early retired too extreme?

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jomby
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early retired too extreme?

Post by jomby » Wed Oct 15, 2014 7:46 am

I've been reading Jacob's stuff and studying ERE for the past few years, and have been loving it. My wife and I have pretty much achieved financial independence, but now that we are there, I am seeing that something isn't quite right.

I don't have to work at a job, but I have to do a certain amount of housework: dishes, laundry, kid logistics, cleaning up, cooking, etc. I know I can work on making this stuff more efficient, but there is definitely a good chunk of work that is unavoidable.

This lifestyle is OK, but the issue is that my wife and I have developed lots of skills that we aren't fully using. She has worked in finance and has lots of knowledge and connections. I have a background in computer science, and am developing a strong interest in law, especially tax law. I am also an expert poker player. We don't want jobs, but we both love brainstorming business ideas and cool ways of combining our different skill sets.

Whenever I am doing dishes/laundry/cleanup, I am thinking "man, if I was doing tech/law/finance/gambling right now, I'd be making more money and having more fun". So, logically, it seems like the right move is to hire a full-time personal assistant and then just go for it. There is obviously risk in this, but maybe it's not so bad because we can always go back to the old way if things don't work out.

This line of thinking feels so anti-ERE. On the one hand, it makes sense, but it also makes me nervous. Not complaining at all, just looking for thoughts on how I should approach this.

Chad
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by Chad » Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:05 am

“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

For me, this is all about being able to choose what you want. If that is what you want, and it doesn't destroy you financially (actually, sounds like you would still be making more than you spend) then go do it. To hell with anyone thinking you aren't "ERE" for hiring someone to do tasks you could do.

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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by jacob » Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:05 am

It is not anti-ERE. ERE(*) is about increasing efficiency (by reducing waste) in order to create resilience and options. You have this option. You're allowed to take it.

(*) ERE is a design paradigm. It's not a list of rules of what you can and can not do, nor is it a to-do or a not-to-do list.

USAF Sgt
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by USAF Sgt » Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:37 am

Like Chad, I say ERE isn't so much about retirement. Its about putting yourself in a place to make choices. Once you've reached financial independence, you can choose to be employed if you'd like, and once you no longer like, you can choose to be unemployed without regard to the paycheck.

For the typical American, they paycheck makes most of their choices for them. Only the wealthy have the luxury of operating without regard to the paycheck. ERE to me is simply a way to become wealthy without a large pile of money.

Spartan_Warrior
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by Spartan_Warrior » Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:15 am

I agree there's nothing wrong with exercising the option of outsourcing help, but personally, I would make sure I had exhausted all other options. Dishes, laundry, cleaning, and cooking are all activities that can be optimized and done in batches. It's also the case that the more stuff you have, the more time you spend maintaining it. Could you live in a smaller space that requires less cleaning? Wash clothes less frequently*? Try the Warrior Diet/intermittent fasting, or at least batch cooking and freezing meals for convenience?

*IMO most people wash clothes way too often. With the exception of underwear, most garments should NOT need to be washed after a single, average day of use. Frequent washing just wears stuff out faster.

Also, are you sure the mundane activities are really what's keeping you from using your skills and doing the tech/law/finance/gambling stuff you enjoy, or is that just a convenient excuse? Have you made an honest effort to make time for these pursuits? Would you really use the free time from outsourcing the mundane activities to focus on your interests, or would you waste the time or find other mundane activities to focus on?

Do you need to go to full-time help right away? Could you try part-time or some other trial period to see if this really solves your problems?

Just some things to consider. As others have indicated, nothing about hiring help is un-ERE*, as long as it is a considered choice.

*And would you really care if it was anti-ERE? It's not like the ERE police will come kicking in your door. :P

Tyler9000
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by Tyler9000 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:30 pm

Is the lack of a personal assistant to do all your chores really stopping you from playing poker?

FWIW, the tech/gambling combo is somewhat of a tell for me. The people I know IRL with that particular collection of dispositions tend to have addictive personalities. I'm not saying that's necessarily always a bad thing, but it's important to know thyself. Sometimes what you want today isn't always the best for you in the long run. Is the problem really the ten minutes it takes to do the dishes, or are you just obsessed with other things? (Apologies if I'm off-base. But since you asked I figured I'd be direct.)

