — at age 62!) but is this a DREAM or is it a GOAL?

    All the best to you!

    1. My immediate thought when looking at Lucy’s expenses was that the 500k term life insurance is completely unnecessary. She could definitely keep it until the last kid graduates from college for peace of mind, but her life insurance through work might even be enough to cover those last two years of college expenses. 🙂

  24. Great job, Lucy! I love all Mrs. Frugalwoods’ suggestions. I was an RN for 25 years and retired at age 49. I was mostly employed in high-risk L&D units for those years and as you know, it’s a very stressful place to work. I saw so many changes in nursing over those years and not for the better. I’m so happy I retired early! I live in the South so my salary was never as high as yours, so if you decide to move down here be prepared for lower salaries, but also a LCOL. When reading your case study my first thought was that your house is limiting your choices. It sounds like there’s so much you want to do with your life that downsizing to a new area would be beneficial. Plus if you join the Peace Corps you wouldn’t be home much anyway. Health insurance is a big concern. I’m using the ACA exchange for coverage and that’s fine for as long as it continues to exist. Whatever you decide, I wish you well. You are in great shape for retiring and living the life you dream of.

  25. Lucy comes across as a very positive and caring person, so it was striking to me in how much she seems to not be enjoying her job. That was the only part of her profile, including her divorce, that she described in negative terms. Quit that job!

    I vote for selling or renting the house and trying a new life on for size. Maybe take advantage of traveling nurse opportunities or the Peace Corps for a couple of years? I sense that ultimately she wants to be near at least one of her children. Perhaps her children aren’t settled enough yet for her to make that move (and two of them live in very expensive locations). Until that day comes, she should take advantage of this in-between phase to explore a new career or spend time with aging parents back home. The only thing holding her back is the house. If she’s too emotionally attached to sell it, renting it or coordinating with a tenant to create an extra Airbnb space could be a good option. With the Airbnb, she could be keep furniture in place and have the option to return for extended periods.

    Good luck Lucy!

  26. I would sell house in two years, and move closer to my parents, so I could help with them. Actually, that is what I did with mom. I do not regret it. She has now passed. Your nursing skills would be a great advantage to them. Your nursing skills are needed everywhere, and you could also have a job there, until they really needed you. You would also be close by. Best of luck to you and you have made great decisions!

  27. Wow! Thank you all for the support and good advice. I am so moved by your comments and suggestions. From Lauren’s suggestion to imagine all the “coulds” in life if I sold my house to Rhonda’s suggestion that I look into being a nurse practitioner at a local school to everyone in between I am awed by the wisdom in Frugalwoods nation.

    1. I’m in a similar situation and am getting a lot out of reading the post and comments. Thank you for sharing your story, Lucy.

  28. As a former Peace Corps volunteer, I would say that it would be a fantastic retirement option. Older volunteers make a far greater impact then younger since most countries have immense respect for age and wisdom. At that point your expenses would be zero and would allow your retirement funds to continue to grow. And added benefit is that you have the opportunity to see just how little you truly need in life and could reframe your idea of what you need for retirement.

    1. But if she’s hoping to use her nursing skills, the Peace Corps isn’t the place. Their insurance doesn’t allow nurses/doctors to practice and PCV’s aren’t usually allowed to transfer over their credentials and licensing to the host country. If her goal in volunteering is to use her nursing skills, she’d be better off looking into direct aid organizations like Doctors without Borders.

      That being said, if using her nursing skills isn’t her goal, than I 100% agree with your comments about the Peace Corps.

      1. My spouse works on the administrative side of Doctors Without Borders and it’s been amazing to learn about the volume of work done by nurses in the field. They are such a critical aspect of care and are highly valued by the organization. However, I do think there are language skills that really boost your ability to get placed (I think French and Arabic are the most common languages in the areas at most need), so that could be a factor in your eligibility.

        From a financial standpoint, they do pay field staff (and you get full benefits too, I think!) but I believe it’s a fairly low salary by US standards. That could be ideal, as you’d probably be fine living in a lower COL region but might get some of the tax advantages over here.

  29. Lucy, I wish I knew you. You sound like a wonderful person, with a beautiful heart. Your friends and family are lucky to have you. I understand life is hard and stressful sometimes, hang in there. You’ve received a lot of good advice, the only thing I question is the 20 year term life insurance you’re paying for. Seems like unnecessary. You already have some other whole life and term insurance that would cover your funeral arrangements. And you have assets that I imagine you will leave to your children. I would cancel or greatly reduce that term life. Good luck!

  30. Probably the best, most thoughtful case study I’ve ever read. You really put your money where your mouth is. Lucy, God bless you. You are on the right track.

  31. I’m in a similar situation, Lucy. My husband and I are trying to decide whether to sell our house, and it’s a really tough decision! It would give us so much more flexibility, but there are a lot of emotions involved in where you live–and I’m not even as attached to the house as you are! I think we are going to eventually make the leap. Imagining the freedom you’d have from that long commute and long work hours, or maybe taking a long vacation to see how it would feel to retire early might be a good step to take to help yourself make the decision. Best of luck!

  32. There are nice people-& nice neighbors-everywhere. Something to consider as you contemplate the frequent (& good IMO) advice to downsize to free you up (but read Sarah Suzanka’s Not So Big House first to guide you – its eye opening!) As a physician I have a few things to say: medicine has changed and not for the better (Consider reading Dike Drummonds Stop Physician Burnout – it applies to ARNP’s too). Be wary of working full time in Hospice: I am fellowship trained and no one told me a crucial truth before I moved across the country to do a fellowship. A LOT of people who can’t function in regular medicine end up in Hospice for a variety of reasons. They have personality disorders, etc. It’s a tough environment to work full time in. That being said, perhaps use this transition time to study for and take the certification for NP’s. Also can you get a foot in the door at the nearby VA? There is a nationwide mandate to expand Palliative Care so depts. are hiring. And with 5 years service you can retire at 62 with health care from the VA! (This is no small thing in the day and age-& it’s cheap compared to the private sector) Just some thoughts. I wish you the best! Run on!

    1. Thank you Dr. Sam for the inside information and for the book recommendations. I am a certified NP in Women’s Health. The VA may require adult certification but will check. That’s a great idea!

    2. Just another take on working with patients at the end of their life. I did that for nine years and it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I was a CNA and worked directly for the families with in-home care. There was no local hospice since this was in a small town in Wyoming, but one of my daughters-in-law has worked in a residential hospice and loved it. It is so true, though, that the biggest stressor in working for a corporate hospice is your fellow co-workers. I recently read Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal” and was so impressed with it that I bought a copy and asked my daughters to read it (I am 71 and they are my Healthcare Power of Attorneys).

  33. I echo the congratulations! Regarding another mobile option – I just switched US Mobile’s “Super LTE” custom plan, who’s an MVNO on Verizon’s network. BOOM doesn’t allow enabling tethering/hotspot on smartphones, which was a problem for me. US Mobile’s “Super LTE” option (note, “GSM LTE” is on T-Mobile’s network). allows you to size the plan you need, and stay on Verizon’s network. Number porting (keeping your phone number) was very quick for me, and though I had to hop on a chat to update some account information – they were very fast and responsive. For 500 min, 300 text, and 1 GB of tetherable data on Verizon’s network, I’m paying $24/m.

    Republic Wireless can be good too, though if you have problems with Ting, you *may* have coverage issues on Republic too. Republic’s service is via either Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s networks (unsure how this is selected). Ting’s service is through Sprint, so Republic may have similar issues. However, if you’re able to use the hospital’s Wi-Fi, Republic will actually use Wi-Fi for calls/text…so that could also solve the coverage gap. You can read more on their site if you’re curious. Unlimited talk/text and 1 GB of data is $20/m.

    Best of luck!

  34. I would sell the house. See about finding a townhouse (to have a small garden) or apartment/condo with public gardens to buy in an area near family. Her gardening experience will be in great demand at public gardens and she will make new friends.Freedom to not commute for hours a day, to not work 40 hours a week… to just not have to, to me would be worth more than the house.

  35. Hi, Lucy and Frugalwoods Community! I love your home and it is in a great location – I had heard a financial guy on NPR say that making 1 extra principal payment each year towards your mortgage can severely decrease the length of time on your home loan because of the decrease in interest paid. I don’t know if you can eliminate any expenses in order to make that happen, or if it’s too late to make that kind of difference since there’s only 10 years left on your loan. I also wonder if you have used the FAFSA to get financial aid for your child still in college? If not, I highly recommend it. Are they doing work-study to help defray costs?

    1. Hi Deb, I do the FAFSA every year but my son only qualifies for federal loans. He has gotten some scholarship money and has applied to be a resident advisor next year. So far he’s on track to graduate without any debt. Regarding the mortgage I would like to make an extra payment annually but my first goal will be to follow Mrs. FW’s advice and build up my emergency fund!

  36. I echo the congratulations! Regarding another mobile option – I just switched US Mobile’s “Super LTE” custom plan, who’s an MVNO on Verizon’s network. BOOM doesn’t allow enabling tethering/hotspot on smartphones, which was a problem for me. US Mobile’s “Super LTE” option (note, “GSM LTE” is on T-Mobile’s network). allows you to size the plan you need, and stay on Verizon’s network. Number porting (keeping your phone number) was very quick for me, and though I had to hop on a chat to update some account information – they were very fast and responsive. For 500 min, 300 text, and 1 GB of data on Verizon’s network, I’m paying $24/m.

    Republic Wireless can be good too, though if you have problems with Ting, you *may* have coverage issues on Republic too. Republic’s service is via either Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s networks (unsure how this is selected). Ting’s service is through Sprint, so Republic may have similar issues. However, if you’re able to use the hospital’s Wi-Fi, Republic will actually use Wi-Fi for calls/text…so that could also solve the coverage gap. You can read more on their site if you’re curious. Unlimited talk/text and 1 GB of data is $20/m.

    Best of luck!

  37. I am so grateful to Mrs. Frugalwoods for doing such a wonderful job in presenting my case study and to all of you for your insight and ideas. I had not realized that my house might be holding me back financially. I didn’t realize that the house could be preventing me from retiring early. Lots to think about!

