ERE lifestyle dilemma

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Tarkie
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ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by Tarkie »

Hello, happy to have found this forum/book/blog.

I am a 20 year old male, living with my parents in the Netherlands. I’m now home for about 6 weeks after an amazing travel experience of 6 months. (India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam) After I finished HS at 18 years old, I started a studies in university. Rather quickly I realised I didn’t want to study for the time being and I always had this sense to go on a long travel trip. Never had I traveled alone before. I worked for 4 months, saved money to travel for a long time and Oct. 2019 I started my journey in New Delhi.

In the back of my head I was figuring out what to do when I’d come back home. I decided I wanted to study again, but I’m not so sure anymore. If I’d go back to study, there would be one bachelor I’m interested in, and that’s applied mathematics. In high school, math was pretty easy for me. I like maths as well, so if I don’t start a bachelor now, it wouldn’t mean I would not study math again. I would study it by myself, to gain knowledge useful for life.

I had heard about FIRE earlier (1 year ago?) and after a while I had started on the Dutch version of “your money or your life”. The book did cause some excitement to me, as it described a lifestyle design on frugal living and saving up for later. A while after, I had found about ERE through the blog. I’m now about 60% in the book and it sparked a lot of excitement about the lifestyle design described here. This caused me to doubt the choice of going to university again. (I have till June/July to pull the trigger). This is because I’m doubting I will be as satisfied with a uni and career life afterwards. Of course, a math degree will bring a good base for income, but I’m highly doubting if I want to work fulltime. (Possible to find parttime work in that field?) Instead I’m thinking about a way to live a more satisfying life, while still being able to FIRE. In my eyes, it’s so much more worth to learn the skills discussed in ERE and building a ERE lifestyle. I don’t see how I can manage to build this kind of lifestyle while studying and going for the paycheck. It seems like it will be too much time taken from me, while another path would lead to a more satisfying life. I have to say that my parents want to pay for my uni. I’m not avoiding uni because I’ll get into debt or something. I can even get a student loan and invest with it safely, up to ~€40k. But I don’t know if this is a smart move. After all, I’m thinking of another life path, that I’ll discuss later.

I can highly relate to a renaissance lifestyle since only a few years I think. It’s mainly because of the frugal living and anti materialism promoted here. A little more than a year ago I started a meditation practice (common here?) and the more I meditated, the more I began to long for a simple life where I am content with what is. This life exists of the following:
- Meditation
- Reading and educating myself
- Fitness and nutrition
- Travel (hiking and backpacking)
- Spending time with friends family
I’m sure there are more things, but you get the deal.

This stems from the period of time I started working after dropping out of studies. I started meditating, excercise and eating healthy while saving up for my backpacking trip. Now I transitioned to WFPB diet since I came back home, and I’m basically thinking I’m set for life health wise. It’s also easy to keep budget, because I basically eat at home everyday. I want to learn more of these things, and less of specializing in one field as Jacob mentions in his book.

So the path I find more exciting I will describe now. Right now I live with my parents, and will continue to do so, even if I decide to study. I know they will allow me for maybe 5-6 years. That’s my guess. Maybe even longer. I’m thinking of working part time for the upcoming years and will try to maximize my savings. I will apply the ERE lifestyle to my own, and I’ll continue educating myself about different things, and learning new skills. I’ll start with bicycle maintenance, the economics curriculum and ERE in general. I might want to learn a skill to get a higher income. I’ve thought about programming, but I don’t know where to start, and if it will be worth it. If so, what time period should I think of when I decide to learn and want to earn money eventually?

In numbers I’m thinking of working for the upcoming 4-6 years. A reasonable goal would be to work my way up to €100k. My grandparents gifted me €20k, and I’m looking to earn and save between €10k-15k a year and invest it working parttime. I can ask my parents to gift me the money for schooling as well. This would be between €15-30k I think, and it would help me in the long run. I’m stating part time work constantly, but if it means I can make some more during a 1-2 year period working full time, I will do it don’t get me wrong. But part time work seems more in line with my goals. After this period I’m thinking of doing another longer travel. I’ll travel for some months, then come back home to work and travel more with that money, and repeat this for several years. While doing this, I can passively grow my €100k through investments. I haven’t thought of what would be next, but I see that this is not necessary to think about already. By that time I’m positive I’ve found some ways to earn while doing what I like. The travel I described would be hiking/cycling & camping focused trips, which would be frugal. I’m not worried about costs for travel.

