My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

I've wanted to start a journal here for quite some time, dating back from when I first read Jacob's book and came across the forum, which was some time in 2011.
The problem was I had so much to say that it all usually came out in one big mess, as my mind would jump across all sorts of topics.
So I've finally decided to write a journal, but decided to do so in more of a topical fashion.
The format will be a titled journal entry, and the entry will focus on that topic, similar to a traditional blog.
While my journal is largely a catharsis of thoughts, I am hoping that others may relate to me. In light of my life choices (ERE, minimalism/anti consumerism, solitude, nomading/vagabonding, kaizen, etc) I find it harder to relate to everyone in my everyday life, especially as these decisions become more mature.
Here is Entry 1.


#001 12/12/12 A Brief Intro to My_Brain_Gets_Itchy


I am a 41 year old single male, not married without any kids. I live in downtown Toronto, and believe in new urbanism. I'm INTJ and a virgo, which is kind of like grapefruit with your medication.
I'm a recovering faux-extrovert. I spent most of my life living to extroverted ideals, and never really empowering or

harnessing my true nature as an introvert/INTJ. I've recently realized that the incongruence and stress of living to extroverted ideals is not sustainable for me. Since I began to fully empowering my true nature, its like the flood gates have opened.
I come from a strong conservative christian upbringing. I am thankful for the moral values and integrity that Christianity has instilled in me, however, I am now agnostic. I still do consider myself extremely spiritual, and I am religiously curious. If I had to be honest with myself, most of the ideals presented in a framework like ERE, have become my 'religion'.
For most of my 30's, I struggled with the expectation of kids and marriage. And to some degree still do, but to a much much lesser extent now. As I get older, it's finally sunken in to have gratitude for the things that I do have, rather than the things I don't. The passing of my father and also a close friend within the last five years, has also shaped my thoughts.
I'd still really like to be with a mate for life, but I've convinced myself that it is not a condition to my happiness.
Based on two years of data and number crunching, I see myself FI in some time in 2013, and ERE is 2015, at the age of 44. I've been working pretty much straight since I was 14 years old (part time). I paid my way through university except for the first year.
I will expand on my financial situation/numbers as my journal progresses.
Thanks for listening and have a happy twelve twelve twelve day!
:)


llorona
Posts: 392
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2012 11:44 pm
Location: SF Bay Area

Post by llorona »

I really enjoyed reading your writing. Looking forward to future journal entries from you.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

Thank you llorona :)


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#002 12/13/12 Gratitude and Roles Models
Where would I be on my path to retirement without the internet?
I've never really had what I would call active role model(s) in my life. They are just too hard to find, and too much effort is involved, especially if your disposition is on the introverted side.
By active role model I mean where one consciously seeks out a positive influence. A passive role model would be someone who positively influences you unconsciously or without you having to look for it. Both my older brothers for example, were passive role models.
I think about how long I've wanted to retire. I define retire by living an autonomous life with full control of my decisions that are not bound by monetary labour. I can trace back these thoughts to my late 20's and early 30's, some 10 years ago (I am now 41). However, back then I dismissed retirement as fantasy, irrational and dillussional.
Obviously with that type of mindset, I didn't put any sustained or meaningful effort into something that I really wanted.
So what did I do? Well, imagine any normal guy with disposable income, a renewed sense of confidence and esteem from finally surplussing financially, and not really thinking in the bigger picture.
There was a lot of socializing revolved around drinking(bars, parties, dinners, etc), a lot of focus on the external (working out, grooming, clothes, appearance, status, popularity) and near zero on the internal (reading, meditating, reflecting, etc.). Mind you it was fun, and I did enjoy myself, but my brain was pretty much stagnant, and was probably 'shrinking'. It wasn't really a priority to exercise my brain and that was wrong.
If I were smarter or had more conviction and I wasn't such a robot, maybe I could have succeeded on my own, but I didn't.
So whats the difference now?
Online role models via the Internet.
Type in 'early retirement' into Google and it leads you straight to the door step of your very own online role model(s),if you choose to look for it. You have to seek it out still, but finding it is a lot easier.
Fortunately for me, over those 10 years that 'fantasy' of retirement never completely died and it was always something that lingered within me.
Here's what I found from these online role models:
"Been there, done that, here's how you do it..."
"Here is the mindset, here is what to look out for, here is the sacrifice. "
My own personal conclusion was that the cake may come out of the oven a little different, but pretty much the ingredients are all the same.
Through the advice and knowledge of several of these online role models in the areas of retirement, minimalism, introversion, and nomading/vagabonding, I can say I am much more in touch with my true nature and my life, and today right now, is 100% different. It's a complete 180, and I hope to continue to tell you about this in upcoming journal posts.
Finally, you know how people say:
"If I can help just one person, it was worth it"
Well, I am here to say, I am that one guy.
And I want to say,
"Thank you"
:)


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#003 12/17/12 From Zero to Fifty
How many books do you read a year?
For as long as I can remember, at the beginning of every year I would promise myself I would read 12 books. A book a month basically.
I'd write down the books I read to keep track. It's always been a staple new years resolution, pretty much forever.
With the exception of one year, I'd always end up only reading a maximum 6 books, and most of the years, I would end up reading zero.
The exception year was back in 2005, when I read something like 18 books (lol yes I still do have the records of the books I read), and that was only because of a one and half hour commute (each way) when I was on contract in Boston.
How many books have I read in 2012?
51 and counting.
The last book I finished over the weekend was the novel Perks of a Wallflower.
I generally read about 90% non-fiction and 10% fiction. So of those 51 books, 6 of them have been novels. ( I think its key to read novels to stimulate your creativity).
I love reading. Reading puts me in the flow. It makes my time stand still, and fly by at the same time. It's a passion. A passion I just discovered this year, at the age of 41. I read extra curricularly about 7-14 hours a week. (I don't include blog, forum or net surfing in this, as I don't consider that 'reading' for this definition.).
What does this have to do with ERE?
It answers the question to myself 'what will you do when you are ERE and why aren't you doing it today?'
It's one of the ways ERE effects me in the now. It's part of the mastery element of the triad of my ERE M.A.P. (Mastery Autonomy and Purpose). It's the thirst for knowledge and growth and it stimulates my INTJ brain like few things can do.
It's what I do (much) more of today, and what I will do more of 'tomorrow' when I am ERE.
As cheesy and geeky as it sounds, finding great reading spots, areas of solitude, peace and tranquility, both in my every day urban city life and solo traveling connects me to my environment in a way that nothing does.
Reading is simple.

