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Saving for Retirement

Thriving After an Early Retirement

Being debt-free allowed Myrna Oliver to move confidently into retirement after a late-career layoff.

Photo: Melissa Valladares | Inset photo: Amanda Friedman

Then:

When we featured Myrna Oliver in the December 2007 issue of Kiplinger’s, she was 64 years old and had met her goal of retiring the mortgage on her downtown Los Angeles condo before she retired from her job. Oliver had paid off her 7.5% loan eight years early, when she was 60, and then boosted her 401(k) contributions. After she received a buyout offer from the Los Angeles Times at age 63, she took a year off to travel. “Having a paid-off mortgage gave me the freedom to take early retirement,” she said.

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Now:

Oliver, 74, is glad she was debt-free—she also paid off her retro red Thunderbird—before retirement and boosted her 401(k) contributions in her last few years at the Times. She received one year’s salary and benefits from the buyout, and she never went back to work. “I was offered a couple of jobs, but I didn’t need the stress,” she says.

Instead, she has been able to spend time traveling, volunteering and mentoring young journalists. She walks to the central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, where she conducts tours and runs book sales, and her condo is also within walking distance of top-notch medical care.

Oliver loves to travel—most recently to Cuba with a college alumni group—and she frequently visits friends in England (including a pen pal she’s had since she was 12). She also serves on the Media School Council at her alma mater, Indiana University. Oliver received the school’s distinguished alumni award in 2015 for her pioneering journalism career: She was one of the first women to cover the courts for Los Angeles newspapers, reporting on the Charles Manson and other high-profile trials and the Robert F. Kennedy assassination. She later shifted to writing obituaries; Gene Autry was one of her favorites.

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Oliver was surprised at the cost of Medicare after she turned 65 and started paying premiums for Part B, plus a medigap policy and Part D drug plan. But having the supplemental coverage was a godsend. After suffering a fractured skull in a fall, she spent eight days in the hospital. “I saw the bill for $165,000, and I paid not a cent,” she says.

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She’s grateful that she has retirement income from a pension, Social Security and savings. But without a cost-of-living adjustment to her pension, she has had to use more money from her savings each year to cover her expenses. Oliver waited until she had to start taking required minimum distributions before touching her 401(k). “I learned to live on less until then, but at 70, I started spending more freely,” she says. “I’m getting older, and I might as well enjoy life.”