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!)