10 Years May Not be Enough

The shore that Phoebus has design’d for you, At farther distance lies, conceal’d from view.

I’ve been playing with spreadsheets again, and I’m not liking what they’re telling me, which is that 3652 days may not cut it. It might, but it’s not very likely. My expectations of investment return have been optimistic, and unless we soon have another market crash a’la 2008 followed by a 10-year bull run, come 2025 I may not have enough to retire on.

How much is enough

Nobody knows for sure. Retirement calculators, Monte Carlo simulation and stress testing can give us a reasonable idea, but we don’t really know. Hence we end up using some sort of an estimate, and usually that estimate has an inbuilt layer of fat, just in case.

My estimate is a million in invested assets, including pension, indexed for inflation (December 2015 = 1), and no mortgage. That would give me about £1.9k post-tax income per month – enough to fund my life and leisure in retirement. It’s more money than I spend now, but I’ll need more when I retire. Because: I’ll have more time to travel.

Why this sucks

All that headspace which my work occupies – I need it for personal use. In a recent Banking Standards Board survey 26% of respondents said work had “a negative impact on their health and wellbeing”. I’m no wimp, in fact I don’t have much patience for weakness, but I’m getting sick and tired of being knackered all the moverloving time.

I want to retire so I that can slow down, take more trains and fewer planes. I want to know what trees are called, where they come from, and which tree families they belong to. Ditto rocks. I want to use my Natural History Museum membership more, I want to go to movies when I feel like it, not when I have time, I want to read more books, see more of this weird and beautiful planet we live on, maybe learn a couple more languages, or at least improve the ones I’ve tried learning in the past, my German sucks, for example. I want to kitesurf, sail, swim, walk, cycle, climb, discover. I need more time to do things, and I want to take my time doing them. I don’t want to get home at 3am from a weekend away and have to be at work by 9am the following morning.

What to do, what to do

Reducing my working hours is not an option in my role, my contractual 7 hours a week are a joke anyway, since I’m paid for results and not the time spent achieving them. Changing employers would solve nothing, I’ve tried that a couple of times before. I can’t be self-employed; as much as I’d like to dodge some tax and NI, it’s not possible in my industry in my line of work. So what’s left is biting the bullet – hard – and hanging on ’till it’s over.

Here’s what I’m not prepared to do:

  1. Increase my savings rate. There’s nothing else I can cut without turning my life into a miserly existence. I am aware that there are people with lower discretionary spending budgets than mine. It sucks to be them, and it would suck to be me if I were one of them.
  2. Take in a lodger. I had a lodger, and I didn’t like it. £7,500 a year tax free sounds like a good deal until you consider the downsides. I guess one gets used to not having to share.
  3. Matched betting. Again, I’ve tried it, it wasn’t for me, although it should be noted that it works for some people.
  4. Any “side hustle” that requires effort to generate income at an hourly rate that’s lower than what my job pays me, and particularly Kindle eBooks. I like books, and I find the idea of writing low quality ebooks to flog on Amazon almost … upsetting.

Having said this, I’d make one exception to expending effort at a low rate per hour, and that is acting as an extra in a Bond film.

Story time

Back in the day, when I was young and good looking, the company I worked for had a leadership development programme[1], which involved, among other things, an international secondment. I was one of two people selected from our office. For the secondment part I could pick any international office, provided they had a vacancy and agreed to take me. At the time, aside from the usual suspects, being our branches in global financial centres, there were vacancies the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.

I, being a boring idiot with no imagination, went to a proper city with a financial services industry, whereas my colleague… didn’t. He went to the Bahamas, and promptly started flooding my fucking inbox and later facebook feed with photos of sunny beaches and pool parties. Also, boat parties[2]. Then when Casino Royale came to the Bahamas to film their beach scenes, he signed up as an extra, the animal, and got paid to play frisbee in the water with some girls in bikinis.

So, ok, having thought about it, maybe I’d do it too. Even if I were retired at the time, I’d make an exception.

Going back to spreadsheets

I’ve looked at it this way and that, and the earliest I can repay the mortgage is 2023. That assumes that I don’t get sacked from my job, use all my pension allowance and ISA allowance, and don’t invest anything[3] in taxable accounts, except my portfolio allocation to gold ETFs, which could be about £6k p.a.

Given that I want to retire with 4 years’ worth of expenses in cash outside of ISA and pension, and given that I’d have to live on that cash plus the ISA until I can access my pension… it’s tight. And I haven’t even begun thinking about whether or not I should continue paying NI contributions post-FIRE in hopes of maybe someday getting more by way of state pension.

