My Lavish Retirement Number

My Lavish Retirement Number

Hello folks! Hope you are having a good one! I wanted to spend a little time today contemplating a question I often think to myself and that is how much money I would need to retire lavishly? I have already gone to lengths thinking about our retirement lifestyle and how that would likely evolve over a multi-decade retirement lifespan.

However, the premise behind that post was retiring comfortably. The focus was more in terms of replicating our current comfortable lifestyle and estimating changes after major life events like when we become empty nesters, etc.

That’s all fine and dandy. I’m not a lavish person by nature. I fall into the category of being a frugal millionaire after all. But what if…

What If…

  • What if I do decide to chase the dream of owning a mansion house?
  • What if I do decide to buy a Tesla? (I’m such a Tesla fan-boy, but even more of an electric car fan-boy…it doesn’t need to be a Tesla but I do want my next car to be electric.)
  • What if I decide I want to take my two little boys and wife to the Super Bowl, college football national championship game, the Final Four and the NBA Finals just for the experience?
  • What if I decide to spend a summer slow-traveling?

You get the idea. I’m reminded of the book by James Collins and Jerry Porras titled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies in which the concept of “BHAG” was introduced. BHAG? Yes, BHAG…a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Adapting that to my personal life and how I envision retirement to be may be a hypothetical quandary, but it might be a helpful exercise in framing my retirement number.

Sometimes having a retirement number is nice, but it may not be the final answer. As I’ve discussed before, $3 million is my target retirement number. I could get by with less, but in order to maintain a nice comfortable lifestyle with reasonable assurances it will last for such a long retirement timespan, that is the retirement number baseline. That is my “fat-FIRE”, so to speak…

Retirement Number

Having a sense of that baseline is a great starting point, but let’s go a step further. And at this point I should give credit where credit is due. While this is a concept I often think about to myself, this post was also motivated by a question that Rob Berger recently discussed on his Dough Roller podcast.

Have you given him a listen? He’s great, by the way. I just stumbled across his podcast in early 2017 and am now a regular listener. And I think I’m safe to say he is a fellow $wanigan with interest in the FIRE movement as I was recently honored to be a guest on his podcast discussing my FIRE journey. Dough Roller episode #285!

The Financial Independence Range

Anyway, one of his listeners asked Rob how much money he thought he would need to retire comfortably and also the magic retirement number he would need to retire lavishly and allow him to do anything he wanted to do in life?

It is a great question and one that I think is probably on the minds of many folks in the personal finance / financial independence community.

Since I already have my baseline of $3 million, the question becomes what would it take to make my comfortable lifestyle lavish? An interesting thought experiment that really allows you to question what you value the most and would want to spend on endlessly and lavishly.

Where I draw the line though is unnecessarily throwing money at things; that’s just ridiculous and it defeats the point. For instance, yes having my own pool in the backyard would be nice, however in my view it would be completely unnecessary since we have a neighborhood pool we belong to as part of our homeowners association.

The Lavish Lifestyle

Where I would be willing to spend more on a lavish lifestyle is in a few discrete places.

The Home

We currently live in a very nice, comfortable 3,000 s.f. home in Charlotte. We are about 15 miles away from city center so it is relatively affordable. We have plenty of space for our family of four. While we will consider downsizing once we are empty nesters (in 18 years…) we would also consider a nicer, albeit smaller, home. So all in, it may be cost neutral.

If we were going to go the lavish route where money didn’t matter, I could see this expense doubling. That would mean not only the one-time investment in a nicer house, but also the real estate, insurance, and home maintenance annual expenses may double.

Assuming a 3.5% withdrawal rate to afford the incremental annual expense plus the incremental home value investment, my retirement number would need to be nearly $500K higher.

Kids Activities / Entertainment

If we were living lavishly, we’d most certainly spend more on kids’ activities and entertainment with the kids. For instance, I grew up golfing and loved it. While golfing as a hobby for me has fallen by the wayside over the years, I would enjoy picking it back up and getting the kids into it. Going from a comfortable lifestyle to a lavish life would include such things as a country club membership as opposed to just the occasional golf outing.

