AE's Journal Round 4

Where are you and where are you going?
jacob
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by jacob »

@Frita - I think you're talking about something else, namely, how turning your passion into work risks destroying the passion as its conditioned on the annoying aspects of work, especially in a structured setting where the employer, customer, or clients start calling the shots.

When work and leisure are [properly] melded, work is no longer seen as work and leisure is no longer seen as leisure. It's more a state of doing what you want and if other people are willing to pay for one existing in that stage, then why not? If they don't, then who cares? To make this happens one has to learn to say "no, not interested" a lot. This can either be done from a position of FI/FU-money or being in such a high demand that it's possible to switch income source practically at will.

Add: Maybe we're talking about the same thing after all. For example, there's work that's only found in a job-setting. For example, if the work involves surgery or flying commercial jets, it can't be done on an amateur basis. This was why I was willing to accept some structure in order to work with Wall Street level finance compared to the retail investor level options I had at home.

classical_Liberal
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by classical_Liberal »

jacob wrote:
Sun Jun 07, 2020 3:03 pm
This can either be done from a position of FI/FU-money or being in such a high demand that it's possible to switch income source practically at will.
I would add to this list:
1) Having the ability to live on 2 JAFI's or less. This opens up many more realms to earn "enough".

2)Being generally curious with a desire to be productive. As long as you are in the "20" of 80/20, and can effectively communicate this to potential income sources, opportunity abounds in many different pursuits. IOW, if I'm interested in learning ten different things and willing to work hard at it, then the ability to have someone pay me to learn one of them is always available. EDIT: on second thought maybe this is the same as being in high demand?

Any one of the four is enough. If you have more than one, lifestyle is generally robust.

Frita
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by Frita »

@Jacob
We’re talking about something similar but not quite the same. Despite any awful employer situations, I still loved the work and found it meaningful.

classical_Liberal
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by classical_Liberal »

@Frita
I get what you're saying. I think nursing is becoming somewhat that way for me. It's very possible to love the core functions of a job and still hate the job because of all the BS associated with it. And it might not just be the job, but across the entire field.

I do think it's possible, when in a good place with yourself and the work, to make a measured judgement about whether or not the BS is worth the effort vs core function opportunities though. If $$ are not an issue and you're not in salaryman mindset, it's much easier to be in that place. $$ is mostly mental though, if/when you come to the conclusion that you can earn enough to survive doing a host of things, its' easy to know you have "enough". Add in FI/FU or high demand skill and it's even better. One can put themselves in a position to mold a job more to their liking, @2B1S emphasised this in his recent post upthread and @jacob alluded to this when mentioning you have to say "no" a lot.

Frita
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by Frita »

classical_Liberal wrote:
Sun Jun 07, 2020 4:55 pm
@Frita
It's very possible to love the core functions of a job and still hate the job because of all the BS associated with it. And it might not just be the job, but across the entire field.
In my opinion, this sums up K-12 education. The US has a long history of devaluing school teachers, paying poorly, and expecting people to stay in a position for an entire career. (I know several displaced teachers going into nursing.) There is also age discrimination, especially if an experienced non-retread with advanced degrees. The BS can not be worth it and still miss the work, even when FI.

Edit: AE, I am sorry about the highjacking. My intent was more to give an example, which I tend to eschew as I am not a detail person.

FBeyer
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by FBeyer »

AE:
There is at least one forum member here who has a PhD in Bioinformatics. Do you want me to set you up so you can have a talk about 'the realities' of bioinformatics? I've personally found that what looks neat about a job, is basically only 10% of that job's responsibilities.

Carpentry? 90% drywall.
Entrepreneurship? 90% marketing.
Data science? 90% data mangling.
Etc.

Getting an inside view of what the jobplace really looks like is vital whenever you embark on a new endeavor.



Regarding Win-Win in conversation. The book Crucial Conversations covers exactly how you go about facilitating such discussions. I highly recommend it.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

Thanks for the interesting discussion, everyone. I've spent some time being completely offline for awhile. I've found the political/social media sphere to have gotten increasingly dysfunctional over the past few years, and it's gotten way worse now. I may write more on this topic lately (due to my age, hobbies, and profession, I think I have some interesting insight on the evolution of the current situation), but for now, I found disengaging completely to have been a big benefit for mental health.

