A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Where are you and where are you going?
cmonkey
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by cmonkey »

Sounds like it's time to turn in the notice!

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

cmonkey wrote:Sounds like it's time to turn in the notice!
I was just thinking this morning that if nothing much changes I'll probably not last through the summer. My heart's just not in it any more. Not that my career per se has ever been a passion for me, but I enjoyed the camaraderie and after the first 12 years or so the pay got to be pretty good. Now the money is not so essential, and through time and motion my network of enjoyable colleagues has fallen below critical mass. As the camaraderie wanes I feel increasingly isolated. With my mom back in chemo and my sister still working through a health tale of woe, the "pull" is again strong. On the other side, if I forgo these last 28 months I leave a lot of money on the table and the pragmatic part of me chafes at that.

Either way, in about 5 weeks I'll hit my 30th service anniversary, and I can't say it hasn't been a good run.

Fish
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by Fish »

First of all, congrats on making it this far and reaching another financial milestone.

Thought exercise. Suppose you were already retired, and you were offered your job at the present level of salary, benefits and future incentives. Would you accept it? Are you continuing down the same path due to inertia?

I don't think retirement has to be a binary decision either. You might be able to negotiate a consulting position, reduced work schedule, remote work, sabbatical, or even continue full-time but cherry-pick the best parts of the job to better align it with your web of goals.

Also check if your employer would allow some kind of "pre-retirement leave" that would allow you to stop working immediately but claim early retirement benefits in 28 months' time as if service were uninterrupted. With 30 years under your belt that would be a very reasonable request.

There are a lot of parallels between your path and mine (only that I'm ~20 years behind) and I'm watching your journey closely so I can gain the benefit of your experience. Best of luck as you continue to navigate your post-FI life!

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

Fish wrote:First of all, congrats on making it this far and reaching another financial milestone.

Thought exercise. Suppose you were already retired, and you were offered your job at the present level of salary, benefits and future incentives. Would you accept it? Are you continuing down the same path due to inertia?
Thanks Fish,

Indirectly I've been through the thought exercise you suggest. The answer would be if I found myself unemployed today in the financial position I'm in today and could replicate my current job in a geographic location that dovetails better with my future plans, there's a decent chance I would take the job, or at least think seriously about it. Here where I live now I probably wouldn't take the job, I'd just bail. Unfortunately, telecommuting/working remotely isn't an option (due to the nature of my work). Plus, I've concluded it would be next to impossible to find equivalent employment back home. I'm in too much of a niche.

It's a mix of inertial and desire for some additional financial margin that hold me back now while the pulls to leave are as described in my prior post.

My company is a large and stodgy one so they're habitually disinclined to be flexible with policy in individual cases, but I think I will investigate whether there's any wiggle room in the LOA policy for someone close to retirement age, or if they have a "pre-retirement leave" policy that just doesn't get advertised much. Those are good ideas so thanks for mentioning them. I may not get to check out immediately without taking a hit, but might be able to leave 6 mos or a year in advance of turning 55 without the significant hit to retirement benefits (which is now the lion's share of the cost of leaving prior to "retirement age").

I could go part time, I know several people around my age who have taken that step, but I'd still be hanging my hat ~650 miles from where I want to, and while I'm here I may as well work full time to maximize the financial side of things.

Fish
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by Fish »

Also given your mother's health situation(*), FMLA would allow up to 12 weeks unpaid leave while protecting your job. Maybe you've already been making use of this.

A large employer might also offer a similar type of LOA which would be longer duration but not job-protected. In your case it seems the goal is making it to age 55 to collect retirement benefits, so taking time off unpaid (without causing a break in service) while having the option of returning to work seems ideal.

And if you happen to get laid off during an extended LOA, it might actually work to your advantage to collect some form of severance and even unemployment benefits if you're so inclined.

(*)I think FMLA is allowed for immediate family only (excluding siblings) while your employer's LOA offering may include your sister. Basically, the point I'm trying to make is that fully understanding your employer's policies is critical to maximize your benefits. I'm advising this like Jacob advises people to understand the tax code. It's a high return on effort activity. Read the policy manuals (the actual controlling documents that HR would refer to for making decisions). Talk to HR about your family health situation and ask what the company can do to allow you more time with your mother and sister. (BTW, I wish them the best and hope they will fully recover!)

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

2017 January Review

I've decided to streamline these monthly entries. I got in the habit of reporting a lot of data over the last couple years mainly because discussion of metrics and numbers was much more prominent around here at the time.

