As an older FI blogger, do you ever get the feeling that technology is passing you by?

While I’d like to consider myself technologically adept, I have to admit that over the last five years, I’ve fallen further and further behind. The pace of technology (especially communication tech) is mind-boggling, and the numerous ways that people and business communicate. Just when I think I’ve got the latest tech down, it gets superseded by some other form.

This is happening at work as well. I hate to be the “old fuddy duddy” but there are a lot of new engineers being hired with a lot of tech savvy (and a desire to do robotics and computer simulation) but who don’t have much hand-on experience in the field. My boss, and our customers, are enamored with potential for this (because we are all having a hard time finding labor) so I sometimes feel like I am the odd man out, and becoming obsolete.

The reason I bring this up is that we had the annual “icebreaker” for my professional society this weekend, which was at a distillery in Philadelphia. It was a great time, with a lot of good fellowship, good food, and some drinking. Some of the members there were older (like me) and some were younger (late 20s, early 30s) and the topics eventually settled into our engineering profession. A lot of what was discussed was basic engineer and leadership “blocking and tackling” but some of it was the effect that technology was having on their business and their work. It’s exciting, but also troubling (am I obsolete?).

In the end, one of the concepts of FI is never stop learning, so if I choose to stay in this profession, I need to dedicate myself to continued work in the field. You never stop learning.

 

Mr. 39 Months.

 

Stoicism

No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their poser not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.” Seneca, Moral Letters

Many of you know that I have, over the last year or so, started reading and trying to follow some of the basic concepts of stoicism. The philosophy practiced by some of the ancients in Greece and Rome has had quite a resurgence over the last 20 years. I thank Tim Ferris for introducing me to the stoic philosophy and the first book I read on it. Many folks get it wrong, and think of it as an emotionless, stone-like attitude to life. This is not true – it does encourage you to experience and enjoy life; but it suggests that many of the emotions that are created by life’s issues (depression, anger, etc.) aren’t really valid because most of the issues are transitory and don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

I have found it difficult to follow many of the lessons of the stoic philosophy. While I am an engineer, I am also a very emotion-driven individual. I’m not sure what caused it (genetics, issues growing up, etc.) but I have quite a temper, especially when I feel that I am not getting the respect I believe I am due. For many parts of my life, my emotions have been the driving force in my decision making. This is, of course, in contradiction to the stoic way.

That is why I am enjoying my reading and daily meditations on the subject. While I still have a long journey to make along this path, I believe it has already helped me. I got a book at the beginning of the year titled The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. It has a daily quote from some of the great stoic philosophers of history, which I can use for my meditation, and to attempt to build a better life. Today’s is where I got the quote above from.

 

I hope you folks are enjoying your journey on the path to Financial Independence and a better life.

 

Mr. 39 Months

Sequence

If you are just starting out on the path to FI, or counselling someone who is just starting out, what is the sequence of steps that you would work on? What would you counsel your colleague to do first, then second, then third, etc?  I’ve read numerous books and articles on the various aspects of getting your financial house in order and moving forward. For the most part, they jump around a great deal, based on the author’s particular interests.

If you had a young adult who came to you for guidance on the subject, what would you have them do first?

My thoughts on the subject, and the order I would approach them would be:

  1. Goals: The first step is to identify where you want to go. This is the opportunity to bump up the motivation, as you get your friend to dream big dreams (and small dreams) and identify where they want to go in the next month, next year, next 5-10 years. Its fuel for the fire.
  2. Paycheck: Get ahold of a copy of the paycheck and work out what you are getting paid for, what withdrawals are being taken out, and what benefits you are getting, or could claim (like a 401K, reduced cost insurance, etc.). This is the basis for everything that follows – you have to have money coming in if you are to budget, pay off debts, invest and increase your net worth.
  3. Expenses: Once you identify what is coming in, you need to work out what is going out (housing, transportation, food, clothing, debt, etc.). Depending on the person’s situation, this could be small (student) or large (adult out in the world for a while).
  4. Budget & Cash Flow: Now that you have your income and expenses, you can work out your cash flow (income – expenses = cash flow). If it’s not positive, then it’s time to do whatever is necessary to get it there (additional job, cut expenses, etc.). Once you understand your cash flow, you can make intelligent decisions on how you want to live your life, and how you can pursue your goals.
  5. New Worth: Some folks would say to move this higher up (maybe #2) to get an idea of where you are, but it think this is a more complicated topic, one that you need to have a little knowledge about finances before you can really delve into it. Here you are going to get a “snapshot” of your current financial situation, and this will help you see how far you are from reaching your goals. T
  6. Debt /debt service ratios: So many people are deeply in debt and feel helpless to pull themselves out. By gaining an understanding of debt, a good debt ratio (never have more than 40% of your income in debt payments) and ways to pay it off as quickly as possible, helps to create a feeling of control on the part of the practitioner.
  7. Power of Compound Interest/Investing: The last part I would I would have them learn would be the power of compound interest, and basic investing, to grow their money faster.

