2017 Year End Review
Sometimes it's hard to remember things about yourself. Maybe it's the traumatic brain injury, or maybe everyone has the same problem that you live with yourself 24/7 and it's hard to remember exactly when your thought of X morphed into Y. In any event, it's been good to start journaling here, so that it gives me a place to look back on my prior selves and see how I've grown (or regressed, but at least changed in either case).
One thing I do remember is that I really wanted to pay off my debts as soon as possible after I graduated law school in 2006 and it was important to me to have my wife validate that. At the same time, as a full-time mother, she has struggled with asserting her own desires while also feeling that insecurity, I guess, of being totally financially dependent on me. We settled into a truce whereby we would put a certain amount of money aside for saving and paying off debt and the rest would go to consumption. Raises, when I used to get substantial ones, would go to debt, so lifestyle inflation was kept to a minimum. Somewhere along the line around 2010, I had the realization that I could work and save my whole life only to retire and then die the next day (perhaps obvious is the underlying assumption that I don't love working for money). "Fuck that", I thought, so I decided to try to be at peace with my finances and to be patient with the process, knowing that I had selected a good process that would eventually get me to where I wanted to be financially. Things were good. And then I got hit by a car.
After my accident, my anxiety must have spiked or maybe I was always this anxious, I dunno, but in any case, I have fixated on early retirement ever since. That was late June 2014. I read all of MMM and his "The Shocking Simple Math Behind Early Retirement"
made things click for me. I also found ERE around that time and started this journal, but disappeared from here shortly thereafter. People's stories in their journals about their progression and successes were both inspiring and frustrating, such that I had to step away, otherwise I would obsess.
But one question always bothered me -- what happens after early retirement? Both MMM and Jacob went back to work! I didn't judge them for it from an "internet retirement police" perspective, but it left a nagging irritation that financial independence was not actually an end. It was an answer begging for a question. So, for the last few months, I've been trying to puzzle out all of this and here have been a few ERE forum guide posts:
1) It started with A Journey of Mindfulness--the remaking of Life in Midstream
wherein @illinidave discussed his job and life and family setbacks and dream cabin among other things, which got me thinking about my wants and priorities and how I was living for the future rather than living in the present.
BRUTE wrote: ↑
Sun Nov 06, 2016 11:42 am
brute discovered that complete freedom of location and time can be very boring.
C40 wrote: ↑
Sat Jan 07, 2017 1:12 pm
I’ve been keeping myself busy with travels and friends and various pursuits of leisure. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I’ve gotten in better shape physically. I’ve been happier. I’ve had less stress. My creative output has increased. I’ve certainly had some “is this all there really is to life? ughhh” thoughts, but, in a good way, I think.
wherein @brute and @c40 confirm my suspicion that my attitude towards financial independence was short-sighted. FI is no panacea; as I was looking at it, it was indeed a chimera - both in the sense of a magical thing as well as in the sense of being a dangerous thing. In other words, I was so focused on this magical future state that I was (am) not only not living in the present, but my future focus was actively destroying my present. It was consuming me. But it's not a bad thing! It's just that it is chimerical for someone in my position (my family, my skills, my desires, etc.) to think that I could live the vanlife of a single 20- or 30-something a la @c40 or @spoonman.
3) Money is a solved problem
, discussed initially above in my journal and continued on a separate thread, wherein I realize that I have already arrived at that magical place anyway! Do I have 25x+ expenses saved in invested assets? No. But I'm almost halfway there and I can see to the end of the path, so at this point I have two choices, which crystallized in the form of a job opportunity: should I focus entirely on maximizing my income (to the detriment of everything else) or should I focus on maximizing my happiness? The unstated basis from which that question can reasonably be asked is that one is in a great (but non-FI) financial position.
4) Work, is it so bad?
wherein @brute, @seppia, @conwy and others' discussion opened my mind to the idea that work could be a useful (if not 40 hour) part of the "life I wouldn't want to retire from".
trailblazer wrote: ↑
Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:46 pm
For general inspiration in building a daily routine, I like the book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. He provides short summaries of the daily routines of well known individuals...there is a surprising amount of puttering that takes place.
having read some of that book...well, it's surprising how much of life really is just boring. The non-curated, non-vacation-highlights-posted-to-facebook version of life is just fucking boring. You wake, you do some stuff, you eat, you shit, you groom, you sleep. The only real "problem" in life is to answer the question of what does "you do some stuff" look like?
suomalainen wrote: ↑
Sat Dec 30, 2017 1:54 pm
This thought occurred to me a few days ago also while reading another thread (forget which one), where I think brute made the point that doing anything (scuba diving) for 40 hours a week would get boring. Rather than web-of-goals, my “mindfulness / be present in the moment” project is converging on web-of-pleasant-distractions.
