This is the third 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. In the second, $50,000. This time we will discuss $25,000, and finally 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 $25,000 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, I need to generate a supplemental income stream to supplement the 25K to get me to age 62.

It is certain that I’ll need to find some sort of part time work, but where would I go and how would I live?

The western part of the United States has always drawn me in. I’ve been to LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe and several other spots on the west coast.

However, what really pulls me is the ability to live on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) for free. There are large swaths of BLM land all over the place where it is free to live for 14 days and then you can relocate to another section and stay there for 14 days and so on. I would say that most people don’t even know that this option with the BLM exists.

You can check out maps of available areas here

For my plans, I’m going to hone in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.

It’s Skoolie time. I’m going to sell my car for $4000 and I’m going to buy a school bus for $5000 and live in it on BLM land. Here is what I would buy.

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

How to Retire on 25K

It’s a 2003 Ford E450 7.3 powerstroke with 109,000 miles on it. The 7.3 diesel engine is one of the best ever made and can last you well over 500,000 miles if you maintain it.

Why a school bus?

School buses are built like tanks because their primary purpose is to transport kids. They are built for safety and can hold up well in a front-end collision or a roll over. Plus, they are built better than a large number of RV’s on the road today. I know this because I’ve spent untold hours researching RV’s, mobile campers, and all the brands and costs associated with them including reliability factors.

They are also fairly easy to modify. You can take the seats out, fix up a simple bed and shelves, and even add in water tanks for a sink. You can find thousands of videos on YouTube on building out a school bus. Some are very simple designs, which is what I would do, and there are others that have turned their school bus into an amazing tiny home.

Since I have sold my car for $4,000 and I bought a bus for $5000 and I figure I’ll spend $2,000 on modifications, that leaves me with $22,000 from my original $25,000.

My budget:

Gas: $150 a month (Getting out West is going to be an expense because it’s about 2000 miles away at around 15 mpg.)

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. Being relatively close (about 4 hours) to Mexico, I’d have no problem getting my dental work and any minor health care issues taken care of there.)

Maintenance: $200

Miscellaneous: $200 (Including auto insurance)

Total: $1505

Where am I going specifically?

I’m going to head out to Lake Havasu City Arizona to get myself a part time bartending job for the months of November thru March. I bartended in college, so this wouldn’t be a stretch for me to do.Lake Havasu is probably best known for the location of the London Bridge which was taken down in London back in the late sixties and reassembled in Lake Havasu City in the early seventies. This area is extremely popular with tourists in the winter months and it has a good bit of BLM land nearby.

I’m leaving Lake Havasu by the end of March because the summer here is brutal and hotter than the gates of hell.

I’ll head up towards Steamboat Springs, Colorado from April until October to enjoy summer and perhaps bartend part-time. Steamboat Springs is known for its ski resorts but in the summer time the area is bustling with people seeking to hit the trails and enjoy the outdoor scene. There is free camping in the nearby area, but it will take a bit of advanced planning to secure sites for the summer. In October the snow will be arriving, and I’ll need to be departing.

Because both Lake Havasu and Steamboat Springs are tourist areas when I’ll be there, I expect I could make at least $500 a week if not more and that’s with part time commitment. If I find that I can’t make that amount, or wanted to simply earn some extra backup money for a new adventure, I would be to work seasonally with UPS or FedEx during the holiday season. Plus, I have a list of over 125 different jobs that someone can make money and do some traveling along the way. I’ve been sketching out an eBook detailing them all so you may see that come out sooner than later.

There are a variety of options available to make money and remember, my definition of retirement is not sitting around with a blanket on my lap watching Price is Right. Statistics show that type of lifestyle leads directly to slowing down and passing away earlier. I want to stay engaged, excited, and enjoying things that I love.

Ok, let’s touch again on the numbers. If I’m bringing in over $2000 a month working part time seasonally and my budget is $1505, then I should be fine. However, I’ll want work as much as possible for the first few years, so I can build up my savings which will allow me more freedom in future years.

Once I turn age 62, I’ll turn on my social security which will give me $1600+ and then at age 65, I’ll have a $1400 a month pension. Then I’ll be so ahead of the curve that I can pick and choose what parts of my retirement lifestyle to keep the same and what to change.

Life is good. I’m seeing and living in beautiful areas of the country. I’m not paying a mortgage, rent or property tax. “But you’re living in a school bus?” Yes, I am but I’m free and freedom to me is worth much more than a big house, lots of possessions and the feeling of being trapped in a lifestyle.

Food for thought

Two business men in suits are walking to their office from their lunch break when they spot a couple sitting outside their RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

One business man says to the other “I feel sorry for that couple living out of an RV. That can’t be much fun living out of such a small place hanging out in a Walmart parking lot.” Meanwhile, the couple sitting in front of their RV glances at the two business men and say “I’m so glad to be out of that miserable routine. An hour lunch break in the middle of an 8-hour day.” We are all guilty of assuming things about people. Happiness is unique to everyone. The business guys could be extremely happy and passionate about their jobs. The RV couple could be fulfilling their dream of traveling across country.

At the end of the day, who cares?

Live your life the way you want to live it and don’t worry what others think.

Live free my friends