Focus on the Present, not on the Past or Future

The Retirement Manifesto has an excellent post on not focusing on the past (or too much on the future). Enjoy the present.

In it, he discusses some family issues with Alzheimer’s (living in the past) and the tendency of FIRE folks to focus too much on the future, at the expense of enjoying how you live currently. He also introduces a new phrase – TPA (time phase allocation) where you determine how much time you want to spend on the past, future and present, and what it might mean for your mental well-being.

This harkens back a bit to the reading and work I’ve been doing on Stoicism. The stoics are very big on not focusing too much on past mistakes and issues. They are gone and outside your control. Stoic philosophy really is about focusing on what you can control (often times, just your thinking and emotions) and to let go of things outside of your control (other people’s action, historical events, etc.).

For many FIRE folks, this can be a real stumbling block. We find out about FIRE, do a lot of reading, run the numbers, set up our savings, get our FI number, and then……wait. We keep reading, adjusting, tweaking our investments, savings and plans. We should also be living for today, and budgeting money to live for today (rather than living like monks).

I have a deferred account at work, where I can put a portion of my salary away (in addition to my 401K) that I can get paid later, or after I leave the company. I dropped it this year from 25% of my salary to 20%, just so we’d have a few extra dollars for travel and enjoying life now.

What are you doing to live for today?

Mr.39 Months

I think I’m going on a diet…

While one of my goals for this year is weight loss, it isn’t a new food diet I’m talking about.

Last week I had to travel out to an area of Pennsylvania on business (a 2+ hour drive) so I woke up early. I had not slept well the night before, so waking up early already had me cranky. In my normal morning “ablutions” I tend to read some blogs and websites in the morning as I’m getting ready. Unfortunately, these aren’t the FIRE blogs, which tend to be upbeat and action-oriented. You may be able to see where this is going…..

This day, like so many others, the blogs were full of doom and gloom about a variety of topics. I don’t want to get too political here, but it seems like both “sides of the aisle” in the US are predicting the end is near, and we should all just go and prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Relations between the sexes is in the tubes, nobody can afford to start families and have kids, and we are all going to die, due to war, famine, pestilence, etc.

As you head out on the road, if you listen to NPR or talk radio, you get bombarded with the same stuff. Again, it doesn’t matter what your views are, it seems like everyone is selling “distress and sadness” right now.

Yet the unemployment rate is low, wages are up, the investments are up, people go to work, take their dates out, their kids play and go to school, and most folks are doing fine. The people in the FIRE community are living proof that folks are taking action and doing what is needed to make it.

I think its just the “media” (be it mainstream news, blogs, websites, etc. ) with the clickbait articles and their “if it bleeds it leads” attitude which is making me crazy/depressed at times. So I’m going to try and go on a news diet somewhat, where I don’t check in as much, and work more on my interests and goals. I won’t be ignoring the big problems, but I’m going to try not to concentrate on them so much, especially ones where I have no hope of influencing the end result.

Consider it as me taking steps to keep my sanity. I hope you are keeping yours.

Any thoughts?

Mr. 39 Months

Good article on Frugality

Barry Ritholtz has a good article titled “buy yourself a F*^king   latte”, in which he takes Susie Orman and other finance folks to task for their comments on how saving on expensive coffee can result in huge savings, and how folks that indulge themselves are putting retirement money in jeopardy.

Like most folks in the FIRE community, Mrs. 39 Months and I have practiced a frugal existence, at least in terms of the society in general. I’m sure there are folks here that are way more frugal than we are, but we do OK. Still I believe (and have written about) the need to live your life now, not just save for some future date that may or may not be there. I don’t believe you should neglect your savings, but you can’t just go “all work and no fun” in life. Like a diet, you will burn out and end up cheating – and hating yourself afterward.

The key to FI is intentional living – understanding that you have the power to make the money decisions, and then making them in such a way to bring you joy throughout your lifetime. Save a lot and think about the fun you’ll have when you reach FI, but also spend some time, money and energy enjoying life today. Depending on your religion, this is the one chance you have to live it, so don’t restrict yourself too much.


