Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Simple living, extreme early retirement, being wealthy, ...
suomalainen
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Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by suomalainen »

Looking for advice, on what or for what, I don’t know. Well, actually, I guess what I’m actually looking for is first reactions. Maybe someone’s reaction (or the group of them) will cause something to gel for me.

Perhaps the way to start / state this is to say that I’m grappling with a dilemma. On the one hand is saving as many pennies as I can for early retirement. On the other hand is to spend some money on a bigger house. In the middle sits me and my family’s situation. I’ll take these in reverse order.

Family situation
As mentioned in my journal, I have three kids. On some (modern?) level, parenthood can be boiled down to this: you lose your identity as an individual and even as a human – you become a platform, with the goal of launching your children successfully into their own lives. I’m fighting back against overdoing this tendency, knowing that the kids will figure it out even with a shitty platform, just like I did and just like many others do. My wife, on the hand, has intense motherhood raging in her – total mama bear. She wants a very stable platform for the kids until they’re out of the house. So, at least 10 more years. So, no early retirement (i.e., adventures like van living or extensive travel or living off the land) until then. She will not move from a suburban address until then. Just a flat no. Dealbreaker. After the kids fly away, she claims she’ll do anything I want – live in a van, live in Costa Rica, whatever.

My situation
I think I value optionality more than actually exercising any particular option, at least for long, at which point I like to try something different. I’m a dabbler. When I think of retirement, the emotional response is “free” – free from the daily grind, free to do what I want. What do I want? I don’t know. I want to try it all, I guess. When we’ve looked at houses, the only houses I’ve wanted to make an offer on are houses on 15+acres or a house with a few hundred acre game reserve on two sides. The emotional response these houses have evoked is “free” or “space” – free/space to build, to roam, to breath, to be alone. My inspirations on these forums (not having read too widely) are spoonman, c40, illinidave and halfmoon – people for whom nature is a big deal and who embraced it with a sense of adventure.

House situation
Our current 1400 sq. ft. house with 5 people is already kind of like a tiny house adventure. It’s fine; it works. But it’s on a quarter acre in suburban hell. The only “freedom” this offers me is that it’s comparatively cheap, so it advances the early retirement goal more quickly. It’s worth maybe $280,000 +/- $20,000 gross. The 15 acre houses I liked are $540,000 (listed), $580,000 (sold, listed initially for $630,000), $800,000 (listed), $850,000 (listed currently, but started at $1.1MM). There are others, but they're all fancy houses on manicured landscapes and well over a million. The upper end of the real estate market ($550,000+) here has compressed like crazy in the last few years, so the $800+ houses should continue to come down. If I roll the old house equity, the 10 year cost delta for buying an $800,000 house is ~$248,000 in interest and taxes, leaving aside insurance and utilities which would also likely increase (unclear how to compare old, small, poorly insulated house on city water/sewer and oil furnace to new, big, well insulated house on well/septic and propane furnace).

Early retirement situation
As mentioned in my journal, depending on the performance of my company stock and ignoring certain tax rules (and college tuition!), I could retire / be financially independent in 5 years, even assuming an on-going 5-person household. But that leaves me with 5 years of having two high-schoolers, and I’m still stuck in my quarter acre suburban hell. Sure I might be able to cut out the work part, but I wouldn’t have the chance to do something really “different” (i.e., adventures like van living or extensive travel or living off the land) for 5 more years. I sorta shrug my shoulders and think “when in Rome…”, so I should “just one more year” it for 5 more years.

Maybe I just lack imagination, I dunno. But the mutual evocation of this sense of “freedom” from the two different paths made me think that I maybe need more perspectives. I also watched Without Bound last night, so the idea of being tied down by expensive real estate is weighing on me this morning and weighing against the emotional attachment I have to real estate with 15+ acres.

So, thoughts? Reactions? Advice even?