  38. Hi Lucy!
    I went from working a corporate job earning 50k+benefits to being a hairdresser, soooo I’ve learned a LOT of frugal hacks XD Couple suggestions for ya on the budget front:
    Groceries- that seems so high! I spend less than $200 for two adults per month. Although I do realize grocery prices vary by geographic location, we do have TJ’s and MB where I live and they are SO expensive, imho. Look for cheaper stores- I shop mostly at Aldi’s, and hit up a few dented-can-salvage-type grocery stores on occasion.
    Gifts: There are TONS of ways to lower this number! I have a “gift box” stashed in my closet, where I shop year-round for b-days/Christmas/etc, I save LOADS of money doing this. I also use my credit card rewards points to get gift cards for people. Pinterest was a HUGE help in coming up with frugal, creative gift ideas.
    Clothing: I have to look good pretty much all the time (#hairdresser), but I save money by shopping at thrift stores exclusively, or even my own closet. I cut back SO much just by going through my closet and creating new outfits for nothing.
    Cell phone: Switched to Total Wireless (Verizon coverage) and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it– $35/mo with unlimited talk/text and 5GB data (which I rarely even come close to using, thanks to wifi being everywhere)
    Glasses: If you haven’t already, check out Zenni! I’ve had several pairs from them, and they have all been excellent quality/durability.
    Final note: As someone who also works on her feet all day — KEEP THOSE PEDIS! Just make sure you’re not getting fancy polish or nail art or whatnots, but OMG a good outsourced pedi is a necessity for us!!
    Good luck to ya, girl!

  39. I love this case study as it reminds me of us (I am 50 and my husband is 51). Some thoughts . . .

    You might want to re-think the life insurance. I assume the reason for life insurance is to provide for your youngest child if you passed. Is this really necessary? Could your assets alone fill the void? I would at a bare minimum consider cashing out the whole life policy since you already have a term policy.

    Don’t forget taxes! Federal and State income taxes can be a huge drain to wealth. I would do 2018 tax projections with 2 scenarios – #1 – selling house (no more schedule A interest/tax deduction), and #2 – staying and keeping your deductions (although note that deductions will be limited in 2018 due to the tax bill). Even with the increased standard deduction for 2018, I expect you would save quite a bit in taxes from keeping your home. Overall, it still may be best to sell, but the tax implications can be big and should be taken into account for sure.

    When you run the numbers on converting your entire house to a rental, make sure you take into account the tax benefits. In that case, you could deduct full interest, taxes, insurance with no limits. HOWEVER, your capital gain waiver will be different with a rental. It used to be that you had to live in a house 2 out of the last 5 years to exclude any gain from taxation. I believe that may have changed (and not for the better) with the new tax law. Something to note.

    1. Hi JP,
      My daughter who is an accountant in Seattle is here visiting and she says she’ll help review the tax implications. Thank you for pointing those out to me!

  40. The expenses related to the house is high since it’s almost half of Lucy’s take home. House hacking may be the way to go. How big is the house? If it’s under-occupied and you love living there, you should split the love with some Airbnbers :). In the budget there’s rental income, is that from your home or another property?

    You’re doing so well and managed your life and finances that advice here is more like gentle tips. If you love your home, stay. If it’s worth losing some agility, stay. From the budget you can tell you know frugality in and out. The payments for your youngest child’s school will cease eventually and that will free up some cash at the end of the month too. Phenomenal job!

    Your children are jaw droppingly gorgeous Lucy! I had to double back, are they models ✨ and you don’t look a day over 35!!!

    1. Hi Lily,
      The rental income is from a housemate who with his dog shares the house with me. Thank you so much for the compliments about my children!

  41. Hi Lucy, I agree with Lauren’s suggestion to imagine all the “coulds” in life if you sold the house (beautiful house by the way). I also had to sell my home and it was a hard decision. All those good memories seeing my kids grow up. I miss it once in a while but beyond the financial gain, it also helped me move on.
    And I had to laugh at” I’ve tried online dating and would rather run a marathon and have a colonoscopy than try that again! “. I recently had a colonoscopy and did try on line dating and it would be a tough choice!

  42. Hi, Lucy, lovely post and lovely family. I live in Boston and my husband and I work in health care too and have three kids with one still in college so your post spoke to me to comment. This is how health care jobs in Boston were recently described to me: it is like putting frogs in water and slowly turning the heat up, they don’t feel the slow temperature change and therefore do not jump out in time. The idea that you lost your nurse practitioner status, might have to work five days instead of four, it all sounds too familiar and not great. It seems to me that you are a pretty frugal person and while there are areas you could play with, money will still be tight-ish. Air BNB is another possibility, especially around the Marathon dates, etc. but does also add more stress to your life. Maybe considering moving to an area with a lower cost of living, the need for nurse practitioners, and a better dating market might be the bold move, somewhere warm too. Moving near your children or your parents seems a little risky as everyone could be on the move. Maybe while your son is in college you can explore other places. Thanks for sharing your story, you clearly have a lot of guts and openness to trying new things.

  43. I walked away from nursing a year ago at 50. Can you transition back to nurse practioner? That would give you options. What about primary healthcare in a small town somewhere in Maine? Dream big, this is your time.

    I am a a housewife and grandmother. I haven’t been this broke or this happy in my life. Good luck

  44. The life insurance especially the whole life, is not needed. She has enough assets to finish paying for her son’s college should she pass not even including the one year of salary from her employer. That savings and the assets from the whole life could be put in either an emergency fund, pay down the house or a index fund in a taxable account (my preferred). I also agree with another poster, stretch out the investing to your 403b to get the match (if any) over the full year if your employer does not do a “true-up”.
    Try stretching an extra week with your hair and mani/pedi, you may find that you don’t need to do them as often which will cut a small amount down.
    I found the information about her employer moving to PA instead of NP odd. I will not go to a PA but will go to a NP. I have not heard of many hospitals cutting NP for PA. I would look for another NP job. It may be less physically tiring and allow for more independence at work. This may mean going outside your current employer. Checking things out does not mean you have to move if you like your current position better but it will tell you if you have options.

    1. Hi Ginger,
      The hospital does not offer a match unfortunately. The reason they are transitioning from NPs to PAs is that the NPs are in a nurses’ union and are more expensive to hire than PAs. Good idea to check out more options!

  45. You expressed interested in end of life issues. Do you know about the Death Cafe? http://deathcafe.com/
    The idea is to get together with others to talk about death. There are people who work as death “doulas” for lack of a better label. Perhaps this might be worth exploring as a new possibility? My hunch is if you knew what to do, you’d take that leap.

  46. Hi Anne,
    I did not know about the Death Cafe. I do know about doulas at births as some of our patients use them and that is exactly what I am interested in doing for people at the end of life. Thank you for the link. I’ll definitely check it out!

    1. Hi Lucy, I’m a UK RN & work as a nurse specialist. Salaries here aren’t great (I’ve been nursing 27 years I earn £41K a year pre tax & National insurance deductions) & we may be balloted for strike action.
      My background is in palliative & end of life care. I wondered if you might be interested in this website:
      Thanks for sharing your case study.

  47. Lucy,

    First off, thank you for sharing your story with Mrs. FW so she could share it with us. Awesome to have a case study from someone closer to my own vintage. My congratulations to you on reaching the wonderful place you are now – the land of options. Some never get there.

    You have decisions ahead of you, but I do not think they are first and foremost financial decisions. They look to me like happiness decisions. Unfortunately these are often harder to make than financial decisions. Have you studied human happiness, done any research into it? I would look into it and see what resonates with you.

    What to do with our two houses is the biggest conundrum we face in our own path to retirement, so I feel for you my friend.

    My mother went through a similar process as yours about 13 years ago. She was recently divorced (though not amicably) and remained in the DC suburbs in the house she had been in for 20+ years. She was struggling to figure out how to make everything work financially (she wasn’t in as good a shape as you are) and also needed some type of change at work – she was at the end of her rope.

    I continually urged her to move to Raleigh where we live – it seemed like such an easy answer to me. She could sell the DC suburbs house and make a boatload, move to a LCOL area near family, and then decide what she wanted to do next. But it wasn’t so easy to pick up and move after being in the same place for so long. It’s not so easy to just pick up and leave your home or your community after you’ve laid down so many roots. Even if it makes sense on paper I now get how difficult the reality of this kind of change is.

    It took her 3-4 years to work through everything but she finally decided to move to Raleigh. The fact that there was a new grandson in the picture may have pushed her over the edge. 13 years later she is remarried to the best of her 3 husbands.

    Give yourself the time and space you need to figure out what you really want, what you think will bring you long-term happiness. Embrace this period of change and, as Mrs. FW would say, lean into it.

    1. Brian, Thank you so much for sharing your mother’s story. I bet the grandson probably did have something to do with her decision! Sounds like it was a great move for her and for your family. Very inspiring! I think you are right when you say this is a happiness decision. Although I have not done research into happiness I do have access to some books on the topic and will revisit them.

  48. Lucy- you are in inspiration!
    I haven’t read all the comments here, but have you thought about being a traveling nurse? I have lots of friends who do that- they get to see other parts of the country, make buckets of money, and aren’t super involved in the workplace drama. Even if that’s not something you are interested in, nurses are in high demand, don’t underestimate your value!
    Also, your grocery bill! You could cut that way down- my family spends $200-$300 a month for a family of four with lots of fresh fruit and veggies (we aren’t all organic, which you may be). Meal planning, avoiding overstocking your pantry, and sticking to a shopping list are lifesavers for me.
    The house is the main problem, I think. I’m a sentimental person, so that would be hard for me too. I would probably stick it out until your youngest graduates (he’s close by, right?) and then make my decision then. But I think the joy you find in your home could be replaced by not having to work so hard.
    Keep up the good work!

  49. Good on Lucy! She has a great budget and has obviously planned well! I know its not good to compare yourself to others, but I can’t but feel sadly defeated when I think of my own, particularly at my stage of life. I am sixty, was a single Mom for most of my life. My children are all doing very well, have graduated from college, gainfully employed and own their own homes. (At least I feel good that they are better off than me and have a good work ethic). I have little assets, do not own a home and can barely afford or qualify for one right now due to a low credit score. I have only about $45k in my 401k. I make good money ($100k), but in debt ($33k), and cannot see my way out. I now live in one of the most expensive areas of the nation and my rent is high, although I live in a very modest apartment.. But at least this area is a good job market for me. Also, I would like to start a new career after “retirement” doing something that would get me out from behind a computer screen all day. For years I have wanted to get a masters degree in a field I feel passionately about, but I can’t take on any more debt at this stage in my life. I want nothing more than to get off the squirrel wheel, off the grid, and out of the rat race. I have an expensive pet to maintain that everyone keeps telling me to “get rid of” to relieve some of the financial burden but I refuse as he is one of the joys of my existence. Is there any hope for someone in MY situation? Thank you, love your blog.

    1. Lily, did you know that some area colleges offer free tuition to those over 60?! It may be a good opportunity for you to get that degree for little to no cost.

  50. Hi Lucy, I enjoyed reading your story. I wonder if you considered two things: 1) having your parents move into your home or 2) using your home as a short term rental (vrbo, airbnb) when you retire. I feel as though if you pursued option 2) it might give you the chance to see how you feel not living in your home. It would limit your flexibility in some ways, e.g. having to check people in, playing “host”, etc.; however, it might make the decision to stay or sell more clear in your mind. Maybe you would find you didn’t miss your home at all.

