How I Increased My Retirement Savings by $30,000 Per Year




Affiliate Disclaimer

As an affiliate, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links on this website from Amazon and other third parties.

I recently went on a trip where I thought a lot about retirement savings

For the most part, when I travel with my kids and fly, I am a wreck.  Going through security is by far the worst part.

For this past trip, I had 4 bags with me and a man purse.  I had to pull out all my medicines for my kids, liquids in TSA compliant bottles, electronics, iPads, laptops, and undress to go through a body scan.

I was there in what seemed like forever just grabbing plastic bin after plastic bin loading anything and everything standing with no belt and in my socks holding my pants up with one hand.  It was a process to say the least.

Once I got through all that hoopla of stress, I was sitting down at the gate waiting to board the plane.

I overheard a younger man in his late 20’s on a phone use the dreaded “it’s not you it’s me” line.  I pegged him as some type of engineer or sales consultant judging by his Travelpro Platinum Elite Luggage and fancy mahogany brown wing-tipped shoes.

The next words he spoke were “I am sorry but I am just looking for more out of my financial planner.”  A few of us in the immediate area did a double take as in disbelief of what we had just heard and witnessed.

I realized that this guy got the memo on retirement savings.  According to AARP, half of Americans fear running out of money in retirement.

Focusing and thinking on retirement savings should be something that we all do at all stages of life.   He was still young.

This made me reflect back on myself when I was his age.  Retirement savings was something that I too was practicing.  I was maxing out my contributions just as one should for the maximum payoff benefit.

Life put me on a different path shortly after and I lost sight of this.  The outcome was that I had to stop contributing to my retirement savings.   I won’t go into the details of this but you can read about it if you choose at My Journey to Financial Freedom.

My Retirement Savings Epiphany

It was not until recently that I experienced a major epiphany on my retirement savings, changed my life, and saved $30,000 into my retirement accounts each year.   Here is how I did it:

1. Analyzed Expenses

One of the first actions I took to try and come up with some extra money to put towards my retirement savings was to look at my everyday expenses.  This included things such as:

  • my cable bill
  • car insurance
  • reducing my grocery bill
  • looking at my cell phone expenses 

There was not much that could be done with my cable bill as I was already at the bare minimum service requirement necessary for internet.  Had I removed my cable completely, I would actually be paying a higher amount JUST to have internet!

Next I called April, my insurance broker so I could see if it was possible to lower my car insurance.  In Michigan, surprisingly, car insurance premiums are one of the highest in the country.  This is mainly due to the unlimited medical coverage that exists for severely injured motorists (at the time of this posting).

What happens is either people forego insurance because it is so expensive or they pay hundreds of dollars more on their premiums to cover this.

  • I was paying over $2,000 a year for a 12 year old pickup truck and a 7 year old minivan.  I ended up dropping my car rental option and I also increased my deductibles.  This resulted in a small savings on my premiums. 

Dissecting my food budget was my biggest reduction in these four categories.  I ended up saving money on groceries which equaled about $150 per month.  I switched off of major supermarket chain stores and over to a lower-cost smaller grocery chain.  Additionally, there was no sacrifice of food quality.  I was sort of shocked that they had organics, and carried about 90% of all items carried at major chains.

Looking at my cell phone plan was a bust.  This did not net me any savings at all as my monthly expense was pretty low.

All of these actions netted $162 dollars a month which works out to $1,944 a year.  Clearly, not enough to supercharge my retirement savings. 

2. Examined My Financial Foundation

I had no other daily expenses left to cut which forced me to look at big ticket items.  These included things like my mortgage loan, property taxes, house maintenance, and association dues.  When I calculated the annual totals for those numbers it worked out to the amounts below:

Mortgage $13,320

Association Dues $400

Property Tax $4,500

Property Insurance $1,200

House Maintenance $3,000

These categories collectively came to $22,420 PER YEAR! 

I was sort of shocked that my housing was so expensive.

I sold real estate for a while so my understanding of the housing market was fairly decent.  At the time I put these numbers together, we were (and still are) in a seller’s market.  I knew I could get over six figures in equity back if I decided to sell.