7Wannabe5
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

The solution I encouraged for my BF, who found himself in a similar situation, was to split his costs between inexpensive apartment in low-rent district close to expensive suburb where his ex-wife and 12 year old son reside, and purchase/low-key development of a tract of raw wilderness within weekend commuting distance. Of course, my own self-interest was also served since this provided a new home for my camper and a fun playground for me. WIN-WIN!

Fish
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by Fish »

As I see it, the problem is that you don't seem to want the life that you already have. Or, you're willing to tolerate it but there's a nagging desire to escape it and do something else, alone. Please correct me if this is inaccurate.

Is there anyone with the same set of constraints (wife, kids, suburban dwelling) that is living the way you would like? Instead of trying to design the change into your current life, can you find someone who is leaving your preferred life and just copy them?

What other constraints are you working with? Do you need to stick with your current job? How far away is your wife willing to move? What about Finland?

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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by jacob »

How long has this 15acre desire been going on? Do you have any experience with running such a place?

A few years ago we bought a 950 sqft house. Just to provide some "tiny house" perspective, this was the average size house for the 1950s era. Our neighbor's house is exactly like ours and they raised 3 kids in it.

Before buying this I figured that maybe "light homesteading" was for me. I wanted to build up a fantastic garden (ala cmonkey or ffj); I would gradually DIY and upgrade the house. However, after the initial excitement, it has turned into a "do the minimum" kind of maintenance. "Polishing the lawn" or spending a weekend trimming rose bushes is just not my thing. If things (like doors, toilets, heaters ...) work, that is good enough for me. Unlike the target demographic of "This Old House" I harbor no fantasies about renovating room after room and I seem to have little appreciation for fanciness.

My parents live on what used to be a 64 acre working farm until they sold most of the land off turning it into a 2-3 acre hobby farm. They spend pretty much all their free time maintaining the land and buildings. This year the roofs (4 buildings!) got painted. Last year it was some other thing. Mowing the lawn apparently takes three hours ... using a lawn tractor! They bought it when I was 12. It came with a few acres of forest and even a creek. Back then I imagined I would spend a lot of time in the forest (it was about 1.5 miles away) and fishing (about 1 mile). It happened very rarely. Maybe 1-2 times per year. It was more attractive in theory than in practice.

I realize that other people are different. My parents actually seem to both enjoy and gain significant meaning out of maintaining and primping their "shelter". Actually, I might be the odd outlier here.

I guess my points are: 1) 1400 sqft is not tiny. 2) Have you verified that this is not just a dream before you sink $1M into it?

Also suggestion: There's always the grand adventure doing a multi-week RV trip during the summer holidays. Easy way to test the waters ... or take the edge off. Also 7's suggestion. If you buy hunting/timberland, you can even pretend it's an investment ;-)

IlliniDave
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by IlliniDave »

Well, there's the old adage: "Happy wife, happy life," that I would encourage anyone to refrain from dismissing too quickly.

If it were me I'd try to get through the children-at-home years with as little house as possible. I don't remember what your income is, if you've even mentioned it somewhere, but $800K for a residence seems like a potential obstacle to ER unless you income is really high, like maybe north of $400K/year. My home and cabin added together barely cost more than $300K, and were purchased 17 years apart. I grew up in a 1,500 ft^2 house with 6 people, so your current situation is not outrageous.

I don't remember where you live but there are likely parks and preserves you can visit to keep that side of you active. I used to take my girls on easy hikes and fishing trips locally.

