Going From Thirties To Fourties

People say that one may have a mid-life crisis around 40s. That’s definitely true.

When I started blogging, I have always thought that I’m “young” and energetic. But a reader while in college addressed me as “Sir” as if I’m so much older. Come on, about 10 years ago, I was still in grad school. I didn’t feel that I have grown out of the school years at that time.

And just a couple of days, I asked my dad NOT to come to airport to pick me up for my upcoming trip to go back home. I needed to remind my dad that I’m almost 40, and he is almost 70, and I’m not a kid anymore. Time flew by so quickly.

I still remember when my dad was 40. He appeared to me as “old”, since I was a little kid. I wonder how my own kids look at me now. I even have white hairs that can’t be hidden anymore.

The same story goes for personal finance. I really thought that I was young and capable of taking bigger risk. After 2008 stock market debacle, suddenly I realized that I’m not as young as I thought. What I have lost from peak to bottom, I could have never recovered that by decades of saving until retirement. In reality, if I assume that one could accumulate savings from the age of 28 to 58 for thirty years, I have already used up about one third of the time. Doesn’t that sound a little bit scary?

That’s why it’s always better to start saving as soon as one can. If you save for consecutive 30 years, you multiply and compound your savings for 30 years. But saving for 40 years will be at least better by 33%=40/30-1. Now, if you only save for 20 years, you will be worse off by 50%=30/20-1. But if you could only manage to save for 10 years, well, I sincerely wish that God will bring you some good fortune. Or alternatively, you can always go out and buy a personal finance book, 99% of which is always overly optimistic. These authors always play games with “stock market return” percentage from 5% to 12%, and then tell you that by math of compounding (if stock markets consistently returns 10+%), you will just become magically rich and retire.

Is that really so? Maybe it works for this generation of baby boomers, since they’ve got all the entitlement programs supported by all the younger generations which are bigger in numbers. When a population graph looks like a pyramid, with few people retiring, and many youth working, it always work by the Ponzi scheme principle. But most of other generation won’t be so lucky, especially we are already over-burdened by trillions of fiscal deficit.

Am I too pessimistic? No, I’m advising you to take actions NOW! When you don’t let time (and money) work for you, then time will just go against you. And the only way to break the spell is to take actions now. Whether you’re on a job, or out of jobs, take actions for yourselves. Don’t just sit there, and lament what has transpired. If you don’t do something, your situation is not going to change for you. Plan for the worst, but try your best and hope for the better. Even if nothing happens, at the end of everyday, if you have tried your best in everything, whether it’s saving money, doing your job, or finding your next job, you can always tell yourself and God, that you’ve got a grade of A+ today for the 105% effort that you’ve put in. And therefore, there is absolutely no regret. That is how can a great man and a great task (saving for retirement) get accomplished, one day at a time, even when there may be a long stretch of apparently zero progress.

That was how I learned my first hard lesson in money.