Step One: get a large cardboard box, like what a refrigerator comes in hot off the container ship. Oh, wait, you mean live in an APARTMENT on pennies a day?
But first, some background. Recently, I had coffee with a colleague I hadn’t seen in a while. We both worked for years at the same large investment bank (no, not Goldman
Sachs), and he stuck it out way longer than I did. Now, he’s in a better job on the buy side, and was giving me the lowdown on why he left. “I was working for a complete asshole. You would have lasted 6 minutes with this guy: It would have taken one minute for him to annoy the hell out of you, four minutes for you to light into him, and one minute for security to escort you from the premises.” True, I was more of a firebrand in my youth, willing to quit horrible jobs for the frivolous reason that I hated them. My colleague, always more level-headed and mature, had stuck it out. And now, he has an enviable retirement account. 401K, IRAs, pensions, stocks, options….the works.
The next day, I was wandering around the browser while killing time during an interminable corporate conference call (rule of thumb, for each new person added to the call, strike 10 minutes off your life). Anyway, I decided to log in and take a gander at how my own personal 401K is doing.
Besides my propensity to quit when I’m unhappy, I’ve always been more of a grasshopper
than an ant. My money tends to get spent rather than saved, and this is not what you should do if you want to retire in New York City. There are websites that help you with this idea. First, put in your age and when you want to retire. Then, how much can you save each month and what have you squirrelled away so far? Last step – what will you need each month to live?
After paring life down to a bare-bones budget (e.g., I’ll be stewing bare bones for dinner), I got some good news. I can afford to retire! Now for the bad news: I can afford to retire at age 96.
I won’t insult your intelligence by denying this is all well-deserved. Over the years, I spent my money on travel and fun, opera and chocolate. The very idea of saving for my golden years caused my neck muscles to loose traction, and my head to slump forward into the
nearest bowl of soup. Not only did I refuse to get and keep a solid job with a good pension when I was in my twenties, I actively mocked those who did. Now look where I am….staring down retirement at age 96. My former colleague will be able to wave his little drink umbrella under my nose at the resort where he’s living and I’m bartending at age 82. A warning for others!
Unlike me, you can be smart about retirement. Here’s how!
Open a savings account. Put money in the account each month. When it reaches a good amount, take it out and buy a ticket to Italy. This won’t help your retirement, but you can tell your grandkids you saw Venice before it sank.
Start your 401K now and keep adding to it! Don’t look at it as a great additional source of funding for partying, traveling to Australia, backpacking in the Sierras, taking sailing lessons, or living well in general. Don’t borrow from it to buy the new iPad.
Do you really need that latte? You’d be surprised how much you spend on everyday life. Listen to your Inner Nagging Yenta to help you forego the daily latte or lunch, and
place the savings in a 401K or CD. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll have in 40 short years! On the other hand, Al used to work with someone from Eastern Europe who had scrimped and saved in the best years of his youth. When he went back to the Old Country to look at his bank account, it was worth $26. He probably could have just had that latte.
Start life with a trust fund. You’ll have a much
easier time with retirement if your parents were able to pass down some family wealth in the form of a trust fund, property, stocks, or other valuable instruments of wealth. It’s a lot more fun to waste the inheritance than to build it up in the first place.
Move to a Developing Nation This is my Personal Strategy Number One. I’m eyeing properties in the third world, where costs are low and there’s lots of sun. My $240 per month social security checks will go a long way in a place like Chile, Somalia, Kosovo, or Alabama.
Never Stop Working. This is my Personal Strategy Number Two. Hint – it helps if you like your job. If you don’t, now is the time to find an alternate career that isn’t too strenuous, and can potentially make you some easy bucks in your spare time….like, a blog maybe?