And then there’s the joker – am I or am I not going to buy a boat? It’s a cheap way to travel near, but it’s a fixed cost at home when you’re away traveling far. Do I want it enough to work 2 years longer than I’d do otherwise? Am I sure that I don’t want it enough so I could say no to it and never regret it? Also, if I bought a boat and then things went south later, I could rent out my place and go live on the boat. If I couldn’t afford moorings in the UK, I could take it to France or Holland. The Med is tricky in summer, but winter is usually fine, and there’s always Turkey.

So I can laugh at RIT changing his delivery date every 9 months, but my own cojones are an untested quantity. There’s nothing safe about a 4% safe withdrawal rate. I’m aiming for 2.5%, and it looks like time ain’t on my side.

Notes:

  1. I know. It sounds like cringey ENTJ bullshit with a side of “how to lick your boss’s ass”, but really for the most part it wasn’t like that… it was quite good, actually. I guess every experience is what you make of it 😉
  2. How he found time to get any work done is, to this day, unknown.
  3. SAYE shares don’t count. I can’t do anything about it other than to not participate, which would be akin to leaving free money on the table.
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30 thoughts on “10 Years May Not be Enough”

  1. Recently started following your blog and loving it. A few thoughts reading this post:
    1. Does your spreadsheet assume zero earnings in “retirement”? That seems unlikely
    2. I’m convinced that more headspace and time leads to more opportunities in the cracks of society and what we might assume we have to pay for things. So cheaper travel through your network, maybe even a better deal than buying a boat through the normal channels.
    3. Related to 2, freedom isn’t just about financial capital. There is also personal capital like capabilities, social capital, etc. And physical capital like your house. Surely you can rent that out even short-term if you are going to be travelling so much.
    Hope that cheers you up a bit!

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    1. Thanks for reading 🙂 Yes, I assume zero earnings in retirement (other than the investment return, obviously).
      I don’t know if you’re familiar with Living-A-FI blog, but for me, most of what that guy says, resonates. He has a post about building a vision of life without work, which I think is genius https://livingafi.com/2015/03/09/building-a-vision-of-life-without-work/ My problem is that my get-a-life-tree is too bushy as it is 😉 I don’t think I’d have time to do work in retirement. Although I don’t work in IT like LAFI, in my field skills do go out of date, and pulling the plug too early just to go back to work later at a cheaper rate doesn’t sound like a good idea… Also, I like to have options – don’t want to miss out on something great because of money.
      You’re absolutely right about social capital, btw, having a network makes a lot of things possible that otherwise would be prohibitively expensive.

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  2. Hi 3652,

    As you say, spreadsheets give you a number but what that actually means is another thing. From my perspective when I declared my target I thought it would be impossible to hit (there is no way I can clear the mortgage by that date), however each year I am further ahead than I expect to be, so you never know, but the more you work the more ££ you have to spend on things when you do pull the plug!
    And as for the boat – why not if you enjoy sailing that much, go for it but with the full knowledge of the impact of needing to work a few more years!
    Cheers,
    FiL

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    1. That’s encouraging. And you’re right, when I took out the mortgage I had no expectation of repaying it in less than 20 years. Now I’m aiming for much less time than that, and it doesn’t seem soon enough.
      There are so many variables that may change though, and some have nothing to do with money – relationships, obligations to other people (e.g. parents and their aged care if / when required), health… And the world keeps shrinking. An acquaintance of mine did a 4WD tour of North Africa in 1999, crossed Algeria and Libya, which would not be advisable now. A good friend of mine traveled in Syria as recently as 2004, went to Palmyra on that trip, and now nobody can do it, and there’s no point anyway anymore. Who knows, I may not need as much cash to travel the world if half of it becomes a no-go zone in a few years, which sounds crazy, but could be only a few long droughts in densely populated volatile regions away. And on that cheerful note… 😀

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      1. Hi 3652,
        Yes – I get bouts when I think I won’t make it but the fact that the numbers are always going the right way over time and I have years to go is a positive. I am also assuming I will have to pay the mortgage whilst I am retired so adds yet another variable into it – as you say so many things will change all you can really do is keep saving as hard as possible and see what happens.
        Yes – the world changes rapidly (I am also gutted I never made Palmyra) – I look at the places I have been that nowadays are either unadvisable or simply not even possible, and know I made the right mix.
        On the positive side (i think!) I am still breathing 😉 I can always find a positive!

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  3. Have to say, it’s your decision to make – if you don’t want to spend less or take more risks you will have to work longer.

