“Living within your means” – whatever those means are, assuming they are actually enough to ‘live’ on. Yes.
That’s how my husband and I got to retirement at 64. We drove inexpensive used cars for all the years we’ve been together. We ate out rarely, and only in places with moderate prices. We learned to do most home maintenance ourselves. We took long vacations only every second or third year, and bought clothing, appliances and other necessities only when they were on sale.
We kept charge card balances as low as possible. We bought two homes, with significant down-payments, and carried mortgages only as long as absolutely necessary to keep monthly payments affordable. We stuck every spare nickel, including bonuses, into savings, sane investments, or 401k plans. Yes, we had two incomes, but only one of us earned anything approaching a 6-figure wage, and that only for the last year or two before retirement. For over 30 years, we lived mostly within the boundaries of one income – the lower one.
We never felt deprived. Our homes were warm, clean and welcoming. Our used cars got us where we needed to be. We learned to cook well, so we ate healthy and interesting meals, and entertained at home. It also helped that one of us worked back-office systems support for several large retail corporations, so we understood the vast gulf between wholesale and retail prices.
We were happy for friends who drove the latest cars, lived in lavish homes, and took fabulous vacations to exotic and expensive places, but didn’t feel jealous of their treasures and experiences. We kept the long view in mind – our goal, our number-one priority, was to work only until we could afford not to any more.
A year after we paid off the mortgage, we achieved our goal. We’re not wealthy, but we have enough. And we know that enough is, indeed, enough. Barring global and universal financial catastrophe, we now have several years of comfortable life ahead of us without fretting about work and all the annoyances it brings. We know we were lucky in many ways, but luck is only maybe 20% of the story. Clear priorities and common sense did the rest.
Living within your means can give you at least some measure of power over your own life.
The dialogue that occurs here between friends, neighbors and engaged citizens is one of the features that makes your RVP such a valuable community resource. Your RVP does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed in the Comment of the Week.