The retired cyclist
I'm delighted to have another Reader Profile for you today, this time from a regular RetireJapan commenter and community member: captainspoke. He's living the good life now after a lifetime of good decisions. We can all but hope to be in such a good position when we want to retire.
Take it away, captain :)
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m US. I've been in Japan for well over 30 years (now aged 66). I worked in Tokyo for two years, then moved to Kanazawa, and started work here in April, 1988. My wife and I got married about then, too. I already had an MA then, which opened doors, kind of like having a PhD now. I’ve always taught at the uni level, both here and in Tokyo, and some other countries before that. Soon after moving here, I became a regular employee (正社員), and moved up the ranks. I retired a little over a year ago, and a few months after that my school christened me 名誉教授.
Trivia: way back in 1970 the government drew my birthday out of a big drum and told me I had virtually the lowest possible double-digit draft number (13 is truly unlucky). A couple decisions followed that, but if it hadn’t been for that draft lottery, I literally wouldn’t be here today. The fact that this happened the way it did was complete chance—kind of like some butterfly wings on the other side of the planet.
2. How did you get started with personal finance?
Getting ahead, money-wise, has always seemed the normal thing to do. Even as a kid I saved money—e.g., mowing and snow shovelling around the neighborhood. The only debt in my life was our house loan, paid off early about 20 years ago. The GI bill, a related tuition waiver and a grant or two, an occasional check from my dad, and later a TA job, paid for my degrees. My wife has always worked (she also teaches uni, a different school), so money has never been a problem. I had an account with Merrill Lynch even before the fall of 1987 (double meaning there). At some point I switched to Vanguard (well before the term Boglehead became fashionable), and then to Schwab in the early/mid 2000s. I tried the “offshore” thing for a while (late 90s?), but didn’t bet the farm on it and was able to escape relatively unscathed—lesson learned! I don’t have an investment/brokerage account in Japan, just a couple bank accounts.
3. What are you doing at the moment?
Hey, I’m retired, ya know?!?
I could easily have set up part time hours at my former school and elsewhere, but after a life determined by semester schedules, I wanted freedom. My biggest worry was missing my office--an established private space, a room of my own--but my wife was good about making space at home to compensate for that.
I’ve been house-husbanding as much as possible. This is not new, since we have always shared the work, it’s just the proportion that has changed. Besides other chores, I generally now cook weekdays, my wife cooks weekends (mostly). Fridays have traditionally been our temaki day—one of the easiest. This past year I've been the one who shopped for a new washer when the old one died (and who was here for delivery), who has gotten the dog to the groomer and back, or who could be here when the plumber comes.
4. What books/websites/companies do you recommend?
I’ve never read any of the commonly quoted titles, but I’ve read enough reviews of those to understand their main points. In many cases, you only need to absorb the principle behind the title, or at most a few of the main ideas. As they say, keep it simple. A Random Walk Down Wall Street is a title that I was familiar with early on.
Instead of financial guidebooks, Schwab provides third party research reports from the likes of Morningstar, S&P/CFRA, Argus, Ned Davis, Credit Suisse, and so on. That’s probably my most serious reading. For business news, I look at various business news sites, but while being informed is good, keeping all of that at arm’s length is good, too. I’d recommend Schwab in a heartbeat, but today’s rules make that advice worthless for people here.
5. What's your plan going forward?
No real plan or goal. Make my wife’s life as easy as possible, take it easy myself, walk the dog, do some cycling or go to the pool, cook, drink beer. I play guitar and like to take pictures (that’s one of mine, above). I’ve taken a few trips within Japan and have the senior discount booklet for JR. Late last fall I spent over three weeks in northern Vietnam, and will try to go again, the middle or southern part next time. I’ve got a gig lined up for this coming June and July when I will substitute as co-manager of a B&B. The owners are old friends who will be traveling then, and along with another guy I will be serving breakfasts and changing sheets in Captain Cook, Hawaii. There’s a little money in it, but not quite enough to cover all of the transportation there & back, though I did book a more expensive direct ticket. On the other hand, life there will be almost free, costing me about the same as living at home. Breakfast is free (combined with the guests), but lunches/dinners are on our own dime.. We’ll use their vehicles, and gas will get shared somehow—some on the owners when we're shopping for supplies, the rest on us when we’re on our own. One of the nicest snorkeling spots in the state is just below there (Two Step, Honaunau). The coffee they grow is certified organic. I leave here on May 31st, JAL direct Narita to Kona, and arrive back home on August 1st.
Any other thoughts?
My wife is still a few years from retirement, so I’m kind of marking time until we can do things together. It’s really too bad she can’t come along this summer.
If anyone’s interested, my pension payments total ¥2M/year, almost to the yen (国民年金 plus 私学共済). That’s with 29 years paying in. Although I hear from them now and then, since I’ve almost never worked in the US I’m not eligible for social security. I have no plans to ‘go home’. Home is here, not there.
I’m embarrassed to admit this failure, but some weeks ago I tried several times and in several different ways to calculate what I spent this past year, and got somewhat different numbers each time…! The highest number I got was ¥3.26M, so subtract the above pension to get the year’s cost to me. Though it might change, my plan is to live on pension and severance for as long as that money lasts, and then start pulling funds back from the US. Also, a few things this year that were based on my pre-retirement income should be cheaper going forward.
Finally, a heads-up to future retirees: the first couple of months of retirement were a blizzard of paperwork—the transition away from employment. Mailings and forms to sign up directly for this and that, receiving a variety of actual bills at first (with mixed deadlines) and then getting auto-pay going for each thing—it would have been nice to have had a secretary! Keep in mind that once you’re done at work there’s no 人事課 helping you out behind the scenes.
Fantastic stuff from captainspoke, and a nice reminder that the reward for figuring money out now is not having to worry about it in the future.
We're always happy to run genuine guest posts and Reader Profiles, so if you have something you'd be willing to write about please get in touch via the site.