m741's ERE Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Chris
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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by Chris » Mon Feb 29, 2016 11:22 pm

Glad to hear you enjoyed Turkey so much. How did you find the locals to be?

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m741
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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Thu Jun 09, 2016 7:09 pm

March - May 2016

I've deviated from my posting schedule somewhat, which means I'm also gonna deviate from my normal update. Maybe I'll do a normal one after this.

It's been incredibly hectic for me for the past month. Mostly work - a projects has continued to drag on longer than I expected. And while I'm excited about it, it's also nerve-wracking. Kinda like a one-man death march :(. But, the end is in sight.

We did a little traveling over Memorial Day, to visit Toronto. I liked it, the gf didn't like it as much (I think she expected Canada to be more different from the US).

The biggest news is that I let my gf in on the ERE secret. I don't think she's much interested, which is fine. But the other part of this is that we're planning on leaving work in about 1 year - sometime around June, 2017. I'm beyond psyched for this. There's so many things I want to do, but can't focus on because I'm drained from work. And the workload has just reinforced how much I want to control my time.

I broached the idea of doing some long-term travel a long time ago, but just let it sit and didn't follow up. Then, about a month ago, we had a good discussion about it. The gf seems on board, and we're considering Spain as a starting point (interesting culture, language, good climate, seems cheap for Europe, not as wild a change as South America or Asia). I'm just preparing to move forward with the planning - where to visit? How to sell all my stuff? What sort of paperwork do I need (collect bills, find insurance, etc, etc). Do I need any supplies, like a high-power laptop? And so on. Lots of stuff to research, but all of it things I've deferred for long enough.

I don't know whether this means 'retirement' for me - probably not - or whether it's just a sort of sabbatical. I'm thinking something like 1 year of slow travel, and then maybe finding a climate and culture more amenable to me, probably out West.

Since the status quo that I've had for like 4 years is just starting to shift, I'll probably be journalling more frequently. In the meantime, I have a question for everyone:

If you've traveled by living in a foreign country for 1-3 months and then moving, how did you find furnished lodging and a local equivalent of Craigslist? AirBnB and random internet searches?

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by Ego » Thu Jun 09, 2016 7:30 pm

We book a place for a few days (usually with booking.com) then spend those days searching for a place to stay long-term. The great thing about booking.com is that the hotels are usually very, very concerned about their reviews. Mrs. Ego is a genius on booking.com (I think that means she posts a lot of popular reviews) so the hotel owners were very accommodating whenever we found a place before our booking was complete. If we booked for five days in a hotel but found an ideal long-term place the first day, they would allow us to leave with no extra charges.

Just realized I didn't answer your question..... we would approach expats in cafes and ask them for tips. Many older expats are professional cafe-sitters.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Sat Jun 11, 2016 7:44 am

@Ego - thanks for the tips! I've never looked at booking.com, but will have to check it out. I'd considered finding somewhere for a few days to sort out the city. Getting a rental contract for 1-2 months with short notice after that seems like the big concern.

The expat tip is handy... do you just eavesdrop in the cafes listening for American-sounding speakers?

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by Ego » Sat Jun 11, 2016 4:57 pm

m741 wrote:Getting a rental contract for 1-2 months with short notice after that seems like the big concern.
Actually, depending on the country, you probably don't have to worry about a rental contract. In Morocco, Turkey, Bali, India, Nepal and South Africa we paid in advance and that was it. No contract. In Thailand we paid by the week but told them the length of time we intended to stay.
m741 wrote: The expat tip is handy... do you just eavesdrop in the cafes listening for American-sounding speakers?
English. Brits are particularly helpful and they seem to be everywhere. Runners are helpful too. Jog next to them and pepper them with questions.

Most places where you would want to stay long-term has some sort of internet forum specific to that place.

http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/
http://balipod.com/

Lonely Planet Thorn Tree used to be much better but it is still okay for figuring out things https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree
Trip Advisor is similar and perhaps more useful today. https://www.tripadvisor.com/ForumHome

Usually the forums do not allow people to advertise lodgings themselves so we use them to figure out the expat cafes, grocery stores, yoga studios, and areas of town. Often the best lodgings are word-of-mouth as they do not pay taxes on the rental income so they do not advertise anywhere. It is good to practice approaching people, for instance, an expat with a cart full of food in a grocery store or a group of people in a cafe not wearing the usual travel clothing. If there is a gym or yoga studio where the expats workout, talk to the people at the front desk and look on bulletin board. This is especially true for co-working places. Find the queen bee (there is always one) and get them talking. We just ask if they know anyone who rents places for a few months. Print a few cards with your email address, phone, website if you have one, etc...

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by akratic » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:30 pm

We use the same strategy as Ego, although we stay about a week in the first place, and we use airbnb.com to find it, or couchsurfing.org when we were more adventurous.

It’s definitely best to search like a local after you get there.

