Feed the Beast!

Feed The Beast

Feed the Beast!

Hello folks! As always, I appreciate you stopping by. Happy Halloween! What a great holiday and I hope you are all in the spirit. Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while now. And that is how important it is to feed the beast…because one day it will feed you! And what better day to talk about feeding beasts than today, Halloween!

Why has feeding the beast been on my mind? It’s my motivation to keep working hard, earning a good salary, and saving/investing diligently. I need to keep feeding the beast because it isn’t big enough to feed me yet. But one day it will be, and that will be a glorious day!

What exactly am I talking about? Your investments! Feed them by working harder and smarter, by living the frugal life, and growing your beast by investing to win. As you take your hard earned money and give it to the beast, the beast will eventually pay you in kind for the rest of your life with investment income.

By feeding the beast over and over again, month after month and year after year, you are paying it forward and giving yourself the gift of a beast the day you decide to retire. No doubt it is hard work and it takes a lot of time to feed a growing beast, but when the day comes where it is ready to go out and earn you a living all by itself…you’ll never regret it!

The Power of a Beast

Your beast can be as big as you desire to make it and as powerful as you want it as well. By that I mean you can wait to retire until you have a ginormous fail-safe beast that will last not only your lifetime, but  your kids’ lifetime as well. Or you could shoot for the bare minimum sized beast that will provide you for your lifetime with the goal that your last check bounces the day you die.

Further, you could choose to invest your beast in a multitude of ways, from the fail-safe government securities that earn you next to nothing, or you could choose to invest it more aggressively in the stock market.

That is a discussion for another day, but regardless, once big enough, your beast will have the power to grow by leaps and bounds while allowing you to withdraw from it to cover your annual expenses. That, my friend, is the power of the beast. And if you grow your beast big enough, it can be very, very powerful! Truly amazing, let me tell ya! So now we just need to decide what kind of a beast you need…

What Kind of Beast?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to beasts. Many folks within the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) crowd consider 33 times annual expenses to be a safe number for your investment portfolio to allow for a comfortable retirement. We’ll use that as our proxy in determining what kind of beast is most appropriate for you.

Dire Wolf

Feed The Beast
Dire Wolf courtesy of Emaze

The Dire Wolf is one of the most famous prehistoric carnivores that roamed North America about 10,000 years ago. It was a fierce competitor and a pack-hunter that weighed about 150 lbs, or slightly larger than many of the modern era wolves.

For retirement accounts, I’d compare the Dire Wolf to a million dollar portfolio. A million dollars is a lot, no doubt about it, and it will get the job done for an early retiree. It’s dependable and pays the bills. But you can only rely on the Dire Wolf so much, and you can expect a million dollar portfolio to comfortably provide for a lifestyle of ~$30,000 per year. If your home is paid off completely, don’t have kids that rely on you and are willing to live the frugal lifestyle indefinitely, then the Dire Wolf may suit your needs.

But being a pack-hunter, the Dire Wolf may require your assistance to feed the family…meaning you may need to be flexible and willing to go back to work if the need arises.

Smilodon (Saber Toothed Tiger)

Feed The Beast
Smilodon courtesy of Mauricio Anton’s Pinterest

The Smilodon is the largest saber toothed tiger and was one of the primary competitors to the Dire Wolf in North America. It’s about 5 feet long and weighed up to 220 lbs. The Smilodon is a freak, plain and simple, and was adapted for precision killing.

For retirement purposes, the Smilodon is going to get the job done with no issues and provide for a comfortable and long-lived retirement. I’d equate the Smilodon to a $3 million dollar portfolio, practically bullet-proof. You could expect this to kick-off approximately $90k year after year for as long as you live, and likely have plenty left over for an inheritance.  $90K buys a lot and you could certainly expand from your frugal lifestyle today. It could help pay for a second home, it could allow for lavish gifts to friends and families for weddings, graduations, birthdays, etc., and provide for significant amount of world travel or other forms of entertainment for you and your loved ones.

Similar to how the Smilodon was a solitary hunter, in all likelihood you wouldn’t be called upon ever again to feed the family. The Smilodon will take care of you with no help needed.

Woolly Mammoth

Feed The Beast
Woolly Mammoth courtesy of Royal BC Museum

The Woolly Mammoth is a beast among beasts. They can grow up to 12 feet tall and weigh over 6 tons! Similar to the Dire Wolf and Smilodon, the Woolly Mammoth was most recently known to roam North America about 10,000 years ago.

