I was born in a very, very good year considering my passion for my sailboat and my ongoing desire to test myself on the ocean. The year was 1968, the very first year that a single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe was successfully undertaken. Seems fitting somehow although I could hardly lump myself in the same category as Sir Robin who is made of much sterner stuff than I.
Growing up in apartheid South Africa during the 70s and 80s holds no real memories for me. Living in the home of a Baptist minister, someone who had lived in the time of “be loyal and the company will be loyal to you” meant many rules, many thoughts and instruction on “this is the way you should be, this is the way you should behave”. Perhaps this is where my total and utter dislike of “being told what to do” originates? I have no doubt that my parents did, and still do, love me. It’s just one has to understand the rigid, cash-strapped upbringing, to understand the present I guess.
I’ll need to admit here – I have a problem with authority. Well perhaps I don’t have a problem with authority as much as I have a problem with stupidity. I’m referring here to stupidity in the sense of blindly following rules and authority and “because that’s just the way things are” mindset that seems so prevalent in the world, both the nanny-state and the nanny-corporate. It would appear though that I must have thought most authority figures were stupid because I recall regular run-ins throughout high-school, university, army and corporate. So many in fact that I could probably write a book on the subject.
Critically looking back on these earlier times I’m embarrassed to admit that I had no real ideas of my own to replace the stupidity though. All I knew at the time was to rebel against it but never quite came up with a workable and sustainable alternative. The result was standard and predictable career path, an engineering degree earned in the early 90’s followed immediately by a corporate job in the steel manufacturing industry. By that time I’d been married for 2 years to a girl I’be been in high school with but had never really noticed in those days. One of the best things that could ever have happened to me and I’m happy to say we’re still together 27 years later. Yet, at the time, marriage was probably a necessity driven by our upbringing rather than ruffle feathers and live in sin?
The fact that my marriage survived my early career and perfectionistic approach to life is a miracle of sorts. The early life of an projects engineer is typically busy, stressful and time-consuming. Perhaps this level of work effort is a corporate imperative, perhaps not? I don’t know? Anyway, in order to grow in my profession and chosen career I suddenly found myself 10 years in, earning relatively well [i.e. better than my peers] but generally working 50-60 hour weeks interspersed with the odd project that ramped this up to a ridiculous 2am finish each day and 8am back on site for 4 months in a row. I regret to admit that those were angry unhappy years, despite the career and salary growth.
One of the results of this stressful work environment I have to admit was to spend. After all, if you’re working so hard and don’t have the BMW in the garage then what’s the point to it all? It’s not that we consistently spent more than was coming in. We were too sensible for that. The problem though, and its pure maths, is that if you only save 10-15% of your income then you literally only may be able to step of at the regulatory 65. It’s just the way compound interest works.
The real problem then was the inadequate savings rate of those earlier years. Where we sit today we’d like to step off the corporate treadmill, and do our own thing. Had we been focused on that goal in our 20’s and 30’s then it would have been a reality today in 2016. But alas, hindsight! Those early years were spent working, raising children and desperately trying to be happy.
Not all is lost though and the current push is to try and step off at 55 when, in South Africa, one can cash in retirement savings without penalty. As I write this that is a short 7 years away.
Life has changed for the better since those earlier years I’m happy to say. A daughter and a son in their late teens and early twenties that are still part of our lives is some kind of success story. The same woman I married back then is still with me and still loves me, I think. Hell, she’s even come sailing with me and says she’ll come with again.
We’re definitely making more time for the important things in life, even if that means delaying building the stash. Our ultimate goal though, is to still to chuck up the corporate treadmill and create a life for ourselves by the beach and the sailboat.
Stay tuned to see if we’ll manage it before time runs out….!?