Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

No one knows better than Maths Guy.

I don’t often go for end-of-week drinks, but this one was a bit special. An end-of-week drinks and sausage sizzle to celebrate the end of year 12 classes. Seeing as how I teach year 12 Theatre Studies, I moseyed on down to the local bowls club, grabbed a drink and a sausage in bread and settled in for a chat.

As often happens with these things, I was sitting near people I don’t normally hang out with. If people aren’t in the same faculty or staffroom, your orbits rarely collide. I was talking with a Geography Guy and a Maths Guy and the subject of retirement came up.

“Do you have a definite figure in mind?” Maths Guy asked me.

I laughed. (Do I have a figure in mind?? LOL! LMAO! ROFL!  He was talking to Frogdancer Jones!!!)

I said, “Yep, I do. I’m looking to pull the pin when my investments reach  50K/year.”

He looked at me, frowned and shook his head. “That’s not enough.”

I smiled. “Well, seeing as I live off 30K/year now, I figure 50K a year will be plenty.”

“No, you’re wrong. It won’t be enough.”

I blinked. Seemed slightly dogmatic for someone I barely knew. Then I noticed his wedding ring. Of course! He’s thinking of supporting two people, not one.

“Well, it’ll probably be enough money. I’m single so I’m only supporting one person – myself.”

He sighed, as if talking to an idiot. “I’m telling you, it won’t be enough. I have enough put away now that I could retire and we’d have 60K a year, but that isn’t much for any sort of lifestyle.”

Now it was my turn to blink. That’s double what the boys and I live on. If I had that amount of money in retirement I’d be as happy as a pig in muck. I’d buy diamond-studded dog collars for Poppy, Jeff and Scout; diamond-studded underwear for my good self and a solid gold spade to do the gardening with. I’d go to Europe and the UK every year for 2 months and I’d see EVERYTHING. Imagine the HISTORY…

I don’t know what expression I was wearing while I was imagining all this, because he went on to say, “Of course, we go out to dinner a lot. My wife saves nearly all her money – I’m the spender. She says that she’s about at the point where she can retire, but that I’m nowhere near. Gives me the irrits because we’re spending my money when we go out all the time!”

Then he doubled down on the fact that 50K wouldn’t be enough for me to live, thrive and survive. (That’s a Blues Brothers reference for all the people playing at home.) 

I let it go. I knew what the problem was. He didn’t have as close a handle on his expenses as I have. There’s nothing wrong with that – he obviously has a two-income family and they’d be able to afford the extra things that clearly bring them pleasure. But what I found really interesting was that he seemed utterly incapable of picturing a lifestyle where spending thousands of dollars less per year was anything other than the utmost deprivation.

Whereas from my perspective, I think that working a few more years to lay down a nest egg capable of paying 20K over what my expenses are, is being extremely conservative – almost prudent beyond belief.

This is only the second time someone has questioned my financial plans. Two years ago, when I told my Mum that I was aiming for 40K/year, she advised me to rethink it. She said that she and Dad live off 30K/year each, so 40K for one person mightn’t be enough. I had a think about it, agreed that she was right and raised my target to 50K. With no mortgage and no debt of any kind and 50K rattling around in my wallet, I think that I should be able to have an awesome lifestyle when I walk away from teaching.

This conversation with Maths Guy was a classic case of a ‘spendier’ person coming up against a more frugal person. The thing I found most interesting was just how dogmatic he was about my situation – of which he knew nothing. No matter what I could say, he had his mind made up and that was that.

Will I raise my target again after my chat with Maths Guy?



(I was on a podcast last week, being interviewed about my North Korea trip. If you’re interested in listening, here’s where to go. I listened to it on the way into work this morning and boy! You can tell my nationality from my vowels alone!)


  1. Aussie HIFIRE

    It’s always amazing to me that people can’t understand that not everyone spends the same amount of money. My family of four spends about $50k a year. I see couples without kids spending twice that and they’re less happy with their lives than we are!

    • Frogdancer Jones

      I guess some people just see life from their own perspective. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination??

  2. jan

    I’ve come across this too. I’ve worked out we can live well on $40,000 a year when retired, $50,00 a year will be very comfortable for us and allow us to keep traveling overseas each year, so we’re aiming for 40 -50. A colleague at work returned after long service leave because she said $50,000 a year was just not enough to retire on and she is single. I guess its the difference between frugal living and being a spendypants.

    • Frogdancer Jones

      I agree, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having high expenses if you’re aware that you’re willingly swapping your freedom for the ability to buy lots of ‘stuff’. What’s going to annoy me slightly (and I know it’ll happen) is when I do decide to pull the pin, so many people will tell me how ‘lucky’ I am. 🙂

  3. Susan

    Hmmmm. not only does this guy love the good life of eating out all the time he also doesn’t have a fair & equitable marriage if he pays for “the luxuries” & his wife saves her $$. Unless of course it’s HIM that wants to eat out all the time & she couldn’t care less about it, then maybe I could understand a little more.