January was a pretty good month. Expenses were relatively low for me, right around $2K, and growth in invested assets was above normal at about $24.5K. As I mentioned a few days ago, If I were to ER today per my nominal plan/forecast I'd have about $700 more on my 70th birthday than I do today.

I've done a good job rehearsing my future leisure-driven lifestyle, having logged a little over 40 hours of guitar practice and spent about a third that amount of time writing during the month.

In the wide sense I'm still in a holding pattern, wrestling with balance between topping off the coffers and getting on with life. My NTE walkaway day is currently 849 days off.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

I ran across some old papers recently and from them I was able to recall today is my four years free-of-meaningful-debt anniversary! I still use a "rewards" CC to funnel all my bills/purchases through but it gets paid in full 2X per month.

From a psychological/emotional perspective that day was a big deal to me.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

2017 February Review

February was a pretty good month. Spending was $2,499 for the month (bought some guitar toys and opted to cough up $265 for a new control unit for my garage door since the old one died).

Growth in invested assets was $23,700. I'm a little over 30x anticipated average portfolio withdrawals through age 70.

If I were to ER today and the future mimicked my nominal plan/forecast I'd expect growth of about 2% in my financial assets by my 70th birthday.

Solitude has been the theme. I've substantially lowered my online/social media profile, including here, in 2017 and it's starting to become a habit. I continue to mull over some options for mods to my future plans. "That day" is becoming ever more tangible and it's a little nerve wracking.

Tomorrow is my 30th anniversary with my employer. Dunno if I'm lucky, good, or stupid. You decide.

My NTE walkaway day is currently 822 days off.
Last edited by IlliniDave on Fri Mar 03, 2017 10:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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jennypenny
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by jennypenny »

Happy 30th Anniversary! I think it's cool that you've been with your company for 30 years. It's so unusual now. I know it looks like people are stuck/resigned when they do anything for that long, especially to young people, but I see it more as 'dug in' or planted.

OTOH, 821 days to go ... :D

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

Q1 2017

Okay, still technically a day to go, but I expect nothing too dramatic to occur today.

Spending was about $2,700 for March, not great but not awful. For the quarter I averaged about $2,400/mo which is okay and easily below my retirement planning bogey (though the numbers are not quite apples-to-apples).

Growth in invested assets for the quarter was a little above $70,000 (plus/minus what happens today) which, if I don't give too much back today, will stand as my best quarter since I've been keeping track. My invested assets are a bit over 32x anticipated average portfolio withdrawals through age 70. If I look out to age 80 I'm above 50x.

If I were to ER today and the future mimicked my nominal plan/forecast I'd expect growth of about 1.3% in financial assets by my 70th birthday. That number's a little inconsistent with prior reports as I continue to refine my mega spreadsheet (which usually means correcting errors).

My tentative launch date is 2 years and 2 months from today. A couple years back I made up a schedule/list of to-do's counting back from the day I leave Alabama for good. Once June arrives and I'm inside two years I'll be "on" that schedule.

I'm getting a little intimidated by the prospect of really doing this.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

Seems Like it's Always Something

More potential seismic shifts at work. Can't go into much detail, but I will probably have a ready-made "excuse" to hang up the old pocket protector in the next few months. Unfortunately it comes at a time when both the health insurance and tax landscapes are headed for some amount of upheaval.

I was finally able to express in words my reluctance to quit before age 55. I will take a hit in retirement benefits to the tune of approximately $160K fair market value by leaving the day I'm 54 and 364 days old (or sooner) versus waiting until my birthday the next day. With now 30+ years service time, I feel like I've earned the full benefit and that losing it because of age is arbitrary. I probably don't really need the "money". I'm like the Monkey pulling fruit from the jar. In the past I've obfuscated and couched this mostly in terms of financial risk, where more honestly it's possessiveness and a sense of entitlement. However, knowing that doesn't change anything. If I walk away now, 2 years early, I'll feel like I've been duped.

If I'm lucky maybe they'll lay me off. With my service time I'll get the full benefit and then can probably get on with my life in peace.

Igotgoals
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by Igotgoals »

Hoping this works out in a way that is easy for you to accept. It's tough when you've planned carefully and the rug is pulled out from under you.
Not that this development derails you - you will have a stable retirement - but I understand how you feel about deserving what you were working so long towards.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

2017 April Review.

Dull numbers:

I don't have the precise numbers in front of me (I'll update later), but from memory invested asset growth was around $16,500 for the month and spending was a bit under $1,800. The latter is pretty good for me--I wish I could do it consistently. April marked a historic event in that it was the first month on record where actual spending came in below the monthly spending that would correspond to a 3% withdrawal rate.

