I May NEVER Retire!

from Jeremy

As I sit here drinking homemade Sangria while downing a delicious dessert of fresh Pineapple and Mango, I'm watching Swingers for the (honestly I have no idea what #'rd time). I'm in a good place. Not because I have the night to spend goofing off because Jan and Joshua are at Grandma's house, but rather because I am confident in the future of my family and my own future as well. I'm confident for my family because I know that if anything happens to me, to Jan, or to both of us, my family is financially secure and well prepared. If nothing happens to us, and we're all able to live out our lives to their full extent, I have a great plan for the future. What's awesome about it is not just that it's doable, fun, and gives back to the world, but even better, Jan wants to do it with me. 

First, my family is set. This makes me really happy. I went through the numbers today for our insurance, retirement savings, social security expectations, and needs, and realized we're in a far better position than I had anticipated earlier in the year. Even with the adoption of a second child, we could choose to call it quits right now and walk away from my day job. I love that! Beyond that, though, if anything happened to me, my wife, or both of us, our kids would be all set for the future. This made me feel fantastic 

Here's a little math to show you what I'm talking about: 

If I die tonight (let's assume I won't) Jan and the kids would get at least $4,500 a month from Social Security. Add this to the $800K they'd get from my personal and work life insurance policies and the $460K we've got in savings, and you come out to $1.2M (at 4% withdrawal is $48K a year = $4K a month) is $8.5K a month. Considering they'd have practically no taxes, they'd have far more money every month than they need to live, even if they choose to stay in the DC area. They could pull out a few bucks in the out years for college, weddings, unforeseen expenses, and all three of them would be fine in the long-term. 

Without getting into detail because it makes me uncomfortable to talk about it, we'd be fine if I am the survivor. 

Now, if the kids are orphaned (which doesn't make me as uncomfortable, but it's still not pleasant to consider) we have prepared to have close family raise them. They would be very well off indeed from there just from insurance alone, not to mention Social Security coverage. Again, I won't go into too many details, but the life insurance alone would be far more than they'd ever need. (Maybe we should consider reducing our life insurance policies a bit?) 

So, my family is covered if anything happens to either or both of the parents. 

Now, if for some reason I have to go on Disability, we're well covered too. My company has a very generous Long-term Disability policy. Considering my back problems, this may come up in the future as a necessary choice, at least in the short-term. In this scenario I'd get 60% of my salary and a cost of living adjustment each year for ten years with continued company contributions to my retirement. That would provide our family of four with plenty, particularly if we spend at least a few of those years learning through slow travel. 

Yet, if I can maintain, or even better advance, my health, an even more inspiring option is on the table. Over the past week I've been introduced to an opportunity for the future I didn't even realize existed. If my body holds up, I could end up going through a good chunk of my later years totally engrossed in writing and giving back to the world in an incredibly compelling way. As I was walking away from a work meeting I found myself in downtown DC near the Washington Monument. At the foot of the monument Medecins San Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders aka MSF) had set up a mock refugee camp in which they were giving tours to allow folks to get a brief glimpse of life as a refugee. I've been a supporter of MSF since the mid-1990's and wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to talk with these good folks. I found the tour compelling. It reminded me of why I got into international relations in the first place. I've always looked at MSF with a little bit of longing. I am not a medically trained person and have never quite figured out how to help them in their good work. 

At the end of the tour I had the opportunity to talk to the guide. I asked her how someone without medical expertise could work for MSF. She was delighted to tell me she had no medical expertise, but she could manage, track, and plan for money. As you folks may know, I like to do the same kind of stuff.  They also have opportunities for people to work logistics and long-term planning. I love that kind of stuff too! Thus, MSF opened up as an opportunity for me. They pay a living stipend when you're on a mission in country, and if you do well they are willing to send you wherever they need support.  

I came away from this conversation enthused about my future, and how I could give back. I can see Jan and I volunteering (Jan doing practical stuff, me doing money stuff) for MSF for 6 months to a year at a time in difficult, but personally inspiring environments followed by 6 months house sitting somewhere for a break. A few of these missions and breaks and we'll have helped, worked, and enjoyed 5, 10, 15 etc. years of our post kid lifestyle. I cannot think of a more compelling way to spend the post kid years of my life. I get to help people suffering from man-made and natural disasters while spending quality time with my wife, not depleting my retirement savings, and living in places I may never have otherwise visited. How Awesome is that!!! 

Therefore, I really only need to plan for the time between now and when the kids head off on their own around 18. Yes, they may take longer, or choose paths which keep them with us for a while, and obviously all great plans die when confronted with reality, but I'll adjust. You figure, we'll be adopting a 2.5 year old, which means there are 15.5 years until she's 18. I'm not in a hurry for that time to go by. What I am excited about is, I can make 15.5 years with my kids mean a great deal without depleting my savings.  

Say I leave my current job in August and we head off to live in Spain, Singapore, or Vietnam for a year or two as I focus on raising and teaching my kids and my writing. I could make that work for up to 15.5 years. We may come back to the US to live, particularly for high school for the kids, but that'd be fine. Overall, I could get at least 10 good years in focusing on them, on us as a family, on my creative work, and on teaching them about the world beyond our borders. 

When we come back for high school we could come back to the DC area, head to Chicago, go wherever we want in the US. We would be free to simply make our living in whatever environment most suited us as a family.  

Yes, stuff will happen to change this plan. It's not really a plan anyway, so much as an available path if we choose to take it. What it says to me is I'm already free. I may never "Retire", but my freedom has already begun. Everything I do from here forward is because I'm choosing to do it. My family is covered. I'm covered. Most importantly, my future will include me helping those in need while I explore so much more the world has to offer. 

Maybe I'm a little happy from the wine, the mango, the feeling I get from watching Swingers. Or, just maybe, I'm thrilled with the life I lead and how it is unfolding before me. Either way, it's been a good day and I want to share it with you. 

How lucky are we to live in such a time? 

How lucky are you to be able to choose how you live your life? 

How are you choosing to use your freedom? 

What am I missing?