    I felt when reading your story that you are destined to find meaningful volunteer work in retirement. This is one of my motivating factors to retire early too. With your background it sounds like a Hospice facility would be lucky to have you! One last note, I use GoogleFi for a cell plan which is cheap and runs primarily off the Sprint, Tmobile, and US Cellular networks. They have excellent customer service. I wish you the best! KaLynn

    1. Thanks KaLynn. My parents are happy in their condo in Kentucky with my sisters and their families nearby but your second suggestion is something I could consider. And thank you and every one for the good advice about cell phone providers. There are many more options than I was aware of!

  51. Congratulations, Lucy! You may not be where you want to be (yet), but you’ve done really well and you’ve got a clear idea of your destination, and sometimes that’s the hardest.

    I totally understand your house dilemma, but also Mrs. F’s comments that it’s not as valuable if you’re living in it. A tenant is a good idea, but if the area is that in-demand, and you have the time/resources/mental energy to do it, what about AirBnB-ing a bed/bath combo in the house? You could probably make even more than with one tenant, and depending on the size of your house, you might be able to do this and keep your existing tenant. (Maybe make greeting/sheets-and-towels laundry part of his rent and give him a discount for doing?) Just a thought among many.

    Good luck with your journey.

  52. Lucy-

    I have no advice to offer you, just wanted to offer you congrats for what a great position you’re in! And, frankly, I kind of want to be you when I grow up (I’m 37). Admire your commitment to fitness, your family, your service-oriented profession, and your future goals for retirement!

  53. Did anyone mention the homeowner’s insurance yet? It looks like you have $500,000? I live in a suburb west of Boston and I can tell you from personal experience that it is not nearly enough. Our home burned to the ground 3 years ago, next month, and we were under-insured. We had what the insurance company said we needed – and then some – but they did not calculate accurately the cost of re-building/building a home in Greater Boston. And yes, we did increase our coverage every year. Lucy, you need at least $1 million for the re-build, plus contents plus coverage for temporary housing. Because of the city’s, state’s and fed’s ridiculous rules, requirements and B.S., it took 17 months to rebuild our home. It cost a lot more than what we were insured for and we had to use retirement savings to finish it. Being Massachusetts (and not New Hampshire where you are given the cash), we were not given the option of selling the lot and buying or building elsewhere. The money was doled out to us one chunk at a time, as each stage of the home was completed. I would not wish the experience on my worst enemy. We have still not received everything the insurance company owes us and our lawyers are now saying we probably will not.

    1. Oh MEM, I am so sorry you went through this. Point taken. I will call my insurance company and increase the coverage right away.

  54. I m 65 and retired and living in a house we built in 1980, with a large garden, and where we raised 5 children. I would like to move to a smaller home, my husband doesn’t. I retired at 52, and now finding the housework a trial, and feel like I never stop working except at night. Consider selling, just the thought of packing this home up is frightening. Do it while you are fit and young enough to cope, as hard as it will be. If you wait till 70 or 75 you will end up paying a fortune for someone else to pack it for you.

    By retirement you can start travelling then, go on a cruise, and leave your new smaller home with ease.

    1. Chris,
      Thank you for sharing your experience. I hear you. I appreciate the advice to pack up now while still able to cope! The prospect of leaving town without having to deal with burst pipes and frozen drains (both happened in the last few weeks) has appeal. I hope you are able to convince your husband to sell! Lucy

  55. Lucy –

    I don’t think anyone mentioned it above, but I’d seriously look into your Social Security payments when you retire — not only for yourself, but also for your ex-husband (presuming you were married for 10 or more years, which it appears you were). If you divorced amicably and are still on good speaking terms (which it appears you are), he should be able to give you an idea of what you’d be entitled to claim when, and you can look to see whether there’s a way to claim half of his Social Security while deferring on your own claim, or whether you’d be better off claiming half his benefit rather than your own (unlikely, but possible).

    Getting a handle on the different Social Security options is tough and requires some work/forecasting (the community over at Bogleheads.org is useful), but given your proximity to that point in your life, it probably makes sense to run some scenarios and see what you’re looking at — you could be in much better shape/much closer to being able to afford to retire than you think.

    As for other advice, I think you’re doing great overall — others have covered where you could try to cut costs on your phone or taking in extra tenants (which wouldn’t be my cup of tea)….any chance you could convert more of your beautiful garden into vegetables/fruits so as to both (a) cut down on your food costs and (b) get the health benefits of knowing your food was truly grown organically? A couple well-planned and bountiful harvests could be both enjoyable as a hobby and frugal in reducing your food costs.

    Also, I’d consider looking into the Peace Corps, too, but for a slightly different reason — obviously the work will be rewarding and the travel exciting enjoyable, and you’ll presumably save money by putting all your stuff in storage/not having much in living expenses while you do it…..but that’s also a GREAT way to have an adventure/fill the time between now (when your children are almost all on their own living their lives) and your hopeful future as a grandmother (when you’ll want to be nearer by to spend time with grandkids). Arguably you could start that adventure now (sell the house, put your key items in storage, use proceeds to pre-fund the rest of the account for your youngest child) and continue it until any grandkids are on the way….and even beyond!

    1. Thanks Chadnudj for the SS advice and your thoughts about the Peace Corps! My garden has too much shade to grow vegetables well so I am looking into joining a nearby community garden. Really appreciate all these thoughtful responses!

  56. This was such an interesting case study! I agree with a lot of Mrs. Frugalwood’s suggestions, and just have one to add. I would cancel the whole life insurance policy for sure and turn that into your emergency fund. I would also consider canceling your term policy since your assets would cover your youngest finishing college, but that’s up to you. 🙂
    Congrats on a beautiful life!

  57. I feel some stress from Lucy’s job which is not a positive. I wonder if she might be able to change positions and became a NP again working for a Hospice agency. They use NPs a lot, there is a lot of flexibility and the work might make a few more years of employment more palatable.

  58. Hi Marcia, Like you I swim at the Y and b/c almost all Ys now offer a reciprocal arrangement I can also use my membership in KY when visiting my family. It feels like money well spent!

  59. Ooh, lots to talk about here. It looks like the money for child’s college is being double counted, since it appears as an expense taken from net income, but is also stated as being paid from salary before calculation of net monthly income? Also, if Lucy is dedicated to paying that money for child come what may, it shouldn’t be listed as an asset as she isn’t going to consider it ‘her’ money.

    Whilst we keep track of what’s in our emergency fund, we don’t include it in our asset rundown each month. That way it is truly there for emergencies and not considered part of the money we have to play with (e.g. $80k assets and $20k emergency fund, only think about the $80k and not call it $100k). As you build yours up you may want to consider it that way.

    Feels like a lot of fat that could be cut from presents, beauty treatments and food budgets, but you’ve worked hard, raised kids etc so no need to feel guilty if that’s what you want to spend money on. As Mrs FW says, everything is a choice.
    The multiple life insurances feel like overkill and given divorce and grown up kids (even the one in college is a grown up!), who is that money for?
    In terms of future planning, and I mention this in the nicest possible way, do your children want you to live near them? Have you actually talked about it or are you assuming? Is one child going to feel resentful if you live east coast when they’re on the west and vice versa? Would you be better picking somewhere central, or a ‘holiday’ location where they are guaranteed to visit you regularly? It would be prudent to consider whether moving to a place near one of your children, especially given that would be a big shift for you having lived in Boston so long, would put pressure on them? Would they feel that they couldn’t move because “mum gave up so much to move here and we can’t leave her behind”?

    All in all it sounds like you’re in a pretty good place but have constraints in not enjoying your job or feeling secure in it, and also constraints on liquid assets. If you’re set on moving near children, you could rent your place and try for new rental home and job in one of those places to see if it suits you. Definitely work on emergency fund. I don’t know how well you do this naturally, but writing all is down for the case study gives you the opportunity to review your outgoings and then see where you are comfortable cutting. Maybe try one new thing each month to see how it feels, like cutting internet in February, or a 6 month clothes ban (then put that 6months money in an investment instead of a blowout shopping trip 😉). Good luck!

    1. Hi Victoria,
      Thank you for these thoughts and suggestion. I particularly enjoyed your question “in the nicest possible way” of whether the children want me to live near them! You raise a very good point. I also like your idea of not counting the emergency fun as part of the asset rundown.

  60. I enjoyed your case study tremendously. It sounds like you do not have much flexibility with your job. I live in Texas and I love Portland OR but I could not take all the gray winter days. I think Seattle has even more days without sunlight. How does Seattle compare to Boston? Maybe try and take extended visits before you select a new location if you make that choice. I took a day off work without pay last year and survived the reduction in income. I am almost 60 with a paid off house but I am clueless about my future. You have a big trip planned but maybe taking mini-vacations throughout the year would help you rest up from your job. Also, I want to support the expense for a cleaning person. That probably helps avoid conflicts in your room mate situation.

  61. Hi Lucy,

    In addition to the financial question, it seems like there’s a big emotional component to your situation—you mentioned both loneliness in your personal life and overwork in your professional life. I was in a similar jam a couple of years ago, and eventually realized that I had a quality of life problem masquerading as a money problem. The best advice I found was in the book Finding Your North Star by Martha Beck. After I figured out what I really wanted out of my life, the financial side fell into place. I wish the same for you! Good luck on making this life transition, my friend!

  62. Suebians have a proverb: Moving three times equals burned down once. It goes to say – moving is very expensive. With her youngest still in school, it mit be best to stay put, and then move in 2020 or later. It might make sense to look for another position as a NP which might give her more flexibility, and more time to pursue her interest and spend time with friends

  63. No doubt that huge house that holds the bulk of her wealth in an expensive area is the first thing I would look at. Being she is far from family, selling the big house, downsizing to a smaller one with room for her garden, that she could pay off immediately in close proximity to her family is an option I would consider. Given her experience as a nurse practitioner, she could find work anywhere as nurses are always in demand and with significant savings and no mortgage, she will have the option to not work a many hours and spend more time with family and friends. The savings on entertainment and hair care are small compared to her mortgage and taxes. And while you and Mr Fruglewoods are both adept in the home haircuts, as a single woman she may not have a person she could trust with the shears. It is great for me as my hubby has been my stylist wielding the shears to keep my locks looking great since we started dating, but not every woman has that benefit as we do. Overall I think this lady is best getting out of Boston and being closer to family.

    1. Thank you, Carolyn. You are correct in your assumption that I do not have anyone I trust with the shears as much as my hair stylist who is one of my favorite people on the planet. Some things are just worth the cost!

