Does it take something big to change your perspective on life and money?


My wife’s grandfather passed away a couple of weeks ago, and it was very sad for the whole family.

He was in his late 70s, was diagnosed with bowel cancer late last year, and after numerous operations and complications was put under sedation during the last attempt to fix one of the many issues with his health. After the operation he did not wake up, and after about three weeks he passed away.

His wife, my wife’s grandmother, also died in September last year.

We are of course very sad at this time, and I more than some might expect because in many ways I have felt more attached to this one set of my wife’s grandparents than I was to my own real grandparents. They were great people, and for their generation they were inspirational early retirees in a way.

They worked hard, saved diligently, and retired at about 55. They then had about 23 great years together in retirement doing what they loved.

They lived in the same house for 35 years, and while it was nice, it would not be considered anything extravagant by today’s standards. TheIr house is actually fairly similar to ours in many ways (age of the house, neighbourhood, size, and it is renovated). Everyone loved that house, even though there are much better houses that could be bought. But they weren’t interested in that because they had their priorities right.

They traveled extensively before and after retirement, loved watching sports, visiting their family, reading, and giving back to the local community through their Lions club. When I look at their retirement I think it was pretty amazing and most people would be very happy if they could have that sort of retirement.

An event that gives perspective on how we spend our lives

While it has been a very sad time (the funeral was last week) it is a reminder of the benefit of focussing on the important things in life rather than being a slave to your job and consumerism. It has given me a different perspective.

I would be lying if I said that work has been easy lately, and I think it has been partly because of my perspective on work in the context of what is actually important in life. I’m starting to view my work differently in the overall scheme of things, and am at times finding myself thinking that I don’t want to work 10 hours today, and don’t want to work on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately this makes it harder to keep on top of things at work, which in turn makes me realise that my plan for early retirement is the right one for me. I really don’t want to be doing this for any longer than I need to, as it’s just not what life should be about.

And while this slump that I’m in at the moment is partly a result of the sadness in recent times, I know that I will get over it soon, in the same way that I got over it last September. It’s important that I don’t lose the perspective though, as that is what would see me drifting back to thinking like every other slave to consumerism, and would leave me spending my days in the wrong way for longer than I need to.

I’m not the only one that has had a change in perspective

I’ve also been glad to hear that this event hasn’t just changed my perspective but the perspective of some others around us as well. My wife’s aunt, who is 56 with access to a public sector defined benefits scheme pension given her long service with her government department, is now considering retirement with her enthusiasm for work significantly waning after the death of her parents. And why wouldn’t it? When you look at her circumstances it is staggering that she wouldn’t have retired already:

  • She earns ~$120k per year.
  • Her husband earns a complete “guess-timate” of ~$60k per year working three days per week.
  • They own their own home in our nation’s capital (not cheap due to all of the highly-paid public servants that live there) plus a new block of land on the coast that they might build their next house on.
  • She has access to an awesome pension scheme right now, where she will earn her final salary (i.e. ~120k per annum) every year for the rest of her life. I believe that he has a decent amount of superannuation as well.
  • She is 56, he is 66.

When you look at those five bullet points, it’s almost incomprehensible that anyone would want to continue working at all. But it has taken two tragedies in six months for her to realise that she had better retire now (like her husband desperately wants to) so that they can enjoy retirement together.

So does it take a horrible trigger to make someone change the way they think about life and money?

This has got me thinking though that certain things in life can be the trigger for a change in perspective, and usually these events in life are quite unpleasant (e.g. the death of someone close to you).

But what if there was a way that we could obtain and retain the perspective that these events give without having to actually experience the sadness of the actual event? Is that even possible?

If someone could work this out then I’m sure life would be a very different place!


5 thoughts on “Does it take something big to change your perspective on life and money?

  1. Very sorry for your family’s loss. Your wife’s grandparents sound like wonderful people. I think the best way you all can honor their memory is to learn to live and be more like them. There lives sound like the perfect blueprint for a successful retirement and life.

  2. Very sorry for your loss. 🙁

    Your post is making me think hard. I don’t think it requires a ‘horrible’ trigger to change someone, but it does require an element of discomfort to instill change.

    At least it did for me. My trigger was moving to Germany. While not an awful place, it’s also not my first choice. But living here has toughened me up enough to go against the stream and pursue early retirement. I feel like I need to retire early, otherwise I’d be stuck here, away from many people I love. If I never lived in Germany, I would probably be caught up in the same rat race that my friends back home are caught up in. Eating out for most meals, taking pricey European vacations, etc… That all bores me now.

    • Thanks.

      I am sad to hear that living in Germany is the trigger for you – I would love to live there and am hoping to spend some time there in retirement! If I understand you correctly the issue is not so much Germany but the separation from other loved ones, which I can appreciate would be a good motivator for achieving FI.

      While we have lived in England and travelled extensively through Europe and other parts of the world, our interest in international travel has reduced significantly since having kids and becoming more focussed on FI. I actually just enjoy time off work, it doesn’t matter too much whether we go away or not. Pricey holidays and going through airports have lost much of their appeal over time.

      • Ha! I would love to live in Australia, and am planning to spend some time there in my retirement too. I guess the grass is always greener. 🙂

        Germany is a really nice place to live. I don’t discourage you from spending time here. But visiting Germany and living in Germany (or anywhere for that matter) are 2 different things. While I still very much enjoy visiting Germany (we do a lot of local travel), it’s just not a place I really click with for living in. I think I’m going to write an entry about it so I don’t write such a long, blabby comment!

        P.S. I hope your Aunt will retire from her gov job ASAP. She probably hasn’t done it yet because she fears change, but will probably enjoy herself immensely after she takes the plunge.

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