In relation to retirement accounts, the wide moat of the Woolly Mammoth parallels the wide economic moat of a $10 million dollar investment portfolio. This size of this portfolio will provide for a lavish lifestyle and should sufficiently allow for $300K in annual expenses. Now that is beastly! While the Woolly Mammoth prefers to browse and graze endlessly, the Woolly Mammoth retirement account will likewise allow you to browse and graze the world endlessly.

My Beast

Personally, I’ve been feeding a Smilodon. When deciding my target beast there were a lot of pros and cons to weigh. Not least of which is the length of time to grow a Smilodon as well as the added comfort it would provide in retirement. To me, while I recognize the Dire Wolf provides a comfortable lifestyle and would allow me to retire early, I’ve chosen the Smilodon for a number of reasons including: (1) the second and third million are easier to achieve than the first since that is when compounding really kicks in, (2) while it has taken me almost 10 years to reach Dire Wolf status, I only estimate it to take an incremental 7-8 years to feed a Smilodon, and (3) my wife and I still have a very young and growing family to provide for so extra cushion is preferable.

While I expect it to take me a total of approximately 17 years to grow my Smilodon to a $3 million dollar portfolio (since graduating from college), I recognize the additional length of time to feed a Woolly Mammoth to a $10 million dollar portfolio would take an incremental 12 years of hard work and hustle. So while I find it worth the sacrifice to reach Smilodon status, conversely, an extra 12 years to reach Woolly Mammoth status is just too much sacrifice and not worth the extra gain. I would miss too much time with my friends and family (my kids, parents, siblings, etc) and too many opportunities to live the life I want.

Your Beast

So now I’ll throw it out to you folks. If you aren’t too shy to share, what beast are you feeding? Is it the Dire Wolf, Smilodon, Woolly Mammoth, or something entirely different. Perhaps a Megalodon? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and get yourself a beast!

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier and Find Your Beach


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  1. I’m going for the mammoth! Why not. I’m still reasonably young in the grand scheme of things, have no other real commitments currently and still have a bunch of motivation.

    Maybe one day my motivation will run out or my priorities will change, but until then I’m going for it!

  2. We are definitely feeding a Smilodon. Kids and other things mean a slightly less flexible life to adapt to dire wolf status. I.e. We can’t put off say kids glass if needed because we are in a recession. Still respect those going as a dire wolf though, something about living in a trailer of some type touring he is without a financial care does appeal to me in my soul.

  3. We will be cortunate to have a small but not insignificant pension from Mr PIE’s company which we will take as an annuity. Beyond that income floor, we are shooting to have 50x the remaining expenses covered with our nest egg. We just don’t believe real returns will be anything like what we have seen over the last couple of decades thus we are planning very conservatively. We’ll of course be delighted if we are wrong!

    1. Safety first, I totally get it. I’m conservative by nature as well so I’ll definitely be planning for significant cushion. Thanks for sharing, Mr Pie!

  4. Ha, excellent tie to Halloween. 🙂

    My beast is probably equivalent to a little mouse right now, since we’re still digging ourselves out of debt. But in 5 years we should be debt-free (including our mortgage!) and then we’ll spend the next 5 years investing heavily. Hopefully at that point we’ll have a mega-giant-wooly mammoth. 🙂

    1. We all have to start somewhere. Pretty soon that mouse will have the roar of a smilodon! That’s great you have the snowball rolling, keep up the good work, Mrs Picky Pincher!

  5. I would say I’m aiming for somewhere between Dire Wolf and Smilodon. Since our kids will be heading off to college (or military, as one seems to be looking at that option), we are up in the air as far as where we’ll be in the next 6-8 years as far as living situation and helping our kids. I’d be content with Dire Wolf, but would like to aim more toward Smilodon as a cushion.

  6. Smilodon it is. Thanks for putting a name on it! I never actually named the ERN family stash. Except for “ERN family stash”
    Going much above the Smilodon, the benefits shrink quite substantially. There is the tax situation. You can generate close to $100k in income and pay zero federal taxes (ordinary income below the standard deduction plus exemptions, dividends and capital gains in the first two brackets). After that, some nasty marginal taxes kick in: 25% for ordinary and 15% for capital income.
    Besides, there isn’t all that much gain in happiness when you go above 100k in the annual budget. So 100k times 30 = $3m. That’s the sweet spot!