      1. Yes, having someone you trust with your hair is a very big deal. I had gone to so many salons, paid too much and walked out with a much lighter wallet and not satisfied with the results. I had gone nearly a year without going to the salon because I just dreaded going when I met my now husband who cooked dinner for me on our second date and gave me a haircut on our third. I was estatic with both his culinary talents as well as the haircut he gave me. I decided I was going to marry him that weekend and he has been my chef and hairstylist ever since. I will eat other people’s cooking, but no one is allowed near my hair with shears. I actually look forward to having him comb and braid my hair for each day, when I tell him Inwould like a braid and when he sets out a glass of wine for me as he prepares to trim my hair, it is our of my life’s pleasures. So I fully understand your relationship with your stylist. I do hope you are able to find your right place. I have a friend who just finished getting her RN from being an LPN and her new job near Reading PA started at $36 an hour and another acquaintance started at $42 an hour with 10 years experience in Hershey PA. So getting out of an extremely high cost living area doesn’t mean you won’t find a good paying job. Good nurses are always in demand. I wish you the best, and hope your plans let you be closer to family.

  64. You don’t probably realize it but you are in a substantially more advantageous position than most people In this country. I feel you could easily retire any time if you are willing to downsize your spending. I know, I know! It’s easy to talk about but hard to do. If you want to do it you can. You have done a great job of building retirement funds, but the big elephant in the room is the house and other expenditures. You do have a lot of soul searching and planning in the reasonably near future.

    I think I understand your attachment to your house, but since my forte has been for years to buy a house, live in it, fix it up and sell it at a profit, I know I can’t feel the same way about a “building” as you do. Therefore, I have nothing more to say on that subject – I don’t want you to feel that I am trying to push my opinions on you. At my stage of life I am looking to move again (I’m a lot older than you) and looking forward to another new challenge.

    Insurance: life insurance is sold to everyone by agents who only want a commission. The only reason for life insurance is to provide for someone (husband, wife, or children) who depend on you for their living. I agree with the previous posts about ditching the life insurance when your son graduates. $80K+ a year is a lot of money for each year of a state college. It is time for you to take care of you first.

    While this isn’t a pleasant subject, you did mention concern about your parents or older relatives. It’s a valid concern and one I had to deal with four times. When I moved from the SF area, I didn’t go any further than Sacramento (both for work and to be within driving distance to their locations.) Do you have sisters or brothers in their area, or other relatives? This is something you may have to take into consideration during your deliberations about what to do. You don’t have grandchildren yet, so you may have to prioritize your parents depending on whether or not other siblings are available to help in case of need. This may require a double move, first to parents and eventually to children.

    Medicare: Given the current climate at the national level, I would be very concerned about medical insurance if you retire before you reach medicare age. Once you have it you can purchase a supplementary policy to cover most of what medicare does not cover at a more reasonable price than what is available without it which could run into multiple hundreds of dollars. You might want to line up a job before you move (and get your license in place) before you actually move.

    One of my daughters is a BSRN with several national certifications and she has worked out a deal with her primary hospital employer for a 3 day week with all bennies, and works contract when she needs extra money. Working contract has its pros and cons. You get paid a lot more on contract, you can deduct all expenses (mileage, uniforms, equipment, etc. etc.), but you get no benefits on contract, nor are you guaranteed specific assignments. You take or not take what is available. You are self employed and have to file income tax based upon that income in addition to your salary. Your CPA may suggest you file quarterly on those wages. If you can cut a deal with your hospital for a 3 day week with bennies, you could work contract on the side which will take care of some of that extra money you need. Some contracts are for a day or two and some are for several weeks, so if you want to do this you need to register with all the contract agencies you can find. I will almost guarantee that at your hospital on any given day there are contract nurses running around. Ask your buddies to keep their eyes open for one and go talk to him or her and get a contact for their agent. Then go see the agent and suss out the details to see if this would work for you. It’s unlikely that you will be able to come up with one specific day per week, but who knows. Worth a shot. My daughter is licensed in two states so can work anywhere in Washington or Oregon. Something to consider. She also does it so that she keeps her options open. Same kinds of crap in your profession everywhere and keeping your options open is not a bad idea. It might be worthwhile to peruse other opportunities in your area while you are figuring out your future.

    HELOC: I’m sure you know, but in case some of the Frugalwoods younger readers don’t know, this is just a fancy new name for a second mortgage on your house. To be avoided by everyone possible as even a small loan could result in losing your house. While a first mortgage holder is more willing to negotiate in case there is a financial problem of some sort as they have more money at stake, a second mortgage (HELOC) has a smaller financial interest and will pounce on your house immediately if there is a financial problem. This pouncing on your house horror also applies to Homeowners Associations (that have monthly maintenance dues, etc.) and Condos. Buyers need to be aware of this as both are constantly upping their fees every year. As you may have guessed, I choose not to deal with this kind of property.

    HSA: I didn’t see this on your budget. I don’t have one as they weren’t invented in my day, however I understand that you can put a certain amount in and it just stays there for as many years as necessary. It is paid into pre-tax and there is no tax when you use it. As a nurse you probably know all about this, but it’s worth a look.

    Social Security: Check out what you will get a different specific ages. Then be aware you won’t get it all. The feds will want income tax (based upon your total income – a good reason to have accounts that don’t require you take out so much a year so you can keep an eye on the tax situation) Some States also charge income tax on social security. That will change this next year but go up in 2024 if I understand anything about this new federal bill (who does?). Also, Social Security will raise your payments for medicare, part B if you have capital gains in any particular year. It’s double taxation on your capital gains, but they call it a fee based upon your income in the year you have capital gains. It’s going to cost me well over $3K in lost income this year and there is nothing I can do about it. Believe me I tried. So if you decide to sell your house do it before you collect social security. Check with your CPA about this. Depending on the original cost of your property I have to presume it will be substantially higher than $3K.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you the very best. You seem to be a very special person.

    1. Thank you, Soggysuzzi, for your thoughtful response. Fortunately both my sisters and their families live near my parents. I agree about the HELOC, life insurance and Medicare. My hospital doesn’t offer an HSA but they do offer a RMSA (Retiree Medical Savings Account) which I contribute to. Good points about Social Security too. I appreciate all the tips and help!

  65. I have a couple of thoughts that weren’t touched on in the article (but maybe in the comments before me?) — a couple of additional opportunities to increase income exist in my mind. Find work at a different location as a nurse practitioner, possibly in primary care. There are obviously multiple factors that go into this logistically, but I think it is a viable option. It may decrease work stress and increase income both. The opposite could of course be true (e.g. longer commute, new things to learn). The other idea to increase income — get another renter. The house looks like it could fit 3 people pretty readily. Or…what about renting out the house and staying with a long-term friend? It sounds like the community/neighborhood is important to her.

    As Mrs. Frugalwoods mentions, the biggest question mark/liability by far is the house. As a percentage of income, it is what most experts would say is too high. These are just what occurred to me when reading the study.

  66. Hey Lucy,

    I really enjoyed reading this. You are in a great financial position. I’m a physician, and can relate to feeling like the changes happening in health care are for the most part not positive. It is a major bummer you were forced out of your NP role and is bewildering to me why they would not keep an experienced provider like you on board. It seems the expanded abilities and role of a NP would outweigh the higher salary.

    Reading between the lines here, I think the question you have to ask yourself is are you happy? Would moving closer to family and working less make you happier? More happy than the house and current friendships? These are big questions. It sounds like you love to run/swim/yoga and want to be near family. Maybe you could accomplish all this in a much less expensive/smaller place, and as a byproduct find a less stressful job, or one you could work fewer hours. I cut back to half-time several years ago (at a relatively young age) and it was a huge improvement to my lifestyle. I was burned out, and this was a big part of getting my life and happiness back. Good luck in your journey.

    By the way. I had to read the running part several times. Do you really run 16 miles a day in addition to working a 10 hour shift? This seems borderline amazing/crazy to me! You are my hero.

    PS: I nearly spit out my coffee at the online dating comment.

    1. Hi TheHappyPhilosopher, Thank you for writing. For the record I do NOT run 16 miles a day! That would be borderline amazing/crazy. I try to run three out of four days to work and I take public transportation home. I think you are spot on: working less or at least commuting less would leave me feeling happier and with more time to do the things I love to do.

  67. My advice would be to move to Arizona. The laws here are very favorable for NPs and the cost of living substantially is less. The job market’s great (I get 1-2 unsolicited job ops a week) and I think you could find a job with comparable pay and a much easier commute.

  68. Hi Lucy ,

    First, WOW . I am thoroughly impressed ! Not just financially — your lifestyle and spirit too. And seriously, #fitnessgoals.

    I have a few thoughts about the job/increasing income. As an aside, I was disheartened to hear about the fact that your hospital started replacing NPs vs. PAs. IMO, there’s room for all and a shame you aren’t able to practice in your full scope. Thus, I should preface what I am about to suggest you may have already considered / may not want to do given your career trajectory working clinically:

    You are a SUPER experienced and talented nurse! And as I’m sure you are aware, your skill set is extremely desirable in many settings outside the clinical care arena —Nurse consulting, Clinical Instructor, Adjunct Instructor, Medical writing , Research… the list goes on ! I suppose what I’m trying to get at is you have numerous options in the career realm.

    For one, if living in the Boston area and your current house is what makes you happy then perhaps you could pick up something on the side that helps you reach your financial goals earlier. Some of these, such as the nurse consulting could be done remotely, short-term or long-term, giving you the flexibility to continue working full time and pursuing your hobbies.

    On the other hand, if you should so desire, you could make a pivot in your career (post-youngest child graduating). In this case, what I’m imagining is if you decide to move closer to one of your children in Seattle/Brooklyn and sell the house ( which seems to be the crux of money owed), you could be more selective in the job you choose—clinically based or otherwise.

    Finally, whatever you should decide to do —thank you ! Thank you for your service in improving the health of countless patients and their families throughout your career. And best of luck in achieving your financial goals.

    1. Hi Dina,
      Thank you for your kind words and great suggestions. I appreciate the ideas about practicing nursing in other settings besides the hospital. It is good for me to think more out of the box so to speak. I love to write so maybe maybe that’s an avenue to pursue. I am also currently participating in research studies being done at the hospital so research could well offer opportunities. Good luck to you too!

  69. I don’t have much to comment on, but I think it’s terrible that the hospital replaced NPs with PAs. Are NPs not able to opt out of the union? I get treated much better as a non-union NP than I ever did as a union RN, funnily enough. I don’t think unions are bad, but I think people should be able to opt out if they don’t wish to be a part of it. And kudos for going back to the bedside- not sure that I could do that and not be the provider anymore!

    What kind of NP are you? As some folks have mentioned travel nursing, you could also do locums as a NP and make a tidy sum. I would recommend checking out travelingnp.com if you’re interested. There’s not a lot of information on the subject and while it’s not something that I have space in my life to do, I’ve considered doing it in the future.