    I’m afraid that some people just don’t get it & never will Frogdancer. Like you we just move on & thank the heavens that we do 🙂

  4. foodnstuff

    I think he’s right but for the wrong reasons. He hasn’t got a clue about what’s coming down the line. There are 3 biggies in the pipeline: financial and economic collapse (too much unpayable debt in the system), net energy decline and a cessation of growth (aka peak oil) and climate change. All 3 are going to hit in the relatively near future (certainly in your lifetime and probably in mine) and make living much more expensive. In many places they are hitting now. Not raining on anybody’s parade, just trying to wake people up so a majority will prepare and we don’t all go down the gurgler together.

  5. Tread Lightly, Retire Early

    Oooh! Totally excited to listen to you on a podcast! And I wonder if part of the problem is presuming you have a mortgage still because EVERYONE has one of those, right? 😉

    • Frogdancer Jones

      I have a feeling I mentioned that I’d paid off the house earlier in the convo, but maybe I didn’t. Because yes, a mortgage and a car payment are the ‘must haves’ in modern life. ________________________________

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I’m always a little confused about couples who say that A partner can nearly retire but B partner can’t, and then go on to say they’re spending A partner’s money. How does that financial system actually work equitably?

    But never mind that. I don’t understand because PiC and I have always had some level of equality in our relationship and financially we earn relatively close incomes.

    The biggest reason I’d be more hesitant about a lowish income in retirement is that it doesn’t leave room to stretch in case of emergencies. I don’t need a great deal of eating out and luxuries, I DO need to know that should a massive health crisis happen, it won’t start a series of dominoes going down. But I don’t know that healthcare outside of the US is anything like ours where you could spiral down to losing your home and go into bankruptcy with a serious illness like cancer or traumatic accidents. Then of course there is the catastrophic loss of home due to natural disaster or just plain climate change – we live in the Bay Area and USGS says we’re long overdue for the Big One. But with that, I think we’re moving into the realm of worrying over things we really can’t do more than insure against and hope for the best.

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Yes, that whole “I can retire but you can’t” sounded weird to me. Maybe he’s REALLY spendy and she doesn’t want to see her precious nest egg squandered..?
      You’re correct in that we in the rest of the world don’t go bankrupt over health costs. I did a post on it a while back in June, and from memory, the biggest cause of bankruptcy (62%) in the US was health costs, while in Australia it was misuse of credit cards/unemployment.

  7. Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE

    When you have as good a handle on your expenses as it sounds like you do, then whatever number you pick (30, 50, 100) is going to be the right number FOR YOU. If it turns out you need a bit more, you’ll adjust — take on some part-time work or make adjustments in other areas of spending. But you already put in a 67% cushion going from 30-50 so I bet the only adjustment you’ll have to make is allowing yourself to spend more. You can always make more money, but never more time. I think it’s great that you’re prioritizing lifestyle over an arbitrary number!

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Thanks! Being a teacher is great for part-time work – teachers are always taking sick days. 🙂

  8. weenie

    Just cos he’s a numbers guy, looks like Maths Guy thinks he knows it all!

    I’m not sure I would have been as patient as you were if told by someone ‘No, you’re wrong’ when talking about my personal finances!

    • Frogdancer Jones

      I’ll be seeing him at work for the next couple of years, assuming he has an on-going contract with the school. When that’s the situation, you have to play nice!

  9. Seonwoo Lee

    “Whereas from my perspective, I think that working a few more years to lay down a nest egg capable of paying 20K over what my expenses are, is being extremely conservative – almost prudent beyond belief.”

    I’d argue this isn’t being prudent; this is actively detrimental. To save an extra 66% over what is necessary will take away years you could enjoy doing what you love. Assuming a 4% withdrawal rate, saving enough for a portfolio to sustain $50k/yr in withdrawals would require $1.25M, an additional $500k! And then when you only withdraw $30k/yr from that, that’s a 2.4% withdrawal rate.
    People disagree on whether 4% is safe, but I’ve never seen anyone claim that 4% should be knocked down to 2.4% (the lowest I’ve seen people claim is 3%)

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Ahhh, but you see – when I retire I’m going to TRAVEL. To get to London from Australia is usually around 2K for a return ticket, so it’s expensive right from the get-go. My aim is to spend around 10K/year on seeing the world, which is an expense I don’t currently have.
      The other consideration I’m keeping in mind is that I don’t have a partner’s financial resources to fall back on if I don’t have enough. For peace of mind, I’d rather work a few more years at this end of my life to ensure that Old Lady Frogdancer won’t have to make some difficult choices when she’s at her most vulnerable. 🙂

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