Putting up with Put-downs: Dealing with Trolls, haters and other miscreants while FIRE blogging

While recently reading through some of the FIRE blogs I regularly go through, I came across and article by ThinkSaveRetire, in which he was discussing the Facebook blowback he was getting after an interview for CNBC on retiring early. Apparently there are a lot of people out there that don’t like it when someone gets of the treadmill – and demonstrates that they could do it to, if they chose to.

The Stoic philosophers (Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, etc.) actually had a few things to say about the “haters” in their day and how to deal with them.  I guess the Roman empire had their share of trolls.

Remember that the ancient Stoics were very concerned about maintaining a sense of tranquility in their lives, and the anger that insults could bring up was unwanted. They wrote extensively about dealing with slights and insults, in order to maintain their “frame.” Some of their ideas:

  1. Pause when insulted, and see if there if the insult is true. If it is, there is little reason to be upset. As Seneca said “Why is it an insult to be told what is self-evident.”
  2. Pause to consider how well-informed the insulter is. He may be saying something bad about us because he sincerely believes what he is saying. Rather than get angry with the person, talk calmly with them to set them straight.
  3. Consider the source of the insult. If it is someone who you respect, then the critical marks shouldn’t upset you – it should make you reevaluate you ideas. If it is someone you don’t respect, then you should feel glad at the insult because “if they think I am wrong, then I must be doing something right.”

In terms of response to insults, rather than insulting back, the Stoics ideas included:

  • Use of humor to deflect an insult, to show that we don’t take the insulter or the insults seriously
  • Don’t respond at all – again to show you we don’t have the time to waste on them

In the end, whenever you “put yourself out there” you are going to get a certain percentage of people who enjoy trying to “get a rise out of you.” Don’t waste your time with them – just keep on your journey to FIRE. After all, living well is the best revenge.

Mr. 39 Months

 

Note: A lot of these ideas I found in the book A Guide to the Good Life (Stoic Joy) by William Irvine.

Excellent post at Our Next Life about fears & excitement as they approach early retirement

Excellent post about the emotions running through a couple as they are just 4 weeks from early retirement.

She runs the spectrum on the uncertainty, sadness, and physical ailments that have popped up as they close in on their final date. An excellent read when people want to understand what it will be like as they approach the frontier.

 

Mr. 39 Months

So what are you thankful for?

It’s that wonderful time of year in the US, when we get in cars, drive for hours, sleep on inflatable beds or fold-out couches, and then stuff ourselves with turkey and stuffing, before falling asleep on the couch while watching football. In truth, it is supposed to be the time of year when you reflect back on a bountiful harvest and all the good things that happened to you and your loved ones throughout the year, and gives thanks for it. Often folks seem to have a difficult time throughout the year counting their benefits, and only at the end of the year do they spend any time reflecting back. This is a mistake.

This year, I have been filling out a 5-minute journal, which is a daily journal with specific things to fill out in the morning and in the evening. The idea being that this will help prepare you for the day (what are you grateful for, what thing would make the day successful, daily affirmation) and clear you mind at the end of the day (what went well, what would have made the day even better). It’s also full of motivational quotes and small tasks to do weekly.

The biggest benefit to it, in my mind, is its requirement to list out three things daily that you are grateful for. It can be silly things (grateful for a warm bed) or profound (grateful for the friends that I have around me), but it makes you remember to be grateful every day.

I’ve also started reading about Stoic philosophy. Yes, go ahead and get it out – I listen to Tim Ferris podcasts and sometimes take his advice on certain things. Sue me. One of the best books I’ve read is A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine. He describes the ancient history of the Stoics, and then shows how to apply their teachings to modern life.

One of the key parts of Stoic philosophy is to imagine the bad things that can happen to you in life, and then think about how you can react and continue to live, even if these happen. The purpose is not just to steel yourself against the evils of the world, but to appreciate what you have. In discussions on death, they teach to think that this moment might be your last, or this might be the last time you see a friend. This is so you can truly value the time you have, the people you live with, the food you eat.

So don’t just value your friends, family and life once a year. Value them constantly and give thanks now.

 

Mr. 39 Months

Uh – Oh. My Spouse is thinking……

The community typically has a situation where one spouse is “on fire” with getting to financial independence, but the other isn’t as easily convinced that this is the way to go, or how this might benefit/affect them. They will listen patiently to their spouse go on and on about effective tax strategies, paying off debt and high savings methods, but it doesn’t really sink in.