The more integral presence of the wild world in my life is still only occasional, and won't be a regular feature until I pull the plug is 2019 or thereabouts. If you can swing the home with a big parcel of undeveloped land without upsetting your other goals too much, then go for it and enjoy.

suomalainen
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by suomalainen »

@all of you but fish:

I've looked into buying a "weekend getaway", but there are three problems with this:
1) I live in a densely populated area, with a lot (A LOT) of really rich people within 100 miles of me. This creates three problems:
a) There's not a lot of undeveloped land on the market at any one time in any reasonable radius.
b) What is available within a few hour drive is expensive - everyone has, or wants, a weekend getaway. Like $150,000 for raw land of not even grand proportions or amenities.
c) Even if you're "out there", the building codes are strict. Unless I only constructed a small shed for myself, I'd plunk down a huge chunk of money to build even a small cabin to the building codes.
d) Add these problems all up and I'm paying $200,000+ for a "simple, rustic cabin".
2) If I get what I want (land to get away from life, society, people, whatever), then my wife has a very strong argument that she should get what she wants, a bigger house, which is call it ~$400,000. Ergo, house + cabin = $650,000+ PLUS a commute to get to my cabin, MINUS a family who won't want to drive with me hours whether it's a shithole or not. Doesn't really save me any money.

@fish
Fish wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:23 am
As I see it, the problem is that you don't seem to want the life that you already have. Or, you're willing to tolerate it but there's a nagging desire to escape it and do something else, alone. Please correct me if this is inaccurate.
Yes, as previously disclosed to you, I think, there are some regrets re: decisions that made me responsible for 5 human lives rather than just 1. Life, I am coming to learn, is partly about acceptance, both who you are and what you have. I have accepted that I'm kind of an asshole for wishing I didn't have kids. So be it. I have also accepted that I have kids. Progress! (I do love my kids, in case anyone questions that.)
Is there anyone with the same set of constraints (wife, kids, suburban dwelling) that is living the way you would like? Instead of trying to design the change into your current life, can you find someone who is leaving your preferred life and just copy them?
If there were, I'd be doing that instead of vomiting into my journal all my life's disappointments and complaints.
What other constraints are you working with? Do you need to stick with your current job? How far away is your wife willing to move? What about Finland?
I am a lawyer licensed in America; foreign jobs in large cities are possible, if not easy to get. If necessary, my wife would move, but a move does not solve our requirement for money. My current job pays me a shitton (metric) of money. Finland is cold and dark and horrible in the winter. I would not move my family there full time.

@jacob

I have always loved the woods. Where I grew up I could ride my bike anywhere in town I wanted to go on so-called greenbelts. I also lived on a bayou. I was always outside. But I've never "run" anything, nor do I have a desire to. I don't want a farm, or even a garden necessarily - I would maybe try it, but I wouldn't buy a hobby farm with the expectation that I'd keep it going. I just want space. From society's structures and all that stuff that Jason just wrote about in his journal. Hence my presence here. In some sense, this is my tribe. I have updated/fixed the shit out of my house, and I enjoy doing it when it's not constant. I went through a period where I hated it (plumbing). But other than plumbing, it's all been fine. Except the lawn. I don't like maintaining a suburban lawn. So pointless.

Multi-week RV trip is a great idea! I will definitely need to run that by wifey.

@illinidave

Yes, happy wife = happy life. Wiser words have ne'er been spoken. Current situation is certainly not outrageous. I'm just trying to figure out if/how I can balance 1) a largely fixed 10 year window of time where I have to play by society's rules while 2) thinking society is full of shit. It comes back to that "in the moment" thing I've been focusing on. One answer is to stop thinking that society is full of shit...but that's not appealing to me for many reasons. The only other answer I've come up with has been trying to do what you suggested - we go to state parks/forests all the time and it's great fun. It definitely takes the edge off. But I...well, I don't want to serve a 10 year prison sentence until I'm "free". I want to find my freedom NOW. To the extent I can.

Due to my personal injury settlement, I'm essentially debt free now, and now my income's plateaued at a very nice level, so an $800k house ($500k mortgage) would not extend my 10 years. It would delay my reaching my number for 2-3 years, so instead of getting there in 5, it's 7 or 8. But obviously it's a big liability so it increases risk.

True freedom would be not working (for my boss OR for my kids) and doing what I want. Until then, the only other thing that makes me feel free/alive is wandering the woods. I like the beach too, but beach houses are prohibitively expensive.

