Freedom 65? 60? 55?

retirement

“Freedom does not come without a price. ”

Something seems to be missing. There seems to be more than enough great investment and financial planning tools out there. There seems to be more than enough “financial help” for people in all walks of life. Much consideration got me to an interesting conclusion that works for me.

Many of us seem to use generalized guidelines on work and retirement. I certainly did. I had it planned out and took for granted that I would labor until I was 60ish and then enjoy a relaxing retirement. Some countries even have mandatory retirement at specific ages. It seems that many default to the notion that everyone should, or has to work, until their 60s. In Canada there is even financial services company advertising in their name that we can be free at age 55. Perhaps they are onto the start of something.

This is only worth bringing up because of the number of sad stories that we hear about people not being able to retire at the prescribed age using conventional methods. It’s not too far fetched to see that it would be possible to retire much earlier with proper and better planning. Why 65, Why 60? Why, for that matter 55?

It would not do the process justice for me to say that all it took was challenging the commonly held belief that I should work until a particular age. But it was a great start. Wanting to work at an accelerated pace towards my definition of being financially free propelled me towards discovering what it would take. The general idea isn’t rocket science. It simply uses the same line of reasoning that gets used in conventional retirement planning.

My interpretation of the average expectation of retirement is to have a certain income so that one can do as he or she pleases. And hopefully one thrives and has a lot of fun within that income. This sound idea seems great to me. Why wait if it can be accelerated?

I can already hear the cries of “Save??? I can hardly make ends meet”. Let’s keep that discussion for a later. It’s always handy to have a room full of people who make less than you, are all happy, and doing just fine to be part of the enlightenment process. One person’s financial frustration is almost always another person’s gravy train or extra frosting on a cake, take your pick of idioms. All that is saved now can be put towards the goal of financial freedom later. The price is whatever one can manage to not spend now. The benefit is more freedom sooner.

Investigating and challenging my beliefs and behaviors that I had not considered before has been a very freeing experience. I continue to search for more in hopes that there will be additional improvements to my life.

Advertisements

Sing your own tune

contrast

“Most people go to their graves regretting things that they haven’t done. The easiest way to become one of them is by joining society’s chorus instead of singing your own songs.” – Erinie J. Zelinski

What a great quote. They are words that I try to live by and ones that I think a lot of people could benefit from. Why doesn’t it happen more often? After much thought and reflection, I think I have a partial answer.

I consider my life to quite grand. What I consider to be grand may be quite repulsively undesirable to some, but I don’t care. It’s grand to me and that’s all that matters. The satisfaction of being able to say that hasn’t been without it’s costs. Taking part in entrepreneurial ventures that seem like outright irresponsible gambling to many is one example. Facing an outraged family supposedly steeped in culture and tradition for having been married in Las Vegas another. The list goes on. The stakes were always high, but so were the rewards and I’d do it all again.

How many people can say that? Quite often the conformity to society’s expectations occurs without even a passing thought from the conformer. Was it really a lifelong ambition to become an overworked and over-stressed lawyer? Did you play “family and health neglecting business consultant” in the sandbox with your friends when you were a kid? Why do some people who seem to be so on top of everything yet also seem to have none of the qualities that good parents have end up becoming parents?

I’m of the opinion that looking inwards and determining what one really wants is much more difficult that going with the flow of what everyone else wants. Self-discovery means taking responsibility. Who wants that? It’s no different than the legions who complain about bosses and yet in an ultimate act of cowardice refuse to strike out on his or her own? As long as someone else is responsible, you get to point the finger, pass the buck and play the blame game. If you take responsibility for your own life and your own happiness, there’s only one person who can be at fault each time something doesn’t work out.

It’s not for everyone. For those who choose it, the rewards are huge. Go with society’s flow if it makes you happy. Complain as often as you like. Misery loves company. That’s what I’ve been told. At least the word love is in there.

Those who bravely sing their own tune have my respect and admiration. For those considering a change for the beaten path, good luck. It’s not always easy, but it’s almost always worth it.

