Third World ERE - FI Achieved!

Where are you and where are you going?
Ian
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Ian »

Phones

When I arrived, I made the choice to go with a used, prepaid service phone. I've wondered several times if that might have been a case of being cheap instead of frugal, but today an issue was resolved and I have some more perspective.

One of the major objections is running out of credit, but I have far more than I need. The cheapest PPS plan was definitely the right choice.

Recently, however, the screen on my phone died. It still received calls fine, and I could call numbers I'd memorized, but that's obviously less than ideal. Fortunately, there's some kind of freecycle program my coworkers knew about that got me another used phone for free.
It's actually an upgrade, though the main features that concern me are "functioning screen" and "adequate phone for a few years."

Buying a new but low end phone would not have been a terrible choice either, though. That's likely what I'll do when I end up at a more permanent location. But so far, used has been working very well for me.

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Ian »

It's unsurprising that I've let this thread lapse, since I've never been much of a journaling person. I don't like abandoning things completely, however, and I don't want to leave the impression that this financial lifestyle can't work. So I'll be back for occasional updates.

Looking back over 2014, my expenses were substantially below my previous estimate of yearly expenses. My savings rate varied month to month, but overall I was well over 90%. That's not much on my salary, but my net worth increased to about 60k.

A lot of that is in cash right now, as I'm gathering capital for a hypothetical real estate investment (probably via turnkey). That will balance my current equities somewhat, plus any decent property provides a fairly solid return. Compared to my yearly expenses, even one modest rent could significantly change the FI timeline.

It's hard to judge how my other pursuits are going. Nothing I wrote this year was a breakout hit, but I made more money than in previous years. My Kickstarter and game had a solid start and I'm ranked in the top 25 games on Steam Greenlight, but it hasn't reached the store yet. It's very difficult to predict how either of those things will progress next year, but I think there are at least a few signs these side gigs will grow.

Rural Kiwi
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Rural Kiwi »

I really enjoyed reading your journal Ian, impressive numbers and interesting thoughts :)

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Ian »

2015 Update #1

I thought I was going to end up updating this yearly, but it looks like I'm here for a mid-year update. It could be interesting to get a snapshot of the situation now, because by the end of the year I'll have significantly more perspective on a number of issues.

Expense-wise, there's little to report. I'm lower than my base predictions but not as low as last year - though I expect to be reimbursed for certain expenses later. We'll see if I can keep them at this level under different conditions, because unfortunately my current comfortable situation is coming to an end.

Due to changes to the program, I will not be renewing my contract in August. 70% of positions are being cut, so I would have to fight tooth and nail just to get a job that would be inferior to my present one (potentially substantially so, depending on variables I wouldn't learn until after the contract signing). I decided that if I had to break the status quo, I may as well try something with more known positives.

Through August I'll keep saving. At the end of my term I'll get a solid bit of pension and severance. I have lodging planned for several months after that, as well as part time work that should at least let me break even for that period.

After that, I'll be applying for a position teaching in Saudi Arabia. They offered me the job this semester, but the contract overlapped with my present one. Applying in November isn't a sure thing, but it feels like a reasonably plausible option.

I'm beginning to consider, however, if I want to take the position at all. The reason is that since my last update, my income from creative work has risen substantially. Not as high as my teaching salary, but higher than my expenses. This is encouraging, but I'll remain cynical until I see how sustainable the numbers are.

Since I last posted in this thread, Cubicle Quest made it onto Steam. Even for a niche retro RPG, the platform drives sales. So far I've seen the biggest surges when the game goes on sale (which I can set every other month), but it remains to be seen how long this residual income will last. If I had the creative team to do another game, I'd unquestionably try it, but for now I'm setting this aside.

Writing has actually been providing the majority of my creative income. I've used the copious free time at this job to enter a period of reckless creativity, attempting a large number of projects and seeing what stuck. Some are still trickling income, but one is showing significant potential. If I maintain anything like the current rate of acceleration, things will look very different by the end of the year.

I'm leery of attempting to live on creative income too soon, but I'm also reaching the point where taking a job could cripple creative profits. It's an unfortunate tension, which is why I'm glad I have six more months to watch the trends. As of right now, my plan is to reapply for the Saudi Arabia position, just to be especially sure. Provided I can maintain creative work, at the end of a yearly contract there my financial position would be far more secure.

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jennypenny
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by jennypenny »

Would living in Saudi Arabia limit your writing? Does the government limit access or content or subject matter at all for expats? I have no idea -- just wondering.

Not that my opinion is worth much, but your writing is good. Are you a member of a writing group where you get constructive feedback? That might help, especially if there are members with experience in your targeted genre. (I mean a small group, not a large, online group.)

