Are you saving too much: our ‘enough’

YachtCouple of days ago I was talking to a colleague and a friend. In between the usual corridor gossip and, well let’s face it, moaning about the changing conditions of our jobs (academics are really getting shafted currently; this is beyond a joke) I mentioned that I am quite Zen about the whole thing.

Yes, I know that the conditions in British academia are deteriorating – I do study the process and have published several articles about it – but at the same time this knowledge gives me the ammunition to create my own ‘micro-climate’. I have something that is very fun and successful outside academia (yes, you guessed it; it is this blog) which makes it easier to take the casual insults and ritual humiliations that have become our daily working environment. And the main thing:

I am working on a programme where in five years time I won’t have to be employed if I didn’t want to.

Which does kind of make you chill about your workplace. It is not forever – it is for five years. Then I can decide to stay but the organisation has no hold over me. What will be the consequences of non-compliance? Like publishing books to contribute to knowledge rather than regurgitate main stream articles in main stream journals and pretend that these matter. None!

My colleague/friend’s reaction? Skeptical face and: ‘Well, you find something let me know.’

This made me to take even more seriously the ‘five year plan’ (having lived with these for most of my early life in Bulgaria I never thought I’ll get back to it. But here we are). And the first step if it is to happen is to decide on how much money we really need so that any earnings from employment or self-employment will be a welcome bonus rather than an imperative.

Last Tuesday, I published what I believe to be the main dimensions along which decisions ought to be made if one is to pinpoint their ‘enough’ – I really don’t want to scare myself by coming up with a number that is too much anyway. So here are my framework assumptions:

1) I don’t believe in ‘inheritance’ but would like to leave a legacy. One implication of this is that whilst I am prepared to lend a shoulder (read ‘give money’) to our sons, I am not too keen to plan my life so that there is much money left when I pass away – perfect money management for me would be to have enough for a decent funeral.

2) I am just 50 and making an assumption of living till I am 90 – this is the average life expectancy for a white middle class woman living in Manchester plus five years. Of course sh*t can happen and I may die sooner – this are things one can’t predict with any certainty except if they are affecting the event. In other words, assuming five years of accumulation how much is my enough have to account for money lasting 35 years.

3) My favorite part this one; but let’s get the depressing bit out of the way. I am, somewhat optimistically perhaps, assuming that the ‘deep winter’ of my life – the time when my lifestyle will go on ‘maintenance’ rather than ‘activity’ mode – will be at the age of 80. Before that what I would like to be able to do is to travel (with John, of course) and spend time in different places around the world, enjoying local life, learning languages and writing novels (in that case travel will be necessary to do the research as well). John would like to have – from time to time – a holiday on a yacht (he may have to find another wife for this one but…).

Before I tell you what the number is we will have to mention that we’ll have a pension of over £45,000 per year between us anyway.

So to be able to lead the life I want and not have to be employed if I don’t want to (in five years) we need roughly £120,000 net per year (£200,000 before tax) which adds up (under a number of assumptions most of which fairly conservative) to savings or investments of

£2,500,000 ($4,000,000)

And this is what we’ll have to aim to have! Sounds large? Not that large, really. Feeling skeptical? I don’t! If someone told me three years ago that we would have almost paid off £100,000 ($160k)  debt (plus interest) and still manage to spend close to £25,000 ($40k) on the house and £15,000 ($24k) on buying the car – I wouldn’t have believe this either. But nothing focuses the mind as a good, fat, juicy number.

Now, the bonus: John had prepared a spreadsheet that shows the calculations for us (under different assumptions). We will publish that tomorrow as a tool and you will be able to put your own figures in.

This is happening, people, and we will keep you updated on how it goes. I am off to Chile now so keep well till tomorrow.

14 thoughts on “Are you saving too much: our ‘enough’”

  1. Ok, I was with you all the way up to the £120k net per year.

    How the holy hell have you come up with that?!

    Fair enough have a stretch goal but surely £20k each would be enough if you have your house paid off??

    Well, unless your gonna have baths of oil (Cleopatra style!) 

    Hey if you set a lower target surely you could retire earlier! Woohoo for you. 

    1. Thanks for dropping by, @Dom!  Earlier retirement is not actually possible as we are already at that gate.

      We could survive on £40k I guess, house paid off, kids off hands and everything.  But if we want to spend some time travelling, be able to rent nice a apartment (much cheaper than a hotel), but have some fun then I think we may as well stay in our very comfortable house!  As the picture indicates (with or without wife) I fancy renting a yacht for a month or so and that isn’t cheap and if I want to persuade Maria to step aboard, 4* airconditioning is I have found essential.  Camping is not for my girl!

  2. It’s good to have plans and I’m often amazed at people who just shuffle along year on year and look bewildered at where they find themselves.


    Keep in mind that needs, wants, wishes all change and that sort of spreadsheet will need tweaking, reformulating and revisiting many times.  

  3. Hey @Pat – yes it will require continuous updating and is only meant to be a guide as you will see.  But it does show only too clearly that annuities and the like are horribly expensive.

  4. I am on a 5 year plan too!  I will retire (again) in June or December, 2017.  My wife and I downsized 15 years ago and lowered our expenses.  I expect to live 30 years in retirement very comfortably.

    1. Ha – another on the 5 year plan!  How Uncle Joe would have approved…

      Seriously though @KC, it is entirely possible and drives a coach and horses through the idea of starting pension planning when you are at college.  Heck why not start it when you are in the cradle or earlier?  I’m sure that’s what the pensions industry would like – I wonder why?

  5. We plan to downsize in the next few years, and dramatically lower our expenses.   While retirement sounds sexy enough, current intent is to keep working and stay busy.

    1. Well, @101C, one (wo)man’s retirement is of course another’s change in lifestyle.  I am sure that, once our investment target is reached and we are regularly sipping wine in some Italian lakeside spot, we will not be idle….  In fact I expect to make more money by accident which will keep us in business class for ages.  But at least we will have the option.

  6. I’ve just discovered your blog. I like the way you’re planning for your exit from the rat-race but £2.5m sounds massive to me! Is everything going according to plan? Do you have any recent updates here on the site?

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