The problem was that I would still need a place to live and would have to start all over with a new mortgage and paying all of those fees that are associated with buying and selling a house.

Even if I were to downsize I still would not be able to find anything decent to buy because of the market.  Additionally, I would still have property tax, maintenance, and insurance.   So I would not really be saving much money at all let alone contributing anything significant towards my retirement savings.  Or so I thought.

3. Thinking Outside The Box

A friend of mine told me about a certain type of condominium called a condominium  cooperative (co-op).  These differ VASTLY from traditional condos.  I practiced real estate in an area that did not have these types of condos which was why I was so unfamiliar with them.

Condo co-ops can be gold mines.  The more I learned about them, the more excited I got.  Basically, instead of being the owner, you buy a “share of membership” in the co-op.  Co-ops do function similar as a traditional condo association in that there is a board of directors and they have monthly meetings.  They do not provide the member with a deed, just the share of membership certificate.

In a co-op association, the co-op is the one who is responsible for majority of the unit, or your condo.  There is one mortgage, one property tax bill, one gas bill, and one water bill.

Some of them have pools and other amenities.  Additionally, as a member you are entitled to deduct a share of the overall mortgage for the entire complex and also the property tax.

So, there can be a co-op with 400 units, yet there’s just one mortgage.  And, since you are technically not the owner, you are not responsible most of the time for maintenance.

There is usually a maintenance staff to fix things like toilets, appliances (you don’t own those either), or whatever else might be going on.

You must pay cash for these because remember you are buying a share of membership and there can only be one mortgage for the entire complex.  However, most of the time co-ops are a lot cheaper in price in comparison to traditional condos.  Co-ops are great for senior citizens or anyone else who does not want to have the burdens of taking care of a house.

Additionally, you also pay a monthly fee similar to a traditional condo.  This fee however covers heat, gas, and water majority of the time.  Although each association probably does vary here and there on some specifics.

4. Reviewed Financial Options: Retirement Savings vs. Jones Lifestyle

For several months, I went back and forth trying to decide if I should consider selling my house now and buying a condo co-op.  A mental tug-of-war played out almost daily in my head on the notion if this was a great idea or would it turn into the worst decision of my life?

What I knew was that I was spending a TON of money (over $22,000) on a big house that in reality I never was able to enjoy.  It didn’t bring me happiness, was expensive to maintain, and turned me into a financial stress ball pretty much every day of my life.

I was basically sacrificing FIRE and not contributing to my retirement savings in order to live in this posh pad and keeping up with the joneses lifestyle.

Then, I tried to envision how my life would be different if I sold it.  I would be mortgage free.  And that is huge.

Remember that $22,420 I would be saving by not having a house anymore?  Keep in mind that those numbers are actually AFTER TAX.  IF, I were to use this money now to fund my retirement savings PRE-TAX I would have an additional $7,500 to put towards my retirement savings EVERY YEAR.  That amount along with my hardcore $22,420 savings number comes to around $30,000 PER YEAR!

Factor in that the stock market over time has historically returned 8%, I would actually be doing BETTER than any return I could come close to achieving by owning a house.  I ran my own retirement projections and guess what, my return came back at over 8% per year.  My charts are below.

Historically, houses do not average an 8% return per year.  I have seen people make the argument that they do, but things like repairs, taxes, and ongoing maintenance all eat away at the appreciation.

That is money that you have TO SPEND in order to own a house.

5. Making a Decision To Buy and Sell

Once I ran my numbers, I knew what my decision was.  I ended up buying a 3-bedroom condominium co-op townhouse that had a cost of 11% of what my house was worth. 

That’s right I paid $33,000 for a beautiful 1,000 sqft townhouse.  I decided to sell my house and pay off my mortgage early.  With the proceeds from selling my house, I was able to pay cash for my condominium co-op townhouse.

My house had multiple offers, and sold in 3 days.  I got over asking price as one should in a sellers market.

