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Beitragvon doc » Mi Jun 17, 2020 12:53 am

Ein interessanter Artikel aus Motley Fool:

The Retirement Number Trap

By Dan Caplinger • Tuesday, June 16, 2020

We all want to have enough wealth to be financially secure. But how much is truly enough?

That question is the inspiration for the concept of a retirement number. It's the Holy Grail of financial planning, and its simplicity is incredibly attractive for those of us who like to have a finish line in mind when we embark on a long journey. Just reach the number, and all your dreams will come true.

What I've learned — the hard way — is that the simplicity of the retirement number is a trap. The problem isn't the number itself but rather what it represents, because life has a habit of making you question yourself and even your most firmly held beliefs.

Putting Life Over Work

I grew up in Houston, and my father climbed the corporate ladder to become an executive at an oil-field services company in the 1970s. The oil crisis had turned Houston into a boomtown, and my father took full advantage. But his job was all-consuming, and I didn't see him much even before my parents separated.

As a young adult, I vowed that I'd never let work take that much of my life. Family, relationships, and just living life to its fullest would take precedence over clocking time at an office somewhere.

That was the beginning of my quest for financial independence. I was practical enough to know that I'd need to find a job that would let me build a nest egg as quickly I could. Then I'd need to invest it well. And when I hit my number, then I'd finally be free to do what was really important and live my life the way I wanted to.

That was 1996, and at age 26, I was starting from $0. I was lucky to do so, as most of my law school peers had dug themselves a nice big debt hole to climb out of. And my number was $1 million.

I Should've Retired 13 Years Ago

Anyone who's read about fanatics of early retirement will recognize my story. I set aside half my law firm salary and started plowing money into savings. I only managed to hold those law firm jobs for a couple years at a time before moving on to the next, trying to find the right fit but never quite seeing my work as more than a paycheck. My heart was in investing, and my mission was to reach that number.

By the end of 2007, I was there. But I didn't retire. Why? Because 11 years had passed. My life had changed, and my idea of "enough" had changed with it.

Specifically, in a little over a decade, three key things had happened:

I'd gotten married;
I'd had a daughter; and
I'd found The Motley Fool, first as a discussion boards member and then as a contract writer.
It's trite but true that having a family changes your perspective. When I'd first started out, the question I'd asked myself was how much I required for my financial needs. But by the time I reached my retirement number, I had others relying on me. I had also taken on plenty of new financial obligations on top of my retirement ambitions. I discovered I wanted to leave a legacy for my daughter, supplanting my previous plan of aspiring to zero out my bank accounts on my deathbed.

What I truly never expected, though, was to find fulfilling work. I would never have taken that first Fool freelance offer if I hadn't been within a year or so of my goal. It would've been reckless without the financial safety net I'd built. But once I had a taste of it, I realized that work didn't have to be a four-letter word — and I could have balance in my life without retiring early.

When "Enough" Creeps Up

I'm happy with how things have turned out, but there's another trap that I've discovered with subsequent iterations of my retirement number: It keeps inching higher. A decade of strong stock markets in the 2010s played a big role in putting me where I am today, as it probably has for many of you. I thought when I turned 50, I might go ahead and pull the trigger on early retirement. But I've recently caught myself thinking that whatever my brokerage statements happen to add up to at the moment, just a little bit more would be good to have.

As it turns out, that's a common obstacle for those seeking financial independence. You get in the habit of saving for the future, and when the future comes, it's hard to take the leap. As confident as you might be that you'd have enough for the rest of your life if you stopped working today, it's still hard to leave the crutch of that regular paycheck behind.

If this happens to you, don't feel bad if you change your retirement plans. But make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. If you've adopted a new lifestyle because it gives you and your loved ones true happiness, then move ahead and don't look back.

It's another thing, though, if you're thinking about boosting your retirement number simply to support a standard of living you don't enjoy and don't really need. In that case, think twice — because you might well find that you and yours will be better off biting the bullet and following through on your original plans.

Financial independence doesn't just happen, and there's no magic number that will give it to you. You have to claim it for yourself and own it. It takes the same discipline to move forward with your life after reaching your goals that it did to start saving and investing in the first place. It's up to you whether that means retiring, continuing to do meaningful work, or finding a balanced mix of the two. As long as you're honest with yourself, you'll avoid the trap and find the life you've always dreamed of having.


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