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Am I Depriving My Family?


Am I Depriving My Family of The Best Things in Life?Am I depriving my family of the best (materialistic) things in life? Of course, I am. Do I feel guilty about it? Not at all. Mrs. RB40 and I are both naturally frugal and we don’t feel deprived. For us, financial security is much more important than luxury purchases. We splurge once in a while, but most of the time we spend moderately and enjoy the middle-class lifestyle. We’re both fine with that. Life is already pretty good with occasional luxuries. We’re both wired that way. Yes, I won the spouse lottery! We have a loving marriage and we’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary next year. Hey, why change if it’s working, right?

Earlier this week, there was a very interesting discussion at Financial Samurai – Common Blind Spots on The Road to Financial Independence. At the end of that post, Sam featured B’s comment about wanting the best for your family. Here it is.

No matter how disciplined you are, you always want the best for your children. It hurts to see other kids have more than yours and get to experience better things in life. This is much more so when you have $6,000,000+ in the bank. You know you can ‘afford’ to give your kid anything. You are choosing not to. It seems selfish at times even if you know in the long run it may be the right thing to do.

For men, this is also true for our wives. I know many on this site have frugal spouses and they don’t ‘want’ the finer things in life. Mine is certainly willing to live without. But, I don’t like seeing my wife do without, knowing I have millions in the bank. All within reason of course.

For the record, I disagree with much of this. Let’s talk about kids first and then we’ll discuss spouse later.

Kids need more than the best

I think B is wrong about kids. They shouldn’t get the best of everything. If you give your kid the best all the time, then they will miss out on the budget-priced experience. They need to see that life isn’t luxurious for everyone. B is robbing his child of “grit.” Everyone needs to go through some adversity while they’re young. Hardship will build up their grit reservoir. They will need it.

Unless I can guarantee that RB40Jr’s life will be paved with gold and honey, it’s selfish to soften him up like that. The rich family is always the first to die in a zombie apocalypse, right? I know that’s not real, but you need some grit to survive when the SHTF. No matter how rich you are, your kid will encounter many serious difficulties in life. I want RB40Jr to be tough and resourceful, not spoiled and entitled. He needs to know there are many ways to solve a problem and hopefully, he can be resilient as well. Money helps, but it can’t fix everything.

Let’s talk about some specific situations.

Travel with RB40Jr

We don’t have $6,000,000+ in the bank, but we’re pretty comfortable. I can splurge when we go on vacation because we only travel 3-4 weeks per year. That’s a short window to spend. Splurging on vacation wouldn’t impact our finances much. However, I want to experience the destination from various viewpoints. I want a glimpse of how the local people live too. That’s the point of traveling, isn’t it?

Last year, we visited Cancun and split our experience. For the first part of the trip, we stayed in El Centro, where the local people live and work. I booked a cheap (for Americans) hotel near Mercado 28. All the guests at Suites Gaby were travelers from other parts of Mexico. Everyone spoke Spanish and we didn’t see any foreigners at the hotel. This was good because it gave Mrs. RB40 a chance to practice her Spanish.

I had to ask for a room change because our room was next to the stairwell, windowless, and smelled like an old ashtray. We moved to a much nicer room the next day and the rest of the stay was nice. RB40Jr played with local kids at the playground and he had a great time. The mom-and-pop restaurants and food stands served great Mexican food, too. Lastly, it was very interesting to see how the locals celebrate Dias de los Muertos. You don’t get this kind of experience in the Zona Hotelera.

Cancun playground

For the second half of our trip, we checked into the Hyatt Ziva, an all-inclusive resort. Now, this is a vacation! The beach was beautiful, drinks were bottomless, and we could eat in a variety of restaurants in the resort. Life was easy and we enjoyed it.

The second part of our Cancun trip was much more luxurious than the first. However, I enjoyed both sides. I liked experiencing the grittier side of Cancun too. (It really wasn’t that gritty…) The all-inclusive resort was lovely, but it really could have been anywhere in the world. Everyone spoke English. The food was good, but eating tacos at the Parque de las Palapas was way more authentic. Families that go straight to the Hyatt Ziva missed something. Luxury is nice, but the “real” side is much more interesting to me.

Sports and activities

What about sports and other activities for the kids? This fall, I paid $59 for RB40Jr to play in the basketball league at our community center. That’s a great deal and he’s having a ton of fun. I also signed him up for extra practices for about $80. This is the first time he plays team basketball and he needs to learn the rule. RB40Jr is the only kid from our school in the Park & Rec. league, though. His elementary school is located in a well-off neighborhood.

Alternatively, I could shell out $15,000 to join the posh country club and send RB40Jr to their basketball program. I’m sure they have better coaches, a much nicer facility, and less crowded classes. But is it really worth the money? Is playing basketball at a posh country club better than at the community center? I’m not so sure. Let me check with the parents and I’ll let you know.

Nevertheless, I want RB40Jr to mix it up with kids from various backgrounds. There are a few minorities in his basketball practices, which he doesn’t see at school. I’m 99% sure there isn’t much diversity at the posh country club either. I think it’s very important to expose him to all types of people while he’s young. He won’t be a basketball star anyway. The genetics just isn’t on his side. Of course, if he ever shows a talent for it, I’ll consider paying a professional to help him improve.


What about clothing? I feel a bit bad for getting most of Junior’s clothes from Walmart. I’m a stockholder, though. I like supporting Walmart and Target. The problem with kid clothes and shoes is that he destroys them so quickly. His shoes last only a couple of months and the clothes about one season. I tried Nike and Adidas and they fell apart even faster than the Walmart tennis shoes. In 2nd grade, the kids don’t care about clothing anyway. Most kids’ long pants have holes by March and nobody cares. Well, maybe the Tesla drivers do. Who knows?

Anyway, I’ll buy brand name clothes for him when he’s a bit older if he really wants. I’m sure brands will matter much more when he’s in middle school.

