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In my last few years as Medium Cog 674 at a finance firm, I was part of the top 1% of income earners in both the US and in New York City. I am retired now, and I no longer qualify for that title. Does that sadden me?
Not at all!
The perks of being retired are easily equivalent or better than what Rich McRicherson enjoys as part of the 1%.
If you’ve been dreaming about climbing the ranks thinking it will lead to a paradise of perks, let me show you how financial independence can take you to that dream much faster at less annual cost.
Best Seat In The House
I cemented my view of what it mean to be rich in college. I worked as a hostess at a seafood restaurant in Harvard Square, and several professors were regulars. Anytime they came in, they would be greeted with fanfare and taken to “their table.” Mr. Smith always sat at table 502, a four-top circular table we’d make available to him even if he were on his own. Mr. Bennet would always take booth 301 – he preferred it out of all the booths because it was facing the back of the restaurant but could see out one of the side windows.
When I was working here in NYC, I continued to see this perk on steroids. Double the prices of the entrees and change the name of the restaurant to something with four fancy french syllables and it was the same. One of the senior partners whom I worked with took almost all of his business lunches at the same French restaurant several blocks from our office. He would go easily twice a week and he always got to sit in the back garden where they had only four tables, no matter how busy the restaurant was.
Being retired, I now get this benefit all the time. When you got out for a leisurely lunch – carefully planned for 11:30 or 1:30 to avoid the crowds – the waitstaff welcome you to take your pick of tables!
I’m actually quite picky about where I sit. I hate sitting near the kitchen because of the traffic and noise. I sometimes like window seats, but not if the sun is coming in at certain angles. I especially do not like to sit at comparatively dark tables, so if one table is situated under a light fixture and one is not, I will be consistently bothered throughout the meal if I am sitting at the one not under the lamp. Fortunately, I now get my way every time I go out.
Being retired has been like being a VIP all the time.
Source: Bouley Restaurant
I am a foodie, and when I discovered that my job included wining and dining potential business partners at the finest restaurants in Midtown, I was ecstatic. Lobster on Wednesday! Grilled skate with a caprese salad on Thursday! Sushi omakase on Friday. I love me some interesting flavors. These One-Percenter lunches could total $80-$100 per person.
Turns out I can have an equally good meal for a third the price by going to a neighborhood not known for business lunches. Get into Brooklyn, or head over to the lower east side for a gritty dining experience that’s all about the food. Done, done, and done.
For the Michelin-star special occasions, One Percenters I knew would dine at Per Se, Marea, Le Bernardin, etc. These were locales my colleagues and I would frequent for closing dinners – the celebration after a transaction went through. I will admit that the food in these restaurants just can’t be substituted at a different restaurant.
And that’s fine, because it turns out their prix fixe options, particularly on the weekdays, are shockingly well priced!
Dinner at one restaurant I had a business meal at was $195 per person not including wine or tax. I have gone back since I retired for their lunch prix-fixe, which is a cool ($59). Not cheap, but a doable figure for those looking to celebrate a special occasion. That restaurant, by the way, is Bouley (pictured above), and for all of you New Yorkers I highly recommend it. While they offer their lunch prix fixe on weekends, those slots fill up as soon as they hit the website so it’s an absolute bear to try and snag a res. What a shame. If only one had the leisure during the weekdays to partake…
You might imagine that the one percent get to travel to fantastic places, and I think many of them do. When I was working, my company used to send me far afield as the UK, Ireland, India, and China. Unfortunately, what they don’t tell you about business travel is that you are basically doing a giant tour of different hotel rooms. If you’re traveling with other team members, there’s no skiving off for a day to see the sights, or adding a few extra days to your trip because the company needs all hands on deck to integrate what was learned from the meetings.
Fine, you think. At least they have the money to take phenomenal vacations! That’s true. But many folks with One-Percenter jobs like I had are required to basically be on call all the time, even on vacation.
The idea of taking more than a week of vacation at a time would raise critical eyebrows.Traveling to somewhere far like Japan would be difficult, because the travel time of 16+ hours each way makes it difficult to get excited about. And God forbid you expect to be out of touch for more than 24 hours. Most of my vacations were done with my eyes attached to my phone. The hardest part was not the emails I needed to answer or the files I had to reference to answer people’s questions while abroad. It was that every time I did a work-related thing, I would need several hours to reset my mental state. Since you are regularly pinged, it becomes impossible to fully relax.