The best part was that all the proceeds from my house are earning interest which covers majority of the monthly maintenance fee.  All I have to shell out from my pocket each month is some money for an electric bill.  That’s it.  Talk about financial independence.

I am pretty much living for a couple hundred bucks now a month as far as household expenses go.

6. Being Open To Change

Being OPEN TO CHANGE and the possibilities of financial independence was why this worked for my family.

Not only was this a huge financial savings and a way to increase my retirement savings, but this was also a major lifestyle change.

Now, I won’t lie and pretend that it was not a lifestyle change because it was.  I went from living on a third of an acre to looking out my window and watching my neighbor brush her teeth with curlers in her hair.  My abode went from 3,000 square feet to 1,000.

I now needed permission to plant bushes outside my place and park in certain parking spots.

So yes, I had to sacrifice some things and comforts I was used to.

7. Freed Mindset

One of the biggest struggles was that I had to free my mind from the constraints of what I thought was “normal” in society to make this work.

Most families would not sell their suburban home, reduce their living footprint by 66%, and squat in a senior-citizen community.  It’s just NOT a “normal” thing to do at the stage of life progression that I was at.

Yet, I had done just that for financial freedom.

And once I realized my mindset had changed, the world became mine.

Not only has this been a huge financial windfall on my retirement savings, but my life changed in ways I did not think it could.

I noticed myself becoming a lot more positive about things in life. 

My old world of routine financial stress and worries about money was gone.  It was no more, dead, muerto.

Today my lifestyle consists of the freedom and financial independence to do or go wherever I want.

I live experiences today I could not imagine doing a couple years ago.   As such, my views on a lot of things have changed for the better, for the positive.

Today, I see the world is filled mostly with good, than bad.

Final Thoughts

I do credit these seven steps as the path for increasing my retirement savings by $30,000 a year.  There is no question about that.  These steps that I took above will allow me to save over $150,000 in under FIVE YEARS.  

However, they are much more than a pathway to retirement savings and financial independence.  They are seven steps that also changed my life.  This worked for me because I pushed myself past the societal conformity and barriers that I had been confined to living in and I was open to change.

I significantly downsized my house, sold possessions, and re-prioritized EVERYTHING in my life.  ALL of these things freed my mind in ways unimaginable and forced me to live a new and different lifestyle. Sometimes, with great change, there can come great success and happiness.

Everyday financial stress CAN ruin your health and your life.   But, when you are able to beat it and win, there is no greater feeling in the world.

Whatever your challenges, whatever your struggles, find a way to bust through them and take your life back.  Punching debt, getting rid of loans, whatever it is in your life holding you back from living, be empowered to change it.  Don’t stop fighting, because I assure you once you make it to the other side, the rewards are great.

It’s all waiting for you; success, happiness, accomplishment, free choice, and financial independence.  You just have to find a way to get there.

About the author

8 responses to “How I Increased My Retirement Savings by $30,000 Per Year”

  1. Bernz JP Avatar

    Good decision there! So you bought a coop-condo/townhouse at a Senior community? Most people would wait ’til they’re 55 years before downsizing or moving to a senior community, yet here you are making the decision at a young age. You sure do know what you’re doing and you have the courage.

    1. Bryan Avatar

      Hi Bernz JP,

      You are correct. I don’t have to live here forever, but by living here I have been able to do so many things. One of those has been traveling in addition to saving money. Since I no longer spend hundreds of dollars on lawn pesticides a month, I now take a trip somewhere a few times a year. Condo Coops are also great if you want to travel.

  2. Baby Boomer Super Saver Avatar

    You have an inspiring story, and it’s exciting to read about the changes you are making! I’d never heard of this type of co-op condo, but as you said, it’s good to have an open mind and be ready to change. Housing is one of our biggest expenses, so finding ways to reduce it can make a huge difference in finding money to catch up retirement savings. Renting out a room is another popular strategy for cutting housing costs.