Back in law school in 2005ish, I remember reading something about happiness - it might even have been a positive psychology thing, but anyway I remember stopping what I was reading and saying aloud "WTF?! Depression is just a distraction from being happy and happiness is just a distraction from being depressed?" At the time I was mortified because I thought there had to be more. It just seemed so fucking meaningless because "distractions" are by definition annoyances getting in the way of a more important thing and at that time in my life I just could not accept that the meaning of life was to distract you from boring yourself to death. But to paraphrase @c40...this really is all there is to life. Part of what is helping me to accept that little nugget is watching my parents get old. The highlight of their day is at 7am when they go for a walk with the dog. The rest of their days is puttering around doing basically nothing. AND THEY LOVE IT!
So, to summarize, as @fish put it
Fish wrote: ↑
Sat Dec 30, 2017 3:48 pm
So it seems ERE is now the following?
1. Establish 50%+ savings rate
2. Pay off debt and accumulate FU emergency fund
3. Settle into a comfortable job situation
5. Live happily after after?
So, what's next?
Fish wrote: ↑
Sun Dec 31, 2017 11:11 am
White Coat Investor - Financial Independence Is Not The Holy Grail
(December 23, 2016)
White Coat Investor wrote:
I would submit that financial security comes before financial independence, and that it is really financial security that adds to your happiness. Once you have maxed that out, your life is not going to get any more happy from financial sources, no matter how much you make, have, or spend. If you want additional happiness, you will have to seek it outside the financial realm. [...]
There is some good news out of all this.
- You don’t have to wait until financial independence to be happy.
- You can increase your happiness by aligning your actual life with your ideal life as much as possible.
- Developing and following a financial plan that is highly likely to lead to financial independence will also make you happier, even before you hit your number.
I think these words are a fitting way to conclude this phase of wondering what the pursuit of FI is exactly about. Now for the hard part, which is the realization that the next steps beyond FU don't follow any particular script or plan. Cutting expenses can't be expected to bring fulfillment or happiness. If I have a problem, I can't blame it on not having enough money, because I have plenty of it. What to do now? Should I make a few small tweaks to optimize this working and family life I already have? Feel emboldened by FU-status and seek even better employment terms (fewer hours, less commute distance, more fulfilling work) or carve out some time for side-quests? Start working on a web-of-pleasant-distractions
It's completely open-ended. I have no idea what I'm doing now. And there's no "standard solution" anymore. This will be FUN!
Basically, I am working on my web-of-pleasant-distractions or my "daily ritual", which looks a bit like this: work (which includes working out and working on work relationships), followed by an evening of family, relaxing (TV or internet or sex or easy books) and/or hobbies (hard books, guitar). Weekends include a bit more hiking or biking or camping or skiing or building or fixing or things of that sort, mostly with the kids, but sometimes without.
The above journey also got me thinking about a "semi-retirement"-type approach wherein I downshift from full-time work (but still more than just cover-the-expenses). Looking at my company's HR page, I have a few options to try to be less full-time:
- Buy 5 days of vacation at my implied daily rate, in addition to my paid time off.
- Apply for unpaid time off, up to 3 months, every two years; requires manager and/or manager's manager's approval. Think sabbatical.
- Apply for a flexible work schedule. I'd need to be at least 70% time (3.5 days/week of 8hr/days) to qualify for benefits (health insurance). This can be a percentage of full time (70-100%) arranged in fewer than 5 8-hour days or 5 less-than-8-hour days or a combination of both, as agreed with the manager.
- Apply for working remotely and/or work from the company's Denver office, potentially combined with the flexible work schedule.
The first one is a no-brainer; the other two would likely encounter significant pushback given my "professional" role and the expectations surrounding being a "professional", but if it's important to me, then I should explore it a bit more to see if it's something I really want and whether this company (or another, like the firm) would be willing to be flexible with me. The fourth will require many discussions with the wife to see if we can't tear her away from her New England roots.