So you can’t make it happen, eh?

round

“We shall overcome.”

Anyone who has had the good fortune of being exposed to the wisdom of Eric Thomas, the Hip Hop Preacher is better off as a result. One particular point stood out among the many great messages that he manages to communicate.

“It’s a soft generation. You quit on everything.” The comment was made in the context of the fact that slaves never quit trying to be free. Even if they knew that equality might not be achieved during their lifetime, they still persisted. He continues addressing the university audience in a passionate manner on how easily many give up even in the presence of available support in the present day. “You can’t get through a writing class? And you’ve got tutor after tutor, resource after resource…”

His commentary could easily be modified to suit any lecture given on financial responsibility. For all the complaining and finger-pointing that goes on when an individuals financial situation doesn’t quite turn out the way he or she wanted, where is the personal accountability? Why the incessant complaining about how much things cost and how difficult things are without trying every option out there? Why wasn’t there more saving and building of responsible habits when times were good? Why haven’t simple unchanging principles that are the foundation of financial well being been exercised?

The next time anyone finds themselves in an undesirable situation or heading in a direction that they don’t want, she or he should ask himself better questions. What can I do to change this? What do I really want? What have others in the same situation tried? Unless someone has found a way to sell the blame game, self-loathing, self-pity, or the desire to give up, it’s better to save them up for never.

How much are you really paying?

question

Do you ever wonder how much you’re really paying for something? This will be a return to basics for some and brand new for others. It’s essentially the “Latte Factor” taken a step further.

For the unfamiliar, the Latte Factor is seeing the bigger picture of something really small. It’s name comes from considering the purchase of a seemingly low-priced coffee every day. $4 may not seem like a lot until it’s multiplied out by 250 working days assuming one is lucky enough to take a 2 week vacation a year. Day-to-day it seems trivial part with $4 give or take $1. In one year, it adds up to $1,000.

It’s a fantastic way to get a grip on a seemingly harmless situation with potential large implications and I commend the person who popularized it. Why stop there? Here is the first of a few extra considerations that may really make it more impactful.

Please disregard this paragraph if you have a very crafty accountant, you are a superstar budgeter with an abundance of well invested savings, a criminal, or just don’t pay tax for some reason. That $1,000 isn’t the amount you have to earn to have a daily coffee. Remember that depending on how much you earn, tax happens between 10% to 40% in the USA and many other countries. That means you have to earn anywhere between $1112 ($112 goes to tax) to $1667 ($667 goes to tax) just so that you can have your coffee.

The same goes for clothing. Let’s say $100 a month is the clothing budget. Multiplied by 12 months, it’s $1200 in a year. Unless it’s a uniform or something else that can be deducted from your taxes, you’re actually paying more. Every year $1334 ($134 goes to tax) to $2000 ($800 goes to tax) must be earned for that $100 a month in clothes.

The easiest way to do it is to grab your smart phone, calculator, computer or abacus. Next multiply your expense by 100 and divide by your tax rate. For example, if your cable TV bill is $70 a month and your average tax rate is 20%:

$70 x 100 = 7000
100 – 20% = 80
7000 divided by 80 = $87.50

$87.50 is how much you have to earn to have cable every month because $17.50 of it has to go to the government before you pay your $70 cable bill.  It might not seem like a big deal.  Earning $20 an hour, it’s almost an entire extra hour you would have to work.

Don’t take my word for it.  The math is easy to check.  If you earn $87.50 and pay 20% in tax, you are left with the $70 you need to pay your cable bill.  The 20% of $87.50 that you need for tax is $17.50.

It’s definitely not the end all of considerations. It’s actually just the start. Before we dive too far down the rabbit hole of the finance part of life optimization start by asking “How much did I have to earn to buy that?”

Who are your Joneses?

luxury

“Keep up with the Joneses.”