Jason

Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by Jason »

My advice to you is what I give to all people looking to ditch their wives - cruise ships. Now throwing wife and kids off the side of the boat isn't something I've worked out but you seem like a smart enough guy.

Other than that, maybe spend your dabble time on a DeLorean.

suomalainen
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by suomalainen »

Ha. Never gotten into cars - too complex; seems like it would require a bit too much effort, focus and concentration (i.e., energy) than I currently have. Work and kids leave me with little extra, which largely goes towards reading (when I'm not exhausted) or fixing up the house.

Jason

Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by Jason »


suomalainen
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by suomalainen »

Yeah, I do dumb calculations and stuff like that all the time. I like playing with spreadsheets. I also play various dice games with my kids. I like thinking in probabilities. We're actually in the midst of an ERE dice game now. I'll report on it when it's over. It's a 30-day game. If you mean do the actual tinkering to soup up a car or something like that -- I would actually like to do that. Not with a car, but just to build random gadgets, like a chainsaw saw mill or a hydraulic log splitter or an archery target on a track. The problem is I don't really have a tinkering space. I used to do some carpentry in the garage. Now I can't even get in the garage. Kids' bikes and a snowblower and lawnmower and shit ton of trash clutter the one-car garage up.

One of the houses I'm looking at on 15 acres also comes with an 8000 square foot barn. High ceilings. Oh the things I could try in that space...

suomalainen
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by suomalainen »

Based on an exchange on Jace's journal, I think another way to state my dilemma is this:

Assume I'm serving a 10 year sentence of being in the rat race.
1) Do I line my nest to make my 10 years as pleasant as possible? OR
2) Do I maximize "good behavior" so I'm 5 years incarcerated and 5 years on parole?

I might lack imagination in that I don't really see much of a difference between incarceration and parole, so 1 seems like a no brainer when I write it like that.

Or maybe my assumptions are totally incorrect and I'm looking at this whole thing the wrong way.

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jennypenny
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by jennypenny »

Live now like you expect to live then. Why are they different?

suomalainen
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by suomalainen »

Kids. Work.

When the kids are gone, life will invariably be different.

When I no longer work, I'll invariably have more time to do the things I can only do a little of now.

Travel, tinker, be outside.

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Ego
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by Ego »

suomalainen wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 2:10 pm
I want to find my freedom NOW. To the extent I can.
suomalainen wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 2:10 pm
Kids. Work.

When the kids are gone, life will invariably be different.

When I no longer work, I'll invariably have more time to do the things I can only do a little of now.
It sounds like you want to be free of kids and work. Will buying a house in the woods accomplish that?

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jennypenny
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by jennypenny »

Life will always change regardless of the type of ERE path you choose. It's the nature of the game. You have to learn how to keep your balance regardless of the circumstances.

I think part of the pressure you're feeling comes from your view of parenthood. Your description made me sad. You shouldn't let go of who you are and let your role as parent take over. I don't see parents as a platform -- they are a guide and a role model. Sure, parents need to keep their kids safe, loved, and sheltered, but that's different than feeling like every ounce of everything you have (time, money, energy) needs to go towards 'launching' them into life. Children usually mimic the behavior they see growing up. Model the kind of person you want them to be and give them the tools they need to become that person. Don't try to do it for them.

And society IS full of shit. Do your own thing. It can be hard with kids and sometimes there is a price to pay, but it is so worth it in the end. (I say this as someone about 10 years ahead of you with 2 out of 3 off at college now.)

I feel like I'm lecturing and I don't mean to. I'm just trying to encourage you to hold on to who you are or you won't remember that person by the time you're done with work/kids.

suomalainen
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by suomalainen »

@ego Free of kids? Not really. Free of the responsibility maybe.

