18 Sep 2017
There’s no lack of information and advice when it comes to how we should live. The Greek philosophers asked that question and Romans such as Marcus Aurelius left behind works that considered how best we should behave.Today, we are beset by how-to books that promise us the path for maximum production, to hone our talents, and provide balance, whatever that means, between our work and personal lives. Never has the pursuit of happiness been run so intensely and yet seems so distant a goal.
I suspect that’s because we have to determine for ourselves how to win that race. We see someone in an infomercial relaxing on a yacht, earning money while he tans, and we think that looks pretty good. Or we see photos of a celebrity having a good time at a fancy dress party and we are envious. We never consider that the infomercial star is in reality working 60-hour weeks, that the yacht might be rented, and even if not, it’s blistering hot and (to us) a pretty boring way to spend one’s time. Behind his smile, the movie star might be drinking too much because the party’s dull but he has to sport a big smile for the cameras because that’s his job.
I used to admire this one fantasy author’s life. He flew around the world, met fascinating people, read his popular books for adoring fans, even appeared on the red carpet at Oscar night because a movie based on one of his books was up for an award.
Some of that was fun, sure, but I forgot that that life also meant upending his life of writing and reading to spend long hours on an airplane and car travel. It meant feeling jet-lagged and sleep-logged from staying in unfamiliar hotel rooms with their antiseptic (you hope) smells and street noises. Then there’s the good and bad food and long hours working hard to entertain the fans. Having been on the road myself, I can appreciate staying home more.
Retired at 32
The question of what makes for a good life arose recently after reading at Popsugar about this 32-year-old woman who retired.
You read correctly: 32. Anita Dhake was a very well-paid lawyer who walked away from her job and is now traveling the world, writing a book, and doing whatever she damn well feels like doing.
The article explains how she did it. In fact, it almost sounds like she read my wife’s book “Suburban Stockade,” at least the chapters devoted to money and savings. She didn’t, of course, but her advice mirrors Teresa’s as well as other advocates for thrift such as Joe Dominguez (“Your Money or Your Life”) and Amy Dacyczyn (“The Complete Tightwad Gazette”).
In essence, she saved her money and cut her living expenses. Having a six-figure income helped; she was a lawyer whose salary rose from $160,000 to $320,000. She had $690,000 in her IRA when she retired, and by investing in Vanguards index fund, it has risen to $800,000. She lives on about $27,000 a year.
So, yes, she had an advantage, but she wouldn’t have retired if she hadn’t made a great effort and found creative ways to save her money. She is also single and has no children, and that plays a role in keeping her expenses low, too.
But this is one reason why “The Career Indie Author” places so much emphasis on why you should manage your money and take care of your health. We’ve seen in the last few years that the great boom in ereaders and tablets have crested, and so have the book-buying binge that their new owners enjoyed. We’re back to normal: people buying books that they want to read. This makes it vital to learn good marketing practices, work on creating great pieces of entertainment, and figure out how to get news of your book to the readers who would want them.
Taking care of your pocketbook and your wealth gives you the time to find them, the means to find them, and a mental cushion against any unexpected problems that may arise. Just because Anita Dhake has retired does not mean she will live a problem-free life. She could get sick, she could marry a bad man, she could suffer an accident, the economy could collapse. But she built a cushion of money will go a long way to helping her should she fall. We need to do the same.