AE's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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AE's Journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:47 pm

I am a 28-year-old software developer who currently lives in Denver with a networth of $300k (half is in real estate and half is in retirement accounts in index funds). I discovered MMM back in 2012, when I got my first job, and have been pursing FIRE ever since then. However, I think discovering MMM so early tainted my perspective on a lot of things and now I am trying to unravel unhealthy habits and beliefs while pursing a more web-of-goals approached to life.

My initial FIRE plans consisted of "save 25x and retire to the equivalent of playing video games." This idea colored my view of the world and of work. As a result, I had a terrible attitude about work and tried to do the minimum. After all, what was the point of trying when I would be retired in 5 years? This attitude also seeped into my personal life. I developed hobbies that were obsessed with a kind of anti-reality, fantasy life because I thought I was above everything else. Specifically, I started to dedicate most of my life outside of work to fandom and drawing fan comics. I spent a lot of time in online chat spaces and made a lot of friends who were also neck deep in fandom.

A CHANGE IN GOALS - "You will know a tree by its fruit."
I will spare everyone the details, but based on how unhealthy everyone involved in fandom tends to be, I have realized this isn't a good place for me. There's also no future in it--drawing fan comics is a fun hobby, but there's nothing useful about it. I have learned to draw well, which is a useful skill, but it's not going to help me if I keep drawing this subject material.

Recently, I envisioned myself and what my life would look like if I FIRE'd based on my current trajectory. It terrified me. I realized I need to solve intellectually challenging problems. Sure, the corporate software world is full of bullshit, but at least this forces me to do something other than stay home and play video games. I think I would go insane without challenge. Retiring to draw fan art is not a fulfilling life path.

I need to do a lot of soul-searching about what my ideal life will be and then try to construct that using a web-of-goals approach. That includes intellectual challenges and fulfilling relationships with stable and well rounded people. I appreciate ERE for its intellectual depth, and I also understand a large part of it is about preparing for collapse. This is how ERE differs from FIRE.

While my long-term goals need much refinement, there are a few short-term goals I will work toward now. This includes spending less emotional energy and time in fandom and working toward greater physical fitness and health. While my software job is by no means perfect, I am going to try harder at work and appreciate the intellectual challenge it gives me. If I am to ERE successfully, I will need to find a way to incorporate that challenge into something other than this job.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:50 pm

Welcome to the forums AE!

Don't be too hard on yourself, just work on the best life for you going forward. From a savings standpoint, you're doing great. It would seem you can decide to pursue any type of intellectual challenge you want. So don't limit yourself if corporate software isn't cutting it after giving it a fair shake with your new attitude.

Personally, I've found trying to reach ERE level thinking/consumption one of the most challenging intellectual, social, and psychological endeavors of my life. If you chose do do this, the side effect would be you're already FI.

Looking forward to more.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by bigato » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:52 pm

It seems like this is going to be very interesting to read about! And you sound like an person who is honest to yourself. Good luck, I'll be reading!

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by Mae » Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:05 am

Welcome to the forums. I'm looking forward to reading about your journey and insights.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine » Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:00 am

Thanks for the warm welcome everyone! I'm glad to be here too.

I've been giving my career goals some thought, and I think I need to start moving toward a change of some sort. For awhile, I was stuck in the typical accumulation-holding pattern. While I am not quite to my FI number, I think I have enough to give me some flexibility.

I've been at my current job for four years, and it's honestly grown pretty boring. I've stayed there so long because I get paid a lot and basically don't do much. This has its advantages, but it's also getting extremely boring and fulfilling. With a job like this, you start to feel like you're wasting your life, and the days stretch on forever. Your skills also stop progressing, and for me, solving technical challenges and learning is extremely important.

I've also partly stayed there because it's an oasis in an otherwise terrible field known as the software industry. Long term, I really want to get out of software. Ageism is rampant in the field, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to age out of a job in about 10 years. It's hard to get taken seriously in this field if you're not a certain type of person, and I'm tired of dealing with people talking down to me. The field is also massively juvenile in a cringey, gamery way. I went to a JavaScript conference a few years ago, and the entire thing was Star Wars-themed and they were giving away Nintendo Switches. :roll: This wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't extremely prevalent. I just want to deal with adults.

