Shoot To Retire By A Certain Age, Not By A Certain Financial Figure

Shoot to retire by a certain age, not by a certain financial figure. Time is finite. Money is not. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time.

Live until 60 and then say good-bye. This has been my mindset ever since I moved to San Francisco in 2001. I know expecting to die by 60 sounds a little depressing, but it's a rational framework to help prepare for your financial future.

By expecting to die 20 years before the median American male life expectancy, I've forced myself to accumulate wealth faster in order to enjoy life sooner. Some of you might be thinking, “why not make money and enjoy life fully at the same time?” I agree, it can be done.

But I'm talking about doing the extremes, like going to business school for three years while working 60 hours a week, instead of taking a two year vacation from work.

Or saving 50-75% of your after tax income every year. Or starting a side hustle that takes an extra 20 hours a week that might one day grow large enough to tell your micromanagers to screw off!

It's much better to shoot to retire by a certain age so you can increase your chances of living the life you want after retirement.

Retire By A Certain Age Is Better: Wealth Goals Versus Life Expectancy

The financial world writes about achieving certain net worth figures before being able to comfortably retire. I've got my Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person post, which encourages folks to shoot for a ~$2 million+ net worth by age 60. See chart below and click to understand its methodology if you wish.

Average Net Worth Targets By Age - Shoot To Retire By A Certain Age

This chart is but a guideline for those wondering what net worth or retirement figure to shoot for. It's not the end all be all resource for financial security in retirement.

You should run your own numbers through a free retirement planning calculator to see how you're doing. Try and get to at least a 90% probability of achieving your retirement goals through the Monte Carlo simulation.

I firmly believe many readers here will be able to achieve these target net worth figures. In fact, I know so based on the survey results of thousands of readers who've participated so far.

However, if we study available wealth data provided by the US Federal Reserve, Fidelity, and other financial behemoths, we know a good many more will fall short.

Shoot To Retire By A Certain Age

If you can't achieve these figures, don't worry! You will still lead a pretty darn good life thanks to the infrastructure and social safety nets we've put in place here in America, and in many other developed countries in the world. Living in the States is like a walk in the park compared to many other places.

But there is one certainty in life: death. And after millions of deaths, we know that the average life expectancy for men is around 78 and 82 for women. We all like to tell ourselves we're living longer nowadays with better medical technology and lifestyles. But how will we really know unless we outlast them all?

Imagine spending 38 years of your life after college working to save and invest money only to find out you've got a malignant tumor in your brain at age 60 with one year left to live. What a shame!You probably would have spent those 38 years a little bit differently if you had known your outcome.

Flip Saunders, long time NBA coach just died at age 60 of Hodgkin's lymphoma after only being diagnosed five months earlier.

We need to get out of the mindset of trying to accumulate X amount of money, and focus more on enjoying the journey. At whatever age you choose to retire, make the move with whatever amount of wealth you've accumulated.

US Life Expectancy

The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying

If you don't believe one should shoot to retire by a certain age, please read the top five regrets of the dying, written by palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware. She took care of her patients during their last days. During this time, she asked many of her patients about their regrets.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Nowhere in these five regrets did people talk about making more money! Meanwhile, regret number two talks specifically about wishing they didn't work too hard. Therefore, if you shoot to retire by a certain age, you will avoid at least a couple of these regrets.

Good Things Happen When You Change Your Mindset

Once you decide to shoot for a retirement age, rather than a retirement number, here's what happens:

1) You become much more appreciative of everything and everybody around you.

You're simply more happy to be alive because you don't think you'll live forever. You're always mindful of everything around you, instead of going through life with tunnel vision.

2) You take more risks based on things you've always wanted to do.

How many talented people do you know spent their lifetimes talking about doing something big, but never had the guts to go after their dreams? I had big dreams of moving to China and becoming an entrepreneur right out of college. But I chickened out once I got a job in finance at Goldman Sachs.

I chose the safe route for the next 13 years until I finally figured out how to negotiate a severance package to build a lifestyle business online. Now I'm strongly considering building a highly scaleable product if I can convince folks to believe in my idea.

3) You take your finances incredibly seriously. 

Given you have a truncated amount of time to build your nut, you hustle much harder. For example, given I wanted to exit Corporate America by 40, I forced myself to save as much as possible. Then I focused on building multiple income streams in order to cover another 20+ years just in case I didn't die by 60!

