Is it really possible to retire at the age of 40?
PUBLISHED: 16:30 24 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:40 24 July 2017
Although our choices have widened beyond comprehension over the past two decades, television is one area of everyday life where more most obviously fails to equate with better quality.
That’s hardly surprising. With 24-hour schedules to fill, broadcasters have become adept at scraping the barrel, often hitting the jackpot when an ultra-cheap programme, ie one where almost all participants appear for peanuts, fires up the ratings.
I’m no television addict and long ago concluded that people who fail to rate The Sopranos as the medium’s best-ever drama have probably never seen it, but I confess to being a sucker for the compellingly-titled programme that promises something a little different.
With this in mind, I settled down to watch Channel Four’s How To Retire At 40 last week. The programme was notable for featuring one thirty-something couple who had adopted an innovative 5:2 ‘finance diet’ in an impressive attempt to conclude their lives as wage slaves within the decade.
Unlike the intermittent fasting version of the diet, where you eat normally for five days a week and fast on the other two, however, when it came to finances the couple had flipped this approach on its head.
They did not spend a penny for five days a week – no fancy coffee, expensive lunchtime sandwiches, Friday night drinks followed by a takeaway and a taxi home – but did allow themselves a number of weekend treats.
The pair reckoned their unusual but contemporary approach to personal finance meant they were saving £14,000 a year.
We’ve grown used to reading surveys, which tend to appear at least once a year, reminding us that if we were to kick our expensive morning coffee habit we could afford a yacht.
One recent survey concluded that on average, workers will spend more than £88,000 during the course of their working lives buying lunch, tea, coffee and the occasional afternoon snack.
This cash could be used to pay off a £100,000 mortgage six years early, it said, assuming a working life of 47 years.
I’m a little wary of the methods used by some surveys because their lack of consistency tends to skew the results in favour of costs incurred by people working in London, but at least they, and programmes such as How To Retire At 40, make us appreciate that a regular savings habit need not be onerous.
Long before Santander took them over, the Abbey National Building Society attracted millions of new customers by persuading them to save little and often.
The society’s famous ‘Abbey habit’ advertising jingle had folks flocking to their branches to enjoy the benefits of regular saving.
An Abbey National mortgage became the norm for millions (including for my wife and I) once they had saved a deposit for their first home.
If the society marked you down as a regular saver, there was no problem getting a mortgage, although I recall we had to save 25% of the cost of our first place (a tiny two-bedroomed flat) before the mortgage was released.
That cash was saved out of taxed income, so the process was difficult at times, but we sacrificed unnecessary items in order to achieve our goal.
And there’s the rub. Whether it be your intention to retire at 40 (and the best of luck with that), put a deposit on a tiny two-bed flat, or to buy yourself a new car, having a goal is one of the five important elements to a successful saving regime.
It’s agreed that firstly you should pay off your debts, especially those of the credit card variety. In the meantime, start small: saving £3.50 a day is £1,277 a year.
It’s also a great idea to separate your savings: arrange to put them in an account which is awkward to access – if they’re readily available, in the form of cash in your purse or wallet, you’ll invariably spend them.
Finally, be disciplined.
Establish a standing order to take money from your current account and into a savings account.
After a while, you’ll not notice it going and will be well on your way to early retirement.
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