Maybe they pick up on the travel hacking early, because they see the benefit from that – and get a little excited. Still, even if you are sharing the rapidly accumulating savings, your prospective FIRE date, and count it down on a board, they just don’t get excited. They look at you with an amused smirk, pat you on the head and send you away.

Then something happens (bad day at work, a need to travel that they can’t meet do to a work commitment, etc.) and then they start asking questions. Are we really that close to retirement? How do you withdraw the money when we aren’t even 65 years old? How do we handle health care?

It is at this point that you know that it is starting to sink in – they are actually starting to envision a life where they don’t have to work, where they are financially free. It can be liberating, and it can be scary. If someone is just coming to the concept, they will be full of questions, and want justification for the answers (just like all of us FIRE true believers were at the beginning).

Well, the other night Mrs. 39 Months suddenly starting quizzing me on how you do a “ramp down” of your funds after you retire. I wasn’t sure if it was because of a bad day at work or if my comments had gotten through, but she was interested. After about 5 minutes of discussion, she seemed satisfied, though no exactly sure of the method. Still, I take it as a positive sign that she is coming to the realization that we are almost there.

So be patient with your significant other as you travel your road. It may take them a little longer, but they’ll catch up soon enough.

 

What have you and your partner discussed in your run up to financial independence?

Mr. 39 Months

Podcasts

 One of the best innovations in the last decade for those of us who travel a lot (especially by car) or who have long commutes is the podcast. A form of verbal recording, you can download them and listen to them at your leisure. No longer are you forced to listen to whatever is on the radio or to pack quantities of books on CD (or for those of us old enough, books on tape). While there are many who are saying podcasts are “overdone” and are on the way out, for those of us who are late-adapters to technology, this is a great innovation.

 The main benefit of podcasts is that you can choose the topics you want to listen to, so you can load up on cooking, woodworking, knitting – or Financial Independence! My personal preferences are for history, woodworking (odd, I know) and personal finance/FIRE.
 The hardest part is to find ones that you enjoy, and that provide you with the information and entertainment that you want. For that reason, I’ve listed on my blogroll to the right, some of the FIRE podcasts that I like to listen to. I will add to it as I find other ones that I enjoy, and feel that you folks would enjoy as well.
 After that, the only problem is finding the time to listen to them all!
 What podcasts do you like to listen to?
Mr . 39 Months

 

Your Greatest Financial Decision

There is always discussion in the FIRE community about the way to pick stocks, the way to travel hack, or the way to reduce your overall expenses to more easily obtain financial independence. This is the “meat and potatoes” of the FIRE community, and like most of you, I really enjoy people’s thoughts, opinions, struggles and successes here.

I wanted to take the time today, to talk about what I believe is the most important financial decision that you will ever make, especially if you are seeking financial independence. That decision is your choice of spouse/partner.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard/read interviews of FIRE folks, and they answer back “my spouse is more frugal that I am.” It’s that level of frugality, working together towards a goal that enables most of us to hit out financial independence goals, especially those who hit it in the 30s and 40s. There is a common theme you often here about folks dating/marrying – that you end up with your opposite (you are outgoing and they are more laid back, you like to spend and they are frugal, etc.). If you run into this and don’t discuss it before you get too serious, it could lead to all sorts of problems in the long-term relationship. In terms of FI, it could derail your plans.

There have been stories of prospective spouses who have called off the wedding, due to finding out how much in debt their partner is in. Depending on where you live, you could be responsible for some of the debts, and at a minimum, excessive debt by one of the partners will impact their ability to contribute to the finances of the couple.

Like many of you, I was lucky enough to marry someone who is more frugal that I am. I was always the one who ran the checkbook down to the lowest amount possible – even as I was automatically saving money in my 401K and IRA. My wife likes cash, so she has a significant amount of money in a savings account (not even CDs!). Still, this keeps her stress down, and I just treat that as our emergency fund/cash reserve and put my money entirely into other investment vehicles.

It’s worked for us for 31 years (with some bumps), but we certainly wouldn’t be where we are now (33 months away from FI) if I had married a “spendy” woman. I have friends and coworkers with spouses that like to spend (both male & female) and it certainly causes stress and affects their relationship.