    But if you look the other way, you can live well on much less – I feel you are deep in the high earning city lifestyle club, and can’t see the wood for the trees. You can crew boats instead of buying them, slow travel much cheaper than shorter holidays and rent your place out when travelling.

    London isn’t a bad place to spend a few more years, but I personally don’t want to spend them in an office building.

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    1. You’re right, I could live on less, but I don’t think I’d want to do it if I had a choice.
      I crew boats now, as well as charter with other people, and that means fitting in with other people’s schedules. You could say that if you’re retired and have the time this shouldn’t be a problem. True. But. When you’re retired and have the time you can then afford to *take* the time instead of having to be back in the marina moored by lunchtime on Sunday because someone else needs to go to work on Monday 😉

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      1. You do have more time as a retiree. But unless you are getting a big favour I agree life is too short to fit in with other people’s 9 to 5 regularly. That’s the whole reason you retired 😉

        OTOH anything to do with boats is the sort of money that it might be OK to suck it up!

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  4. The key thing is you’ve got a plan and you’re being mindful about your finances, taking action to optimise your position and make the right choices for you. There are so many unknowns over the coming years which are outside your control…….. that’s what makes life exciting. Just continue to control the things you can (saving rate, investment choices, diet, fitness, things you can filter) and you’ll be in a much better place than you would have been otherwise; paying excessive income tax and not maximising pension opportunities. In the words of Mike Tyson; “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. How we all choose to react to a punch (in this context anything that takes us off course from an original plan – negative or positive) is down to us.

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    1. Spot on. I recon controlling the variables that are in our control is the best any of us can do. And you’re absolutely right, I’m in a much better position (financially) now than I would’ve been, had I not discovered the Monevator site back in 2015.

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      1. Reading comments like this genuinely makes it all worthwhile.

        As for your plight, I know I’m a stuck record, but is there an in-between option? It seems to me you long for new experiences and being out of the office as much as retiring from work entirely.

        E.g. You say you crew already. What if you did a couple of years as an experienced and trustworthy crew member in the Med/Caribbean, perhaps an older head among younger ones, perhaps for not much more than subsistence pay. (I know nothing about the rates, but let’s remember this is subsistence in paradise…)

        It’d cut two years off the retirement you need to fund. It’d change everything up. It might get boats — a hole in the water you pour money into — out of your system. 😉

        I guess the downside is that’d still be eight years out, and doing this probably gets harder as you get older. Not sure.

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        1. I’ll overlook the comment about the “older head” 😉 (in a sport where there average age is about 50! 😀 )
          There are many valid choices, and I absolutely ought to acknowledge the privilege of having a choice. I suppose a lot depends on one’s risk tolerance.
          As for getting boats out of the system…

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  5. Reducing my working hours is not an option in my role, my contractual 7 hours a week are a joke anyway, since I’m paid for results and not the time spent achieving them. Changing employers would solve nothing, I’ve tried that a couple of times before. I can’t be self-employed; as much as I’d like to dodge some tax and NI, it’s not possible in my industry in my line of work. So what’s left is biting the bullet – hard – and hanging on ’till it’s over.

    Looks like you’re in trouble then. The reluctance to hit the side-hustles isn’t the problem, its the job. Thats the square that needs circling. You’ve just got to decide if you want to do a RIT or a Liberate.Life! How much do you want things now, how much are you willing to defer? I’d err towards doing something radical as a decade+ is too much to give up.

    Reminds me of the old Rousseau quote;

    Man is born free and everywhere is in chains.

    When you say boat, if you mean yacht, then remember the old adage from Ted Heath;

    You may as well tear up £50 notes standing in a cold shower

    and in the immortal words of Felix Dennis;

    If it flies, floats or fornicates, rent it

    You are aware that if you take up kitesurfing you will have to wear board-shorts on the outside of your wetsuit? Like skiing is the new snow-boarding, likewise, things come full circle and the old becomes the new, windsurfing is the new kitesurfing. You take up tea-bagging and I’m never talking to you again.

    You have been warned..