Mr. 39 Months

A pre-retirement test you should add to your “prep list”

I was listening to one of my FIRE/Finance podcasts this week, and they discussed an interesting test or quiz you should consider as you prepare for early retirement. A lot of us who have caught the FIRE bug dream about our time post-FI, and do a lot of thinking/considering/planning for what we will do, what our day will be like, and how we will occupy our time. For many of us, it is the fuel which keeps us going as we accumulate the resources to be financially independent.

Yet a lot of folks who are in the community have not been able to get their significant other as “pumped” as we are in reference to this, and often discussions do not go very far. A lot of our spouses just aren’t that turned on by finances, Roth conversions, and travel hacking. I know, because I have constantly tried to involve Mrs. 39 Months in our finances, but she resists. The best I can get her to do is look at our net worth statement at the beginning of each year and file it away.

So the podcast suggested you ask your significant other a simple question, one that they probably could wrap their heads around and provide feedback on. The question for your partner was “describe a typical day for yourself post-retirement.” From this, you should be able to tell a lot about the sort of life you may lead, some potential budgetary points, and how compatible your plans are with your partner.

Well, for Mrs. 39 Months, I got this:

  • “Wake up late”
  • “Spend time in morning to meditate and stretch”
  • “Leisurely breakfast”
  • “Time to take walks outside”
  • “Time on my arts & crafts (she plays the dulcimer and makes leather shoes and jewelry)
  • “Some travel”

For a little background, Mrs. 39 Months worked for a company for 18 years, where her hours were 10am – 6pm. She had time for a relaxing morning, and she enjoyed it. Eventually the company was bought and moved, and she didn’t like the commute, so she left. Now she has to head to work at 8am, and she doesn’t enjoy the earlier mornings, and how it affects her schedule. Thus, her desire for a more leisurely morning.

It also shows that she doesn’t have a desire for a lot of money-intensive actions in our retirement. We can probably maintain our current lifestyle (though I’ll probably bump up the numbers for travel in our budget). This will help me plan better and keep on track.

So I’m glad I asked, and I hope this will help spark a continued interest by her in our retirement plans.

I hope you folks are communicating well as you progress!

Mr. 39 Months

Your greatest weapon in reaching FI (or your greatest weakness)

There has been a lot written about the strategy and tactics used to achieve FI and set yourself up for a lifetime of freedom.  Discussions on investments, frugality, job success, and a host of other topics. I want to discuss what is probably the greatest financial decision you will have, and one which will make or break your chances of financial success. That decision is – your choice of spouse or significant other.

The world is full of a long list of stories in which one person makes the money and the other person spends it (or they both spend it). It is often said that opposites attract, and that you marry your opposite. Thus savers marry spenders and vice-versa. The result is often fights over financing, as one person struggles to make the money, while the other one spends it just as fast (or faster).

Many people go into marriage swiftly, with very little knowledge of their prospective mate. Others take the time to get to know that person, and in today’s society, many more are living together for a period of time prior to tying the knot. What this allows is for someone of a ‘FIERY’ bent to get to understand their potential partner and to understand how they will aid or detract from their goals – not only their FIRE goals, but their other life goals.

I’ve recently seen several stories where one person called off a wedding after finding out the other was in significant debt, and hadn’t told them. There is also that story of the guy (I believe in Colorado or Texas) who married a girl and was with her for 3 years, while he helped her pay off her student loans. On the day the last payment was made, she filed for divorce. Ouch!

The world is also full of stories of couples on the same sheet of music, who complement each other and help each of them move towards their lifetime goals, and achieve FI. Most of the links in the blogs to the right are of couples (or one of a two-person couple) detailing their success at working towards their goals. It should be obvious, but I’ll say it – Life is much easier and sweeter if you have someone to travel it with you.

What brought this post on? As some of you have read lately, I have been a bit down in the dumps, and Mrs. 39 Months has noticed. She has sought to cheer me up at times, and took me out to dinner for my birthday, while inviting friends. Her birthday present for me was a new book, The Happiness Trap, by Russ Harris (a future blog post/book review). Basically, my partner has seen my troubles, and is working with me to assist (as I have done for her in the past).

Mrs. 39 Months is also extremely frugal. Just last night, she was arguing with herself on whether to buy a certain tool for one of her crafts (making leather shoes) and was not sure if she wanted to spend $40 on it. This is a woman with over $100K in the bank (our emergency fund). Needless to say, I gave her a kiss, told her how much I loved her, and then suggested she go ahead and buy the tool. I am still not sure she did, though.