    1. There are beginning to be opportunities to opt out of the union for NPs but this is new and not without its own risks. I’m not actually at the bedside. I work in an ambulatory practice at a high risk obstetrical practice. My NP certification is in Women’s Health. If I decide to leave Boston I may well investigate travel nursing. I need to stay here for now until my youngest is through college. Thank you for your support. It means so much!

  70. Lucy, I agree with many comments–I am inspired by your generous spirit and professional grace. You’ve got a year or two really to think and dream and plan – and get that kiddo to graduate, then it really will be time to make some kind of move (figuratively or literally). I agree about some tweaks, lessen smaller bills like groceries, cell phone and insurance and some gift giving and for sure close out that HELOC, that is not an emergency fund. Also agree that you could speed up your mortgage payments, but agree that it doesn’t have to be paid off in order to sell, just paid off in order to remain there. Seems that is your biggest question and you’ve got a couple of years to decide.
    I am in a similar boat in that I am pushing to get my kiddo through school, when that is complete, I will have more options and flexibility. It takes a lot of time and energy to launch a young human doesn’t it?
    Many folks talked about your happiness and Lucy, that is what screamed out to me. You are gifted, accomplished and have something special to offer this world. Take a leap towards your own happiness and that doesn’t have to cost a thing. Make some steps towards meeting men and I don’t mean online, I mean hiking/running clubs, meet ups/seminars around subjects that interest you. Just get those conversations going with people (not just men), you are an accomplished, powerful person with so much to offer. I wish you all the happiness you so richly deserve!

    1. Karen,
      Thank you so much. I like the idea of taking the next two years to decide what to do about the house. I agree launching young humans takes time and energy! And it’s sooo rewarding. Your advice to take a leap toward my own happiness is wise. I recently met a wonderful man who I really like so we’ll see. I wish you happiness too.

  71. Hi Lucy, I didn’t have time to post yesterday and woke up in the middle of the night thinking about you! : ) I also work in healthcare and it is becoming grueling, draining work despite my love for it and my patients. 2 things that jumped out at me;
    1. NP wages have been soaring the past few years, entry level wages are 85K and higher, with experience at least the 90’s, low 100’s many areas. Pay is variable depending on the area of the country, but Boston is known as a good market. I think you are selling yourself short doing nursing and staying where you are. Having said that, easing into retirement with part time or per diem work can be very lucrative and flexible, maybe more for RN’s than NPs.
    2. Your house, as everyone else has commented on. I understand your attachment, I love my houses and had to leave the one I loved the most, same era as yours. We moved 2 years ago from Oregon to Maine to come back to family and help my parents who started to age rapidly. It was very tough. I made the decision to not miss anything, to not regret leaving, to focus only on being so thankful for having lived in Oregon and experiencing all its beauty and to be thankful to be able to come home and be here for my parents. I like to view life in it’s different phases, knowing that they all end or change at some point. It could change your life dramatically for the better to sell, move, work in another state, free yourself for the next stage in your life. And the PeaceCorp sounds fantastic, that was always a dream of mine as well.

    Oh, and there us a #3 – the life insurance. Cash out the whole life and beef up the emergency fund. You don’t need the 500K anymore, but for security keep it until your son graduates.

    Best of luck to you, you have done really well so far! Don’t limit yourself now. Rebecca

    1. Rebecca,
      Your encouragement and that of Frugalwoods Nation is so inspiring and gratifying. I read your story of moving from OR to Maine with interest. You are so wise to make the decision not to miss or regret anything and to stay grateful for everything. I really appreciate your view of life in different phases. It seems increasingly clear that for me one phase is ending and another is about to begin. I will follow the advice about cashing out on the whole life. Thank you and best of luck to you too!

  72. Hi!
    I think that with a few changes you can accomplish your goals of reducing your stress and keeping your house! I would say that until your son graduates, it’s time to reduce your exoenses. In 3.5 years, that money that you used to put toward your son will put you on a fast track to retirement. It does require you to work, but I think you can evaluate things as you go along to continually ask yourself “is owning this home still worth working?”
    Ok, first, I think you need to give to yourself as much as you give to others. Your gift/charity budgets could be temporarily reduced for 3.5 years. $150 less a month means $1800 a year. And, I think that you may be able to be a little more efficient with your food budget. You should be able to save $100 a month without sacrificing (pack lunch twice a week, learn to whip up a yummy and chic omelette twice a week for dinner-cheap and healthy protein/veg), so that is another $1200 a year. So $3000 a year of breathing room! Now, you could use that to build your emergency fund. In 3.5 years, it will be over $10,000! You will feel great at that time, or even at the 3 year mark, cashing in your life insurance as well as putting the money that had gone to your son toward your expenses or savings. This will should alleviate a ton of stress and make a job change possible if that is what you want.
    If you feel like you want to stay in your home, you can do it. It’s really only 3-3.5 years of discomfort before things really lighten up!
    PS–for your Broadway show this year, consider seeing Waitress, it’s incredible!!!!

    1. Lisa, Thank you for this good advice. I do always make my lunch but the yummy omelette idea is a welcome suggestion. I saw Waitress in 2016 and agree with you!

  73. Sorry, I should clarify that when you cash in your life insurance policy, you use that to pay off your mortgage…

  74. Hi Lucy!
    I want to start off by saying that you are doing such a wonderful job with saving for retirement! I am very impressed with what you have been able to do with your income and it inspires me. I too am evaluating the “bigger picture” this year after feeling like we have spent the last several years treading water.

    I think Liz has offered some solid advice. I too immediately noticed the “low hanging fruit” that could be removed from the budget and I would recommend that you follow Liz’s advice here. It is difficult to give up small luxuries, but you are working toward a bigger goal. Regarding your retirement funds, I also agree with Liz that you seemed to be spread out in several accounts and that likely is not necessary. Given your current age and tax bracket, I would likely not contribute further to the ROTH IRA at this point as I do not believe you are reaping the tax benefits of it.

    Lastly, I wanted to say that you story reminds me so much of my co-worker’s personal story. She too was divorced and is working on her own toward retirement – she works two jobs and lives very simply so that she can one day retire and own her condo free and clear. She did end up selling her dream home from the marriage and moved into a condo so she could hammer on her retirement and it’s amazing how much she has been able to save since her divorce! She too is a runner and is involved in several different running clubs and even does some coaching for newbie runners. Joining these running groups was how she met her boyfriend – with the two jobs she is also limited on time, so joining the running group was her way of getting to know people in her area that have her same interests. You could consider dropping your YMCA expense and instead consider using those funds to join a running group, if you aren’t already – perhaps you could even be paid to coach?

    Best of luck to you, Lucy! You are so close to realizing your financial goals – with some minor tweaks, you could be financially independent and ready to retire!

    1. Wow, Busy With Kids, your co-worker’s story is inspiring! I love the Y for the swimming pool and for the treadmill when Boston’s temperatures dip way down but the idea of coaching newbie runners is a fun one. I have been in running groups in the past and would like to do that again. I agree contributing to the Roth doesn’t seem like a priority at this point. Good luck with the evaluation of your own bigger picture and many thanks for taking the time to write.

  75. I love this case study! Lucy, perhaps you can consider taking a one-year sabbatical. Rent out your house, find a job at a hospice near your parents, and rent an apartment. This way you can try out a new life, location, and career path without committing to it for the long-term. You can spend time with your family of origin and decide if you want to live near them after all. You can experience leaving your house and community, with the option of going back if it doesn’t feel right. If it feels right, sell the house and carry on. However, I wouldn’t recommend buying a home near your parents because it sounds like you will ultimately want to live near your grandchildren.

    As for your son’s health insurance, perhaps he can get coverage through the former Mr. Lucy if your sabatical job does not provide adequate coverage in his area.

    1. Hi Mrs. MLM, The idea of a one year sabbatical sounds positively divine as well as being fun and wise. My son’s university offers health insurance, although probably not as good as that offered through the hospital, so he could use that if I were to take time off. Thank you so much for the idea of the sabbatical!

  76. Lucy, you are in a great position to retire early…which is really what I think you want to do. Before you make your expense and location calculations, estimate your monthly income at 60 or 62 if you DO NOT work. Go on SSA.org and determine your Income (no state taxes and only 85% taxed) at 62. You mentioned a cash balance in a pension fund: how much pension could you receive from that now, age 60 or 62? Use an annuity estimate as well. Then take 4% of the balances of your IRA and 401k…I think you are ready to retire very soon! With or without the house. Yes, cash out the life insurance, you no longer need it: it is for people who have dependents and no other assets or income. Should you die, your children will inherit a great deal of money…need a Trust, my friend.

    Now, with regard to your house: we talked and planned for years about selling our big Craftsman Bungalow and moving from our beloved home city to a small town golf course in the country with better weather, LCOL, and a tiny mortgage. Did it in the middle of the Recession and learned: I did NOT miss my huge garden and house…I love my memories but kids are gone, many friends have left as well. We visit them often. Love our new house and my new garden…but as I get older (61) I want to garden less and enjoy sitting in the garden more. We downsized, bought down and were able to retire early (55/53) and work part time after that. Our parents have now passed and I was able to spend years caring for them. Our kids are in San Diego and New York, but I can’t count on them staying there. So we CHOSE where we wanted to live, at least for five years (it’s now been seven) and we rented first. You didn’t say where your parents live? Or their health situation which of course, is fluid.

    When you sell the house, you can retire and afford to live, rent, buy or visit all family locations. Check out good weather locations where you can garden most of the year, very attractive to a gardener. Check out secondary sales at 55 and over communities in Oregon, California and New Mexico (that’s not the builder selling, but people who really need to sell…a lot like buying a certified used car). I don’t think you are ready for condo living yet but perhaps in five or ten years. We love Single level houses with big gardens…with room for miles of walks or runs. As a gardener, you will love places like Ireland: we enjoy living there for the month of June every year…about $1000 for rent…really…beautiful gardens.

    You will then be able to CHOOSE to work part-time wherever you please…if you want to, I doubt you will need to, even now. Health insurance is an unknown of course, we pay $700 a month for me. Working part-time for health insurance alone is worth it. I worked part-time as a consultant for years, had perfect flexibility to travel as much as we wanted. I think I see missions or trips to India in your Future?

    Final item: don’t feel that you have to go into retirement with no mortgage…you can go into retirement with a small, affordable 3.25% mortgage or pay rent, you can CHOOSE to do that because of the smart decisions and investments you have made. Again, Retirement Planning takes years, start now doing your research…visit Washington, Oregon, Arizona. And in the meantime, please run carefully with all this ice and snow, your legs and bones are very important to you now. A bicycle might be a very good idea.

    Best of luck and congratulations: you can CHOOSE what you want to do now!

