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

Posted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:05 am
by IlliniDave
Still Wondering if I Belong in this Community

Where am I and where am I going? Hmmm. I'm afraid it will take a number of entries to really capture all of that.

I'm writing here because I find capturing thoughts in writing therapeutic. Also, I read somewhere that writing engages a much larger portion of one's brain than simply thinking. Those are the selfish reasons. I also hope that maybe in some small way something I say or do might be of use to someone else.

Some of my basic stats...

I'll turn 50 later this year. I'm divorced for the last 6 years, my 2 kids are grown, out of the house, and mostly on their own. I have two grandchildren. My income is pretty high. According to the census bureau it puts me in the top 15% of US households. I've been continuously employed by the same company for over 27 years, although in a variety of assignments and locations. My net worth is something around 5X the median of my age cohort (again, census bureau data). I own a modest home in flyover country and am debt-free.

I've been remaking my life for the last two years. The path for me began in late December 2011 (that facet of the story is in my "Introduce Yourself" post). At that time, despite a good income, I was barely doing more than treading water financially, and generally coasting along in mindless middle class behavior patterns.

Someday I might talk more about this, but my goal is to gain financial independence with some reasonable margin, then move back "home" to Northern Illinois. When I look at all the considerations that go into that, there's a general convergence right around the time I turn 55, so that is my target date. I'm not doing this to escape my present "life", it's driven by a stronger pull towards some new endeavors. Although that may at times soften my sense of urgency, I think it's an advantage for me to be operating from positive energy/motivation rather than from negative. I'm just wired that way.

In a nutshell, my strategy has been to curb pointless expenses and accelerate savings/investing, with the investing generally serving to increase my income both now and in the future. Belying the simplicity of that statement, I've found a rich set of subtleties and synergy that extends beyond the balance sheet. I'm sure many others here have discovered many of the same things.

So, that's more or less where I am today and a general indication of where I'm headed. In the future I'll probably revert to following more of a journal format where I'll capture snapshots of whatever is at the forefront of my mind on the topic when I sit down. It will be haphazard, but in time it should start to add some flesh to the bone.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 6:45 pm
by IlliniDave
Learning as I Go

I've spent some more time exploring the site. Some things are apparent:

1. I'm definitely in the ERE-lite category. I'm not running anywhere near as lean/mean as many on here, and frankly I don't know that I ever will. I'll do my best though.

2. There appear to be some conventions/content traditions for these journal entries. I couldn't find where they are spelled out (book perhaps?), so I've been a bit overly conversational and substantially deficient on the fact reporting. It wasn't intentional.

3. I don't know how I feel about reporting so many specifics. I don't seem to fit the general demographic here. I'm well into midlife and have been saving and investing consistently and somewhat aggressively (relative to "average") for almost 30 years. A divorce set me back substantially, but even with that I'm in pretty good shape. Most of you would probably laugh and wonder what in the world I'm worrying about and why am I planning to work and dial up the intensity for 5 more years. The reason is simple, I lack the courage to put myself in a position to live on <$10K yearly. I'm planning on retiring on a lot less than most of my demographic peers, but apparently a lavish amount by ERE standards.

I'm not quite sure what to do at this point.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:01 pm
by jacob
There are conventions, but there aren't any written rules. Most people give budget details because they want to the accountability and specific suggestions for improvements. In general, if someone shows up asking questions how to improve their budget, they'll be asked for specific details because it's much easier to offer suggestions knowing if they spend $200 on phone bills. If not, just ignore details. You can put whatever you want in your journal. There are journals without numbers that focus more on the inner journey, journals that focus on skills, ...

The other main benefit of a journal is the likelihood of finding someone on the same page as you.

I think the average spending range around here is about $9-15k/person. I think the lowest I've ever seen is $4500. The highest about $25k? In terms of wealth, it varies between beginners who have nothing or even negative networth and others who have far more than they need (in excess of 100 years of expenses) and who can easily raise a couple of hundred k for a project if they had/wanted to.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 4:24 am
by IlliniDave
Thanks, Jacob.

Good to know the format is open and that I'm not completely the odd man out!

