This is the fourth in a series of four blog posts on how I would structure my life if I had X number of dollars.  For me retirement is all about enjoying traveling.  So, I won’t leave that out of my plans, even with limited funds.  I will walk you through my mindset on how I would travel, be free, and make some supplemental money along the way.

In the first blog we discussed how I would live on $100,000.  The second I used $50,000, the third $25,000, and now I’ll sketch out my plan if I had only $10,000.

Here are the parameters, rules, and assumptions:

  • Besides the money, the only thing I have in this scenario is my 2001 Lexus Lx470 which has 283,000 miles on it.  I recently purchased it for $4,000.  (I’m not much on spending money on cars these days.  Matter of fact, the most I have spent on a car in the past 9 years is $6,500.)
  • I have sold all of my possessions for $1 and I’m starting out with an empty slate.
  • My skillset is that of a financial advisor.  I have some computer skills and of course I have written a book.  I have very basic electrician and plumbing skills.  I have zero construction and carpentry experience.  (I’ve always joked that I’m good at carrying heavy objects and demolition.)  So, I’ll have to stay within my skillset which is understanding the game of money.
  • This is just a fun exercise on how I would do it.  Your way might be very different.  With two teenagers still at home, I still have two years before I can take off and roam around.  Plus, I have my long-time girlfriend, Deb, who I could never leave behind, and she’d be with me.

How would I structure my early retirement if I had $10,000 to my name?

We continue on our quest to retire early on limited funds.  If you’ve read previous installments in this series, you’ll remember that I’ve reduced my social security due to not paying much into it from age 49 to age 62.  My pension got cut in half due to a divorce.  So for the next 13 years until I turn 62, I need to generate a supplemental income stream to supplement the 10K I’m starting with.

With only $10,000 to my name, things have gotten really tight.  I’m going to really need to find work quickly in order to get this adventure on the road.

The previous three blogs have seen me take off for Nicaragua, expedite in a sprinter van, and build out a school bus.  This time around, I’m keeping my vehicle because a 2001 Lexus LX 470 has a towing capacity of 6500 lbs. which will come in handy.  My goal is to purchase a 7×16 cargo trailer to build out a simple living space.

(The listing was snatched up after a while but here is a screen shot of it before it sold)

cargo trailer - How to Retire on 10K

I found one outside of Atlanta that offers a 7’3 interior which is important to me because I’m 6’6.  Purchasing it for $5000 takes half of my available money.  I’ll spend another $1000 building out and furnishing it with the basic necessities such as a bed, cabinets, cooler and try to find a used generator.

I’d start out with only the basics but would look to continue to build out the trailer such as adding solar, fans and heating and air as more funds come available.

This time instead taking off right away and going out west, I’ll stay around the Asheville area in order to train and learn skills I’ll need along the way.  There are a number of free campsites or low-cost sites in the area.

Why a cargo trailer?

Cargo trailers are built to last you for many years and have a great foundation to build on. Many DIYers love the idea of taking a cargo trailer, that is an empty slate and creating your own mobile home out of them.  There is no perfect RV, but you can create your perfect home by building out a cargo a trailer.

Here is a video from Bob Wells, the godfather of cheap RV living, discussing cargo trailers.

My budget:

Gas:  $100 a month

Cell phone: $20 a month

Internet: $100 a month (I’d use a MiFi from Verizon.)

Food: $375

Health Insurance:  $460 – My grandfathered BCBS plan.  I’d probably drop this eventually in order to get a high deductible plan with a health savings account.  I’d have no problem getting my dental work and any minor health care issues taken care of in Mexico from U.S. trained doctors for a fraction of the cost.

Maintenance:  $200

Miscellaneous: $200 (Including auto insurance)

Total: $1455

Where am I going specifically and how will I make this work?

Within a reasonable drive of my hometown of Asheville, there are two Harrah’s casinos.  One is in Cherokee NC and the other in Murphy NC.  My goal here is to go to dealer school to learn how to deal blackjack and poker, two skills that can benefit me all over the country.   You see many casinos look for temporary and seasonal dealers especially when large events such as the World Series of Poker comes to town.

Dealer training is going to take me anywhere from 4-6 weeks to complete.  Once completed, a dealer can expect to make a small hourly wage plus tips.  The key here is tips because that is where the bulk of a dealer’s earnings come from.  It’s not uncommon for a dealer to make anywhere from 40k-60k a year.