    1. Bryan Avatar

      Thank you so much for the comments. Most have never heard of Condo Coops. I sold real estate and I didn’t even know about them for a while. But, they are hidden gems. ALL of my expenses are covered for $500 a month plus electricity. I don’t own any appliances, the coop does. I have a pool here, pay no gas, heat, or no outside maintenance bills or property tax. Making changes in my life, real foundational changes, has put me on the fast track to FIRE!

      1. Baby Boomer Super Saver Avatar

        Bryan, I’m finding that I’m still curious about the Condo Coop you’re in now. When you decide to move on, do you “sell” your share? Now that you’ve been there awhile, have you experienced any downsides?

        1. Bryan Avatar

          Hi Kathy,

          Thanks for writing. In short, yes. It is a “membership” you are buying into. There is an initial background check and an application fee before you can buy a unit. They are cash-only transactions. No title work, no mortgages, no fees, no appraisals, no inspections. Nothing. My community has 400 units, all ranging from 1 to 3 bedroom ranches and townhouses. We also have a pool, clubhouse, and beautiful grounds. They handle all maintenance, and when I say ALL I mean ALL!

          Anything and everything from a running toilet, to my appliances (I do not own them the Coop does), to stuck cabinets, furnace, HWH, to outside maintenance. There is a full time staff of 4 maintenance guys. They also are responsible for my gas bill, heat, and water.

          I pay a monthly fee if $524 + an electric bill. That is the extent of my housing cost plus content insurance. No Property taxes either, YET since I am a member, I get a slip each year to write off a portion of the Coop’s property tax and mortgage interest for the whole community.

          They are so ideal for retirees because of how low it can make your housing costs. From a financial standpoint, I can’t think of a better or more cost-effective way to live in your retirement than living in this situation. The only reason I have been able to save so much in my retirement is because I have basically eliminated most of my housing costs.

          However, it does come at a price. It’s not ideal for a family with kids. I have neighbors who go to bed early and the walls are paper thin. There are times I can hear the neighbors phone ringing or toilets flushing. Not to mention they are extremely strict on the rules.

          When I first moved in, I had a lot of issues being targeted by people and reporting me for things like having my bumper hang over the curb a bit and block the sidewalk, or not picking up dog waste fast enough. I received a lot of letters in the mail along with fines. It was more of a “hazing” the new guy who was 30+ years younger to the neighborhood. Most of those issues have now been worked out 3 years later by over complementing my neighbors in one way or another. “My goodness Ethel, your wreath on your door is so festive” or “Shirley it almost looks like your getting younger every time I see you.” Those complements go a long way.

          It is community living, no doubt. There is an adjustment period for sure. I came from 1/3 of an acre lot to being able to see into all my neighbors condos from my kitchen window! One just has to learn how to live in a community. I won’t stay here forever because it’s hard to live here with young kids (no backyard or really a place for them to play or run around or ride bikes etc), but the three years I have been here, I have saved close to $50,000-$75,000 in housing costs.

  3. Sarah @PlantingRootsHomestead Avatar

    Great financial tips. We all need to get serious about preparing for retirement. I love your suggestions.

    1. Bryan Avatar

      Thanks Sarah!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest Posts

  • Fidelity Express Money Order Excellence: Trustworthy Financial Instruments

    Fidelity Express Money Order Excellence: Trustworthy Financial Instruments

    Trustworthy Fidelity Express money orders ensure seamless transactions, providing unmatched convenience and security for your financial needs.

    Read more

  • What to Do When a Money Order Won’t Deposit? 6 Steps

    What to Do When a Money Order Won’t Deposit? 6 Steps

    Imagine you’re standing in front of a Chase ATM, and it feels like you’re trying to deposit a million-dollar check, but in reality, it’s just a stubborn money order refusing to go through. You’re not alone in this frustrating predicament. The key first step is reaching out to the issuer, but what if the issue…

    Read more

  • How to Check if a Money Order Was Cashed

    How to Check if a Money Order Was Cashed

    Just as a ship’s captain tracks their vessel across the vast ocean using stars and modern navigation tools, you too must navigate the waters of confirming whether your money order has reached its harbor—been cashed. Following the steps how to check if a money order was cashed is simple for anyone to master. Start by…

    Read more