Contrast this mindset with those who spend all their money and think Social Security will take care of them, or at least pay for a lot of their expenses in retirement. If you rely on a safety net to take care of you, you will not grind as hard.

4) You find your “enough” much sooner than others.

The people who are happiest are those who are satisfied with what they have. They've quit the pursuit of always making maximum money for something more meaningful. Some of the wealthiest people with F You Money are also some of the unhappiest because they feel there's always one more dollar to earn.

The finance industry is a breeding ground for people who just can't make enough money. This is even though they make more than the vast majority of workers. Changing your mortality outlook makes you discover the minimum amount you need to be happy. This is the exact opposite of most people who are constantly trying to find the maximum amount.

Deciding On When You Think You Will Die To Help You Retire By A Certain Age

Deciding which early age to die in order to motivate yourself to live more freely is your own personal choice.

I decided on age 60 for three reasons:

1) For the one week before turning 30, I was depressed. I never experienced such sadness before. Everything hit me at once. Like my 20s being over, thinking what my friends who died early would be like now, how my parents were growing older, and how work was becoming less fulfilling. I made it my goal to live the second 30 years of my life with maximum joy.

2) When anchorman Peter Jennings died in 2005 at the age of 67 from lung cancer, I had just turned 28. It was shocking to see someone I saw daily on TV die so young. He seemed absolutely normal until he one day disappeared. This was much like how Stuart Scott from ESPN seemed normal until he passed away. The more young folks I saw die, the more I wanted to hurry up and live on my terms.

3) I didn't want to live my life with regret. After passing up a great entrepreneurial opportunity in China for the more stable route, I was already questioning whether I made the right move. Then September 11 happened, questioning the whole point of trying to make more money from money. Surely, there must be something more rewarding to do for the short time we're here. It took another 11 years to leave, but I'm so glad I finally did.

The ideal retirement age is somewhere between 40 – 50. You're wealthy enough to do more of what you want. You're also healthy enough to experience more great adventures. If you do die early, you will have lived a. more fulfilling life if you retired early.

There Will Likely Be Upside If You Shoot To Retire At A Certain Age

Some are asking what if it's just not possible to retire by a certain age? Then I encourage you to finally find that job you've always wanted to do, but were too afraid to pursue. Forget about the lower pay, strange location, or whatever reason. Go and make it happen!

I knew that leaving banking at age 34 would mean taking a huge pay cut. But who cares if I've mentally only got 26 years left? I was able to pursue international travel, write a bestselling book with a top publisher, and have two kids. While I was working, I was too stressed to do any of those things!

Shooting to retire by a certain age, no matter whether you've achieved your financial goal or not is a great way to hedge against disappointment. For those of you who diligently save and invest your money, I've got no doubt you'll end up with too much money, rather than too little. 

For every year you live past your death date, you'll appreciate the time even more! That is the power of positive thinking.

The next time you are running your retirement calculations, choose age as the most important variable. You can always earn supplemental retirement income in retirement. But you can never buy another minute of time!

Related posts to retiring:

The 10 Worst Times To Retire

Retiring Under A Democratic President May Be A Great Idea

The Best Reason To Retire Earlier: Years Of Greater Happiness

Wealth Building Recommendation

If you're looking for a free tool to help manage your finances, check out Empower. You can run your financials through their Retirement Calculator, track your net worth, x-ray your portfolio for excessive fees, and most importantly, use the software to come up with a financial plan.

Those who track their finances generate 70% more wealth than those who don't. I've used Empower since 2012 and have seen my net worth sky rocket since. It's the best free financial app out there to manage your money.

Personal Capital Retirement Planner
Is your retirement plan on track? Find out for free after you link your accounts.

Still Believe In Retiring By A Certain Age

Now that I'm 45 with two young children, I no longer want to die at 60! Given I retired in 2012, my goal is to live at least until both my kids are adults. In other words, I'd like to live until at least 70, if not 90.

Further, I do believe the ideal age to retire is 45, not 34 when I did. At 45, you will have worked for 20-27 years after high school or college. That's enough time to save and invest. Further, you're young enough to still do whatever you want in life.

Get Affordable Life Insurance ASAP

Speaking of mortality and retiring by a certain age, please get life insurance. If you do, you will feel a tremendous sense of relief, especially if you have debt and dependents.