Similarly, I always loved going to college and professional sporting events growing up. If I were living a lavish lifestyle, I would consider getting season tickets to a team or two.

The golf membership may run $5K or more per year and same for a couple season ticket packages. Rounding up to an incremental $15K per year (beer is expensive inside the stadium…) and using the same 3.5% safe withdrawal rate assumption would mean I’d need roughly an incremental $430K in my retirement accounts.

Travel

Travel is another major category that we’d love to spend lavishly on. Granted it is a category that could be endless in terms of how much you can put into it. Not only in taking more trips more often, but a lavish lifestyle could also entail first class seats and 5-star hotels.

We wouldn’t go that far with it, but if we were going to spend lavishly we would certainly travel a little more luxuriously and with greater frequency.

Hard to gauge this bucket, but an incremental $10K budgeted to travel should do the trick. That would mean a couple more big trips per year. Of course that doesn’t factor in the reality of travel hacking which we’ve gotten fairly proficient at.

Suffice to say though that a lavish travel budget would mean our retirement number would need to be roughly $285K higher.

Fringe Spending

While our home, our entertainment, and our travel budget would increase quite significantly when factoring in a “lavish lifestyle”…requiring an aggregate increase to our retirement number of $1,215K in just these three categories alone…we would likely also vary our routine consumption patterns.

A broad brush stroke across such budget items such as food and dining (it would be great if a vegan restaurant opened up nearby…), personal care expenses (Lucy wouldn’t mind regular mani / pedis…) and other miscellaneous items would also become staples of a lavish retirement.

How much would that run me annually? Tough to say, but would $5K seem sufficient? Maybe $10K? Let’s go with $10K just to be safe. Dividing by 3.5% means we’d need another $285K in our retirement accounts.

The Lavish Lifestyle

Going back to the question at hand…what would it take to make my comfortable lifestyle lavish…my answer is another $1.5 million, or a 50% increase over my comfortable retirement lifestyle baseline of $3 million. Such an even number is purely a coincidence, but it seems fair.

Breaking this down a bit further, based on my expected investment returns and ongoing contributions to retirement accounts, the question is how much longer would it take to work to save up that extra $1.5 million? Taking a rough swag at it, for me it would mean an additional 3 to 3.5 years of working.

Is the tradeoff of time for money worth the lavish lifestyle? Maybe. Now that I have a BHAG number in mind to shoot for, it is something worth considering.

At the very least though, the exercise of running this hypothetical quandary has certainly helped frame up my retirement number better. My ideal retirement range is now $3 to $4.5 million…anything over that would just be gravy (or extra gravy…?) 🙂

Questions for You

What turns your comfortable retirement lifestyle to lavish? Any idea how much that would cost? Are a few more years working worth it to you? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

Save

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail
share on:

26 Comments

  1. Love this post – definitely think this is a thought experiment all of us FIRE members should think through. It shows the different in the retirement number you need and also puts in better perspective what is important to you in life!

    Thanks for sharing JW!

    1. Yeah I totally agree. Not everyone’s retirement priorities are the same, but going through the thought experiment to value those “retirement amenities” can be helpful and also then what that would mean in terms of additional work years. Thanks for stopping by Chris!

  2. Very interesting! We have so many variables in play at the moment so we don’t even have our basic-FI number nailed down… but I like the idea of calculating all FI numbers (lean to fat) to see the range and find out what might be worth considering.

    1. Everything is a “give and take”. What are you sacrificing and what are you gaining? A very tough question to ask and analyze, not only in the moment in time, but also over your entire retirement lifespan. That’s why I will error on the side of caution and prefer to retire with too much than risk it with potentially not enough. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I have the opposite problem — I have the finances to be lavish, but really can’t think of anything I’d like to spend them on. I’m happy as I am…

    1. What a great scenario and I hope I am in the same boat when the time comes. But it begs the question, do you wish you would have retired any sooner if you know you have more than enough? Thanks for sharing, ESI!

