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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Financial Independence: How Much Money you Require to Retire?

Everybody is wishing to reach the ‘illusionary’ state of financial independence. I say illusion because, to some, we do not see it coming soon.
A few different paths can deliver you there, and I have always stayed focused on the fastest, straightforward path, which has reserved it top of my mind. I have stayed focused on reaching financial freedom. I look forward to that day I will simple say “I have made enough”. That day I will stop going to the office. The day I will sit down to ponder, not how to make more money, but how to spend the much I have. I long for this day, I really do.
It is not that I dislike my job and I am desperately seeking an escape route. Rather, I am a number-focused, goal-driven individual who enjoys and acknowledges the value of thrifty lifestyle. I truly believe that the world we live in would be a much better place if more individuals could achieve financial independence, allowing them to arrive at their full potential in the society by having more time to focus on their passion. If that involve keeping their present job, more power to them.
People often react differently whenever we discuss this topic, financial independence. Each time I initiate this discussion with family and friends (any gender and age) and tell them my aspiration to achieve financial independence at any age before 50, I regularly face a whole lot of doubt, a healthy dose of mockery, discomfort and even a bit of anger. And whenever you reach the part “around how much should have to retire?” the discussion heats up more.  Therefore, I sat down and thought, “why not bring up this topic in my blog and hear other people’s opinions?”
How Much Money Should I Have to Retire?
I know you are scratching your head, thinking of what you want and what you may need in the future. Relax! The math behind retirement is very simple – if you know some of these variables:
  • Your expenses
  • Your income
  • Your savings
  • Your age
  • The average inflation rate
Now you can come up with some rational estimate of how much money you should have to retire (or attain financial independence if you are so much scared of this word, “retirement”. To remain palatable to all the audience, let’s use these two phrases interchangeably). Retirement calculators like CNN Money’s retirement calculator or Firecalc will make your calculations simpler. What these resources help you solve is basically the quantitative computation of financial independence.
The Retirement Reality
Regardless of the hard numbers suggesting an objective amount of money to retire, reaching that number simply do not satisfy most of us (if not all). We (humans) keep our noses to the grindstone, and very few retire when they reach that number.
But why? It is often one or some combination of these factors:
  1. Ignorance or Disbelief: I may be poking into the eyes of some but, truth be said, the idea of early retirement or financial independence is not something have always considered. This mainly because, more often than not, we see people only retire when their reach the mandatory retirement age.
  2. Addiction: We are consumption addicts. We cannot split wants from needs and foresee our retirement years focused on expensive SUVs, golf courses, pricey travel, and whatever else we suppose we deserve.
  3. Fear: We have done the math and got the number, but we remain scared that we will still run out of money, the expenses for healthcare will blow up, inflation will speed up, or we may live to be ludicrously old. This has been fueled by some scary examples we have witnessed or playing the worst-case scenario in our heads.
  4. Contentment: We have done the math, and we have accumulated enough, but our jobs don’t suck that awful. A few of us in fact like them. Why not keep pegging away to put together that safety margin?
How Much Money do you require to Retire?
This begs the knowledge of:
“What you REQUIRE to retire, the savings level you want to ACTUALLY retire at, and what brings the difference between the two?”
By using the scary word “retire” all I mean is walking away from your current career/job. After that, what you choose to do with yourself is entirely up to you – whether it sitting at home, basking at the beach or starting your business!
For instance – I may know that I will achieve financial freedom when I hit $800,000 in savings. Am I going to walk away from my career once my savings hit that level? I can easily say I will now, but my situation in life and fear of some of the aforementioned might result in me not retiring until I garner $1 million or more.
The gap between what we need to retire and what we want to actuate the move is extremely fascinating to me. It essentially takes the numbers we have computed and then say “To hell with the numbers, it’s far from enough!” We then keep plugging away so that we can build that psychological cushion that will trigger us to call it quits one day.
You can now go ahead and determine what the calculators say you need to retire, subtract it from the saving level you will actually want to retire at and then ask yourself why the difference (if any)?

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