So far, I have three ideas for alternatives:

I want to learn more about finance for my own investing purposes, as I do agree holding just index funds exposes you to too much institutional risk. So far, I am thinking of either pursuing being a quant or a CPA. Both would require some schooling/training, but I think I would enjoy the challenge. Has anyone else here worked in either of those jobs? How was the culture?

Another opinion is to go get my PhD and do research in either industry or academia. I don't intend to go the professor route, which is one reason I've held off on doing this. I would either get my PhD in CS or an applied CS like bioinformatics. I already have an MS in CS, so I am familiar with the culture of academia. I think this would be fun to do, but I've held off on it because you don't get paid much as a PhD student and because it's sort of deadendish since I don't intend to become a professor.

This one is kind of pie-in-the-sky, but I've also thought of becoming either a novelist or a non-fiction writer. This has the advantage of requiring no schooling, and I can do this while at my current job. I am fairly good at writing fiction, and I've already written two-novel length stories, so I have some (limited) experience here. My main concern here is that being a writer might actually end up being kind of boring/pointless. Sure, writing fiction is fun, but does the world need any more stories? I'm not convinced the answer to this is yes.

So I am giving all three of these some thought. Ideally, I would like something that's technically challenging, has a good industry culture fit, and I'm not going to age out of. While ERE does give me a lot of flexibility, I don't want to end up isolated from the rest of the world by quitting work. Hence I want to find a good fit now while I am still young enough to make an easy change.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by bigato » Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:47 am

I definitely hear you on the juvenile attitude in software development. I'd say it is worse in web development, and you find more oasis of sanity the lower level you go. I'm currently doing assembly and it's a dream come true. I don't think age would be a limit for me, since there are so few people in this specific niche, but I don't see myself wanting to work at software development for more than an additional decade from now. The kind of challenges I'd want to struggle with are just not there anymore. There's only so much you can do before you need to get involved in politics to further advance efficiency in an organization. But I may be wrong, as I often am when predicting where I'll be in the future. In my experience, any prediction farther away in the future than three years has been just a wild guess. Maybe my life and my preferences will become more predictable as I age, I don't know.

Also, maybe you could learn how to not become isolated from the rest of the world when you don't have a job? That should at least be an option on the table, even if you end up deciding it is really not for you.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by Chris » Mon Feb 11, 2019 1:26 pm

I hear you on the tech conferences. But the whole industry really isn't like that. The closer you are to the hype curve, the worse it is. But for me, I've been a part of some really good teams. Interviewing is a method of exposing yourself to the possibilities in the industry. During the interview, just ask, "does your company have a 'no asshole' rule?" If they don't know what you're talking about, move on!

I left my first job around your age for a startup. At the startup, everyone was older than me, and significantly so. Also, no assholes. It was a good experience.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by jacob » Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:03 pm

I've worked (for some years) in all three alternatives. I think this is enough to have a good idea about it but not enough to remove all autobiographical bias, so caveat emptor.

Finance - I was a quant trader in a private/principal equity company on the buy-side. High finance divides in sell-side (think investment banking, people wearing expensive suits calling themselves vice presidents (it's a sales title), and making high salaries) and buy-side (think mutual funds, hedge funds, people wearing flip flops, and making bonuses). The average age was 27 or so (I was the oldest in our group) and this is definitely something you'll age out of unless you get rich(*) or get into management/support. Research is similar to academia except that there's way more secrecy. The level of intellectualism was much higher and broader than found in academia. In academia people are surprisingly uninterested in anything outside their subsubsubfield. In finance, an idea might be new way to see the market, so people are always interested. This is also why people are reluctant to share their best ideas, unlike academia. People tend to divide into ballers and mundanes. This is more of a personality thing than a wealth-effect but different companies will have different cultures in that regard.

(*) In which case you either retire or start your own boutique shop and try to get even wealthier. Many are only there to get rich. When people learned I was already FI, some wanted to know why on earth I went and got a job in finance. Someone interviewing with the company once requested an interview with me based on having read the ERE book just to see if I was real.

Academic - Undergraduate work is nothing like grad school (in my book, a masters is just an extension of undergraduate work with more courses). The difference between phd work and masters work is that there are nobody who has the answer. It's unknown-unknowns vs known-unknowns or unknown-knowns. In other words, it requires persistent originality. This can be highly frustrating for some when they are used to being able to give up and ask the professor for the answer. Research interests are so specialized that you will probably have very little to discuss with your colleagues professionally. Read from the first post to get a fairly realistic idea of the grad school environment.