Reading is free.

Reading is ERE.
PS. My favourite/most impactful books of 2012 that I have read:
-The Joy of Not Working (Ernie Zelinski),

-Transitions (William Bridges)

-The Brain That Changes Itself(Norman Doidge)

-The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg)

-Quiet (Susan Cain)

-Going Solo (Eric Klinenberg)

-Loners Manifesto (Anneli Rufus)

-Thinking Fast And Slow (Daniel Kahneman)

-The Hobbit (Tolkien)


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
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Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#004 12/18/2012 My Best ERE Investment
I've had some train wreck bad investments due to speculation and timing:
-ie 2X leveraged resource ETFs HNU and HOU. (Decay and rebalancing destroyed me!)
and some pretty ones:
-ie buying physical Gold ~ $1000 oz, Silver ~ $15 oz and Palladium ~ 285 oz in 2007-2009
But my best ERE investment has been my RRSP mortgage. It is my best ERE investment because it is not speculative and it is not timed. I have used it twice. Once on a property that is now a rental, and again on my current property.
An RRSP mortgage/investment can be measured and managed. It is conservative, and in my personal opinion, a great way to plan for your ERE because it is so spreadsheet friendly.
An RRSP mortgage allows you to use your retirement savings (in Canada they are called RRSPs, equivalent of 401k in USA) as a loan to yourself. You pay yourself interest for loaning yourself money.
(The caveat is you have to have enough in your retirement savings to cover the mortgage amount).
For example:
Let's say you want to buy a property that costs $200k. You have $115k in cash, and $115k in retirement savings.
You put down $100k in cash as a down payment and take on a $100k mortgage to yourself with the $100k in your retirement savings a locked in security, also acting as collateral.
You get to choose the interest rate you pay yourself, which should be reasonably close to the market rate. Every month, you see an interest payment come into your account, and also a corresponding principle amount get freed up from the locked in portion of the $100k.
Coincidentally, the first time I set up an RRSP mortgage, I didn't plan to time the market, but it occurred months before the collapse of the 2008 market, and it totally saved my portfolio. During the most volatile period of the stock market in recent memory, i was able to ride it out earning a fixed 6% return on a huge part of my savings, which was luck and a blessing.
What I find so great about this investment is the peace of mind. It allows me project with accuracy where my money will be over 5 years (or whatever term you choose), I receive fixed income (ie kind of feels like a dividend), and I am not exposed to the stock markets fluctuation for investment amount (you do have fluctuation for real estate purchase price however). It also gives tremendous piece of mind knowing your interest payments are not something that goes to the bank, but to yourself.
Part of the reason I am convinced that this a great investment (ie investing in yourself) is because most banks dont offer it. And the reason most banks don't offer it because they make no money from it. There are set up fees and yearly administrative fees (~$200), which pretty much just cover the banks costs but pretty much nothing else.
For the institutions that do offer it, it is never advertised (ie. there are no pamplets or brochures), and very few people at the institution will know what you are talking about or how to do it. The process is entirely manual with a whole lot of paper work as well. Both times I have set this up with my bank (TD Bank/TD Waterhouse) they made mistakes.
So yes, it is cumbersome to set up and you have to be on top of things and be patient. But the certainly and peace of mind that comes with knowing you are paying yourself, far outweigh these small disadvantages.
If any other Canadians here have set this up or others have a similar related product it would be great to here your experiences.
FYI, here is a link to that talks more about RRSP mortgages:
http://www.moneyville.ca/article/106782 ... r-mortgage


bike_the_world
Posts: 34
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:09 pm

Post by bike_the_world »

Itchy Brain,
I like your journaling style. The thematic approach is a treat so please keep it up!
re: RRSP mortgages, your southern neighbors would recognize as IRA, 401K, 457, 403b sort of equivalents but with some of the same rules and others that differ. All in all, my conspiracy theory suggests Wall Street and Bay Street set these defined contribution and self-directed retirement schemes up to ensure they have a way to skim from the proceeds that are centered on brokered assets. When someone tries to game the system to benefit themselves they get upset. 'Arms length' and other terms enter the conversation. Really, if one is still earning wage/salary income and can create essentially a guaranteed and incentivized rate of return (admittedly with opportunity costs) into their retirement acounts in lieu of other fixed income holdings like bonds, why shouldn't they? Who is more motivated to pay back a loan in full and on time then the lender/lendee(sic)?
re: your cryptic ending to the 12/13/12 post I sort of anticipate Herman Hesse's Siddhartha returning to the river to learn and ply the trade of a ferryman, but what do I know?


