Forward planning

When I was on holiday, I spent several hours over a few days constructing a complex set of spreadsheets to map out my financial situation and project into the future. I’m at the stage, particularly given my recent illness, where I have to consider how I live in retirement.

I mapped out several different options based on income, with variable factors such as the annual return on my superannuation, CPI, and standard of living.

To a degree, I was pleasantly surprised, though there are plenty of caveats on that.

To start with, I’ve accepted that I have to work for the next 10 years at least to build up my super balance. To be safe, I’ll need to develop a side hustle I can continue into retirement – I’m looking at $10K annually, but hopefully much more.

I’m lucky to be with a super fund with the highest growth over many years. That has a huge bearing on the outcome – more so than gross salary. They’ve averaged over 9% returns over the last 10 years, and that’s despite virtually zero growth over the previous financial year. The difference between 8% and 10% of annual growth equates to years of income when I’m retired.

I’m not sure generally how the pension factors into this. As someone with few assets, I’ll likely qualify, though I’m unsure to what extent. It’s changing all the time, regardless. For the moment, I’ve left it off. Anything I get from it will be a bonus.

It’s hard to see myself becoming a homeowner in the next few years, so I’ve assumed I’ll continue on as a renter. That’s a bummer. I want to live reasonably well and have factored in a decent holiday overseas every three years.

As for expenditure, I’ve mapped out what is likely to be the major capital items I’ll need to buy – a new (preferably electric) car, a replacement TV, washing machine and fridge, all of which are over a dozen years old currently. In addition, I need a new couch, and I’ll look to replace the current TV unit and coffee table – big, heavy items in solid wood – with something lighter and smaller. There will be other bits and pieces, including a dog, which I want sooner rather than later. What I know is that these are purchases I need to make before I retire and while I’m still earning a salary. That’s where the salary becomes essential.

I’ve projected my lifestyle and savings based on my current salary, a midpoint about 20% higher (which I should be able to achieve and which I should be entitled to currently) and 50% higher, CPI adjusted. It sounds like a lot, but I’ve earned that much before and, in fact, much more. I know it’s possible to achieve that, but I wonder if I want the responsibility to go with it.

I finished the novel I’ve been writing while I was away. The next step is to get it professionally edited and look at getting it published. Worse comes to worst, I’ll self-publish to Amazon as an ebook. I think it’s pretty good, however, as do others, so I’m hoping for more than that. I look at any income I get from it as a bonus, though it probably won’t amount to much more than beer money – which is okay. I like beer, and I might even earn enough to afford champagne instead.

I’ll shortly move on to writing my second novel, for which I’ve already completed the first draft. Writing is hard but easy if that makes sense, and I have plenty of ideas. I expect I’ll never stop doing it, and maybe that’s where the $10K will come from. I’m considering setting up a Patreon account, though I’m wary of it. It feels too much like charity.

I visited the office yesterday, which was a novel event and cause for reflection. The offices have been renovated and re-opened, and there was an air of celebration.

I’ve been thinking about work a lot, obviously. My intentions remain unchanged. I hope I make it through to January when I qualify for long service leave. If I depart then with that, and about 7 weeks of accrued annual leave cashed in, I’ll have a handy cash amount to alleviate some of my liquidity issues. I may even manage to sneak a holiday – though, thanks to the eye surgery I need, I’ve downgraded that from 6-8 weeks in Europe, as I hoped, to maybe two weeks in Japan. Europe can come later.

Ideally, I will find another, better-paying job. I don’t know how prospective employers view cancer survivors, but the market remains buoyant. I get a lot of enquiries, though mostly for project management roles, which I hate. Now is not the time, though, neither because of my LSL nor my health, which I want properly stabilised before I take on another role.

I was asked yesterday by a supporter of my work what I want from my job if I were to continue. The easy part of that is a fair salary. I despise them for their pragmatic cheapness. But when I thought about it further, other things came to mind.

I’ve proposed an ambitious roadmap for development over the next 18-24 months. The recommendation is to move from the on-prem to a cloud application, with a list of functions to be configured within it over that period. In terms of salary, I’m a minion, but I’m also the sole architect of what will be a transformative business project if approved. The person I spoke to yesterday is the advocate for it, taking it to the steering committee. I provide the IP, and she does the sales job.

I realised that if the proposal was rejected, I couldn’t continue. I’m chips-in on a new, cloud-based platform. By comparison, the current platform is a dog (no offence Rex). To continue unchanged when the benefits of shifting are so stark would make my position untenable. For the record, I expect it to be approved, more or less, despite conservative apathy.

Then, though I said nothing, I thought I couldn’t continue in the current structure as it is. I need to get away from my TL, who seems more like a duffer every day. In any case, what I do doesn’t logically fit in his team, and it shows. I was always the guru at this – live chat and chatbot – and I brought it with me when I took the role in his team.

The problem is that he knows a fraction of it but ultimately can decide what we do with it. I need separation and autonomy. He’s already stuffed it up enough and has been clagging up attempts to develop it. They’re my three conditions if I was to remain.

It’s probably 50/50 if I do stay. A new manager started yesterday, and a re-structure is very much on the cards. And I have some influential supporters and advocates. I was off 6 months with cancer and returned part-time, yet I gained some gloss with stakeholders because I managed to save something from what had become a bin-fire of a project commenced when I was away.

There are a lot of ifs, buts and maybes. That’s life, I guess. How my health – cancer – plays out is another question mark. As I tell my friends, I’ve got to figure another 30 years at least.

For the moment, unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel my cataract surgery because I can’t afford it. It’s situations like that I have to get beyond.

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