I also adopted a puppy, which has really helped keep me occupied and not go so stir crazy with the prolonged CV19 situation. Puppy also makes it harder to eat out/spend too much time on screens, which is also good. And puppy is a good icebreaker to talk to people. Downside is that puppy was kind of expensive because Denver has an off-the-walls, insane dog culture which makes getting a dog here a production and a half. (I already have 2 cats, so getting a dog isn't a huge lifestyle adjustment)

Anyway, I gave the salaryman mindset trap some thought, and I think is basically boils down to what Jacob said in his Get Rich Slowly piece:
Jacob wrote:While FIRE solves the freedom-from problem, ERE’s renaissance concept also solves the freedom-to issue, because the limiting factor in enjoying post-work life is seldom money but skill, connections, and the amazing opportunities they generate
It's this "freedom-to" problem that's keeping me stuck in the salaryman mindset. I used to think I had an answer to the "freedom-to" problem, but after seeing how others in similar situations to me wrecked their lives by quitting their jobs and turning into bizarre, anti-social NEETs, I really reconsidered a lot of my hobbies and how I spend my time. This made me think that I shouldn't quit work after all because I don't want to spend my life playing video games and posting on social media.

Because you can have all the money in the world, but it's those connections and skills that enable you to live an interesting life. And so people who suddenly find themselves with money/freetime, but no skills, often end up worse than if they had simply stayed salarymen. (See every story about someone winning the lottery and it ruining their lives)

People who have "semi-ERE'd" by working part time have merely solved the "freedom-to" problem without reaching true FI yet. So this needs to be my goal.

Which brings me to the difficult question of just how to solve the freedom-to problem. To be honest, I'm not really sure. I think the biggest thing limiting me right now is mild depression/lack of energy|motivation and lack of appropriate social connections (ie, networking into interesting opportunities). Solving both these problems seems difficult, but I think this is actually the biggest thing that's holding me back/contributing to salaryman-mindset.

So what I think I might do is attempt the "21-Day Makeover" that Jacob has on the main blog. I'm going to make a few adjustments to better suit my life, but it seems like a good starting point in making the changes I need to make. I also intend to spend a lot more than just 21 days on it. My plan is to focus on one thing at a time. Once I've internalized the "day's" challenge, I'll move onto the next "day." And then I can post about each challenge here to keep myself accountable.

@FBeyer - That would actually be really helpful if you could connect me with that person. It's always extremely helpful to talk to people in a field before you consider making a more dramatic change. It helps you know if it's a good fit or not.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

@mooretrees - I do think you're absolutely right about exercise. Maintaining an exercise habit is something I have historically struggled with, but it's extremely important for mood and energy. Thanks for the link to that post because that is a great resource. I'm going to try and implement some of those suggestions.

@c_L, Frita - On "living to work vs working to live": I do have more of a "work to live" mindset. This helps in some respects, but I've found it to hold me back professionally. For example, we've have quarterly planning over the past few days, which has consisted of being on an all-day, non-stop conference call for a few days in a row now. I'm a little bit disengaged from this because I view this as "just a job." It makes sitting on those calls insanely worse. I do want to get to the point where I'm working for skill/experiences rather than money, but it seems a bit daunting since a lot of traditional employment has these "structure" problems. And as I've said before, even working from home, FT seems so dang energy draining.

Which is why I do need to focus on cutting my expenses more. I used to be better, but lifestyle inflation, especially over CV19 and giving up on video-game-FI, has ticked my expenses up. So it's not so much that I want to cook cheaper per say, but that I know I can do it and I'm wasting a tremendous amount of money with my current eating out habits.

@5ts and anyone else on FAANG job - Getting this job requires a tremendous amount of studying, and I've found it really hard to motivate myself to do it. It's weird because I used to love this stuff in college, but have absolutely no desire to crack open my textbooks now. I think I still want to at least try for the job because even if I don't get it (which honestly I probably won't), it's good experience to try. But again, when it comes time to actually study for this thing, I just can't force myself to do it. This may be a sign that I don't really want the job.
Last edited by AnalyticalEngine on Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

21 Day Makeover Index
I'll link entries to this page as I finish each challenge for tracking purposes. I also added a "Get in Shape" task to the challenge as Day 0.

