Last week Manyu and I met with Cody, our financial advisor. We’ve had someone overseeing my retirement account since I started working at UW-La Crosse in 1993, but it still feels odd for me to say I even have a financial advisor. What would the twenty-eight year old version of me, the guy who lived in the coastal redwoods earning $500/month, think about that?

Cody knows that Manyu and I would like to spend more time in Asia, so he asked, “Just for fun, how much more money do you think you’d need to keep a place both here and in Taiwan?”

“Not all that much,” I said. “We already have travel costs calculated into our expenditures, and we can’t afford to buy property in Taiwan. I guess the only additional expense would be rent. If we got a small place outside of Taipei, we might get by on another $20,000.”

“That’s about right,” Manyu added. “I looked at a couple of retirement communities for my mom, and a one bedroom apartment in Taoyuan costs about $1500 a month.” Taoyuan is the county just west of Taipei. The city’s metro system extends that far, so a place in Taoyuan would be a 30-minute subway ride to the heart of the city.

“Okay,” Cody replied. “Let’s plug twenty grand into the calculator and see what comes up.” 

Cody’s laptop was linked to a large screen on the wall, so Manyu and I could see whatever he had on his computer. For most of our discussion, the screen showed a year-by-year chart predicting Manyu’s and my finances from now until the year 2051. 2051 is the year Manyu turns 90 years old.* The key feature of the chart, other than the fact that I now notice the timeline gets a little shorter each year we visit, was that it was entirely green. All green means that, at our current level of spending, income always matches or exceeds expenses. 

When Cody punched in the new numbers, the chart changed. It remained all-green only until the year 2028. After that, there was a steadily widening band of red atop the green. “Yeah, no,” Cody said. “You can’t do that.”

“We know,” I replied. 

When Manyu and I got home, the first thing Manyu said was, “I want to go to Taiwan for Chinese New Year.” My wife always wants to go to Taiwan for Chinese New Year, but our discussion about renting a second home must have awakened those urges a few months early. Most of the time, her longing for Asia comes with the first signs of winter. (For me, Manyu’s longing for Asia is a sign of winter.)

I usually have mixed feelings about Manyu’s extended trips to Taiwan. Right after she leaves, I always enjoy a few weeks of solitude. Then the days start to drag. When Manyu goes to Asia, she stays away for one, two, three months. It’s more a temporary relocation than a vacation.

This year, however, I want her to go. Clare, when she was younger, went to Asia once year, but now hasn’t gone since high school. In January she is taking Chase, her boyfriend, to Thailand and Taiwan to see a different part of the world and to meet that side of the family. So long as Manyu does not hover, Clare would like her mom to be there. As always, I’ll be in La Crosse taking care of the dog. 


  • My age in 2051 is irrelevant. Cody’s program has me dying in 2044.
Steven Simpson