  4. We are like esi money. I’d have a hard time becoming too much more lavish as I have most of what I want already. I might do a bit more travel but honestly a reduction in work costs probably covers that. I guess we’re just not imaginative enough.

    1. Yeah there are a couple wildcards in there for us, but I can’t really envision an ultra-lavish retirement for myself. Part of the exercise is to poke and prod just to test myself on how truly comfortable I am with an early retirement.

  5. I’ve looked at this even in bumping up our spending level from say ~$55k/yr where it is now to $75k/year essentially looking at the fat spending side. It would essentially add 6 yrs on top of my current plan, so ~8 more years. I’d be pushing 50 at that point and the kids would be almost teens. While I’d like to have that much of a cushion, I also would rather have the freedom from a career job to spend and bond with them before they get to be grumbly teens.

    It’s quite a catch 22 in those types of terms. I also then think that if I can figure out how to make even $15k/yr that’s ~27% of our yearly budget. That can’t be too difficult to come up with some way to do that and still have freedom of schedule. Even if it’s just teaching Masters swimming classes a couple of days during the week. To me, that’s a better proposition than staying the course another 6 years at the office.

    Our only other “lavish” expense would be a boat since we’ll be living at a lake…

    1. I’ll look forward to the post on how to hack a boat-purchase! I may want to retire to a lake as well so would definitely be intrigued :)!!

      But I totally hear you. The main reason I want to retire early is to have more family time, especially with young kiddos. I think that is worth it even if it meant going back to work in some fashion or another when becoming empty-nesters. It’s definitely a catch-22.

      I often catch myself thinking about how it would be nice having a teacher gig like your wife. It is still a full-time job, but I would consider it if it meant being at the same school as the kids, seeing them throughout the day, having a close pulse on their day-to-day, and also being on the same schedule as them.

  6. Excellent analysis, Green Swan. I went through a similar exercise last year. We took our FI annual spending of $70,000 ($40,000 core + $30,000 discretionary) and doubled the discretionary spending to come up our Financial Freedom number of spending $100,000 per year.

    You’ll notice that the FF number is approximately 50% higher than our FI number, an interesting coincidence.

    Like ESI $, I don’t anticipate spending twice as much on discretionary stuff as we do now, but with the ability to travel more, I see how our spending could rise some once we’re not tied down to a location-based job.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    p.s. We’ve now surpassed our FF number and I continue to work, albeit in a part time capacity. I’m still not sure if I’m at the point where I’m more likely to regret retiring too soon as opposed to too late.

    1. That is quite a coincidence! I’ve certainly noticed the similarities in our plans in many respects. And on top of that, I could see myself in a similar position as you not quite ready to pull the full-time retirement trigger. I think that is a very tough position to be in which is why I marvel and relish hearing the stories of others at that stage. One of things many personal finance / early retirement folks talk about are the financial mistakes they’ve made along the way. Well I haven’t made a ton of mistakes, but I’m fully aware that one of the potentially biggest mistakes I could make is the decision to retire (whether that is too soon or too late…). Either way it is a delicate balance and something worthy of regret down the road. I’ll certainly be interested in your view, although I guess we won’t know the answer for sure until maybe years down the road…

      Thanks for stopping by, PoF!

  7. Great post! It’s important to build in a safety margin in the withdrawal strategy. And if you don’t need it, just spend it on something “lavish!”
    Our late-retirement will probably include more lavish travel. I think in my 60s I will no longer “rough” it. Probably more cruise vacations and less couch surfing and AirBnB! If the stock market cooperates!