Day 0: Getting in shape
Day 1: Finding a place to live
Day 2: Decluttering and managing stuff
Day 3: Grocery shopping
- [Part 1]
Day 4: Drop the cell phone plan
Day 5: Find a free hobby
Day 6: Clothes
Day 7: Going car free
Day 8: Get engaged!
Day 9: Budgeting
Day 10: Calculating net worth
Day 11: Connecting your stuff with your neighbors
Day 12: Establishing a savings account
Day 13: Insurance
Day 14: Investing for early retirement – Part 1
Day 15: The first two weeks of the make over
Day 16: The stuff you actually keep and use
Day 17: Maintaining and repairing things
Day 18: Join a challenge
Day 19: Getting rid of your TV (addiction)
Day 20: Own classics
Day 21: Investing for early retirement – Part 2
Last edited by AnalyticalEngine on Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

5ts
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by 5ts »

AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:47 am
Getting this job requires a tremendous amount of studying, and I've found it really hard to motivate myself to do it. It's weird because I used to love this stuff in college, but have absolutely no desire to crack open my textbooks now. I think I still want to at least try for the job because even if I don't get it (which honestly I probably won't), it's good experience to try. But again, when it comes time to actually study for this thing, I just can't force myself to do it. This may be a sign that I don't really want the job.
This is my armchair psychiatry, completely unqualified and clueless, but this is just something to think about. If there is depression lurking around, then it can sap away the enjoyment from things you once enjoyed. It looks like you have a plan to change things, and with that you might find your attitude about this job might change. Or it might not and this feeling is genuine. Just don't want you to get locked into a mindset. Hope your plan goes well, it is a worthwhile endeavor.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

@5ts - I completely agree. Depression is difficult because it makes it very easy to get locked into an incorrect mindset/world assumptions, so I'm going to try and be careful from drawing any too strong of conclusions about things. Depression is also difficult because it can be both a symptom of something else as well as a primary cause in and of itself, and distinguishing between those two can be nigh impossible while you're in the midst of it.

In my experience, depression can also trigger a ton of navel gazing about why you're depressed in the first place. This navel gazing can lead one to unfalsifiable and inactionable conclusions, which just leads to more depression. I've been trapped in this exact pattern many times, and so I'm trying my best not to fall into it again.

So what I'm going to try and do this time is view depression as a "medical condition." It's debatable if depression really is a medical condition or not, but at least this framework enables me not to get stuck in viewing it as something I can't do anything about. And we know from the scientific literature that physical activity, a healthful diet, and avoiding screen time all cause a lessening in symptoms of depression. If someone has a skin condition, they will just wear sunscreen and avoid harsh sunlight to treat it instead of getting stuck ruminating about the true nature of skin conditions. Likewise, if I am struggling with mild depression/lack of energy/lack of motivation, then I just need to "treat" it instead of wondering about the true nature of depression/how this happened.

Now the difficult part is making these habits stick when you are already running on low energy, but I'm hoping my plan will work.

Sidenote: What sparked my focus on this was thinking about people I knew who were "outside the system" successfully and those who weren't. What it came down to was people outside "the system" with untreated mental health conditions were far worse off than people outside "the system" without untreated mental health conditions. It therefore follows that if I want to be successful in FI/ERE, then I need to avoid having an untreated mental health condition. Since I am prone to depression, this needs to be my primary focus in my ERE plans.

classical_Liberal
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by classical_Liberal »

AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 11:37 am
What it came down to was people outside "the system" with untreated mental health conditions were far worse off than people outside "the system" without untreated mental health conditions. It therefore follows that if I want to be successful in FI/ERE, then I need to avoid having an untreated mental health condition.
Does A lead to B, or B lead to A? Causation is important here. Mental illness forcing one outside the system who may want to be inside, is a different game than FI. Tennis to volleyball, the net is still there, but that's about it.

I think you're on the right track though. If you know certain things trigger your depression, and certain things help get you out, then you need to build your life around the good things and avoid the bad. I know a real common problem for depression is that people don't wanna get out of their house. So, a job may be good for that, as it forces you to do so... Yet if the job itself is a trigger for the depression, then the story flips a bit.

