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As a child, I spent a lot of time with my Grandma and Grandpa. They reached retirement shortly after my birth, and both of my parents worked full-time jobs. During the summer months, I spent one day each week with my grandparents. I will forever cherish the memories of eating homemade toasted bread and strawberry jam by the morning sunrise, the countless mornings spent building utility trailers with grandpa, sunny afternoons at the park, late-afternoon naps, trips to the pool, and the unparalleled hearty dinners from Grandma’s kitchen. Life was good.
During the school year, Grandma and Grandpa picked me up at the bus stop until I was old enough to stay home alone for a few hours. Those afternoons, too, remain as poignant memories. Grandpa and I often drove to the lake to feed the ducks, roamed the Earth in search of free lumber, or took his hunting dogs for adventures in a nearby wooded area.
During one particular walk in the woods, Grandpa and I wandered off the beaten path and onto a narrow, single track trail. At the end of this trail, we discovered an old, junked out car which had been left in a large hole in the ground. To the adventurous mind of a little boy, we had just discovered the equivalent of the Lost City of Atlantis.
I recall spending the remainder of that day thinking about that old car. Who had owned the vehicle? How it had gotten to its final resting place? And how had it had managed to sit in the woods untouched, year after year?
Grandpa knew how to entertain me, teach me to think, and lead me to dream big. This all came naturally to Grandpa, because he was an entertainer, a thinker, and above all, a dreamer himself.
As I grew older, my adventures with Grandpa became less-focused on the things of childhood and more focused on life lessons and my future. Ever a motivator and encourager, Grandpa believed in me and had big dreams for my future. He said that I could be a doctor, lawyer, or businessman if I studied hard and earned good grades. Grandpa knew a thing or two about hard work, but he was the first to admit that he never saw a good grade in his life.
When I reached my teenage years, Grandpa became less-mobile, and our time spent together grew more and more sedentary. We traded walks in the woods for visits over coffee and cookies in the three-seasons room of Grandpa and Grandma’s new condo. Since Grandpa passed away in 2013, my biggest regret remains that I did not record more of Grandpa’s stories and advice.
One story, however, is permanently etched in my mind. One afternoon, Grandpa the told story of how he get started in investing. He explained that he had seen his neighbor drive by and wave in a brand new car every spring. One year, in his typical, rather direct fashion, Grandpa asked the gentleman how he could afford new cars each year. Unembarrassed, the neighbor told him that he had high-performing stock investments and that dividends were the key to his annual car purchases. He also spoke glowingly about his financial advisor.
In an instant, Grandpa had hatched a new dream far bigger than new cars. He wanted a piece of the pie for himself and for his family. Later that week, Grandpa went down to the advisor and opened a new brokerage account. The rest is history.
I grew up hearing faint whispers about Grandma and Grandpa’s wealth. They were thorough practitioners of stealth wealth, and while they owned their modest home outright and drove nice vehicles, they lived a minimalist lifestyle. The watched evening television in the dark, did not have central air conditioning, and rarely spent money. At Grandpa’s funeral visitation, an old friend told me that he once saw a moth fly out of Grandpa’s wallet. Literally.
Only one memory lingers as an indication that Grandpa and Grandma had money. Grandpa and I had just sat down for lunch at the kitchen table, and Grandma walked in from getting the mail. She handed Grandpa a piece of paper, which in hindsight was an investment statement, and said, “Well, you’re half of a millionaire.”
Grandma probably didn’t know I was listening. Without knowing for sure, I suspect that Grandma was being modest. I am confident that their investments represented only a portion of their assets. I was likely being thrown off the trail of two Secret Millionaires!
The Fruits of Their Labors
Among many the many benefits of their financial wisdom, Grandma and Grandpa were:
1. Financially Free. They had no debt, no obligations, and as a result, they could do virtually whatever they wanted when they wanted to do it.
2. Frequent Travelers. They vacationed a lot and visited every place which interested them.
3. Generous to Family. They provided weekly Sunday dinners for 20+ people, often took the entire family out to dinner, provided nice gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and gifted a one-time lump sum to each of their grandchildren one year in order to reduce their tax liability.
4. Proud Yet Humble. They knew they had earned everything they possessed, yet they never boasted.
A Contagious Dream
For years, I have desired to experience those fruits for myself. Ever since that afternoon at the kitchen table, my foremost financial goal has been to reach millionaire status. Not for vanity or bragging rights, but for the feeling of freedom, the ability to help other people, and to give away massive sums of money.
Today, as I write this article, I cannot help but wonder:
Will a cool million really be enough?