I’ll tell you about my favorite tactic in talking to expats, although I warn you in advance that it might not work in general, and might be highly specific to people like me:

Do as *little* research in advance as possible. Like make sure there’s no current wars, but stay as far away from a Lonely Planet guidebook as possible.

The reason this worked for me is it gave me tons of stuff to talk to expats about. My experience is expats love to be helpful, and if you hardly know anything at all, then you’re easy to help. And just about anything they want to talk about regarding that location will be interesting to you.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by Chris » Mon Jun 13, 2016 7:33 pm

Glad to see your update. And let me congratulate you on your decision to quit!

Twice per year we stay a month at a time in Europe. We originally found a place on AirBNB. Knowing we'd be returning, we arranged a direct rental with the landlady for our subsequent trips, paying cash. This resulted in ~40% savings, plus we found she had other apartments available that she only occasionally has available, and therefore not listed on AirBNB. I'm sure it also helps that my girlfriend speaks the language, thus avoiding the "American surcharge".

It's not a bad idea to be in-country before selecting a place though, as Akratic said. It's easier to know what's good in terms of location, etc.

You might also find an American Corner / American Space and ask around there. They host English classes and libraries, so it's a decent place to find local people you can communicate with.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Mon Jun 13, 2016 9:05 pm

These are some great tips! Thanks everyone - digging through all the resources now.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:42 pm

July, 2016

I'm not gonna follow a format for now. Just jump from topic to topic.

I've made few investment decisions recently, just doing my usual regular investments. I'm slowly pulling out of Lending Club as I get deposits, because I'm not too confident in the company. Likewise, I've halted additional investment in Solar City, because it also feels a bit shaky. I'm planning on buying GLD whenever I see a dip. That's pretty much it.

Work is gradually getting better. The organization is disfunctional, but after a year, I'm starting to feel like my feet are under me at least. I still feel really lethargic. With an end date in sight, I signed up for support, so I'm on an on-call rota. That's actually the first time I've been officially on-call outside office hours. But there's a pretty handsome bonus in it. So for a year it seems reasonable to boost savings.

Also, after finally agreeing on all this long-deferred travel stuff with the GF, I've been selling things very aggressively. I'm down a bit more than 1 of 5 bookcases. I don't really feel much attachment to 90% of the remaining books, just some that have personal or family connections. I've sold a bunch of musical stuff (Keyboard, Guitar), assorted knick-knacks, etc. I've been seeing if books are available for more than ~$3 on Amazon and selling there, otherwise just donating. Some I sell at work, some I give away.

I'm really glad I started this selling process early, since it's made me realize that I own a lot more stuff than I would have thought. I've also got a new incentive to stop buying the occasional random thing. Why bother if I'm gonna have to sell it in under a year.

I've also been backing up stuff more aggressively online, and I continue to digitize stuff. There's still a ton to go through, but that's for the colder months. Speaking of which, it's incredibly hot out right now. We've had an extended heat wave in NYC that's just breaking now (back to 80s and humid...) I've played a bit of Pokemon Go, which is very popular here, and which gets me outside. It's not exactly physically challenging, but I have found it to be a good way to acclimate to the heat.

Beyond that, I'm just incredibly busy at work. In my free time I've been practicing Spanish, bit by bit. I'm about the same level now as I was with Italian when I stopped. My enthusiasm waxes and wanes, but I keep chugging along. It's pretty the only hobby I can sustain right now, while busy with work and with friends and events on weekends.

Upcoming: some travel in a week to visit the GF's extended family. Some travel in November, hopefully at least one international trip. Otherwise I relatively peaceful schedule as I continue to liquidate, organize, and prepare for next year.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by Sere » Mon Aug 01, 2016 4:18 am

Back on ERE and catching up on your adventures - I love Pokemon Go too (also because it gets me outdoors!) but I'm in Fiji now and I think there's only 1 Rattata in the whole country!

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Sat Nov 05, 2016 7:34 am

August - October, 2016

Time flies and I see that it's been some time since I last updated, though it feels like just last month.

Finances/Job

Over the past three months, not too much has changed financially, I've been saving at the same rate as ever, so just accumulating more savings. I was doing pretty well, but the market swings over the past week have wiped out a month of savings - we'll see what happens on November 8...

On the job front however, a lot changed. I was able to take an international trip to Switzerland, paid for by my work - I extended the stay to be able to spend the weekends in Switzerland. This was my first business trip (maybe my only one in my career!).

Our team, which never fit into the organization we were in, was moved into the marquee organization at the company, and we're now managed out of Israel. It's been an interesting transition - I've always felt the team was very poorly run overall, so any change on that front is good news. If I were planning on staying longer, this is also good news for my career; on the other hand, I didn't really want the increased scrutiny and the loss of autonomy will take some adjusting to.

I was promoted this fall, though my salary will only be adjusted in December. I won't be staying enough for the salary change to have a big impact. I'm surprised however at how much I wanted the promotion. I guess my thought process was that my career trajectory has flattened, and if I wasn't promoted now, I'd have difficulty scraping together enough important projects over the next 6 months to get any promotion - and without that, I wouldn't have anything to show for my 3.5 years at the company. Plus, I was seeking some sort of external validation besides the general complimentary performance reviews. Thankfully, all this is in the past now that I have my shiny gold star sticker.

