#VanLife · investing · Personal Finance

It’s Impossible To Have Enough

“The more you have, the more you want.”

At some point all of us have heard this adage about life. If you go out and accumulate things, you’ll simply lust after more, and it becomes a sordid spiral of avarice from there forward. Human greed is never satisfied, but rather throbs and expands with each passing hour.

That may be true, but a lot of what others perceive you to be greedily collecting could well be a necessity forced by circumstance. Stop and reckon for a minute: when buying something new or expensive, is the motivation typically driven by sheer covetousness, or did a milestone of existence suddenly spoil the party? They’re far more common than one might believe, and often unavoidable.

To put it in perspective, when I practiced van life full-time, most of my purchases related to food or some gadget to correct issues with my living space. These included battery-operated fans to beat back the sauna regime, seat-mounted storage compartments, and inflatable mats to spare my back. Sure, I could have gone without them, but the decision seemed sound from a quality of life standpoint.  Without a doubt however, I did need less.

Fast forward about a year, and I purchased a house. I didn’t need one, but as an investment the idea felt decent. Of course a house requires repairs and improvements, with some arising long after you sign the contract and move in. These might be little things, like additional motion lights for safety, or a fresh coat of paint on the porch. Again, I could wing it without, but that opens the possibility of long-term decay or injury.

Recently I have also been exploring the possibility of buying a second car. Some would immediately relegate this to crude consumerist desire, but living further away from a backup vehicle means the risk of getting stranded without a ride – and possibly catching an employer reprimand. Bear in mind that the last time my car went bad it took over a week to have the repairs made, perhaps in part because things went south over Christmas. My alternative in that case was a single cab truck, so you can imagine how napping felt in there.

The underlying point is that lifestyle spurs wants or needs, not rampant greed alone. While frugality is a virtue, depending on how a person lives they could very well be a huge consumer and have little choice in the matter. After all, that beaten up Taurus you bought from an old farmer is hardly some testament to personal vanity; it just runs well enough to move you from Point A to the restaurant at the end of the universe.

Sometimes greed just solves problems.  

Personal Finance

How Much To Save Monthly For $1 million

I have never been a big fan of “How To Save a Million” articles. They all too often drip of the smug empathy you would expect from modern financial experts; plenty of hope, but very little reality.

Why they stop at $1 million baffles me, as it’s not nearly enough money to retire, especially when we factor in healthcare costs. In truth, you need closer to three times that amount to get anywhere close to a decent golden year lifestyle, and that’s assuming a whole lot of other things fall in line. One million bucks should thus be a short-term goal of about ten years, as opposed to some career-spanning objective.

Let’s use that first million in a decade with the Bankrate calculator, which generates a pre-tax number. If you were to start with $20,000 and put in $500 per month, you would have 125k after ten years, assuming an average return of 7 percent and inflation of 2.9 percent.

That’s not good enough.

Suppose we double it. Now you’re putting in $1,000 during every 30-day block, and still only reaching 20 percent of your goal after a decade.

So how much do you REALLY need? About $5,700 in total contributions, PER MONTH. That’s the reality, folks. And here we’re assuming no drastic market collapse, along with careful investing to avoid tax penalties.

To be fair, we are not factoring in an employer 401k with matching, but those are not always available, and you still are limited by the $20k or so cap.

The takeaway is this: you either need to save much more money, get a pension, or find somewhere extraordinarily cheap to retire.

One million dollars won’t cut it.