*Read more about my dividend income here.

Tough love

Kids need tough love. I’m giving RB40Jr a wide range of experiences that he can learn from. He needs to know the poor as well as the rich side of life. Life isn’t going to be easy for him so I want to toughen him up. I didn’t have many luxuries when I was young and I’m happy with who I am today. I have enough grit to become financial independent before 40. That’s pretty damn good.

Is this wrong? Maybe rich kids who live in the lap of luxury turn out just fine, too. I don’t know any rich kids so let me if you have a good example.

Now, on to spoiling your spouse

I gave a short response to B as follows.

I won the spouse lottery because my wife is super frugal too. However, she is starting to loosen up as she gets older and makes more money. Now, she wants to buy nice work clothes and nice shoes. One of those nice dresses costs more than my annual clothing budget. I think it’s crazy, but I tell her to buy whatever she wants. As long as she’s working, that is. 😀
She’ll have to cut back after she retires. She wouldn’t need nice work clothes anymore. Fortunately, I don’t feel any guilt for depriving my family of the luxurious things in life. Moderately priced stuff is good enough for us even with millions in the bank.

I typed that on the fly so it wasn’t that well thought out.

Here is part of the response from B.

For me, the North Star for happiness has come from spoiling loved ones, which ironically is anti-FI in a way. I didn’t feel guilty depriving loved ones of luxurious things until I had “enough.” But, once you have “enough,” why is “moderately priced stuff good enough” for loved ones? To be clear, I’m not talking about being wasteful and buying something frivolous. If there is enough money saved for your family to be comfortable for life, why not work to make extra money you don’t need for the purpose of spoiling loved ones? This is not personal to you Joe, as I don’t know your situation of course, but my complaint with the FI community is they seem to have a singular focus on reaching FI. The FI community, in my opinion, often appears to be “missing the point.” Saving for the sake of saving is bizarre to me.

Not providing my family with luxurious things, when I easily can, deprives me of the very reason I get out of bed in the morning these days. Why not take my wife on one more amazing vacation she will remember for the rest of her life? Why not see her face one more time when she opens that little blue box? Why not send a kid to an amazing (and expensive) baseball camp if that’s what he loves to do? The FI community (some at least) vilify people like me for being “wasteful.” My lifestyle would make most on this blog cringe. They say another million in the bank makes much more sense. I say a million in the bank past what you need is selfish, and likely has more to do with ego than most folks are willing to admit. But, as Sam pointed out in this blog post, I’m very interested in listening to what others have to say. I’m confident that I still have a lot to learn. That’s the reason I attempt to contribute.

There’s more, but this is the gist of it.

I don’t think B is anti-FI or being wasteful at all. It’s their money and they can do what they want with it. They are rich and they should enjoy it. Financial independence doesn’t preclude spending money on luxuries. I think spending is good as long as it doesn’t impact their finance. B is doing it right, but let me play the devil’s advocate for a bit here.

Well, I can only think of one thing wrong with B’s mission.

Ikigai aka the reason to get out of bed

Isn’t this a shallow reason to get out of bed in the morning? To shower your family with luxuries? Sure, it makes them happy for the moment. But it doesn’t sound sustainable to me. You’ll have to keep going over the top again and again. Snorkeling with the parrotfish probably isn’t much fun after you’ve swum with the whale sharks. (That’s one of the experiences B and his family enjoyed recently.)

B is desensitizing his family. They’re still young (30s?) and there is a lot of time left. At this rate, they will have done everything under the sun by the time they’re 50. What then? Hasn’t it been shown that spending more money doesn’t make you happier? There must be a more sustainable way to increase your family’s happiness the spending on luxury.

Of course, I’m probably wrong. I’ve never lived it up like the crazy rich Asians. Maybe you can find the meaning of life through spending lots and lots of money.

That’s all I got. I’m really on B’s side here.

Spouse is different than the kid

Anyway, it’s different when it comes to your spouse. Mrs. RB40 doesn’t need tough love anymore at 45. RB40Jr needs to go backpacking and see the world, not her. She has suffered enough and she should enjoy some luxury. She would hate slumming in a hostel on Khaosan road now. She’s been there, done that.

That’s why I’m taking Junior to a hostel when we’re in Thailand next month. Mrs. RB40 will be staying home so she won’t have to endure it. Ha! Backpacking was so much fun when I was young and broke. Let’s see if it’s still fun now that I’m 45, probably not…


At this point, Mrs. RB40 can use her income any way she likes. Our passive income + my online income are enough to pay the bills. She can use her income to buy nice clothes or take a nice vacation if she chooses to.

We’re still frugal

The problem is we’re still frugal. I’m not quite ready to spend $2,000 to swim with the whale sharks yet. I’m pretty sure my wife isn’t ready for that either. That’s a lot of money even if we could afford it. Isn’t there a budget package? I’m trying to loosen up, but I’m still a cheap guy at heart.

Maybe when we have $6,000,000 in the bank, we’ll feel differently. In fact, I’m sure we’ll loosen up a lot in 10 years. By then RB40Jr will be in college. We’ll be 55 and our net worth should surpass the $6,000,000 mark. (I’m a lucky optimist.) That’s the right time to let loose. At that point, I’ll be more certain that we won’t run out of money. Right now, we’re too young to splurge on luxuries all the time.

Meanwhile, we’ll mix it up and experience both sides of the tracks when we travel. We still have plenty of time left. Let’s save most of the luxury for later. It’ll be sweeter when we get there. The anticipation is better than the arrival, right?

Now, it’s your turn. Do you feel guilty for not giving your family the best when you can? Am I wrong to make RB40Jr suffer a bit? He needs to toughen up and learn that life is not always easy. 

See my credit card page for travel hacking tips and which card to sign up for today. Our trip to Cancun was fabulous and almost free!

