Will Frugality Get Me To Retirement?

Apparently those finance advisors who scolded us for our $5 lattes and $12 avocado breakfast toasts are singing a new tune. “Go ahead!” they’re chanting. “Have your super expensive coffees, go out to lunch and buy that first class vacay ticket because you’re never going to retire anyway.”

Really? Why the change of heart or better yet, change of financial advice?

why does this pic mean retirement.png
Why does this photo depict retirement? I don’t get it.

According to this recent article written by Camilo Maldonada, published in this month issue of Forbes Magazine: The Real Reason You’re Not Going To Retire Isn’t Because You’re Not Frugal Enough (click here)

Being frugal alone is likely not going to get you to retirement. Penny pinching isn’t the answer. They (that’s you and me) believe that the answer to their financial problems is to be frugal. Coupon clipping, getting rid of cable television or cutting down on Starbucks coffee isn’t going to get you to retirement. Earning MORE money is the answer but earning more money takes effort and sounds like work.

 When’s the last time you wished you could spend more hours at your desk working instead of being at home with your loved ones? Being frugal now means you need to be just as frugal in the future. Many people forget this. What I am saying is this: be realistic about the financial limits of frugality but also the lifestyle constraints and implications it will have on your life once you’re retired.

So, what happens to humans when they are frugal, according to this author? Here are some of the frugal things we are to be aware and frightened of:

You might begin to tighten the belt to a point that no longer makes sense. Frugality is oftentimes voluntary. You make a conscious decision to go without now so that you don’t have to go without later. Duh. I haven’t recorded one incidence whereby anyone who was frugal went legally insane doing so. Have you? (we’re NOT talking about ‘cheap’ here or about hoarders. That’s a whole ‘nother topic/subject).

No gifts this year. At all. For anyone. We haven’t exchanged Holiday gifts within the immediate family giving since 2013 and EVERYONE in my family is relieved. We only buy Xmas gifts for the grandchildren and there is a $25 cap on the present! We stopped Christmas shopping for aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, neighbors, good friends back in the late 1990’s. To this date, no one has complained. Quite the contrary, most everyone has thanked us as they breathed a sigh of relief.

No more date nights. Um, if you check your local town listings there are oodles and oodles of free things to do ALL.YEAR.LONG. Yes, even on a Saturday night! Free concerts, free art shows, free museum days, free house tours, free holiday events (Thanksgiving. Christmas, Easter to name a few). What really constitutes a ‘date night’? Tons of free movies and home-made dinners that could put any date night to shame.

Wake Up Call (literally): $5 a latte times five a week = $25 X 52 weeks a year = $1300 a year X 30 working years equals about $40,000 in potential retirement savings, not including interest. Chump change? Only you can decide.

So what does the author Maldonanda recommend as a way of securing you a secure, safe retirement? Why, by working more, getting a raise, and taking on a side hustle:

Think of frugality like losing weight. The first few pounds are quick and easy. After a certain point, each extra pound takes a hell of a lot more effort to shift. This effort could be better spent on maximizing your income. Once you’ve secured the best possible income from your job, it’s time to focus on a second income or side hustle. One personal finance writer even recommends charging your kids rent.

Yes, let’s charge our kids rent, on top of the student loans life burdens them with because we’re keeping the money for our own retirements vs you. Brilliant.

So, does Maldonanda think that fat people can’t retire successfully by being frugal? Only thin people can? How about getting to the finish line simply by being healthy? Overweight people can be healthy. That’s not an oxymoron. If you eat well (smart veggie meals) and exercise (free walking) during your lifespan, trust me, you’ll get to your retirement years healthy and raring to go, go go!

Maldonanda thinks a 401K is the cure all. Not necessarily. By the time you finish working your 30-40 years or so and get to cash in that preposterous 401K, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening when you calculate how much retirement money you lost in exorbitant and avoidable investment fees. Just 1% in fees could cost a millennial over $590,000 in lost retirement savings (click here). Hope they mastered the fine art of frugality by then because they’re going to need it. LOL!

A dollar saved is like two dollars earned. What’s it going to be? Socking away that $5 latte, which really equals $10 of working double time to earn that coffee money in the first place?

Maldonanda is worried about inflation.