2016 Goals

It's been a long time since I talked about my 2016 goals, but I have actively been working on them.

Weight 165 pounds - This isn't going to happen, but I have been much more health-conscious over the past month. I've even started eating salads... I feel like this is something that I've talked about in the past, with few tangible results, so I'm hesitant to say more at this point.

Read 20 books - I'm at 18 currently, reading more, and will soon achieve this goal.

Meditate for 50 hours - I'm at 8.5 currently, so far off the goal, but I've been much more consistent lately and while I'm unlikely to hit the goal, I think I can make a good showing. I bought a well-reviewed book on meditation yesterday and am excited to continue.

Get rid of half of stuff - I'm well on my way with this goal. It's been a huge focus for me. My bookshelves are beginning to look sparse. Biweekly I take a bag of books to the local church booksale to donate. Bimonthly I post a spreadsheet of 50-60 items on the company's internal Craigslist clone, and sell about a third of them. I've scanned about 15 scrapbooks of photos and digitized about 15 childhood VHS tapes. I have 4-5 scrapbooks to go, and so long as I continue my current trend I'll have satisfied this goal.

Take 300 photos - I'm somewhere around 80-90 here, and will be aiming for the 150 photos mark by the end of the year. Photography has failed to become an important focus in my life, in the way that I'd hoped - simply not enough time/energy available to really get inspired.

10 digital projects - I've completely dropped the electronics stuff. Same story as photography. Recently I had some time off (sick days) and got immensely wrapped up in procedural generation. I did two projects, a procedurally generated world that I hope to get back to (with plausible topology, biomes, erosion), and implementing an image algorithm that procedurally generated a tileable image based on a sample pattern. The first was fun and the second was exciting, to see an algorithm described in a CS paper come to life. Anyway, unlikely to hit this goal and not actively working on it.

Learn Spanish - I added this goal late (in April or May), so I don't think it was on previous lists. I've been actively working on it for some time, with little lapses of interest and jolts of excitement. I didn't really specify what I meant by 'learn Spanish,' but I was hoping to carry on a conversation. I'm tantalizingly close. I mean I can hold a basic conversation, and with some hand-waving can convey any thought I want; and I can understand everyday language if my conversation partner talks slowly. I feel like I'm approaching a 'breakthrough' where everything clicks. I'd say I've basically hit this goal, but I will continue to pursue it for the foreseeable future.

So overall, mixed results. I'm working hard though on many of these goals, and if that continues over the next two months, I will be proud of what I achieved this year.

Plans
I haven't talked about plans very much, though I'm very much focused on them. At the moment, the plan right now is to quit my job on ~July 4. This date was determined by quarterly stock vesting schedule and quarterly pay for being an emergency on-call contact. So, staying through July vs June would net me 10-15k. Totally worth it.

The girlfriend is fully on board with the plans. Though, I think she's not really grounded in reality - or maybe her planning process is different than mine. I'm really detail oriented, for a new destination I want to research on a few sites, see how the destination fits in a travel map, etc. She's more likely to look at some instagram photos of a city and want to visit it. I'm not saying one approach is preferable to the other, I can see the benefit of each. It's just been interesting to see. Also, we're still 8 months out, so there's less need to get into the weeds.

We'll be visiting a few areas during our trip. We've basically identified South America, Europe, India, New Zealand, and SE Asia as top destinations. Nothing ground-breaking there, though I hope to stay on the less touristy side of things. Our first stop will be Europe, for something like 3 months. We've identified three 'paths' of interest through Europe. One starting in Seville/Grenada and working its way directly to Berlin. The second, a loop through Copenhagen, Gdansk, Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm. Third, an arc from the Czech Republic, through Slovenia and Italy to Malta, and then around through Greece into Macedonia. I'm excited for all of these. Really excited for Spain, but the last loop is most interesting to me.

We haven't looked into the other regions much. And the reality is that we'll have to tweak the Europe travel so it fits into a possibly busy wedding schedule for the gf's friends, who are all getting engaged. We may only do 1 or 2 of these routes. Either way, I'm hoping to do some WWOOFing, maybe participate in an archaeological dig, and maybe do a week or two of extended hiking, staying in guest houses. I'm looking for things I wouldn't usually have the luxury to enjoy on 2 weeks of vacation per year.

For the full trip, I've set aside a budget of ~$50k for both of us. This is within my means for a trip I've been anticipating for 6-7 years. I trust that we'll be living modestly on the road, particularly once we leave Europe. As I said, the reality hasn't entirely sunk in, but I'm sure I'll be getting more excited and more nervous in the next few months.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by George the original one » Sat Nov 05, 2016 2:30 pm

m741 wrote:For the full trip, I've set aside a budget of ~$50k for both of us. This is within my means for a trip I've been anticipating for 6-7 years. I trust that we'll be living modestly on the road, particularly once we leave Europe. As I said, the reality hasn't entirely sunk in, but I'm sure I'll be getting more excited and more nervous in the next few months.
Talk about buying an experience! :mrgreen: Sorry, that's just my initial reaction from being a Wheaton level away...