Writing - This is tricky. I've struggled with the boring/pointless thing myself. Is your motivation external or internal? Do you need to make money? Does it matter to you that people like your book or that the book gets read? When I wrote the ERE book, I was strictly internally motivated. I never figured I'd sell more than 30-50 copies. I just wanted to write down what I knew. Working on book #2 I'm more cynical or spoiled... at the very least it matters to me that the book gets read and to some degree also that it's liked. Otherwise, I can't find it in myself to bother compared to just sitting on the data/ideas myself. This is also due to the fact that when I wrote ERE there were practically no books on extreme early retirement, so it filled a void. This is not the case for the subject matter of book#2. But but ... I tend towards the Magnum Opus style which doesn't lend itself well to the 50,000 words per month and publish publish publish until you win style. Thus, motivation and strategy matters greatly.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:15 am

@bigato, @Chris - thanks for the input! It's always helpful to hear from other parts of the field. Software is a huge field, and there are many aspects. At my current role, I've been trying to transition into API development from UI development, and I do find that's helping. API development is a little more dry and serious, and that's exactly what I'm looking for right now. It's also new to me, so there's it's a good challenge to learn it. It'll probably last me two more years before it grows stale like UI development did.

In terms of not being isolated, I do agree I should seek this outside a job too. Pursing everything from a job risks losing it if you ever have to leave work, and so it's not very robust. I think the best path is to purse it both within and outside of work. I have always struggled with meeting people since becoming an adult, but this is just something I need to learn how to deal with. I am thinking of joining a meetup group or similar near me. I don't really care what the group is about as long as it's close and not overly stupid. :lol:

@Jacob - Thanks for your feedback; that's all really helpful. Finance sounds like it's extremely diverse depending on where you go with it. I'll need to look into which subfield would be good for me then. It sounds actually like it has some aspects of software developer culture baked in depending on where you go.

That was always my hesitation in getting a PhD. It's extremely narrow and specialized. At least a degree in CS is pretty marketable, but the PhD stipend is so low I wanted to avoid it while in the accumulation phase. When I was getting my M.S, I did it on a PhD-like stipend, and most of my friends at the time were pursing their PhDs. I think you have to be careful with what you research because a lot of them ended up doing industry-like engineering work for a quarter of the pay. I also taught some undergraduate classes as part of my stipends, and while parts of it were fun, I think dealing with teaching classes would get old quickly.

As for writing, I used to be pretty intrinsically motivated for it. I wrote two novel-length pieces without ever expecting an audience or money. However, and maybe this is the natural progression, but I've found the better I get at it, the less I want to do it for free/no audience. Maybe that's a side effect of feeling like I've learned all the low hanging fruit and need to make it more "challenging" by getting an audience? I'm not sure. I'm also starting to find the higher level of profitable writing is pretty much half marketing/writing to an audience, which is a whole lot less fun than just writing whatever I want.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:21 am

This week was fairly busy at work because they dumped a new project on us with a tight deadline, as has happened every year for the past four years I've been at this company. The business side has zero care for the quality of the code we write. They just want features to market ASAP. I am starting to think this is just how the industry is. Honestly, why would the business care if the architecture is brilliant? They want profitable software for the least cost. That means making it average to below average in quality and hiring an army of offshore/22 years olds to hack out good enough code. No one cares about code quality except for engineers, and code quality alone never paid the bills.

I've also been rereading MMM this week. His blog is basically a cushier version of Jacob's, but he does a good job selling the message to the masses. He has inspired me to work up to riding my bike to work. I live about 10 miles away, one way, and there's a bike trail that almost goes directly there. 10 miles is above my abilities now, but I think it's an achievable goal.

Reading MMM again also makes me realize how far off the current FI moment is from what MMM/Jacob popularized "back in the day." I feel like the whole "moment" has become a "scene," and the more popular bloggers now feel more like Instagram lifestyle advocates and less like real people with interesting ideas. But maybe that's also just a side effect of reading this stuff for 7 years.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by Cheepnis » Sat Feb 16, 2019 12:41 pm

AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:21 am
. The business side has zero care for the quality of the code we write.
This seems to be the reality of most industries. I know I had to grow accustomed to it when I entered the adult workforce. If they want it bad, they'll get it bad.

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Re: AE's Journal

Post by prognastat » Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:33 pm

Business generally will prefer quick and dirty since that equals cheap. At least until something breaks or needs to be rewritten/updated.

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