During the pandemic, I got a new affordable 20-year term life insurance policy with Policygenius, thank goodness. Getting a life insurance policy to cover my children until they turn adults is huge. Further, I'm also exercising more, eating healthier, and getting my estate organized for succession.

Another thing to think about for early retirees is how to plan for a long retirement with lower return assumptions. For the next 10 years, Vanguard came out with stock and bond assumptions that are 60% lower than the previous 10 years. As a result, it's prudent to lower your safe withdrawal rate.

Retire by a certain age so you can live your best life. Stop wasting time! You will regret more of the things you don't do than the things you try.

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About The Author

54 thoughts on “Shoot To Retire By A Certain Age, Not By A Certain Financial Figure”

  1. This article reminded me of how difficult it can be to balance all the aspects of our lives that we want to develop. I’m grateful that, using the internet and building drop-ship ecommerce businesses, my wife and I were able to get off to a great start by working hard and smart before the kids came along.

    It seems like if a person is willing to create an intelligent plan for earning and saving money, execute the plan, and go with contingencies whenever necessary, you can be ready to retire early and to spend the time you should with your loved ones and pursuing other interests outside of work.

  2. This article just motivated me. That chart inspired me. Currently, I’m 22 years old and I have no income. But at the end of this year, I want to income that much money which is quite impossible. But I will try my best. Thanks for this article. I don’t want to die in regrets. I will try my best to live my life to the fullest.

  3. Great thought-provoking post! At my job, we’ve had three people die in car crashes this year alone, and another one happened last year. It’s been very sad, and eye-opening to say the least. We all (should) know that driving is one of the biggest hazards in life as more than 100 Americans die in crashes each day, but when it started happening to people I actually knew this year it made me reflect on many of the things you just posted about. I also remember Peter Jennings dying, he was in our living room every night growing up.

    After all, no one’s ever said “I wish I would have spent more time at the office” on their deathbed.

  4. This is by far my favorite article on your site. I am still working on finding balance between family, work, money, and my ambitions for all of those things.

  5. Peter Magistrale

    Sam I can’t say enough good things about you and your body of work. I wanted to personally thank you for sharing your knowledge with the personal finance community. I’ve reflected on life and death and came to a conclusion I’m sure many have come to before me and that is without death life has no meaning. It’s an amazing thing, but if we lived forever there wouldn’t be consequences and i suspect nihilism would set in. The interesting thing about human beings is that we have material needs and spiritual needs, but these needs can contradict each other. For example, the stoic philosopher who rejects materialism chooses to live in poverty because material life distracts him. His exclusive focus on the spiritual side of life inhabits him from making further contributions to humanity. On the other end of the spectrum is the archetypal Wall Street CEO who is wealthy beyond imagination, but spiritually dead because focusing on spirituality does not have an objective ROI. The point I’m making is that we have to strive to be whole human beings who can master the spiritual and the material realms in order to fulfill our potential and contribute to mankind.

  6. Sam, this article immediately resonated me. I think the first time I read it was a while ago now. My mother-in-law passed away at age 60 and her health wasn’t so good before that (4 year battle with cancer and other issues). Luckily my mother-in-law was well off and did get to enjoy her life. I also assume we will die at age 60 which is why I’m aiming for financial independence by 40, and then who knows what we’ll try. :)

  7. I love the different perspective! I still need a certain amount to make sur I’ll be at least safe, but it’s refreshing to see it as an age rather than an amount!

  8. So, realistically, what is the age to shoot to retire by? I’d love nothing more than to “retire” right now and spend the rest of my life fulfilling my bucket list, but there is a ~ 90% chance I’d run out of money before I die if I did that. And 60 seems young to me – my parents just turned 60 and they have really fun and fulfilling lives (80+ ski days, still working some, traveling a lot).

  9. This is hilariously timely because I was just writing a post about these same five regrets! I’ll reference this. I agree completely. I attended my Grandfather’s funeral this weekend, and while he was 87, he didn’t retire until 73 and still went to the office every day until a few years before his death. I think that’s the way he liked it, but I don’t want to do that!