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Sun Nov 06, 2016 8:38 am

@George - yeah, it's a lot of money. I'm planning a full year in total, though we could end up doing more or less. So 25k each. We'll be living pretty frugally while traveling, so could end up spending less. But this amount actually isn't too far off from theoretical investment income, so I could end up ahead after the year is up.

I'm pretty curious to see how this works out and what the expenses are. For the past year or two I've been lax recording expenses, but I'd like to record them for this trip to see if they align with reports of travel costs from others online.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:02 pm

2017 through February

It's been quite a while since I updated. Here's a breakdown of what's going on.

Overall life situation
I'm at the same job, living in the same apartment, and in the same relationship as in my previous post. Things shifted a bit; my girlfriend and I maintain separate accounts and split expenses 50:50, except for rent, where I pay 75%. This seemed fair given the differences in our salaries. In practice I'll usually treat for dinner or groceries once a week.

I wanted to travel, starting this June, but the GF is still paying off a host of student debts. I loaned her some money (not a lot for me, but what seemed fair without being weird for the relationship) last summer. She discovered that some private college loans which she took out with her parents, and which her parents were going to pay as a college gift, were not getting paid. As a result, they were accumulating at a high ~10% interest rate. To get this under control, we deferred the trip and are planning on January 2018.

I've been working with her to get the loans paid off and to help her understand her financial situation. Although she never got on the hedonic treadmill and is roughly college-frugal, she was not really financially literate. We're not sharing all details, lord knows I intend to keep stuff private for some time, but we are tracking these private loans together. I've helped her find her credit score and get a credit report (which uncovered some of this info), and helped her find a starter credit card to build her credit rating.

So that's the overall situation: looking to start a long-term trip in early 2018, continuing with the status quo for 2017.

Work/Finances
I've been pretty disengaged from work, for a number of reasons, but am slowly re-building interest. My current manager, who has very poor people management skills (but who is excellent technically), seems to recognize me as a leader within my team. And my manager's manager seems to feel the same. There's no "position" open for me at the moment, and frankly I don't know if I'd want it, because the 1-year time horizon makes everying weird. But I do have an opportunity to learn lots of new skills over the next year.

I don't foresee changes to my own work situation. As I said, it's weird to have this self-imposed 1-year deadline. And it's taken some time to adjust to that horizon being pushed out 6 months. At this point, I don't have the energy or desire to switch companies or teams and then just up and leave, so I'm making the best of the team I'm on.

The good news about pushing it out, is that I get 6 months more savings at a very high income. Additionally, because I'm staying into the new year, I get the 2017 cash bonus (from December), and can do things like max out my 401k company match in January, etc. So there's good financial incentives to work a little bit longer.

Financially, the market has been strong (though I trust it less and less). Since my last update in October, my net worth has increased 10%. I read a recent Jacob post about how he (and MMM) perceive money, and I agree, it feels like water to me. I haven't been particularly strict with finances, but look forward to tightening the belt as quitting time approaches. Probably towards the end of the summer.

Interests/Goals
My interests have been changing recently. At the end of 2016, I had achieved about 40-50% of my goals. Better than previous years, but still a little sad. For 2017, I've taken what I learned in 2016 and applied that to my goals for 2017. I'm tracking very aggressively and I'm satisfied with the progress I'm seeing. None of the goals diverged that radically from what I was doing before, so not a lot to cover there. Just better formulated. I may go into that more later.

My interests conflict somewhat with my desire to travel next year, because they're interests that require stuff, and I want to get rid of stuff. Nonetheless, I've bought stuff and will just sell it or transport it when we start to travel. I've been cooking more (baking lots of tofu and brussel sprouts, baking some delicious vegan apple muffins, etc). I've also been accumulating plants (pothos, spider plants, christmas cactus, ponytail palm, parlor palm, snake plant, etc etc). And I just decided to try growing mushrooms and herbs from seed, both firsts from me, and both coming along very well. I'm also programming sporadically at home, something I didn't have energy for before.

I've also continued to pursue my interest in Spanish, and although progress is slow, I do feel like I'm getting somewhere.

So I guess that's about it. I really do want to do more regular updates now, as I think taking stock of things monthly was more helpful than I realized, so look forward to a March update.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by DutchGirl » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:54 pm

Nice to hear from you again, and nice to read that things are going well. I think you like that your current manager is technologically adept/good, and recognizes that you can do good things as well. I hope that you can work with the low amount of people skills from that same person.