JamesR
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by JamesR »

What would the visa situation be? Would you have to leave Korea?

I think that the whole point of your savings is that you now have the freedom to make a play like this where you see what happens with your writing since you're already getting an income from that, AND it's at the level where it covers your expenses. Definitely a no brainer.

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Ian »

jennypenny wrote:Would living in Saudi Arabia limit your writing? Does the government limit access or content or subject matter at all for expats? I have no idea -- just wondering.
This was one of my primary concerns, but a teacher currently working there says they have unlimited internet access.
jennypenny wrote:Not that my opinion is worth much, but your writing is good. Are you a member of a writing group where you get constructive feedback? That might help, especially if there are members with experience in your targeted genre. (I mean a small group, not a large, online group.)
I'm a member of some online writing groups, but haven't found any in Korea.
JamesR wrote:What would the visa situation be? Would you have to leave Korea?
My visa is tied to my job - while I could try to transition to a different visa, I don't think it would be worth the trouble. It's unlikely I could find a job any better than those I can get elsewhere and staying will make pension/severance collection more difficult (also, my tax exemption in Korea will expire at the end of this contract, cutting any future salary by 18%).
JamesR wrote:I think that the whole point of your savings is that you now have the freedom to make a play like this where you see what happens with your writing since you're already getting an income from that, AND it's at the level where it covers your expenses. Definitely a no brainer.
I'll continue monitoring creative revenue and we'll see how I feel when I have to make that choice. Ideally I would have liked to reach my bare minimum FI point during my last normal job and then coast to a better safety margin on creative income, but creative income has risen too fast for that scenario. There are worse problems to have, certainly.

jacob
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by jacob »

jennypenny wrote:Would living in Saudi Arabia limit your writing? Does the government limit access or content or subject matter at all for expats? I have no idea -- just wondering.
They certainly limit some kinds of writing:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/j ... hes-friday

You can also lose your head for practising sorcery:
http://www.theatlantic.com/internationa ... ft/278701/

Out of the 100 or so people beheaded in SA this year so far, about half were foreigners so I don't think there's any international lenience.

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Ian »

2015 Update #2

Time for another snapshot update, since this is another potential turning point. I finished my job as planned and I'm now in my interim situation. I'm not sure how long I want to stay here, but it's a good option while I watch my creative income to see how it will hold up long term. I also need to acquire more data on rent, medical insurance, and self-employment taxes to see how real income compares to expenses.

But generally speaking, it's looking like creative income will exceed expenses. I'm at a point where a less cautious person might want to go professional, but I'll hold back to keep saving and see. Some of my forms of income are potentially fragile - Amazon, for example, has occasionally made changes that slash the income of some authors. Steam, meanwhile, is proving profitable but unreliable.

I don't have to make any choices about going to Saudi Arabia (or getting another job) for a while, so I'm staying the course. I have two accelerating projects now, plus scattered residual income from others. If current trends continue, I'll be in a very different situation overall in 2016. We'll see.

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Ian »

2016 Update

So, I have a new status quo. I decided not to take the job in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else: I'm living off of creative income for now. I'm fairly close to family, however, so my living costs are a little lower than they would be normally.

How long I'll stay in this situation, I can't be sure. It will depend on if my creative income crashes, plateaus, or keeps accelerating. There were some uncertain points earlier in 2016, but they didn't impact my bottom line and things look stable and positive overall. I'll be saving the majority of it regardless, of course.

I've been moving more of my savings into investments, and my quarterly dividends have increased accordingly. If I reach a point where my returns exceed minimum annual expenses, I'll consider using some of my monthly income to upgrade my living conditions from "good" to "ideal" - but it's hard to say when that would happen. I could have a strange variant of "one more year" syndrome, but that's an enviable problem to have, so I'm not complaining.

The major potential roadblock to my long term plans would be one of my core sources of income shutting down completely. I am attempting to move in a direction of having more projects in different stores, thus reducing my reliance on any given source of income.

This will be a slow process, however, and may not show solid results for some time. Expect another update in a year or so.

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Ian »

2017 Update

This may be my last update for a variety of reasons.

Two of my goals have essentially flipped. Originally I was thinking FI would let me free up my time for creative pursuits, but now my creative work is what's paving the road to FI. I made more money writing in 2016 than I ever did as a teacher, so I am going to commit to this route for good. My expenses have stayed about the same, so my savings rate only increases as income does. The only thing keeping my rate from being better is that I'm putting more of that income into new projects now.