No, don’t! For those unexposed to the catchphrase, it refers to comparing and keeping up with your neighbors who supposedly dictate what should be considered a desirable socio-economic level and respectable rate of accumulation of material goods.

Envious eyes seem to forget about the over abundance of destructive financing options for the cash strapped. If not envy, simply hearing phrases like, “Gotta keep up with the Joneses” end up creating the painful feeling that one may be ostracized from a particular group if the perceived quantity and quality of purchases appears to fall short. But how was it all paid for?

Let’s examine a particular situation. Randy’s neighbor has a house fancier than his, a car nicer than his, and nice wrist watch. Randy might feel bad that he’s not keeping up with his neighbor, let’s call him Jones, but his feeling of inferiority would be misplaced. Both have similar jobs where incomes don’t vary that greatly. Randy has responsibly paid down the mortgage to his house, contributed to his retirement savings, paid cash for his vehicle and treats his family to a vacation every year. There’s little left over at the end of the year.

He occasionally glances over at the Joneses’ with some envy and wonder as to what they’re doing right. What Randy should be wondering about are the statements and the associated bills. More often than not there ends up being an over-sized mortgage on the house, the car is leased and credit cards were used for the watch. If Randy knew this, I doubt he would he give it a second thought.

Borrowing money is just too prevalent. Material purchases no longer represent an implication free nicety afforded by the responsible and affluent. Lending institutions know how to push emotional buttons though. They’re the ones often attempting to help you “keep up with the Joneses”. Of course they would. There’s tons of interest payments in it for them.

Randy would most likely have an outright distaste for his neighbor’s materialism if he knew what an incredible risk large debt placed on the family. There will be more on the real risk of debt to come.

So forget about “keeping up with the Joneses” as an aspiration or as a lifestyle. Follow your values and plan to make your dreams a reality instead. Or don’t. Everyone has different preferences. Anyway, it turns out Randy’s savings are invested in the company that loaned lots of money to the Joneses and they could always use a new customer.

Be specific

“You cannot make it as a wandering generality. You must become a meaningful specific.”

– Zig Ziglar

The key to goals and dreams is to be specific. Being specific gives a measurable target and lets you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you got what you wanted. This concept may seem elementary to some, but it is so often overlooked that I consider it worth mentioning.

Many seem to place having more time for what they consider important on their wishlist. I know that I did. The key is in the specifics. I wanted more time to do activities that I liked including exercise, spending time with family and friends, putting effort into projects that I like. Those are activities notably different from paying a mountain of unsorted bills, working overtime, having to play social politics with co-workers that I didn’t care for that much.

The danger with a generalization like wanting more time is that unless specifics are involved is that a change will be made but the feeling you get might end up the same. A similar issue can happen with wanting more money. There seem to be so many people who manage the commendable task of getting paid more, but their “don’t have enough money” situation never changes. If suffering occurs either way, why not spend and suffer at the lesser wage and save the rest? At least then there’s a chance to be a suffering wealthy person.

I invite you to be specific with your goals and dreams.  Once you are, the tools and strategies regardless of which ones you choose will be tremendously more effective.

It’s not just about the money

drive

Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

– Ferris Bueller

And what a shame it would be if it wasn’t fully enjoyed. Financial well being has little to do with the money itself. It’s a way of thinking and being able to create results that are highly desirable to the individual.

My grandfather, who I was very close to, passed away when he was 88. It was first time I expereinced the loss of someone close to me. He led a grand life and even managed to pass away without spreading much concern to those around him. There will be more on that later. Many of the lessons that I learned revolved around the fact that life should be enjoyed and the way being financially responsible played a big role in that enjoyment. Most importantly, he walked the talk.

Your dream can be very different from mine. I’m going to share that being great with money can get you to your dream quicker. Lucky ones who already feel as though they are living their dream may find out how to enhance it. Perhaps I’ll even have the chance to learn from you one day. Those of us who have yet to discover their dream worth living can use financial mastery to pave the way to exploring opportunites that may turn out feeling perfect.

Remember, it’s not hard and you deserves it.