“I looked at retirement as a three-legged stool,” Fisher, a former college-public-safety officer, said. For him, there were three areas of his life that he had to get in tip-top shape before retiring.
The first leg of the stool: finances
The first leg of this stool was his finances, namely his spending and saving habits. “My income, my debt, my nest egg, keeping a very small Visa account, and keeping some activity on it” were key to having financial stability in retirement, he said.
“Between 55 and 60 years old, my plan was to have no debt and to build a cash nest egg that was a separate from Social Security and my 403(b).” To do this, he paid off his home, bought a truck with cash to eliminate an auto loan, and continued to save.
The 2nd leg of the stool: healthcare
“The other leg of that stool is healthcare,” Fisher said. Luckily, this leg was fairly easy to sort out since Fisher was eligible for Medicare right away. But, Fisher said, opting for a Medicare Advantage plan has been the most helpful. These plans can help cover things that Medicare alone won’t cover, like dental work and glasses, as well as offering lower out-of-pocket costs.
Fisher said his Medicare Advantage plan was also fairly affordable. “My former employer pays 85% of that monthly, and I pay about $40 a month.” Plus, it’s helped him save quite a bit. “At age 66, when I was retired, I needed a stint put in my aorta because I had an aneurysm there. The surgery was $110,000,” Fisher said. “My part of that was $250.”
He also said that a maximum out-of-pocket limit between $3,000 and $4,000 through his Advantage plan protected his savings from unnecessary healthcare costs. His coverage also includes in-home services for when he gets older and even a free gym membership and fitness activities that he uses now.
The 3rd leg of the stool: lifestyle
“The third leg of the stool for me was lifestyle,” Fisher said. His challenge was figuring out how to live on very little. But he knew he’d have to find a balance between enjoying his life and maintaining his spending. “You know, you still gotta live,” Fisher said. “You still want to hang out with your kids, and you want to take your grandkids out for an ice cream.”
So he started finding ways to spend more on the things he wanted to spend on and less on things he had to, like bills, taxes, and debts. “I eliminated my big debts, and the four biggest are a mortgage, car payment, credit-card debt, and loans.” He keeps his taxes low with the help of a New York property tax program and the state’s many tax advantages for retirees.
He also had a money-saving advantage going into retirement based on where he lives. “I live south of Rochester in upstate New York,” Fisher said. “A middle-class family making $50,000 or $60,000 can buy a really nice middle-class house in this part of New York.” He added that things like groceries were also relatively affordable there.
Lastly, he owns an earth home, which is partially underground and maintains a consistent temperature to help cut down his utility bills during cold New York winters.
“In my earth home, I only use wood for heat. It can get so warm in my home that if it’s minus 10 degrees outside, I have to open a door to let some of the heat out,” Fisher told Business Insider. “My electric bill stays at $50 a month all year long.”
He also does things like cook at home to cut his costs and has saved a lot by not having to drive to work every day.
For Fisher, getting ready to live an affordable retired lifestyle he could maintain for many years was a challenge but one he’s glad he took on.
“I’m not wealthy, but I am comfortable,” he said. “And I think that’s the big goal for many people, especially when you’re retired.”