The money part is important, of course, but for me it's the "inner journey" as you put it that has really energized and fascinated me. It's funny because once I sensed the transformation the financial things began to feel abstract and the inner journey became the tangible.

And I'm inspired now! My 2013 expenses despite a fair amount of effort were ~$30.8K (income and payroll tax excluded). In the interest of excuse-making, that included some emergency economic stimulus to one of my adult kids and an amazingly unfortunate September that saw my PC die, a pipe starting to leak in one of my upstairs walls, and some hefty auto repairs all of which weren't part of "the plan". It's tempting to write those off as flukes, but at the same time it seems like nearly every year something like that comes up.

But based on the numbers you've shared, I've clearly got some opportunities for meaningful improvement.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 6:45 pm
by IlliniDave
Some More Introductory Stuff - On Investing

I noticed a thread on a different forum (Money Questions) about investment trading logs, along with others on various investment tactics.

I am a boring but reasonably successful investor. I've always been a buy and hold mutual fund guy, and as time has gone by I've become ever more entrenched in the low-cost index fund realm. Not exclusively so, but about 80% of my financial assets are in index funds. My employer's 401(k) plan is managed by Fidelity, and all my investing above that is with Vanguard. I didn't see a topic for this investing style on the Money Questions forum, so rather than hijacking a thread or starting a new one to draw attention to myself, I thought I'd just mention it here.

Within that framework I allocate my assets about 80% in equities and 20% in bonds. As I approach my retirement day I'm gradually moving towards a 70/30 allocation. The equities are split 70% US and 30% ex-US. Bonds are all USD-denominated and split primarily between US Treasury and tax-exempt municipal bonds. Part of the muni bond allocation doubles as a second-tier emergency fund. I don't consider my house or the various amounts of cash I hold in bank accounts in my investment math.

I buy additional shares on a continuous bi-weekly basis, and occasionally re-allocate money between investments (aka rebalance) to keep my proportions from getting too skewed. I suppose that all could be documented in the trade log, but I really don't think that's what people are interested in there. I am planning to add a REIT index fund to my portfolio in the near future--a new addition to the the lineup in my 401(k) plan in the last month.

My deployment hierarchy starts with maxing out my 401(k). This year I get make catch-up contributions too. Next priority is to fund a nondeductible IRA (plus catchup) which is converted to a Roth IRA. Everything else I can manage to save goes to Vanguard in a taxable investment account.

I don't have exact numbers, but I save about 55% of my gross income, which equates to a little shy of 75% of my after-tax income (the math there is a little fuzzy because the 401k is pre-tax dollars, so some of it is ultimately Uncle Sam's money). That savings rate is nothing to sneeze at, but I'd like to do a little better.

So, that's what I do with my savings to grow it and ultimately provide myself a retirement income stream. Any comments or questions are welcome. In the near future I'll probably lay out mechanics I'm looking at using to draw a relatively steady income out of the nest egg once I've set aside my full-time professional career.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:36 pm
by Chad
Don't feel too bad, as I'm roughly around your total expenses. I always say I'm more ER than ERE. Share what you want to share concerning the financial details.
IlliniDave wrote:Some More Introductory Stuff - On Investing
I am a boring but reasonably successful investor. I've always been a buy and hold mutual fund guy, and as time has gone by I've become ever more entrenched in the low-cost index fund realm. Not exclusively so, but about 80% of my financial assets are in index funds. My employer's 401(k) plan is managed by Fidelity, and all my investing above that is with Vanguard. I didn't see a topic for this investing style on the Money Questions forum, so rather than hijacking a thread or starting a new one to draw attention to myself, I thought I'd just mention it here.
I don't think we talk about that strategy a lot because it gets covered on a lot of sites. However, please feel free to talk about it, as we all have opinions on everything.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 5:51 am
by IlliniDave
Hi Chad,

Yes, the stodgy indexing strategy has gained some popularity in recent years. It was actually through bogleheads.org that I ultimately found my way here, with MMM being a waypoint. I don't think I'm quite orthodox enough to be considered a boglehead proper myself, but awful close. I still participate over there regularly, so while I'm happily willing to talk about investing (it's an endeavor I enjoy), I don't feel a big need to be an instigator here. I don't think I'm sophisticated enough to participate in most of the discussions on that topic I've checked out anyway.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 7:55 am
by IlliniDave
Excuse Making (Thinking about Spending)

For a number of reasons I find myself thinking about expenses this morning--and I really should say spending rather than expenses because expenses implies some sort of obligation. Spending sounds a lot more voluntary, which is more accurate as it applies to me.