  10. I like this approach and philosophy. One challenging part is factoring in health ‘surprises.’ My family has great longevity, good genes, and I’ve always lived a healthy lifestyle. Consequently, I figured I’d like to 85 at least, maybe 90+. Nonetheless, in my 50s I learned that I have, inexplicably, a severe illness that very likely will shorten my life, perhaps by decades. The ‘numbers’ would have suggested that I aim to retire in my 60s. Now I’m very glad I took a different approach, which was to get to the point asap where our nest egg is sufficient to sustain us, along with part-time work. We reached that financial point when I was in my mid-40s, and boy am I glad! :)

  11. That “5 regrets of the dying” is really thought provoking. I’ve read it before, but it’s always nice to see it again. It reminds me why I’m pursuing financial independence.

    I like the idea of setting a retirement age, rather than a number, but it sort of scares the hell out of me. I’m shooting for finishing up at 40 (I’m currently 30), and I’m reasonably confident that I’ll hit my numbers, but I’d have to think long and hard about shifting gears if I get to 40 and don’t have “my number” saved up.

    I also like the idea of setting your own expiration date early. Almost no one lives to the average age. That’s the nature of averages, most people will longer or shorter than the average. Setting your date early gives you the best chance of actually enjoying your well made plans. Thanks for the article.

    1. With 10 years left to go, I’m pretty sure you are going to make it MUCH FARTHER by 40 than if you hadn’t set that goal. And to help you walk away from Corporate America or finally pursue that different career that may be more interesting but doesn’t pay as well, thinking about only have a shorter life expectancy than the median 78 will help you make that change.

      Most people I’ve talked to do NOT regret going after something more congruent with their interests after working and saving for 15-20 years after school. So many have told me how they wished they’d pursued their dreams SOONER!

      1. Hey, sorry for the double comment! I thought the first one got deleted/didn’t go through.

        And you’re certainly right: it’s the things you don’t do that will likely haunt you. I’ve been thinking recently about different ways to tweak our current lifestyle to move up our FI date with a combination of part time work and rental income. We’ll see if I actually end up doing either. It will probably depend on how the job is feeling in about 5 years :)

  12. I’ve often thought about that list of “5 regrets of the dying” while on my way to financial independence. In particular, working less and keeping in touch with friends. This was an interesting read. The idea of setting your retirement age vs your number is appealing, but scary to me. Right now I’m shooting for 40 (currently 30), and feel like I can make my goals, but if not I guess I’ll have to reassess whether or not to pull the plug when I get there.

    I also like the mental trick of setting your own expiration date early. A lot of people fall into the fallacy of thinking they will live to the average life expectancy. But the nature of averages is that many people live shorter lives and many live longer ones. It’s important to realize you may never reap the rewards of your hard work if you wait until the “perfect moment.” Thanks for the thought provoking article.

  13. This was a difficult post for me to read this morning. I just returned from maternity leave to my stressful, full-time job. While I worry about missing my “children’s youth,” our financial situation prevents me from leaving right now. We are working towards a type of “semi-retirement” in 2022, when my husband and I turn 40 (going for age not a figure). This goal is keeping me focused on what needs to be done so we can live a more meaningful life. I am, however, extremely thankful for the ability to realize that there are better priorities than a corner office, long before my deathbed.

  14. Thank you for this post FS. My dad gave me this message loud and clear when he passed away suddenly at age 47. Focusing on freedom sooner than later is definitely the most powerful lesson we can bestow on others.

  15. Wow,
    I’m actually really surprised to see those poll results for when folks reasonably think they’ll be able to retire. I would have guessed that in this early retirement blog (or at least directed that way), that most people would be looking at far earlier retirement ages, like late 30’s early 40’s.


    1. I’m not so sure I’d classify FS as an “early retirement blog.” I would characterize FS more as a “Wealth Maximization, Financial Freedom Blog.”

      There’s so much more to life after early retirement. I think we’re way past ER by now b/c we realize there’s lots of incredible other things to do.

  16. I always find myself wondering what age I will retire and I just cant seem to put a number on it because I cant predict how fast I will be able to build my passive income stream. For me, I will retire when Im generating enough passive income to be able to live off of.

    Hopefully I will be set no later then 50 but Im hoping I can retire in my late 40s. Im in my mid thirties now but I am on an aggressive path to build passive income.

    Only time will tell I guess.

