Members of the FIER club use an incredibly simple formula to determine how much capital we need for retirement: the ‘x25 rule’.
‘The x25 Rule’
How Does It Work?
It’s stupidly simple. It’s so simple a Kardashian with a calculator could work it out.
To calculate the approximate amount of capital that you need in order to retire; simply multiply your annual living expenses by 25. This is the average amount that you would need to retire on, based on an average investment return of 4% and your current living arrangements.
Capital Required = Annual Living Expenses x 25
A message to the haters: like the ‘i before e’ rule that was drilled into us since we first learnt to spell; this ‘rule’ is more of a guideline, and it is based upon a number of assumptions; namely:
- Your living expenses will remain the same over time and;
- An average 4% return on your investment
You say, “But I know I can better returns that that, that’s a pittance”
True, and you probably will get a better return on that by investing in Lego. But us FIERies like to be ultra-conservative; and I would prefer to have too many savings and too much passive income coming in from investments than having to go dumpster diving behind doughnut king living off stale doughnuts.
So that’s where the 25x rules comes from.
What about the ‘4% Rule’?
They are different sides of the same coin, so to speak.
The 25x rule and the 4% use the same underlying maths; they just are looking at different perspectives: pre- versus post- retirement.
The 25x rule is what we strive for when we are saving for retirement. That magical number that tells us ‘when you reach this amount, you are no longer tied to your job’.
The 25x rule and the 4% use the same formula
The 4% rule comes into effect after you ceremoniously hand in your resignation. Alas, now you have to rely on the income coming from those investments you so tirelessly saved up using the x25 rule. Assuming you managed to save 25x what your living expenses were, you should be able to live off the income from your investments. That is if you maintain an investment return of 4%. Incidentally (because maths, yo!) 4% is also the amount of your capital that you can safely spend annually without reducing the amount you have invested.
Based on assumptions, if you spend more than that 4% in a year, you could be eating into your capital and there will be less capital available to earn you an income the following year. This is something we desperately want to avoid, as this capital needs to sustain us for some time.
But, hey, I’m not there yet, so let’s worry about that when it comes (hopefully sooner rather than later).
‘It’s not enough; I don’t want to live like a uni student in retirement’
Neither do I.
Share houses, living off Ramien Noodles and Vegemite on toast, whilst you sweat it out at home because you can’t afford to turn the air conditioner on. Why would you willingly choose to live like that?
As aforementioned, the 25x rule is just a guide, and just because you reach this savings goal does not mean you have to give up work. But, by gese, it gives you peace of mind.
If you expect that your living expenses will increase when you leave the workforce, you can ‘budget’ for that (insert sickening feeling in the stomach as I write the word ‘budget’, yuck, yuck, double yuck). What I mean by that is, calculate how much you expect it will cost you to live per year when you throw in the towel, and multiply it by 25. This gives you the (approximate) amount of savings you will need to fund your new lifestyle.
I like my job, and I don’t want to retire
But when you reach that magical x25 figure, at least you will have the choice to work instead of having to go to work just to make ends meet.
FIER gives you the CHOICE to work IF you WANT to
Is it only me that sighs in relief when I imagine being in that situation?
Not only that, but in the era of ‘sometimes employment’ and the so-called ‘gig economy’, if you lose your job you know that you can maintain your current standard of living without having to sell a kidney.
*Insert another sigh of relief as I imagine such a situation
The ‘RULE’ is not Set in Stone
You are free to make your own assumptions. In addition, some investments and items that add to your net worth are likely to earn less than others (take your house for example).
Oh deary me, now I’ve put the cat among the pigeons, now that little bit is going to stir some trouble. Especially for the majority of Aussies who absolutely adore property.
‘It only goes up’ they say.
‘Always safe in bricks in mortar’ says another.
Ok, so this conversation is probably more suited to another blog post.
The truth is, your home is NOT a money making asset. Well, at least I don’t look at it that way.
Why? You ask.
Well, first of all it does not earn me money (not yet atleast, although I’ll be renting out the spare room soon). In fact, it costs you money to maintain (this is why some people actually consider it a liability instead of an asset).
In addition, I like my house. It suits my lifestyle. And I don’t plan on selling it anytime soon.
To reiterate: Your home is NOT an income generating asset!
Obviously it can make you something, (i.e. that housemate who will tell you that they ‘actually like lumpy milk’); but if you are like most people your home is not going to make you many dollarydoos (the official currency of Australia) anytime soon. Sure, it might have risen in value: but the only way to realise these capital gains is to sell it.
This also helped me realise that not all assets are created equal in terms of income generation. Thus, I will be using the x25 ‘rule’ as a guide, and a guide only.
If you decide to use it, you should too.