I also trust the markets less and less. I had 30% in savings (in Dutch certificates of deposits with an average 3.4% annual interest rate by the way), 30% bonds and 40% stocks, and I've changed that to 30% savings, 40% bonds and 30% stocks; selling some stocks for a nice profit in the process. I think I'll keep it at this ratio for a while. On Dutch financial blogs I see more and more bloggers posting about trying the stock market because they feel like they can only win when investing. To me that feels like it's time to sell, as per the story I heard about Joe Kennedy who was offered stock tips by a shoeshiner (retold here). I feel that if everybody and their mother is jumping in, that's when you have to become more careful.

I wish you a pleasant March, and I will hope to see another post at the end of March or beginning of April. Enjoy!

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Thu Apr 06, 2017 10:28 pm

March 2017

Overall life situation

Well, things aren't too exciting right now. I'm in a weird grey area w/r/t my travel plans (9 months out from Jan/Feb ETA). It's still on the horizon, but hasn't yet become real to me. I don't want to overplan and there's only so much to do... so right now I'm trying to enjoy NYC more, live in the moment here, and trying to slowly reduce my possessions and not accumulate more crap I'll have to transport/store.

The gf has been very good paying down her loans; she has three categories: federal (huge loan remaining, low interest), the stuff I've lent, and the remainder of the private loans. She's paid over 1/3 of the private loans off in the past six months, and I think will make even more progress soon. So that's awesome. She's not very good at negotiations, but at her small company the bosses seem to like her and I think she does good work, so they pretty much forced her to take a raise (she was too nervous to ask in person, and ended up asking for it via email; I told her to request 20%, and they just gave it to her. I think she would have asked for 10 otherwise).

We've done a little travel recently near NYC and will do more trips over the summer. Also her mother is visiting in a few months and will meet my father and stepmother. Not sure what to think of that!

Work/Finance

Work has been pretty crazy recently. My immediate manager of a year and a half was terrible... he meant well but had horrible personal/political skills. He's basically been sidelined, which I feel bad about, but the new manager is pretty good and a real breath of fresh air. I'm happy about that and the shift overall has been good. Also, I got most of the way out of my funk at work, so I'm overall fairly happy.

My role overall within the team has expanded (not just this month but over the past few), and I've gotten some tastes of leadership, which I overall enjoy - it was just a lot to balance programming and trying to manage projects when I didn't have overall authority. It's a nice chance to try something new and to learn some useful skills.

Financially, I keep seeing money stack up, which is good. On the other hand, a lot of it is driven by market changes. For example, I've seen my net worth increase by 1.6% this last month - with my savings that's a pretty large amount, but it's certainly more than my income. I'm still not used to it, when I think about it. Over the next few months I need to revisit my overall asset allocation, which I haven't thought about seriously for some time.

Interests/Goals
I'm pursuing my overall 2017 goals pretty diligently, although my interest waxes and wanes. I study Spanish on a daily basis (likely ineffectively), read my books, and recently have been calorie counting, which I like. I'm not a stickler, and don't care about macronutritional stats, just write down calories and weights; the upshot is that it makes me understand that weight loss is as simple as you'd think. I've got other goals that I'm following, but I've been doing a little freelancing with a childhood friend and have put some of the lower priority goals on hold for a bit.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by herp » Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:36 pm

@m741 - I just discovered your journal, and I'm liking what I see so far. As a fellow software engineer, I can relate to a lot of your frustrations ;) Consider me a new subscriber :geek:
DutchGirl wrote:
Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:54 pm
I also trust the markets less and less. I had 30% in savings (in Dutch certificates of deposits with an average 3.4% annual interest rate by the way), 30% bonds and 40% stocks, and I've changed that to 30% savings, 40% bonds and 30% stocks; selling some stocks for a nice profit in the process. I think I'll keep it at this ratio for a while. On Dutch financial blogs I see more and more bloggers posting about trying the stock market because they feel like they can only win when investing. To me that feels like it's time to sell, as per the story I heard about Joe Kennedy who was offered stock tips by a shoeshiner (retold here). I feel that if everybody and their mother is jumping in, that's when you have to become more careful.
@DutchGirl - While I'm more heavily invested in stocks, I can sympathize with your thoughts. I think many markets are overvalued at this point in time, but timing the market is really hard so I'm not going to do anything about it. I set a stock percentage based on my perceived long term tolerance for risk and let it ride out.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:24 pm

11.5 Months Out

I realized that the vast majority of my recent posts have been pretty similar. Since I'm now in the fairly unusual position of basically being FI, and tracking in on an established end-date, I thought I'd take a step back and describe more broadly where I'm at and what's on my mind. Maybe that'll be useful for others.

Image
This is my progress since first tracking ERE data. Some explanations:
  • Expenses are self-evident
  • Theoretical Net Investment Income is investment income @ 3% SWR, including retirement assets like 401k
  • Theoretical Pre-65 Investment Income is investment income @ 3% SWR, w/o retirement assets
  • Average Actual Investment Income is calculated investment income over a year, averaged monthly
  • Actual Investment Income is actual cash payments of dividends, interest, etc
You'll notice there's some flat parts or repeated patterns. Those are missing data. The spike in theoretical income is my mother's passing, after which I traveled a bit and took some time off, then began investing. About a year ago I pulled back dividend investments. I haven't had the presence of mind to actually measure expenses in a long time, but I think I'm at roughly the right level.

