Apologies for slacking on my semi-ERE blog duties. I've been engaged in IRL activities and haven't had as much time for my friends on the internet.
I need to change a lot of stuff, so this year is going to be a big year for me. I've become frustrated and unhappy in the past few months and I've been trying to figure out why.
I need to quit my job. In theory, it's the perfect semi-retirement job, with high pay and "flexible" hours, except that the cake is a lie. My goal for RE isn't complete freedom from paid employment, it's agency over most of my time. Sometimes I feel like my boss's primary goal is to remove all of this agency. I really like him, which will make leaving hard. A huge problem is that he has an especially pernicious way of breaking agreements, he slowly pushes the boundaries until, 3 months later, there are no boundaries at all. I am particularly bad at dealing with this method. I don't like conflict and don't like to complain. The job is also extremely boring now that I'm good at it.
So, I'm officially looking for a new job. This job is still sweeter than most, so I'm anticipating a long search period. I'd really like to pursue multiple realms of employment being freelance in each, but I'd be willing to take another part-time job, especially if it was interesting or built useful skills. Ideally I'd be able to do this in a web-of-goals context, learning some new skill that I could use outside of work. However, I'd like to use my econ masters degree and do something involving analytics/ math. My brain is wired for that type of thinking and I really like doing it for part of the week. Perhaps I'm kidding myself that this kind of work will be enjoyable, but I'm envisioning the pay in these fields will be high enough that I won't mind burning 2-3 years finding out.
My girlfriend and I have been having issues. We've been together for more than 6 years, which wasn't something I envisioned getting into at 25, or ever really. The source of most of our problems is the house we live in. When we started dating I lived on my friends couch and she lived by herself in an artist loft (aka subsidized housing for young middle class people). We moved in together and lived in her apartment for about a year, which I really loved. When I met her she was in the process of buying a house, which we moved into after we'd been together for 2 years. The problem is neither of us want to take care of a house. Additionally, we have an air bnb (private room rental, so guests are in our house), 2 cats, she works from home, and I have a home studio where I have frequent recording sessions/ band rehearsals. We also fight about rent. She is the owner of the house and I pay less than half the mortgage, despite getting half the air bnb money. My justification for this has been 1) This was the initial agreement, which she suggested 2) I do vastly more housework than she does (recently this has changed somewhat) 3) Paying half of the mortgage is arbitrary and the monthly mortgage payment has changed every year 4) The location we live in, while very desirable, is not where I would choose to live and 5) I am very good at finding cheap rent/ alternative living spaces.
I'm also having an existential crisis about being a guy who lives in a house with a girlfriend (we are basically married, except that I refuse to get married). Becoming a normal suburban person is my greatest fear and here I am with a fucking yard to mow, a house to maintain and a long-term partner. I realize this is the American Dream, but it's not my dream. This has been a source of tension in our relationship as my girlfriend had a very traditional upbringing and tends towards wanting traditional things, even though I believe it's against her nature/ true interests.
Additional sources of tension are spending too much time together and having too little personal space. When we first started dating, she had a full-time job and I lived in my grad student office in another city for half of the week, so we didn't see each other a lot. Now we both have jobs where we only leave the house 1-2 days a week for part of the day. She is also heavily introverted and needs a lot of alone time (she had lived by herself for years before I moved in) and I am about 50/50 introvert/ extrovert. Writing all of this down, it's amazing we've been able to keep dating for 5 minutes, much less 6 years.
Enough bitching, positive and exciting changes are coming too. We are using the house for too many things and also need more time away from each other. To accommodate this, I'm going to get my own studio. This is very exciting to me. I've never had my own musical work space. Of course, it will also cost some $$. Their are 2 options. The first is to convert our current house into a studio (keeping the air bnb as well) and move into an apartment in the FQ. My girlfriend is on board for this, but it would be expensive since we'd be paying for another apartment. The upside is I could run a commercial studio out of the house. The second option is to move my studio into a friend's practice space. This is the cheaper option. The practice space is close to the hospital I work at (which is far from my house, another reason I don't like working there) and would not be a viable commercial space. This is a plus and a minus, running a commercial studio is risky, but the potential for making money is there. If the commercial studio did work out, I'd have the potential to work 10-15 days/ month, make good money and do something that I sort of enjoy. I'm leaning towards the rehearsal space option. It's cheaper, less disruptive and I'm not that keen on just recording people for money, without any production/ musical input.