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

@bike_the_world:
Thank you for the encouraging words! Is your namesake an element of your life? If so, that is most amazing and I commend you for it.
I definitely agree with your conspiracy assessment. The amount of resistance one faces from these institutions when you want to setup a product like this, makes you want to say forget it.
They offer no guidance or expertise in the matter, and you pretty much have to go into it researching it yourself and knowing a little bit about the process.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#005 12/20/2012 Book 52: Wherever I Wind Up - by R.A Dickey
It's not my intention to journal about every book I read, but I feel compelled to mention this book I just finished reading:
'Wherever I wind up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball' by RA Dickey.
http://www.amazon.com/Wherever-Wind-Up- ... 0399158154
Of the books I read this year, a lot of them came from people who posted references to books on this forum (or other blogs I frequent) and pretty much all of them I learned a great deal and enjoyed. So I thought I'd do the same.
I recommend R.A. Dickey's book even if you are not a sports fan. R.A. Dickey is a pitcher that just recently got traded to the Toronto Blue Jays (Go Jays!). When I heard about his story, and that he wrote a very acclaimed autobiography, it peaked my interest (especially since he got traded to the Jays), and I decided to read it.
I know that a book about an unconventional baseball pitcher on the surface doesn't seem to have anything to do with ERE, but for me, they are a lot of ere lessons to be learned in his life and character.
R.A Dickey is a 38 year old knuckleballer who only found success in the past two years, the rest of his life was a struggle to say the least. For those who don't follow baseball, a knuckle ball is the most difficult and unconventional pitch to master. It's a voodoo kind of science. Knuckle ball pitchers, especially good ones, are extremely rare.
R.A. Dickey is currently the only successful knuckle baller in major league baseball. If you look at the numbers, he is about 1 out of 300 (10 pitchers per team, 30 teams), or he himself alone, is the 0.3%.
The reason why I recommend this book on this forum is the book is a story of the evolution of mastery in one persons life.
Although the back drop of the autobiography is sports, you see the life of someone who becomes a 1 out of 300. The struggles and his success can be universally applied outside the sports context.
It is a very honest autobiography of an instrinsically motivated individual that perseveres through tremendous adversity (poverty, abuse, broken family, medical misfortune, etc) and ultimately triumphs (winning the Cy Young).
There are some religious overtones to the book (he is a born again Christian), and if that's not for you, you can try abstracting faith to a strong belief in 'something' and I think his life story can still be meaningful to you.
R.A. Dickey is eccentric as far as athletes go, he reads Hemmingway for pleasure and does not drink. He was an english lit major in University, confesses his nomadic past (ie. breaking into abandoned houses to be alone) and his introspective/cerebral nature is evident. He is also very honest with himself. So, in summary, it's a very INTJ friendly book for those who are of this personality type.
The autobiography almost reads like fiction because his life was so interesting.
It's an inspiring story, and I can really see this book becoming a movie.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#006 12/21/2012 10 Months of Decluttering
I was never a very materialistic person or a heavy consumer. Even before fully committing to minimalism, I had minimalist tendencies: I lived below my means, and I didn't really seek identity through possessions.
However, over the last 10 months or so since becoming more conscious of my possessions and what weighs me down, I began to see where the excesses in my life were.
I have pared down my life substantially and the process still continues.
Decluttering to me is like losing weight. And in this analogy, I was way too fat for my liking.
It's different for everyone as some are happier with having a few extra pounds, but for myself, I like to being as healthy as I can be. I am mindful that even when you do shed these 'pounds' you still need to maintain.
I can break down my personal decluttering journey into two distinct areas:
1. The Physical/External -possessions, things, etc.
and
2. The Internal - mental, social, emotional clutter
This journal entry will cover the physical/external decluttering in my life, and in a future post, I hope to talk about the internal decluttering that has happened.
==My Physical/External Decluttering Journey==
I didn't have a lot of possessions to begin, but for the minimalist ideals that I was beginning to aspire to and adopt, I realized I certainly did have a lot of excess.
It is important to note that minimalism for me is not something where you deprive yourself, or create voluntary discomfort. Nor do I see it as a sacrificial trade off of giving up something (possessions and spending) in order for some type of gain (ERE). For me it is not about austerity. For me it is simply focusing and concentrating what is important in my life.
I live in a 600 square foot condo, and my place was sparsely decorated before I started. I never was into furnishing my place with non-functional displays of wealth and I tried to maximize space as much as possible.
The excess I discovered came mostly from junk. Holding onto things that no longer served a purpose, things that were artifacts of my past, and what I soon discovered, a whole lot of broken and obsolete things.
I carried these things in my life because I thought they had purpose, value or meaning, which of course they did not. Holding onto these things were part laziness, and part misattribution of value.
An example of one such item is this:
http://www.amazon.com/SONY-DAV-C770-DVD ... 42-6510430
It was broken and the model dates back almost 10 years when I first bought it. I thought some day I could fix it or that it was worth it for me to store since maybe someday I will develop an interest in electronics, rip it apart and play with the circuit boards. I've been carrying around this broken time since that time.
or this:
http://www.etsy.com/listing/85099183/re ... mfm-double
(The above listing is not mine btw, I donated mine to Goodwill).
The above item worked fine, but I never used it. It just took up space. Although I still had this perfectly functional stereo system, I had already bought another that was much smaller, more powerful, and had more advanced features (ie. MP3/Ipod). In short, I was holding onto something obsolete.
The first big milestone of the decluttering process for me was emptying out one of my two condo lockers, and renting it out for $50/month.
It was such a tangible example in my life how less became more.
Everything in that locker I didn't need. $50/month isn't a ton, but it's $50 a month I didn't have before.
Just to put things in perspective, $50 a month for me is :

-almost my hydro bill ($70)

-almost my cell phone bill ($56)

-more than I spent in gas (~$30)

