Smashter's Great Adventure

Where are you and where are you going?
Smashter
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Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:38 am

I'm 29, and I recently moved to NYC for a job. I have a 64,000 dollar student loan that I have been hyper-aggressive about paying down over the last 18 months. The loan was at 165,000 just two years ago. I am very proud of my progress. It was through the usual routes (MMM, then ERE) that I became serious about tackling my debt and re-thinking my lifestyle choices.

I have had a wild ride the past couple of years. I went from making 22,000 per year working in the mail room of a Hollywood talent agency to making far more than that at my current job. Sure, I had to sell my soul and give up my artistic dreams, but that's a small price to pay for a big raise, right?

I joke about selling my soul, but it's something I actually think about. I was committed to making it as a TV writer, and now I pretty much do sales. If I had told my younger self about this coming development, he would have told me I was a coward for giving up and then resumed reading a David Foster Wallace short story. I even lied to some of my former colleagues after I made the decision to take my new job, telling them that my new role "still had a lot of writing aspects." I kept it vague. I couldn't admit that I was going a whole different direction.

But, I'm happier now. There was no guarantee I would have broken into the elite ranks of writers who earn a good living writing for TV shows. It's a slog. You are told to treat it like medical school: put in about 7 years of grueling work, and then if you're good you'll start making money in your early 30's.

I reached a point where I realized I wasn't talented or connected enough to be one of the wunderkids who breaks through early, and I didn't have the desire to be a starving artist writing screenplays in coffee shops for the next 5 years. Much respect to those that want it that bad, but it just wasn't me.

The breaking point came after I spent a year as an assistant to a writing team as they went through the process of developing a TV show for a major broadcast network. I got to watch two idealistic writers as their funny, orignal ideas were dumbed down and changed to the point of non-recongnition. Every rough edge was sanded off, every character was made more bland, every plot development made more predictable.

I'm sure it's different to develop a show for a cable network, but that was my experience. And it was a lot less like making "art" than I ever realized.

So, now I'm on a new path. My goal is to make enough money to be financially independent at a young age, so that I can then focus on making art if I want to, not to put food on the table. I also have many more interests outside of wriitng. I want to explore them all.

I won't be sharing fancy graphs and spreadsheets, because I am bad at those. But, I hope to keep everyone updated and I can't wait to apply the knowledge I gain from the community.
Last edited by Smashter on Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lucky C
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Lucky C » Sun Nov 13, 2016 12:00 pm

I was thinking about making the opposite move a while back, from a high paying job to something in TV or some other artistic endeavor. I did some sketch comedy writing and filming in college as a hobby, knew a bunch of people who did improv and stand up, and met some great people who are now on TV or writing for shows. Those college days were so much fun, but I realized it wouldn't be the same if I had to do it as a corporate job, for the reasons you list plus more. Thankfully I stuck with my wealth-building career and then found MMM & ERE to help guide me forward.

Once I retire from this career I will have so much time to develop anything artistic I want, with no restrictions except finances. Working with no creative restrictions on a shoestring budget is far preferable to working on a big budget production that is "industrially processed" / designed by committee.

Maybe if there are a few others like us, eventually we could start our own FI entertainment company!

Smashter
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Sun Nov 13, 2016 1:51 pm

Lucky C wrote: Once I retire from this career I will have so much time to develop anything artistic I want, with no restrictions except finances. Working with no creative restrictions on a shoestring budget is far preferable to working on a big budget production that is "industrially processed" / designed by committee.
Yep. Exactly what I'm thinking.

And ha, the FI entertainment company would be a fun project. We could probably make a funny youtube channel just filming people's reactions as they are told about various "extreme" ERE exploits. I bet some people would blow a gasket if they heard that there are non-poor people who dumpster dive, for instance. I'm sure there are better examples.

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Dragline
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Dragline » Sun Nov 13, 2016 4:24 pm

Smashter wrote: I reached a point where I realized I wasn't talented or connected enough to be one of the wunderkids who breaks through early, and I didn't have the desire to be a starving artist writing screenplays in coffee shops for the next 5 years. Much respect to those that want it that bad, but it just wasn't me.
This is a sign of maturity -- to "know thyself".

Nice progress on your debt, too.