Image by rawpixel and Baan Gaysorn Hostel

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he couldn't stomach the corporate BS.

Joe left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle. See how he generates Passive Income here.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 58 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako December 6, 2018, 12:20 am

    For me personally, I don’t want to spoil my kids. Keeping them off that hedonic treadmill early on in life is going to do wonders for them once they grow up.

    It certainly did for me! I grew up in a really frugal family. I learned to be resourceful and to made do with “less”. It made me smart, tough, and resilient. I also learned to not let having less bother me either.

    That seems like something worth passing onto my kids.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 8:52 am

      I agree 100%. However, I wonder if that’s our blinder. We turned out well so we think that’s the way to go. Rich kids probably have a different perspective on this. Joe’s comment below provides another viewpoint. It’s pretty good.

  • Dave @ Accidental FIRE December 6, 2018, 2:25 am

    You started you post with “Am I depriving my family of the best things in life? Of course, I am.”

    I disagree.

    You are giving them the best thing of all, which is time as a family and a deliberate, well-lived life. “The best” things are not material things. And all those people who disagree with that will come to a reckoning on their deathbed.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 8:54 am

      Thanks! Financial security, stability, and time are the best things you can provide for your family. Luxury goods and experience aren’t on my list. I modified the opening a bit – Am I depriving my family of the best (materialistic) things in life?

  • Xrayvsn December 6, 2018, 2:56 am

    My line of thinking pretty much meshes with yours Joe.

    I am afraid if you give everything to your child now, they will get accustomed to that level and likely won’t be able to sustain it when they go out on their own. Besides being entitled you will have them feel let down that the luxuries they experienced as a kid no longer can be obtained and even worse that they feel like they are letting their own kids down.

    I’ve seen kids gifted luxury cars that I couldn’t get until I was an attending physician. At 16 yrs old there is no reason they should get a BMW, Mercedes, or Tesla. Where do they go from there?

    Great points on the experiencing a local culture by not doing the luxury trip but rather splitting it in two. I admit I typically splurge when I go on a vacation because for me it’s a rare treat and I want to really get spoiled on one.

    You are right that you did win the spouse lottery. Amazing when you find someone on the same financial page. Devastating when you do not.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 8:58 am

      Good point. That very pertinent at this level. You really can’t guarantee your child’s future. My son probably will have to work hard and build his fortune the hard way. He shouldn’t live a luxurious lifestyle until he earns it.
      As for vacation, we really enjoy the grittier side of the local culture too. It’s very interesting. You can get the luxurious experience anywhere.

  • Joe December 6, 2018, 4:07 am

    Awesome article and thought provoking for me personally. Very tough call. I don’t see things black and white as maybe some others do. I have seen both sides of the spectrum and things can work out either way for both sides. I grew up in a tougher situation than many because I lost both parents as a new immigrant before I learned English. I relied on food stamps, social security checks, and church donations to survive. I started working in a blue collar world at 12 years old, had adult relationships and stopped going home before high school, got introduced to drugs and sex very early and paid for some childhood mistakes for the rest of my life. But I became tough and graduated valedictorian from high school, attended a top engineering university, made my first million by 30, and then became a decamillionaire early retiree. The white collar world seemed so damn easy to me, unlike how many other early retirees portray the workplace. I worked 70-80 hour workweeks without breaking a sweat. I left the workplace but not because I didn’t love working.

    But I grew up with no connections and less compassion towards people with 1st world problems (though arguably more compassion towards the very poor), and a scarcity mindset. If I saw a million dollars, I’d just take it and run rather than taking a risk with it and becoming either really rich or perhaps poor again. I can easily see that if I lived a more privileged lifestyle with a safety net, I’d be more comfortable with risks and maybe grow that money into a billion and really help change the world. I use this example because it’s pretty much exactly how my life has gone. So growing up in a tough situation maybe helped me become a millionaire but hindered me from becoming a billionaire. It pushed me to crave stability and fear risk. It influenced me to think small about my own immediate survival rather than focus on big long-term plans. It perhaps made me a scrapper rather than a leader.

    I have watched more privileged kids grow up and so far things are working out very well for them. They went to private schools, joined team sports with travel and equipment expenses, got nice cars early (and learned to fix them up), but they developed a network of like-minded, well-educated, and well-rounded friends during school years. They graduated from top schools with no tuition debt and were immediately able to start businesses and private practices, purchase homes, have lavish weddings, all with financial backing from parents and very little (if any) debt. The ones I know are all making a ton of money right from the starting line and doing much better than their parents did at their young age. The parents have educated them about finances which they seem to understand well without having to go through painful mistakes. They are leaders and know about cash-flowing real estate, investing in the stock market, how to run a profitable business, and have a tight-knit circle of successful friends. I don’t know how they would eventually survive in the zombie apocalypse, but I don’t see much risk of a financial apocalypse for them, and I think their education, connections, and resources would pull them through.

    I have also seen billionaires’ kids’ development, before graduating from college they are already networked with other billionaires’ kids and ready to start the next generation of big companies. They seem motivated and well-adjusted, but I don’t live with them. And I don’t know yet how their companies will work out.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:07 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience. You had a tough childhood and you got a lot of grit. You’ll survive anything. Good point about being a scrapper rather than a leader, though. I have the same issue to a lesser degree. My biggest weakness is networking. I’m just not comfortable with the upper-class people and I have no leadership skill.

      That’s what I suspected about the privileged kids. They learn other valuable skills that will propel them ahead in the current economic environment. They have solid support and they know how to network with high net worth individuals. They have other advantages over poor/middle-class kids. In real life, the rich will be the first to escape any kind of big trouble. They have the resources to do so. They’ll probably be fine unless things got really bad.

      I wonder how rich kids build up grit?