-twice the cost of my home insurance (~$25)
The majority of stuff I have gotten rid of so far has been donated to Goodwill (about 10 boxes). I gave away a lot of stuff to co-workers and friends. I few of the items I was able to sell on Craiglist. None of the stuff I miss.
The journey/process has been somewhat deliberate and slow (ie. a few items each week) but it has been very rewarding. Over that 10 months all those few items each week have added up to a lot.
As odd as it sounds the process has been meditative and therapeutic. I guess it really isn't odd at all, given the process involves a lot of focus and concentration on evaluating my life.
Now that I have a lot less, I feel much lighter, free and mobile. My values have changed a lot as well. My consumption is much more deliberate, and I find having less by choice makes gratitude and being present in my life much easier. It only reinforced to me how how less becomes more and I feel empowered that I am on the right path.
The most exciting thing for me, is it's open the door for a situation that I call my ERE silver bullet (An ERE silver bullet defined as one action/decision that suddenly pushes you over the top). It is schedueled to happen end of January 2013/beginning February 2013, and it would pretty much automatically make me FI (passive income = expenses).
I hope to write about this when it happens.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#007 03/01/2013 Back and Forth (War and Peace)
This post will reflect on my past 2012 year, as well as what I envision for 2013.
This post will rival the longest journal post EVER! on ERE.. it is the War and Peace of ERE journal entries.
You are forewarned.. ;)
==2012==
2012 was YEAR 1of my plan for retirement. The original goal was to become retired at age 45 in 2016, but after working more on the numbers, and coming across Parkinson's Law, that has now changed to 2015, at age 44. So my plan is a four year one.
There was huge change in my life. They were all small individual changes happening sequentially over the year, and it all added up to where the sum feels much greater than the parts.
==Becoming ERE==
Most notably and most obviously was the decision to fully commit to early retirement. It brought tremendous purpose in my life and everything else fell in line. Decision making became more clear and decisive. It changed my values and priorities for the present and the future.
The first thing I did was audit my expenses for 2011.
My 2011 expenses when I was not mindful of what I was spending and when I didn't have any retirement goal was $31,500.
The second thing I did was set a goal/budget for 2012. I decided to goal/budget for $27,500 for 2012, which is about a 15% decrease.
The actual number at the end of the year ended up coming in at $25,000, which was over a 20% decrease in expenses.
If I subtract my travelling expenses and my car expenses, which I consider both to be a luxury, my total annual expenses come in around $17,000.
An analysis of the spreadsheets revealed that most of my savings came from food expenditures, luxury consumption items and liquor. All categories of expenses more or less decreased accept for travel and coffee (shops), which dramatically increased, but which I am fine with.
==Quitting Drinking==
As I began to delve more into ERE principles, many things in my life became irrelevant or obsolete. Drinking was one of them. Not for the so called financial expense, but for the mental\social expense.
For a single male living in a dense urban environment, I realized how much the social culture of drinking pervades everyone’s life and identity. This may be a different reality for others, but for me, the whole social drinking culture of single people in their late 30's and early 40's promotes a second adolescence (a term used in the book Going Solo). It gives people license to regress in life to a more carefree and pleasurable time, re-living or extending the lifestyle of their 20's well into their 30s and 40s. And so many people around me have built a foundation of this type of social life.
For me, I began to see this as moving backwards, not forwards. It also struck me how drinking every weekend socially numbs our consciousness/awareness of our reality and makes us feel like everything is okay and fun. It promotes status quo by placating you just enough to be satisfied. I hope it doesn't sound like I think this is bad for everyone, it was just a realization that it was no longer for me.
I went a period of six months in 2012 without drinking. That broke when I had some wine when I traveled to Italy, which I thought was perfectly fine since I wasn't there to 'drink', it just enhanced my experience. After Italy, I drank on small minor occasions, but I no longer 'go out to drink' and have zero temptation or desire to do so.
==Letting go of primary social circle==
Previous to pursuing ERE, most of my 'identity' was tied to the sport of beach volleyball. Most of my free time and energy, ie. my mastery pursuit, was spent on beach volleyball.
It was and continues to be one of my biggest passions.
Beach volleyball is an extremely physically demanding and extremely social sport. My past girlfriends for as long as I can remember came from the sport.
However, it is also a hyper-extroverted environment and it can become intoxicatingly addictive. In the summer, there are always parties, tournaments, leagues, etc. Also, bathing suits don't leave much to the imagination and the courtship process usually begins already ‘half naked’. In short, it's a ton of fun and pleasure.
However, it is quite shallow and promiscuous in many ways. Alpha male and female rules pervade, and there is a strong jock mentality. There is also a lot of turnover and transiency and little loyalty, and relationships are always in flux each summer. As an introvert, the girls I dated were mostly extroverts. Although very nice they were not compatible. So in summary, my social foundation built on sand.
I finally fully let go of this environment this year. I still play with a smaller group of close friends, but it consumes very little of my time, identity or ego involvement. I don't attend the partying or social gatherings. It is no longer my primary social circle.
My letting go of beach volleyball as my 'mastery pursuit' has made ERE much easier. I believe that we have a limited amount of this type of energy at a time, so choosing where you spend it is key.
I don't really miss or regret the beach volleyball 'scene', and quite honestly, the beach volleyball scene doesn’t miss me. It's probably best to say I've just moved onto other things. The energies I had for beach volleyball has transferred mostly into ERE.
==Quit Facebook==
Soon after leaving my primary social circle I quit Facebook, after being on for five years (2007). When I quit in March, I had 300 'friends' which was about the average of people around me.
I had wanted to leave Facebook for quite some time, but as I started to further examine and reflect, it became clear that Facebook was becoming more of a negative than a positive in my life.
I felt that facebook was clutter, and in many ways, it's worse than TV (I don't watch TV btw) because it totally sucks in your ego, and again, perpetuated the second adolescence I mentioned above.
I felt I was becoming narcisstic, and that I needed to prove/validate myself to people I didn't really even know or really even like. I also didn’t like my privacy constantly being comprimsed or having so much time ‘managing’ my virtual persona and friendships.
When I quit, there was a definite withdrawl period, ‘being out of the loop’ and beginning to be ‘annonymous’. But after the withdrawl was over , I began to feel a lot lighter and freer, and it totally empowered the sense of independence and autonomy that fueled my ERE.
The friends that matter I am still in touch with, but for the most part the rest were just a lot of clutter.
==Decluttering/Book Reading==
Along the way in 2012, I was continuously decluttering and reading more and more on subjects that interested and stimulated me. I've already posted journal entries on this so I won't expand here.
The conclusion was that both of these activities were promoting my mental and spiritual growth.
==Travel: Kathmandu/Kopan===
In October of 2012, I solo travelled to Kathmandu for 3 weeks.
It was an exercise in testing one of the ERE options/plans that I was contemplating for some time.
The test was whether to see if during a 3 week period, I could see myself enjoying the challenge and solitude of living in a third world lifestyle over a longer duration (ie. 3-6 months). It was a sample of what I was envisioning in my ERE future if you will. I chose Kathmandu because of its culture and diversity, and because it is very cheap.
My Kathmandu trip would be the first time I solo travelled in over 7 years, and also only my third solo travel trip, the other two being Peru and Namibia which I did when I was in my early 30s.
I went to Kathmandu with only a small day bag that didn't need checking in on the flight, and I stayed in single room hostels, and ate as local as I could. Outside of my flight costs, my expenses were very small. Everything was very minimal. I didn’t bring a laptop, and I stayed away as much as possible from the internet or westernized type places.
Half of my trip was exploring Kathmandu solo, and the other half was staying at Kopan Monastery for their 10 day meditation course.
The Kopan Meditation course cost only $110 USD for 10 days food and lodging, so it was very ERE friendly.
Here is more info on the course for those interested, I would highly recommend it, and feel free to ask any questions if you have them:
http://kopanmonastery.com/program.html#1

