Hotel Hell: one man’s retirement nest egg

I realized something over the past week.

There’s no annotated-GIF-thingy for my favorite scene ever from the Office!  So I had to cobble one together (please no one sue or criticize):

Hotel HellHotel Hell: check-out never; sheets are made of fire.  Haha.  The best part of Dwight’s fantasy in my opinion is that it comes with a salary…

But it got me thinking about people’s career and money dreams.  I feel like, regardless of how your life turns out, people have one of three basic career/money plans if they even think about money and retirement at all:

  1. Lavish: make a bunch of money and spend it; work pretty long to save enough for retirement-era lifestyle maintenance
  2. Frugal: make a bunch of money; save it and retire early; continue to live frugally, pursue dreams
  3. Humanitarian: do what you love; make less; save lots; work forever (Hotel Hell for Dwight)

The first option is probably the most familiar to people.  I think when parents want you to get into a good college and get a good job, being paid well and living in luxury are implied.  This is what I set out to do originally.

Then there are always people who say “I don’t care about money; I just want to do what I am passionate about.”  These are the humanitarians and artists.  I think when people say that, they understand that they will probably not make much money.  But also implied in that statement is a challenge accumulating retirement savings, and a likelihood of working a very long time as a result.

And finally, a bit out of order, is the Frugal option, to save all your money and try to retire early.  If you had asked me 5 years ago, I would not have thought of this as one of the life-design plans, and would have cited only Lavish and Humanitarian.  I was not aware this was an option, but it is my current goal.

Anything other than one of these plans would be somewhat pointless or inefficient.  Think about it.  If you plan to save and retire early, then any amount of big spending just parts you from your goal.  If you want to just do what you love, don’t bother chasing money away from your passion because it probably won’t pay off that well anyway. Etc.

There’s also a way to optimize each of these paths.  If you seek to be Lavish, you should get whatever amount of schooling it takes to secure the highest possible salary: be a physician, lawyer, broker, etc.  You will probably have a chip on your shoulder about school costs, and will spend a long time paying that off before the profits set in.

If you want to be Frugal, it makes most sense to get into the working world asap relative to earning potential.  If your game is saving and living frugally, you could probably do that with a lot or only some money and still retire pretty early.  College might not even be for you because it is 4 years of spending instead of making money.  Only trick here is that if you start out with a low-cost education plan and realize later that you are more Lavish than Frugal in nature, it might be too late to go back and get a fancy degree.

If you dream of following your Humanitarian passions, you may as well focus on getting your ideal, rewarding job and not bother thinking about money at all.  Your game is to work forever fulfilling yourself so there is no sense compromising the satisfaction aspect.

I was never cut out for the high-living Lavish path because Med and Law school did not appeal to me.  But the 6- and 7-figures stratosphere aside, I wanted to make as much money as possible.  I made a measured decision and took myself to (a reasonably cheap) $30k graduate school, estimating that it would at least double my pay.  It has in fact nearly tripled my pay in 6 years, and I have already paid my graduate loans.  So I’m thanking my lucky stars that the gamble worked out.  I nevertheless have too much of a chip on my shoulder to go be a Humanitarian, but I am well positioned to pursue a Frugal life plan, with a Lavish lifestyle still out of reach given the alternative of retiring early.  What, think you can have both with an engineering degree?  Tell me how 🙂

GIF courtesy of

3 thoughts on “Hotel Hell: one man’s retirement nest egg

  1. I think the biggest assumption you make in your analysis is that everyone has a plan. I think many people don’t have a financial plan to their actions. I don’t. I know it’s a problem, I’m trying to fix it, but it’s taken me years to get to this point. It’s part of the reason I love reading your blog, it forces me to think about my life and choices through a new paradigm.

    But that level of planning and top-down life direction takes a measure of foresight and discipline that many people simply don’t possess. They set their sights shorter, come up with slipshod plans, and execute them poorly. Part of the joke in Dwight’s game is that people who end up in mediocre lives rarely get there because they planned on it. They didn’t set a bullseye on mediocrity and hit it, they just fired and that’s where the arrow fell. So when you see someone plan their mediocrity in detail, it’s somewhat hilarious.

    On another note, my turn to pick for our book club will be coming up in a couple months. If you could have us read one book on personal finance, what would you choose?

    • Rob, you hit the nail on the head! That is why Dwight’s dream is so funny: so mediocre, so thoroughly planned.

      You’re right, most people don’t have a plan, myself included up until recently. It seems like so many people go around making random choices in their professional lives. And because people don’t talk about money, it’s hard to ever tell what someone’s money lifestyle plan is. But I assume that most people, regardless of career choices, at least want to make money, or want to do what they want (for different reasons) and don’t care about money. There is a money and lifestyle choice to be made, which I think sticks with you regardless of job.

      The thing I’m interested in is choosing your money lifestyle to help you decide what to do with your career. I did kind of write that as though you’re still in high school and have all these choices to make, but I also think it’s never too late to pick up an idea and go after it. It’s getting or finding out about the idea that’s so hard.

      And what’s really agonizing to me is that I used to operate under this “make more money” funk. Always need more money, like cookie monster needs more cookies. And why? To pay off my student loans? I wasn’t even doing that aggressively even as I wandered around in this ladder-climbing haze. Sure you get out of debt some day, but what do you do then? And has your path so far taken you to where you want to be?

    • Rob, just remembered you were also looking for a book suggestion. Sorry if it’s too late – the book I am reading right now (“Buffettology” about Warren Buffett) is actually only the third finance-related book I have read. I did really enjoy Rich Dad Poor Dad, as it is about basic money philosophy that will lead you to wealth rather than poverty. Pretty quick and inspiring read. Did you already pick a book for your club, or have you heard of any other finance books that are good?

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