One of the more valuable things I've done over the last 5-6 years is to record all my spending and categorize it. 2009 is the first full year I have data for, and I spent about $78,000 that year. By 2012 it was down to around $48,000 (which included ~$12K in repairs/upgrades to the exterior of my house). 2013 was my best year so far, where $30,800 went out the door (which included $3-4K of unexpected repair/replacement costs). Unfortunately, in 2014 I'll be taking a step back, as I'll be putting about $25K into interior repairs, renovations, and upgrades for my house. I'll be lucky to keep the total cost of my year below $50K. Nonetheless, I was proud of myself because relative to going along at a $78K clip, I was still looking at being $180-190K (plus investment returns) ahead over the 6-year period.

One of the ironies in all this is that growing up I was surrounded by frugal and relatively self-reliant role models. Most notorious perhaps was my maternal grandfather, although my dad's right on his heels. One of the most vivid memories of my childhood was staying overnight at my grandarent's house and spending the next day "repairing" all his lawn furniture by replacing all the worn out webbing. Of course, while we were doing this my grandmother was inside sewing clothes for herself.

They both often used the phrase "can't afford that" (as did my parents) when they really meant "don't want to waste money on that". I/we learned after they died that they were actually somewhat wealthy. But not knowing that as a young adult, I completely missed the point. I set out to be able to say "I can afford that" because I felt bad that my grandpa had to spend a whole summer day repairing inexpensive lawn furniture that everyone else I knew (that I wasn't related to) would have just tossed out and replaced with new. I thought he would be proud of me if I could achieve that. I suspect that wouldn't quite be what he'd think if he saw me today.

So anyway, I got into the pattern that jacob and others so often write about. I specialized around my occupation and used money to compensate for an awfully limited skill set. So here I am almost 50 with a desire to become far more self reliant and more generally skilled. I'm excited about that prospect, but as I prepare to hand out a lot of money to contractors and tradesmen to spruce up my house, I am a bit frustrated I didn't "think this earlier"--like decades earlier.

Of course the obvious question is, why not start now and do the planned work myself? I considered that, but opted to hire it out because I'm intending to sell the house in a handful of years and am sensitive to both improving the sale value and saleability of the place. It's just to much for me to bite off and chew right now. That rationalization is probably influenced by a lack of courage, but so be it. My next home after this I expect to the one they eventually haul me out of feet first, and I believe the repressed DIYer in me will flourish a little more openly there.

And all is not lost. One of my ongoing projects is prepping and repainting one of my spare bedrooms--believe it or not, interior painting is something I've never done before. It's a baby step. And I've got a list of small repairs to follow up with after that. Hopefully the momentum will start building.

So, I've got way off course! I meant to talk more about a different project I was going to sit down with sometime over this weekend, that being to look at things and determine just what it would take to get my baseline expenses (excluding those of the unpredictable and occasional variety) down to $20K/yr. I already have an "emergency budget" that I drew up a few years back to switch to should I hit a gap in employment, but I want to look at what exactly it would mean if I pared down to that while still working. There's a lot of context that gets folded in, so I guess I'll have to save that entry for tomorrow or some other day.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:02 am
by IlliniDave
Seven Small Things

I made this list to make myself feel better. At times I feel like no progress is being made, and that I'm just idly waiting for time to pass until FI/early retirement. Lists like these remind me that I am being more active in this endeavor then I sometimes give myself credit for. Plus I'm gradually building skill/capability for future frugal living, as well as "auditioning" my intended future lifestyle (if extended frugality isn't for me, it's better to find out now and adjust rather than after I make some irreversible decisions). The list contains both recent accomplishments and some short-term goals/plans.