Choosing fulfilling work is great. Go for it. But be honest with yourself about your motivations and always keep an eye on the big picture.

jomby
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by jomby » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:47 pm

Spartan_Warrior wrote:I agree there's nothing wrong with exercising the option of outsourcing help, but personally, I would make sure I had exhausted all other options. Dishes, laundry, cleaning, and cooking are all activities that can be optimized and done in batches. It's also the case that the more stuff you have, the more time you spend maintaining it. Could you live in a smaller space that requires less cleaning? Wash clothes less frequently*? Try the Warrior Diet/intermittent fasting, or at least batch cooking and freezing meals for convenience?

*IMO most people wash clothes way too often. With the exception of underwear, most garments should NOT need to be washed after a single, average day of use. Frequent washing just wears stuff out faster.

Also, are you sure the mundane activities are really what's keeping you from using your skills and doing the tech/law/finance/gambling stuff you enjoy, or is that just a convenient excuse? Have you made an honest effort to make time for these pursuits? Would you really use the free time from outsourcing the mundane activities to focus on your interests, or would you waste the time or find other mundane activities to focus on?

Do you need to go to full-time help right away? Could you try part-time or some other trial period to see if this really solves your problems?

Just some things to consider. As others have indicated, nothing about hiring help is un-ERE*, as long as it is a considered choice.

*And would you really care if it was anti-ERE? It's not like the ERE police will come kicking in your door. :P

These are all great questions, thanks. I am definitely going to consider all of them before taking a big plunge.

jomby
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by jomby » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:58 pm

Tyler9000 wrote:Is the lack of a personal assistant to do all your chores really stopping you from playing poker?

FWIW, the tech/gambling combo is somewhat of a tell for me. The people I know IRL with that particular collection of dispositions tend to have addictive personalities. I'm not saying that's necessarily always a bad thing, but it's important to know thyself. Sometimes what you want today isn't always the best for you in the long run. Is the problem really the ten minutes it takes to do the dishes, or are you just obsessed with other things? (Apologies if I'm off-base. But since you asked I figured I'd be direct.)

Choosing fulfilling work is great. Go for it. But be honest with yourself about your motivations and always keep an eye on the big picture.
Yes, I absolutely have an obsessive personality. It can get me in trouble, but when I am able to harness it, I can accomplish a lot.

For example, I am currently obsessed with the tax code. I want to learn everything I can about taxes, so that I can eventually prepare returns, handle audits for people, etc. It's incredibly fun, and in the long run it will help me to serve others and also make money. When I am spending 10-20 hours taking care of little things around the house, I am wanting to study tax stuff instead.

In the past, the obsession was poker, and although it feels wrong to want make lots of time for gambling, it ended up making me a good amount of money (most players are really bad, and I have the patience to fold a lot).

george
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by george » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:19 pm

some people find routine tasks such as doing the dishes good for mental health. focusing on the moment. as time goes by my meals have become more like snacks. I cook for people with small appetites and they prefer really simple meals which means my dishes are reducing in number. this morning one person just wants french bread, so easy.

I'm a bit of a brainstormer, project implementer myself. I now use my skills with not for profits, on the fringes. the great thing about using your skills with not for profits is you are always challenging yourself, learning and meeting wonderful people. I worked with really good people, but they didn't have vision and weren't prepared to put themselves on the line to see much needed changes through. I see opportunity everywhere the great thing about FI is i now have balance. Perhaps you had balance when working.

what was your dream, why did you retire, what was your purpose

just some thoughts

perhaps you want to expand your skills, challenge yourself in other ways. for me its vital that i can look back and say that day, month, year was worthwhile. perhaps for you money makes it so, perhaps its your legacy, or you want to increase your spending on wants, or donate more. Its good to feel nervous at times, makes you think and ready for change, adaption.

whenever I look back and think i could be earning.... its balanced with how I live my life now. I would only go back if I had time to lose or wanted to donate more, I don't at this stage

lifes a journey, if you would feel more fulfilled working, had a better standard of living, theres nothing wrong with going back for a while, perhaps part time. just suggest you ask yourself why do you want the money. or what would it give you you don't have now.
Last edited by george on Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

jacob
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by jacob » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:21 pm

@jomby - 10-20 hours? Is that per month? Or exaggerating for effect?

