I’m ready to move to Merida. Now.
Of course, it’s never that simple. We’re no longer young enough to be impulsive, and not quite old enough to be retired. I could write a whole separate post on the first half of that sentence…is it a good thing or a bad thing that we don’t take the same kind of risks as we get older? Is it true or not true that your opportunities to start over again are fewer at 50 than they are at 25? But I digress….
So I periodically (and by periodically, I mean at least four times every day) try to figure out when the time and circumstances will be right to make a move. While that evaluation depends in some measure on other issues like ageing pets and parents (not necessarily in that order), it’s mostly a question of money. When is it financially ok to take the leap of faith that things will most likely turn out ok? Where is the line between responsible and capricious?
Mostly when I’m agonizing about this issue, I go to firecalc.com. The little trend lines are reassuring, and there is something devil-may-care about deciding that your risk tolerance is satisfied by a 74% chance that you won’t spend your 90s eating cat food.
Tonight, though, I was thinking about that old ING advertisement…What’s Your Number? It turns out that the campaign has a website, and that you can enter certain basic data and get a very specific-sounding number that represents exactly what you will need to retire. Sounds simple, right? So I entered a few details…my current age, the age at which I wanted to retire (55), the age I planned to live to (90), and the relatively modest amount that I thought would be sufficient for us to live on an annual basis. I clicked the button, and:
Your Number is
That's pretty precise! But it is also a good deal of money, and since it didn’t seem likely that we would achieve that amount before I turned 55, I dropped back to a more traditional plan. My current age, the age at which I would be forced to retire if we didn’t want to be destitute (65), the same life span, and the same modest amount for our annual expenses. The only difference was in the first try I wanted to retire at 55, but in the second I planned to retire ten years later, at 65. I gave the button an unenthusiastic click, and:
Your Number is
Now, if you’re paying attention, you’ve noticed that (at least according to ING), I will need more money to retire at 65 than I would if I retired a decade sooner, even though in both cases I plan to end up as a nonagenarian with the same spending habits. Huh? How can that possibly make any sense?
I’m sure that there is some fantastically complex financial and mathematical reason for the result, but that’s beside the point. The better lesson seems to me to be that life isn’t mathematically precise, and no online calculator can tell you when it is time for a new option or whether it will be a success. Also, it may not always be true that the path that sounds more “responsible” actually will be.
Several trips to Merida ago, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman at Café La Boheme who was sitting outside enjoying the morning with a cup of coffee and his dog. He was younger than me, perhaps late 30s, and said that he and his wife had recently pulled up stakes in the relatively rural south and moved to Merida to try it out. The thing that he said that stuck with me was that, a year into their experience, he didn’t know why they had waited so long to do it.
Now it’s possible that he invented the Snuggie or had a trust fund and therefore wasn’t too worried about his "Number." Or maybe he felt like it was still early enough in his working life to survive a really big “oops” moment if the whole Mexico plan didn’t work out. Maybe, though, that guy having his morning coffee with his dog at a sidewalk café in Merida was far smarter, and far more responsible, than those of us who are having our coffee at 6 a.m. in some random airport on the way to some other random airport, or having it handed to us through the window of the car, while we mutely await permission to dream a little after we have reached 65 or have satisfied some on-line retirement calculator that we can afford our hypothetical old age.
Maybe I should be pondering over that and not worrying so much about my Number.