1. I shut off my DirecTv service today. I like sports so what I've done is really to "suspend" my service until the beginning of college football. This fall I may not actually restart it--that's a tough call. An antenna does me no good because I can't just sit around and watch whatever game happens to come on. There's a couple specific teams I follow and like to watch--the rest I can take or leave. Even if I put it back on in the fall, I'll be saving a few hundred $$ in the interim.

2. I'm rededicating myself to doing more cooking. I actually enjoy cooking but have let myself get tricked by convenience foods being "on sale" and so have been a bit sloppy at the grocery store. My crock pot hasn't been out of the cupboard in 2014 and my freezer is half empty. That needs to change.

3. I've made some modifications to my home renovation plan, and moved two painting tasks out of the contractor's list onto my DIY list. I've also changed some of the material selections to reduce those costs. That should be an avoidance of about $1200 without hurting potential resale a whole lot.

4. I have designed a rig for hanging clothes to dry in one of my spare bedrooms (homeowners covenant forbids doing it outdoors--someday I'll probably editorialize at great lengths about homeowners associations). Probably not a huge financial boon, but line drying at least some of my laundry during the heat of the summer will make me feel better. I have all the materials laying around, so once I'm done painting the room I can get started. I block off the HVAC flow to this room in the summer, so it gets pretty darn warm most days. I think it'll work well.

5. I spent yesterday teaming up with a neighbor pruning trees (using my pole saw and his chain saw). Avoided about $350 to hire a tree service to cut and haul.

6. This has been ongoing, but I fetched a couple of my old guitars out of the closet a while back and started playing (learning) again. It's a very soothing hobby that curbs a lot of my "itch" to find things to do out of the house, which almost always winds up with some amount of pointless cash outflow.

7. I was inspired by one of the blogs that discussed building one's own bicycle. I have no idea how to go about doing that, but I'm actually excited by the prospect and officially wrote that on my to-do list. I won't be able to commute to work, but I can take care of a fair number of errand-runs and more exercise never hurts.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:08 am
by IlliniDave
Q1 2014 Summary

I have a mega spreadsheet that I use to track essentially "life, the universe, and everything". There are a few quarterly updates I do. Primarily my updates are annual. In the past I used to update everything monthly, but over time settled on quarterly. I brought over some of the items I review periodically that apply pretty directly to FI/retirement

The caveat leading into to this is that, although it has changed a few times along the way, I've been working a retirement plan for many years. So even though I'm new here this is a midstream snapshot.

The first quarter of 2014 was mediocre. I achieved a growth in net worth of $32.8K for the quarter, which is tepid, and the net worth growth year-over-last was $178.4K (due substantially to unusually strong gains in stock investments during 2013). Spending for the quarter (excluding income/payroll taxes) was about $8.2K, which is disappointing. Some of that is due to beginning to lay out capital for a semi-major home renovation project that's been brewing since last fall.

Looking ahead to second quarter, I expect an upward spike in spending that will essentially flatten net worth. Invested assets should increase, but sinking funds for the renovation projects should largely be depleted. It's possible that I'll begin working overtime near the end of the quarter. Between that and all the work going on around the house, I should have minimal risk of wasting money to alleviate boredom; and the small uptick in income will help offset some of the money poured into the house.

As of March 31, were I to enact my "retirement plan", I could expect to safely generate an income of $18.6K/yr ($1,550/month) based solely on my invested assets. That's probably enough to keep a roof overhead, stay warm in winter, and keep a pot of lentils on the stove. So I could probably claim some degree of financial independence. However, I am not convinced that I could keep that up for a sustained time. One of my criteria before pulling the plug is to get asset-derived income above some level that I've successfully lived on for a period of time (to "audition" my future lifestyle before I do something I regret).

That said, it's clear to me that I have quite a lot of work to do with managing day-to-day spending. I'm lean and mean compared to most people I com in contact with on a daily basis, but I'm learning that with a bit more courage and self-confidence, I could probably do quite a lot better. That will be a focus area for this coming quarter.

