Last year, at the age of 39, I started thinking about retirement. I always thought I’d work forever — my day job has been my passion project more often than it has been agonizing soul-sucking drudgery — but approaching the big 4-0 makes you think. Maybe one day, I’ll want to stop working. Maybe one day, I’ll have had enough. And when that day comes, oh God, I hope I’ll have enough.
So the other week, my wife and I discussed retirement with our Sun Life Financial Advisor, a.k.a. the guy we outsource our money smarts to (because we have none), and he told us exactly how much money we needed to save in the next 20 years to continue living our “current lifestyle” until we die. The answer was surprising: it was a number that was not easy to get to, but it was also a number that wasn’t impossible to get to either. In other words, it was totally do-able. Retirement solved?
Roughly the same time this was going on, my wife gave me some surprising news: we were going to have another baby. We had been talking about it for a while. We loved life with our two boys, and financially, we were pretty confident that we could handle the two of them. But a third? That would be a challenge. We would have to step up our game, take it to the next level, and you know… other sports analogies.
It wasn’t that we were unhappy with just two kids. It’s not that the incredible gifts we had weren’t enough. If anything, they were more than enough; they gave us more happiness than I ever thought was possible. But we wanted more.
I’ll admit, we’re a little greedy. I imagine having three kids to be much like hoarding all the happiness in the world. But having kids has also made me supremely optimistic. The world is a beautiful place, humanity is awesome, we’ll beat global warming and achieve world peace. Our little financial shortfall? Chicken. We’ll get over that too.
Then I got thinking. What if enough wasn’t enough? What if, say, I wanted more for my retirement? And you know what? I kind of do want more. I want a bigger house, a minivan for the new baby and the boys, a sports car for weekends, a better camera, a 120-inch TV, and hey, LV luggage would be nice too. Maybe our current lifestyle is just a start. Maybe one day I’ll want to retire in a house on a lake. In Italy. Beside George Clooney’s house. Maybe “current lifestyle” falls short. Maybe “enough” sucks. Maybe I’ll have to work at full throttle, overtime-all-the-time, 110%, Warp Factor 12, Turbo Boost, forever and ever.
What if, because of my greedy nature, enough just wasn’t enough? Would I choose to have more now at the risk of not having enough later on? Or would I stay the course and wistfully wish that “enough” had more in it? And, come to think of it, when is enough ever enough?
Worst realization yet: had I already made my choice? What was that creepy feeling treading on the back of my neck that felt like dread? With baby number three on its way, did we just damn ourselves to eternal slavery to our overlord offspring?
Then I got thinking some more. Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. Enough with the panic attack.
Yeah, sure, I’ll want more in life. Sometimes, I’ll go for more against my better judgment because I’m too greedy, too optimistic, or just too spoiled. The answer to the big question was easy: enough will never be enough.
I’m not worried anymore. Or scared. Or even mildly concerned. At least now I have a target to work towards. Now I know I have to build a pile of money one bill at a time, and I know how big that pile of money has to be. And I know I’ll continue to work for a long time, but at least now I can work smarter, towards some concrete goals. It won’t be easy. I have a lot of work ahead of me. That’s all part of the plan. And that will be enough.
Vince Sales is a self-confessed nerd and an avid fan of games, tech, movies, and photography. Catch him raving about his latest video game and what gadget he’s been tinkering at his own lair at Third World Nerd.