The other day I was working in the yard, and I had a song pop into my head that I hadn’t heard in forever. After singing through a few verses of it, I got to thinking, “Yeah, that’s not a lot of money anymore. Or is it?”
If you haven’t guessed the song by now, it’s Bare Naked Ladies’ “If I had a million dollars.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4L3ls_6UYg
The lyrics are funny and whimsical, and if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a song musing about everything that they would do if they had a million dollars. There are some of the usual things you’d think of such as, “I’d buy you a house… Some furniture for your house… A K-car, a nice Reliant automobile… a monkey, haven’t you always wanted a monkey?” Then there are the “extravagant things” that would be bought such as; “I’d buy you a fur coat, but not a real fur coat that’s cruel… A tree fort for your yard… an exotic pet, like a llama or an emu… and my personal favorite, we wouldn’t have to walk to the store; now, we’d take a limousine ‘cause it costs more…” That got me thinking, if they bought everything on this list, how far would their million dollars get them vs how far would it get the SSC family?
How far would a million dollars go if you spent it like the song suggest? Well, let’s see.
For simplicities sake, we’ll assume this is a post-tax million dollars. Where we would like to retire a house can range from ~$160k upward. We’re looking in the $200-$250k range. Let’s say they want a nicer house (they are millionaires now) and go with a newer $300k home. Then you add in some new furniture, because you don’t want any shabby digs in your new house. I’ll stay conservative and say maybe $20k, for furnishing a whole house. That should cover most of a house if you’re not shopping at Ethan Allen. Now if we look at the K-car, let’s say this is a modern day Hyundai/Kia equivalent, and go for $20k for the car, with tax, title, license. We’re at $340k spent, but our main cost of living things are covered right? Now for the fun things! Llama is about $400-800 with about $20-$30/month costs not including vet trips. In the grand scheme of things, not too much there. A monkey is about $4000 – $8000 though! Holy cow, that’s way more than a llama, and it sounds like they have way higher maintenance costs too. A tree fort for the yard, can cost as much as a house. Since they want to “take a limousine ‘cause it costs more” they’re probably not going to DIY the tree fort. Those costs range from a couple thousand on up. One of our co-workers is looking at a $5k playset for their 1 year old. Let’s just say $5k. Back to the limousine, when I had to take a car to the airport due to company policy and safety, it was about $70 each way. Let’s say that would be the average limo cost to go to the store, that would be an extra $75 a week added to the grocery budget, or $3744/year. They’ve already spent almost half of their million dollars and they still need to buy fur coats, John Merrick’s remains, some art (a Picasso or Garfunkel), a green dress, but not a real green dress, that’s cruel. Yipe, that’s a lot of spending!!
Let’s see how the SSC family would use this. Our number for FIRE is essentially a million dollars. HOWEVER, this is a million dollars NOT including our 401k’s. Oh, tricky, tricky right? Well you see, because we have been building and growing our 401k’s for a while now, we see that as money that left to grow on its own should be able to afford us the lifestyle we have now. Pushing that aside, our ER/FFLC number is roughly 1 million dollars. Maybe this is still a lot of money, even 23 years after this song was first recorded.
This should cover a mortgage outright first of all. Yes, we have equity in our house and based on the growth around our current area, we are assuming we will at least be able to sell it at a break even for what we paid for it, fees included even though we will most likely get more for it. We like to play it conservative assume break even and not count on any home sale profit. We are now down to ~$800k left over from our “million dollars” for us to live off of until we get to age 60/62 and can start drawing off of our 401k’s. I am aware of the Roth ladder and other options to draw on them earlier, but again, I’d rather plan so we didn’t have to count on that. Looking at our budgeting we have been spending roughly $56k per year. This is with about $8500 per year assumed in health costs, and $1500 per year assumed in dental. These are just ball-parked based on what we could glean from the Government health care website market options.
Breaking our budget down and having a floating yearly spend based on how well the market is doing, the cFiresim calculators show a 98% chance of success with our plan and investments as they are now. That’s not too bad really. This is assuming a 4% Standard Withdrawal Rate (SWR), and 7% growth, along with 4% inflation. We’ve accounted for higher inflation in healthcare at the urging of Mrs. SSC’s parents. Having survived a bout with cancer, their costs have increased dramatically. We also have a 5% cushion built in, and will most likely have a year of cash as a safety net. Yes, yes, there are better ways we could probably have that cash as a liquid asset but for now, we’re thinking cash. This is all NOT taking into account any side income, part-time or full-time jobs we may pick up. Also, not accounting for any pensions or even social security, which seems to be probably another $1-$2k per month each. Also, we account for $12k/year for our personal fun money/allowance/sanity fund, whatever you want to call it. So if things got tough, we can automatically “cut” $12k of expenses just by not using allowance type money for our hobbies and stuff. Then our yearly spend would be ~$44k assuming nothing else changed.
There are times I review these numbers and think, “Why the hell are we still working?!” Then I remember, “Oh yeah, we still have a ways to go!” We currently can just buy a house…. Then we’d have no jobs, no security money, and we would be watching the clock like a hawk to tap into our 401k’s then wake up broke and sad at 75… Booo…. So, we stick to the plan. Remember though, most of our investments will get the glorious benefit of compound interest, so it isn’t as if we will be setting aside a full $1,000,000.00. No way, man! Let that grow and earn, and grow and earn, and grow. Please for the love of God, grow!
The point I’m trying to drive home, is that you could spend a million dollars like the Bare Naked Ladies suggest, and you’d be back to broke pretty quickly.
I’m fortunate that we are in a situation to be able to plan, save, and get towards our FIRE goal but it comes through diligence with spending and saving and staying on track. We could derail it at any point by getting back into the consumer mindset, but we stay the course. Why, you ask? Well, even though I love my job and get satisfaction out of it, I have other things I’d rather be doing with my life that would fulfill me more. Who reading this now doesn’t have at least 2 other things they would rather be doing than sitting in their office at work? Who would rather have free time to fully pursue their passions and not try to cram them in with a “Go, go, go, Lifestyle?” You’ll see one raised hand at this keyboard – if you could look through the screen that is. Although then that would be a little creepy… Hopefully, you get the point.
How would you spend a million dollars?
Would you spend it or just live of the interest or dividends it brought you each month?