  17. Sam,

    Casual reader of your blog for a few years. I’m in a camp of saving like mad as soon as one can start. If you’ve water skied before, it’s difficult to get up out of the water, some people can’t. If you understand the technique and can put forth the effort you can do it. And once you’re out of the water, it’s much less effort and that’s where the fun begins. I’m in your 30-35 retire category and 70 would seem for me to be a long, healthy life.

  18. I think that idea of ‘striving’ for an early retirement date is the right one. It can be hard to balance enjoying life now vs later when you’re imagining dying relatively early, but the frequent reminder of that striving can really remind you to appreciate what you have already no matter where you’re at vs your goals, and the fact that your time is limited.

  19. This was a great post! I’m currently in another state away from everyone I love, mid20s and making 70k. I’m aggressively saving, and last year lived on around 15k, but now I’m starting to ask myself what is the point if you are not enjoying yourself with the people you love. But like you said one never knows what opportunities might appear and how your live may change. So hanging on tight haha. Thanks for this.

  20. Probably one of the best posts I’ve ever read about personal finance and the importance of living your life instead of working.

    I’ve never set myself a mortality age, but I’m aiming for a retirement age between 35 and 40. What I would do upon retirement is still a mystery to me, but I know what I WOULDN’T do. I, a banker like yourself, wouldn’t spend my life stressing about rude customers, quarterly audits, sales quotas, my morning commute, keeping clients happy, understanding the ins and outs of every commercial customer’s business, and so on. I don’t want to be doing all this until 65 only for my body to start shutting down on me at 70.

    So while I don’t know EXACTLY what I would want to do, I know exactly what I want to avoid. It’s all a matter of getting there. Dividend stocks, my 401k, blogging income (whenever that materializes), and a frugal lifestyle are all my ticket to freedom from work and to a life free of stress. I think the freedom from stress is what I want more than ANYTHING else.

    Awesome post! I just discovered this blog the other day and am blown away. I’ll have to go through your past content soon.

    Live well!

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    1. 35 – 40 is a great age. How old are you now?

      Glad you discovered my site. I thought in 2009 it would be a novel idea to write about personal finance given my background in finance. At the time, literally nobody from finance was writing about personal finance!

      How did you first discover my site? I’m always curious to know.

      1. I’m 30. Unfortunately, it’s tough to say how attainable that goal is, as I live in an expensive city and would likely have to move. That age range is what I’m aiming for, rather than what I’m predicting. But I decided over a year ago that I was going all out with earning passive income and saving money, hoping if not to retire early, then at least to be able to reduce my stress levels and/or work hours.

        I had heard of your site before (just the name) here and there, but your article title “Why You Should Work A Minimum Wage Job” showed up under your comment on My Money Design’s recent Niche Site update. Gotta love CommentLuv.

        ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  21. Interesting article. It’s always tough what exactly people mean by retirement. From one definition, you plan to retire at 60, by another definition you retired in 2012. It’s quite an overloaded term, such that it’s not surprising everyone has an opinion on retirement articles.

  22. Hi Sam,
    I’m a long time reader of your blog.
    This topic is one that I tend to struggle with. As I accumulate more and more wealth, I still feel very uncomfortable not having a job. In fact, when I recently changed jobs, the weekend between when the last job ended and the new job began was torture. Silly, right! I think I’m just too focused on the worth I feel from working. The nurse’s words will certainly ring true for everyone, and I need to wrap my head around that.

  23. I have been lurking for more than a year since I followed a random link to Financial Samurai from JD Roth’s GRS. Sam’s post seems like a fundamental truth. Call your friends. Call your Mom. Call anyone you care about. Tell them they are special. In the meantime…save like a maniac and maybe you can afford to spend more time with the people you love before some dude is shoveling dirt on you.

  24. Hi Sam,

    With maturity, comes the need to see whats important, when death is certain.

    Buddha, Christ, Eastern philosophies.

    Ultimately, the timeless questions – Who am I? Whats my purpose?

    Put another way – A Gautam Buddha, or a Gandhi, or a Jesus – did not plan “financially”.

    IMHO, money is a medium.

    Not happiness.

    A curious above the average millionaire (I hate to call myself such!)

  25. BeSmartRich

    I am sad to see close to 50% of people are thinking of retiring after 55. I wish we live in a society where people can retire before 50 and enjoy the world fully without worrying about jobs.