    1. That’s great, ERN! And very good points about the diminishing returns beyond smilodon status, I hadn’t thought of that in particular. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Interesting. I guess we’re Super Dire Wolves, supplementing the portfolio with a real estate rental business (which is a job, albeit a flexible one) and a couple of other sides. We’re comfortable enough and have put enough money aside for a big chunk of Little Bit’s college (grad school’s on her, though.) We’re okay with frugal.

  8. Fun analogy! We are still working on the Dire Wolf, but I’m not sure where we’ll end up. We have very low expenses, but I’m not sure what that’ll look like as our kids grow, and into old age, so we’ll see what we’re comfortable with when we get closer. Great point about the power of compound interest really kicking in after reaching that critical mass of the first beast!

    1. Thanks, Kalie! It can be tough estimating what exactly you’ll need so far in advance so I understand the wait and see approach. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Great analogies!

    I would say right now I’m probably working towards the Smilodon. I’m relatively young with no responsibilities right now (single and no kids), so once I do get hitched and have kids and college to pay–at that point, I might have to shoot for the mammoth!

  10. Whoa JW, by feeding the beast too much, they might grow too big to bite the hand that feeds them..

    (Terrible) jokes aside, Mammoth would be my goal but I don’t think that I will be able to reach it. I’m shooting for somewhere in the $5m by the time I retire and even then, I feel like it’s such a massive goal to get there. I’m making consistent contributions to my 401k (which I won’t have to contribute so much of my paycheck into after this year) and hoping that I can fund a little to my after-tax brokerage accounts. Slow and steady but I’m confident I can reach the Dire Wolf status!

    1. Haha good point, FS.

      Yup, slow and steady is the name of the game! Curious, why won’t you be contributing to your 401k much after this year?

      Keep up the good work! Thanks for sharing.

      1. Ah, when I say I won’t be contributing much, I meant the percentage of my paycheck that I will be contributing to my 401k will go down. I will still max it out every year, without fail!

  11. Great article, I like the beast analogy; makes it more enjoyable. The good thing about the beasts is that after a few years of feeding you will realise that they also find their own snacks and start growing exponentially.
    If I take my planned portfolio by the time of FIRE status, I’m aiming for a Dire Wolf, but if it’s about net worth, that’s somewhere between a Dire Wolf and a Smilodon. Maybe two Dire Wolves. Who knows, one day they might even have puppies 🙂

  12. I like the comparisons. For the longest time I thought the “Dire Wolf” was actually the Wooly Mammoth. It’s not until you actually start thinking about actual retirement expenses that you realize $1 million isn’t that much. So far, we are only in the “Dire Wolf” phase.

    1. Haha! It can be tough to measure the value of pensions but they can pack a punch. I wouldn’t underestimate it. By the time retirement comes you may have a nice beast too!

      Thanks for the comment, Penny!

  13. You know, this really got me thinking. I don’t really know what beast I’m trying to feed! I think my problem is I have no idea what my expenses will look like when I have kids. I could totally live on direwolf status if it was just me, but if I’ve got mouths to feed, I better play it safe and go for the smiledon status!

    1. I feel the same way as you. There are a few considerations that make me want to have more cushion. I think the smilodon will be sufficient. Thanks for sharing, Panther!

  14. We’ve got a Dingo right now – not nearly as big as a Dire Wolf, but still impressive and strong. Heading for Smilodon, although with a 4% SWR and some ongoing choices to keep a little income occuring the actual number is less, perhaps one of the smaller Sabre-Tooth Tiger breeds instead.

  15. Currently I’m in the process of growing a dire wolf. It looks more like a fox at the moment though!
    With time and a lot of hard work it will grow. If and when the wife starts feeding the beast it may grow even quicker.

  16. So first, how the heck do you have time for your day job with all of the research and time you put into your writing?! (rhetorical question)

    Smilodon for me. What’s the point of retiring early if you don’t have enough money to enjoy it? $3 million gives you a very comfortable lifestyle once the kids are gone and the house is paid off. I got a late start on trying to “get out early”, so it’s still a little ways for me.

    Great post by the way – I love the analogy!