There are actually things to commit to outside your home that don't involve paid employment though. And certainly some forms paid employment that won't exacerbate depression.

FU 101, money is no longer the driving force in your decision making.

ertyu
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by ertyu »

Mental illness forcing one outside the system who may want to be inside, is a different game than FI.
... living this right now. situation not as bad as it can be, in that i already have FU money, but I do not consider myself to be financially independent absent further work at some stage, and i have been.. unable to do anything. the dark and gloomy moods of full time employment have let off, but i am still numb and low on energy, finding it difficult to muster the starting burst of energy required for most simple tasks.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

@c_L - You are right; that is an important distinction. Based on my (limited) observations of mental illness, it seems part of the problem of it is the way it limits your options. So severe anxiety/depression might make it hard for you to get out of your house, and then not getting out of your house leads to further problems (decline in health, isolation, ect) that make the mental illness worse.

Commitments that don't involve paid employment is a good point. CV19 has been a useful experiment in that regard. I'm an introvert, but I also live alone, and I've found the lack of social interaction from work to have been the most difficult part of working from home. It's made me pretty stir crazy. However, using work as a social outlet also involves driving there, dealing with other stuff, etc. And as an introvert, I found I got so socially burned out from work that I had a hard time pursing social outlets outside of work. Now that I'm WFH, I'm finding I actually have enough social energy that I want to go meet strangers, for nearly the first time in my life. But CV19 has made everything cancelled. I used to worry that I would have an impossible time making friends outside of work, but now I think I actually would be able to pursue outside friendships more if I wasn't so drained from work (and there was no pandemic lol)

Incidentally, I really do think a large part of my problem has been boredom, because I'm finding myself significantly less depressed/anxious now that I have to do all the work of looking after a very young puppy. Work is pretty under-stimulating for me, and I think that's half the reason I've struggled so much with it.

@ertyu - I understand how rough of a situation that can be. Depression is really insidious because it robs you of any energy and motivation. Even simple tasks like eating food seem like an insurmountable hurtle. I hope taking a break from paid employment helps create the positive motivation feedback loop that is absolutely critical to getting out of that dark place.

ertyu
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by ertyu »

AnalyticalEngine wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:23 am
as an introvert, I found I got so socially burned out from work that I had a hard time pursing social outlets outside of work.
word, this.

And thanks for the good wishes.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

Day 3: Grocery shopping - Part 1

The part of the makeover challenge I'm going to first attempt is grocery shopping. This is partly because I've historically spent way, way too much on food (we're talking $500+/mo for one person) for years. This has been a mix of restaurants, grocery shopping, takeout coffee, and alcohol. Now $500+ is about 10x the ERE level of food, so there's massive room for improvement here.

The ERE-standard is around $50-$100/mo, while SNAP benefits for one person in my state is ~$200/mo. The USDA Thrifty Food Plan for my age is $175/mo. So the amount of money the government thinks I "should" be spending on food if I am being "thrifty" is $175-$200/mo.

Now ERE isn't really about budgeting down to the amount of money you "should" be spending on food. It's about starting from the bottom and being as efficient as possible/fitting food into your web of goals. This is an important distinction. Trying to "cut costs" on food leads to feeling deprived and continuing old habits. The real goal here is to come up with a sustainable lifestyle that I will live forever, work or no work. Feeling like I "deserve" to go to a restaurant because I "make a lot of money" is one mental habit I need to break.

Luckily I already know how to cook decently well. I'd say I'm at the level of being able to cook a variety of meals for myself and entertain others. However, I'd like to expand my cooking knowledge even more. Ideally I want to get to the point where I can whip together meals from random stuff I happen to already have. Hopefully this comes with practice, but if anyone has any resources here on how to expand cooking fundamentals, I'd love to hear them.

So for this month, I'll be cleaning out my pantry/organizing my kitchen and trying to be as efficient with food spending as possible. I have a lot of staples bought already, so my spending this month could be artificially low. Still, I'm going to calculate total cost per serving of everything I make, and include the cost of staples I've already bought in that price.

Additionally, given I have two cats and a puppy, I need to learn how to make food for them. There's still a lot of dog/cat food they need to eat, but once I run out, I'll be making pet food at home.