Right now I’m reading lots about ERE and brainstorming about paths of life. I’m also training for a marathon, as this will help me reach different places in the netherlands by foot. Next to this I have a part time job of 8-12 hours a week. This will earn me about €4,5k-€6,5k yearly. I will earn more when I’m 21, and pick up some extra work. I’m thinking of starting a journal as well eventually on this forum. I’m writing this post to get other perspectives on this topic as well. I haven’t found much about avoiding studies to start educating yourself earlier. I’ve also thought about working full time right now, to make maximum use of compound interest, but I’ve realised this won’t be aligned with my goals as well. I could earn and save €20k+ a year and do this for 6/7 years working full time and have €200k sitting there. But I don’t think this would be worth it. Also, I have no FIRE goal yet, but I don’t see it as a means of an end. I will learn in the upcoming years with how much I can live frugally, and based upon that I can have an indicator for how much to save. (€333k with 3,33% SWR(?)) Have to study this more in depth as well.

This was a long post, but I hope to hear some from you. I’m a short time lurker, but highly interested in ERE lifestyle.

George the original one
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by George the original one »

You don't mention plans for family other than living with parents, not even a partner. Might that change and subsequently change your financial outlook?

Also, why not work full time for a year and then do the part time? The advantage is you'd prove to future potential employers that you can do either. Plus you'd line your pockets with a large buffer for that one year.

Tarkie
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by Tarkie »

George the original one wrote:
Fri Apr 24, 2020 4:09 pm
You don't mention plans for family other than living with parents, not even a partner. Might that change and subsequently change your financial outlook?
I am planning for a partner, yes. But I don’t know when. I’m not necessarily planning for kids, but I could see myself having at least 1, maybe 2. This would be after 30 I think. I can’t say these things while being too sure. I can also decide to live on my own after 4 years maybe.
Also, why not work full time for a year and then do the part time? The advantage is you'd prove to future potential employers that you can do either. Plus you'd line your pockets with a large buffer for that one year.
You’re right about that. I will probably work full time at some point to stack up. Maybe even shortly. But it would be a unschooled job. It would earn me over €20k in a year I think.

horsewoman
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by horsewoman »

I don't know how it is in the Netherlands but here in Germany being an completely unskilled worker is severly limiting one's prospects. It doesn't really matter which degree or trade you have finished/learned, but you need to be able to have something to show for when applying - even for part-time jobs. Otherwise you'll mostly muck around in long hours in shitty jobs for minimal wage.

I've just looked up how learning a trade works in the Netherlands but I was not able to find out if apprentices are paid when going the practical road. If so you'd have the double advantage of getting a degree plus instant money.

Quadalupe
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by Quadalupe »

Welcome Tarkie! One thing to keep in mind that the opportunity cost for getting an university degree is way lower in the Netherlands than in other countries. If you keep living at your parents your only costs will be tuition + books etc. Around 3000 euro's a year I guess, so 9000 euro's for a BSc (+3000/6000 for a MSc). This an be easily paid with a side job that earns 250/month. Once you have that BSc, a lot of doors open (and stay open) , even if you don't want to use them (yet). It gives you optionality.

During the summer holidays you can develop your bicycle maintenance skills, do a Rapid Learning course (see Roaming Francis' Journal) on economics/investing etc. Best of both worlds maybe?

Tarkie
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by Tarkie »

@horsewoman

I’ve thought about this as well. A friend of a friend started out without any certifications and is now earning 800-900 weekly after a year. He has his own company. I might ask him about ways.

@Quadalupe

Thanks! I’m aware of this yes. You are right about the chances as well. But I’m still doubting if I want it this way. Yes, I’ll have time in holidays, but I don’t know if that eagerness to educate and learn by myself will be still there if I’m spending 30-40 hours a week on my studies. I’d rather go and test my gear somewhere outside.

horsewoman
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by horsewoman »

There are probably a lot of people out there being successful without having formal certifications, and I don't necessarily want to say that one has to have them to be good at something. But at least in our German culture, it is considered something of a rite of passage to be able to complete some kind of further education or to learn a trade. There is a certain stigma attached to not having done so, as if one was a slacker.