    1. Barbara, You got me with the locations attractive to a gardener. I had not even imagined living in another country and gardening. Ireland certainly appeals! Thank you too for the good advice about choosing where I want to live and not basing that decision on where my children (currently) live. I love what you said about wanting to garden less and sit in the garden more! And I imagine like you I won’t miss the house and the garden as much as I think I will. I’d have to look into the question of how much pension I could receive now. I do have a trust for my kids that will be funded when I die. Thank you for the advice about running in the ice and snow-I do it but very slowly and do turn back and take the subway if the conditions are poor. Thank you for your own inspiring story and for your encouragement.

  77. Hello Lucy! I haven’t read the other comments yet, but one expense that leaps out at me is LIFE INSURANCE. Other than your son who is still in college, you have no dependents. Life insurance is for replacing your income or to pay for others to perform the work you do (in the case of SAHMs, for example). Life insurance will also pay for funeral expenses and to settle your estate. In your case, you don’t need to replace your income, and there are no dependents who need to replace the work you do. All you really need is to be able to pay for your funeral expenses, and you probably want to honor your commitment to finish helping to pay for your son’s college education. So what you need is a) enough money saved or in investments to honor these expenses/commitments. You have that. Were you to die, your heirs could easily accomplish these things using your investments. So there is no need for you to have life insurance. Some people carry life insurance in order to leave their beneficiaries a windfall when they die. You can decide if this is your objective. But I’ll bet your children (or other beneficiaries) would rather that you be able to retire earlier and spend more time with them while you’re still alive, rather than leaving them a windfall when you pass. Please know that I mean these comments constructively. You might want the life insurance to support your elderly parents, or some other objective that isn’t obvious to us readers. I just point it out in case you’re still paying for life insurance out of habit.

    1. Hi One Sick Vet, Thank you for your comments. I do find them constructive! The only life insurance I pay for is $66/mo-the rest comes free through work or are paid policies my father purchased for me years ago. As part of my separation agreement I need to maintain life insurance to honor my commitment to pay for half of my last child’s college education but I see your point. I can do that without having life insurance. I appreciate your good advice!

  78. I love these case studies, but this is my first time commenting on one! As someone who lives in the Boston/Cambridge area myself, I wonder if Lucy would consider selling her house, and renting an apartment in either Boston or Cambridge for a few years. Living closer to the hospitals could really ease some of the stress of commuting, and there are lots of great options in the city for running for pleasure and fitness rather than to avoid transit woes. With all the money saved on home maintenance, property taxes and so on, she could definitely rent a lovely place in the city while continuing to work. An added benefit of selling the house and renting is that she can get through the difficult process of downsizing now before tackling a move to another part of the country to be near parents/kids. Also, if she were to rent in the city, it might be possible to sell her car and use those funds to pay into the account for her son for the next 15 months. Having a car in the city is a pain, and in a few years we’ll hopefully all be zipping around in self-driving cars anyway! Lucy, you’re doing great! Congrats!

    1. Hi Liz, Running for fitness rather than to avoid transit woes-love that line! Thank you for these helpful suggestions. I agree the difficult process of downsizing is better done sooner rather than later and look forward to the day when I no longer need a car. I really appreciate your encouragement. Do you know of other Frugalwoods fans in our area? It would be fun to get together.

  79. Q: “How much do I need to retire?” A: The general rule of thumb is 25x your annual expenses (this is predicated upon a 4% annual withdrawal rate). So, the lower your annual expenses, the less retirement savings you need. Based on your current annual expenses, you’d need a bit over $2M. But, of course, those expenses would go down once the mortgage was paid off. You’re well on your way. Have fun running different scenarios, and seeing how the numbers change when you reduce your annual expenses.

  80. Lucy,

    Thank you for your story. I think you are at a crossroads in your life and are unsure what to do going forward. I also think, unlike many others responding, that you shouldn’t sell your house right now. It obviously brings great comfort and pride to you. It is not critical for you to sell. You still have a few years before you may need to make a decision. Take your time. Ask your parents if they need you to be nearer or if they are just happy that you are happy living where you have lived for so long. The same for your children. They obviously love you but may need to spread their wings just as you did. Cut back on a few things and save some more money. When you have your last child through college and you have much more money in your monthly account, maybe then revisit your options. It’s not an emergency and you don’t have to make a decision right now. Again, take your time and good luck to you.

    1. Dear DT, Your assessment seems true to me about my being at a crossroads. And the advice to take one’s time seems imminently wise. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion. It means a lot to me.

  81. I know she loves her house, but it’s too expensive to have on her income. Where’s the 1/4 -1/3 of montage cost vs income considered here?

  82. Hi Lucy. I am so late to this that you may never read my comment…but I want to address the loving relationship goal. Work can take up a mind boggling amount of emotional energy. (Even work that fulfills you.) Once you retire you will have freedom to explore interests you can only dabble in now. And in those pursuits you will almost certainly meet congenial friends. And meetings of the mind often lead to meetings of the heart. God bless your future!

  83. Dear Ilene, I just read your comment. What a beautiful message to end on. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your wisdom and blessing. And may God bless your future too!

  84. wow Lucy, you seem to be doing very well and you even have a lot of unnecessary expenses you could cut back on. I’d suggest renting out all the bedrooms that you can and apply that money after increased utility bills to the mortgage. You’ll pay it down very fast that way without having to sell it or move out. Of course if you could change your lifestyle and downsize you could retire in a couple years.

  85. Hi Lucy,
    I’ve read a lot of the comments but not all so I’m hoping I’m not the only one with this thought for you. Quit your job now!! Life is short and you have enough to retire now. Or at least you can negotiate to go to part-time (20 hours, NOT 32), preferably with health insurance, or do some occasional temp contracts, if you want the comfort of padding.

    But here’s the thing, if you add up your retirement accounts and multiply by 4%, you have almost enough to pay for your expenses (See http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/05/29/how-much-do-i-need-for-retirement/). There are ways to start tapping into them now, and 4% will not decrease the principle. Your expenses will only go down–when your youngest finishes school, and when the mortgage is done. You can also grow more vegetables if you aren’t working and do other hacks to reduce food bill, and cancel the cleaning. You can add income from social security when the time comes and you can add another roommate or do some airbnb. Quit now, enjoy life! (And don’t sell your house if you love it.)

  86. Hi Lucy, If you’re planning on doing Peace Corps to use your nursing skills, do some research and make sure you won’t be disappointed. My experience was that Peace Corps volunteers with medical training used those skills to work on community health assessments and public health education campaigns rather than providing direct medical services. If you’re hope is to provide health care to those in need, an organization like Doctors without Borders, World Vision or Partners in Health would be a better fit.

  87. Lucy,
    Here in Australia holders of library cards can use RB Digital to access a huge range of magazines on line free of charge,as well as borrowing ebooks,real books,DVDs etc.,maybe your library has more to offer than you think! A neighbour and I get one paper each and swap,a small economy that doesn’t involve any sacrifice! A good hairdresser is above price,but local beauty schools can often offer really good deals on manipedis etc.

  88. I have to ask you a professional question. Why did they replace NPs with PAs? Was it a cost issue? Was it an educational issue (so many NP programs are online nowadays)? I’m surprised, and I’m interested in these two fields, so curious…

  89. I have just read all the other Frugalwoods Nation posts and note that you are interested in travel nursing. Just for ducks I googled “nurse contract agents -Boston” and up popped a zillion agencies. I’m not much of a computer geek – duh! I missed the obvious. The only major difference in the kinds of contracts for travel nursing is that you have to specify housing included. This usually is an apartment in the vicinity of the facility, but could be a motel. If an apartment you may have to provide furniture. Take an air mattress and your pots, etc. and charge on. Or, you could rent a bed and a couple of chairs and a small TV, or skip the TV and do the ROCU trick and watch everything on your computer. Check that these are in a safe neighborhood. Crime stats are usually on line. I wouldn’t stop there, but I’d call the local police. These contracts are usually in the six month plus area.

    Also, if you can swing it in relationship to family, etc., make your permanent “official domicile” in a no income tax state.
    It will save you a lot of money in future years. There are a number of them, Washington (where I currently live), Arizona, Texas, and a couple of others in the west. There is also one in New England, but don’t remember which one, also possibly Florida. The granddaddy of all this is Alaska. No taxes at all. In fact, Alaska permanent residents receive a check from the State every year. This all came to pass due to the oil pipeline. The fly in the ointment, not counting the winter weather and high cost of everything that has to be imported (almost everything) is that the oil has run out and that is why there has been such a push by Alaska to open up a new oil field. Check this out as obviously there would also be no income tax on social security in any of these states, but there are others that do have State income tax that don’t tax social security, and some that do. You need to research this if the savings or locations appeal to you.

    Also, I want to clarify the social security/capital gains issue. I had my capital gains in 2017. I got a letter in late December about the additional withholding in 2018 based upon my 2017 capital gains. They get the information from your previous year’s income tax return. How they get the returns is probably computerized by either targeting capital gains or a jump of such-and-such income. However, the thing that needs to really be of concern is how far back they can go and if they can dip into pre-social security capital gains. If you are convinced that they can’t attach pre-social security you can do this in a two year step by selling your house in year one, then file for social security in year two.
    However, I personally (were I in your position) would want a safe distance in the mix, thus a three year plan. Year one (or earlier) sell the house, year two keep working somewhere or on long term travel contract and coast in your new or temporary abode, year three file for social security. I feel it is very important to look into this carefully and get some professional taxation advice as it could amount to teens or even in the twenty thousands at stake here.

    Your kids may hop around the country as the Frugalwoods did if they are as anxious to become as monetarily secure as the Frugalwoods. That’s how their generation succeeds in these times. Pick your spot to land and down the road you can make a decision to move closer to them if you are through with traveling or whatever.

    Enough of my busy body chats. Again, god’s speed in your new and exciting life whatever you decide it should be.

  90. Hi Lucy– I live in a very expensive town not too far from you I think. Your house is probably appreciating at almost the amount it costs you each year to run it. Of course that’s never guaranteed, but worth considering.

  91. Wow. I know that in your shoes I’d sell the house, not only because it puts a great deal of $$ in the bank but because I would not want to worry about the maintenance and insurance on something that big in my retirement. I’d get a smaller, newer, paid-for home…. but where? With parents in KY and kids on both coasts… I don’t know where I’d want to go. Somewhere with a much lower cost of living than Boston. KY qualifies, and if you’re close to an airport, you’re just a flight away from any of the kids. When you think of what the $ in your house could buy in terms of a house in KY, with $$$ left over to invest… I think I’d have to go that way. But I live in the midwest, the cost of living on both coasts scare the daylights out of me : )

    Your skill set may well fetch a better job in KY (with a salary that compares favorably, cost of living-wise) than having to work more hours in MA.