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    1. Oh, Rhino, my friend. Alas, you’re too late! 😀 I took up kitesurfing in 2005 (that was before there were bow kites). It wasn’t the “cool” factor, either (or at least not entirely that). I didn’t own a car and getting windsurfing gear to the beach would’ve been a pain in the arse – kite gear is much lighter and easier to transport.
      Yeah, boardies on a wetsuit … I know exactly what you mean. It was weird when people did that. What were they thinking? Seriously, I never understood, was that to preserve their modesty, or for any other reason? You wear board shorts with a rash vest, and if you need a wetsuit then you wear a wetsuit – board shorts serve no purpose if worn on top of a wetsuit. Anyway, I think this “trend” has subsided now, thank the gods. #smallmercies
      I haven’t kitesurfed for a couple of years now – no time. With kitesurfing you’re tied to the beach, and it’s more physical than sailing so you can spend less time enjoying the process. With sailing I can actually cover some distance, go places, and, obviously, spend more time on the water. If I were retired though, I could both kitesurf and sail 🙂

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      1. haha – if you got started in 05 then thats much more acceptable in my view, that was not far from the birth of the sport (I’d put that circa 99-00 ish). Back then it was still exciting in as much as you still had a 50:50 chance of dying every time you went out, I seem to remember getting smashed into the rocks or getting dragged into power lines was a favourite way to go?

        I sail mostly at hayling and a fella killed himself there only last year – bloody amateur given all the safety lines the tea-baggers now have.. I don’t know, whats the world coming to?

        My take on sailing is that it is either very very cool, or very, very uncool without much middle ground, regardless of what type you do, be it big yachts or tiny kiteboards it is a sport which requires an enormous amount of knowledge and skill to do well, and its risky so you have to be smart. But, if you’re the ‘all the gear and no idea’ type then you miss all that and as such don’t get a huge amount of my respect. Proper sailors are always great people, weekend warriors tootling around Cowes in their wellyboots and Quba jackets are pretty much always utter wankers.

        Its no coincidence that the windsurfers with the most battered kit are always the best sailors, those turning up in to the carpark in their BMWs with pristine gear are almost always useless.

        I absolutely love sailing. I’ve never taken a job that was more than 5 miles from the coast.

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        1. Ha! My first kite was a hand-me-down 2-liner, and the only safety it had was a harness release. The second-hand C kite I got after that was an improvement. Man, those were the days… I still have the scars.
          CBK Hayling is was my kite club (I haven’t paid membership fees for 2 years so I guess I’m out 😉 )
          I didn’t know Steve (the guy who drowned last spring) but I understand it was a sudden squall and he was quite far out when the front hit. In any case, safety lines can only help you with the wind – not the waves or the tide, and if wind turns against tide, you get dragged downwind… Anyway, I don’t know what happened there, I think he wasn’t a beginner though. The problem with bow kites is that (IMHO) producers overhype their safety features and their “wind range”, and the so-called “depower” at 12 o’clock is deceptive. It’s a piece of plastic with a surface area of X, you hit anything with 30 knots of wind, it’ll want to fly. And it also pisses me off how kite schools and rentals these days give people 12m kites to go out in 25 knots of wind (because they have such good wind range, you understand) so the students can substitute power for skill and feel like they’re “progressing”. You’d never do that with a C kite, or even an SLE hybrid – ant the surface area is the same! Both my kites are hybrids, the newest 6 years old, and they fly in light winds much better than bow kites. It was fun seeing people’s faces on my last kite holiday in Egypt – wind died suddenly, and all bow kites fell down because there wasn’t enough breeze to even support the material weight. I was the only one on the water when everyone was standing waist deep in it, ROFL. People on the beach were like, “what’s the make of your kite?”, I told them, and they all assumed that it was some new brand. No, son, it’s not. It’s so old, the company that used to make them has been out of business for years, and I got it in a closing down sale 😀

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          1. Point taken – shouldn’t have made light of that particular situation. Very sad.

            Egypt is a good example of the shrinking world you mention. I remember some great trips to Dahab – but the Sinai Peninsula is FCO no-go now..

            Chris Bull has chanced on a money-printing machine with the kiters down at Hayling – I’m amazed they stand for it..

            And for sure, the one aspect of which I’m jealous of the kiters is the ability to travel light. I remember the pain of hauling 100kgs of kit to WA back in the early noughties.

            Ahh, great days, they seem to be few and far between now. Where did it all go wrong?

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            1. No, that’s not at all what I meant, I wasn’t shame-policing you 🙂 . The world would be a better place with fewer offence-takers, I think. There’s nothing wrong with making light. Axel Munthe once said that, when faced with a choice of whether to laugh or cry, you should remember that although crying is easier, laughing is better for your health 😉
              I know what you mean about Egypt. Went to Ras Sedr back in 2009 to kite the thermals. A massive lagoon with acres of bath temperature flat shallow water, almost no people save for a few Germans and Saudis. And ok, the area was heavily militarised, but it didn’t feel unsafe. I wouldn’t go there now.

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  6. It sounds to me like it’s a choice of compromises as you don’t need a £million to retire comfortably on.