So make sure you talk about finances to your prospective spouse, and ensure you are both on the “same sheet of music” in terms of your financial goals.

One last thing – if you are already married, and you’ve got significant money invested saved, and you overhear your spouse say “It costs $40, but I am not sure I want to pay that much” – give them a big hug and tell them you love them. They are helping you on your way to Financial Independence.

Mr. 39 Months

So what is your savings rate?

And what is the trend of our savings?

I finally got the savings bug big-time around the age of 36, in the year 2000. Up till then, I had only invested money in the 401K to meet a company match (typically 3% – 4%). I was focused on increasing my income, in order to pay for the normal things of life, as I understood them (house, car, etc.). By 1999 I had finally reached the point where my salary was paying for everything, without incurring additional debt.

Then in 2000 I scored a major pay increase (about 20%) when moving to another company. At the same time, the market tanked, and the money I did have in a 401K/Roth IRA seemed to evaporate overnight. I knew then, that I had to really get serious.

At that time, the word was to save 10% of your income – but I knew that since I was starting late (age 36) I needed to add more. I started around 10%, but immediately pushed to max out my 401K. The goal was to get to 20%, and eventually higher.  Note that this is on the gross pay (i.e. before taxes are taken out) so it gets harder as you make more money.

Year Savings Rate 5-year Trend
2000 9.9%
2001 10.5%
2002 12.5%
2003 14.5%
2004 16.5% 12.8%
2005 18.4% 14.5%
2006 18.2% 16.1%
2007 16.3% 16.8%
2008 14.6% 16.8%
2009 21.7% 17.9%
2010 21.6% 18.5%
2011 31.1% 21.1%
2012 16.2% 21.1%
2013 19.9% 22.1%
2014 19.2% 21.6%
2015 25.4% 22.4%
2016 29.8% 22.1%
2017 30.1% 24.9%

After ten years, I had paid off almost all my debt (just house) and was saving around 30%. I took a slight dip in 2012, because I took a pay cut my company’s 401K didn’t allow me to put in very much. I chose to concentrate on paying down the mortgage and getting debt free.

Well, I’m finally back to 30%, and based on some monetary movement, I should be able to bump it up to 40% in 2018. I’m proud of my trend over the last 17+ years, and the fact that I’m set to be financially independent (without counting on Social Security) in 2020.

So how has your savings rate trend been?

 

Mr. 39 Months

 

Diminishing Friendships in Retirement?

I was listening to one of my financial podcasts, Stacking Benjamin’s, and on one of their recent shows, and their guest was talking about early retirement and issues that many folks don’t think about. One of the more interesting ones (and one that I have thought about a lot as I get closer) is the social aspect of work, and how that might leave a hole when a person retires.

For most folks it is the people at work who form their social circle (outside their immediate family). These are the folks they see every day, talk with at the coffee machine, and discuss last night’s TV show or game. You get to know their families, trials and tribulations, and life stories. These people are the “village” you have to live in for 8+ hours a day – and it is often the thought of leaving these folks (and moving to another “village”) that keeps people in the same job for years. I know that is one of the major things keeping my sister-in-law still working.

It has been noted that folks often have a hard time getting new friends (or keeping old ones) as they age. People drift apart, both geographically and in their interests. Men often have a particularly difficult time of this, and sometimes have no friends they can turn to in their later years.

I’ve joined several organizations (outdoors, woodworking, professional society) in order to try and get out. As I look to achieve financial independence, I know I am going to have to work hard to be more outgoing, and seek stronger friendships with folks in my interest groups. It won’t be easy – but it is a challenge worth the trouble.

How are you folks preparing or working on this?

 

Mr. 39 Months

Great post on the 10 Commandments of Early Retirement at the Retirement Manifesto

 

Excellent post on the commandments of Early Retirement.

The Ten Commandments Of Early Retirement

It goes into a lot more detail, but the top ten are:

  1. Start Early
  2. Save 20% or more of your money
  3. Increase your income
  4. Live modestly
  5. Invest in stocks
  6. Track your progress
  7. Manage your own wealth
  8. Optimize taxes
  9. Save big $ in after-tax accounts
  10. Delay social security

Not a bad list, and one you should publicize to folks you want to help.

 

Mr. 39 months