http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Re ... egion.html
At first it felt a little awkward or sacrilegious since I was raised Christian (even though I'm agnostic), but I have to say once I was there it didn't matter at all.
They did end up focusing a whole lot on Buddhism, but it was very educational learning about a new religion from actual buddhists in Kathmandu.
A lot of time was spent in silence and meditation but there was also small group study and social tea times. Our course was supposedly the largest they had with 128 people.
For the first 3 or 4 days, it was great to meet, converse and get to know everyone. I was very stimulated and had great energy. But by the fifth day, I began to feel constrained by the monotony, ritual and the social constructs that were starting to form. My mind began to feel extremely cluttered.
Although I met and befriended a lot of like minded and interesting people, people I don’t usually come across in my every day life, I began to long for the free form solo days that I had in Kathmandu.
The ironic thing was that even though I was on a 10 day course on meditation, I felt I learned more and was in a better meditative state while I was by myself solo travelling in Kathmandu.
My trip to Kathmandu made me realize how much i enjoy the being autonomous in challenging/novel situations. Somewhere along the way I read a quote from a book in respect to (a lot of) introverts:
“Only when we are anonymous can we truly be ourselves.”
That was certainly the case for me, as it is the most raw and pure form of autonomy.
The other realization was in solo travel was very easy for me to feel present and be in the now. You are so aware of everything that you usually take for granted. Even the most mundane thing like trying to find a shop to find a towel, was an amazing adventure/experience.
So much happened during the trip that it is a journal entry probably unto itself, but let’s just say the test passed with flying colours and it strengthened my resolve for my retirement plan.
==Travel: Italy and Chicago==
I travelled with my brothers family to Italy and Chicago for vacations. Both times I spent extended times with my nephews and nieces. It only reconfirmed my realization that I do not think it's within me to be a parent. I put a lot of effort into being a very loving and supportive Uncle but I am fully aware that being a parent is an entirely different story. Also, I began to relieve myself of the ego/tradition notion that I 'had' to have kids to be happy.
-------------------
Ok so that was 2012 in a nutshell. I think I will stop now and leave the 'Forth', ie. 2013 to another entry. I'm exhausted, lol.
Happy new year.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#008 08/01/2013 Back and Forth Pt 2- A Look at 2013
This post will outline my goals and what I am planning to accomplish in 2013 in respect to ERE and my life in general.
I hope at the end of the year I can look back at this and say that I did what I planned and be satisfied with it. Some of these things have been percolating since last year and are built on top of the decisions, and changes in values I made in 2012 (see #007 03/01/2013 Back and Forth (War and Peace)).
==ERE Silver Bullet==
I am scheduled to make a drastic downsize change in my living arrangements some time at the end of this month (hopefully no later than February). This would be a real estate transaction that puts my money where my mouth is, and in one move it would near guarantee my plan to retire in 2015 (Age 44, 3 years from now). It would solidify my commitment to the values and changes that I began to make in 2012, in particular, the commitment to minimalism and a rejection of the 'norm' consumerist society. It places me on a path closer to the ideals of stoicism.
==Financial Independence==
With the above transaction, it will make me financially independent in 2013. Things that haven't been considered are things like taxes and inflation, and how much buffer I need between expenses and passive income in order to feel I would never have to go back to paid labour as a necessity. I would have 3 more years to add to this and figure it out.
==Solo Travel to Vietnam==
In 2012 I went to Kathmandu to assess that country as a mid-term ERE destination (ie. 3-6 month stays in retirement) and in 2013, I'd like to goto Ho Chi Minh Vietnam for three weeks solo for the same reason. My time would be spent finding affordable accomodations, food, cafes ,reading spots, personal challenges, etc and to see if I can get into a minimalist simple rythym/lifestyle that I could see myself doing in retirement.
==Read 60 Books==
In 2012 I read 53 books, after averaging near zero year after year. This year I'd like to try and reach 60 books, 80% non-fiction, 20% fiction.
==ERE Post Count to 100==
I want to continue to post on the ERE forum, reaching 100 posts in 2013. Posting here is extremely cathartic and it also strengthens my resolve, putting my ERE thoughts to text. As my decisions and life move further and further away from the 'norm' society around me, connecting with like minded people, even in the virtual sense, is a blessing.
==Dating==
2012 was a year of solitude for me, it was a lot of reflecting and taking stock, self improvement, and enjoying my own company. I took the entire 2012 year off dating. 2013 I will begin to date again and I will date women that have similar ERE type values.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#009 09/01/2013 How I envision my retirement
This post is an exercise in envisioning how I see my life in retirement, currently scheduled for 2015.
In the present, I remind myself that with great autonomy will come great responsibility and I should be careful what I wish for because it may just come true.
I have three years to craft/create the ERE life I want. When I do finally leave my job and ’retire', the transition should be seamless, and it should not be a huge culture shock. I shouldn't be scrambling to fill my time or find meaning when I leave working world.
I am mindful today that not having the structure of a 9-5 job, not having that cage that defines my time can become a dangerous thing, if I am not prepared to fill this void.
Central to my purpose today and in retirement will be a life based on learning and personal growth.
For most of my late 20s and 30s, my life was guided by work and comfort and pleasure(ie. hedonism). Looking back I think its quite common at different stages in life to follow different philosophies. I just know now that living a life based on hedonistic values is no longer satisfying or sustainable for me anymore and I am glad I have realized and accepted this. My 'philosophy' now is a mix of stoicism and kaizen (among other things).
I've kind of said this before in posts, but living a ERE life to me is like driving a car stick shift, rather than automatic. In many ways, ERE for me is living a life that is 'higher' maintenance because you are taking such a hands on approach to every aspect of your life: you are defining your own identity, defining your own time/schedule, cooking all your meals, fixing most of your own things, etc. You no longer really delegate or piece out aspects of your time and life, as you are no longer plugged into the society that keeps most people running.
== Day to Day - Summer Months in Toronto ===
If I break down the 'time surplus' I will be given when I am retired, I am given an extra 9 hours a day by not working.
I see myself expanding in the areas of sleep, exercise, reading and food preparation.

