“Sometimes it’s the mistakes that turn out to be the
best parts of life,” 
― Carrie Ryan, The Dead-Tossed Waves

Confession time! Every time I see a blog post or an article about someone who is in their 30s and already retired, I feel a pang of jealousy. I know, our case is not so bad. We will be done by 42. However, I still feel like we should have done better. We have always lived our life fairly frugally – Not as frugally as we could, but compared to our income. We have always been paid very well. Why did we have to work for so long? We should have retired already.

It is not like we don’t know the answer to that question. In case you are new here, we moved into the US just 4 years back. Whatever we saved up before that, and invested intelligently, will be just around $60,000 when we trasfer it here.. The cost of living, and hence the pays, are way lower in India. We have made several times that in the past 4 years alone. (See the top of the side panel for our current status, updated every Monday)

More than once, we have tried to imagine how life would have been different if we had moved here 10 years before we did. We did have a chance to do that, and had opted not to.

We could retire today if we were ready to go back to India. However, we have decided that having to work for another 5 years is a price we are willing to pay to live here.

Would we have retired already had we only moved here 10 years earlier? That is one thing BusyDad and I don’t really agree about. He thinks that we would have been retired. I think we would not have known the value of saving money. Living in India did teach us a lot.

We learnt about the value of money

We have seen the kind of work people are ready to do for money, and the meagre payment that they get for it. We had someone cook for us every single day of the month for less than 50 dollars (a month!). To rent the 800 sq ft apartment we lived in, it would have cost us 6 times as much. And a cook’s job was one of the best paying jobs for someone who was ready to be in domestic service. We now realize that if we don’t have enough, it could get ugly.

We now recognize the value of education

In a country like India where there is no concept of minimum wage, and human beings are in abundance, the only thing that differentiated us from all of those paid poorly was education. It is hard to see that here – you get paid well if you are really good at whatever you do. But I have been convinced that specialized knowledge gives you a way better chance at life. Hope I can get GBoy to buy into that!

We understand inflation

We have seen enough inflation to really understand how buying power of money can go down drastically. Had we lived here throughout, we would have chalked up any difference towards lifestyle inflation. It creeps up so slowly here, and it is really difficult to anticipate how things are going to be 30, 40, 50 years from now. We know of a couple (in India) who retired because they had saved up more than anyone else, and are now struggling just because inflation ate it all up.

We have seen the magic of compounding

Before we invested in real estate, we saved up all our money in Fixed Deposits – which is the equivalent of CDs here. The rate of interest would be anywhere between 7-11%. Since it carried zero risk, we used them a lot. Although the buying power was coming down due to inflation, we could see how fast our absolute amount could double.

We have learnt to take calculated risks

When we bought our two condos in India, there was nothing – just an idea of them going to be built. And it was the 2008 -2009 time period  There have been people who lost money because the builders went bankrupt. We didn’t, luckily. We still make good money (in Indian terms. $600 per month ) from renting them both out. Right now, we invest everything in stocks, nothing in bonds. We want our money to grow as fast as it can. While we both are employed, we can afford to take the risk.

We learnt to live frugally 

May be this point should have gone first. Right now, we see every single person around us spending money. It wasn’t like that in India. A lot of people pay attention to every single expense. A lot of people actually stick to budgets. It was not just fashionable to be frugal, it was a way of life. I am not claiming that we live frugally now. We don’t. Right now, even though we only spend about $40,000 a year (plus mortgage), there is a huge part of that I can cut out. Without blinking my eye. And that is just because we understood early on how little you really need.

If you are wondering where I am going with this, my point is that every life experience teaches you something. Whether you actually reailize it or not. So if you are regretting past mistakes, or decisions, stop that and start using those lessons now.

If we had not lived in India during the initial part of our adult life, we wouldn’t have learnt how to live our life the way we do now. I can actually imagine me blowing off hard earned money on frivolous stuff. I am glad I don’t.

If you remember one thing from this post, it should be this- Start making changes now. Your past mistakes? They weren’t really mistakes. They were just chances for you to learn a lesson. And you will realize that you did learn it if you only stop and think about it. There is no point wasting time on regretting or wondering about past decisions. Your future starts NOW!

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Sunday, Mar 26, 2023