Thursday, March 13, 2008

Life Tracker

I'm in Boise with some time so let me elaborate on "Life Tracker". It started as a financial effort so most of my post will deal with that aspect, but it's grown over time to encompass more of what I want to do.

I could go on a long time here about how I came up with my "life tracker", but my comfort isn't likely to be generally applicable as I am a math/engineering geek and I love excel more than I should. My recommended reading "Smart Couples Finish Rich" is the best resource I've found for couples who plan on retiring together because it brings up conversations shockingly many couples do not have about long term financial wants and needs.

But most the concepts apply to individuals. A few items general items I've found:

1) Just to live my current lifestyle in retirement, I will need almost $2 million in a "retirement fund". This should provide an income of approx $150K and growth to cover inflation during an anticipated 30+ year retirement. $150K sounds like a lot for retirement income, but think 20 years ago... when I was 20, I thought I'd live comfortably my entire life if I could make $35K per year. Costs of living will likely double again in 20 years. So $150K then will be more like $75K now. That money is just to live the day-to-day lifestyle we have now.

2) Anything I get from Social Security I will view as a bonus. By that age, I fully expect Social Security to be means-tested out of my ability to access it. I think anyone 40 and under should expect massive changes to current policy.

3) "Dreams" -- Dreams don't come true without planning. And you can't plan for dreams to come true unless you sit down, realistically plan what those dreams will cost, then fund them. BTW, it is a HUGE help for immediate budgeting to say "we'll eat in and save" when a dream is attached to the savings account. Nicol and I want to spend winters in Hawaii (or similar warm spot) during retirement -- particularly in early retirement when hopefully health issues aren't paramount. I want to fly as part of the Civil Air Patrol and for humanitarian aid. We've talked about doing work with education during those times we are in the "warm place" for the winter. Those examples require a "dream fund" capable of funding them.

4) After listing my Needs and Wants, and finding how much I will need when, it's a simple matter of plugging numbers into a spreadsheet and seeing if I'm saving enough for each item. My models include each want listed in the rows, years in the columns, and each year I can see if I'm on track, behind, or ahead.

5) Single point of reference. Finances are complicated. We should maintain an emergency fund of 3-6 months income, life insurance, education fund, retirement money, dream money, "good cause" money, etc. Without one place to keep it sorted out and a place to state objectives and plans, it becomes very confusing to manage. For example, many people dump some money into a 401(k) each month but don't manage or watch it or have much idea if that money will end up doing what they want.

6) I use this same format now for time... or at least I'm trying to. Time needs to be allocated with family, work, church, recreation, friends, exercise etc.... I'm finding though, unlike money, that time is much more difficult to allocate in planned blocks at least for me. I have a harder time as family or church or work will dominate for a while, then another will. Stress sometimes causes me to retreat to "recreation" more than I probably should -- but I have to deal with the stress constructively.

My program is helping here, but I'm not nearly as experienced with that yet. But it seems the same principles apply. Anything you want to BE needs to have time allocated to it or it WON'T happen.

Now that was one wail of a Mike Brady Moment.


Stephanie F. said...

Thanks for posting this Darren. Impressive. Maybe one day I'll get motivated enough to figure out my life :)

Heidi Irene said...

Wow, Darren, that is so awesome. I bet you spoil your kids as much as mom and dad spoil us! Spoil on daddy worbux! : )

Heidi Irene said...

Haven't posted in a while Darren!? Lets hear some more big brother, great knowledge! Or is that great, big bother knowledge...