I do think you will have many opportunities over the course of your life to make art. You might not get paid a whole lot for it -- or not at all, but its relatively easy now to turn a story into a video and get it out there. You'll find that even if just a few people watch or read what you have done, it will satisfy the urge to create something and get some kind of acknowledgement. And you never know what will end up being a big hit.

Make sure you keep some kind of a journal where you can write down those "someday" potential ideas, goals and outlines. If you make a practice of that, eventually something will emerge as "the thing" somewhere down the road. And you want to know what that thing is and maybe have a head start when you scale back or quit the day job.

Smashter
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Wed Nov 16, 2016 9:55 am

@Dragline

Thanks for the encouragement. I have started a "someday" journal based on your advice. I'm enjoying it so far. It helps me to step out of the current of walk to work/work/walk home/sleep and remind me that there's a whole world of possibility out there.

Smashter
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Mon Nov 28, 2016 5:33 pm

Just finished reading all of C40's journal over the holiday break. And holy crap, was it inspiring. I pride myself on being dedicated to achieving my goals, but he blows me away. Bravo, sir!

I'm now more determined than ever to live my life in a way that is fully in accordance with my values, no matter what people think.

As for goals, here is what I hope to accomplish in 2017:

- Eliminate the remaining $59,000 of my student loan (or come to some sort of agreement with my father about what a logical stopping point is since it is in his name and he wants to help me pay for it at some point - more in this thread)

- Save $20,000 in post-tax accounts (this will vary depending on what happens with my loan)

- Earn $900 per month from my side hustle

- Achieve a 70% savings rate

- Finish and publish an e-book

- Get better at taking screen breaks for stretching my body and relaxing my eyes. Set alarms every day when I get to the office and obey them.

- Be able to easily do 3x20 full squat to presses with 50lb dumbells

- Be able to do 60 pushups with no air in my lungs (I'm into the Wim Hof method these days)

- Read 25 books

- Check social media (twitter, facebook, Instagram) only once per day. Spend 5 minutes max on each site.

This all seems doable as long as my current job remains stable. It's an early stage startup, so my fingers are crossed.

Smashter
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:07 am

Had a long talk with my dad after I paid my student loan down to $52,000. We agreed that we would split the remaining balance 50/50. This was a surprisingly emotional moment. My dad really wanted to pay for college, but just couldn't make it work. He was so grateful that I was able to reduce the balance so dramatically over the past year. Now that he is on better footing, he wants to help me finish it off once and for all. While this loan has been such a stressor in my life, it has also brought my dad and I closer in ways I never expected.

An illuminating part of our conversation was when my Dad told me about how he wanted to start college funds for his kids. He said he couldn't because he never had the spare money. When I was born, BOTH my parents were lawyers at law firms in San Francisco. That lasted for a few years, and then my mom decided to become a nurse. For the next 25 years until the divorce, my Dad worked full time as a lawyer and my mom as an RN. Yet still, my entire life, they lived paycheck to paycheck. It's definitely a fate I want to avoid.

My mom's case is especially puzzling, as in some ways she has a fantastic ability to focus and think big picture. She got a law degree while pregnant, practiced law, then became an RN while raising young kids so as to be around more often to take care of us. That takes a lot of mental oomph.

Yet, none of her abilities ever coalesced into sound financial planning. The dots of "I want to have more free time" and "I could have more free time if I didn't spend so much money coloring my hair, buying clothes, and taking vacations" never connected.

Anyway, my goal is to have my loan balance paid off before my wedding in late August.

I had a pipe dream of refusing all wedding gifts and suggesting the guests contribute the final $2,000 of the loan payment. Then everyone in our lives would be able to say they helped me and DW overcome what once felt like insurmountable debt. Imagine the deep connection that would bring! Much more memorable than a store bought ceramic plate.

DW put the kibosh on that, as our families already think we're weird enough.

Speaking of DW, she told me she had her bag checked while exiting the subway in midtown Manhattan the other day. It's a little ridiculous that such a policy exists, and that it's existence is constantly blared out over the subway intercom ("ALL BAGS ARE SUBJECT TO SEARCH"), but that's the reality.

The guard started searching her bag in the brusque fashion of someone performing an unsavory task. Then, he noticed the ERE book, and his demeanor changed. He smiled and told DW he loved the book. She said she was surprised he'd heard of it.

