Retirement Number

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For Americans, the ideal retirement number being touted is $1 million. This is based on the 4% withdrawal rate. So if you make it $40,000 a year, you need about one million dollars to retire.

This idea of having to save $1 million in the bank for retirement scares me a lot. My husband and I don’t make a lot of money and just thinking of needing to save that much money in order to retire makes me hyperventilate.

Don’t worry, experts say, all you need to do is start early.

Start early?!

I’m already pushing forty and I really have not done much to save for retirement. I just paid off my student loans and that took forever to accomplish. Right now, I only have about $30,000 sitting in a brokerage account. The market has done really well so that means I am doing okay, too. However, once the phantom bear market starts (in the next few months or years), I know that the value of my portfolio will plummet.

I know it’s not a lot, but I am hoping to push up that amount to at least $100,000 in the next five years. I am hoping for investment gains as well as contributing as much as I can to make sure I will be okay in the future. At the same time, I also want to make sure that I am living life as richly as I can now. Honestly, I don’t want to live my life later. I want to live now. This is why I am attracted to the idea of having financial independence as soon as I can.

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If I can achieve financial independence and save for retirement at the same time, I will be perfectly content.

However, I don’t really know what that means. I have some vague plan in my head. I want to work on the things that I want to do while earning an income of about $5,000 a month. At the same time, I will save a portion of that for my later years–when I will be physically incapable of working.

Again, there goes the vague ideas and the vague plans. I haven’t really written anything in stone–I still don’t have the hard numbers. This is making it difficult to come up with any type of plan to save for that ideal retirement number.

If I think about it, because the hard numbers seem insurmountable, I am unconsciously avoiding it by being vague about my dreams and my action plan. I say I want to achieve financial independence but I don’t have any clear idea of how to do that. I haven’t broken down anything to its core. I don’t know my savings rate. I have a round idea of our monthly expenses. I don’t really have a hard budget for the month, but at least I am doing my best to keep our expenses as low as possible.

Peter Drucker, the famed managerial expert, said it best:

What gets measured gets managed.

And the opposite of that is true, of course. If I don’t track anything and don’t take stock of our numbers, I won’t know how I’m doing. I think this is important when it comes to saving for retirement or financial independence. I just need to get over my fears and just do it.

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