      • Joe December 6, 2018, 10:56 am

        Yes, like you I am not comfortable with upper-class people (billionaires, heads of state), although I do know a few who made the transition from poor or lower middle class through hard work. But they are fully transformed due to many years of public speaking, leadership roles, and socializing or doing business with other extremely successful people, and far more interesting conversationalists than I could ever be. It’s amazing to sit at the same table with them once in a long while and listen to all their stories which sometimes interweave with world events.

        Good question about how some of the well-off kids I watched growing up built up grit. I used to wonder how these kids would turn out without any hardship at all in their early life. I wondered if they would fold under tragedy or tough circumstances. But many are in their 30s now, enjoying success and have happy families of their own, and have yet to meet any truly tough circumstances. Most well-off people live normal lives, not tragic ones, so maybe other qualities are more important than grit, e.g. morals, well-educated, sensible, good work/life habits, ability to network and make friends with people. They are good people too, the ones who are medical professionals travel to 3rd world countries and donate their care, they treat their employees well, they are good fathers and mothers to their kids, they help out friends with difficulties, and they are grateful for how easy they’ve had it.

        I am also not sure anymore that you need built-up grit to deal with hardship. It may just build up naturally once you are faced with those circumstances. And some grit develops just from maturing. You don’t have to experience extreme pain/loss to imagine it and be able to understand it.

        • retirebyforty December 7, 2018, 7:05 am

          You have a good point about grit. Well-off people can avoid most difficult situations. The odds are they’ll have a happier life than the lower-class kids.
          Interesting point about grit. I guess most of it is innate. But I have to believe that some of it is due to environment and circumstances. I still think kids should go through some hardship when they’re young. Or at least see that the world isn’t a perfect place.
          Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate it.

  • John Andre December 6, 2018, 4:19 am

    Good post and nice blog! I saw your comments on F Samurai.
    I agree, kids needs some “grit”. I have a one n half year old and I worry about being over protective. Nothing worse than being spoiled.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:08 am

      Grit is huge. You need a lot to survive the future. I think it’ll be a lot tougher for our kids.

  • Nicoleandmaggie December 6, 2018, 4:50 am

    I don’t like how he conflates grown women with children and somehow thinks wives have different tastes for luxury than husbands. My husband and I make the same salaries, shouldn’t there be an argument about me depriving him?

    I agree with you that if your only focus is on materialism, you’re doing something wrong. Materialistic people aren’t fun to be around and I don’t really think they’re happier than people who focus on other goals.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:10 am

      You’re right. This one is very male-centric. Sorry!
      Materialism doesn’t increase happiness in the long run. You get used to the luxury, right?

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify December 6, 2018, 5:30 am

    Joe, I can see you put a lot of thought into this article. And it is a very interesting topic. Like many things in life, I think it comes down to striking the right balance. And that balance can be different for different people. Tom

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:11 am

      I like B and I hope he balances out the luxury with some mundane experience/things too. I don’t think it’s good to live it up all the time even if you can afford it.

  • Lazy Man and Money December 6, 2018, 5:33 am

    The spoiling your kids is always a tough one for me. Institutionally, I always want them to have things that I didn’t have, but that includes some character-building experiences.

    The kids go to a school where we would be considered in the lower 25% of income and net worth, despite the fact that we might be in the top 85% nationally. We splurge (and get a good military discount) for the very best learning experience.

    However, for sports we go to the local YMCA, which has a lot more income diversity. We tried to do swimming lessons there, but the pool was always out of commission or the instructors didn’t show up. We had to upgrade to the fancy swim class school in the heated pool. Now they love swimming, so that’s money that is well spent.

    Finally, they have had summer camp at the YMCA. However, their school friends will probably be going to tennis, sailing, or equestrian camp soon. That’s just a big part of the local life. These things aren’t particularly normal outside of our island. It’s going to be an interesting time, because I want them to experience a bunch of things, but there’s so much out there, we be paying for an after-school activity every day of the week.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:14 am

      Private school sounds like a good choice for you. I put education in a different class. That’s not luxury. You have to do what’s best for the kids if you can afford it.
      Our community center has a heated pool. It’s pretty nice. 🙂
      I’m thinking about summer camps too. For now, he’s not really interested in them. We tried the zoo camp when he was 5 and he didn’t like it at all. I’ll keep looking around to see if there is something he can try. Scouting sounds like fun.

  • Pennypincher December 6, 2018, 5:55 am

    Where does a kid learn perseverance, character, confidence, self-esteem, work ethic if everything is given to them? Entitlement is ugly. Let them work for what they want when they are able to!
    I hear parents complain about the price of these electronic toys and gadgets of today. Let them earn them! Hold the carrot on the stick out in front of them for everything, once they “get it” intellectually.
    Keep shopping at Walmart/Target for clothes they outgrow in a season. Decent stuff and who cares or notices anyway. Once they notice, let them pay for their own stuff, ha,ha!

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:15 am

      I don’t know. How do the rich kids learn these things? Lots of them seem to turn out fine. I’m too removed from the upper-class experience to understand. Maybe they go to tough camp for the summer or something like that.
      Good idea about having him pay for his own clothes. 🙂

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance December 6, 2018, 6:33 am

    I get hand-me-downs for both of our kids as much as I can to save money. I give them healthy food options and want to invest in their learning. But as long as my kids have decent clothes to wear, I think that should be enough.

    All of our baby’s clothes are used. We got a couple of items for our son from Costco and Wal-Mart. Sometimes I do feel bad about not giving them all the brand name nice stuff. But I prioritize, and clothes are not so important until they know the difference, maybe when they are in middle school like you said.

    Mr. FAF is fine with the way things are. And we are happy.

