If I Had a Million Dollars…

photo shows a road through a wooded area with "RETIREMENT" painted in yellow on the pavement

It’s a premise we’ve heard in songs and any number of written works. “If I had a million dollars…” It’s a great prompt—sometimes serious, sometimes humorous. I’ve decided to take a crack at my own entry into the million-dollar discussion!

I had the privilege recently of meeting a young person who shared their goal of retiring at age 30. I was struck by the ambition, shared by many in the FIRE movement: its mantra is “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” So here I am thinking about a million dollars. What I have to say is all about the numbers. Money and numbers are how we fund the life in which we act out our values, plans, and dreams.

Wondering what it takes to retire early? It’s not a universal formula, but we can take the idea of accumulating a million dollars of invested capital as a decent proxy. In this scenario, one has to be able to imagine someday living on, say, a $50,000 a year. But it also requires a willingness to endure the ups and downs of ownership. They are just part of any long ride in the markets. (And keep in mind it would take a far bigger number to retire on today’s low interest rates on stable forms of money!)

Two factors really affect the path to retirement. One is how we spend and earn along the way; the other is inflation.

First, because financial independence is all about our resources exceeding our needs—income exceeding outflow—reducing your needs is one way to get there sooner. The other side of the coin is finding ways to maximize your human capital in these working years, getting paid more for your labor. So the first best investment might be in yourself to improve your earning power. Fewer expenses, more income—more money to invest for retirement.

Second, inflation will affect how the path to retirement unfolds. Inflation risk is the extent to which our money loses purchasing power over time, so we have to take that into account as we plan for our future spending in retirement.

So let’s get back to the numbers. How much money would we need to invest each year in order to have $50,000 (in today’s dollars) as annual income in the future?

Let’s assume 3% inflation and 9% investment returns—neither of which is guaranteed—and 5% annual withdrawals in retirement. Starting from zero, we could be…

  • retiring in 7 years by investing $129,782 annually ($10,815 monthly)
  • retiring in 15 years by investing $51,529 annually ($4,294 monthly)
  • retiring in 25 years by investing $23,999 annually ($2,000 monthly)
  • retiring in 35 years by investing $14,349 annually ($1,196 monthly)
  • retiring In 45 years by investing $6,982 annually ($582 monthly)

These numbers are just one way to slice it. If you could live in retirement on $25,000 of today’s dollars a year, for example, take those amounts above and cut them in half. If you would want $100,000 a year, then double the figures.

We don’t know the future, and these calculations are not the future. But it’s a place to start toward a plan.

Clients, if you want to sort out your situation—or help a younger person get started—email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.


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22, 44, 66: My Life in Thirds

My birthday is approaching, and I’m ruminating about the meaning of another year in the life—but you already know how much I like to take a step back, get the big picture, and imagine the long view.


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A Birthday Approaches

photo shows a carousel with a city in the background

My birthday is approaching, and I’m ruminating about the meaning of another year in the life—but you already know how much I like to take a step back, get the big picture, and imagine the long view.

22, 44, 66—or, my life in thirds.

I’m thinking about my life in thirds: 22 years of getting ready, 22 years of gaining experience, and 22 years building this lovely enterprise at 228 Main. That’s right, I’m turning 66, wondering what the next 22 years will bring.

It feels like the years ahead will be about growing the team that runs the firm, building capabilities and capacity, putting the next generation in position to do better work than ever for you—and for the coming generations, too.

While we work to refine our methods and strategies and tactics, we’ll honor the same principles we always have, and we’ll live by the same values: the better off you are, the better off we will likely be. So the center of our work will always be about striving to grow your buckets, to focus on your outcomes.

I’m down to my last 26 years now… Mark your calendars for the retirement party: May 27, 2048!

I appreciate you for being with me on this journey thus far. Thank you. I would not trade my spot with any of the other 7 billion of us, it’s been so good.

Stop in and see us, anytime.


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Joining a New Club: Some Thoughts about Social Security

Claiming Social Security benefits is often talked about in formulas, as if it’s always straightforward. Nonmathematical factors—and feelings—should be given their due weight, it turns out. More in this week’s chat.


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Social Security: Facts and Feelings

photo shows a stack of Social Security cards

We have written from time to time about the role of Social Security retirement benefits in your plans and planning. I have new perspectives on the process, based on my new status: I’m a Social Security recipient! 

I’ve got two interesting and useful lessons from my process so far. 

First, in my separate discussions with two Social Security Administration employees, a piece of misinformation emerged. A written summary of a telephone appointment contained a major error, one that would have had negative consequences if left uncorrected. 

Second, working through the actual numbers, the arithmetic favoring one start date versus another was not nearly as compelling as I expected. Claiming benefits is often talked about in formulas, as if it’s always straightforward. Nonmathematical factors—and feelings—should therefore be given due weight, it turns out. 