Personally I never regretted spending 6 years of my life to earn 2 qualifications. I studied a craft and a mercantile trade and this has armed me with a lot of knowledge I have often drawn from in my non-mainstream life. Apprenticeships are compensated in Germany, so it was not a financial loss either, considering that I always lived with low expenses.

Since you like numbers perhaps a program in some form of accounting might be the very thing for you. Now, accounting is not the most riveting thing one can do, and I suffered through book-keeping lessons with bad grace in trade school, but this knowledge came in handy often in the last twenty years. Especially if you have some interest in starting your own business later on. Really understanding business and book-keeping will give you an advantage as an entrepreneur.

Alphaville
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by Alphaville »

Brain metabolism is high in one’s 20s, and peak creativity reached at about 40, so ideally one’s 20s are the best chance to develop high competencies in a rewarding field. Playing catch-up with people 10 or 20 years younger is doable, but not the most pleasant social situation.

The Renaissance ideal is appealing, but it’s not always everything it’s cracked up to be. I’ve lived around many impoverished peasants who fit the description, who know and can do many tasks that allow them self-sufficiency in their world, but who are also trapped in poverty and can’t go anywhere with their skills, even if they desperately want to. Jack of all trades master of none is a real problem in our world.

It’s much easier and rewarding to assume that lifestyle while sitting on a pile of cash to give one’s self options. Retirement, even if early an extreme, is predicated on a prior phase of work and asset accummulation. Of course you can skip all that if you’re a trustafarian, but it doesn’t sound like that’s you by your description.

Maybe what you want is a different kind of life altogether.

I understand and share the spiritual thirst for the monastic life, and I’ve experienced the problem of drowning under a mountain of pointless studies like the kid in Herman Hesse’s “Beneath the Wheel”, but looking back at my own errors I know it’s possible to balance travel and experimentation with the development of high skill and professional competencies.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That is a false dichotomy. The Jesuits, for example, combine religiosity with advanced studies, and I know Buddhist monks with diverse professional careers. Studying and developing competencies does not have to be about “chasing a paycheck” either. It can be about being useful, taking responsibility for our portion of the world, and providing a service to others.

You’ll always have the rest of your life to retire, but the window to develop high competencies is a limited one. The timing is a bit of an applied mathematics problem. The choice of what to do and what values to serve is a moral/philosophical problem.

jacob
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by jacob »

Being a "jack of all trades" is going to save a lot of money and build all kinds of capital except financial capital. To build financial capital in the world, as it is now, being a "master of one or some" is more robust. It's best to do both. Do the master of one/some professionally and then use your spare time on becoming a jack of all trades instead of taking the money you made and spending it on consumption.

Tarkie
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by Tarkie »

@horsewoman - indeed, it won’t be a financial loss. And I agree, that it would be rewarding for me to get a further education. I can also see how applied mathematics would be helpful in my further life. Thanks for your message.

@jacob - Thanks for the advice, I see how this is true. Obviously master of one/some can be gained in school, but do you think it can be gained through self education? Like learning to program? Also, there is this person that set up his own business after some experience working as a trades person, without a certification. Is this route also considered becoming a master of one? Or would you recommend doing this through schooling?

jacob
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by jacob »

Only a few fields, like programming, hire based on competence with almost complete disregard for credentials. The rest---where it's not so easy to differentiate competence upfront---hire based on credentials and "past experience". Credentials is a kind of past experience (the weakest kind). Schooling is just the tried and true (robust) approach. Those who do it without schooling or start a big company after dropping out are more the exception than the rule.

In the ERE book I describe the transition of turning hobbies into vocations. The jump from doing it competently for free to charging money is the hard one. Many people won't pay going rates to a person w/o an official title. Consider the difference in what a handyman can charge vs what a plumber will charge for fixing a leaky faucet. (A job that takes 10 minutes to learn on youtube for the jack of all trades to do themselves.)

nomadscientist
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by nomadscientist »

There is an arbitrage opportunity in picking unpopular but rewarding skills. The market values your skill level relative to other potential workers, so if the skill set is unpopular enough you can become high skilled in relative terms (and therefore get a job) while being only medium skilled relative to your potential (and therefore have time to learn other skills). This is impossible in popular careers e.g. Olympic swimmer, there you can't get a job without training all the time, but the amount of time the average competitor is investing in understanding insurance company billing databases is much less. And guess which field has more money in it?

