“Your Number” Revisited #illumedati

Hey everyone, it’s Finance Fridays again. I’ve talked about “Your Number” and “Different Numbers” but today’s post is going to be about “Your Number” Revisited.

This short post is mostly just as a thinking exercise. However, let’s start with some background:

I was talking to my contractor on Thursday. He’s still been working on my lanai (deck). He comes and works hard and I always try to bring out some ice cold water for him. Apparently his daughter took his water bottle awhile back (with his name on it!) since she plays basketball all the time. However, he hasn’t found the time or felt the need to replace his water bottle. To be honest, he’ll probably never get one for himself. For that reason, I told him I was just gonna buy him one and give it to him next week.

As we were in my garage just talking while he had a drink of water, we talked a bit about life and retirement. I may have mentioned it before, but he actually has a few houses here on Oahu. Being a contractor who has built a bunch of houses in his time, I would imagine most of these houses were built by him. His children live in his other houses.

Also, all these houses are all paid off and well he’s been working for the last 30 years. As simple and low maintenance as his lifestyle is, and no mortgage payments, I would imagine he could have retired awhile ago… So I just asked him, when could you have retired?

What did he say?

He thought about it a bit and he told me he could have retired probably at least 5 years ago. That sounded about right given his current age and the age of his kids. However, he enjoys the work and says he doesn’t really enjoy just sitting and doing nothing — which is what he would do if he retires. He mentioned to me that he knows a guy who still lays down tile that is 72 years old! “Laying down tile is rough work!” he told me. “I don’t think I could do this at 72, but who knows when I’ll stop.”

I think long story short is that he doesn’t do it for the money. There is something to be said for an honest day’s work. At this point in his life, he doesn’t take on jobs because he has to, he picks and chooses the jobs he decides to take. Then he went on to ask me “Really… how much is enough?”

This is a question people ask a lot. Obviously, this is different for different people but I think the binary decision is “There is enough.” and “There is never enough.” He went on to ask me, “hey, how much you need to quit your job today? $5 million? $10 million?”


I was kind of surprised that he chose those particular numbers, especially since my number IS $5 million. So I responded, “$5 million and I can quit.”

Then he went on to ask me, “Let’s say you have $5 million today. You pau.(You done). So then let me ask you, if I’m your boss, and I say, hey, you come back and work for me, I give you $10 million… do you do it?”

I said no. My number is $5 million to be done, having more than that doesn’t change anything for me.

He said “yea, when you pau, you pau, no need more. So that’s enough.”

It was a very interesting question. I think the underlying concept is this:

If your number is X in order to quit your job, then is there a number Y that they could pay you to come back? If so, is X really your number?

It’s something to ponder.

For me, once I reach my number and retire, there isn’t a number that could make me come back. However, that doesn’t mean I will quit working once I reach my number. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.

My contractor doesn’t need to work… and probably hasn’t needed to for awhile. However, he chooses to. That said, there is no amount of money that you can offer him to make him do a job he doesn’t want to do — even if he could do it.

Basically, your number isn’t necessarily about retirement… it’s about freedom.


Is your number really your number?

Is your enough really enough?

Your number isn’t necessarily about retirement… it’s about freedom.

Finance Fridays Sensei


Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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