The illusion of trying to calculate your retirement

Question

Over the past few years, I’ve become slightly obsessed with trying to calculate our retirement. It started with a simple question:

Can we retire with our current assets and, if not, how much would we need to invest each month to retire with R20 000 per month at age 55?

It seemed like a straight forward question that could be answered with a simple calculator in Google Sheets, so I slowly started to build one.

Here’s what it looks like:

Screenshot of our retirement plan in Google Sheets

Answer

After spending 100’s of hours building this calculator and trying to live frugal, I’ve come to a simple realisation:

Calculating retirement is rarely straightforward and never binary.

Quite profound, right?

The great illusion

But reflecting on my life, I realised something else.

A lifestyle of control by living frugal and trying to calculate retirement might be an illusion.

About a decade ago, I bought a domain name to start blogging. If I pinched the pennies to save them instead of spending it on a domain name and website, I might never have written a blog post about improving WhatsApp, never gotten noticed by the right people and perhaps never had the career opportunities I had.

Who knows?

Compounding moments

Now, life is full of these moments. I call them compounding moments - they’re small but, like money, compound over time.

Here’s another example that will put it in perspective. If Steve Jobs never dropped out, he would never have dropped into the calligraphy class, and personal computers might never have looked the way they do today.

Who could’ve calculated that?

Connecting the dots

Clearly the impact of these compounding moments is close to impossible to calculate.

We can build crazy calculators and run the numbers as much as we want to, but life has shown that trusting your “gut”, might just deliver a higher return. Not only for yourself but also for the people around you and the generations to come…

• • •

Photo by Huy Phan

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