The Constant Saver

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

I have a problem with being too much of a saver. I love board games and video games which require resource management, but I am constantly beaten by opponents who are willing to expend resources (for example armies in the board game Axis and Allies) while I continue to collect various items. I would much rather not expend a resource, whether it’s trivial like something from a game, or money that could be used to pay down a mortgage.

For an individual looking to accumulate assets as quickly as possible, I don’t think being a “saver” is a terrible quality to have. I think that this facet of my personality is fine for the most part, but there are some things that this doesn’t help with.

I am currently allotted 22 days of vacation each year from my job. I enjoy time off as much as the next person, but I seem to have a hard time spending this “scarce” resource. Over the past few years, I have carried over a few days per year (my company limits the ability to do this, as they attempt to keep a “work-life balance”). I have had to use the days because I needed to take time off to study for the accounting courses I was taking. I guess in the back of my mind, taking a day off to do nothing seems a little wasteful.

Having a scarce number of days available to do things, I feel the need to have to do something – a trip, a project, a golf day, or something else exciting. I do these things rather than just hanging out around home and doing “nothing” (reading, watching movies, cooking), which is what my main goal most of the time.

I realize that this is the most ridiculous “problem” I could really talk about, but it will be interesting to see how I react when it’s time to spend retirement income. I have relatives that have become really miserly post-retirement and seem to become obsessed with ensuring their retirement fund is not spent, to the detriment of any enjoyment they could be having.

I think that the resolution to my stinginess in retirement is to ensure that I budget appropriately and work with the knowledge that I’m fine as long as I stay within that amount…I don’t have to keep saving after I retire. I’m not really sure how I’ll fix the similar problems I have with getting my butt kicked at board games.

Do you over save? Do you think you’ll continue this trend in retirement?

8 thoughts on “The Constant Saver”

  1. I felt the same way when I worked for a company. I saved those vacation days to take them with my other holidays so I would have the maximum number of days possible.

    Once I became a freelancer, time became a less valuable resource for me and I managed to relax and think: Okay, I don’t need to freak out all the time about having enough vacation days.

    Now my problem is having enough WORK days 😉

  2. If you are going to retire at 42 (which I do), there is no possible way to “over save”.

  3. Dave,

    Where in Ontario are you? I love to play Axis and Allies. My dad plays the game the same way. Builds up his resources and saves them and then tries to over power or spend them later on. Usually by this time though, he has lost a lot of time and I’m close to winning.

    The same can be said of people from the older generations where they do not know any different on how to do things. Pay off mortgage and then save. He said one day that he doesn’t want to lose what he has worked so hard for over the last 35 years. He started reading the Rich Dad Poor Dad books about 3-4 years ago, as he was concerned his nest egg was not going to be big enough. Since then, he has done a 180 turnaround on how to look at things. It is amazing to see how far he has come with learning what dividends are, and stocks and so on. Pretty good for someone with a high school education.

    For people like us, the way to saving may be a bit different. As we are younger, if something goes wrong, we have more TIME to try to make back the earnings that we had lost in the past.

    Myself, no, I am not an oversaver. I am trying to live now, but also plan for tomorrow. The main reason is that you never know if you will be around to enjoy the future. I hardly have any RRSP’s saved at all as I feel other than the tax break, that this is a waste of money when a TFSA will do more for me over the longer run. Most of my assets are in Real Estate, and I guess I’m using that as my future savings and cash flow.

    I am 35 and also a CGA and my goal is to retire at 45. The question is how am I going to be able to have the cash flow I want to enjoy the same standard of living I have right now. In the same sense, I treat life in the same way I play Axis and Allies, and so far it has been very good.

  4. Back in my early years of working full-time, I had only about 12 paid days off, so I used them very carefully. Back then, I went out of town on vacation for most of those days which left me very few days to use the rest of the year, days I also used very carefully.

    But when I picked up my third week of vacation, it happened to coincide with the end of my annual out-of-town, lengthy vacations. This left me with many more days to use the whole year and less opportunities to use them, resulting in my taking a day or days off whenever I felt like it.

    This pattern accelerated in 2000 when I picked up a 4th week of vacation. But in 2001, I switched to part-time status and gained more time off, albeit unpaid. My vacation time got reduced on a pro rata basis but I kinda got addicted to all of that time off, paid or unpaid.

    And thus began my trip down the road to ER.

    As to saving while in ER, any of my investment income I do not spend I consider “saved” and gets reinvested.

  5. I find it hard to spend scarce resources too. I tend to hoard vacation days because … what if I really need them (e.g. if I get injured or have a prolonged sickness)? I basically have to maximize my savings in order to retire by age 40 though. Others may think I’m nuts for acting like I hardly have any money (“living like a pauper” despite having a fairly decent income). The concept of eventually drawing down on principal in retirement is rather scary.

  6. “I have a problem with being too much of a saver” -> The Dude voice: “well that’s like, your opinion, man.”

    Sure, by others’ standards you save far too much. But what about *your* standards? And why do you have them? If you really are saving “too much” by those, then what changed your mentality? I’ve thought this through myself, and ended up simply deciding to consider others’ opinions, but frequently find them discarded in favor of my own cost/benefit trade-off analysis.

    “I have had to use the [vacation] days” – I am a hoarder, too, but in the sense of optimization and planning. If I have an emergency, I want to have the ability to take a week off without bending the rules. Also, every place I’ve worked has had a policy of paying out unused vacation days, so naturally I stash them up until the limit because they’re worth a lot from a monetary perspective. Not only that, it’s nice to have some extra cash when switching jobs, and they get paid out at a later (and likely higher) rate than at when they accrued!

    “when it’s time to spend retirement income” – you talk of this as if it’s a certainty. Why even bother worrying about spending it? Why not just worry about **spending too much** instead, since that’s the one that will leave you destitute? Who cares if you end up with much more than you need, as long as you’re happy enough while producing it?

    I plan a 20% buffer zone above financial independence before striking out for my own adventures, but I know that’s going to be a very hard step to take for me mentally anyways. But I’m OK with that, because I value stability.

    “I’m fine as long as I stay within that amount” – you have a remarkably confident view in the future. There are so many unknowns! I’m personally dedicating some of my personal time coming to terms with the fact that while I have planned quite well and am in a generally enviable position, everything I have worked for can disappear quickly, and without warning.

    I think being comfortable with that and being happy with little are what keep me confident I can even handle a life of true freedom.

  7. Dave,

    I just re read this post and was thinking. What if you made enough money through secondary income sources to afford for you to take an additional 1-3 weeks off of work un paid each year. Would you do it?

    While completing my cga designation I found that I had to finish a University Degree in order to graduate. My debate was take 4 months off work for one semester and do all 5 courses at once. I looked at is as a time saver. Total cost would have been about $20K, with cost for courses and income replacement as I would not have been working.

    End result was I did them at night school instead in order to stay on track with the completion date I had in mind.

    The point is, if you were financially able to, would you take more time off even if it was unpaid?

    Food for thought: In European countries, you start off with 4 weeks holidays a year.

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