Maybe my dad’s perspective on saving for retirement has changed since he has cancer and may never make it to see the 401k fruits of his many years of labor, but the phone conversation I had with him earlier today about investing was bizarre.
My dad has never been the frugal type, but he made enough money where his spending was reasonable. He enjoyed eating out, living in a nice-yet-modest home in the burbs, and taking a good vacation with the family once a year. Being as he worked as an actuary, his company provided a sizable pension.
Since my dad is the math and finance expert in the family, I’ve asked him for advice on where to put my savings and how much I should be saving for retirement. His immediate reaction to the question was “why are you saving for retirement now you’re only, what, 25?” I’ll let my dad off the hook for not being sure how old I am for the time being (I’m not sure if he’s 57 or 58, so that’s ok), but it kind of irks me that he almost thinks it laughable that I’m attempting to save for the long run.
His response about long-term saving is that I shouldn’t worry, that the “inheritance” will “cover” my retirement. (A lot of you were upset at me in an earlier entry when I wrote about expecting a sizable inheritance in the future, but this is where I get the idea from!) Still, I’ve realized that I’m not going to expect that or rely on it, because who knows what will happen over the coming years. If I end up retiring with a butt load of money that I didn’t expect, all the better, I can donate it or give it to my hypothetical kids. In the meanwhile, I want to save $5M for my retirement.
So I go on to ask my dad where I should save the money, if not in a long-term account. He seemed perplexed why I didn’t want to spend it. “Enjoy life” were his exact words. Again, the fact that he now has a terminal illness might influence his advice a bit. He wouldn’t advise wasting the money on clothes or such (which is a bad habit of my mother), but other things like travel, sure.
That’s not to say I haven’t or won’t spend my money. I spent a lot in the past year on travel. Going home ($300 flights twice a year), my trip to Israel… all of that added up. And to be honest, I’m still not clear on where my net worth ended up for 2008. I feel like I spent a lot. And I did… if my taxes actually were 50% of my total income for 2008 I’d be at a loss for the year (though that’s also due to losing “thousands” in the market like everyone else). But I save a lot for my taxes and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up getting some money “back” (which really just means I’ll move the money from my “taxes” account that I ignore to a savings account that is included in my networth).
2009 is going to be a totally different story. With my promotion at work, as long as I can keep the job (and I plan to) I’ll be making quite a bit of money. Of course, it’s all relative, and it’s super easy to spend it all on things I don’t need. My cost of living is really low for someone my age in my location.
But I foresee a lot of major expenses in the next 10 years including, but not limited to, grad school, a house, a “new” likely used car, infertility treatments if I want kids ($20k a kid is not out of the question, and who knows if it will even work), etc, etc, etc.
All of those things cost a lot of money, which makes me so confused about saving. I only have about $1500 a month after taxes and rent/bills, even with my pay increase. Which is a lot, but not a lot, a lot. As I said earlier in this post, it’s so easy for me to spend that in a few days at the mall. Or at least a huge chunk of it.
I’m not planning on doing that this year. I want to spend this year, well, not spending. To see just how much I can save. I’m not going to live “frugally” but I am going to live well within my means. I just don’t know where to save the money.
I’m so tempted to put a lot of it into the stock market. Worst case scenerio it gets stuck in there long term because the stock market takes a while to recover and at some point it pulls out. That doesn’t seem wise. I’m planning on maxing out my Roth by putting $400 a month into the account. So that leaves me with $1000, give or take. $1000 a month isn’t that much, if that’s going to everything from vacation to clothes and other savings.
And I’m so so so fortunate to have the luxury to ask my dad about what to do with my extra savings. And to ask the finance guy at my company if we’ll get a 401k and be embarrassed to admit that I’m maxing out my Roth IRA at 25 and would like another tax advantaged account to put more money away for retirement.
Or maybe all of this retirement savings talk is teaching me the right things and wrong things at the same time. Maybe I should be saving my $5k a year for retirement, but beyond that it might be wise to invest elsewhere, for the short term. I’m pretty sure I want to do grad school within the next 3 years, and that ain’t cheap.
My dad has mentioned that when he can get into his 401k he’d “help” me out with grad school costs, but a part of me doesn’t want the favor. It’s tough to say “no” to that kind of offer, but I’m at a point in my life where I take pride in paying for my pursuits. I didn’t do that all through undergrad, and everything seemed worthless. I mean, I knew it was expensive, but it wasn’t something I paid for, something I earned or would have to earn in the future. Now my life – it’s really mine. Because I pay the bills. Because I have the choice to go to grad school and take out a loan, and pay it back. I guess I just want to feel normal, when it comes to finances. I grew up so spoiled in relation to the rest of the world and I’m tired of it.
But I’m also terrible at spending on big purchases, even if it’s things I really want but don’t need… like laser hair removal on my face (I have a hormonal disorder called PCOS that causes hair to grow where it shouldn’t which really sucks) and maybe Lasik for my eyes. I did pay $300 for Brite Smile this past year (I’ll post a review about the treatment tomorrow) which was huge for me, but I wanted to treat myself. Instead of wasting the money on clothes. I’d waste the money on brightening my teeth a few shades. Waste of money? Maybe. But it felt better than wasting money at the supermarket on things that went bad before I got around to eating them.