My investments are substantially in stocks, with a small ~3% chunk in gold, maybe 5% in cash, and probably about 15% in bonds, and some change in REITS, P2P loans, and other exotic assets. Straightening out allocations will be something I research over the next few months, probably getting a little closer to the permanent portfolio. Given the number of accounts I have (IRA, 401k, 529 plan, equities and mutual funds), this is no easy task - suggestions for tools that take in positions in ETFs or target-date funds and spits out asset allocations would be immensely helpful.

Plans

The plan, as discussed earlier, is to travel next year, but I think some of the fog is dissipating. The macro timeline decision is simply to wait 6 months longer than previously anticipated, to let my girlfriend pay off more student loans. That puts us on an early 2018 timeline. The micro timeline is on my end: in particular, around quarterly stock vesting. Now it's not like I'm waiting for some huge payout at a unicorn company, but I can't really pass up the opportunity to work an extra month for a quarter's worth of vested stocks.

While I was initially bummed about waiting 6-9 more months to start traveling, there are a number of benefits:
  • 6-9 months of income, vested stocks, and another bonus. By leaving mid-year I'm giving up 6 months earned bonus, nothing to sneeze at.
  • Smoother transition, and easier to sell/donate superfluous books, appliances, DVDs, etc, without stress.
  • By entering another calendar year at the company, I can optimize 401k matching, HSA matching, donation matching, dental/vision/health care, and similar perks.
As mentioned, the biggest date is stock vesting, and the soonest date for that in the new year is March 25, so my target retirement date is March 25, 2018. I may end up +5 days or something, but this is pretty concrete.

After that, we have a definite wedding in November 2018, so that puts a reasonable cap on our travel plans, and we're now looking at about 7-7.5 months of travel. The gf and I have similar interests, or I'm a good salesman, and we're looking at traveling to southern Europe, India/Nepal, Japan, New Zealand, and South America, about 1.5 months each. This is still in the air, but we're plotting out climate, friends/contacts in those areas, cost of living, travel expenses, and so on. I've started getting immunizations, though many will be in the last 2-3 months before the trip. I expect everything will slowly get more concrete over the next 6 months, but I don't want to plan things down to the last detail. At this point, my aim is more to gather a ton of resources so that decisions based on mood are easy on the road. I kinda expect to have the travel out of my system after 7 months, but who knows, we could end up on the road again. Or we could finish up early and end up back in the US by fall.

At the end of the trip, one thing seems certain: we will no longer live in NYC. Rather, we're looking out west, and top candidates are Washington, Oregon, or Colorado. I personally have little interest in California, and the gf prefers ocean to mountains (I think this is a little silly). I'd like to live just outside a city of 100k-200k, but I think the gf prefers something bigger. This is all super-vague and at least 18 months out anyway, so not well thought-out or researched.

Mindset

I don't know whether my position is common or not: I hit theoretical FI about 4 years ago @ 4% SWR. Now I'm just about FI at about 2% SWR. I'm aware people wait an extra year or two, and I was definitely cautious. But if you asked me last October I would have expected to be in the final stretch of work right now, and that's how I was geared for several months. So right now this is a little bit of deja vu, but I'm not gonna put things off any longer. Barring some catastrophe, March 2018 is go time, and I have enough cushion that I can cover whatever student loans the gf is unable to pay off while we travel.

It has been weird at work; I'm not that motivated and find focus difficult, but I don't know whether to attribute that to not needing to work, burnout, coworkers, the particulars of this situation, or some unknown health/psychological issue. This has been the case for some time and is basically the 'new normal' for me. Or maybe t

With respect to quitting, I'm about 10% as nervous as if I was at 4% SWR. I'd like to do some sort of part-time work upon returning from travel, either something more manual or 3 day/week programming, so I probably wouldn't even be drawing down funds. I'm probably more nervous at the prospect of long-term travel, particularly in more exotic or theoretically dangerous locales like India or South America. And occasionally I think about simply finding a new place to live and skipping the travel (since I vacillate between wanting adventure and wanting to build/work on something physical). If I had to guess, I think I'll feel this way for another 6 months and then probably start to get pretty excited about the whole prospect of travel.

---

Anyway, that's the current state of things. My biggest priorities right now are nailing down things I need to do this year and next year, starting to reach out to foreign friends, and getting asset allocation nailed down. I'd like to update this journal on a biweekly cadence (so ~24 more updates until FI), but don't hold me to that. Also, @herp, I always appreciate anyone who finds this useful or interesting!