    I see B’s points, but I agree with you. Living in luxury is not my goal in life. And I would be really sad if my kids work hard just to enjoy luxury.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:24 am

      You guys are lucky to have good neighbors. Our son’s clothes are destroyed so we can’t really hand them down. There aren’t older kids closer in age to our son nearby either so we’re out of luck there.
      Brand names will become much more important when they’re a bit older.
      Living in luxury will be great when I’m 55. I’m not quite ready for that yet.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire December 6, 2018, 6:45 am

    You’re giving your family your time and experiences – those are better than material crap anytime. The vacations are a great example… look at your smiling son on the beach with the drink in his hand. He might not remember everything about it, but the pictures will be a reminder of how great it was spending time together as a family.

    Some people will judge us for choosing to retire early instead of trying to stack up more money over the years, but I’d rather have the time together with my family. We have “enough” and the memories we’ll be making over the years to come should make it well worth it. And our daughter will be able to experience other cultures just like your son is.

    No need to spoil kids (or spouses) with fancy “stuff” they don’t need. That’s a way to ruin people in life.

    — Jim

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:27 am

      Once you’re financially secure, I think time and stability are the best things to give your family. I think B is doing that too. The luxury is in addition.
      I wonder if our middle-class experience blinds us to effect of spoiling the kids. Lots of rich spoiled kid turn out okay, right? I don’t know enough about the upper-class.

  • Tigermom December 6, 2018, 6:48 am

    Great comment Dave, I agree, no deprivation-family time is priceless, which is even moreso true when you, like Joe and I, have parents with dementia. My siblings are in their own drama and sadly missing out on this Christmas time together, while our family will be in the retirement/nursing home with our parents/grandparents.

    Joe of the hard knocks, millionaire by 30 comment, great food for thought. I went to a private school very late (grade 10) and found the students well ahead of me, but also lots of drugs and unhappiness. I want our daughter to have many good experiences and also have grit-I wonder if being female and growing up in the current climate will be enough of a challenge, definitely some obstacles for me because of this. Our family is very involved on a board, and financially supports a local charity, and spending more and more time there are she gets older is our plan. My husband doesn’t want her to have an elite experience all week and the weekend be ‘slumming’ at the charity, but I don’t see it that way.

    Lots to think about as she grows older. I think it is great that we are all in the conversation and open to contribution.

    Many blessings, Tigermom

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:30 am

      Interesting comment about private school. Are rich kids less happy than regular kids?
      I think it’s great that you’re exposing your daughter to both sides of society. Kids should know that life isn’t always easy. Lots of people have a very difficult time in life.
      Happy holidays to your family.

    • Joe December 6, 2018, 11:19 am

      Hi Tigermom, this is Joe of the school of hard knocks. I think we can’t lump the rich and the poor all into their own category. Maybe the rich get a bad rap because the rotten apples end up on social media and news stories more. The rich kids whom I watched grow up never got exposed to drugs, while I grew up poor and did get exposed to them. They had pretty happy childhoods and never lacked for anything including nice vacations with family, material things, expensive education and extracurricular activities, etc, while as a poor kid my life kind of sucked. And the rich people I know now, including billionaires, intentionally spend a lot of time with family and teach their kids. Maybe because I know more new-money rich, and they learned from mistakes of the prior generations? I don’t know…

      I think child-raising in modern times is walking a fine line.

  • Financial Samurai December 6, 2018, 7:17 am

    A lot to unpack here Joe!

    I totally agree w/ you on the importance of GRIT. Man, slaving away for $4/hr flipping burgers at McDonald’s made me study HARD so I could have more options in the future. No way did I want to flip burgers for the rest of my life!

    And I do agree that your wife can spend whatever she wants when she is working. But what happens after she joins you in retirement?

    If you go from $2M net worth now to $6M in 10 years, I think you might REGRET not spending more along the way IMO.

    I’m on a mission to spend more in 2019 and beyond. Don’t die with such a huge surplus!


    • Eric @ Flip n Finances December 6, 2018, 8:52 am

      I had the chance to work at Mickey D’s for a summer, graveyard shift. Flipping burgers and dealing everything that job has to offer really increased my patience. Minimum wage was up to $8/hr when I worked there.

      When I got to college, I got an index card and wrote “Would you rather work at McDonald’s the rest of your life?” I looked at it whenever I needed motivation to study or do my homework.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:31 am

      We’ll have to discuss luxury purchases after she retires. If it’s within reason, then probably. But hopefully not too often. It’s not a problem so far because she is super picky. She rarely finds anything she really likes. That’s a natural cap on spending.
      After 55, I think we’ll be a lot more relaxed. I’ll try to spend more along the way. 😉 Thanks!

  • FromUSA December 6, 2018, 8:27 am

    I tried Nike and Adidas and they fell apart even faster than the Walmart tennis shoes.

    There is also the matter of practicality. My question is this: Would a $250 pair of “brand name” sneakers have better quality and last longer than a non-brand name pair at $70 (which is still expensive)? I doubt it.

    People want to buy brand names because they want to show off their wealth. But I am just not the type of person who likes to show off.

    • retirebyforty December 6, 2018, 9:34 am

      The average quality of brand name shoes is probably a bit better than Walmart. However, I found one particular pair of shoes that are higher quality than usual at Walmart. They are cheaper and last longer than Nike. They work just as well. Other pairs at Walmart are pretty bad quality. I guess we got lucky and shopped enough to find the right thing.

      • FromUSA December 7, 2018, 4:47 am

        You’re pr0bably right if we are comparing a $10 pair of Walmart sneakers to those from a brand name. But I doubt there is much difference at the higher price level, say $70.

  • Eric @ Flip n Finances December 6, 2018, 8:49 am

    Hey Joe,

    It’s always good for kids to build up some grit. My parents helped me get some grit, mostly because we just didn’t have the money for a lot of things.

    There should be a moderation in all things. It’s okay to give your family nice things occasionally, but not all the time. Moderation allows us and our family to be grateful for what we already do have.