  26. MikeWillRetire

    I’m 53, and really did not start thinking about retirement until I was 48. So I definitely did not use 60 as my death date. I plan to retire by age 57 or so. If I was to be stricken with some life-ending illness tomorrow, would I have regrets? Of the five listed, I will admit that I wish I had maintained more of my old friendships.

  27. It’s nice to pretend you will live a life with no regrets. But there are a million choices made in every life and its the people who are content that they owned their choices that seem to have the fewest regrets as they’ve aged IMHO. That or people with no freaking imagination. For example, I regret a lot of my choices, but I wouldn’t have the kids I have, the relationship I have, or the things I have and have done, without those choices and chances are I would live my life over exactly as it is because I can’t imagine marrying another woman or having different kids. I own what I got, both the good and the bad, but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally wonder about many of the choices I’ve made and how things might have turned out had I made different ones. You can’t change the past, but even the planning for tomorrow has to be based in the decisions of the now.

    The best example of that is I have a childhood friend who has a brain tumor and even with the surgeries and treatment he is likely to last, on average, to about Christmas this year (obviously I’m hopeful he’ll decimate the average and shoot to be in the top 1% of survivors). In so many words people have been asking him how it feels to know you have an “end date” and if he has any regrets or unique insights. His response is usually “I regret getting a f***ing brain tumor!”, but then he’ll add it’s a waste of his remaining time regretting anything he’s done in his past and having a pity party about it and he’s looking to see what he can manage to do in his limited future, like this weekend he’s organized having friends and family over for a pig roast. But privately when we talk, he will say he “wished” he’d done more of X, or banged Y when he had a chance, or tried Z. So of course he has some regrets. But then almost as quickly we talk about what he might be able to do next weekend so he doesn’t dwell on them or IMHO take them seriously.

    So in essence if there is something you’re burning to do, find a way to do it. If there is something you want to try, find a way. Otherwise I’m guessing you really didn’t want it that bad.

  28. Bryan @ Just One More Year

    I too struggle with the notion of not fully living life now (YOLO) versus the concept that I should continue to aggressively save for retirement. Who knows, I might have only 5 or 35+ years of retirement to fund?

    Your comment: Live until 60 and then say good-bye is how I have been viewing live recently and may be an indication of my future actions. My father passed away at 73, my mother has been in a nursing home since age 71, and my maternal grandfather died at 65. Luckily, I have longevity on my paternal grandparent side of the family. :)

    I struggle with how much is enough and continuing to beat down the desire to have nice things and upgrade. Sam, how do you keep yourself from just buying that new Range Rover, Moose 2? Disregarding your 10% rule for buying cars, you do have the net worth to afford it and you are not going to live forever….

    1. Hi Bryan,

      When I was in my 20s, and if I had today’s wealth then, I probably would have bought the Range Rover Sport HSE SuperCharger with 22″ rims. However, now that I’m in my later 30s, the allure of driving a fancy car no longer does it.

      In fact, I derive MORE pleasure driving a $20,000 Honda Fit that has really cool features and can park in 20% more spaces around the city, than spending $80,000 – $100,000 on a car. If I didn’t, I probably would just buy a fancier car. But I shit you not, the Fit is THE BOMB! And in SF, eco cars seem to have an elevated stature as well. The Fit my give me the same giddy feeling as an $80,000 car in my 20s. I had one before.. a Mercedes G500 back in 2004.

      But where I DO appreciate is on my home. Which is why I had no problems spending $58,000 to build a master bathroom. Check out the post.

      I guess we appreciate different things as we age. The car is something I want to be practical, fun, but understated b/c that’s what people see me in.

  29. Sam, I just wanted to say that your blog has inspired and encouraged me consistently for the last 3-4 years and it’s due in large part to posts like this. My dad taught me a lot about money, and made me a responsible saver, spender, and investor from a very early age but the best piece of financial advice he ever gave me is that “Money gives you options.”

    You seem to approach life, money, and your blog from the same perspective. You’re not interested in asset accumulation for the sake of asset accumulation, you’re interested in it because it gives you the options to make the right decisions to make yourself happy in the long run. I couldn’t possibly agree more.