In summary, as far a trackable and quantifiable progress goes, I expect some choppy water ahead, but by the fall/winter I believe I should regain forward momentum in that part of the equation that I control.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:37 am
by IlliniDave
When to take the Leap

I realize I've been in denial. I could walk away from my full time professional employment today, and as long as I don't $hit the bed, I could live out my days without any worries about winding up hungry and homeless in any non-apocalyptic scenario.

Yet I retain a strong inner resistance.

Part of it is probably my inherent sense of financial conservatism that has allowed me to reach a point in my life where I have some true financial freedom. I didn't get to where I am by being an all-or-nothing risk taker when it comes to money. I like to operate with robust margin. Part of it is a lingering sense of responsibility to to be a last line of financial defense for my family.

I'm starting to think maybe a bigger part of it is cowardice. For a while now I've recognized that in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. But maybe my subconscious is truly so afraid of turning away from the familiar path and forcing myself to rely on myself in the moment rather than just coasting on my past accomplishments that I'm effectively paralyzed.

Maybe my focus should be more on promoting courage and faith in myself than piling up even more money and future income.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:08 pm
by EdithKeeler
I wanted to tell you that I really enjoy reading your journal. You and I are the same age and you write about many of the things that I think about as well.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2014 9:35 pm
by Carlos
I can related to your dilemma of when to take the leap. I'm struggling with it as well. Years ago I established my desired NW target and now that I've reached it I'm still hesitant to RE. I guess now I understand better the One More Year syndrome.

Thanks for writing, I enjoying reading about your journey.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2014 6:25 am
by IlliniDave
Friday Fails

Yesterday was just one of those days.

It wasn't all bad--it started with some tentatively good news from a trip to my MD's office, with some additional (routine) test results pending. I'm one of those people who came just shy of the tipping point of the cardiovascular/inflammation/insulin/cholesterol/overweight/stress syndrome through neglect of my health. Learning that I was going to be a grandfather, and thinking of my own paternal grandfather whom I do not remember (he passed when I was less than 2 years old, around age 52-53), finally spurred me to action a small handful of years ago. In the big picture that's probably more important than my financial saga.

From there it was one of those days where good intentions and good results did not coincide.

My doctor's appointment gave me a convenient reason to take the whole day off. Spring is well underway in my part of the country, and since I'll be mowing soon I thought it would be a good day sharpen up my blades and prep the mower. This is a task where "old" IlliniDave would have loaded up the mower, hauled it to the repair shop, and forked over $75 to have "annual service" performed on the mower. I figured sharpening lawnmower blades was something I could accomplish over the course of the afternoon with minimal expense, and with spare time to change the oil, clean the air filter, and the like. As it turned out, I wound up with $106.65 in expenses (which included paying the aforementioned repair shop $14 to sharpen the one of my 2 blades that was salvageable and $17 for a new blade). And I still have to reinstall the blades and do the rest of the maintenance today. Hopefully that will proceed without generating further expense.

So after 5 hours, two trips to the hardware department of the local big box, one trip to the repair shop in town, I was reminded of what motivated me to fall into the pattern of just throwing money at problems (which I did anyway, just not the lazy but efficient way of doing it from the start).

It's not a complete "fail" because part of the money went towards purchasing tools required to properly remove and reinstall the mower blades. But if I'd have started the project a month ago rather than a few days before I'd need to use the mower, I could have been more efficient about it. One of the things I learned was that being a bit more diligent about maintaining the blades would have extended the life of the fubar blade much longer. So I don't mind spending $50 for tools I'll need a couple times a year (and they are general purpose--metric sockets, breaker bar, torque wrench--not specialty tools useful only for this make/model of mower).

Still, the day turned out far different for my wallet than I'd hoped. Plus, the sense of satisfaction with the fruits of my own labor proved elusive. Maybe I'll feel better when everything is back together and I'm pushing the mower around the yard. It's episodes like yesterday that give me pause when considering excessively spartan requirement income. I have to leave allowance for some "tuition" money I suppose! :)

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:48 am
by IlliniDave
Ever Evolving Calculus and other Randomness

I own my house and have been operating on the assumption that given I'm only planning to live my current vicinity of the country for 5 years at most, I'm best off staying in it and doing my downsizing when I move to the far edge of the third state away.