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by Chris » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:09 pm

m741 wrote:
Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:24 pm
suggestions for tools that take in positions in ETFs or target-date funds and spits out asset allocations would be immensely helpful.
I had an idea to create a tool like this some years ago (in order to make diversification of mutual fund investments more optimal). In looking around, I only found a proprietary tool and a related patent. No simple API for this AFAIK.
m741 wrote:
Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:24 pm
As mentioned, the biggest date is stock vesting, and the soonest date for that in the new year is March 25, so my target retirement date is March 25, 2018.
One of the benefits of having FU money is that you can walk away without hesitation. And you will walk away in March 2018. Have you considered telling your manager that you're thinking of quitting, like, now? You might end up with a pay bump or other benefit to "convince" you to stay. You know you're not planning on leaving until 2018, but your employer does not. Yeah, you don't need the extra cash, but it seems like you're leaving something on the table. Consider that under your current track, when you give your notice in 2018, you'll may well receive a counter offer and you won't be in a position to take it. Might it make sense to receive the benefit now, since you won't accept it when the time actually comes.

I ask because this is something I've considered in my own situation.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Tue May 02, 2017 10:56 pm

11 Months Out - those years I slept

I haven't really looked at the forums or my accounts much for several years. Sure, I occasionally picked up a stock, and I'd do the bare minimum of updates to this journal. But mostly I was on autopilot. That's fine, but as my net worth increased, I should have been a bit more inquisitive and proactive. As I've gone to remedy this, it's been a busy two weeks - family visiting, some travel, various events. And I've been delving back into the retirement scene more aggressively.

Financial changes

A surprising amount of activity here, though no 'marquee' headlines like unusual increases in net worth.

* Turns out I've got a reasonable balance of airline miles (~160k). This was from two promos over the past few years, but I've been terrible with the spending. Airline miles can cover almost all of one person's flights on our planned trip. So, I've opened up two credit cards and am pursuing bonuses (about 110k miles). I spent a week getting familiar with frequent flyer miles and travel hacking.
* I'm winding down my lending club account, and will be aiming to close it completely by early December. I was getting no returns and didn't find it worth it to hold onto the loans.
* I did a non-comprehensive audit of my holdings, and found that I was overweight in stocks relative to my need for returns and risk tolerance. I've sold a few individual stocks as I simplify my portfolio, and cut back my automatic investment schedule slightly. I've picked up some IAU (gold) in exchange, and am holding a bit more cash.
* I also realized that my account allocation was terrible. I've now cut out passive index funds from retirement accounts, and substituted in bond+dividend funds. In general, I wasn't tax-sheltering accounts with taxable gains and was sheltering indexes. I'm certainly not in optimal shape, but at least my positions are defensible now.

Mindset

As I mentioned, I jumped straight back into the retirement/ERE space, uncovering something like 2-3 years of content. Really, besides a few of the classic financial books (Millionaire Next Door, Richest Man in Babylon, YMOYL, Tightwad Gazette), I'd only read ERE and followed 1-2 other blogs (MMM, Lacking Ambition).

I started with the Mad Fientist podcast, and started following blogs from guests who appealed to me (Mike and Lauren, Our Next Life, Frugalwoods, 1500 Days). Many of these blogs are chronicling people similarly close to FI/retirement, so that's good. And the Mad Fientists podcast is very well done. I've skimmed the Radical Personal Finance podcast as well. Other recommendations, of course, would be appreciated.

I've also been selling off and transferring various possessions. I mentioned some time back that there's an internal craigslist at my company, and using this I've sold a lot. I've also sold a number of books on Amazon, which was surprisingly easy. I'm down to under 3 bookcases of books, from something like 5-6, and have sorted all the books - I only want to hang onto one bookcase. I'm increasingly in the mental mode where everything I own is for sale -- at the right price.

I've been daydreaming a lot, about both travel and post-travel projects. The gf and I have a rough route sketched out and are in the process of collecting info from friends and just finding interesting places on the route. I'll share more on that at some later date.

Work has been somewhat intolerable. While I'm glad that I'm active in the FI space again, and soon enough that I don't have to be frantic about my leaving (and stuff like the frequent flyer miles have enough time to accumulate), I probably should have waited 3-4 months, because I'm practically salivating about leaving. Naturally, this has made focus difficult. To make matters worse, the team I'm on is somewhat free-spirited, and I saw one teammate leave last summer, and travel in a van (just as I did, but AFAIK he's still doing it), and a second is leaving at the end of this month to spend 6-8 months in Africa and India. It burns a little because that's within 2 months of my original quitting plan, and his travel timeline is similar to what I wanted to do.

The next two weeks
Things I want to do:
* Meeting with tax advisor tomorrow about a variety of quitting/tax optimization strategies. Implement whatever is necessary.
* Make all of the gf's and my joint purchases on credit cards, to hit bonuses.
* Schedule dental and vaccination appointments for the next 2 months.
* Continue to wind down individual stock investments, as well as finishing up asset reallocation.
* Investigate LASIK surgery for later this year.

