With $2 million in savings, I'm not ready to retire

By Yen Lam   February 19, 2022 | 04:47 pm PT
In my early fifties, the question of "how much money is needed for one to retire" keeps me wondering.

I am 52 and my husband is four years older. We have a son and daughter, aged 20 and 15. We live in the U.S. Though our son, as a college sophomore, keeps winning scholarships, we still have to support him.

For now, my husband and I have earned $2 million in savings, but still, I felt insecure when he suggested we retire early.

My husband works as an engineer for NASA. According to the law, he must wait until he is 65, which is nine more years, to reach the retirement age in the U.S. and enjoy the insurance policy that grants our entire family free healthcare. Only by then would my husband be allowed to enjoy a monthly pension of about $4,000.

If my husband decides to retire now, it means we will have to spend our own money obtaining health insurance, which is around $2,000 per month for a family of four.

This will be a significant financial burden for us, especially since the pandemic remains unpredictable.

I'm running a nail salon that brings in a stable income. My wish is to extract 10 percent of the profit earned each year from the salon to do charity work. I don't want to retire now since I'm worried it would make us less financially comfortable.

On this issue, my husband and I remain divided.

"Financial Independence Retire Early" (FIRE) is now quite familiar to young people. Applied in the U.S. since the mid-2000s, it has become very popular and spread to many other countries.

However, not everyone can clearly understand the disadvantages of retiring early. It's a trade-off - early retirement creates more uncertainty than traditional retirement.

Americans usually remind each other that they should have one million dollars to retire.

They calculate the number according to the formula: a million dollars with an average return of 4 percent will give you $40,000 per year, which is the average annual expenditure of an elderly couple. If they have an extra pension of a few thousand dollars a month, they would even have enough money to travel. However, the above calculation ignores the price slippage, which refers to the difference between the expected price of a trade and the price at which the trade is executed.

Even though slippage is low in the U.S., it will change spending significantly after a few decades. The actual amount needed to retire early should therefore, be many times larger.

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