For example, if you make $200,000 per year and save 50 percent of your income, then you only need your investments to provide $100,000 in income, and you can reach that point after about 16 years. But if you only save 10 percent of your income, then you need your investments to provide $180,000 of income, and it will require 50 years to reach that point. Obviously everyone’s financial situation differs, and if someone inherits significant assets early in life, then they have the potential to become financially independent much earlier. But whether you start saving and investing at age 20 or 40, it still takes just as long to reach financial independence, and that amount of time is most dependent on your savings rate.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 34 – No 12 – December 2015
Now, this chart overstates the case quite a bit, as most retirees will not only have some Social Security but also naturally spend much less in retirement than they did earlier in life as mortgages are paid off, tax burdens decrease, children leave home and finish their educations, work-related expenses disappear, and the need for life and disability insurance is eliminated. And obviously if you work and save until you’re 80, you probably won’t need your portfolio to last as long as an early retiree will. But the point of the chart remains the same—increased savings simultaneously increase portfolio size and decrease the need for income from the portfolio.
There are some practical steps that can be taken in order to get off the hedonic treadmill. Everyone has heard about how important it is to live on a budget. What they don’t tell you, however, is that living on a budget is really a temporary process. A budget is a training tool, and once you’ve trained yourself to spend at a sensible level, you can actually quit the physical act of budgeting. Most financially successful people can generally get to that point with a few months or years of careful budgeting. Track your spending by initially writing down every dollar you spend, then make sure you are actually spending your money in accordance with your values. For example, if you find you value vacations with your children and having a nice home the most but discover you are spending a large percentage of your money on education, eating out, and auto payments, then you need to realign your spending with your values. As a typical physician, you can generally buy anything you want but not everything you want. Spend your money on what makes you the happiest.