The old saying of “cash is king” does not apply here. Cash, when it comes to saving for your retirement is definitely not king. This is because the value of cash gets eroded with time due to inflation. $1 today is worth less than $1 in ten years time. Its value rots away. By leaving your money in the bank or under the mattress you are losing valuable time and money.

Maldonanda thinks the only solution to inflation is to invest in the stock market. Really? Shall we ask survivors, such as myself, what it was like going through The Stock Market Crash of 1987 (I lost everything I had and had to file bankruptcy. I didn’t have the fifty cents needed to go over a bridge to borrow $50 from a good friend of mine), The 1995 Recession (seniors were eating dog and cat food. Thankfully, I wasn’t a senior then BUT I do remember how difficult it was putting food on the table. Very embarrassing), The Dot Com Disaster of 2001 (I lost my computer business at Christmas time and did not have the money to buy a Christmas tree. We cut a bush down off the side of a road. I hung my cookie cutters on the tree as ornaments. I started selling my possessions to make ends meet) and finally, the fabulous Great Recession of 2008 (by this time I smartened up: I had no debt, no mortgage, no car loans, no credit cards and friggin’ cash in a bank! ABSOLUTELY NO INVESTMENTS WHATSOEVER WITH WALL STREET. We breezed through the Great Recession with nary a scar nor a bad night’s dream)

Cash is most certainly king. Look around you. Most people, according to The Federal Reserve, (40% of Americans) don’t even have a lousy $400 in their savings should an emergency pop up (click here). Most everyone is living paycheck to paycheck. That’s because the more you earn, the more you spend. The real culprit here is ‘lifestyle inflation’. If you’re earning more money it’s only natural to show the world just how good you’re doing. Not me. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. Most survivors don’t. All we care about is surviving. And that’s what retirement is: it’s proof positive that you survived all those working years by being smart with your money. By being prudent with your money and saving rather than splurging!

In my book, frugality got me to where I am today.

Who are you going to believe? Camilo Maldonada who sits at a cushy desk and writes about imagination and what could be? Or me, who’s been through the ringer and came out just fine and dandy on the other side?

Here’s Camilo’s retirement plan:

A quick rule of thumb for how much you need to save for retirement is that you’ll need to save 25x your annual retirement expenses. Which means that if you spend $30,000 a year on housing, food, car payments, health care, child support, etc., you’ll want at least $750,000.

WRONG!

When you’re retired, you won’t have car payments, if you follow my retirement plan. Nor would you have mortgage payments. You would have purchased your forever home by age 35 and paid off the mortgage by the time you reached 65. Or if you purchased a home late in life, you paid off the mortgage by the time you retired. So, you don’t have housing costs. Just property taxes and DIY maintenance. You also will be driving a nice, paid-for used car. You won’t be paying child support either (your kids should be in their late 20s early 30s by now).

That $750,000 Maldonada estimated drops down to a mere $180,000 when you subtract just a mortgage payment ($1500 a month standard X 12 months (year) X 25 years = $450,000) and no car payment ($400 a month standard X 12 months (year) X 25 years = $120,000) Forget child support. As I said your kids will be their own adults by the time you retire. I always recommend having at least $250,000 cash in a savings account when you retire, as to cover medical costs but if all you can rustle up is the $180,000 you’re doing just fine. Sell your paid-for home, downsize and laugh all the way to the retirement bank of your choice.

Side Note/Full Disclosure: We lived on $5600 a month (about $68,000-$70,000 in 1996 years money value) before retirement. Now at retirement we live on $2500 a month ($30,000 in 2019 years money value). Our future goal is ether to retire in place or sell and move into an assisted living/active adult situation. Not sure yet how it’s all going to turn out. In other words, I’m not worried about inflation.

Live well, stay frugal and prosper, my friend. Live well, stay frugal and prosper.

Just make sure you get the facts right.

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8 comments

  1. Very interesting…I’ve got another question for you after reading this. Do you agree/disagree with helping your children get a start in their lives by helping with college costs or the down payment on their own homes? It is tax-free gifts that I’m talking about – so that they can be ready to take us in when we need housing and care?!

