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Ask Sherry: This is my retirement number and all my money mistakes

You asked, and I am answering every Friday once I have enough questions!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1DKFg6SD0Kmb_0U5yb4OTNfkvfmsf5dWxJJbZTzUtH7M/edit

You can ask any question using the form here.

Do you think you’ve done any financial mistakes in life so far?

I have made so many money mistakes that I actually re-live them in my head ever so often when I get down in the dumps.

If only I…” crops up a lot during times of stress and when I am unable to sleep at night.

Not all are major, but there are some doozies, most notably these two:

C’est la vie.

I try very hard not to look backwards but in times of stress I think I caused all of it to myself and berate myself mercilessly.

Then there are minor mistakes like..


  • not reading the date on a statement once and paying it on the wrong day (LATE!)
  • not entering the right number in a tax form and #%(#&%ing everything up to the tune of a $2000 fine
  • paying stupid fees (e.g. insufficient fund fee because I chose the WRONG account to take money out of)
  • transferring money from an account to my RRSP and over-contributing by accident (I meant to put it in my son’s RESP) but the numbers are almost identical
  • over-contributing on my TFSA & RRSP – now I just wait for the Notice of Assessment and stick to it

..you know. Dumb crap.

Is there anything financially related that you wish you’ve done differently?

How much time you got?

Just kidding. I’d say these are the 5 main things:

  1. Started budgeting & learning about my money when I started working (these are all the jobs/businesses I’ve had since age 7)
  2. Done a tax return the year I started working at age 7 and started contributing to my RRSP
  3. Learned about investing my money earlier (finally wrote a simple how-to book on investing and the tool that goes along with it)
  4. Spent/spend less on consumer goods — I am STILL battling this, and it was only after having my son & being out of work because of travel that has finally made this sink in
  5. Monetized my blog earlier and sooner — Controversial perhaps, but with my income these days pushing $1200 USD a month (wrote a book on that too), I was a fool to say no to the money all those years

What would be, in your opinion, the financial mistakes that people should avoid making?

Simple. The same ones I made and still struggle not to make:

1. Live well within your means and aim to save 25% of your net income

As a freelancer this is tough, but anything can happen, trust me —  this is the scary side of freelancing.

2. Budget and track your expenses like a mofo

Hard numbers never lie and they’ll smack you right back into reality.

3. Learn to invest your money

Don’t stick it in a high-interest savings account, in bonds or any like-cash equivalents. You’re losing money every year to inflation. It’s SO EASY TO INVEST that I cry in pain when I hear people tell me it is in a savings account. I felt so sick I wrote a step-by-step screenshot manual on how to invest your money.

4. Don’t buy a house if you can’t put at least 20% down

(Super insane high prices in California and Toronto not withstanding)

You need to also be able to weather an uptick in mortgage interest rates on your budget, or better yet, buy it in cash as we did for peace of mind (I did the rent versus buy versus mortgage analysis here) unless your investments are guaranteed and making more than your mortgage interest rate.

Renting can be cheaper, and better and I even lived out of a hotel for years.

5. Negotiate & job hop if need be

Your hustle in this working world is to work hard & well, and constantly ask & get raises/bonuses at work; I got $30,000 extra in a job negotiation, do you think I’d get that money if I hadn’t hustled for it?

NO. The correct answer is NO.

6. Be careful who you choose as your partner

Choose for love, mais oui, but be sure you are both on the same money page and in it together. It can be very hard to be with someone who is an extreme saver or extreme spender, or just plain stubborn; this is even more important if you decide to have children together.

7. Don’t let your friends or family drag you down

They are great when it is a reciprocal relationship that is based on mutual respect, trust and love; it’s not so hot when they treat you like a bank, drink all your money and are lazy S.O.B.’s, and you gotta know when to cut the cord and move on.

This is how you say “No” to family members.

8. Savings are not only for spending on fun things

Savings are for emergencies like this one. I spent quite freely when I got out of my last contract because I thought I’d find work fairly fast in this hot environment, but that has not been the case, as a result, I scaled back dramatically on what I had been spending and actually sort of enjoy it now as evidenced by my Week of Money posts.

Hence why you need to budget and track your expenses like a mofo so you can adjust your lifestyle and stop from falling into a deep, debt-ridden abyss.

9. Learn basic money terms to be able to talk about it

Take this money quiz and start where you got the questions wrong.

10. Learn what life means to you

What kind of life do you want to live? Figure that out for yourself first, and then aim for that.

Me, I am now deep into my new reality and am more into minimalism than ever before. Having a kid does change things.

If you don’t want to live with less stuff, THEN DON’T.

But figure out what it is you want out of life – have 4 kids? travel more? retire early? eat more? (ding ding ding for me!) work less? … and figure out a budget so you can live like that.

What net worth do you intend to have, or hope to have, in retirement?

This is hard to answer but here is my minimum for just myself alone if I were to retire at 50:

$1.3 million

$1 million in cash after taxes (that’s $1.5 million before taxes) plus whatever my house is worth which means give or take, $1 million in cash, $300K in my home.

That is enough for about $33K a year for 30 years (rough, rough division) or $2750 a month in today’s dollars which is obviously a comfortable number to live on.

Keep in mind I am only in my early 30s, so if I retire early (WTF would I do? I have no idea)… I would need to save more money if I wanted to retire now.

I’d be 80 before the money runs out. 🙂

All that said.. I am aiming more for $2 million in liquid assets (after taxes which is a gross of $3 million to make), which isn’t out of reach if I learn how to rein in my Commander tendencies and be more of a Soldier at work and STFU.

If you lived and worked in Europe, what country (or countries) would be on your list of possible choices if language was no object? Or where else would you have liked to live and work?

To live AND work? Oh goodness.

You know, I can’t properly answer this without taking into account the culture of the people, the work culture, food culture, etc, and that would be something no one can discern unless they live there for at least 3 months to get a feel for the people and whether I’d fit in.

http://bit.ly/2nJ9YsP

Off the top of my head:

  • Spain – Barcelona was so nice
  • England – Although the money would have to be double what I make now for the cost of living compensation
  • France – Lyons because Paris seems to be a mess
  • Switzerland – Geneva seems like a nice city
  • Austria
  • The Netherlands – Amsterdam was very pretty

For other countries around the world, I really liked:

  • Hong Kong — the only drawback was pollution
  • Tokyo — So clean and polite, I think it may be my spirit city
  • Australia — I thought a few times about moving to Sydney
  • New Zealand — Ditto
  • U.S. — but only in California, if it weren’t for that dratted cost of living because the weather there is phenomenal not to mention shopping.

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question anonymously using the form here, and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on August 6, 2014

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2 Comments

  1. SarahN

    I think if you see England as expensive, you’d find Sydney expensive… I mean, other parts of Australia are certainly more affordable, having grown up in Brisbane. If nothing else, property prices and rentals included in Sydney are HIGH!

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I have no doubt. Esther of NZ Musings lives in New Zealand and her costs shock me. I’d say however that it would have to depend on my salary.

      Reply

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