    1. Haha, I enjoy writing posts like that. Work gets busy occasionally and unpredictably, so I’ve always tried to have a backlog. Not always easy though, I must admit!

      Totally agree about the Smilodon, a comfortable lifestyle and shouldn’t have to worry about money.

      Thanks so much, Jon!

  17. I am going for dire wolf, then make a career change to something I really love and slowly grow a Smilodon. Our dire wolf pup is almost full grown now :-). I am assuming 4% withdrawal rate vs. 3.3%, so maybe I am being a bit too aggressive there…

    1. Hi Derek, thanks for the comment! I think that’s a great plan and I’ve considered doing that too if I couldn’t take my current job anymore. So far so good though, so I plan on holding onto it for now.

      I’m more in the camp of 3 – 3.5% myself, especially given a really long retirement time horizon which I plan to have (50+ years…). I want to have some cushion and room for error.

  18. I like this notion of “Feed The Beast!”

    I think about things in this way as well. I get excited about investing more and more into building my rental property portfolio. Every month when I put money away into my savings account, I get excited because I can’t wait until I have enough to buy another property!

    My goal is to accumulate at least 100 apartment units in 10 years or less, which will cash flow $10,000+ per month and allow me to completely quit my job and be totally financially free. Feed the beast!

    1. Wow, what a great plan. Thanks for sharing and best of luck. That will certainly be quite a large RE portfolio…sounds like Smilodon size!

      Feed the BEAST! Thanks, YFM.

  19. I’ll probably be somewhere between the Dire Wolf and Smilodon. I don’t need too much to be happy and our expenses are pretty low at this point in time. But it would be nice to reach Mammoth status if the effort level wasn’t so great 🙂

  20. Most important takeaway from this post for me: I learned that the dire wolf was a real thing and not just an invention of George R.R. Martin. And now that I know it is, it’s neat to know that’s also my approximate FI goal!

    1. How about that!? And I’m learning something new today too… I’m just putting together that those were dire wolves in Game of Thrones! I completely forgot about that. Thanks, Vigilante!

  21. Cool metaphor! We can live with a Dire Wolf, but likely will aim for in between that and Smilodon, supplementing with side hustles once retired. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out!

    1. Thanks, Mrs COD! That’s a great plan. We may ultimately decide to have a few small side hustles too just to bring in some income. But we too have time to figure that out.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  22. Nicely done, Green Swan.

    We’ve got similar ideas, and similar salaries. I used to think I’d work until a more typical retirement age, with a high likelihood of having amassed an 8-figure portfolio.

    Then I realized I didn’t need to feed that beast. What would I do with $10 million that I can’t do with $3 million? I couldn’t come up with anything, so I’m choosing to feed the Smilodon, and will be Smiling every day with the early freedom the fantastic beast gives me.


    1. Yes I’ve noticed the similarities as well!

      I remember when I was a young banker out of college reviewing someone’s net worth of over $10 million and thinking how awesome that would be. Now that I’m older and have a better perspective I realize that’s a bit unnecessary for me. Instead I’ll keep on smiling with my Smilodon in early retirement!

      Thanks for the comment, PoF!

  23. My calculations show I need about 2/3 of the wolf, or maybe the dingo example given above. I’m shooting for $600k and up, which more than covers my spending, and by then my house will be paid off too.

  24. Interesting post JW. I am feeling the Smilodon and happy to feed it. Yes, some volatile days come and go (who was that golden-haired guy who people are saying won some election? Never mind…my Smilodon is calling me to feed!). The Mammoth sounds nice, but not worth the heartache and stress in its pursuit – beyond my hunting range!

    1. No marketing experience here… It was one of my worse classes in college too!

      The mammoth pet is tough to find and tougher to feed until fully grown! Best odd luck! 🙂

  25. Yeah. It’s more like throwing a ball to a wall and the ball being bounced back to you. If you throw (feed it with) a big ball, you equally get a big ball being bounced back to you. If you throw (feed it with) a small ball, you get in return, a small ball bounced back to you.

  26. I like the sounds of Smilodon, $90,000 is quite comfortable here in the midwest and more than we live on (after tax) now! Getting to $3,000,000 could be a tough go… however, with 2 rental properties that will bring in $30,000/year in 3.5 more years, I “only” need $2,000,000 to fund the $60,000 balance.

    Hmm… Perhaps more real estate is in order.

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