Headline Reaction: “So you Want to be a Millionaire?” Edition

An occasional series makes a return.

Headline (via the NYT):  How to Retire in Your 30s With $1 Million in the Bank

Reaction:  click.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Entertainment,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    OK, let’s look at the numbers. Retire at age 30. The Social Security Administration thinks you’ll live another 48 years if you’re male, 52 years if you’re female. If you’re lucky that million will throw off maybe 5% per annum, or $50,000. Nice. If you don’t live in one of the expensive states or cities. Nice, now. Ten years from now, not so nice, not even in Arkansas. Twenty years from now it won’t cover a room above the garage. And you’ll only be 50, with another 15 years till Social Security kicks in.

    No one is retiring unless we achieve total robot revolution. Retirement was a stupid idea that existed from about 1950 until about 1980, but it’s dead, Jim. It’s not pinin’ for the fjords.

  2. @Michael Reynolds: I am not sure how they are going to deal with health care over time, for example.

  3. Miater Bluster says:

    Poor Jason:
    “There were days when I had 12- or 14-hour shifts where I didn’t use the restroom, where I didn’t eat,..”

    This guy missed his calling. With bladder control like that he should have been an astronaut.

    Former NASA Astronaut Lisa Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando, Florida, on February 4–5, 2007. She packed latex gloves, a black wig, a BB pistol and ammunition, pepper spray, a hooded tan trench coat, a 2-pound (0.91 kg) drilling hammer, black gloves, rubber tubing, plastic garbage bags, approximately US$585 (equivalent to $690.43 in 2017) in cash, her computer, an 8-inch (200 mm) Gerber folding knife and several other items before driving the 900 miles (1,400 km) to Florida. Early police reports indicated she wore Maximum Absorbency Garments during the trip, but she later denied wearing them.

  4. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    They are also benefiting from an lengthy bull run in the stock market and, in some cases, the privilege of class, race, gender and background. It’s difficult to retire at 40 if you work a minimum-wage job, say, or have crushing student-loan debt, or did not have the same opportunities as others because you grew up poor in a crime-ridden neighborhood.

    No kidding, and I had to laugh at Mr. Long’s comment about the “tax cut for job creators like myself.” That was funny–a retired guy with a stock portfolio thinks he’s a job creator.

    More seriously, the principle is and old one–live below your means to whatever extent you find yourself able to–and represents good advice. I’ll be interested in seeing what these people are doing in about 5 years. My bet is that almost all of them will be working as something that pays some sort of salary and has some sort of health benefits (and I don’t think Starbucks can provide enough jobs for all of them no matter how few there are). They will be doing that because the healthcare benefits will have become more important than they seem now (the “job creator” among them is probably going to begin to see the benefits of National Health by then, too, I would imagine), but probably more importantly, they’ll need something to do that provides a reason to get up beyond driving their kids to school. I’m only three years retired and find that keeping my day full is challenging some days.

    It’s an interesting experiment. My other prediction is that one million is not enough to provide the cash stream that they will need, and I agree with Reynolds that $40K a year is not enough income over the long term–particularly not in West Coast places like Bend.

  5. Modulo Myself says:

    These people all sound terribly unhappy and anxious. A good lifehack is don’t marry anyone who gets their advice from reddit. Another would be don’t be forced into tech as a career because it pays well. You have to wonder how much these people thought about their lives versus how much their parents forced them to be practical.

  6. Mister Bluster says:

    @Modulo Myself:..A good lifehack is don’t marry anyone who gets their advice from reddit.

    …or Captain Morgan or Johnny Walker!

  7. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Twenty years from now it won’t cover a room above the garage. And you’ll only be 50, with another 15 years till Social Security kicks in.

    Do these people rent? As I skimmed, I thought that most of them had downgraded to cheaper communities and bought houses there.

    Pay off the house, and your cost of living plummets — housing is taxes, insurance and maintenance.

    They will still be screwed by health insurance and a market collapse, but it’s a lot more doable if you take the bulk of housing costs out of the picture.

    And they are young enough that they are at risk for Republicans “reforming” social security for anyone under 50.

  8. Gustopher says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    These people all sound terribly unhappy and anxious.

    They don’t sound any more unhappy and anxious than most other people.

    A good lifehack is don’t marry anyone who gets their advice from reddit.

    I think they are just discussing their hobby — living cheaply — with a similar community. Would it be different if their hobby was playing banjo, and they were discussing different arrangements of “Mole In The Ground”? I don’t think so.

    Another would be don’t be forced into tech as a career because it pays well.

    It doesn’t just pay well, it pays very well. And if you have the aptitude, it can be great.

    All jobs have the potential to suck. Tech work is portable, and in demand. You aren’t stuck in West Virginia because that’s where the coal is, and you aren’t stuck working for Company X, even though the boss is an asshole.

    High pay and a lot of options is a pretty good combination.

    Now, if I could just get people to stop looking at my gray sparkling silver hair and assuming that I should be leading shit and mentoring people, that would be good.

