Fear of running out of money

This July a bunch of bloggers gave retrospectives of their time after achieving financial independence and leaving The Man.  I think I missed a couple, but here are three of them: mrtakoescapes , our next life , and retire by 40 .

And in these uncertain times, I just can’t.

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Let me back up a bit.  We have had enough money for a while that we could retire to DH’s home town where his parents still live, buy a decent house for under 100K (or a nice one for under 200K) and live off our savings.  We would have nothing to buy and nothing to do.  There wouldn’t be money for frills or travel, but we’d see his family a lot.  The library isn’t very good.  The hospitals are neither near nor great.  (DH’s mom is a healthcare professional and is adamant about going to the city several hours away for anything important.)  This is really a non-starter for either of us, especially with kids.

Right now, and only recently, I think we have enough money to retire in place where we are right now using the 4% rule.  We’d have to cut out city trips, eating out, donations etc. and we’d have to drive to DH’s parents’ instead of fly.  But we could do it.  Most of our money is locked into retirement savings, but some of that is Roth principal and some of that is 457, so I think we could access it.  I would get bored or extremely upset here (because I would throw myself into political action which would be frustrating and unpleasant) with nothing to do.

We do not have enough money to move to paradise and live indefinitely.  There’s so much free stuff to do in paradise.  We have so many friends living in paradise.  Politics are so much less brutal in paradise.  (There’s no job for me in paradise that allows me to keep my professional identity or we’d move in a heartbeat.)  We can’t afford to buy a house in Paradise in a decent school district even using our current house’s proceeds as a downpayment.  If we’d bought a house 10 years ago, sure, but then we’d have gotten a million dollars in appreciation and would be even richer.

So that’s where we are, working someplace that’s not great to live and could be worse, wishing we were somewhere else, but not enough to actually move there because we’re not willing to make those trade-offs.

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Lately I’ve been thinking– what would be the number that would allow us to live in Paradise without income?

And then I worry about the future.  What if health care costs continue to skyrocket and Paradise doesn’t have enough wherewithal to keep the ACA going state-wide?  What if property taxes or rental costs go way up?  What if the US becomes dangerously fascist and starts targeting people like me and we need to flee?  What if we start regressing in the next generation so that our kids don’t have the ability to move up without a trust fund?  What if we regress to being even less like the American Dream and more like those regency England books that I read where it is truly dangerous not to come from a family with money?

And I start understanding the impulse to leave a monetary legacy for my kids and their kids.  So they have more second chances.  Screw the millionaire next door.  We’re living in a different world now.  Maybe.  And there’s plenty of families that don’t just piss away their parents’ legacy on luxuries.

And if I can continue earning an upper-middle-class salary and saving it for doing meaningful work, why would I stop?  Even if I’d prefer to spend my days hiking and trying out new farmers markets and chatting with other highly educated liberals in a state that believes in bringing the bottom up.

Maybe there’s still a number I could retire at, but it would have to be one in which my salary is trivial compared to my investment income.  Not just one where I count on being able to not quite spend down before I die.  And I don’t see us ever getting there.  The future is too uncertain.

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This fear is new and entirely caused by our political landscape starting to resemble dictatorships with wide inequality.  It is more important than ever to be a “have” because it is getting harder than ever to move out of “have not”.  The American Dream may have already been mostly a myth, but I still benefitted from it.  It will be harder for those in my children’s generation.

Have your beliefs about retirement and leaving a legacy changed?  At what point could you say goodbye to The Man?

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