    We receive enjoyment from being grateful for the things we already do have.

  • Susan @ FI Ideas December 6, 2018, 8:51 am

    Since quitting my job, one of my favorite things is finding a great cashmere sweater at Goodwill. They price all long sleeves the same, so we’re talking 4 or 5 bucks. It’s cashmere, so that’s the ultimate luxury sweater. I’ve got about 15 of them and I wear them all winter. But last year at Christmas, my Mom bought me a brand new cashmere sweater because she realized how much I like them. I didn’t want that one. She missed the point that finding the bargain IS what makes me happy!

    I think that as I grew up, we were really frugal and it gave me a foundation of being low maintenance. Yeah, I can enjoy a 5 star hotel, but if you can also enjoy a hostel or backpacking just as well, you are truly golden. What you are doing for your son establishes this ability.

  • Nomad Numbers December 6, 2018, 10:26 am

    I don’t think you are making RB40Jr suffer but rather showing him what life can be from both sides of the coin. By staying in a hostel he can get a glimpse of what travel can be if you don’t have enough money. By staying at a nice resort he can get an idea of what travel can be if you do have more money. Then through these experience, your son should be able to make his own mind about what lifestyle he wants to pursue and hopefully understand what he need to do in his life to get there.

    If people live constantly on one side of the coin they might default to follow its associated lifestyle, which might or might not be something good to them and they might realize that way to late in their life. I believe that choices like these need to be learn from experiences rather than something that someone can talk to you about.

    This article also reminded me on how important is the “values system” that your inherit from your parents. I grew up in a very modest family where money was definitely not an abundant resource and this system played a key role which ultimately enable me to reach FI in my mid 30s. Some values I received that are relevant for this conversation are:
    1) don’t spent money you don’t have [aka don’t live your life on credit]
    2) don’t leave above your means [aka understand what you can afford]
    3) when wanted something because someone else has it, also look at what they don’t have that you have [aka don’t be jealous of others]

    Here is a personal story about value #3. When I was a early teenager, I wanted the latest game console (a SEGA Genesis) because my best friend was getting it for Christmas. So I asked my mom about. She explains to me that I already has a game console (even though it was a couple years old) so I won’t be getting a new one. She also added that my friend did not have certain things that I had. I then remember that my best friends’ parents were not spending a lot of time with him and they were always buying him “stuff” to make him happy. Looking at life from this angle, I definitely felt that my life was much “richer” than his life and that I actually did not really needed a new game system. This ended up being one of my first lesson about being grateful of what you have in your life.

    At the end of the day money doesn’t buy happiness, it only solve money problem 🙂

    • retirebyforty December 7, 2018, 6:57 am

      Thanks for sharing. Your parent passed a great set of value on to you.
      These are simple, but lots of people don’t understand them. I have a similar set of values, thanks to my parent. Hopefully, RB40Jr can take these lessons with him as he becomes an adult.
      Best wishes.

  • Steveark December 6, 2018, 10:42 am

    No you won’t be any different when you are 55 and have $6 Million. I know because I’m you then. I spent three hours under my two old cars two days ago fixing things that I could pay my mechanic less than $150 to fix. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours on the internet researching vacuum cleaners to replace our broke one trying to spend $140 instead of $295. Sure I have a spare million or more I’ll never need but I am more frugal now than I was twenty years ago. I spent a lifetime learning to do life efficiently and it seems wrong now to blow money. We did take a hiking trip to Italy that was first class this year and quite expensive but on the normal stuff we do we still spend like we are accumulating. And it is catching, all three of my grown millennial kids are frugal. My medical doctor son drives a 2004 Toyota and my daughters are about the same. My kids told me they grew up poorer than anyone they knew even though we actually had more money than most of them. They never said thanks for that but they will appreciate it some day? I do have to question if using “slaving away at McDonalds” isn’t really an oxymoron? Have you ever tried hauling hay? That’s not just grit in your soul, its in your hair, your nose, your mouth and your lungs, and unfortunately even in your underwear!

    • retirebyforty December 7, 2018, 7:00 am

      Oh no! You crushed my hope of becoming a carefree spender in 10 years. 😀
      It’s probably next to impossible to change our frugal habits.
      Great job with the kids. I hope my son will be as smart as your kids when he’s older.
      You’re right about slaving away at McDonald’s. It’s not that hard. Most Americans are soft nowadays.
      That’s why we need migrant labors to do the hard work for us.
      Happy holidays!

  • Mike Drak December 6, 2018, 11:14 am

    After achieving FI and leaving my corporate job I spent a significant amount of time searching for my Ikigai. I knew I didn’t want to work for anyone anymore so I created my own business doing work that I find very fulfilling. having FI I don’t need to save anymore but instead spend the money on adventures for me and my family something that I really enjoy. Also if the kids need any help I invest my extra fun money there as well. I just can’t see the point of continuing to build up a cash position when you already have enough, best to spend it while you still can doing interesting things. I love your approach to your Cancun trip Joe you need to mix it up and experience things from both sides of the spectrum.

  • Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early December 6, 2018, 1:19 pm

    I am so with you on this one. And by not spending money on the frivolous things I feel we ARE giving our son (and each other) the best things of life. And those aren’t fancy cars or fancy clothes.

  • PJ December 6, 2018, 2:12 pm

    Great post. Very thought provoking and something we have struggled with.

    Mrs PJ is not frugal but not spendy either. Now I am fully retired I regularly put money in the current account and the understanding is that this money can be spent. That saves a discussion on whether the latest addition to the house was a good purchase or not. We also have a splurge bucket largely in cash for some anticipated big ticket items we are expecting. It also the first layer of contingency against market collapse.

    Mrs PJ and I have had many a discussion on what we should give our daughter. We both find it really tough on where to draw the line when we can easily afford things. The problem here is the parents not the child! We love her more than life itself and find ourselves wanting to treat her but at the same time also wanting her to appreciate things have prices and values. In general we are very happy to pay for skills (eg music lessons) but not so much for things (eg overpriced apple products.)