According to the life expectancy calculator at John Hancock, I can statistically expect a baseline life expectancy of 83 and a projected life expectancy of 93. Considering my goals of early retirement, it appears my nest egg will need to last upwards of 40 years! And what if I live to be 100?
Factoring in rising inflation and the decreased buying power of money as I continue to age does not increase my optimism that $1 million will be enough. Even if it were enough for me and Mrs. Superhero to live on, would it really permanently change our family tree? Would it benefit future generations of my family? Would it truly leave a lasting legacy?
I have few doubts that Mrs. Superhero and I will reach millionaire status, even though we are far from it at this point. But based upon the 4% Safe Withdrawal Rate, I question whether $40,000 per year will be sufficient.
Is $1 Million Really Enough?
While I am an advocate for specific written financial goals, my target retirement number is surprisingly fluid at this stage in my life. Mrs. Superhero and I are focused upon eliminating our non-mortgage debt over the next couple of months, and I find it too distracting to focus upon too many goals at one time.
In the meantime, I am still dreaming of my own retirement. My dream is simple at its core:
Be free from the rat race–forever!
Enjoy carefree experiences with Mrs. Superhero, our siblings, and our future children and grandchildren
Work on my own terms in my future retirement, if I choose to do so, and answer to myself and no one else
Change my family tree forever
Never experience stress due to work or money issues ever again
Until my dream is redefined again, this is my motivation.
Readers, what are your dreams for retirement? What motivates you? If you are currently retired, are you living your dream as you had hoped?
DC @ Young Adult Money saysApril 27, 2016 at 9:18 PM
I have similar motivations as you. One dream of mine and my wife’s is to own and run a mental health clinic. I likely would not do this unless I had enough money to “retire” and would do it more for the challenge of making it work. Here’s to reaching our goals!
Hero saysApril 27, 2016 at 9:22 PM
That is a fantastic dream, DC. Think of the joy you will feel when you retire and begin helping countless people through your clinic. I have family members who are mental health professionals, and I gather that more young leaders like you are needed in that field. Thanks for stopping by!
amber tree saysApril 28, 2016 at 3:39 PM
To me, tis is what motivates me now to go the extra mile: “Work on my own terms in my future retirement, if I choose to do so, and answer to myself and no one else”
I can do this, as long as I can have a good work life balance now. The prospective of being free before the legal pension age of 67 is such a motivator.
Hero saysApril 29, 2016 at 8:10 AM
I agree, amber tree. 67 sounds far too old! I plan to be well underway on my second childhood by then!
Apathy Ends saysApril 28, 2016 at 4:54 PM
Great story, My grandpa was a career entrepreneur that was terrible at managing his money (he would also get really bored and sell businesses)- I wish I would have talked to him more about it before he passed.
I can copy paste your goals for my own, thats a great list.
Hero saysApril 29, 2016 at 8:13 AM
Isn’t it interesting that entrepreneurs are often among the worst personal money managers? I have read countless stories about entrepreneurs trying to outsmart the system through plans which they deem “sophisticated.” At the end of the day, personal finance remains pretty simple.
Latoya @ Life and a Budget saysApril 28, 2016 at 8:53 PM
Wow, I love this story! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to learn such great lessons of independence and financial wisdom from my grandparents, but this is my dream. It is my dream to e able to give my grandchildren a chance to experience this. I want to break the generational curse that exists in my family with our finances and provide something for my children and their children. This is the way retirement is supposed to be – sound enough to be self-sufficient and generous towards others.
Hero saysApril 29, 2016 at 8:16 AM
Thanks, Latoya. I am glad this story resonated with you. I was fortunate to have such a great relationship with Grandpa. I could probably start a separate blog or write a book about all of the lessons he taught me — I just may do that someday!
I sense hope and motivation in your writing. The desire to change your family tree is a powerful force!
Financial Slacker saysMay 1, 2016 at 1:45 PM
Unfortunately, I never got a chance to know any of my grandparents very well. They all passed away when I was young.
Maybe that’s why Ms. Financial Slacker and I have made such an effort to make sure our children get to spend as much quality time with their grandparents as possible. We actually moved to be closer to my parents when our kids were very young.
I think that generation can really help your kids see the world differently. It’s invaluable and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Tristan @ Dividendsdownunder saysMay 2, 2016 at 5:30 PM
Your grandparents sound like wonderful financial people and if you are trying to do what they did, you are on the right path.
I think you are completely right, $1M will not be enough. It is okay now, in 20/30/40 years $1m will not be worth anywhere near as much. To be average, we will need to earn more than the average person does now, from investment income. As that average income rises, so will the need for the investment income to do so.