He gestured to his coworkers, leaned in and said "All we talk about in here is how to get out."

DW was running late and had to hurry off, so that was the extent of the interaction. Small as it was, it makes me happy. It's sad that he has a job he hates that involves invading people's personal space, but at least he seems to have an escape plan. That's more than most people can say.
Last edited by Smashter on Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:33 pm, edited 3 times in total.

halfmoon
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by halfmoon » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:25 am

What a great story about the guard and the ERE book! Makes you wonder how many stealth ERErs are out there (I wanted to say Jacobites, but that's already taken). :D

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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by jacob » Wed Mar 29, 2017 11:04 am

Awesome!

The first rule of ERE is: You do not talk about ERE.
The second rule of ERE is: You do not talk about ERE.
...
The eight and final rule is if you see anyone with the ERE book, you have to introduce yourself.

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Dragline
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Dragline » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:29 pm

Smashter wrote:
Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:07 am
Had a long talk with my dad after I paid my student loan down to $52,000. We agreed that we would split the remaining balance 50/50. This was a surprisingly emotional moment. My dad really wanted to pay for college, but just couldn't make it work. He so grateful that I was able to reduce the balance so dramatically over the past year, and now that he is on better footing he wants to help me finish it off once and for all. While this loan has been such a stressor in my life, it has also brought my dad and I closer in ways I never expected.
That's great for you and your dad. Yes, relieving financial stress with a decent plan can often be emotionally satisfying.

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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Solvent » Sun Apr 02, 2017 7:53 am

To comment on the start of your journal, I also switched from the arts to a more 'sensible' career. I had come to the realisation that doing music was way frickin' harder than anyone outside the field believes, and I didn't love it enough to turn it into a job. I got good at economics (my chosen field now) working/studying probably two hours a day. To get good at music? People practice more like eight hours a day. People in many different kinds of 'serious' fields judge the arts as being a diversion, something to do for fun, but in my experience people trying to make a living there put in way more hours than people pursuing more conventional careers.

I guess that doesn't exclude it being a diversion, or something to do for fun.

Smashter
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:11 pm

I got married! The party was in my fiance's backyard. It was about as cheap as we could make it and still feed 140 people. We tried, feebly, to do the "no gifts" thing, but checks came anyway. We ended up clearing almost $5000 in profit, which is insane. I'm very grateful.

I have now had 4 final stage interviews for SaaS sales jobs at good companies. I've been rejected from each of them. This is disheartening, but I soldier on. Thankfully, I have a decent enough job while I look.

This job search has reminded me a lot of dating. I used to pursue women who were objectively out of my reach. They were either smarter, better looking or, quite often, both. This led to much rejection. But, eventually, I found the right person, without settling. It was worth the wait. I am confident something similar will happen with this search.

I am still uncertain as to whether a pure sales job is the right route, but now I am determined to try. Based on my experience, the other natural direction would be the vague sounding "customer success". This is basically keeping customers happy, putting out fires, upselling, etc. I do a lot of this at my current job, and I'm good at it, but I ultimately determined it to be too dull to do long term.

My creative pursuits march onward. I am writing a book of memoir-esque essays in my free time, and have been making good progress. I have really enjoyed separating my passions from my job. At first, that meant not taking a job in basketball upon finishing my playing career. Now it means not trying to find work as a full-time writer or editor. Using one part of my brain during the day, and another at night and on weekends, seems to work well for me.

In other news, my NW sits at 60k. My savings rate has been right around 65% for the year. I have work to do, mainly in the area of grocery shopping. I recently got some 5-gallon buckets with gamma seal lids, stuffed them with beans and rice that I got at a steep discount (shoutout to JennyPenny for notifying the forum about Augason Farm's sale a while back), and then...let them sit in my closet :(

It seems I liked the idea of stockpiling the rice and beans more than I like actually using them. My wife and I are starting to get better at using different spices to make interesting dishes, but we need to step it up in that regard.

In general, life is good! Must keep that in mind as the job search starts to wear on me.