    It is worth saying that there are plenty of ways you can reduce costs – and retirement gives you time to discover them. I base myself in a low cost area of the UK, for example. Getting a foothold in the local community reduces it still further. The missus, for example, looks like she will be joining a local NHS dentist via a neighbour’s contact.

    You may wish to front-load your retirement costs as I doubt you’ll have the same appetite for your current hobbies in your 70s as you do now.

    As for boats, I have a pack raft – but would never own anything bigger. Felix Dennis was right.

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    1. It’s an interesting point about front-loading retirement costs. It all depends on health. The problem with old age is that nowadays they can keep the body alive much longer than the mind, which is both frightening and expensive. Luckily these concerns are still some way away for me 🙂

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  7. I always like these no nonsense posts that take a hard look at the dreams and goals a person has and confronts them with the reality of being the person that has them! We’re human, and a mess of opinions and contradictions that we often can’t seem to square with ourselves. It always reminds me of the Del Amitri line, that “finding what you want is like trying to divide ice from snow.” Yes, you’d like to reach retirement faster but no, you wouldn’t do anything to get there. (I especially liked your comment on e-publishing, a “side hustle” I considered too, but you put some of my unformed concerns about it nicely into words!) Sometimes I reflect that there is a truth in the saying that it’s almost better to travel than to arrive, so make sure you enjoy the journey to retirement and don’t let it frustrate you too much!

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    1. To paraphrase Meat Loaf, I would do anything to retire sooner, but I won’t do that.
      Surely one has to derive at least some satisfaction from what they’re doing with their time. For instance, I understand Weenie’s matched betting – by the sounds of it she likes watching football, used to bet on sports recreationally before taking up MB, gets a kick out of putting together accumulators – so that’s a legit hobby with a cash sweetener. It’s not something I’d ever willingly do, but hell, some people weave baskets ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Whatever floats your boat, right? Rubbish ebooks though … I don’t see how anyone could actually enjoy doing it. I’d excuse one shitty ebook: if it’s a subject you care deeply about – fine, you’ve tried with good intentions. But this google plagiarism (aka “research”) on How To Nail A Job Interview or How To Save Money On Christmas or whatever other nonsense these people write about … never!

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      1. When I looked into Kindle publishing, I began to suspect there was a pretty easy way to write rubbish but make money: write porn. There’s a good Jon Ronson podcast about the porn industry and the way it’s developing into niches, but you have to be a certain type of person to get into it. “Desperate”, maybe? 🙂

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  8. Cheers for the MB link, hosimpson. As regards to side hustles not generating a decent hourly rate, there’s a reason why I treat MB as a hobby and don’t obsess over the time I spend on it and the profits I make because on occasion, it would be way less than minimum wage!

    I sincerely hope that my ‘enough’ number will be able to cover all the hobbies and holidays I’m planning because of course, I have no idea how much those will cost in the future. What I can say is that my lifestyle and hobbies are a lot cheaper than yours and I won’t need anything close to a million.

    Let’s hope we get that big market crash soon, eh?

    PS – thanks for posting the Casino Royal scene – I’d almost forgotten about those little blue shorts!

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    1. Planning for uncertain future is tricky, as all of the variables are unknown. Future investment income and hence the SWR, future expenses (will the NHS be around for the full length of my retirement? Will I need aged care?), health, how long I’ll live (with my genes I’d expect to at least live into my 90s, but who knows)… We have to do what we can and make such assumptions as we deem reasonable. Because the alternative – not planning at all or hoping for some deus ex machina solution – is (I think) much, much worse 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Have you run your spreadsheet looking at what happens if you allow your mortgage to run past your FIRE date? If it fits your risk tolerance it could give you a chunk more growth as you accumulate. You can always pay off the mortgage in FIRE if your fixed rate expires and you can’t get a nice fixed rate. It isn’t for everyone.

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  10. I don’t get why you assume a) a lot of travel and b) no mortgage and c) somehow zero income in retirement – while owning a house. In London, wasn’t it? Why on earth would you assume that you would not rent that out while you go on extensive travels? I’m willing to bet that you could easily finance the gap between what you spend now and what you think you will spend on travel with that. Perhaps even more. There’s people renting out flats in Amsterdam who are financing more or less perpetual world travel that way – no additional assets needed (but OK, they travel in more basic style than you do).

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    1. I wouldn’t say I travel in style, but I do appreciate comfort, such as is appropriate to where I’m going. When climbing Kilimanjaro I’m very happy in a tent, but I don’t want to stay in a tent in Venice 😉 The importance of comfort grows as one grows older, and I’m not 25 anymore.

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