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The Road to Retirement - 3 Tips for Taming Your Inner Hedonist

Mark Zaifman   |    Mon, May 19, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

on the road to retirement


the belief that pleasure or happiness is the most important goal in life. noun-Merriam-Webster

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and you’re into cars, and spending $80-100K on a new car is not in the budget, than there’s a real good chance you might be suffering from Tesla envy. Yes, Tesla, that sexy new electric sports car that captures the imagination as well as the heart. For yours truly, it was love at first sight.

But I digress. Last week, I spoke with a potential new client who sells Tesla's in Silicon Valley. She was on the hunt for an independent fee-only financial planner and found me through a client referral.

Selling Tesla’s in the Valley is a very good place to be right now, especially if you’re someone that’s money motivated. So that said, before we ended our call, we spoke briefly about her experience and observations selling Tesla’s as I was curious as could be.

Here’s what I discovered.  While the vast majority of her Tesla sales last year were made to buyers paying cash, what surprised her most were how many cars she sold to folks in the middle to upper-middle income brackets that put 20% down and borrowed the rest.

Assume the final price tag on your new Model S Tesla comes out to $90K, you put $18K down (money you had stashed away in your emergency fund) and borrow $72K over 5 years. Assuming a 3% interest rate on your loan, you’re looking at a payment of nearly $1,300/month. How do you make this work cash flow wise if you’re in the middle or upper-middle income range? Simple. You stop making your 401k/403b and IRA retirement contributions. So there you have it - cash flow problem solved, future retirement problem created.

With that example in mind, below are 3 tips for taming your inner hedonist on the road to retirement.

Avoid Playing the Comparison Game

It’s human nature to compare what we have with in terms of material possessions with what other people have. And if you’re the highly competitive type, this long-time habit of comparing yours to mine can, and often does. become very self-destructive.

The next time you find yourself comparing your car, home, clothes, electronic gadgets, furniture, etc. with someone else's, step back and observe your thoughts. Say to yourself, there I go again, playing the comparison game. From there, shift your focus of attention to what you do have and what you’re grateful for in your life instead of what’s missing in your life.

Playing the comparing game is your ego’s best friend. It keeps you in a perpetual state of striving yet never quite arriving. Just when you think you’ve ‘won’, your best friend goes and buys a Tesla for his wife in addition to the one he just purchased for himself, so now you’re one Tesla short.

The remedy for this condition is gratitude, full stop. Nothing cures this ailment like being grateful you’re alive and going from there. If you need a gratitude refresher, please check out this superb video produced by Louie Schwartzberg during a TED talk he gave:

Know Your Enough Point

Have you ever reflected on how much money is enough?  Do you have an 'enough' number in your head that’s been well thought out or are you operating from a more hedonistic frame of reference where you could never have enough money just like you could never have enough pleasure?

If you feel like your life up until this point has been an endless pursuit of more, more and more of everything, and as a result you’re putting your health, financial security and perhaps your marriage at risk, now is a good time to call a time out and check in with yourself. I’ve witnessed more people crash and burn on their endless pursuit of more, way past the point they had enough money for two lifetimes, than you can imagine.

To tame this burning desire for more, start with discovering what’s causing you to feel this never ending need for more stuff. Are you chasing your father’s or mother’s dream? Are you seeking status? Have you linked your self-worth to your net-worth?

Once you’ve uncovered what’s behind this insatiable appetite for more, especially when you already have more than enough, it’s at that point you become aware/conscious of the choices you are making and how you are spending your life energy. For many clients I’ve worked with over the years, this is a break through moment. The light bulb goes off. And before you know it, you’ve discovered the true secret to money harmony, which is finally knowing your enough point. What follows is what we all seek in life, peace of mind.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

The vast majority of my clients are laser focused on one thing - reaching their FI (financial independence) number. Sure, some are tempted to divert from their financial plan when a shiny new and very expensive object grabs their attention. But keeping your eye on the prize, on the big picture, is one of the best ways to tame your inner hedonist and shut down the noise from your ego demanding more.

As you save your way to eventual retirement, there will be numerous opportunities to take detours from your well designed game plan. These detours could come in the form of Tesla’s, second homes, super risky investments, you name it.

The key is knowing where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there while having the self-discipline to stay on track and follow your financial plan. Keeping your eye on the prize is not easy to do.  But reaching retirement with much less than you needed to save is a painful reality you have the power to prevent.


Photo credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/