EdithKeeler
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by EdithKeeler » Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:34 pm

Congratulations!

wolf
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by wolf » Wed Sep 20, 2017 2:58 am

Smashter wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:11 pm
I got married!
...
My creative pursuits march onward. I am writing a book of memoir-esque essays in my free time, and have been making good progress.
...
In other news, my NW sits at 60k. My savings rate has been right around 65% for the year.
Hey Smasther, congratulations to your progress.

Firstly, getting married with the right partner must be wonderful. Maybe I will also experience this one day. Your story about finding the right partner helps me to get a better understanding about expectations.

Secondly, do you write only for yourself or do you want to publish it some day? I have thought about creating a blog with weekly posts. Well, but then I would be triggered by outer influences and constraints. Therefore I write a daily journal and review it daily. What is your quality standard of your memoir-essays? Do you correct, rewrite, change them?

Thirdly, great NW and SR. Keep on saving :-)

Jason
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Jason » Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:52 am

Smashter wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:11 pm
I used to pursue women who were objectively out of my reach. They were either smarter, better looking or, quite often, both. This led to much rejection.
I'm assuming this was the first line of your wedding vows.

Congrats on getting hitched.

Smashter
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:11 am

Thanks guys!

@Jason - haha, yeah, "thanks for settling for me!" is the ultimate in romance. Although of course it's more nuanced. I think my main issue was confidence, and even re-reading that line it's clear I still have some issues in that regard. Subject for another post, perhaps.

@MD - I definitely plan on publishing it. Even if just a few family and friends purchase it, it will feel good. Plus, when I pursue writing work in the future, it will be cool to say "well, I have a book." :)

I obsessively re-write, correct, edit, etc. I will only set it free when I feel very confident it is high quality. I have a background in TV writing and I do freelance writing as a side gig, so I am comfortable with that whole write, edit, re-write process.

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Ego
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Ego » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:50 am

Smashter wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2017 7:36 am
I made my last payment today. My dad will finish off the final bit with his contribution this week. Feels so good to have it gone.
Smashter wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:11 pm
I got married!
Smashter is on a roll. Great adventure indeed! Congratulations!

Smashter
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Wed May 09, 2018 12:33 pm

My net worth is up to $137,000. All assets and finances have been combined with DW, so that total is for the both of us across all accounts. I'm happily rocking the Golden Butterfly, but a modified version at the moment. There is a strong chance we buy a home in the next couple years, so I’m stocking up extra cash.

Like so many others, I was initially very excited to get out of debt, but things normalized quickly. I thought the euphoria would last longer. Author and Psychologist Dan Ariely makes the point that the best way to predict how we will feel in the future is to study those who are doing what we want to do. I think my reaction to my current phase of accumulation is a good example of that.

Everyone I read said that there was nothing particularly exhilarating about going from $0 - $150,000 net worth and I am finding that to be the case. I'm still happy and motivated, but it's been interesting to notice how quickly I recalibrated and started focusing on the next goal. I want to get better at predicting based on the experiences of others rather than always thinking that I am going ot be a special case.
--------
Lately, I have been excelling in the following areas:

1) Making a lot of money at my job (~10k per month post-tax)
2) Saving 70% of that money.
3) Staying in good shape
4) Reading plenty of interesting books
5 Continuing to earn a side income stream from freelance work (about $900 per month)

I have been falling short in the following areas:

1) We are planning to move out of NYC one year from now, which demotivates me when it comes to making new friends or getting involved in my community.
2) I haven't made much progress in developing skills outside the realm of my two main job competencies. I want to learn basic carpentry, for instance. My mom just told me that my grandpa (Lithuanian immigrant, coal mine worker) used to say "Someone built it, so I should be able to take it apart and fix it." I want to one day be able to say that to a friend or family member without them bursting out laughing.

I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity yesterday, so that was a step in the right direction. I got to use a nail gun and a circular saw, both for the first time. That was pretty cool. I never thought I’d get so much joy out of putting up molding on windows and doors for 6 hours, but I really liked the work and the learning experience.

Onward to 200k!

Mister Imperceptible
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Mister Imperceptible » Wed May 09, 2018 10:24 pm

Congrats on the progress Smashter.

Like you, I paid off a substantial student loan, and after the initial rush, it wore off.

Did you play basketball in Division III?

Smashter
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Re: Smashter's Great Adventure

Post by Smashter » Thu May 10, 2018 6:18 am

Thanks!

Nope, Division One.

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