During that 4-6-week training course, I’ll need to make some money, so I’ll start writing articles for sites like Hub pages, blogs and magazines like Money.  As a freelance writer, you can make anywhere from $75 an article to well over $1000.  I figure I could make $1500 a month by doing this which will cover my expenses.

Once I’m out of dealer school, I’d work the rest of the year as a dealer and try to save up an extra $15,000-$20,000.

By the end of November, I’d head out west where I love it.  First, I’d go to Arizona where I’ll seek a job with HR Block or Jackson Hewitt preparing tax returns from January thru April.  I thought I wanted to be an accountant when I first started college but after taking my first accounting course, I switched careers.  However, doing tax returns from January through April 15th isn’t bad and it can pay around $12+ an hour.  At 40 hours a week, I would earn $1920 a month which more than covers what I need.

After tax season, I have a decision to make.  Do I try and get a dealer job with a casino or do I apply to be a camp host at a national park?  I’m going to head off to Zion National Park for a camp hosting job.

camphost zion national park - How to Retire on 10K


This will pay me $10 an hour and allow me to stay on site for free.  I will earn just enough to cover my bills while there.  Because I won’t have gas expenses I should be able to save a bit.  I’ll also continue to write articles that I can sell which will give me additional income.  I’ll work at this job until mid-September.

I’m now heading to Sydney, Montana to work the sugar beet harvest.  For two weeks in late September and early October, there are several companies that hire RVers and campers for a very short harvesting season.  The work is not back breaking work however it is an intense work schedule as you will work a 12-hour shift for two weeks in a row.  You get paid a little over $12/hr but you’ll get time and a half pay once you go over 40 hours and then double time pay on the 7thday. There are also campsites that are included.  At the end of the two weeks, you should be able to pocket $2500.

Sugar Beet Harvest - How to Retire on 10K

It’s mid-October and now I’m heading off to Whitestown, Indiana to start my seasonal job at Amazon.  Amazon hires so many Rver’s for seasonal holiday work that they have given it a name: Amazon Camper Force.  Seasonal work for Amazon can start as early as September and go up to Christmas.  There are a variety of locations you can choose from and each offer different pay scales.  I picked Whitestown, Indiana due to it paying $13.50/hr.  I’ll have the opportunity to work over 40 hours a week if I’d like, plus  I can earn time and a half, as well as double time pay.  So, if you wanted to (and I would), it’s possible to make $3800 a month or more working 60 hours a week.

amazon camperforce - How to Retire on 10K

Over the last year or so, I’ve worked as a blackjack dealer, tax preparer, camp host, sugar beet harvester and Amazon worker.  I’ve gone from North Carolina to Arizona to Utah to Montana and ended up in Indiana.  I’ve covered my bills, saved some money and seen parts of the country I’ve never seen before.  Going forward, I might do the same routine again for another year and once I have enough money saved, I’ll be able to skip a job occasionally and take a few months off.  I’m not as free as I want to be because I’m still tethered to working a good bit but over time I will gain more and more freedom.

Some of you are thinking “how is this being retired, you are working?”  While technically that’s a fair point, you really need to ask yourself what retirement should be.  It, like many things in life, are rooted in a mindset.  If I had to go into an office and sit at a desk working away on things I don’t feel connected to anymore, I’d hate life.  Conversely, if I’m working on a Beet Harvest somewhere far away enjoying the experience of seeing new places and trying new things, and I’m not mentally bogged down with responsibilities or huge bills, the entire perspective changes.

I’ve spoken to so many people who say they retired “x number of years ago” and many follow that up with “yeah I still have my part time job to keep me busy so I don’t get bored and keep some extra pocket money coming in”.

Are they retired? Yes. That nurse is done with hospitals after 20 years, but loves 4 hour shifts helping stock greeting cards and sentimental gifts.  That car dealership manager is done selling after 25 years, but he enjoys working on landscaping jobs three days a week for the fresh air and the extra dough, and to not get bored.

Do you see that it’s a mindset?

Studies show that folks who retire and go sit at home and watch tv every day are literally “fast forwarding their lives” because their bodies start shutting down faster, they become less mobile, and they pass away much earlier than perhaps they would have if they’d stayed engaged, active, and having fun.

The purpose of these last few blogs is to show you how I would do it.  You might very well do it differently.  You probably would.  Let me assure you that there are people out there getting free earlier, and doing these types of adventures and jobs every year and enjoying their travels as well as making friends for life.  You don’t have to be stuck and anchored where you are.  You too can design your life to travel and experience new and exciting places and all the while making money along the way.

You still have time to re-write your story.

Live free my friends