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- Maggie Tucker and her husband, both in their early 40s, retired on the same day.
- They have been surprised by the difficulty of navigating health insurance.
- They also didn’t realize how different their lifestyle would be from their working friends and family.
Maggie Tucker and her husband, Greg Woods, retired on the same day in 2022, at ages 41 and 43.
They wanted to spend more time and energy with their children, three girls ages 11 to 14, while they’re still living at home in Atlanta, Georgia, and to help care for their aging parents.
Tucker says the couple decided to retire simultaneously after talking with others about retirement. “We had heard from others that when just one person retires and the other is still working, there can be a mix of resentment and loneliness.”
Woods worried about running out of money, while Tucker, who is now the cohost of the “Friends on Fire” podcast, feared losing her identity, or feeling lost without her job. But while there have been some growing pains with the transition, they have zero regrets.
They laid the groundwork for early retirement
Although they both had high-paying jobs — Tucker worked as a vice president for InterContinental Hotels Group, and Woods as an executive director for a healthcare nonprofit — they resisted the temptation of lifestyle creep, knowing what they had was enough, and practiced being grateful for it. “We knew we wanted our time and freedom back,” Tucker says, “and we were willing to make some sacrifices and delay gratification to get to that.”
Tucker describes herself as upper-middle class. “The only difference is we likely spend less than the average family, considering the amount we made.”
Tucker and Woods had a specific plan for how they would reach early retirement. “For many years we maxed out our 401(k)s and our companies’ deferred compensation plans,” Tucker says. “That allowed us to save aggressively in an automated and committed way.”
Saving additional money in index funds and getting into real estate investing helped them meet their early retirement goals. “We also bought two additional rental properties about a year before retiring,” Tucker says, “as we knew we wanted to increase our passive income, and it was something we’d have more time to manage in retirement.”
Early retirement still held some surprises
While there have been relatively few disadvantages to retiring early, Tucker says that there are some — including a sense of ennui. “People, ourselves included, don’t realize the amount of time it takes to detox and adjust from being in a highly structured environment to a highly unstructured environment.”
“We’re still discovering how we want to spend our time and what makes us happy in this next phase of life,” she continues. “I’ve been so busy volunteering and doing things for others that I haven’t made much progress on the things I want to do for myself.“
Plus, they’ve found their new lifestyle doesn’t always match with the people around them. “The majority of our friends still have stressful jobs and aren’t around during the day for us to enjoy all of our newfound freedom and free time with,” Tucker says.
One of the biggest surprises of early retirement, she told Insider, is navigating the ACA marketplace and getting health insurance: “We knew we would need to get insurance and had roughly priced it out, but we didn’t realize how complex the process of signing up, researching new doctors, and even time spent re-educating doctors that act like they don’t accept ACA plans but do.”
Their best advice for retiring early
With seven years until their youngest daughter leaves for college, Tucker and Woods agree that spending time with their children and taking early retirement one step at a time are their priorities. They’ve decided 2023 will be a year of relaxation and recharging: “We have some fun trips planned this year with and without the kids, and we just want to settle into this new lifestyle and create some structure and routines that make us happy,” Tucker says.
For those who want to follow in their footsteps, Tucker advises talking to others who have done it, becoming educated on the FIRE movement through personal finance books and podcasts, and following early retirees on social media. A financial forecast for how to fund your early retirement is essential, including knowing what you will do for medical benefits and what timing makes sense to capitalize on employer benefits and bonuses before leaving.
And remember to celebrate: After retiring early, Tucker and Woods took their children on a six-week trip around Europe, visiting six countries in six weeks.