From a strict economics perspective, it's a question of the marginal rate of return comparing the cost of spending an hour on doing your own tax return (very valuable) to doing someone else's (more like $10/hour) or playing poker (??/hour) with paying someone 10-20 times an hourly wage ($10/again) to do your dishes or alternatively learning how to do those tasks in a more normal time of 1-2 hours per week (and it doesn't even need to be that much if you're efficient about it)---this increase in efficiency would also be very valuable.

I frequently see the comparative advantage argument being thrown out there though only to see people outsourcing work and then spending the time watching TV instead because their income actually isn't scalable with more work. That's a trap.

jomby
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by jomby » Wed Oct 15, 2014 4:59 pm

jacob wrote:@jomby - 10-20 hours? Is that per month? Or exaggerating for effect?

From a strict economics perspective, it's a question of the marginal rate of return comparing the cost of spending an hour on doing your own tax return (very valuable) to doing someone else's (more like $10/hour) or playing poker (??/hour) with paying someone 10-20 times an hourly wage ($10/again) to do your dishes or alternatively learning how to do those tasks in a more normal time of 1-2 hours per week (and it doesn't even need to be that much if you're efficient about it)---this increase in efficiency would also be very valuable.

I frequently see the comparative advantage argument being thrown out there though only to see people outsourcing work and then spending the time watching TV instead because their income actually isn't scalable with more work. That's a trap.
It's per week, and I'm not exaggerating. I am willing to accept the possibility that I'm doing this all wrong. Here are some guesses at how the time breaks down:

cooking and dishes: 7 hrs
laundry and putting clothes away: 1 hr
cleaning: 2 hrs
grocery shopping: 2 hrs
fixing broken things: 1 hr
planning activities and trips: 1 hr

There are probably lots of other miscellaneous things. Keep in mind that I have a kid, and I have a wife who works a lot, and also likes to plan lots of social events and weekends away. Are my numbers really that crazy?

As for the TV thing, it happens sometimes, but I've found that in the long run I like to use most of my free time exploring money-making possibilities, or at least things that create some kind of value.

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jennypenny
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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by jennypenny » Wed Oct 15, 2014 5:28 pm

Spending 20 hours a week on domestic stuff is still only about 3 hours a day. It's not that bad and leaves you a lot of time to devote to other things. Most people spend that much time commuting each day.

You might need to reorganize your day so that you don't feel like you're wasting productive hours on housekeeping. I spend more time than that each day on domestic stuff because I like to do everything myself, but I never spend my most productive hours (mornings) on housework. It's a waste of my mental energy. I'll put away dishes and switch the laundry while I'm waiting for the coffee to brew, but beyond that I ignore all of it until after I've worked out, showered, and accomplished any work I have planned for the day.

You might also need to adjust how you approach the tasks. When my kids were little, I always cleaned the bathroom while they took their baths, put their clean clothes away at night while they 'read' to me, and learned to cook most meals in a crock pot. Even now, I clean my kitchen every week while I watch Liverpool play, mop the floors while I catch up on podcasts, and pull a few weeds in the garden every time I take my dogs out. Basically, I do most housework while I'm also doing something else that's pleasurable enough to take the edge off of the drudgery.

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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by jacob » Wed Oct 15, 2014 6:14 pm

jomby wrote: cooking and dishes: 7 hrs
laundry and putting clothes away: 1 hr
cleaning: 2 hrs
grocery shopping: 2 hrs
fixing broken things: 1 hr
planning activities and trips: 1 hr
It's likely me who's the outlier being able to spend far less time on these activities. I have noticed that people do these things very differently and it's nearly impossible to change operations but maybe this will be useful anyway.