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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by jacob »

https://www.supercook.com + learning to use leftovers. Eventually make dishes knowing what the leftovers will be and how to roll them into future meals. Various cuisines have different dishes for leftovers. See e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyttipanna (similar dishes). The average family throws out 30-40% of their food, so accounting for that the ERE budget is ~ the SNAP minimum after removing the waste and rotating from preprocessed jars, tubes, and mixes to fundamental ingredient based foods.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

@Jacob - Thanks for the resources. That looks like exactly what I need.

Q2 Update
I just finished calculating my NW for Q2 2020. I'm currently sitting at ~$400k. Half of that is home equity and the other half is tied up in 401k's/IRA's. The illiquid nature of my NW makes it feel like it doesn't really exist even though this is quite a bit of money. I have roughly ~$200k earmarked to buy a house with cash someone lower COL than Denver as a part of my eventual ERE plans. That leaves $200k tied up in 401k's, which at 4%, is $8k/year. This would actually buy me FI right now if I can cut my expenses to 1 JAFI. Definitely something that gives me pause. Even with Roth conversion ladders, the 401k money honestly feels kind of useless because I need to keep that entire amount save to eventually afford "traditional" retirement.

The Importance of Staying Concrete
I've been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately. A part of what makes the past nostalgic is the fact the future hasn't happened yet, and so we are free to imagine any wild scenario we please. It's like when you're in high school and you and all your friends imagine someday you will be a popstar. This fantasy is completely unrealistic, and yet high school is the only time in your life when you haven't realized it.

So when you get older, and you end up as an accountant instead of a popstar, this triggers a sense of loss. Your accounting lifestyle feels nothing like how you imagined your future.

And yet, what is critical to realize, is that future you imagined was never going to happen. It feels like a genuine loss, but it really shouldn't, because what you're losing in the first place was a fantasy. It was never real. And so you've only lost something that never existed. You lost an emotion but nothing in physical reality.

I think it's easy to fall into this trap when building your career or worrying about how the future feels bleak due to resource depletion/climate change/etc. The fact is, you were never going to be a popstar, and we were never going to reach post-scarcity utopia. Both of those were pie-in-the-sky visions with no basis in concrete reality.

I think I've been stuck in a trap for several years now of imagining that "someday" I will have everything I want, my job won't be boring, whatever. But this fantasy was so vague that I had no hope of ever achieving it. It was never real. And this lead me to engage in several counterproductive behaviors, like spending money, discounting the time I wasted at work as "not real," hyperfocusing on weird Internet holes because "someday in the future I will have time to exercise."

You end up drawing this arbitrary line in your life of "sucky hopeless work dystopia" and "future FI lifestyle MMM paradise." And then you end up spending $500+/mo on food because, for now, you're stuck in the hopeless work dystopia, and someday you won't be and you'll cut back on food spending then.

But as it says in the ERE book, your lifestyle has to be the end, not a means to an end. Viewing it as a means to an end means you spend $500+ on food and imagine FI will consist of you playing video games. When you realize that you actually don't really like video games, suddenly it seems like it's no longer worth trying to FI, because even a bland corporate job is better than spending all day playing video games.

Focusing on changing your life in concrete ways is a lot harder though, especially when you're already entrenched in bad habits. But it's the only way to make progress, and getting caught up in any kind of narrative can be dangerous.

oldbeyond
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Re: AE's Journal Round 4

Post by oldbeyond »

I think it's really about integrating more of life with what you value, whatever that is. It's easy to detach worthwhile pursuits from their original purpose and worship some idol, like say obsessing over SWRs as a concept in itself instead of the values that drove you to seek FI in the first place, often sacrificing those very values for the abstract concept (this also seems true if you trace the evolution of various spiritual practices). The conditional living you describe is a result of this. Often I think one can fall into this trap because the false idol is a much easier problem to solve, in all aspects but especially emotionally. Continually aligning actions with values is hard work and takes a lot of emotional energy, and it's certainly possible to go overboard and wind up completely confused and dissatisfied, or as an unfocused dilettante who never manages to achieve anything while taking a stab at a thousand things. To some extent you have to dumb down the art of life into more manageable problems to solve. I guess the key is to do this without sacrificing the overall vision of life.

In less abstract terms, it's more a question of finding a life to retire to than accumulating the funds to be able to do so, at least for some of us ;)

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