  92. Small tip – Biweekly Mortgage payments. Often overlooked but very easy to set up and can save a great deal of money. This is my favorite calculator https://financialmentor.com/calculator/bi-weekly-mortgage-calculator-extra-payment

    Now technically this does cost you an extra payment per year as you will have 2 months where you will make 3 1/2 payments instead of two.

    This calculator also allows you to add an ‘additional payment’ column for consideration. You could think about what expenses you may want to eliminate or cut down, add it to the calculator and really get a feel for the impact.

    I also love having some sort of graph that can be filled in for financial goals. Mine is on the fridge with increments of $200 for savings/debt pay off. It is liberating to fill those in and see the progress at hand multiple times a day, it also helps keep me motivated and accountable.

    Awesome job on your progress!

  93. Lucy,

    If I were you, I would plan to retire in 2020, when your youngest completes the college. I retired at the age of 49 in 2015, right after my kid finishes the college. I’m so glad I made that call, and ended the job related stress. I used to be an IT engineer. My retirement life has been very good.

    Financially you are in a great shape. The only reason that prevents you from retiring early is the mortgage. I would start the planning now. Sell the current house, move to a lower cost of living place, and stays in New England area if you prefer to. Don’t let the house burden you, and delay your retirement. Life is too short. Enjoy it!

  94. I have a couple of thoughts, one is that overall you are doing so well!! A few things jumped out at me that I don’t think that other commenters have mentioned.
    1. It seems like the contributions to your child’s college account are counted twice the in monthly expenses. Your salary is listed after those contributions I believe, and then the contributions are also listed as a monthly expense. So there may be a bit more wiggle room in your budget than it appears here.
    2. I think that you should look into what your pension benefits are. Many pensions start at age 60, so the amount that your pension pays you could be a game changer. Also, some employers who offer pensions also have retiree healthcare for longtime employees. I have heard of people having free healthcare after retirement if they’ve worked at their job for long enough.
    3. I’m sure that you need some time to consider your next move. While you are doing that you could change your mortgage payments to every 2 weeks instead of monthly. You might shave some time off your mortgage that way without changing a whole lot about your budget.
    Overall congratulations! You are in an amazing position with a lot of options!

  95. HI Lucy, thanks for this great case study, and showing us your beautiful home and family! You are in such great fitness that a long retirement is most likely ahead of you, so kudos for thinking now about how you want things to go over these next few years of transition into retirement.

    Here’s a thought I had: can you take a sabbatical from your job to spend a year or two in the PeaceCorps, and fully rent your house out during that time, with the goal of fully covering the mortgage etc for those years? You would be able to get a real sense of the big question here, which is how much you are attached to that particular house and neighborhood–or whether you might be happier moving to wherever your daughter or son live (esp if grandkids may be coming soon – I pestered my parents about moving to be near me for years and they just moved next door; it is the greatest part of my daughter’s life!). And since your time in India as a young woman led to the big decision about your career path, perhaps some time serving people overseas again will help you make the next big decision about career and life path!

  96. also along with SS from your ex..if you were married 10 years or more you can also have dibs on his pension plan!!!

  97. i’m missing my comments from Jan15th??? it bascially stated…drop to drop the over $100 per month of union dues!!!! and see if your college son can cut some expenses as $24,000 is alot for college..even a state school..Also move to be near kids or relatives esp in a state without STATEINCOME tax!!!

    1. The tuition at UMass is low – its the mandatory fees they tack on that make it so expensive! No getting around those. My daughter attended UMass-Amherst for one year and I was appalled by how expensive it became.

  98. Lucy is doing great–super impressive numbers here!! I have a suggestion on recurring expenses like haircuts i.e. what a friend calls “personal maintenance”– if you can’t stop paying for these (and despite my love for Mrs. Frugalwoods I am one of those people who can’t stomach the idea of a home haircut) –increase the interval between salon visits. I have my haircut down to once per quarter from once every 6 weeks and not sure it looks any different, but saves a ton of $ on an annual basis.

  99. Dear Lucy,
    Good job on your finances. You are thinking about three separate things in your planning. Job, house, retirement and trying to juggle this all out is making this a bear for you.
    Job – you have about 10 years until full SS retirement. You need to readjust now to what will make you less stressed with your nursing career. Being at a job where you are under appreciated is a cause for stress, but you are making a nice salary and have health insurance. Don’t go backward at this stage! You do not need to stop that salary and health insurance unless can find a new job with all the above.
    House – why must you make a decision about the house now?
    Retirement – you are going to be just fine! In fact, you will have more than enough money. Take that life insurance money and put it into your Roth. I retired at 61 and the only thing I regret is not having a Roth. I am 70 and have more money coming in monthly then when I was working because of the RMD on my 401k . This is a good thing, but is really upping my federal taxes.
    I would have been better off having the flexibility of the Roth, also the Roth can be used as your emergency fund.
    You could do all the frugal things many have suggested – frugal is good, but only in the service of making you happy. Good Luck!

  100. This lady is an inspiration! I think we could all aspire to be where she is at this stage. One thing that jumps out at me, possibly due to recent experience with my mum and knowing my in-laws… is that at 57 (and fit and healthy with it) she loves and cherishes that house and loves to garden and run and all that. In 10 years time, things might look quite different health-wise and just in terms of general energy and impetus. Big houses, if not well-maintained, get dilapidated very quickly. Gardens can get to be a bit too much and become a millstone. NOT that I’m suggesting she’ll be in a wheelchair by 67, but inevitably, age happens to us all and the very best thing my own mum ever did, at about 63-64, was to sell her incredibly beloved, very valuable home, in an area she adored, where many of her friends lived and where her whole happy marriage / family life had been… and move to a smaller, far-less-work-requiring place about 15-20 mins away, also in a really nice central area, close to many things she’d never even thought of before. Your home is bricks and mortar and while you’re thoroughly enjoying it, great, stay there. The very moment it starts to feel a little like a millstone, sell it. Don’t stay (as my in-laws have determinedly done) until it’s falling apart at the seams, requiring loads of work and your own health situation has changed, possibly in an instant.

    At that time, maybe in 5-10 years, sell it at its best, for a great price. Release that investment to go and do the amazing work you want to. It will be hard and draining, but if you choose carefully, you may find yourself having, literally, the time of your life in your new home, wherever that may be. Of course renting it out is a good option in the meantime, but remember that there is a whole other life to be had, not better, not worse, just different!

  101. Even with 8 possible years before retirement (if not sooner), you have a nice-sized retirement nest egg. Congrats on that.

    I also think that selling the home sooner rather than later will certainly help with financial freedom and in giving you the opportunity to live your retirement on your terms, vs. being tied down to one specific location.

    However, ultimately, these choices are up to you. And it looks as if Mrs. Frugal Woods has given you a heap of knowledge and advice already.

    Steve, New Retirement

  102. Nice job Lucy! That’s a good chunk saved. While I didn’t read all of the comments and know that the house was mentioned quite a bit, I just wanted to add my 2 cents about the groceries. Once I started really tracking my costs a few years ago, my grocery/dining out bill went from around what you average to about $250. I realized that grabbing Chipotle or other snacks a few times a month had a huge impact on my final cost. I live in a very HCOL city in southern CA and mostly buy organic food. My easier suggestions include buying in bulk and buying a crazy amount of something non-perishable when it’s on sale. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Frugalwoods has some good articles about that and I wanted to throw out a number that could be achievable. Maybe shoot for $350/mo and then see if you can keep whittling that down? Good luck!

  103. I understand loving your home, but if you don’t have family or a career tying you to that location, then it’s so not worth the cost! You could buy a similar home in the burbs of New England for $350,000 and if you were willing to move out of NE, say midwest or down south, you could get that house plus a few acres for $200,000!! I live in NH (and do love the area) but I am tied here with family. It kills me how much everything costs, and how expensive a little house with a little land is here. A dollar goes much longerrrrrrr in other parts of the country and these places are just as beautiful as NE!

  104. Congratulations to Lucy – she is a millionaire!! Way to go!
    Agree with Erin above…and a few thoughts to add for Lucy – who really is a SUPERSTAR –
    1. Lucy’s story reminds me of my own Mom. She lived in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Great area, *everything* is more expensive. She sold out at retirement and moved to Tennessee (no state income tax she said, and she liked the mountains 🙂 Much higher standard of living for the $, and so much more time to do what she wants to do – think: traffic! Lucy sounds like a person who is just delightful and will make friends and fill her life with activities. My vote is to start simplifying now and really consider selling the house. For my Mom, this broke the “logjam” and has changed her life – she is happy and has loads of friends; her old friends come visit; she’s and RN, too.

    2. Lucy is in such great shape now, I’m not sure I agree with cutting out the little niceties (newspaper, etc – it’s a drop in the bucket – she has plenty of $, beyond simplifying to save time…just stay on track and enjoy yourself! It’s like me buying a lunch out once in a while. I am 41 and not quite a millionaire, no debt – no mortgage – no HELOC for sure :), and I feel a little odd writing advice to someone who’s done so well. Lucy, you could try ChrisHogan360.com – it’s a retirement calculator. Again, do NOT get any more debt – you won’t owe anyone anything and be free. You have all kinds of options… just a feeling – I bet you sell the house later; houses are everywhere, and you and your family will make a great home out of it no matter what. (also, TIME with elderly parents is precious – cannot get that back, and my Dad passed at age 70… )
    Best of luck to you!

  105. I’m with you on encouraging Lucy to reduce her misc expenses which would result in her saving over 7k per year that could be used towards her mortgage debt reduction.

  106. Lucy, I genuinely want to be your friend haha. Unfortunately I don’t live in the northeast. But I’m a social worker, hoping to be a hospice social worker one day. I adore Atul Gawande’s books. You should also read Being Mortal and Tuesdays with Morrie. I have a blog about dying and grief. I also run and just recently picked up yoga. Seriously if you want a virtual pal to talk about books/hospice with, let me know! Too few people are interested in this subject. Best of luck to you in your financial endeavors by the way! 🙂

  107. Hi Lucy
    Just thought I’d share my experience with you.
    I’m also a 57 yr old nurse with a similar mortgage.I divided off part of my house into a studio/ apartment a couple of years ago, and rent several bedrooms out to working tenants.My house payment and utilities are thus entirely paid by them!
    Just as well, as I tore a meniscus in my knee a few years ago..so common in 55-60 year age group said my financial advisor! Some research states that a third of us dont make it to 65 to claim our pension, so live it up now.My nursing job exhausted me for everything else in my life..I’m glad I’m not there now.I have however led teams of volunteers ( drs nurses and general volunteers) to work in refugee camps five times over the last few years.I adore using my knowledge and experience where its desperately needed.( Doctors without Borders has an age limit).
    Fortunately, my renters take care of my house and costs while Im gone, but all that I love, including my garden, 7 children and 12 grandchildren are here when I return.
    I think it was learning that a country house and acreage garden can be had in Eastern Europe for $15, 000 that made me rethink all my Western ideas about long hours of work, insurances, mortgages, family, health, happiness and the like.Good luck in all you do!

