April 20, 2016

One Million Dollars To Retire?

One million dollars. That is how much financial experts say a person needs in the bank in order to retire. I'm not sure that is a realistic expectation for the average person, but I wonder if it is even necessary.

Besides whether it is possible or necessary, another problem with retirement financial planning is that it is all dependent on the exploitation that is leading to the destruction of our planet. This system does not operate on right and wrong, legal and illegal. Its sole consideration is profit.

Everything else goes. Consequences are ignored, trivialized, or "mitigated". You may get more money in your account, but at what cost?

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be associated with any of that. Neither does a commenter on this blog who writes:

"There is this thought that I have been having lately and I wonder how you would consider it. I like your emphasis on simplicity and de-coupling from rogue consumer capitalism. My question is, how do you account for a future retirement? 
Sadly, almost every investment vehicle is tied to the stock market, which is tied to neoliberal capitalism exploiting people and the planet, of course with the help of our intelligence agencies and government politicians. 
There are few ways to invest that don't necessitate that one gets some money in the stock market to keep up with inflation and price increases. 
So I'd like to see you do a post about planning for retirement, or thinking about retirement, in an economic way that is responsible that does not perpetuate the status quo. 
I am just beginning the process of personally extracting myself from rogue capitalism the best I can, because I can see now how destructive it has been to entire populations and the environment, but there are several challenges to account for. 
The notion of retirement itself is a made up phenomenon to support capitalistic structures, but nonetheless, on a scaled down version, there may come a day where one can't work."

That is a tall order. But if we are lucky, we will grow old and probably experience a time when we can't work in the same way as when we were younger. What to do?

I have asked many bank financial advisors about exactly these types of things. I have asked about socially and environmentally responsible and ethical investments. All queries were met with silence and a stunned look. Obviously these important considerations are not covered in bank "wealth management" school.

"Please check your love of the People and the Earth at the door. It's all about the money, folks. And if a client asks about anything ethical, freeze like a bad Skype connection." I looked at a major banks website and searched it for "ethical". I wasn't surprised by the results.

The big bank site had lots of hits when it came to touting how ethical they are in everything they do. They are ethical, all their suppliers are ethical, all their practices are ethical. Yup. It says right here in our Code of Conduct and Ethics.

After looking at several pages of hits, it became obvious that there was nothing about my ability as a customer to be able to purchase ethical investments. Nothing.

That is because there is nothing ethical about big banking business, and the commenter above is on the money when it comes to getting involved in the fraud that is modern banking. Hmm. More fraud, that included "as many as 20 big banks", can be found here. Bank fraud is common practice.

That is why I also do not want to have anything to do with financial industry. I am not willing to support organized crime, and mortgage the planet so my money can make money to fund a long period of not earning income.

What good is a million dollar retirement portfolio if you don't have a healthy planet to enjoy it on?

So how do we ever retire? Fewer people these days even think it a possibility as they plan on carrying debt well into their retirement years. In my lifetime we have gone from a single wage earner being able to support a family with a reasonable standard of living, then retire at 65 without worries, to having a mortgage at 75, and still having to work at 85.

Maybe we need a whole new way of looking at things, since the status quo is not yielding the benefits it once did.

I can share some things that Linda and I have done since starting down the path toward retirement. While we were anticipating early health challenges, we would have taken the same path regardless. We wanted to live a more balanced and benign lifestyle as soon as we could. That is what we have always wanted.

  • Eliminate debt. Maximize freedom. 
  • Save, save, save. Put any money that comes in into savings.
  • Reduce expenses. Be content with less. 
  • Question what you really need. Even the basics can be expensive, never mind the luxuries.
  • Check if you qualify for benefits. Are you eligible for local/national benefits, such as an old age pension? If you are eligible, sign on as soon as you can.
  • If you invest - ask about ethical or socially responsible investments. Choose vehicles that do no harm, if that is possible. Better yet, invest in a garden. Or your community. Start a cooperative venture.
  • Bank at your local credit union. Credit unions are there for the people.
  • Think differently, and live simply.

We have also learned to let money flow freely into, and out of, our lives. We have made a conscious effort to not worry too much about it. Sixteen years ago when Linda and I quit our full time jobs to pursue the simple life, someone asked, "What about retirement?"

I laughed. Life seemed too short to let something like having to amass a small fortune stop us from extricating ourselves from the consumer illusion to live simply and peacefully.

"I am retired," I responded.

It is difficult making these important decisions - the answers are never easy. The experts would tell me I am an idiot for not investing carefully in a balanced portfolio. Ethically I can not bring myself to do it.

I have enough to enjoy this moment (and what else is there?), and trust that the universe is bountiful and has a way of providing for our simple needs in amazing and wondrous ways.


  1. Hi Gregg,

    the first 4 points on your list are crucial. My plan for retirement is 1. pay off my mortgage as soon as possible. 2. Continue to build up my vegetable garden, fruit and nut trees and keep chickens. 3. Go off the grid by going solar once the mortgage is gone. 4. Add water tanks as soon as I can afford them 5. continue to learn to make what I need, including improving my skills at making clothes and things for the home, as well as mastering food preservation 6. Make more effort to upcycle, repair, barter and share. It is a daunting plan on my own, but it feels like the only way to go for me.

    I don't have plans to save an enormous amount of money, because to do so I would have to sacrifice time with my children, and time just living this precious life. I do have a little bit saved, and here in Australia we have an ethical investment company which I would like to look into.

    I imagine my bank manager would laugh if I told him my plans, but interestingly my accountant is encouraging me to pay off the mortgage before I think about retirement savings, and to live as simply as possible. I was lucky enough to be invited to her home to see how she and her partner live - they are slowly working on their house themselves without incurring debt, using natural materials, and their home is warm and clutter-free. Inspirational for sure.


    1. I like making bank managers, and everyone else, laugh at what I think is possible. You are thinking big, and making it happen. I am sure you are inspiring your inspirational friends. So awesome when we lift each other up, rather than continue to pretend that this thing we call life is a competition in which when I win, someone has to lose. We can all win.

  2. Yeah I do not care about investing and proping up the corupt banking system while it destroys our beautiful planet. I live simple now and only buy the basics and use the library. We are much happier now due to simple living. Alex.

    1. When we withdrawal our support, the sticking, rotting edifice crumbles. More complexity and the illusion of control brought us to near ruin. Only simplicity can bring us back to balance. Imagine! Happier with less. What?


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