Today I want to talk about my parents. They are currently in Taipei, traveling all over Asia, enjoying the retired life.
My mom and I can spend hours talking about finances, budgets, retirement…all things related to money and wealth. I’ve always said that if I had inherited my mom’s exact brain, with my ambition, I could have ruled the world. She’s a genius when it comes to numbers, whereas I’ve had to work really hard to develop my analytical skills.
Before they went on vacation, we were talking about money as we usually do. And I was bemoaning the rat race of living in San Francisco. I will save that post for another day. I waxed on about how getting ahead in life was all about the big wins: significant raises, large bonuses, side businesses to provide additional income, and real estate investments.
She laughed and shook her head. She completely disagreed. She listed examples of people who have great jobs and appear wealthy, yet are nowhere near retirement. My parents, in contrast, are squarely middle class. My dad was in the navy, worked for the post office, and retired a while ago. My mom is an accountant who is now retired at age 66. She could have retired sooner, but liked her job so she kept at it. Another thing about my mom is that she could have climbed the corporate ladder, but refused. Even though she was a working mom, family came first. She didn’t want the burden of long hours or the stress of managing people and instead was always home at a reasonable hour to be with me and my sister.
Considering my parents’ poor immigrant background, their massive savings as they enjoy retirement together is extremely impressive. So how did they do it? If you ask my mom, she says it’s simple. They rarely ate out. Both my parents packed their lunch for work every day. I don’t think they’ve ever set foot inside a Starbucks. They never paid full price for anything. They’re not flashy people so they weren’t spending money on stupid stuff like fancy clothes or cars. They scrimped so that we could go on vacation, get braces, have piano lessons, and go to private Catholic school from first grade through senior year of high school. And even though they never made a ton of money, they consistently give to a handful of charities.
As I see my parents tagged in Facebook photos, tracking them from Tokyo to Taipei, then on to Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Singapore, I am filled with pride at how deserving they are of these memories and experiences. But also I wanted to point out that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or someone with a high-paying job or win the lottery to retire and enjoy your twilight years. My parents did it. Dean and I are determined to do it too. And of course, we’d love for all of you to join us. Let’s cruise around the world together!