@ jp Yes, I'm trying very hard to unlearn my dad's patterns. The kids DO weigh on me heavily. Not that I see them as the problem, which is how it comes out, but I worry about am I doing it right, what else can I do, etc. I'm not a helicopter parent, so I don't "do it for them". But the worry about whether I'm guiding them well etc. is very heavy. Again, that's also my dad. Long backstory, but to the extent I even HAD a self, I certainly lost it with the kids. I suspect the truth is that I've never been a person; I've always been a role. But that's a pity party for another time. What I am certainly trying to do in the midst of all this financial stuff is to self-actualize, I guess. It's the emotional shit that's more important. Which is why I'm trying to sort out all this "freedom" stuff (and incidentally now you know from whence it stems) in questions like this.

I dunno. I dunno anything. Life is hard and I realize I suck at it. It's much easier to just go along with what society or some authority figure tells you to do without questioning it. The fucking problem is I can't turn off the questioning. And I'm finally, in my 30s, trying to figure my shit out. Good times!

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jennypenny
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by jennypenny »

It's really hard to know what to do. When I was your age I worried all the time. I'd stand my ground over some ridiculous societal/school expectation but then drink myself to sleep that night worrying that I did the right thing. I would convince myself they would grow up to be crack heads or mass murderers because I refused to pay $2K for travel soccer when they were 10yo lol.

You'll make mistakes. Own up to them with your kids when you make them and move on. No matter what kind of parents we are, there's a chance that at least one of them will grow up to be an asshole anyway. With 3 kids each, the odds aren't in our favor. ;)

suomalainen
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by suomalainen »

jennypenny wrote:
Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:17 pm
I'd stand my ground over some ridiculous societal/school expectation but then drink myself to sleep that night worrying that I did the right thing. I would convince myself they would grow up to be crack heads or mass murderers because I refused to pay $2K for travel soccer when they were 10yo lol.
Yep, that about pegs my level of neuroticism. Glad to hear one can emerge from it.
there's a chance that at least one of them will grow up to be an asshole anyway. With 3 kids each, the odds aren't in our favor. ;)
Yep. And I even have odds on which one (two) will win that honor!

Not to cut off further commentary, but thanks to everyone for their thoughts. This has been helpful. The take-away I'm starting to form is that there's no one-size-fits-all answer, but I should consider two things:

1) don't spend money to address emotional issues. I can't buy a sense of freedom or I can't address my need for feeling free via money. Maybe a purchase can facilitate something, but the direct emotional aspects should be managed first.
2) spend money on things that align with my values. And then address valuation to avoid over-spending on it.

slowtraveler
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by slowtraveler »

I believe the modern system is largely shitty. I would have rather been world schooled. Why do you have to buy this track of land? Are there no good public parks that are quiet near you?

Lacking ambition bought a track of land and later realized he didn't have to to explore that lifestyle. Plenty of free open spaces to rest into. I'm wondering why you can't simply start the smallest step of integrating that lifestyle into now. Some way wife can enjoy the stability without suppressing your longing for space.

ffj
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Re: Life Advice for a Confused Finn

Post by ffj »

One of the occasional things I used to do when I still worked full time was inform my my wife that on such and such date I was taking a mini-vacation for myself, usually in the form of a fly-fishing trip to beautiful spots with plenty of fish and very few people. Mostly by myself too. It really recharged my batteries not having to deal with anything other than the fish in the river.

It sounds like your wife is getting what she wants (think of the children) and you are left scrambling for any kind of sanity in what remains. If your neighborhood allows it, build a shop for yourself and make it known that is your space and tinker away my friend. Buy some tools, stock it with beer or whatever you drink, make it a man cave. Make it yours though. Take days only for yourself to get back into the woods. I think you'll find that some of the resentment will go away if you have a place to escape to and the ability to chuck some responsibility for a day or two every now and then.

Personally I wouldn't buy some expensive property until I tried other avenues of getting some freedom back, and I wouldn't be bashful about it either. It's very easy to get lost in other's expectations of oneself.

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