Saturday, November 16, 2013

I’m 52 years old now, but it’s my freshman year all over again


I have some very fond memories of this photo; it was taken in November 1975, a couple months after the start of my freshman year in high school.  I had just turned 14 years old and my mom had gotten me this cool leather jacket.  (Well, it was cool at the time.)  I can still remember exactly what I was doing too, I was on my way into town to see my girlfriend Penny.  (I also like how I can see my Mom’s shadow at the bottom of the photo; she was so camera-shy I’ll take any reminders of her I can get.)

Anyway, I’ve been 52 years old for a couple weeks now, and with my thinning & graying hair I certainly look the part.  But I still feel very much like the Doug in this picture, a little nervous and excited about what’s down the road.  As for the freshman thing—on the day I turned 52, I had this conversation with my coworker Danielle (who enjoys pushing my buttons):

HER: It would’ve been cool if your mom named you Damien.

ME:  You mean like in “The Omen”?

HER: Yeah, because of your birthday!  You know, born on Halloween.

ME:  Don’t you think it would’ve been creepy?  I was born 15 years before that movie even came out!

HER:  Oh I thought it came out in the sixties!

ME:  No, The Omen came out in the mid-70s.  I was born in 1961.

HER:  So you’re like 79 now.

ME:  Right.

It got me to thinking about that time and place again, my freshman year in high school.  Still just a kid, but my future was only a few years away.  Even my mom was asking me if I had any idea what I wanted to do after high school.  (I suggested becoming a cartoonist, she thought a retail store manager would be more practical.)  All I knew for sure was, in four years I’d be making some big changes in my life.

And that’s where I’m at now, in regards to wanting to retire at 56.  That’s only 4 years away.  Six months ago I put the bulk of my savings into market index funds, and as of yesterday they’ve returned a healthy 10.65% earnings.  Oh I know that could drop at any time, and probably will soon—but if I wind up with the market “average” of 8% earnings after a years time, I’ll be in good shape.

I’ve been trying out a lot of online retirement calculators (all you have to do is google retirement calculator) and more & more I’m appreciating the one by MSN Money.  It has a couple preset percents (3% inflation per year, 8% earnings on investments) but you can change those if you like.  And it will also factor in your social security (and assumes you’ll begin collecting at age 62 if you retire before that age). 

I ran it with these hopeful variables:  1) retirement at 56  2) 500K in combined 401K and personal investments.  I left the defaults for inflation & investment earnings alone, and for ‘Desired Retirement Income’ (the sixth column) I entered a low percentage of my current income (adjusted for inflation each year).  Here’s how it turned out:

You can’t see the entire chart, but I said I planned to live to age 90 (who knows, I may just get lucky and do that) and according to the calc, I’ll still be leaving behind a nice chunk of change (around 600K, more money than I started out with.)

Now do I really expect to be earning 8% on my portfolio every year?  I wish!  I know some years it’s going to be lower or minus, but it works both ways y’know—there may be a year or two when it’s 10-20%.  It all evens out though, and in the leaner years, I’ll just do a little less dipping.  (Hell, I’m paying myself 41K the first year and my expenses are currently half that!)  

So my “freshman year” is off to a promising start—and this reminds me, last week I made an appointment for the eye doc in January, to get some new glasses.  It was in January of that first freshman year when I got new glasses too.


  1. More than 10% in six months? Not bad!

  2. Thanks Iikka, and yeah--the European Stock Index & Small-Cap Growth funds have been my portfolio's biggest earners. I hope they don't stop anytine soon :)

  3. Love the jacket! And your moms shadow, very sweet Doug. Congrats on your freshman year bud :).

  4. Thanks so much Kathy! I know this was a boring old piece, so your comment was especially nice to read :)


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