1/31/2013 3:15 AM ET|
Simple retirement can be satisfying
Former landscape architect Jon Myhre never imagined he would be living out his days in a trailer park -- and loving it.
Jon Myhre didn’t intend to be retired on a shoestring budget. That’s how life turned out, though -- and it’s OK by him.
Myhre, 78, lives mostly on his Social Security income of about $20,000 a year, which doesn’t go far in pricey Southern California. But his days are filled with activities and friends. He says he doesn’t miss the luxuries he’s had to give up, including international travel and the big house with the pool.
For most of his career, Myhre was a landscape architect with his own business based in Pasadena, Calif. He designed parks, a college campus and even part of La Casa Pacifica, the San Clemente compound used by then-President Richard Nixon as his Western White House.
Business took a nosedive starting in the early 1990s, when Southern California suffered a traumatic real-estate recession. Many of his competitors closed their doors. Myhre moved his office into his home in the affluent Los Angeles suburb of La Canada Flintridge to save money and to better care for his wife, who was dying of breast cancer.
Then Myhre did something he regrets: He tried to replace some of the income he’d lost by day trading. Soon, the $50,000 he had saved in a Simplified Employee Pension, or SEP, was gone.
Myhre’s wife died in 1995. He was ready for a new life.
In the next few years, Myhre sold their house “with the pool and the spa and the nice landscaping,” applied for Social Security and moved to Ojai, a small town about 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles that’s known as a center for artists, music and spiritual retreats.
After reading Duane Elgin’s “Voluntary Simplicity” in the 1980s, Myhre was intrigued by the idea. He began exploring the voluntary simplicity movement, which suggests that people are more than just consumers. Instead of working too hard to buy too much stuff, advocates of voluntary simplicity look for ways to declutter their lives, make more conscious spending choices and live according to their most important values.
A core tenet of voluntary simplicity is to reduce monthly expenses to such a low amount that a practitioner can opt not to work for money, if he or she so chooses.
That led Myhre to live somewhere he never expected: a trailer park. A friend, artist James Menzel-Joseph, lived in a mobile home development dotted with oaks and let Myhre know when the unit next to his was for sale. Myhre used $60,000 of his home sale proceeds to buy the somewhat dilapidated place and spent an additional $20,000 fixing it up.
His simply furnished living room and small kitchen are painted a bright, happy yellow. A portrait Menzel-Joseph painted of Myhre, depicting him like an Old Testament prophet with robes and a wooden staff, hangs on the wall. Outside, Myhre built a small deck covered with a canopy, where he can sit with friends and enjoy a small rock garden.
“I didn’t have a view, so I created one,” Myhre said with a smile.
Another change: no car payments. He proudly indicates the 1997 Acura Integra that occupies the attached carport. He bought the car for $12,000 after a six-year lease, and has no plans to replace it.
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I recently retired and my pension plus social security will be about 38% of salary pre-retirement. Although I still have a mortgage, which will take most of pension, I have a savings that will supplement my living expenses... that is until I can sell my house. I also have a 401K that will supplement my pension once my savings is gone. I have been living simple for many years so am used to not having much and not spending money except for necessities. I have not had a car payment for 10 years, my car is 12 years old and I plan to keep it until I can no longer drive. Yes, I would love to have a new car but I DO NOT need it.
Bottom Line: Stop buying things that you do not need just buy what is a necessity in order to live/survive.
Yes...Voluntary simplicity works for Jon Myhre.. and its very freeing to his soul...He is so very happy to be free of the maintance and upkeep of a big house...The "Trailer Park" idea was a hard pill to swallow for his daughter ..however.. what a wonderful communty he has and one that i now love.. kim
I'm glad he learned though. Some people never do. Better late than never.
Agree whole heartedly with the concept of living simple.
I do find it to be a strange coincidence that we now start getting media driven 'keep it simple' stories to help prepare all us poor slaves who bought into the whole American Dream and work hard to retire comfortably baloney that was fed us when it came time to sign up for 401k's. The only person a 401k will insure financial security for are the ones who run them. Wall Street, as it explodes today into the 14,000 level will gut the average Americans 401k in just a very short time, again. And all we can do as average citizens is watch and wonder.
The media, the politicians, the financial wheels who run Wall Street and the investment firms ALL know it will happen and they make darn sure they will be the ones profiting from it. Not us.
We better be prepared to live the simple life in retirement. We have no choice.
I agree, my plan is to pay off my house that I don't live in before I retire in 3 years and continue to live in a rental that I have been in for 15 years that is part of a working farm that I own 6% of as well as in my current rental. My income from farm rental covers my rent on my current residence, I will own the second residence free and clear. If I run short of money 10 - 20 years down the road I will either sell my rental or my interest in the farm and only use one of the houses. I will have 90 k income between my wife's and my social security and her retirement plan and my biggest expenses will be property tax and medical insurance until we are old enough for medicare.
We spend a working career acquiring items, there is a time to stop acquiring and gradually sell down what we acquired and live with what we need.
Myhre used $60,000 of his home sale proceeds to buy the somewhat dilapidated place and spent an additional $20,000 fixing it up.
He spent $80,000 on a dilapidated mobile home. Good luck with that.
"The 2.3% Medical Excise Tax that began on January 1st is supposed to be 'hidden' from the consumer, but it's been brought to the public’s attention by hunting and fishing store Cabela’s who have refused to hide it and are showing it as a separate line item tax on their receipts."
I think you're doing Urban Legend b.s. with the above silliness. The tax you refer to is described by the IRS as a "new 2.3 percent medical device excise tax that manufacturers and importers will pay on sales of certain medical devices beginning Jan. 1, 2013."
Why are you full of it? Two reasons, according to the IRS memo on this tax, .
ONE: "The new tax does not apply to sales of eyeglasses, contact lenses, and hearing aids. The new tax also does not apply to the sale of any other devices that are of a type generally purchased by the general public at retail for individual use (the retail exemption)."
TWO: "The medical device excise tax applies to manufacturers and importers and generally does not apply to individual consumers."
So, just how does your Cabela's hoodoo voodoo story square with reality? Since when is a hunting and fishing gear outlet dealing with the manufacture and import of medical devices?
Anyone still believe Obama didn't raise taxes on the middle class?
While I appreciate this individual's choice of austerity and simplicity in retirement, there are millions of people in this country who have no other choice in their lives while still working every day.
Not everyone has a mansion in La Canada/Flintridge (trust me, to most people homes there are!) we can sell and selectively use the procedes as we wish. Most of us couldn't afford a garage there.
The next article will be about not retiring unless you can replace 100% of your income.
I know alot of people who've retire on much less (like this dude) and are perfectly fine.
He's more inspiring than those working like crazy to get material stuff and huge $$ for retirement.
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Remember when real estate was so hot there were homebuyer lotteries and bidding wars? And people so desperate to buy that they'd make an offer sight-unseen? In some markets, they're back.