Had 30 April 2017 been the day I left work for good ...

My invested assets plus anticipated proceeds from downsizing houses were about 33x anticipated average portfolio withdrawals through age 70. Through age 80 I'm above 50x.

If the future mimicked my nominal plan/forecast I'd expect growth of about 3% in financial assets by my 70th birthday.

Short-term Future:

My countdown says the balance of my sentence is 758 days and 9 hours. That simultaneously seems long and short. I'm in mental/emotional gridlock. For now I'm hiding out by immersing myself in the process of figuring out how much/little I should with my house before selling it. I'm starting to lean towards unloading it sooner rather than later even though if I wind up serving the whole remainder of my sentence here, renting for part of it will be a financial net loss. The trade off is that I think getting that chore behind me would alleviate some stress.

I found out this past weekend that there's another grandchild on the way, due in December. I also found out my second-favorite auntie has received a grim/terminal diagnosis. Cancer, of course. Being that she's already got a pacemaker and has been on oxygen the last 6 months or so, she's opting just to let that hand play out without intervention beyond keeping her comfortable. She was a larger-than-life figure in the family my whole life, a capital-E extrovert (most of the family is gregarious to the point of being obnoxious) but she always sorta made a place for her nerdy little introvert nephew. Seeing the end coming for so vivid a person is a blunt reminder of mortality.

Then there's the wrench in the gears at work I alluded to last week. Not much clarity there yet. I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope I can run in front of the oncoming avalanche for a time.

As always, I'm pulled in many directions. It gets tiresome. At some point soon I'll need to check out and do whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing. If I'm honest with myself I recognize that I might not be able to last the 758 days, even if I have the option, and I don't know what to think about that. For my whole life one of my "strengths" has been the ability to slog through the long-haul stuff.
Last edited by IlliniDave on Thu May 04, 2017 6:49 am, edited 3 times in total.

cmonkey
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by cmonkey »

Work shifts suck big time. Seems I go through one every 1-2 years as well. I've had 3 different cubicles since starting my current position 3.5 years ago. I'm pretty sure it's the only role that facilities plays - lets just move people around, because we 'are'. The next will be in just over a year with another retirement (if not before). I think my biggest fear is somehow being forced into some change I don't like, such as a change of office building or being forced into traveling a lot. I let my mind run away sometimes. In the end, I'd manage it fine and have the option to say 'NO' as well. See what they do.

halfmoon
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by halfmoon »

The prospect of losing a loved one is always tough, and on top of your work concerns can be almost overwhelming. I completely understand the mental/emotional gridlock. This is common enough when you're faced with change (fear), and yet you don't have complete control over the terms and timing of that change (frustration). I tend to freeze up when that happens.

For what it's worth, I'd go ahead and sell the house now -- without fixing it up beyond things that will help it pass an inspection and/or easy cosmetic items like replacing the front door or planting flowers. The anticipated net loss from renting should be worth the forward progress and alleviation of stress. Maybe it wouldn't be a net loss anyway, because most real estate markets are pretty hot right now. Who knows if that will continue for 2 more years? You also don't know if the tax code might change in that time regarding the primary residence capital gains exclusion.

As you probably know, realtors will give you a competitive market analysis showing what they think your home will sell for. They can also advise if there's something cosmetic you could/should do to make the home sell quickly. If you were in Seattle, you probably wouldn't need to do a thing besides listing it, but I don't know about your local market. I generally advise getting 3 different agents to submit CMAs. This is assuming you plan to sell through an agent, of course. I know most people here advocate the FSBO approach, but I believe that a good agent provides tangible value.

In any case, your outlook should improve once you know how the work situation will play out. Also: spring is here! :)

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

cmonkey wrote:
Wed May 03, 2017 7:32 am
Work shifts suck big time. ... I think my biggest fear is somehow being forced into some change I don't like, such as a change of office building or being forced into traveling a lot
Yeah, it's exactly the same kind of thing for me--if I try to stick it out I might end up in all manner of unpleasant places/situations. In the past necessity made me more resilient to such things. I won't say I'm change averse, so long as the change is self-directed.
halfmoon wrote:
Wed May 03, 2017 10:01 am
The prospect of losing a loved one is always tough, and on top of your work concerns can be almost overwhelming.
...
In any case, your outlook should improve once you know how the work situation will play out. Also: spring is here! :)
You're right, the uncertainly makes it worse. It's out of my hands so I shouldn't let myself worry about it.

I've got data points from a pair of realtors, so I guess I should get a third one. I'm leaning in the direction you suggest--selling and getting it over with, but there's much inertia to overcome.