Cooking: Either you're one of those who use three pots, five pans, a spoon for everything, a cutting board, and two knifes ... or if you're like me, you use one or at most two pots and pans. You cut things in the pot (at the bottom using a knife/pot combo that can do that) or on the plate you're later going to eat with. The average numbers of "things/items" I use to cook AND eat a meal would be 3-4: E.g. pot, serrated pairing knife, spoon (eating from the pot) or plate if not eating from the pot, but you get my point. I reuse utensils. I take extra care not to be messy and I'll clean utensils once I'm done with them while other things are simmering. Also, I batch cook for about 5-7 days at a time. I will often cook two or three different meals simultaneously. Again, reusing things. The total time per week for cooking would or could be 0.5-1 hour.

Cleaning: I'm generally careful not to make things dirty in the first place. I realize that other people in the household might not feel the same way, but if they come around, the idea is to clean things continuously doing 5 seconds here and 10 seconds here. Keep horizontal surfaces clear at most times. Then dust, etc. doesn't accumulate. Again, look for ways to solve multiple problems at the same time. Basically I prefer to focus on avoiding causing the problem in the first place while others do it the other way around that is not caring about making things dirty and then not minding cleaning up the dirt.

Laundry: Synchronize all loads so you can do everything at once. This is only relevant if you have access to multiple machines that can run simultaneously. If not, do a load whenever you pass by the machine anyway. Try to avoid sorting twice or "folding twice". If you line dry, pair socks as you hang them up. Hang shirts on hangers already. When you take things out/down sort immediately into his and hers and theirs. Don't keep transferring the jumble around. Folding everything neatly is often overrated. Rather than pairing 20 different pairs of socks have only a one or a couple of different kinds of socks.

Grocery shopping: You should be doing this
http://earlyretirementextreme.com/wiki/ ... _and_sales
and thus not need to go that often.

Fixing things: Can't help you there. Try not to break things in the first place, eh? 8-)

Planning things: That's time well spent. You probably can't outsource this anyway?!

I fully realize that it might be hard or impossible to bring everyone on the same page. Realizing these efficiencies really requires the entire household to be on the same page. This is for example not the case in our household. To avoid arguing procedure, we split the tasks according to who does the most/least other work.

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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by lilacorchid » Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:26 pm

jacob wrote: To avoid arguing procedure, we split the tasks according to who does the most/least other work.
Please elaborate. After nearly a decade of being together, we are still arguing over dividing household duties and I'm the clean one. :cry:

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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by Tyler9000 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:38 pm

jomby wrote: Yes, I absolutely have an obsessive personality. It can get me in trouble, but when I am able to harness it, I can accomplish a lot.
No doubt. I'm the same way. Perhaps that's how I can recognize it. ;)

For me personally, one of my ERE goals is to learn to separate obsession from genuine interest and to take life a little more slowly. I know obsessive behavior will cause the things I like to eventually end in burnout.
Last edited by Tyler9000 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: early retired too extreme?

Post by jacob » Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:46 pm

I'm currently full-time and DW is part-time, so DW currently does most of the house work. When I was no-time and DW was full-time, I did most of the work except the cooking as DW doesn't like to eat the same 2-3 different things all week long [something which I could do for years]. If I switch to no-time again, I would expect to be doing most of the work. If both of us were no-time or full-time I would expect a more even split. Yet since we have very different and in my opinion incompatible ways of doing things, I would expect us to split duties by areas, e.g. one does the food, the other does the laundry, maybe switch every other week. We've done it this way before.

Basically the strategy has been to split tasks [because our respective approaches are so different] and to avoid micromanaging and also to avoid overlapping/moral-hazards. For example the normal concept of "the cook never does the dishes" has been completely eliminated here due to the moral-hazard problem. Now, we get to clean up our own mess :)

Incidentally, our biggest arguments are wrt to cleaning. I'm the clean one, btw, that is, I prefer a constant level of slight messy/cleanliness, whereas DW prefers things to go from ultra-clean to piles of stuff. Those arguments scaled with the size of our home. Currently living in a house, I can just retreat to "my room" where things never grow beyond 4" above the desk surface---which is not a lot for an academic---whereas this was a lot tougher in smaller places like the RV or the apartment.

First world problems ...

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