Because of the first lesson, I feel even more committed to join each of you as you go through the actual application process. The information is murky, humans can make errors, we can lose pivotal details in the mix… But I would love to try to help make sure the process comes out as you would like it to. 

The second lesson underlines something we’ve always believed: your situation, your feelings, your preferences and vision for your cash flow needs absolutely must be part of the equation. Nobody knows the date going on their death certificate, so there is no way to “prove” in advance the “best” time to claim Social Security. 

What will work out best for you in your real life? That’s the question. 

Social Security is a significant fraction of retirement income for most people, so taking some time to examine and explore options well ahead of time makes sense. We’re here for that. If you are within a few years of retirement, keep watching this space: we will keep discussing what options are available in more detail and how we might approach the choices. 

Clients, if you are ready to talk about your retirement plans and planning, please email us or call. 


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A Million-Dollar Retirement Idea

Wondering what it takes to retire early? It’s not a universal formula, but we can take the idea of accumulating a million dollars of invested capital as a decent proxy. How might the numbers shake out?


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Feel the Churn

Back in the snowbird chapter of my life, we learned that stormy weather—rough seas—washed a wealth of interesting shells up on the beach. Looking for shells was always more fruitful when the weather had been rough.

The world situation and our markets have been nothing if not stormy this year! War has few parallels as a human tragedy; the economic ramifications are widespread.

Some of our holdings have risen in price because of the disruptions: raw materials and miners and energy, for example. Others have gone the other way.

But overall, we’re pleased with how our holdings have behaved.

Just as rough weather washes shells up on the beach, we’ve found new opportunities in the rough markets. The other thing that turmoil brings us is the chance to rebalance—take some money off the top of things that have gone up, add to the bargains that emerge among our holdings.

While some are paralyzed by the commotion, we’re finding that our principles are serving us well:

  • We look for the best bargains
  • We own the orchard for the fruit crop
  • We avoid stampedes in the market

Clients, want to talk more about what this means for you? Reach out, at any time.


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Three Cheers for Larry!

Coincidence, good timing, good fortune… Whatever you call it, something wonderful happened to bring Larry Wiederspan into my life and later into our shop. Clients, three cheers for Larry as he closes a chapter working here at 228 Main.


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Serendipity, or, the Mark and Larry Story

graphic shows a framed collage of headshots of each of the six members of the office staff (Patsy, Larry, Mark, Caitie, Greg, and Billy)

It’s the way events might occur by chance, to our happiness or benefit. 

It’s coincidence. 

It’s good luck. 

And maybe sometimes it’s providence. All of these could define the word “serendipity.” And all describe my long association with Larry Wiederspan. 

I met Larry in one of my earliest incarnations in business, as a life insurance agent working with country banks and bankers. The owners of a small chain of banks asked me to go out west to see one of their branch office managers at a location 200 miles away, in the middle of Nebraska, to implement a benefit plan. 

We hit it off. I ended up making return trips to work with Larry and even his wife Marilyn on their own plans and planning. As my skills and services evolved, they came along with me. 

Over the years, some of Larry’s strengths came to the surface: integrity, diligence, good faith, attention to detail, and friendliness. Then serendipity struck about ten years ago, when I learned that they were thinking about a move to my neighborhood after Marilyn’s retirement. His characteristics and traits were something that our shop needed, and he was about to join the neighborhood. 

At the time, increasing regulatory requirements meant that files needed updating and business processes became more cumbersome—precisely when family health issues took me out of the shop for weeks at a time. I could easily have been that person who had a great business until… illness befell the family. 

Larry retired from his banking career, a higher-stress and longer-hours endeavor than the more relaxed pace of the position we created for him at 228 Main. Larry and Marilyn moved closer to their grandchildren. It was a big win for everyone. 

Clients, you and we obtained the benefits of knowing and working with Larry. We’ve enjoyed Larry’s association for longer than we expected we’d get, as he enjoyed his work too. 

But he tells us the time has come for more retirement-type activities and less work. We’ll soon be short the regular company of this conscientious and pleasant fellow who means so much to us. We are still here in part because he was here for us. 

My gratitude will never repay the debt I owe Larry.

There is some chance a special project or circumstance may bring him back for a spell, but at this time it would be appropriate for you to join me in thanking Larry for his many years of service here, if you are so moved. 

In the meantime, clients, we’ll still be taking care of business—and we’re learning how to do that without Larry’s help. Call or email us about anything you might need. 

Cheers, Larry! 


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Serendipity, or, the Mark and Larry Story 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

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What Rough Seas Wash Up

Back in the snowbird chapter of my life, we learned that looking for shells was always more fruitful when the weather had been rough. The world situation and our markets have been nothing if not stormy this year! What has come out of the churn so far?


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