My mom's currently battling Stage 4 cancer since 2014 and one of my sisters was declared in remission from Stage 3 last year, but she's had a slew of non-cancer (but serious) health problems in the aftermath, so the news of my aunt is really just more of the same on my lil' plate. All that about my mom and sister is probably many pages back by now.

For those who were following, btw: They put Mom back on chemo last December, but took her off in March. She responded well, but there's a relatively new drug that got advanced approval she qualified for. Because of the advanced approval it's only supposed to be available as a last resort, but her doctor has been eager to make the switch for some time, so I think there was a little exaggeration of the severity of the side effects from chemo to slip in under the bar. I have a couple second hand data points on the drug and it seems to have efficacy with little in the way of side effects. We're all cautiously optimistic for now. So not all the news is bad!

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

Sort of a Spam Post

Since Jacob's Law of Journals says I need 500 posts before I qualify ...

My aunt passed away last week--once the cancer showed up she went downhill very quickly. She's the first of my parents' generation in the family to go, so aside from the expected sadness I am wrestling with the value of time again, specifically how many dollars are the next two years and one week worth. Or, to borrow from a recently retired colleague, identifying the moment the company can no longer afford whatever time I have left. May age also incremented earlier in the month, and the larger number each year keeps reminding me that I have decisions to make. My middle of the road calculation says the difference between quitting now and 738 days from now could mean a coupla-three hundred $K less for each of the kids down the road, or the equivalent margin in my own financial position should things get hairy. That's a lot of money in the mind of a kid who grew up on the wrong side of the river in a rust belt town.

Yet barring essentially all forces in the world aligning to subvert my plan, I'm in the "more than enough" zone already. I even pushed hard on my semi-catastrophic scenario calculations (assumed both my employer and the gov't reneged on retirement benefits with moderately higher inflation and significantly lower investment results than I expect). That scenario would drive me to three-quarter rations and leave me broke at 85 if I work two more years, at 80 if I bail this year. I think I talked a little about that in a different thread maybe. It takes that highly implausible scenario (implausible in my view anyway) for me to say I "need" to keep going for a while longer. It seems more likely I'm just too fearful of closing the valve on the money hydrant.

I'm inclined to search the night sky for signs. But the weather around here has been overcast. If there is a sign to be read it's that so far this year the period from mid-April through May has been the coolest and most pleasant weather-wise I can remember here. I can usually count on the late spring heat to remind me of the urgency to flee northward.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

2 Years from Today!!!! (May 2017 Update)

Well, that's the plan. Two years. That is, if I don't chicken out. Increasingly I'm finding the whole notion of ER intimidating. I'm running "x more year" parametrics in my head frequently. Not for any concrete reason, just as thought experiments for how it might effect me emotionally. There are many advantages to sailing through midlife solo, but at times it does feel like working with a co-conspirator would have utility.

I'm a planner by nature, and so starting tomorrow I'll begin working off a 2-year list of things to begin the ease-out process. 90% of it is centered on selling my house. Cowardly iDave has created through worry a near insurmountable obstacle out of the disposing of the house. Mindful iDave will have to summon all the mindfulness he can to take it a step at a time. Shedding possessions and sprucing up the house, even selling it, doesn't obligate me, so my hope is I can undertake all of that at face value and without wallowing in dread over an uncertain future.

Dull numbers:

Invested asset growth was $16,700 for the month and spending was $2,254. I'm okay with that spending since it reflects some unplanned expenses due to a death in the family and some auto repair/maintenance; along the sinking of some money into landscaping projects looking ahead toward listing my house in about 21 months.

Had 31 May 2017 been the day I left work for good ...

My invested assets plus anticipated proceeds from downsizing houses were just under 35x anticipated average portfolio withdrawals through age 70. Through age 80 I'm at 49x (I'd been reporting slightly above 50x recently but found a small error in my mega spreadsheet, and I also went to using 77% of estimated SS benefit as my "baseline").

If the future mimicked my nominal plan/forecast I'd expect growth of 6.3% in financial assets by my 70th birthday.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave »

Q2 2017 Update

June was not a great month for me.

I'm already a little behind schedule in my home sale preparation activities. I still have over 1.5 years until I intend to list it, so it's nothing urgent yet. Anticipating a slow start is the main reason I put a 2-year setback from my desired earliest sale date into my plan.