Things could still go bad, of course. Though the past two years suggest that my month to month income is unlikely to decline rapidly, the website itself could still be taken down by a lawsuit or something. But I'm diversifying my income streams, so this should be less of a threat in time. Right now I have two games being sold across a large number of websites - living on that income alone would be more uncertainty than I want, but with everything going well, they're more money being invested each month. I have a lot of projects in development, so this source of revenue should increase. I don't have data on the long term sales of games like these, but since I'm doing what I love, I'm sure I'll keep making more.

On my spreadsheets, most of the numbers are far above my expenses. Underneath that, there's a line of passive income that's slowly rising. Most likely the point where it passes my expenses will just be a symbolic thing, since my creative work is only accelerating. Having FI probably won't make a big difference in my life, other than letting me feel a little more confident and devote myself to writing without worries.

So I'm grateful to this forum for the perspective it has provided me, but my attention is increasingly being drawn in other directions.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by classical_Liberal »

Thank you for the update Ian, I found your journal very enlightening and entertaining. Although I would not want you to take too much time from your other pursuits, I'm sure I am not alone in hoping for future updates. Although many on this forum are focused on saving capital and investments via a short working career, certainly an equally important point of ERE is living independently with minimal cash output. Your ability to that that has put yourself in an enviable position. Reduced, sustainable living costs have allowed you to pursue a creative outlet which provides for all of your cash needs. Three years ago your capital accumulation numbers for FI were pegged in the decades, yet today, less than 40 months later, you are doing exactly what you want with your time; money is not a factor in your daily activities. This is core ERE! and is why I prefer this forum over all other PF communities. Saving 25-33X expenses for passive investment income from a standard working career is far from the only path. It serves me well to be reminded of this and your journal does just that. Congrats!

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Ian »

Thank you, and thanks for commenting. I'm not absolutely ruling out updating any more, so I might spend some more time here yet.

AussieGirl
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by AussieGirl »

Congratulations. Do you mind elaborating on what kind of writing you have ended up doing? The games look super cool by the way. Thanks!

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Stahlmann
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Stahlmann »

unsaid topic in the face of discussions where we spoke about "who has that harder?", but whole discourse was led in example of First/Second World countries.

mirin' ability to overcome hardships.

Viktor K
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by Viktor K »

By the way, bought and played Cubicle Quest a while back. Didn’t finish it and not playing games these days, but it was great fun. I can see why your creative pursuits are bearing fruit and encourage you to continue doing so. You’ve got talent!

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE - FI Achieved!

Post by Ian »

FINAL POST

Hello, everyone. One last post to cap off this thread.

I'm now FI by just about any standard, as my passive income in 2019 was 107% of my expenses. That's without outside benefits (like my previous subsidized housing) and including several "abnormal" expenses that won't repeat yearly. All that income is via dividends, currently being automatically reinvested.

(For these purposes I'm not counting any income earned from book/game sales as passive. While these don't require any significant time investment from me, sales are also dependent on my continued work on other projects, so in the long term it's always a declining source of income.)

I've been a full time creator for several years now, but passing this point is an added level of stability that allows for some positive decisions. At the end of 2018 I cut off a lucrative project that I'd never enjoyed, and 2019 creative income actually only dropped 15%. I'm still investing about 90% of my income overall, so I have a comfortable buffer year-to-year and my passive income buffer is increasing.

As I've mentioned, I don't think I'll be actively using these forums too frequently in the future, but I'm grateful for the help people have given me and I wish everyone well.

cimorene12
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Re: Third World ERE

Post by cimorene12 »

Thank you for sharing your journey thus far.
Ian wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:54 pm
Some of my forms of income are potentially fragile - Amazon, for example, has occasionally made changes that slash the income of some authors.
A bit of an understatement. However, with your passive income hitting 107% of expenses, you can afford to be a full-time creative. I wish you the best.

jacob
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Re: Third World ERE - FI Achieved!

Post by jacob »

Congratulations. How did it go with Cubicle Quest? I see it has 510 reviews on steam which seems like it should have done very well?!

Ian
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Re: Third World ERE - FI Achieved!

Post by Ian »

cimorene12 wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:05 pm
A bit of an understatement. However, with your passive income hitting 107% of expenses, you can afford to be a full-time creative. I wish you the best.
Thank you. I've done a decent job of diversifying, receiving income from Smashwords, Valve, and various game stores, but having a stable fallback is reassuring.
jacob wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:09 pm
Congratulations. How did it go with Cubicle Quest? I see it has 510 reviews on steam which seems like it should have done very well?!
Fairly well, but it dropped off substantially after the first few years. I don't know if it was a good enough game for steady long term sales, but the publisher I was working with devalued it quicker via selling it on many steep sales and in bundles. Though it hasn't been played by nearly so many people, and most sales were for nearly nothing, there are 200,000 copies out in the wild. Hopefully they raised a bit of awareness at least.

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