---

@Chris: I did consider telling my manager, but I don't think it's in my best interests.
The pro of telling my manager is that I could theoretically negotiate a better salary.
The con is that the salary range at my company is reasonably locked down, and I frankly feel like I haven't been performing all that well. If my manager knows I intend to quit, there's also little incentive for him to give me any further stock grants or a large bonus at the end of this year. Additionally, due to the team I'm on and the particulars of the situation, I'd personally feel uncomfortable negotiating the salary bump when I have a hard end date that will not change. Note that if I was at my old bank job, where I had more leverage and the company/team was 100% cutthroat, I would have no qualms or concerns, and would have already done as you suggest.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by Chris » Wed May 03, 2017 9:41 am

m741 wrote:
Tue May 02, 2017 10:56 pm
As I mentioned, I jumped straight back into the retirement/ERE space ... Other recommendations, of course, would be appreciated.
I recently finished reading the Quit Series at Living a FI. He's good at detailing the situation and his mental state realizing he can quit, the actual quitting, and the detox afterward. I quite liked the play-by-play of the "Quitters Never Win, Except When They Do" posts.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Wed May 03, 2017 10:46 pm

@Chris - thanks for the recommendation. I'm about 2/3 of the way through, it's good so far and many of the realizations mirror my own thought process.

I was also thinking more about your suggestion. I am pretty burnt out and disengaged, and I think it may make sense to request a one-month sabbatical (in, say, August). The big selling point for working until March is the bonus+stock (and various calendar-year based bonuses), which is a lot more than the regular paycheck. So, I could probably give up a month of paychecks, destress a bit, and not see any adverse effects. I'll ask in my next one-on-one. :)

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by giskard » Thu May 04, 2017 11:25 am

@m741 I have been reading your journal for a few years now. Actually, it has been since you first quit your job in New York. I pretty much expected you just to use the new job as a good way to get an all-expense paid move across the country and then you could work there for a bit and quit and do whatever, given that you were FI.

Programming can be really fun, that is what I do for a living as well. I actually like my job because of my co-workers, but otherwise I'm building some pretty boring / unchallenging business software. However, if you really are working on interesting and engaging stuff, I totally get why you would keep working. Solving problems is fun and getting paid to do it feels good.

I guess to me it sounds like you must like the work but not like the job all that much. Why don't you go independent and do some consulting? Maybe the autonomy will feel better to you, and you will probably end up working a lot fewer hours in total but you will still get to do a bit of work which I'm sure you must enjoy.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by m741 » Thu May 04, 2017 10:52 pm

@giskard It sounds like you (maybe) have two questions: why am I still working, and what do I think of the work?

Simply put, I'm still working because I get a really high salary, my gf needs to work off some student debt, and I feel like it would be weird to quit before her; by continuing to work this year, I can also squirrel away a lot of money for either security, future indulgences, or to donate to charity. It's not more complicated than that.

As for the work... that's a more difficult question. I was programming BASIC when I was 6 or 7 years old, I did website design for a while when I was young, I took computer science courses in high school and did well in them. I've loved developing intuition for debugging and that little jolt when something complicated works right. So I enjoyed programming. On the other hand, I always had some internal resistance to it and was never as passionate as many of the people you see online. And honestly for 8 of the 10 years I've programmed professionally, I've basically been overpaid to write CRUD-type apps over long work hours. That meant no energy to program interesting stuff at home.

Collectively, a lot of this soured me to programming: lots of cross-team politics; lots of pointless office bureaucracy; lots of feeling like the apps I was developing were just flipping bits on some hard drive somewhere and doing little else; above all, programming 'challenges' that were simply trying to figure out how to abuse some library because I wasn't doing something it was designed for, or the "Do I put this in Class A or create a Manager for that class? Do I create an interface or just the concrete implementation?" I can't give a shit about this stuff anymore. It's all so arbitrary, too: become an expert in some library that's gonna be thrown out in 6 months; why both studying all the stupid quirks of something that's gonna be obsolete in 2 years?

I don't think I could stomach any project larger than a week or two, where I don't have 100% creative control. I think I'd scream if my entire day consisted of sitting in an open-floor office plan and writing HTML forms and servlets to process them.

So, right now I don't enjoy programming, but more than anything I need some distance. I could certainly love programming again. I know almost nothing, so there's always more to learn. I have a few hobby ideas and if I sat around for an afternoon I'd likely have more. I'd like work my way through SICP and the Art of Computer Programming, and write compilers in different languages. And 'consultant' does sound attractive, it's an option to keep in my back pocket.

But right now, I think if I was gonna do another job - and I'll likely return to work at some point - it would be something where I'm at least improving something in the physical world part of the time.

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Re: m741's ERE Journal

Post by giskard » Fri May 05, 2017 7:46 am

@m741 oh that makes sense with the gf situation. And yeah you definitely sound pretty burned out on programming at this point, so that is too bad. But, I bet you are right - if you got some distance for a while you could get interested again.

I wonder what the optimal job is that lets you produce physical output as a result of your efforts for a recovering programmer? That could be interesting to experiment with.

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