I am 56 years old and I recently took out a £5,000 loan and moved to Prague, to take up a position as a wealth manager for high net worth clients. Before that, I was working as a cab driver in Gateshead in Tyne and Wear. I was working between 65 and 70 hours a week, sometimes more.
My salary now is commission-based. I haven’t earned any commission yet, but I am hoping it will enable me to achieve my dream of building up a £300,000 pension pot in the next 10 years.
I’ve been stupid in my life and not saved like I should have. I was always waiting for a big payday. I got a shock at 55 when I realised that, even though I had worked all my life, I had less than £4,000 saved up in pensions – I had no other savings.
As a cab driver, I would start work every day at 5am. I often worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. I would contribute £1,000 gross into my pension each month, plus whatever I could afford at the end of the tax year. In my spare time, I would vlog about what I have learned about money on a website I set up called Stupidisthenorm. It was thanks to my vlog that I was offered my current position as a wealth manager.
At the moment, I have got £13,000 in my pension. If I achieve my £300,000 target, my plan is to withdraw £80,000 to £100,000 as a lump sum and buy a 50-foot yacht. I know I may have to pay tax on such a large withdrawal but it will be worth it. The other £200,000 I will use to live on while I sail around the Med with my wife. It will be easy to live frugally on a yacht that’s at sea – there is no council tax or mooring fees to pay.
When I was young, I never thought about enjoying my retirement. My life stretched before me and I thought I was eternal. I wanted to look good, buy things, feel rich. I worked hard but I lived beyond my means and got into credit card debt to the tune of £10,000. My family and I are having to make sacrifices now because of the way I behaved then. I only had three days off last year and Christmas Day was one of them. I haven’t seen my wife or my children for several months and I miss them.
I would do things differently if I had my time again. I would save my money right from the get-go instead of going on yachting holidays and buying a BMW 5-Series on credit. If I had invested the money I spent on the finance and insurance for that car, I reckon I would have more than £300,000 saved up by now. Instead, I have £9,000 of debt and have to spend £211 on loan repayments each month.
I also contribute £200 a week towards my UK household bills, including my mortgage, and spend £50 a month on my phone. Other than that, I spend very little on myself nowadays. I buy myself a cup of coffee in the mornings and I always get the Financial Times on Sundays. I like doing the crossword.
I don’t spend frivolously. I will go to an Irish pub at the weekend for a few beers – a pint in Prague costs as little as £1 – but I travel to my appointments with high net worth Prague nationals by metro and do my weekly grocery shop at Lidl for £12. I have stopped consuming now. One of the lessons I have learned is not to spend more than I’ve got. I just wish I had learned it when I was younger.
As told to Donna Ferguson
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010