For Jackie Cummings Koski, leaving the workforce was the culmination of a financial journey that began when she was just a girl.
Raised by a single father, Koski says money was “always tight” growing up and that she and her five siblings “basically lived in poverty”.
“We barely made it. We barely made it,” she told CNBC Make It. “As I went to college and started my own career, I always had this nagging feeling that I never wanted to be in poverty again.”
Now 51 and with a 20-year career as an account manager at data analytics firm LexisNexis behind her, Koski is a pre-retiree and a member of the FIRE – or “Financially Independent, Retire Early” movement. .
Koski retired at the end of 2019 at age 49 with $1.3 million in savings and investments, although she never made more than $80,000 a year. As a single mother for most of her career, Koski felt that seeking other potentially more lucrative opportunities would take away valuable time she could spend with her daughter.
Instead, she credits her former employer’s pension plan for helping her build her investments quickly. She contributed 7% of each paycheck to her 401(k), which her employer matched.
“It went a long way to increasing my net worth,” she says. “I always wanted to be smart with the money I had rather than thinking that having a higher income was going to be the thing that would get me going.”
Koski determined the amount of money she would need to retire early using the 25x rule, which states that a person should have saved 25 times their annual expenses before quitting their job. With his annual spending between $40,000 and $45,000 a year, that meant his FIRE number was close to $1 million.
Koski’s net worth hit the $1 million mark at the age of 46, but she was reluctant to quit her job just yet. Instead, she stuck around for a few more years and retired with a net worth of $1.3 million.
“I actually liked my job, so I was in no rush to run away,” she says. “I wanted a bit more of a cushion, so I worked for a few more years.”
After two and a half years of retirement, Koski is happier than ever. She describes herself as “not the most frugal or the most minimalist” and allows herself to spend some money each month to go out to eat and drink with friends. But her FIRE journey has given her the freedom to spend her time however she chooses.
“I feel like I have so many more opportunities because I don’t have the stress of work,” she says. “I don’t have the pressure to structure my day or my efforts and activities around what someone else wants.”
Watch the video above to learn more about Jackie Cummings Koski’s story.