I'm also starting a record label. To start the label I need to get have a lawyer draw up a contract that will allow me to act as a publishing agent as well as clarify that I own the masters for the tracks I record. My goal is to have the first record I release under the contract out by the end of the year. Once the kinks are worked out, I should be able to release something at least once a month. A few people have offered some meaningful services for back end $$. Sadly everyone I work with is an insane narcissist, so we'll see how much cat herding it takes to get them to actually deliver. I'm assuming this will be a labor of love, but it is potentially a money maker, as I know a lot of talented musicians all of whom are vehemently opposed to lifting a finger towards their own success. At very least, maybe I'll get laid a few times for being a dude who "owns a record label."
Discovering ERE along with finding some job and relationship stability has caused a turning point in my life. As I mentioned in my personal history, after losing my initial purpose of being fanatically devoted to my job as a recording studio person, I became aimless. ERE has given me a new purpose, which is harder to describe in a single statement. I've reached a place where I'm really comfortable with who I am and what I believe and ERE has really helped me get there by providing me with a framework to work inside of and like minded people to talk to. It's inspired me to expand my horizon and try to learn how to do new things. It's given me a way to tie together things as disparate as home maintenance, gardening, friendship, environmentalism, work ethic and music. I've gained an unparalleled amount of freedom, and I'm just beginning to grapple with how to use it effectively.
I read 21 Lessons for the 21st century recently. Something Harari mentions in this book, which is a theme in Sapiens as well, is that humans think in stories. To me this is obviously correct, but it's re-framed how I think about human interaction. Being a highly analytical but socially inadequate nerd, I've always hated/ been jealous of the salesmen/ talkers of the world. "If only the world would listen to the nerds," I thought. However, if we understand the world through stories, the talkers are the ones who most shape these stories and thus our world. It's been an epiphany for me to realize that these people are extremely important to the world we live in (WSP claims that salesman are both the most important people and will be the last to be automated away). I still think of salesman (PUAs) as the dark side of this coin, with journalists and writers on the light side. To make this work I'm assuming journalists/ writers are on their best behavior, writing unbiased accounts of the most important stories in the world around us that shape the way we think, and that salesman are on their worst behavior, purposefully manipulating us through advertising and charisma, to buy things we don't need, through stories that make the world a worse place. Because I hated the personality type, I've never thought about what makes a good salesman. In addition to being able to tell compelling stories, a good salesman also needs to be talented at human interaction and connection (WSP mentions that they believe nursing will also be among the last things automated for this reason). This is the area of life I am weakest in, so I've been trying to improve by reading books about it from various angles (sales, PUA, body language, etc...) and talking to strangers, with the specific goal of talking about myself as little as possible. I've really been enjoying this experiment and I'm hoping it will help me improve in my weakest area.
Something I've been thinking about lately is how ludicrous our obsession with money is, given that we live in the most materially affluent society ever. Riggerjack said something along with lines of "economic poverty does not exist in the Western World," which made me think he was an old racist dude until I realize that he is correct. He mentioned in the same post that other poverty, such as cultural and social poverty does exist.We are highly impoverished in these areas, yet still tend to seek only financial/ economic solutions. I see this mistake repeated again and again on the micro and macro level. I've been spending more effort focusing on these areas, instead of worrying so much about financial issues.
I recently crossed a major semi-ERE milestone. Since my stated goal is not to retire early, but to semi-retire now, I only need to think about regular normal person retirement (aka old age retirement). I arbitrarily chose 65 as my retirement age. Thus my full retirement goal is $400,000 in 2015 dollars for $12,000/ year at a 3% SWR. It's kind of absurd to plan this far ahead, but it gives me something concrete to work with. If I have a 3% SWR, I should have at least a 3% (real) compounding interest rate. The threshold crossed is having enough stashed to reach $400,000 (2015 dollars), by the time I'm 65, if I add $2,000 a year, every year. Why incorporate the $2,000 a year addition? It's the amount needed to add to an IRA to get the saver's credit, which allows me to pay $0 in income tax. So if you've followed me through this confusing explanation, I've hit my I-can-retire-at-65-if-I-can-get-3%-compound-interest-and-add-$2,000-a-year benchmark! This is seriously a big deal to me though.
The problem is that I'm not a confident enough investor to get 3%. I've been researching investment for about 6 months and, at the pace I'm going, I think it'll take me 3-5 years before I feel confident that I have any idea what I'm doing. Because I now have more money than I'm willing to lose and because I no longer believe in index investing, I sold all of my investments and am leaving my money in the vanguard money market fund until further notice. I may also start CD laddering to get a higher return. My hope is to have my $$ keep up with inflation until I'm ready to start investing again. Also, to be clear to those in the index religion, I'm not saying I am sure that you are wrong, I'm saying I don't know enough to have an informed opinion.