Sometimes it pays to be poor. That’s true. We often think that money cures everything. Well, it doesn’t. And the pursuit of said money can, at times, cause more problems than said money is worth.
I wanted to retire a millionaire. After all, that’s what financial advisors clamor for us to do. A million dollar (plus) portfolio tucked neatly under our arm as we enter into retirement. How else can you afford to live, they say, without that million dollars?
People, if you have enough income in retirement to comfortably pay your bills without stressing AND if you have enough left over at the end of the month to safely pad your minuscule savings account, you’re doing pretty damn near good. Give yourself an extra pat on the back if you’ve managed to pay off your mortgage before you retire. Throw in a handshake if most or all of your consumer debt is gone too.
I’ll be the first to tell you that once I came upon the realization that my retirement was going to be lower income than expected, I didn’t take the news too kindly. First off, I didn’t want anyone to know. And how would people know? By looking at me, of course. Image is everything, right? So, what did I do? The year was 2014 and I just sold a real estate investment. That $150,000 profit I expected turned into a $100,000 loss. Throw in a few stock market disappointments and I was feeling AND looking mighty low. What did I do to make myself look and feel good?
I bought me a brand new car. In cash.
I said to myself, ‘if I’m going to be poor(er) I don’t have to look poor(er)‘. Thus I justified the brand new SUV. I didn’t keep it for long. It turned out to be a gas guzzler. I traded it in for a used SUV that was good on mileage and could also double as a tow vehicle. I tossed aside any semblance of maintaining a false lifestyle. I had to face my wealth truth. Which was, I didn’t have any.
I do believe that wealth has a lot to do with luck. Rich people may think they are geniuses but sometimes it simply boils down to being at the right place at the right time. I’ve never been at the right place at the right time. Ever. Try as I might, I just don’t have the knack. Oh, I’ve had a few hits vs misses but nothing to write home about. I scored very well selling my Hampton home back in 2001 and downsizing to a less expensive lifestyle but that was almost twenty years ago. I haven’t hit a home run since.
Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be for me. Maybe THAT is my luck. Maybe I accomplished my wealth status long ago and didn’t notice. One thing this pandemic has taught me is to count my lucky stars. I have no trouble paying my bills (provided I keep a sharp eye on expenses). I have just about anything a person could need: a (paid-for) roof over my head, anything in the food category on my table, an annual snowbird RV vacation here or two, family in good health, loving husband, kids, grandkids and some semblance of a savings account socked away for either a rainy day, new roof, a calamity or a cruise around the Greek Islands.
Being low income means I get a tax break. I’m also off the hook from impressing people. I have a good excuse as to why I can not donate, contribute to a good cause or pick up your dinner tab. I simply don’t have the money for those things. I can’t go out with you on a Saturday night date. I can’t have lunch with ‘the girls’. I can’t RV at the same places you do. I can’t give parties like you do. I can’t socialize as well as you do. I can’t buy new clothes. I can’t take vacations. I don’t have stainless steel appliances (yup! there’s that chant again!) I can’t keep paying cash for most big ticket items anymore. I ‘need’ zero interest financing.
I’m low income and I’m loving it. I’m free from most everything now. I live by my own rules. My own guidelines. My own set of circumstances. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I just shrug my shoulders and simply say “I can’t afford that” and everyone seems to understand it. No judgment. No explanations. Thanks to this pandemic, everyone seems comfortable with what ‘frugality’ actually means, having been bit by the bug themselves.
My priorities have changed. I’m managing to make it on much less for my retirement and maybe that’s the wealth secret of all time. Isn’t it nice to tell those financial gurus that I really didn’t need that million dollars after all? I’m no longer consumed with consumerism. I don’t have to impress anyone any more.
How cool is that?
In less than 3 months, I’m going to turn seventy years old. I’m going to be really retired by then! I don’t have to plan for my retirement anymore because I will be officially there once and for all! I reached the end of the road and I’m now at the end of the rainbow. I don’t quite see a pot of gold anywhere. What I do see, however, is a life unfettered and free of all the chains society put upon us whether legal or rightfully so.
I think I can finally relax and enjoy my next thirty years. It’s OK if I find it a little bit too difficult to walk down the basement stairs or up to the unused second floor. It’s OK if my house interior isn’t sparkling clean or if I misplaced the butter in the sink. I made it to old age and I want to enjoy each and every second of it. I want to enjoy my grandchildren and I want to reflect back on a life I think I damned near lived very well.
Maybe I retired that millionaire after all. Just not in a currency that gets any respect.
Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.