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    • Shelley. I loaned my oldest daughter $50,000 as a down payment on her first condo in NYC in 2007. I had her sign a promissory note, at an interest rate of 5% (which makes it legal) and the understanding that in 5 years she was to refinance and pay me back the $50,000 in full (without any interest). Well, the housing market crashed and the condo never achieved an increase in equity of the $50K. She could only pay me back $10,000. She also wanted me to forget about paying me back the rest of the money but as I explained to her, that $50K was part of my retirement money and I needed it very badly. I reminded her of the note she signed with me AND that I could easily have it enforced in court. Perhaps not a nice thing, but I needed that money back. Period. So, she started paying me back $300 a month. She’s been paying me back since 2010 and she has another 7 years to go. It’s been just awful. I can’t make it on that $300 a month nor can she increase it cause money is tight for her also. When she married, she lived in the condo with her husband, who in turn agreed to pay me back because my daughter kept trying to get out of it. That’s the thanks I got for providing a roof over their head. Anyway, I thought when they had a baby they would sell and pay me back because the condo is a small studio. Not so lucky for me. They rented it out instead, so I still didn’t get my balance back. It’s around $15K by then. Instead my daughter and her husband bought another condo worth around $600,000. This new condo combined with the condo I helped buy, which is now appraised at $500,000, thus giving them the combined NYC real estate value of $1.25million dollars. Great for them. But I’m still owed my retirement money and I am still struggling on that lousy $300 a month they send me. Whereby, I could have invested that money in a high interest bearing account and lived a better retirement. I’m still not charging my daughter any interest but it has now been over 12 years since I loaned my daughter that money.
      Would I do it again? No.
      Would my daughter take me in? She told me she would put me in a home so fast there would be skid marks in my driveway. She’s busy with her own life. She became a famous wedding photographer and has no time for me. Neither does my other younger daughter. They are wrapped up in their own lives. Thankfully I never paid for their weddings and I could only partly pay for their college. Their biological father picked up half the tab and my own father picked up 1/4. The rest they had to borrow and pay back. at only 1% I might add. Federal student loans are dirt cheap.
      My daughters are flourishing.
      I’m suffering.
      Would I do it again or loan them money or pay for weddings or down payments ever again? The answer is no.
      But that’s my story. Yours may be quite different. Hope this helped.
      I would NEVER give my kids tax-free gifts. Your daughters may be wonderful and loving now. But when they marry, it’s a whole new ballgame. Plus they have kids of their own and their own lives to contend with. If you want something to take care of you in your own old age, invest your money and do not give your kids anything except a hug and a kiss. Buy Long Term Care insurance instead. or save your money to hire a live-in.
      I just had another bout with my nose bleeding. I was all alone. I called 911 all alone. I sat in the hospital all alone. No body came to help me or stay with me. It was a rude wake up call. Hubby was working over 75 miles away. It took him 2 hours to come and get me and all he did was complain that he was losing a days pay. Nice.
      Yup, retirement is real hard.
      Think carefully before you give away any of your money.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I appreciate you sharing your stories with me. I always take away thoughts to ponder.
        I hope your nose bleeding resolves – how scary for you! It makes me sad that you feel so lonely in retirement. I’m glad you stay in touch with me. Take care of yourself, dear! xx

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      • Thanks Shelley. I don’t always feel so all alone. But every once in a while, it creeps up in there. I’m an introvert. I’m a lot of fun, but I do like my alone time. Go figure. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “When they marry it’s a whole other ball game.” Amen! My husband and I had four sons between us. His two NEVER called or acknowledged Father’s Day or his birthday. Mine were slightly better, until they married. Then we were tossed out like old, stinky fish. Our hearts were broken. They don’t really know if we are alive or dead.

    We have,of course, made our own lives, but I really regret the love, emotional energy and money we poured into them.

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    • Hi Anne. I’m so sorry to hear about your children. It’s a problem unfortunately too common. We do our best and hope for the same. Glad you and your husband moved onward. Thanks for your comment. Peace and love I send your way. 🙏

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  3. […] Some fortunate people, like myself, have to learn about money the old fashioned way: we fail at it. Then and only then do we learn the valuable lessons of proper money management. I’ve got something that isn’t taught anywhere. It’s called fiscal experience. Unfortunately, it took me a lifetime to learn it but there it is. As I stated, about myself, in a previous post (click here): […]

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