Currently, most of my sleep, exercise and food preparation is rushed to 'efficiency' such that I try and do it as quickly or in the least time possible. In retirement, I will not need to do this, and I hope to enjoy those things at face value. I envision my life getting even healthier.
Here is a breakdown of hours of the day to day structure I see myself following in retirement:
Sleep : 8.5 hrs

Exercise : 2.5 hrs

Reading : 3.0 hrs

Food preparation and eating : 3.0 hrs

Bath/Shower/Hygiene: : 1.0 hrs

Groceries,cleaning,bills,etc) : 1.0 hrs

Downtime : 1.0 hrs

----------------------------------------------

Total :20.0 hrs
If I follow the above structure, this leaves really only 4 hours open ended.
The open 4 hours will be spent on the following.
-I plan to spend more time with my relatives (ie. aging mother, brothers nieces and nephews) and be really 'present' for the mundane and trivial, for example accompanying my mom to a doctor appointment, babysitting or playing with niece and nephew, etc.
-socializing with friends, lunches, dinners, coffees etc
-exploration, discovery and growth (being a tourist in my own city, finding new things to do, living life curiously, etc)
-leisure activities (meditation, beach volleyball, movies, camping, etc)
-mastery pursuits
This structure is how I see myself spending the warmer summer months in Toronto, or about ~8-9 months of the year (approx April- December)
== Solo Travel - Nomading/Solo Travel 3-4 months a year ===
Trying to envision my retirement, is really a self examination of who I am and what is important to me.
Part of what I discovered is that I always had nomadic values. This had a lot to do with my upbringing, when my family moved every five years. It just so happened that those five year periods occurred at key formative times in my life (ie. Grade 3/Age 8, Grade/age 13 and Grade 12/Age 17).
Because of this upbringing, I feel very constrained by ritual and roles, and I feel 'uncomfortable' when I become more 'comfortable' or entrenched. I feel a loss of challenge and motivation when I do not have a sense of novelty in my environment. A feel more myself in anonymity than in the incumbency of playing a role in some social order.
When I am in a novel environment, my energy levels, presence and motivation go way up.
Also, I do not enjoy Canadian winters. I get mild S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). For the last 10 years or so, I’ve tolerated it, but realize that to be more true to myself, I totally have the power to change this and removed it from my ERE life.
For these reasons, in my retirement, I plan to solo travel 3-4 months out of the year.
I realized that I cannot be fulltime nomad as I would feel myself lose my identity. I still need foundation and grounding, a place to call home and unwind. What I envision as the best lifestyle that would suite me is being able to go on 3-4 month solo travel trips during the Canadian winter. If I want the flexibility to stay later or come earlier, my ERE structure should be able to allow for this.
My solo travel trips would be self reflective and meditative, and they would be designed as challenges to myself to learn and grow as a person. I would be staying in places that are minimal, and my budget as well would be quite modest. My trips are not designed to be adventures of maximum stimulation, but rather exercises in simplicity, i.e. to appreciate a destination for its culture and its everyday life.
When I come back home (to Toronto) from my solo travels , I hope to have a gained appreciation for the luxuries of a western standard of living, as well as my friends and family. I am hoping it would energize me when I am home. I am also hoping it will be a way to combat hedonic adaption of western standard of living.
I hope to repeat this pattern of annual winter solo travel trips indefinitely or until I find a greater purpose or challenge that replaces it.
=====
So, that’s what I have so far.
This is the life I am actively exploring and working on creating today.
All my decisions are guided by building this structure.
I don't want to be so anal or rigid such that I plan every hour or stay strict to this, things are still a work in progress and the plan is still very flexible.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#010 11/01/2013 Dopamine and ERE
Lately, a lot of the books I have been reading are related to the mind and what makes it tick.I'm fascinated with things like neuroplasticity and motivation.
What is really eye opening however, is the relationship between goal setting and dopamine, and how on a micro/scientific level it explains how it can make us feel better.
"It turns out that it is actually the pursuit of a goal that releases dopamine into the brain - a kind of "feel-good" chemical that brings pleasure. When the goal is achieved, the dopamine release stops. Therefore, pleasure stops. So it turns out that there seems to be less satisfaction and personal pleasure in achieving a goal than there is in relentlessly pursuing the goal. "
(Google or Youtube Dopamine and Goal Setting for more info).
Mastery pursuits have the same type of effect.
Having since directed my life towards an ERE path, I feel so much happier, at peace and purposeful.
My mood is constantly optimistic. While the fact that I live a quieter and much simpler life may also attribute to this, it's the goal driven behavior that really gives me energy.
I realize that having a long term goal, such as early retirement, is such an incredible goal to set because it can be broken down over the long term (ie a goal of incremental goals) and keep releasing dopamine at every milestone. Its also a tremendous sense a mastery to tame and control one's life, so it plays into the ego quite a bit as well.
Lacking a strong coherent goal in today's society usually means you fall into trap of the default, consumeristic consumption.
The implicit warning here is that finding new challenges or a purpose in post early retirement will be quite important, or you there is a possibility that you are likely to feel a let down when the goal is achieved.
Goals are not EVERYTHING in life (ie too much goal setting can promote too much desire and wanting), just a reminder to myself that it is about the journey not the destination.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#011 18/01/2013 Contingency Planning in Retirement
As part of my retirement plan, I am planning 3 different SWR's (Safe Withdrawal Rates) for three different scenarios. Each provide a different level of expense. They are :
A) The Target scenario