  30. Wow thank you for writing this post. It really hit home with me. I haven’t picked an age I could die in my retirement planning – at least not a younger one. Most people say to use an older age, but I really like your viewpoint of looking at it from the other side. It’s scary to think about dying young – 60 is young. But it’s so true that any one of us could wake up one day and be told by a doctor that we only have 6 months to a year to live. And when you stop to think about it, we all know a good number of people, both personally and impactful celebrities, who have died before 60.

    I’m going to work on taking more risks and doing a better job keeping in touch with friends. One of my fears is that when I die, only a couple people will come to my funeral. Pretty sad and pathetic, yet it’s probably true if I were to kick the bucket today. But my fear doesn’t have to happen if I change now and make more of an effort to stay in touch with close friends who have moved away and to work harder to meet new ones. We’re never too old to change our lives and finances for the better. Thanks so much for this post!

    1. That’s very interesting Sydney. I’ve never thought about anybody ever coming to my funeral because I wouldn’t want to make anybody sad or burden anybody to come for my sake.

      But I do understand the feeling of throwing a party and fearing nobody coming. For the funeral, I won’t be able to enjoy it, so I think it’s no big deal if nobody comes :)

  31. Met a friend yesterday who owned a parking lot in Manhattan. His lease recenlty expired and was not renewed by the landlord. He was used to working 4/5 hrs a day 4/5 days a week. He told me that while he was looking for a new investment/ business he decided to work for a famiy member. He could not bear it and left after a few weeks. The idea of being stuck in a place just to get a salary even if its doing absolutely nothing just did not make any sense to him. He was too used to his autonomy and even though he has no real source of income until he finds a new venture, he just could not tolerate the idea of a 9 to 5 setup. Many of us in the same situation will probably take the job in the meantime and hope for other ventures to open up. He was not willing to make that compromise. Reminded me of the worker bee vs enterpreneur mindset. Risks need to be taken, sacrifices have to be made. As Sam says, retirement is as much a mindset as a financial goal.

  32. While I am much younger than many of us finance bloggers, I realize that life is short. One of the things that I am focusing on is to live every day to the fullest. Whether this be at work, at play, or at rest, I want to set myself up for a bright future.

    If I hit 60, 70, 80, or any age, the thing I want to say is that I didn’t waste time, I didn’t do tasks that didn’t provide enjoyment to me, and I spent time with the people who mattered to me.

    It is the parable of the investment banker/MBA and the fisherman.

    Do what makes you happy, and you will be happy.

  33. Sam, I’ve been reading for 2-3 years but never commented before. I have been working as an engineer for 4 years now (first job post-college) and worry that I’ll look back with regret over not leaving for something I would enjoy more. I try to follow your advice and think I’m pretty well on track as far as your average net worth table in the post. How long do you grind in a position waiting for an improved opportunity that you enjoy better, or hope to adapt to the position and come to enjoy it better, before you take a chance on a lower paying opportunity that brings more fulfillment?

    You stayed 10+ years while wanting to leave. Do you regret that, or do you accept that those 10+ years allowed you the opportunity that you have now to do something you’re passionate about? I’m only 26 and I don’t want to look back with regret. At the same time, I’m happily married and can’t just change direction on a whim like a single person may.

    1. Hi Corey,

      Thanks for reading for so long!

      One of the things I’ve noticed is that the longer you do your job, the more opportunities within your organization or with other organizations that will pop up that you will not have expected. These are the chances that will help reinvigorate your career. It does help to look for opportunities as well. Too many folks quit too soon w/out giving themselves a chance for opportunity.

      Your wife shouldn’t hold you back from doing something you’re passionate about. Wouldn’t she be more of an enabler instead, w/ perhaps another source of income, and mental encouragement? I would think kids might be a bigger anchor, although I know plenty of folks who get by with less or who move to random places for new jobs. A friend left IBM consulting (bought PwC) after 10 years to go to Kazhakstan w/ his three kids and wife of all places last year for US AID!

      After 9/11, I was really reflecting on life and purpose, like so many others. I had just moved to SF after being in the Twin Towers earlier that year. Things were very solemn for a couple years. I felt like I had to just ride it out while thinking of something else to do. I did look at jobs back in Honolulu to escape “reality,” but I didn’t proceed.

      I made a commitment to retire/leave the finance world by age 40, so with this mindset I soldiered on, even thought there were plenty of times I didn’t want to. But I didn’t expect FS to grow to what it did by 2012 to help allow me to leave. So once again, it’s about sticking around and taking unforeseen opportunities. In the meantime, just save as much as you can to prepare for that one transition day!

