You can’t enjoy your money if you are dead

Hmmm … not quite our lunch table – Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash


During one of our lunch breaks last week, my colleagues and I randomly discussed superannuation, home ownership, passive income and how soon we could retire.

Meet my lunch break colleagues

(all names have been changed to protect their privacy)

Judy, 61 tells us she is currently building two townhouses, one of which will be for her son. This is her way of helping her eldest son achieve the great Australian dream of home ownership. She has three sons and is happy to help the other two when the time comes. Her husband is in the building trade so they save on labour and materials and have the know how to pull it through. But due to this project, she is unable to retire as yet.

Martha, 50 asks me if I am contributing extra into my superannuation. She feels lucky as her husband works for the Public Service and he gets 15% contribution from his employer (while we only get 9.5%). So at least her husband has a decent nest egg upon retirement. She has two teenage children and has taken time off for maternity leave twice, returning to part time work afterwards. So naturally, like the majority of women, she is behind. But she is contributing extra now and comments that it is too little too late – this racing to the end with extra contributions to super. She doesn’t see herself retiring for a long time.

Letitia, 54 married young and had her children relatively young, compared to the others. She is not sure how her recently married daughter could afford a house only 7 minutes from her but is very thankful. She worries about her youngest son who is happy with renting at the moment – all that rent money wasted, in her opinion. Letitia doesn’t know when she can retire.

Penelope, in her late 50s is a home flipper. She buys a house to live in, renovates it then sells it for a profit. And then it’s off to a new house. She is a breast cancer survivor and a tough cookie.  Her two adult children don’t depend on her financially. Real estate has been her way of getting ahead financially. She is happy to work as long as she can, appreciating that her life could have ended a few years ago.

Then there’s me …

I (who just turned 48) announce that I want to retire within the next ten years – no one believes me. Chiefly due to my workaholic tendencies and putting work first for as long as they have known me. What would you do, Latestarterfire if you retired? You would be bored in 5 minutes. Secondly, because I don’t have the safety net of a husband. The assumption is because I am on my own, I will have to work longer to achieve the savings required for retirement.

The phone call

Penelope’s phone rings and she excuses herself to take the call.

The rest of us chat on  …. about the high cost of housing in Melbourne. All the mothers are worried that their children experience such difficulties with breaking into home ownership. Which is why Judy is postponing retirement to help her son. But the others who don’t have  husbands in the building trade cannot replicate her method.

Most comment that Baby Boomers who are financially well off are those that have investment properties and receive passive income from them. Everyone knows someone who is wealthy from pursuing this method.

But it is not possible for today’s young people as the cost of housing is stratospheric, if they want to live in the inner city and where there are trendy cafes and shops around. Let alone invest in rental properties.

None of their children want to live in the outer suburbs, where housing is more affordable but amenities such as public transport and road infrastructure are not that great. And let’s face it, just not trendy at all. Which leads to another lament that young people these days are not willing to make sacrifices and start with somewhere affordable.

Talk soon turn to our recent holidays (happier topic of conversation!). Both Letitia and I had recently returned from European holidays.

I had been feeling out of sorts, thinking about how I can go away again next year and spend 8 weeks with my niece during the Northern summer. Which is an expensive time to be in London. My overall income has dropped in my new role, with less overtime hours. If I want to continue contributing extra to my superannuation, my take home pay is significantly reduced. And saving for my travels comes out of my take home pay.

Everyone weighed in about balancing saving for retirement and living in the present. It is a dilemma all of us struggle with. The ones recently returned from holidays dream of another holiday. And the ones who hadn’t been on holiday are planning one in the near future. The others all have European ties and all concur that European holidays are expensive.

Penelope returns to the lunch table, visibly upset

Her cousin turns 64 today. She just received news that her cancer has returned.  Tests show the cancer is now in her lungs and stomach plus she has a bowel obstruction to top it off. She had been in remission for a few years from cervical cancer and then bowel cancer.

Book your next holiday, Penelope tells me. Life is short. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 investment properties – you can’t enjoy your money if you are dead.

Our lunch break is over.


Life is indeed short. How do you balance between saving for retirement and enjoy living in the here and now?




8 Replies to “You can’t enjoy your money if you are dead”

  1. I think it’s tough to get the balance exactly right, but having said that most people don’t even seem to try until their late 50s at the earliest, and many don’t bother at all. You hear a lot of “well I could die tomorrow so I might as well spend it” but most people live well into their 70s and 80s, and as much as you hear about the fit as a fiddle man or woman who just drops dead of some rare disease or gets hit by a bus, normally it’s people who have been sick for a while who it happens to in which case it makes sense that they live for the now. People for the most part though just don’t want to make sacrifices, or aren’t even willing to give up luxuries. /rant

    The way we try and get the balance right is basically just to spend money on things which are important to us like travel, and then minimise the money we spend on stuff which we don’t care as much about but which we need to pay for anyway like food, bills etc.

    As a side note, Martha’s attitude towards her and her husbands superannuation is interesting. Most couples focus on the total balance of all their assets rather than whose name the assets are in. And if she has an older husband (as is generally the case), then at some point down the track a financial planner is likely to recommend to them to move money from his super to hers anyway. So why the focus on him having more than her, or am I reading more into this than I should?

    1. Yeah, I think it is really important to identify what we value and spend money on that. But I suppose the problem arises when what we value = really expensive and we feel we deserve every luxury after working so hard for so long.

      Re Martha – I think she was thankful that at least they have the husband’s super to look forward to; whereas someone like me has no one else’s super to look forward to!

  2. This is one of my big fears, dying before I retire and get to enjoy all my hard work. Not that I don’t enjoy anything now, I do. I usually have at least one nice vacay per year. I’m frugal but don’t go without anything I really want. Except not working. I really, reallllly want to not work full time, but that’s not going to be an option for 15 more years (I’m 41).

  3. Hi Candi, join the club! I too, did not want to work full time anymore. But after I transitioned to a less stressful role, it is soooo much better and I feel like full time (plus I need the money) is now doable. I am looking at having 8 weeks off every year though so the full time is bearable with that as the ultimate reward. I just need to work out how to fund the 8 weeks ….

  4. Wow, it sounds like Australians have a lot in common with us Americans, thinking they’ll have to work forever due to all their financial obligations and debts… I was just at an event today where the speaker joked that she would probably never be able to stop working because she’d never finish paying off her student loans. Good for you for deciding to figure out how to not be like your colleagues! It’s never too late to start… FIRE is a movement for everyone!

  5. Yes, Australians’ lack of retirement funds is very similar to Americans’ – thanks to consumerism and the need to reward ourselves. Hence, the FIRE is spreading here too 🙂 It is definitely easier starting in your 20s than in your 40s but it’s still worth a try!

    1. Thanks, Bludger. It is true that anticipating a holiday makes me happy; but it is also true that even years later, when I recall a detail or encounter or food experience or people I met, I am flooded with happiness again. Travelling is an essential part of my journey to FI so I’m happy to save up for it

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