But I sharpened my pencil and determined that in theory I could come out $785/month ahead before replacement housing costs are considered, which break down roughly to $400 in interest/income I could generate with the equity money, $100 in reduced commuting costs, and $285 in insurance, taxes, and HOA dues. I'm not even including periodic maintenance and upkeep costs homeowners get hit with.

It seems that if I could rent something for less than $785/month I'd come out slightly ahead from a cash flow perspective. The "soft" advantages are that such a move would force me to downscale my possessions and furniture sooner, and I'd be auditioning life with much more constrained living space than what I've grown used to. There are logistical challenges: finding a right-sized rental within walking/biking distance of work for that cost, and it will take some doing to get my house in ready condition to sell.

I think it's worth investigating further.

Something I once read, I think from Ernie Zelinski (I'm surprised he doesn't get more mention here), that I randomly remembered this morning (paraphrased):

~"Be motivated to take time and determine [to you] what is important and what is not. Be motivated to do the important things with excellence. Be motivated to stop doing the unimportant things."

The context was in a discussion about leisure/retirement activities from one of his books. I wrote that little list down and later I'm going to hang it somewhere where I'll see it periodically (but not so often that I mentally block it from conscious observation--something I'm good at).

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:30 am
by IlliniDave
Trying to Make it Natural

I'm very prone to slip back into old habits. Often it's probably a case of not quite shedding them to begin with. If it isn't obvious, I'm a fan of Zen philosophy. I have never practiced formally or anything; maybe that is something I should do someday.

I tend to get binary in my focus, often as regards states of doneness. E.g, tasks A, C, and D are "done". Tasks B, E, and F are "not-done", and therefore occupy some corner of my awareness and provide an ongoing sense of dissatisfaction, albeit usually a mild one.

Today I'm going to consciously practice mindfulness as I go about my day as scripted by my to-do list. To this end I'm going to put special attention towards the act of doing rather than the state of completeness.

I believe this mindset is very important for me to develop/rekindle as I move towards retirement. I currently depend on my job to supply much of my generic human need for structure and purpose (for community as well, but that's a topic for another day). In retirement I want to address those needs through leisure and creative pursuits, which in my mind are much more about the process than about completion. In some ways it is like retraining myself to be a kid through unwinding the conditioning of western corporate behavior and middle class expectations. I feel sometimes like I've turned into a big flow diagram over the years, and my job over the next 5 years is to become a blank page.

This "struggle" has been going on for a year or two, and it's frustrating that periodically I have to stop and make a big deal about reminding myself to be mindful of cultivating "right mind", given I know it is critically important to successfully downscaling my life. Having to do so causes me to doubt the genuineness of my dedication.

Nevertheless, it is supposed to be magnificent Spring day and much of what I'll be doing is rhythmic and outdoors. Even if I don't progress regarding my longer term inner goals, it should be an easy day to get into a peaceful place--something that's worth the price of admission by itself.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:38 am
by Dragline
This journal is nice read -- I look forward to your updates.

I have not read Zelinski, but he has a number of books. If you were to recommend just one, which one would it be?

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:20 pm
by IlliniDave
Dragline wrote:This journal is nice read -- I look forward to your updates.

I have not read Zelinski, but he has a number of books. If you were to recommend just one, which one would it be?
Thanks! I'm only familiar with two of EZ's books: How to Retire Wild, Happy, and Free; and The Joy of Not Working. There's a lot of overlap between the two (several chapters appear in both nearly verbatim. I haven't read the ERE book, although based on a skim through with the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon, Zelinski's style is a lot different from ERE--more conversational and humorous. I know nothing about any of EZ's books aside from those two.