I recently went on a two week vacation to Asia and it was incredible! I ate all the foods, saw all the things, and pet all the cats at the cat cafe. My phone stayed off for basically the entire trip. What’s more, I paid less than half the price I would have had to pay had I taken the trip while working. As a worker bee, I would start my flight on a weekend. By starting and ending on a weekend, I could stretch my time away to a week and a half while only taking a week off work. Plane tickets were easily hundreds of dollars lower and so were per-day hotel prices since I was there on more weekdays than weekends.
Furthermore, being able to pick up at a moment’s notice lets me take advantage of hotel bidding for last minute inventory on priceline and to build an itinerary on the go based on deals.
Note: No one actually smiles like that when they’re getting on a 5am flight for a business meeting. The guy should be looking at email on his cell phone and the silly hat is almost never worn by the driver.
I spent countless hours being chauffeured from meeting to meeting in Lincoln town cars. Do you know what’s better than travelling around in a cushy car? Not having to travel at all!!
If you really want that experience, get yourself an Uber black car and have the experience just once. It will get it out of your system and cost you maybe 40 bucks.
I’m not gonna lie, first class airplane seats are the bomb. Virgin America’s setup is my absolute favorite with a gajillion ways to adjust your seat, the extra plush leather, and all that extra space to stretch out.
But fly enough times in first class and you’ll encounter similar problems as in coach.
I have one friend who is a consultant and needs to travel every week for work. She was in first class next to a gentleman with extremely bad BO. She was forced to sit there for six hours next to him because there were no other seats available.
I can’t tell you how many red-eyes I’ve been on where colleagues complained about the passenger next to them who snored and kept them up the entire time. I once travelled with a co-worker who is allergic to dogs. We’re sitting there waiting to take off and along comes the woman who’s supposed to sit next to him with a tiny white poof dog in a carrier. Never seen someone jump up with such alacrity and offer to trade seats with a neighbor. I don’t blame him. Being in the one percent isn’t going to prevent your allergies from acting up.
You can get this perk with a little forethought and the use of miles to upgrade. Even better, being retired allows me to pick flights that are less likely to be full (weekday flights) which means I get to enjoy all the space I like at economy class prices.
This is maybe the best part of being rich, one might think. People treating you like a VIP. Freebies, courteous service. Who wouldn’t love this?
Yesterday I went to the post office to send a return back to a retailer. I got a bubbly hello and how are you doing from the clerk. I was surprised how high the price was she quoted me for the package and asked her if there were cheaper options, and she took the time to walk me through a cheaper option. It involved using my own packaging which I had. I did not have tape, however, and even though they didn’t carry any, the coworker next to her piped up saying they might have a roll because sometimes customers donate their rolls when they were finished, so she went searching in the back to see if any were lying around. When she couldn’t find any, she suggested that I could staple the package shut. This saved me money as well as the time it would have taken me to go back to my house for tape.
As I was finishing up, the coworker started singing along to the Lady Gaga song on the radio and the three of us started talking about what she was up to these days. Believe me, I have been to this post office on the weekends and I have seen that exact same gentleman as a harried, surly mess. The staff was way more relaxed during the slow hours of the weekday and I got service even One-Percenters couldn’t get because of it.
This quality service has extended to almost every type of shop I’ve visited. I rarely have to fight to get my water refilled. Servers will small talk much more often and make recommendations or tell little stories. I get a higher frequency of ‘and how is your ____”. Obviously not everyone becomes Jim Rogers, but the difference is noticeable. Take a more relaxed environment, add a smile and chipper attitude of your own, and you will get way better service as a retired weekday patron than I got walking in with a crew of Wall Streeters.
If I had to choose between being a rich but full-time working one percenter or being more leanly financially independent, I would take the perks of being FI every time.
You can live your dreams much faster as a retired free person than as a wannabe one-percenter. The best things in life can be had for much less when you have freedom and flexibility. Focus on building your freedom fund and you will be optimizing for the fastest time to achieving the perks of food, travel, VIP experience and more.