B) The Middle/Normal scenario

C) The Minimal/Simplicity scenario.
1. The Target Scenario - 2.6% SWR
This scenario is what I envision my life in retirement and I what I am shooting for. If I ask myself how would I see my ideal retired life this is what I would want.
This Target Scenario include an element of gravy expenses in my retirement. The target scenario is budgeting for both having my car (a 2004) and extended 4 month travel trips each year. The travel trips are not glamorous ones, but bare minimal. It's almost like personal missionary work with a selfish intent.
Both of these things I consider a luxury. I can live without my car. I lived most of my life without a car, although I do have one now.
However, because I see it as enhancing my autonomy in retirement (i.e. ability to go on long road trips on a whim, transport bigger items without planning, visiting family and friends, camping, etc), right now I am guiltily planning the car into the gravy option.
2. The Middle Option - 2. 2% SWR
This scenario would be getting rid of the car, but still budgeting for extended travel. If I had to choose between a owning a car and the ability to travel for a quarter of the year, I'd definitely choose the travel.
I recognize that when I do retire, I wont be in a real rush to go anywhere, so planning around transportation wouldn't be a problem.
A big part of my ERE life is the learning/growth and experiences of travel, which is why I tell myself for me this is the middle scenario.
3. The Minimal/Simplicity scenario - 1.8% SWR
This scenario would be most in line with the principles of ERE. It gets rid of the car expense and it gets rid of the travel expense. Although I would surely like to have both, I know both are not necessities, and I know I'd be perfectly content without them.
One of the advantages of coming into ERE at a later stage of your life (ie.41), is that there is a possibility that you have already built up a web of skills and that you have not by-passed a significant amount of your peak earning years. To get to your peak earning years, you would usually require anywhere from a 5-10 year time investment (see Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule for example).
Having worked since 14, it's hard to actually grasp that I have spent over 25 years of my life in work related capacities. So this is the obvious disadvantage, I have a lot less time and I'm a lot older, and spent a good portion of my younger days slaving away.
======
What I like about planning for three levels of SWRs with the first/higher SWR as the target is that it gives me a two level buffer if things do not go as planned, or if something drastic happens.
I also see that as I age, I may not need my car or I may not be as passionate or physically able to travel as I am now.
As I pull out these expenses from the expense calculations, the benefit would be that it would give me room to add expenses that I have at this point not considered, so my SWR as a function of my expenses should not increase.
As my life changes, things will change. Certain expenses will come and go, and being able to account for this is key for me.
All of the SWRS levels I am planning for are well under the prescribed 4%.
Also as another safeguard, I am not factoring in the C.P.P. (Canadian Pension Plan) that I would be eligible to receive as early as 60 years old, in any of my calculations.
I could alter my numbers knowing that when I plan to retire at 44, I would be eligible to receive a steady pension in as short as 16 years, but by planning this in as a dependency, I don't leave myself room for error.
The last line of defense for me would be to take on any low paying job, or monetizing my web of skills.
In regards to low paying, low skill labour jobs, I did this when I was younger, all the way up to my mid twenties. I have no pride issues with doing this. My lowest SWR can be sustained at a minimum wage job. I'd be a lot older if I had to look for a minimum wage job if things failed in my retirement, but I still think there would be options for me as long as I am healthy and I'm not some curmudgeon, and can prove that I can be productive.
I do see myself building up a web of skills in retirement. But as I mentioned in previous threads, I believe that pursuing your web of skills are best done based on intrinsic interest. Several studies show how intrinsic interests loose a significant amount of their intrinsic value when they become externally motivated (i.e. compensation). My whole purpose of ERE is to free myself from monetary labour. But if all the above contingencies failed, yes I would rely of my web of skills. The most likely skill that I would see myself utilizing would be related to property management, superintendent, janitorial, etc. since a lot of my competencies are real estate related, and I've been building up a lot of experience that fit this job description (a large part of my passive income stream is already related to rentals).
By not budgeting in my C.P.P. (Canadian Pension Plan), having a SWR target rate below 4%, having a three level SWR rate plan, and willingness to work if all else fails, I'm hoping these would be enough safe guards to weather any changes that come my way if things don't go as planned in retirement.


akratic
Posts: 675
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:18 pm
Location: Boston, MA

Post by akratic »

I love how introspective this journal is!
This journal is basically what I imagined for my own journal when I started out, but it turns out it was easier for me to make graphs and brain dump what was going on with my life... than put hard thought into each post. Keep it up!