I read How to Retire Wild, Happy, and Free first (it was an impulse grab off the bookstore shelf the day I went and bought YMOYL), so would give it the nod just based on that, but really it's a toss-up. You'll get the bulk of the same material in both, so the one thing I'd say is don't pay for both, just one or the other. These books are definitely slanted towards personal well-being outside of the M-F/9-5 routine, and you won't find detailed strategies on money management or homesteading or other "technical" things. For me they've provided inspiration in getting me to think through just what exactly I might do when it's time to leave my full-time profession behind. They also got me thinking seriously about the possibility of checking out with a lot less money than I had been planning on accumulating.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:21 pm
by Gilberto de Piento
And I'm inspired now! My 2013 expenses despite a fair amount of effort were ~$30.8K (income and payroll tax excluded). In the interest of excuse-making, that included some emergency economic stimulus to one of my adult kids and an amazingly unfortunate September that saw my PC die, a pipe starting to leak in one of my upstairs walls, and some hefty auto repairs all of which weren't part of "the plan". It's tempting to write those off as flukes, but at the same time it seems like nearly every year something like that comes up.
I'm having the same problem. For years I had a spreadsheet with a budget. My actual savings were never anywhere near what the budget projected. Once I started posting on this site and tracking in Mint I found out why - every month there are hundreds of dollars spent unexpectedly.

Some of these costs are seemingly unavoidable without extreme measures (example: to avoid auto repair costs I might sell my car). I'm glad to hear it's not just me. Good luck!

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2014 4:45 am
by IlliniDave
Gilberto de Piento wrote: I'm having the same problem. For years I had a spreadsheet with a budget. My actual savings were never anywhere near what the budget projected. Once I started posting on this site and tracking in Mint I found out why - every month there are hundreds of dollars spent unexpectedly.

Some of these costs are seemingly unavoidable without extreme measures (example: to avoid auto repair costs I might sell my car). I'm glad to hear it's not just me. Good luck!
What I'm hoping is that through collecting data I can develop decent long-term averages for those sorts of costs and account for them some way. It's fairly straightforward while I'm accumulating because as you noted savings can be adjusted downward to cover the occasional unplanned things. It becomes a little trickier during the distribution phase. Yet another reason, I suppose, to build in a little margin. Also another reason to keep a simple ER lifestyle, less stuff to go wrong.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2014 5:22 pm
by DutchGirl
Hi Dave,

Nice to meet you!
IlliniDave wrote:Learning as I Go

2. There appear to be some conventions/content traditions for these journal entries. I couldn't find where they are spelled out (book perhaps?), so I've been a bit overly conversational and substantially deficient on the fact reporting. It wasn't intentional.
Maybe it's because a lot of people here are engineers and other "numbers-loving"-people? I can drive my boyfriend crazy by my apparent lack of interest in numbers. I often joke that I count: "1, 2, many / a lot".

For the life of me I can't be interested in whether we have 6 million or 6 billion or maybe 50 million basepairs in our DNA, on the amount of zeroes when describing the amount of stars in the universe, or on the amount of electricity that is produced by a wind turbine. It's "a lot"...

I loved reading your musings, and I hope they are also helping you improve your life in some way.

I'm probably also doing ERE-light, given that I spent roughly $25k last year and will do the same this year. And that I will probably be FI only by age 45 to 50 or so... Hopefully! But this forum inspires me and is also an antidote to the people who are spending all they earn and then some. It shows me that so much more is possible than what I thought is possible...

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:32 am
by IlliniDave
Hi DutchGirl, good to meet you too!

I do quite a lot of musing, and yes, it is helpful. I once read somewhere that writing involves a significantly larger portion of one's brain than simply sitting and thinking. I don't know if that is true, but I do find that the process of fishing "things" from my subconscious/intuition and assembling them in the language of conscious thought helps me figure out what I really think (if that makes any sense).

I think you might be right regarding the numbers. I don't know who are engineers and who are not, but numbers are somewhat tangible and do tell part of the story, like it or not. When I wrote that I had noticed a degree of consistency in the handful of entries I looked at, so I thought maybe there was a facet to ERE that suggested journaling certain information.

I'm a numbers person insofar as I understand them pretty well. But I'm more engaged by inner growth, and possibility of remaking the calloused husk that was flung out the rat race machine's discard chute into something I can live with for (hopefully) the next few decades. I share your sense of inspiration!