Another point is that renaissance skills feed in to your main skill in unexpected ways. I learnt economic theory for fun and to understand distant abstract things like why the 2007/8 financial crisis happened, but it has helped me make career planning decisions orthogonal to the conventional wisdom in my field that resulted in earning 5x as much as some people my same age doing my same job (but with a different categorisation on the org chart). In fact for any salaried employment I strongly recommend learning some econ, some sales (even if your job is not sales), public speaking, read ahead a bit on management (so you can better guess what your boss is thinking), etc.

jacob
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by jacob »

nomadscientist makes a good [career] point. You also have to choose whether to be a small fish in a big lake or a big fish in a small lake. It depends on goals and temperament. The problem with the big lake is that you're not going to be on top unless you eventually dedicate all your life to it while also depending a bit on luck/timing. For example, in research science, you'll eventually be competing with people who have nothing else going on in their lives than eat, sleep, and doing science. Add some luck in being in the right field at the right time to make the actual sort. Conversely, if you're aiming for being a big fish in a small lake, you might also find it frustrating to be the smartest guy in the room all the time or even the smartest guy in the department or company. This can be frustrating if you ever feel you're not living up to your potential.

Alphaville
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by Alphaville »

I can offer 2 anecdotes to illustrate Jacob’s point.

When I was at university I had this physics professor who took me and my girlfriend out for a coffee or something, I can’t remember what it was. [ETA: I remember now: it was a nice pub!]. He was a guy with great talent for mathematics, who had been educated all over the world, 100% on scholarships, smart as hell when it came to math and physics, but lacked all manner of social skills, and hated his life because all he ever did was study. He told us, to our face, that he wished he had been like us instead of studying all the time, and his life was pointless. It was a life-altering experience.

Also I’ve been in the situation of being the “town genius” (see my post above re: impoverished peasants) and it wasn’t fun because my pings very rarely got any pongs, and it got lonely.

oldbeyond
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by oldbeyond »

It's interesting that you place a lot of focus on owning your time and avoiding the rat race. A stark example of this would be http://newescapologist.co.uk and quite a few creative types (writers/musician/artists working menial jobs to survive while conserving as much time and energy as possibly to use for creative endeavors seems quite common). Because I'm quite (too) risk-averse, I find people like these quite inspiring. The downside is that without amassing some form of capital, it does not seem sustainable into old age, as you'll rely on working until you drop or whatever public assistance is provided to life-time low wage part-time workers, if you "work to live" and do not put anything away*. It seems this is what classical_liberal et al try to avoid by spending some time amassing enough capital to solve conventional retirement.

To me it would seem that if you will rely on your human capital, getting it to a reasonable level would be worthwhile, as the downward pressures on unqualified labour compensation and working conditions would deter me. It doesn't have to mean a bachelors, programming has been mentioned and there are other computer related skills were credentials would matter less. Around here we have a lot of more practically oriented programs with a lot of time spent interning with prospective employers. Some are crap, but if you choose a skill that is in demand and hone it, they seem to work out fine.

As for the different sizes of fish in different sized lakes, there is a gradient here. I've ended up in a less prestigious track of a white collar profession. Competition is much lower, so it is relatively easy to stand out without being too devoted, and I've moved on to increased agency and impact a lot faster than I would have on the other track. The downside is that I won't get as much respect and adoration from peers and upper management, a trade-off I'll gladly make, as I'm not aiming for the top jobs anyway. I see quite a bit of this around me and quite a few of my friends have found similar niches.

*I guess if you are a creative type, you could rely on "making it", but that seems very risky.

benrickert
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by benrickert »

@Tarkie I wish I knew as much as you about personal finance and not worshiping the traditional career track when I was 20. You’re on a great path. Good luck!

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ScrewTheAverage
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Re: ERE lifestyle dilemma

Post by ScrewTheAverage »

Congratulations on your trip Tarkie, it sounds amazing:!: At such a young age and being interested in your future, you're well ahead of most 20 somethings!

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