    You have to wonder how much these people thought about their lives versus how much their parents forced them to be practical.

    Ah, that’s the nut of this comment — kids these days, they’re horrible.

    Oh, god, they really are. That’s why I don’t want to have to lead a team of the filthy little things. Well, that and having to care about politics and managers above me…

    My last team had two twenty something women on it who spent all day talking about “The Bachelor” and going through the corporate directory to look for hot boys — it was hell. I’m taking a few months off to recover.

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: I must admit, Captain Morgan and Johnny Walker are, indeed, both famed as sources of bad advice.

  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    And how SS benefits are calculated, these very early retirees won’t be getting much support from the government.

    I’ve known 3 people who retired or semi retired exceedingly early. One retired at 50 and his million has about a hundred buddies. Another moved to a cheap part of the region where he lived, and continued to do a bit of consulting for his former employer and others in his industry. He also picked up some income working as an expert witness in civil lawsuits. The 3rd didn’t so much retire as decided to give up her career and spend more time w/the kids while consulting w/the former employer. Worked for a bit till there was a divorce and the great recession started and her consulting gigs dried up. She ended up working as a hooker to keep a roof over her kids’ heads.

    Retire at 40 on a million bucks, LoL

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    As Mr. Dickens said:

    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

    Excellent advice. Have I, personally followed it? No, of course not.

  12. Andy says:

    Coming out of my self-imposed OTB exile to comment on this.

    I’m 49, my spouse is 45 and we are basically “retired.”

    I use scare quotes because “retired” doesn’t mean the same thing to all people and it doesn’t mean sitting on your ass and watching the Price is Right all day. I would say this article misses a few things, but most of all that “retirement” in this context isn’t simply about generating wealth and then living on the interest in perpetuity.

    The most important part is actually discipline and budgeting. Building a nest egg of savings isn’t just about generating income – it’s mainly about the financial freedom to do things you actually want to do rather than be trapped in career solely to generate funds to support an unrealistic lifestyle. Those two factors – budgeting and discipline – are prerequisites for generating the nest-eggs detailed in the article, but they do much more than that.

    The family that is accustomed to living within defined budgetary limits is going to better adjust to the vagaries of income variances than a family that is clueless about where their money is going and lives by their paycheck. It’s really hard to overestimate the importance of budgeting and that, frankly, is something few Americans do at all, much less do well. So resilience is an important component.

    Steven brings up the elephant in the room, which is health care. Some of us (me included), are fortunate to have taxpayer-subsidized healthcare thanks to the VA and Tricare. Those without such government-provided advantages typically pay with cash for most routine care and also pay for some kind of catastrophic insurance coverage. Needless to say, some kind of universal public healthcare would really help this segment of Americans, particularly those who are nomadic.

    Personally, I was set on this path by two big influences: The first was my parents who were both born in the 20’s and lived through the Great Depression. Their frugalness rubbed off on me.

    Secondly was an Argentinian immigrant I met while in the Navy in the early 1990’s. This guy was a low-ranking enlisted sailor but was older – in his mid 30’s. Starting as an E-1, after three years in the Navy he was an E-3 with $40k in the bank (that’s the equivalent of almost $70k today). Practically all of his contemporaries (including me) were living paycheck to paycheck and blowing money on the things sailors usually blow money on (insert navy joke here). Also unlike me and the regular dumb-ass Navy folk, his goal wasn’t rank – it was saving money for his family back in Argentina.

    I learned a lot from him about the value of money and soon after I started changing my ways, actually budgeting and saving. I think without him I would probably be one of the payroll slaves in a terrible job desperate for the money and benefits to support a lifestyle I don’t actually need.

    And really, outside of a few exceptions, employers today are shit. I don’t blame millennials for embracing the suck for a decade before checking out and doing something saner. More power to them.

  13. DrDaveT says:


    Some of us (me included), are fortunate to have taxpayer-subsidized healthcare thanks to the VA and Tricare.

    Without in any way disagreeing with your comments about budgeting, it’s hard to understate how big TRICARE for life is, as a benefit.

    A recent study we did involved (as an aside) comparing the compensation of military officers and civilians doing the same high-end job within the Department of Defense. The civilians cap out around $160,000 (GS-15 or SES), and most make less than that. The uniformed types are typically O-6 (Army Colonel or Navy Captain) with ~26 years of service. Their base pay is lower than that, but if you add in the housing and other allowances (and the lack of federal tax on those), and the TRICARE subsidy, and the PX privileges, and so forth, you would need a civilian salary over $200,000 to get equal value. TRICARE is a big piece of that — probably $20,000 per year, if you could even get such coverage as a civilian.

  14. Andy says:


    No doubt it’s a huge benefit and one that continues to grow in value as the cost of health care continues to increase at 2-4 times the rate of inflation.

    There have been some moves to make retirees pay more, but it’s still a bargain compared to alternatives.