So take the opportunity, if you can, to thank your spouse or significant other today. Life is better with them in your life.

Mr. 39 Months.

As the FIRE slowly burns out….

Well, my life has been changing this year, especially my work life. As many of you know, I’ve had several  posts on how I’m feeling distanced from work, how it appears the technology may have passed me by, and how, as I close in on my FIRE date, moral has dropped somewhat.

Its fascinating though, because when I get a project that requires my skills and experience (and it happens a lot) I can dive in and spend hours on the analysis and solution. The time will pass quickly, and before I know it, the day has gone by, and I’ve succeeded in coming up with an answer for the operations. Or we will be doing an implementation of new business in a warehouse, and I’ll be the engineer who brings a lot of the component projects together and gets thanked at the end. Those are the reasons I continue to do the job. It’s the actual work (not the managing people) that I enjoy.

Still, I have noticed that I don’t have the same thrill to get started in the morning lately, and I’m slow to walk in to work from the car. My boss is in town this week, and all I can think of is ways to avoid interacting with him. I have a ton of project work due, and more being piled on, so I have a valid excuse. Still, its odd for me to not be brown-nosing or seeking to gain additional information on the organization and my role in it.

This is part of the process of me “drawing down” my involvement. In a couple of months, my responsibilities for management will be significantly reduced, as a peer will be put over me and my group. It is what I’ve wanted and worked towards, so I should be happy. Still, being “out of the loop” and not being one of the hard charging leaders is very different from my previous professional career. It is a difficult transition to make – probably similar to the transition I’ll make to retirement.

I hope your work and/or retired life is fulfilling and  you aren’t filled with too much angst.

Other Folks getting burnt out

Mr. 39 Months

FIRE and Pets….

Many of us in the FIRE community are pet owners/lovers. They become part of our families, and they provide comfort to us as we walk our path through life. Our kids love playing with them (and so do we), and it just makes life easier (even if we have to walk them in the snow at 6am in the morning….)

However, they do cost money. Food, toys, materials, Cat tray “poo” powder….and medical care. Just recently, we had one of our cats become very listless, not her usual self. She is pretty high-strung, so we didn’t really want to stuff her in a cat carrier and take her to the vet – but eventually we decided we had to. Once there, they took a look and then gave us an estimate of $2,400 to do all the tests and fix her up, due to a serious infection. Ouch!

Mrs. 39 Months and I both looked at each other, and discussed the issue. Our cat was 9 years old, and was still fairly active until this issue.  She has been  a member of the family for a long time, and we couldn’t see life without her. However, we were concerned that she would suffer at the vets for several days, and still not get well. We didn’t want her last days to be like that. Still the vet felt we had a good chance to “save her.”

We are glad we did, because it turned out she wasn’t doing well, and they actually held her for 2 days, while they did a series of tests and pumped some antibiotics into her. She had a major kidney infection, and it took a while just to stabilize her. By the time it was over, she was pretty traumatized, and we got hit with a $2,800 Vet bill. They had given us an estimate beforehand, so it wasn’t too much of a shock. We ended up having to give her antibiotics orally for the next 4 weeks to help finish it off.

So it appears we managed to save her (still a few tests to run) but we’ll end up spending about $3,500 for our Pet’s medical needs. That’s a significant chunk of change for most folks, including us. Luckily we have a large emergency fund, so we weren’t stretched too much, but for so many folks this would be a terrible heartbreak. You have to feel for folks like that.

Hopefully you haven’t experienced anything like that, but if you have, you have my prayers.

Mr. 39 Months

Well that took a long time, but it was worth it

As many folks know, you tend to marry/get involved with people who are your opposite (outgoing folks with reclusive folks, spenders with savers, etc.) That is how it was with Mrs. 39 Months and I. I tended to “pay myself first” and then spend the remainder, up to the point where the checking account was close to zeroing out. Mrs. 39 Months was a saver from the word go – and I mean “saver”.

For our entire relationship, she has dumped any extra money she had (leftover at end of year, gifts of money, bonuses etc.) into a savings account. Period. When her company had a 401K, she pretty much put it in guaranteed income (savings, CDs & bonds). Ouch!