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2014 4:41 am
by IlliniDave
Another Day, Another Dollar?

Well, not quite, more like $0.83 for me--that's the expected increase to my monthly FI income attributable to a single workday under my present plan. It doesn't include the vagaries of investment returns.

When I begin to generate silly little numbers like that it's a sure sign that my enthusiasm is waning, and that I'm really "reaching" for some fresh way to think about things. I've noticed this tends to happen in the Spring which is the time of year I typically become deluged with a lot of tedious work around my house/property and feel like I lose ground on a daily basis. By the latter part of September I begin to feel caught up again. Autumn is always the best time of year for my spirits. Perhaps that bodes well for my retirement years.

$0.83 per month.

That will be my mantra today.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:45 am
by IlliniDave
Can I Whine a Little?

Sigh

I'm hoping I'll find some sympathetic listeners here.

In various places, both over the internet and in real life, I have ongoing discussions on the topics of lifestyle, money, and retirement. (There are perhaps good reasons why those subjects are considered taboo in some circles!)

I understand that what works for me won't work for everyone, and I'm fine with that. I can do the live and let live thing quite easily.

I'm also generally resilient. When push comes to shove I really don't care what people think about me. Maybe it's because I've become quite selfish in my "old" age, I dunno.

But I do get irritated at being continually lectured to when I know the lecturer is incorrect. Lately I seem to be getting a barrage of:

-You are making a big mistake if you retire too soon
-You are making a big mistake if you don't retire with an enormous amount of money
-You need to live a little
-You can't possibly be happy if you're running around with your TV disconnected, cooking lentils, and have to flip your phone open to use it.
-You should seek help (premise being that I'm wallowing in abject misery because of some disordered fear/insecurity about money in the future).

A person can have a good life without leaving $50-bills strewn behind them the way Hansel dropped bread crumbs! Is that really so hard to understand, even for the type of person who would prefer to pave the road with cash wherever she/he goes?! It is not a huge intellectual leap.

I try to patiently explain that my consumption rate and degree of happiness/contentment are inversely related. I am not eating Alpo and wearing clothes made from discarded potato sacks. I do not retrieve food from Dumpsters. I eat simply, sure (and my heath as indicated by weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels/composition, triglycerides, and resting heart rate are better than they've been in decades).

Does anyone else get this sort of grief from people? In general it comes from well-meaning people, but I can't possibly be that obtuse.

Sigh.

Okay, rant over. Now I'm going to seek out the positive aspects of the rest of my day.

Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstr

Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2014 4:06 pm
by EdithKeeler
IlliniDave wrote:

Does anyone else get this sort of grief from people? In general it comes from well-meaning people, but I can't possibly be that obtuse.

Sigh.

Okay, rant over. Now I'm going to seek out the positive aspects of the rest of my day.


Yes, I do. And as I get happier and more excited about the prospect of my exit, I have to contain myself not to talk about it much. I have a few people that I am close enough to "talk money" with, and all but one of them thinks I'm crazy when I say something that goes against the grain of conventional money advice. So... I just don't talk about it much. (The one person who doesn't think I'm crazy has early semi-retired--he's a lawyer who's basically working only to pay his youngest son's college tuition. Of course, he's got a big inheritance coming from his very rich parents, too, so his reality and mine are not similar....).

Most everyone at work knows I don't have a TV. I mentioned this in front of a few people and it immediately became fodder for ongoing discussion: "But what do you do when you get home from work?" was the big one, like plunking your ass on the sofa to watch TV after sitting on your ass all day at work is the only option. I just smile an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile, like I've discovered the secret of the universe. I'm glad I've finally gotten beyond caring what other people think (for the most part...I still have moments). My true friends love me, though they appreciate that I've always been weird; my coworkers and acquaintance are just that and I only have to deal with them at work.

I think not talking about it is best. Otherwise we seem like those religious nuts that have "found the Answer" and want to share it; those are people I try to avoid, too!

"The first rule of early retirement is don't talk about early retirement. The second rule of early retirement is don't talk about early retirement..."