    To her credit my daughter knows full well we are well off – the big house and the retired parents are a pretty big clue – but is not at all acquisitive at our expense. She recently got herself a weekend job so she could afford those pesky overpriced apple products that I simply refuse to buy. Also the occasional splurge does not seem to spoil. We did have a truly “once in a lifetime” luxury holiday after her exams this year where she got to choose pretty much everything. Next year she said she wants to go to Isle of Wight and bring her favourite Aunty with us for company which is a real budget option for a holiday but a place with happy memories for all of us.

    Big discussions to come in the next few years are things that in the UK (is it the same in the USA?) are simply out of reach of young people. For example, house prices and rents where we live are insane and car insurance for young people can cost more than the cost of the car. I may well return to this post often in the future for help!

    • retirebyforty December 7, 2018, 7:10 am

      The current account sounds like a good idea. We should do that too. When I’m 55. 🙂
      Your daughter sounds like a smart young lady. I think it’s great that she is working for her luxury purchases.
      I think it’s not that bad in the US. Housing price is high, but that really depends on where you live. You can always rent with a roommate to save if needed. Car and insurance are affordable if you buy used. I’m pretty sure the cost of living is lower than in the UK unless they live in very expensive cities like NY or SF.
      Happy holidays!

  • Chris @ Life Outside The Maze December 6, 2018, 4:48 pm

    I think your post does a good job of bringing up examples (your hotel, the kids basketball) where you get 90% or more of the same experience for far less price. In the case of the “finer things” luxury goods prices go up exponentially while the actual good may be the same or only incrementally better. Obviously, teaching your kids this by example and having this be the lifestyle that they are accustomed to will make them better prepared for any financial situation. I am all for personal freedom and doing what you want. At the same time I say be wary, the old adage goes “when savvy meets money the savvy get the money and the money get more savvy.” Make sure your kids is savvy regardless of money. There is also a reason kids raised with money are often termed “spoiled” it is not an empty knock on the rich, but a generations old truth that money has proven to often spoil a child’s chances if handled poorly.

    • retirebyforty December 7, 2018, 7:12 am

      Thanks. That’s exactly why I want to prepare our son for any financial situation he’ll be in when he’s an adult. If he’s poor, then he can deal with it because he knows how to be frugal. If he’s rich, then he can do what he wants.
      It’s not good to grow up in the lap of luxury and be poor when you’re out on your own. How does a kid adjust to that change?

  • Freedom December 6, 2018, 5:34 pm

    When you realize that buying tons of junk for your kids (so spending your money and freedom) will not add an ounce of happiness to them you will understand that you are not depriving them of anything.

    A family is happy when the basic needs are met: a decent house, decent clothes, good food and some normal vacations.

    All the rest is junk…materialistic junk…

  • Helen December 6, 2018, 6:40 pm

    Hi Joe, excellent post. I totally agree with you. If I were to have $100 million today, I would live probably the same way: drive the same car, wear the same clothes, and live in the same house. Money won’t change my values.

    In terms of kid, I absolutely don’t want to spoil him. I’m happy to see him being independent, having a job he likes, being healthy and safe. In terms of spouse, it would be an insult to me if someone offers me money without my approval. I love independence.

    • retirebyforty December 7, 2018, 7:15 am

      I would splurge a bit more if we have $100 million. Spread it around a little so other people can make money too. Why hoard it? 🙂
      I think the spouse should choose how they spend money too. They might not want to splurge on luxuries all the time.

  • Steps To Early Retirement December 6, 2018, 7:04 pm

    Hi Joe,

    I’m in agreement that children should not be given everything they want. This gives them a sense of entitlement. With that said I do agree with one of the commenters that providing with an advantage that comes from a good school eg network could be helpful.

    With respect to depriving your family… I don’t think you are, I think you’d know it if you were. Like you said you’ve taken a balanced approach, be frugal when warranted and spend on certain experiences.


  • Financial Orchid December 6, 2018, 7:16 pm

    Spousal lottery comes from having similar or at least close enough to similar financial outlook. In your case, a sound retirement and delaying a bit now for a more comfortable later together.

    Not every decision is 100% aligned. Like you pointed out, you want to take the kid to a hostel. Wife probably doesn’t want to.

    The FAMILY LOTTERY, on the other hand, is when you only have to READ about B’s opinion online and not have B be your LIVE-IN relative or in-law, where different financial values would wreak havoc on the marriage and family life every weekend or everyday some extended family member/relative scrutinizes your life choices.

    For instance, my coworker wants to save for her son’s university and buy used clothes since he grows out of them so quickly. Obviously, the in-laws/grandparents being older and more wealthy want to buy all new for the grandchild.

    They go as far as to tell my coworker, “Why are you buying used for the child? Are we deprived? We [grandparents] will buy new ones for him,” which becomes not only a difference in financial values, but questioning her parental decisions. She was humiliated.

    It didn’t take her long to move out because they drove her NUTS. (Chinese, so had to live with in-laws at first, until her sanity and mental health could no longer endure.)

    It must be so hard for a new wife to not only get used to a spouse and a new last name, but a whole new set of family and deal with older parents who are not her own, while still upholding the same respect for parent-in-laws in spite of different upbringing and values.

    Congrats on the platinum anniversary!!

    • retirebyforty December 7, 2018, 7:18 am

      Our hostel in Thailand isn’t at Khaosan road so it shouldn’t be that bad. Also, we got a room so we don’t have to share it with a bunch of backpackers. A little taste of hosteling is enough at 7. 😀
      You’re right about the family lottery. Mrs. RB40 is a saint to put up with my family for 20+ years.
      It should be easier from now on, though.
      Thanks & Happy holidays!