  108. I am also an Rn. I am in my 42nd year. I worked in the hospitals until 3 years ago when I realized they were pushing for me to go to 12 hrs instead of the 8 hrs which I had been doing for 35 years. I did my share of 12’s before that. I left and became a supervisor at a skilled unit in a nursing home. Still a busy pace but totally unlike the hospital. I turned 66 last summer and reduced my hours to 2 8 hr shifts a week. I receive spousal social security while my own will sit and grow until I am 70. We sold out in 1999 and left Ohio and came to fla, selling our home and all of our furniture and buying a 2 bedroom 2 bath home on a canal with boat and lift right in the backyard. It had been our dream for years. Husband retired from auto plant with pension. We absolutely made the right move for us. Our daughter was already married with family before we left Ohio. We go back for visits and they love to come here for visits but we would never return permanently. We love the warm weather in south fla and not having to walk on ice or drive in the snow. We are financially independent but I still love going in twice a week to keep my mind and body more active. You have wonderful investments and shedding yourself of the house would add even more. I encourage you to visit places that you might want to live. Florida is beautiful but so are other southern states. Your money would go far in purchasing a new home with no maintenance issues, a smaller lot but still enough space for a small garden or herbs. You will find that in your late 60’s you will not be so fond of gardening, trust me on that! Getting into our own pool is a wonderful substitute for gardening. You may want to locate in an area with things to do. Ft Myers has beautiful beaches and nightlife areas. Your children would likely welcome the opportunity to visit mom in Florida on the cheap, staying with mom which is the biggest cost on vacations for anyone. You have financial resources to travel to see them also. The hardest part is just making up your mind and doing it on your own. I had my husband with me, helping to make decisions. I do not regret leaving Ohio at all, the move gave us the chance to enjoy life out of the miserable cold weather. I can see how difficult it would be to make that decision alone. I would encourage you to talk with your children. You have to remember that kids often end up in other states and cities far away from your present home. Make the best decision for you. You are physically active and can do that year around in southern states. You will only have a decade in your 60’s, then you are in your 70’s when moving will be much more difficult. By your 80’s, nearly impossible. You are a nurse, you can go anywhere you want!!! Take care and good luck to you.

  109. Hi there Lucy! I am 55, single and have been at a vaguely similar crossroads. I worked long hours in HR, constantly tired and lonely living on my own with little time/ energy for much else. I loved my job but the choice was made for me to giveit up to care for elderly parent. Somehow though I have managed to survive over last 3 years: could not get my old job back so on a part-time salary (£23k, which is approx 40% of what I was earning) but I pay as much as poss into mortgage to pay off early – it is my source of security, physically & financially. I have adaptedcompletely to the ‘frugal-living’ – spending as little as poss, got rid of my beloved car in favour of walking, use charity shops, home haircut, got a 3foot(!) veg patch,my only ‘luxury’ are my cats. It’s really hardgoing sometimes but I am truly amazed at how little I can get by on. My debts are approx £46k, which I hope to have paid off in 5years. I can honestly say that I appreciate what I have much more than I did, I love my ‘leisure-time’, and am glad that i got to spend so much time with my dad before he died. Of course I have periods of panic about the future, quite a few of them, but i think that’s more common when you’re single. Financially I know that I have my house-equity to fall back on if desperate (house-prices in my area are increasing a tiny amount). Sorry that I can’t be of more practical help as I’m in Bonnie Scotland, but I wish you all the courage for making the right life-choices for you & your family.

  110. I have my investments with Ellevest. It’s highlight is that it’s a company run by women for women. We greatly downsized and what a relief to have less space to take care of and less ‘stuff’! Once downsizing begins one realizes how much can go and not be missed. If you don’t really love it and it brings joy…let it go.

  111. Great job! I understand a house is just a building, but moving can change your whole life…for good or bad. We used to live in a suburb in Massachusetts. We loved everything about wher we lived. We’ve since moved to California and it changed everything about our lives. If you love where you live, think very strongly on whether or not you want to move. It might make better sense financially, but moving somewhere that no longer fits, can break your heart.

  112. You’ve done well Lucy. It’s wonderful you have a great relationship with your kids and that you have a house you love, but a few things about your life would make the decision for certain changes pretty easy for me (especially since you’re single and have no one else to take into consideration).
    A house is not a home and although moving/downsizing is not an easy thing to do a home is wherever you make it so you can take your love, cherished things and memories with you and leave the “brick and mortar” behind. With that much money/equity invested in the house and the horrendous commute (we recently moved our office to within one mile of our house to get rid of the 7 miles commute that only took 20-ish minutes !) it would be a relatively easy decision, for me, to sell it, invest the proceeds for maximum dividends/interest and then rent an apartment near your work (if you decided to continue working) until you no longer want/need to work. Overnight you’d be a free woman (even though selling, finding an apartment and moving will be overwhelming in the short term).
    Once free of the burden of (expensive) home ownership and living close to work you could then decide what else is important to keep or discard or you might even decide to move closer to family (which would be fine, but if you feel you’d like to work I would definitely secure a job there before doing so. At our ages it’s not easy to find employment!).
    Good luck on your future. You seem to be a lovely, caring person and I hope everything works out for you whatever you decide to do!

  113. Hi Lucy. I am late to this post but being me, I can’t resist throwing in my two cents. I am onboard with everyone who subtly suggests selling your gold mine, um, I mean beautiful house in the Boston area. Since you can’t live with all of your kids, I vote for moving back home to Kentucky near your parents and continuing to work until you qualify for Medicare. The salary won’t be what you are used to, but the cost of living should be significantly lower, and while I have no understanding of what it’s like in health care careers, I suspect you might be able to find a gig where you have less stress while continuing to assist with college and building your retirement fund.

    Depending on where exactly you would be if you went to Kentucky, likely you could find plenty of nice house options that are affordable and allow for the garden you will obviously need (recreation, therapy, food production. . . really a necessity). Might even have space for a swing set in case grandkids enter the picture at some point.

    As our smart Mrs. Frugalwoods points out, none of this matters if you want to spend the remainder of your years in your current lovely home in the Beantown area, but think of the lovely 10 mile runs in the country. Whatever you decide, I hope you’ll come back and tell us how it’s working out.

  114. Lucky is doing great! Though I didn’t read through all of the comments, there is one thing that Lucy needs to consider if she retires before 65. That is health insurance, which can be a large expense that is currently unpredictable. Does her workplace provide early retiree health insurance? How much does it cost? What do marketplace plans in her current area or where she’d like to live cost. At 64 years old I currently pay nearly $1000 a month for a plan with a high deductible. My plan does pay for basic preventive care but any other medical costs come from my pocket until I hit the $6,700 deductible. Fortunately I’ve been very healthy but an illness or accident could quickly bring my annual health care costs up to $18,700 (premiums plus deductible) or more (misc uncovered stuff). This is a huge expense that younger people or those with employer health care often don’t consider.

  115. Looks cool … I like the option of renting out the house … and there are options for working overseas as a nurse … travelling and working around the world … or like I teaching … would be good to hear from folks like myself who have a homebase overseas … I am F.I. but still do international school teaching … which is busy, but have 3 months of holiday to explore the world …. my friends and co-workers are from or have moved and worked … all over the world. Michael CPO, From the Far Side of the Planet 🙂

  116. I agree that Lucy should sell her home soon. Many of the responses assume that its value will remain as high as it is now but I believe we are in a real estate bubble again and these prices cannot be kept up much longer. Get while the gettin’s good, as the saying goes. Also, many responses assume the present system will remain viable into the future. I think this is a dangerous assumption and I believe we are on the edge of the abyss – financial collapse.

  117. Wow, what a great case study. As a retired adviser, I must say this is a very thorough examination and response. I also believe Lucy is in a pretty good situation, and your advice to her is pretty sound. I would love to chip in some words of wisdom but I am totally lost in the US retirement system. but from what I deduce from the quoted balances in Lucy’s retirement accounts, she is pretty well on track to retire sooner rather than later. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and the respective advice that ensured. I am glad I stumbled onto your blog.
    Regards Adrian

  118. Awesome accomplishments Lucy! This made me ponder something…I wonder what the divorce rate is for members of the FIRE community vs the general population. I would like to believe FIRE members are more goal oriented, thrifty, and likely have a higher personal value threshold. That is, if both spouses hold FIRE values.

  119. The total monthly expense after the mortgage is eliminated would be around $40,000 per year. Since the mortgage was lumped together with property taxes and insurance, this is just an estimate. Using AARP calculator, Social Security at age 65 for a person making $73472.88 per year now would be $1863 per month, or $22,356/yr . (Note that Lucy’s full retirement age is 67 and she could draw $2149 by waiting those 2 years). Assuming the 4% safe withdrawal rate, Lucy would need $17644/yr to retire, which could be provided by an account balance of $441,100. Since Lucy has $965,005.09 saved in 403B/IRA/pension money, she is in good shape. Of course, all these numbers need to be looked at after adjusting for inflation.

    The mortgage simply needs to be paid early by 2 years. That can easily be done by using the Joint Account Contribution of $1,083.33/mo starting in 2020 when her youngest is done with college.

    I would be cautious when looking at selling the home with that much of a gain in price. She would get to exclude $250,000, but we don’t know what her and her husband originally paid for the house or the improvements. Even though she bought her husband out of the house, this does not cause a step-up in basis, so the tax would be on the gain they made on the original purchase. It could be a really large tax bill. I’m not a tax professional, but I’m doing taxes for both my sister-in-law and my in-laws who each sold expensive homes this past year in San Jose, CA and have seen first-hand the huge taxes they owe.

    I agree with everybody that Lucy is awesome and I wish her the best!

  120. I believe you may have a clearer prism for viewing whether you stay in the house or not if you can find a route to pay it off sooner. I might have missed it, but I don’t think anyone has discussed your mortgage. Is it a 30-year fixed? Or 15 year? Without the expense of actually restructuring it you can break your payments up into bi-weekly payments and knock months or years off the mortgage. If you want to apply some of the savings from the other suggestions to the principal of your mortgage you will have even quicker results. Get a free online amortization table and play with the numbers. Every time you pay more principal scroll down to the bottom and it will reflect how many months earlier you just reached your goal. I did this when I bought my first house in my mid-twenties and paid it off in 10 years. Studying the expense of your house is where your answer lies. There is nothing like the feeling of living in a paid-for home.

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