    1. Right on, ERN. And one thing is if we do retire with good cushion at the onset, don’t fully spend what the 3% – 3.5% rule would guide you too and instead bank the excess to savior later on down the road. At that point the retirement lifestyle will be more certain, priorities will be narrower and we’ll have more freedom to spend. Not a bad scenario…

  8. I love this post also. Looking at your breakdown of expenses, the BIGGIE is healthcare and that should be the biggest concern for all of us focused on FIRE.
    On another subject; concerning lavish lifestyle… you owe it to yourself to purchase a Rolex before fully retiring. Make it your retirement present to yourself. You can find a mint condition, pre-owned model for thousands off the price of a new one. I have a suggested site but I won’t mention it here for fear folks will think I’m advertising. I’m not affiliated with it other than being a repeat customer.
    Anyway, you owe it to yourself to purchase one as they’re great time-pieces, they are nice to wear (especially something like a Submariner, looks great in casual dress), AND if you buy a pre-owned one you’ll never lose as they not only keep their value, they go UP in value on decades.

    1. Not a bad consideration! That would certainly serve a test of what the “finer” things in life are like and whether an even more lavish/luxurious retirement is worth it. Feel free to share the site, I don’t think anyone would mind or feel like you are affiliated. They’d probably be curious now just as much as I am :). Thanks!

    1. That too is an option worth consideration. I would consider it for the reasons Mr. SSC points out above in his comment…that being having more time with the kiddos. Otherwise, I’d probably rather push through and work full-time and then break clean from employment.

  9. I have long passed my FI number. Past my “financial freedom” number too. I have no interest in a more lavish lifestyle. I don’t have to scrimp or save or even budget at this point. Instead of spending more I will just be working less. It isn’t the best choice for everyone. Personal finance is personal, but FI opens up a world of options.

    1. That is a marvelous position to be in and I certainly do envy it. As long as lifestyle inflation doesn’t creep up on you, having no financial worries would be great. The question I’d have to answer for myself then is what it would take in terms of additional years working. Getting my portfolio up to $10 million would put me into your realm (and maybe I’m overshooting it for myself…), but would that level of freedom be worth 10 more years of working…maybe. That is an easier question to answer if I’m 30 than if I was 60 though. Thanks for sharing, definitely something more for me to consider as I near FI.

  10. Hey JW. In our case, we’ve targeted something between the two extremes. We’ve bumped up our discretionary slightly over what we “want”, using the logic that the additional buffer could come in handy if we “miss” on a few assumptions (health care inflation, anyone?).

    We decided to work One More Year to accommodate the buffer, based on feedback from a friend who did the same and said it was one of the best decisions he’d ever made. He’s now retired, with no financial anxiety at all. That piece of mind, and knowing we have some buffer, was worth an extra year. Only 214 days to go….

    1. Great plan Fritz and I’m sure working OMY will turn out to be a great decision for you as well. Peace of mind can make a huge difference. Underestimate it at your peril!

  11. Awesome analysis. I like the idea of playing with multiple scenarios to come up with an effective strategy. Given I am fortunate enough to make a rather generous salary, One of the items I struggle in my plan is how much to budget for kids college education and also some inheritance to pass on. A few more years of working on top of my FI number might be a good amount of money they can use.

    1. Yeah you’re absolutely right. I’ve often wondered the same but I don’t think I’m overly worried about it. Hopefully I live a long life and by the time the kiddos would get an inheritance they could have early retired themselves!

  12. Similar to the other comments, we would likely bump up our (already healthy) travel budget. I must admit that I did appreciate the United Polaris business class seats on a recent flight to South Korea.

    We are already planning on around a 3.5% withdrawal rate, so we probably indulge in some extras in years when the market does well. We also haven’t considered social security in our FI numbers, so that should be a decent bonus as well.

    1. Sounds like a great plan! Very similar to how we’re thinking and I like the idea of trying out those United Polaris seats myself! 😄

      I think you make a good point about SS being a nice bonus…I think there is a good chance it’ll be around in some form or fashion for me to collect on it still so I don’t count that out necessarily.

Leave a Reply