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

@akratic,
Thank you!
Most of the time I have a feeling that no one is reading my journal because the entries are so long and mundane, so I just do it kind of for myself to keep a record, lol.
But its very nice to know someone is reading.
BTW, big congratulations and kudos for how you've followed up on your FI plans/goals and the life choices you've been making. Inspiring.


J_
Posts: 694
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:12 pm
Location: Netherlands/Austria

Post by J_ »

One of the pleasures of this forum is finding treasures!

And your inner journey is such, thanks.

In winter I leave town too four three months, for kind of same reasons. Not going traveling but I retreat high and quiet in the snowy and sunny Alps, in a small one bedroom apartment. Retreat consists of studying and cross country skiing (skate on snow), a rather heavy sport, but it works for me. That retreat fuels me.


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

@J_,
Thank you very much for those kind words.
You are one of the few on this board who are already securely ERE, so it's great to hear that voice and perspective, wish there were more here.
Your retreat sounds amazing, extremely meditative, almost Walden-esque. I'd definitely like to do a 3-4 mountain type retreat in the future as well..


My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#012 26/01/2013 LLC,Properties,Dividends and Taxes
Structuring your assets for Tax Free Income in ERE.
I know it sounds too good to be true.
I am still vetting things, but it certainly appears it can be done.
I know for some of you more savvy property investors or tax fluent people this may sound elementary to you, but for me, its kind of a manic revelation at the scenarios that are hidden under the mainstream options.
Firstly, some history.
I have a limited liability corporation that was opened in 2000. From approximately (2000-2010) it was used for contracting work. I no longer contract as I am full time, but still keep the corporation open.
In around 2008, I used the retained earnings in my corporation to buy my previous principle residence when I moved into my new place.
I converted the previous principle residence to a rental the corporation owns, so the rental income does not count on my personal income tax.
The corporation still has a business loan (ie. mortgage) on the property. Even though the property currently nets around a $500 cash flow a month, the year end books after expenses declares a loss in the corporation, so there is no tax payments or very little on this income.
So that's where it stands today. One property principle residence personally owned, and one property corporation owned.
I am planning on purchasing a 3rd property (via a HELOC- but thats another story ;) ), which will become my principle residence, and the 2nd property will become another rental.
And that's where things will stand tomorrow, and the foundation of my three year ERE plan.
This is where the tax free or tax advantageous scenarios come in.
===Rental Income as Dividend Income===
Firstly, although the corporation earns rental income, I can structure the corporate payments to myself as dividends from the company when I need to start accessing the funds (when I 'retire' from my full time job).
This in itself is huge, as in Canada, you can earn $50,000 annually in dividends tax free.
This article explains the math:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-in ... le4599950/
===Selling Property to LLC creates Loan Payback===
If I sell my 2nd property, which is now principle residence, to my corporation, the corporation would owe me the full balance of the value of the property. (My 2nd property will be mortgage free in 2014 Q1). This payment from the corporation to myself, ie. loan payback, would be paid back to me tax free, since its a loan payback. In a way, its somewhat like a reverse mortage? I've calculated this loan payback would be enough to cover my ERE expenses for 15 years, that is if I use it as my only source of income. All the while, the corporation will rent out this property creating income.
==TFSA and RRSP===
In Canada we have our Tax Free Savings Plan, where each year we are allowed to contribute $5500 a year in a tax free savings plan. In 2015, a maxed contribution TFSA would have a projected tax free dividend income of $200/month based on a 5% dividend return.
In my first year of retirement, when my annual income would drop like a stone, I still plan on making my maximum RRSP (ie. 401k) payment, or I have the option of holding onto that tax deducting contribution whenever I need to bring my taxes to zero. This is a nice little safeguard, in case I have a year where for some reason I have high taxable income.
=== Musings and ERE Antifragile===
My first retirement income scenarios when I first started planning ERE, relied heavily on my RRSP (i.e 401k), which is the most tax disadvantageous source of income. Now, despite the fact that my RRSP savings will be a large part of my asset portfolio, I won't necessarily have to touch it.
Most of the things I have found out above (LLC, Dividends, loan payback, etc) is quite new to me, as a result of ERE planning (decidedly INTJ).
I know there is probably some principle or term to explain this, i.e. the phenomena where when you start focusing or working on something hard enough, that options that you couldn't find before or you didn't even think was possible, is now there for you and always was.
Maybe its called opening your eyes? or Antifragile?
These options wouldn't have been there for me if i didn't pursue ERE. I'd most likely would have been sitting in a mortgage free property with all the equity tied up, rather ignorant of the possibilities.
ERE provided the right stressor, randomness and uncertainty to push me out of conventional thinking and planning. It accessed my inner INTJ that is dormant in the non-stressor/predictable/certain financial environment, and creates a stronger mental me.
I like Talebs reference to how learning the russian language is much more 'easier' when you are trapped in a Gulag prison than repeating what you hear on a language course tape.
I'm not saying ERE is a Gulag prision, but you get the idea ;P


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