While I redlined it, I made sure my 401K had a large amount of stocks, especially when I was younger. When we finally had enough surplus cash to invest in an IRA on the side (and a Roth IRA shortly afterward) it ended up being my money which got put into it. Thus I could control the investments, and it was 70% -80% stocks.

Eventually her savings account has reached six-figures. All earning 0.25% in a basic savings account. Needless to say, this has caused a minor amount of stress/strain in our relationship. No matter what I said or how I reasoned, she wouldn’t budge.

Well, I finally got a small victory this week. I got her to take $10,000 and invest in two $5,000 CDs (a 2 year and a 4 year) offered by her local bank. The plan is to create a 5-year “ladder” of CDs earning more than a regular savings account. These are both earning around 2.5%, which is 5X higher than her regular savings account. We will see if this convinces her to try a little more with her savings. At least I can say that we have a healthy emergency fund, right?

I hope you are all moving forward towards your FI goals as well!

Mr. 39 Months

Envisioning the perfect job…..

There is a lot of discussion, both in the FIRE community and the world at large about visioning and imagining what you want prior to attaining it. In the Seven Habit book, Covey’s 2nd habit is beginning with the end in mind.  Many have also heard the phrase “if you can dream it, you can achieve it.” The whole idea is that you can help design a portion of your life, just by envisioning the result. Its one of the key parts of our FI community philosophy.

Over the last 15 years (and 3 job changes) I have used this method repeatedly to write up what I want in a job (job duties, corporate culture, etc.) and have been repeatedly surprised to find that what I write down ends up being pretty close (90%?) to what I documented. In fact, one of the things I’ve learned during this time is to make sure I write down everything that I want. When I fail to write something down, that ends up coming back to bite me – and I end up writing it down for the next job I’m trying to get.

Why bring this up? Well, I’ve been somewhat unhappy in my current role, though I do like the company. Like most situations, it’s the boss that is the cause. So what did I do? I went and re-wrote up the work/life summary/meditation that I review every morning.

Over the next three months, I work as an Engineer, providing leadership for continuous improvement and potential new business. In April 2019, I transition to a straight engineer position, with no management responsibilities. I work for a good company, and I have a positive effect on my peers and superiors. I am respected and “in the loop.” The company is well run, progressive and growing, with a good planning and budgeting process. My superior is good, friendly, and values my work and contribution. Travel is about 15%, and I work on interesting projects which stretch my skills and enable me to grow. We have fun, with little stress – though some significant hard work to accomplish large goals. The goal would be to lead/improve operations and the supply chain of the organization. I enjoy the work so much that I continue at it until I achieve financial independence at age 56

As you can see, I envisioned moving out of management and just doing my own work. So what happened in mid-January? My boss comes up with a new structure for the team, and puts someone over me, and pretty much details that I will not have any direct reports. The individual over me is someone I know who I can respect and work for. Oh, and the timeline for this is April/May of this year.  Cue Twilight Zone music….

So what does this demonstrate to me? That a person should take the time to really sit down and figure out how they want their life to run, what they want in it, what sort of environment they want to be in – and then write it down.

Now I just have to decide if, come May/June of this year, is this working out, or do I follow the path to FIRE and get out. I guess we’ll see.

Other blog posts on the subject

What have you been visioning this year?

Mr. 39 Months

Interesting article on if $1M is enough to retire on…

Gobankingrates had an interesting article on whether $1M was enough to retire on, based on the benefits/dangers of Geo-arbitrage in the US. The author has information on the estimated annual expenses that a retiree would pay, by state.

Obviously there are some issues with the analysis:

  • The author just takes the $1M figure and divides by the annual average to get the number of years it would last. Does not deal with investments, 4% rule, or any other way to leverage the $1M. It just assumes you stick the money in something that matches inflation.
  • A “state” average needs to be even further broken down. The difference in each state between its major cities, its towns, and its countryside are radically different. Think New York City vs. Upstate New York (where you can get a house in some places for $50K).
  • Other factors that might be of interest to a person (outdoor sports, theater & symphony, great restaurants, etc.) aren’t really factored as well.

Well, it’s a simplistic article, but it does show a major point. Folks can really alter their FI timeline if they consider geo-arbitrage (moving to a lower cost area) as one of their strategies. Mrs. 39 Months and I are constantly “battling” over where we want to eventually move to, and when.

Something for everyone to consider

Mr. 39 Months