I've been a little weak with my spending when it comes to buying guitar toys. That's not entirely a bad thing. Music is a leisure activity I'd identified as a candidate to help keep me engaged once I'm retired. Not great from a systems perspective because the money-making potential is nil (if I decided to try my hand as a busker people might pay me to stop though). But it does have the virtues of being enjoyable and can be a relatively solitary activity. Guitarists, especially those of the midlife, low-skill, financially stable variety, tend to fall prey to Gear Acquisition Syndrome, and apparently I'm no different. To assuage the mild guilt I feel over spending money I don't need to I tell myself I'm just getting all my ducks in a row for retirement. A more honest assessment might be that a part of me is pushing back against my self-imposed constraints. I guess the key is finding a balance. I've been pretty good about shedding/selling off old stuff so the size of my collection is dwindling. I don't get a lot of satisfaction from avoiding the use of money for it's own sake--for me it's more about efficient use of money for longer range goals. From that perspective a couple nice-to-haves aren't so bad. I just hope I'm not on a slippery slope.

I've gotten ahead of my financial projections that are the baseline for my plans, so I'm increasingly thinking of changing things up as far as investing goes. I've actually been trying to do that for some time now by how I direct my new savings, but the recent equity surge has meant I haven't gained any ground. My strategy is not the most popular here, mainly low cost (mostly index) stock and bond mutual funds and a little cash equivalents. So what the change-up would amount to is a moderate step down in equity exposure to tame volatility/shallow risk without exposing myself to deep risk more than is necessary. As I've mentioned in recent threads I don't center my finances around expectations of apocalyptic and black swan events. It's too easy for that fear-based perspective to bleed into other facets of life. I've been down that road and for me it leads to a miserable day-to-day existence.

I continue to struggle a little as time rushes forward to my anticipated separation day. The prospect in some ways seems surreal, in others seems all to real. At times I feel like I'll be "getting away with something". I guess that has its roots in my feeling sorry for the fact that most others my age won't have put themselves in position to exercise the same option, sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance. It seems the accusations that my demographic is just lucky and privileged has crept in to undermine what I know to be the long hours of hard work and sacrifices I've made over the last almost 40 years. I suppose I'll always wrestle with that one, and it will probably drive me towards some amount of volunteer work to assuage the feeling of guilt. I still find myself angry that society's shallow, quick-look perception of me drops that turd in my punch bowl. First-world problems for sure.

Happily, it's getting to be time to start making plans for a adventure northwards. I'm looking at taking a month off from work and spending a week back home visiting parents and family, then a couple weeks up in the Northwoods at the cabin, then another week visiting family before returning. It'll be the longest period I've been away from work since the summer of my sophomore year in college. I'm looking at the time frame of mid-September through mid-October. The rationale is that I'll be in the Northwoods at near the fall peak there, then in Illinois for the fall peak there, and return home with a week or so to go before the fall peak. So I'd get to stretch out my favorite time of the year. I think my brother is going to come up to the cabin with me so there may be a little more emphasis on fishing than the last couple trips. Unfortunately my dad won't be coming due to my mom's ongoing cancer treatments and very late summer being a busy season for him with the vineyard.


Dull numbers:

Invested asset growth was $14,200 for the month of June, $47,500 for the quarter, and $204,100 over the prior 12-month period. The latter is the best result I've had since I started keeping good data. Savings contributions were very close to planned and the extra growth was due to investment performance. Spending in June was $3,304. YTD I'm averaging $2,422/mo and since January 2013 I've averaged $3,012 per month. June spending was a little sloppy in that I continue to collect guitar toys. But I also had nearly $500 in vet bills and nearly $500 in home repairs maintenance. The rationalizing part of me calls the guitar toy collecting "preparation for retirement" but as discussed above that's probably not accurate. Home-related expenses are going to be higher than normal over the next 20 or so months as I begin the process of getting it ready for market. I'm trying tocome up with a reasonable way to separate out those costs. Things that are just deferred maintenance I want to be reflected in the spending data I use for future planning but things I do that I wouldn't have done were I not selling I want to keep separate.

Had 30 June 2017 been the day I left work for good ...

My invested assets plus anticipated proceeds from downsizing houses were 35.2x anticipated average portfolio withdrawals through age 70. Through age 80 I'm at 52x.

If the future mimicked my nominal plan/forecast I'd expect growth of 7.7% in financial assets by my 70th birthday.

SustainableHappiness
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by SustainableHappiness »

Hi IlliniDave,

I enjoy reading your journal for it's thoughtfulness about an entirely different life stage from my own and I think you are kicking ass. That being said if you need encouragement "as time rushes forward to my anticipated separation day", based on your numbers and your attitude (from the words you've written), you are going to do great and go now!!

(caveat: I will likely be quitting with only about 13x expenses, albeit with the intention of making money for fun and we have very different risk profiles!!)

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