Hero saysMay 3, 2016 at 1:54 PM
Thanks, Tristan. For being simple folks with limited education, my grandparents sure thrived on common sense. Grandpa never finished high school, but he had an incredible business sense.
Cathy @MonetizeMyMins saysMay 4, 2016 at 4:39 PM
I also see my magical retirement savings number as being fluid. At the moment, I have a lot of potential working years left, and I find it too difficult to pick a “safe” number as being the moment I can just stop working. With how things fluctuate over time (cost of living and the like), I will wait until I am very sure before I hand in my last time card even if I have successful passive income from elsewhere.
I would much rather err on the side of caution, save more than I need, and be able to share that with others than call it too early and find myself struggling in my final years.
Hero saysMay 4, 2016 at 9:43 PM
Very wise, Cathy. If you end up with too much money, that will be a great “problem” to deal with.
ZJ Thorne saysMay 29, 2016 at 10:22 PM
Those are precious memories. I’m glad his wealth was able to buy that time with you. Knowing that needs will change as the world changes, it feels foolish to settle on a number too early in life. Keeping my skills up will continue to be important.
Brian saysJune 2, 2016 at 3:09 PM
nice post. I think everyone has similar dreams of being able to retire with enough in the till. For me, I just want to be able to golf and travel a bit. I don’t mind working a part time job if I want to but only if I want to .
Its great you got to spend that time with your grandfather and for him to be able to teach an important life lesson to you. It seems to have made a lasting impact on you. Hopefully you will be able to reap the benefits and get to the place you want to be financially.
Jesse Harlan saysJune 4, 2016 at 7:27 AM
Very interesting. I don’t think a million is enough. I read a convincing post years ago that the $1M goal is a bit silly. Think about it: it is just a big round number. It doesn’t really represent a well thought-out strategy for financial freedom. You may need more or less than $1M to be financially free depending on your location and lifestyle. I explored some of this in my post: http://www.patientwealth.com/why-only-a-million/
Great site and welcome to the Yakezie challenge
[email protected] saysJune 9, 2016 at 11:18 AM
What a wonderful story. I often wonder about what my financial situation would be like if if there had been good money role models in my life. As for the future, I’m not sure anuo e would disagree with these goals. We too are taking this journey of life one step at a time. However, I do wonder whether escaping too early from full-time employment will effect our ability to give back to others . . . definitely something to keep in mind.
Hero saysJune 9, 2016 at 10:39 PM
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Harmony. When I think about reaching financial independence and walking away from full-time employment, I still envision myself working in some capacity. I also envision giving generously, both in terms of time and money. I think too many people (however, not you) discount the value of time spent in service of others.
Frugal Familia saysJuly 18, 2016 at 5:06 PM
It all depends on what your retirement dream consists of. I’ve done the math and for us $1M (excluding 401k) should be more than enough. You can actually have a pretty enjoyable retirement in many places outside the US for under 2k per month
Hero saysJuly 18, 2016 at 9:39 PM
Very true, Frugal Familia. $2,000 per month is a pretty good standard of living for a retiree where I grew up. Here in the Chicago area? Not so much, unfortunately.
Frugal Familia saysJuly 24, 2016 at 10:33 AM
Ahh a fellow Chicagoan. I too am stuck in this corrupt state we call Illinois. I don’t know about you but I’m counting the days until we are able to pick up and leave!
Hero saysJuly 24, 2016 at 1:27 PM
I would certainly love to leave if I could, but I don’t see an exit for us any time in the near future.
Diligent Dividend saysSeptember 24, 2016 at 6:02 AM
One thing that always stands out to me is that yes a million dollars is a good goal to us now but look at inflation. Hopefully your income grows as the years go by along with inflation rates. If we assume that then if you are already diligent witj your savins then you should be able to add extra capitsl into your retirment account every year. The mountqun looks high now but the closer yoi climb to the top the easier it becomes. Also eith the 4% withdrawl rule,just invest ij dividend paying companies so you never have to deolete your capital. Also, if yoir job fosnt give you a raise every year you should find a new company to work for 😉
Hero saysSeptember 25, 2016 at 8:24 PM
Good points all around, DD. Thanks for stopping by!
ASAPRetire saysDecember 18, 2016 at 10:58 AM
Way to go man¡ dream big! Dream with your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds! That,s my philosophy. I agree with you and share the main goal and values. Humble, proud and close to your loved ones. Thanks for sharing, it,s nice to see people out there trying to get out of this nonsense of rat race as well. Keep on dreaming!
Hero saysDecember 26, 2016 at 4:17 PM
Life without dreams wouldn’t be worth living, right? 🙂