  • Jay December 7, 2018, 8:59 am

    You are absolutely not depriving your son.

    I am on the same boat as you. Disclaimer first though: my net worth is NOWHERE near $6 million. In fact, I don’t even have a seven-digit net worth so my perspective may be limited.

    However, my parents raised me modestly despite them making about a lot of money. They always made me earn allowance if I wanted to buy something and when they gave me an old hand-me-down minivan as my first car, they asked for a “down payment” (which they returned with interest when I went to college). Even though they could’ve bought me a new car, did I complain? Of course not. Would I have liked a new car? Of course. But looking back – I respect their decision because it teaches you to enjoy the cheaper things and gives you the opportunity to appreciate nicer things. I plan on doing something similar once my daughters are old enough to drive a car (giving them an used, but safe and reliable car).

    My parent’s method of having me earn stuff taught me the value of “grit”. Some can be pampered and showered with the luxuries of life without sweating – and they can turn out to be decent people, but for me, my values are the way they are: being resourceful, being thoughtful, sharing as much as I can, not giving anything out for free, largely because of my parents.

    Right now, I have two young daughters. I’m fortunately in a position to live comfortably because my job is very stable, but I seldom do anything lavish for either of my daughters. I spend A LOT of time with them and take them to a lot of places, but nothing too excessive. It’s not because I’m cheap, but I don’t like to just buy or do stuff for them just because. For example, people always asked if I would throw a birthday party for my daughter but my response is always the same: “not until she asks for one will I consider it”. It’s not that I don’t want her to have a good time, but I just feel like throwing a birthday party that will cost $600 – $1,200 for a three/four year old is excessive. She has just as much fun playing outdoors at a park with her friends than seeing bunch of her preschool classmates celebrating her birthday. Again, I could be wrong and I could be selfishly robbing her of a good experience, but this is just how I feel.

    Things are nice. Giving nice things feels great. Having nice things for free feels even better. But to really appreciate it without feeling entitled to one, I feel like you have to teach them values and have them do self-guided activities than giving them the best things. Stuff almost always fades and never leaves meaningful memories. I want to give my daughters the best experience relationship wise, not the best “things”.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life December 7, 2018, 9:03 am

    “Isn’t this a shallow reason to get out of bed in the morning? To shower your family with luxuries?”

    I agree with that. There’s a lot more to life than just wallowing in luxury. I love to wallow a little, and I do in our warm safe home, but I also want us to all build grit and character and compassion. Where do you find that in a little blue box or an amazing adventure if life is focused solely on serving those up? Enjoyment is good but hedonism is not. I think we should have purpose in our lives and the more we have, the more our purpose should be about leaving this world a better place than we found it. We have one world and one life, it doesn’t make sense to me not to have some sense of responsibility to serve those well.

  • Lily December 8, 2018, 1:10 am

    “They say another million in the bank makes much more sense. I say a million in the bank past what you need is selfish, and likely has more to do with ego than most folks are willing to admit.”

    Woahhhhh shots fired!! In a way, I can see why B thinks that since some people (definitely not the majority) behaves such a way. But every other point you’ve made is stellar. I lovvvvvvve the word you used, grit. They don’t need the best of the best, because this world isn’t always going to give them the best of the best.

  • DANIEL LINDSEY December 8, 2018, 7:05 am

    Great article Joe! Long-time reader and on my way to FI by 40 myself 🙂

    A lot of interesting perspective and anecdotal stories from the readers. I think you can be assured that the science backs you and the readers up as well. Reading a lot of books on child psychology sort of prove your points. Kids aren’t going to remember the Nike shoes you didn’t buy them in 3rd grade or the neighbors that drove a nicer car then them. They will remember the time spent with their parents since these experiences are crucial to their development.

    You chose FI so you will be home with your son the majority of the time – for a working person such as myself I see my daughters for a couple hours in the evening and that’s it. I have to spend my weekends catching up….

    Fun fact – to the best of our knowledge human happiness peaks at about 60K – 75K in yearly income. Every dollar earned after that experiences diminishing returns on happiness (makes sense when you think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). So since you’ve long blown past that yearly income number why would you work more to earn more money that won’t make you happier when it makes FAR more sense to trade that earning potential for time with your family that ACTUALLY will make them happier? Seems to me when you achieve FI with some minimum income required to maximize happiness you’ve achieve the greatest feat of all – great job Joe!!!

  • Rodney Allen Hampton December 9, 2018, 5:49 am

    I am very restrained in giving material things to my children. I agree that a certain amount of grit is necessary and they need to learn that when they are young.

  • Cubert December 10, 2018, 4:30 am

    I think we’re on the same page with this topic. Sometimes, it’s okay to splurge a bit. But if you go overboard all the time, you miss out on the authentic and the meaningful things, like the first part of your trip to Mexico.
    I’m also fortunate to have married a frugal minded wife. We take turns with fun purchases, but they’re rare and almost always have utility behind them. Overall, I’d argue it’s best to go with (you guessed it) moderation. Buddhism Retirement Extreme (BRE Baby!)

  • FIRECracker December 10, 2018, 9:09 am

    “Am I depriving my family of the best (materialistic) things in life? Of course, I am. Do I feel guilty about it? Not at all. ”

    Ha ha. Love it. I’m with you on that. Building grit is one of the best things my parents ever did for me. I think there’s a difference between the way Asian culture thinks (or at least my mandarin culture) versus western thinking. Asian thinking = “adversity is good. It builds character”. Western thinking “adversity shouldn’t be there. You need to make sure your kids lives are perfect and there needs to be no suffering”. Life isn’t supposed to be perfect. And spoiling your love ones, once in a while, is fine but not ALL the time. They just end up adapting and wanting the next big thing. Spending lot of money on fancy things doesn’t buy you happiness. Connecting with people you love and doing full-filling, creative work does.

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