...at least financially.
In my senior year at college, I was both job-hunting and applying for PhD programs in computer engineering (a cross between hardware and software). I hadn't really decided what I was going to do when my dad and I went out for a walk. His advice was that if I started working straight away, and put $2,000 a year into an IRA until I was 30 and then stopped, I would have more money when I retired at 65 than if I waited and put $2,000 per year into the IRA from age 30 to 65. I was 22 and figured most PhD programs take about 6 years. My parents have always made disparaging remarks about "professional students" so it was pretty clear what his recommendation was.
I ended up receiving a killer scholarship -- admission to a top program, $18,000 stipend per year (that's about $25,000 in today's dollars), and guaranteed summer jobs at Xerox -- but turned it down. I didn't want to be a professor, didn't feel like I had the inventiveness to come up with an original research idea, and was sick of school. I went to work, signed up for the 401k as soon as I was eligible, and maxed it out at 15% until I married at age 30, then cut back to 10% until I stopped working when my son was born a few months before I turned 35.
So yesterday I was playing with an Excel spreadsheet, trying to figure out what my Target Savings Goal should be. I was having trouble because the calculations from the Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Rich assumed you are starting from $0, and they referenced clunky future value tables in the back of the book. Plus I didn't like the numbers that came out because it would really pinch to save that much. So to account for the money we already have invested, I had to figure out how to use the FV, PV, and PMT functions in Excel. I plugged the numbers in -- 10% return, $320k today, 29 years till age 65 -- and kept coming up with either negative numbers or really large values. Finally I used the numbers from our mortgage to figure out where I needed to enter positive or negative values into the functions and what the results mean. As unbelievable as it sounds, in order to have $2 million at age 65, I actually have to take out $20k per year! If I just leave it alone, I will have $5 million at age 65. I am dumbfounded. It brings into question whether I should push so hard to get our savings back to 10% or go take more vacations now.
I said Dad was right about the financial aspect of my career decision. I'm not as certain about the non-financial aspects. Frankly, I'm bored to tears with software now. Just thinking about coding again depresses me. Although I don't really regret not getting the PhD, I think if I had I might have more interesting work to go back to. I suppose I could go do one now, but it doesn't seem right to me to ask DH to support me through both SAHM years and a PhD program -- better for us to find a business we can do together.
Dad was right...
...at least financially.