      1. Thanks for the feedback! I would certainly not consider my wife a roadblock, as she is a teacher going after her masters degree. I was just saying that, once married, it’s not all about me any more. Also, kids are likely in our future soon. :)

        I appreciate the encouragement on staying put and the unforeseen opportunities that can arise from that. It’s hard to keep patient or think long-term sometimes.

        Keep up the good work! I liked this post. We all have a limited amount of time on this earth and time’s value is greater than money!

  34. Even Steven

    On your average net worth, are the after tax, pre tax, and home equity interchangeable?

    While I think I’ll live to 75-80, I guess I never put a number on my actual death, but I do sorda figure everything after 65 is a bonus!

  35. Spot freaking on Sam! In the last couple of years I’ve had a couple of acquaintances close to my age pass away way too young. Being recently retired at a relatively young age I get a ton of “you need to work, you’ll be bored”, “you’ll run out of money”, etc. etc…most of these people are the ones not disciplined enough to achieve FI or are the couch surfers who don’t have any interests beyond watching the discovery channel (which I love btw). Time is the only finite resource that we have, the first few months of not having a regular gig has been truly eye opening. I encourage others to “let go of the rope” as well…get your S#%? together and don’t wake up as your 60 year old self, out of shape, no hobbies or interest, health issues, and then think you are going to do all of the things you dreamt about 20 years ago…you’ll end up just reading about people actually doing it on the internet.

  36. I will probably work till I drop, even if I could retire. The reason is because it becomes a pleasure to work when you don’t really need it anyway! I would not know what to do otherwise…how much can I travel or hang outside on the deck sipping martini? I probably would not reduce or use my savings for my lifestyle. I realize the more I save the more frugal I become to the point I don’t even want to pay an extra $1 for anything!!!!

    1. Working while not HAVING to work truly is an incredible experience. You end up not taking any bullshit, and doing things you absolutely want to do.

      It felt GREAT going to business school while working because b-school wasn’t necessary to continue working. It was the joy of education, not for the desire to get educated to make more money.

      Once we strip away money as a main motivator, a different type of terrific experience emerges. But first, most of us will have to try and hustle hard to get there.

  37. Ali @ Anything You Want

    I grew up with the idea of a very tradition retirement, which was practiced by my grandparents and is now practiced by my parents. As I myself have entered the working world (and completed my MBA while working full time!), I have come to see that perhaps a different model would work better in my life. I still plan to save aggressively, but the idea of deferring spending that money, taking time off and travelling until I am 60, 65, or even an early retirement in my 50s, seems depressing. I want to take advantage of opportunities throughout my life. For example, I took what I might call a “mini retirement” this summer, taking 8 weeks unpaid off of work to travel in Europe. It was a wonderful experience and completely rejuvenated me. It is also something I couldn’t have done if I didn’t save aggressively leading up to it (even though I never knew that I was saving for this particular event). I think this model would work well in the future, if I wanted to take some time when I have kids or if I have further opportunities to travel. I don’t want to wait until I’m old to enjoy life (and my money!). I want to enjoy now, too.

    1. Yes I agree with you while your young; go out and explore life, travel enjoy entertaining, enjoy getting out of town for aweekend with your girlfriend’s.

  38. Sam,
    Thought provoking.
    Just the jolt needed to get out of auto pilot.
    Read a great Willie Nelson quote on the power of living our dreams…your newsletter hits on the same topic.
    Thank you!
    Ray H.

    1. Impressive, a majority of the people who answered the poll think they will significantly outlive the average life expectancy. Aren’t the audience of this blog just overly positive?

      It’s one thing to control your finances, but your life expectancy is only to some degree within your control. You can make sure to exercise, stay healthy, keep your brain active… but at the end of the day you’re playing with the cards you’ve been dealt with at birth, and I’d say it’s naive to to think you’ll live longer than the average!

      1. Less naive than you’d think for a couple of reasons. Average life expectancy includes people who die at 5, 15, 20, etc (Those people skew the average lower). Once you hit the age of 60, your life expectancy is in the low 80s. Two: income and class make a difference to life expectancy as well (tend to treat their bodies better, eat better, exorcise better, better access to medical). I expect the average person on this site is “above” average on these things as well.

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