I think these would be a good start, and from there, you could cover other items in depth which will add to the knowledge (emergency funds, taxes, spending on home & cars, insurance, etc.).

So what would be the first 5-7 steps you would counsel someone on?

 

Mr. 39 Months

Freedom!

Mrs. 39 Months and I had an interesting discussion recently. As we have closed in on FI, and really started thinking about what our lives might be like, we have both turned to the topic of continuing to work, and what it might look like. For the FIRE community, the idea of continuing to work past our FI point is a matter of some controversy. Some think that even running a blog and making money from it disqualifies you from being “retired.” Others continue to work and earn a paycheck, but they do it in a way that benefits them (their goals, timeline, vacation schedule, etc.).

Both of us believe we want to continue to “do something” once we hit FI, and the idea of the social aspects of work (comradery, people to interact with, etc.) is compelling. Yet one of the other aspects of continuing to work kept rising up in our discussions, and we both voiced it – the desire for more free time.

The current work structure in the US, even for those who are long-term employees, is somewhat regimented. Most folks get 2-3 weeks of vacation a year, plus some sick time.  Yet to hit many of our “bucket list” items and to really enjoy our hobbies, Mrs. 39 Months and I need a lot more time than that. Heck, I’ll need at least 4-5 weeks a year for three years in order to finish up my backpacking on the Appalachian Trail!

This got me thinking about the current work structure in the US, and how it may alter in the years ahead. With low unemployment (below 4%) many key job functions are having a hard time finding potential employees. My company is struggling to find truck drivers, engineers, and key analysts. While this is happening, the baby boomers (yep, I’m one) are retiring in record numbers, leaving the workforce bare of people who have done the job for 40+ years (and who typically can be relied on to come to work )

I have read numerous articles about Gen X and Millennials demanding more free time and benefits from their companies, and who are willing to leave after 1-2 years if they don’t get them. Companies are frantic about developing their internal candidates – because the cost and effort to bring on new ones and train them is so high (and so “hit and miss”).

Does this mean that companies might become more flexible with free time in the future? My thought would be to provide unpaid time to workers, upon request (i.e. the workers would have to schedule it). That way, companies wouldn’t bear the burden of having to pay folks for not working (and could free up costs during business lulls) and workers could get some additional free time to pursue other interests.

Not sure if this will ever happen, but the ongoing shift to worker’s being more valued (getting bigger pay increases, hiring bonuses, etc.) is nice to see.

 

Mr. 39 Months

Thank you all!

Well, will you look at that? One of my goals for 2018 was to double my traffic at the blog. In 2017, I was just over 2,000 visitor. As of July 25th, I had over 4,000 visitors for the year – just seven months in!

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of you who have read, and who have commented. For those of you who are bloggers, you know that sometimes in seems like you are just writing to “the air” and not sure if anyone is paying any attention to your thoughts and ideas. Sometimes you spend a lot of time on a topic, craft your message exactly, and then …. Nothing.

I would also like to thank all the folks whose blogs I have read, thought about, and commented on. I do love the community that has been built by FIRE folks. The ideas, the feedback, and just the life stories. I especially like it when folks write about their struggles, and how everything isn’t perfect.

In our “facebook and twitter” universe, it is often easy to feel that everyone else is doing it better, and is having a much better time. All you see are their vacation pictures, great restaurants, and great times. Yet I am sure they are having their own struggles and challenges. That is why it is good we can be so frank in our community.

So thanks again for tuning in, and I’ll continue to write and reach out to you as I can.

 

Mr. 39 Months

Now I’ve got Mrs. 39 Months thinking….

As we’ve approached FI ever closer, I’ve tried to engage Mrs. 39 Months in conversations about key aspects of our lives once we hit FI (where will we want to live, what do we want to do, how will we occupy our time, does she want to continue to work, etc.).

For the most part, she has resisted these conversations, and has even questioned my willingness to kick back & retire (She doesn’t think I can do it). Her greatest fear, like so many of us, is running out of money as she gets into her late old-age, and is unable to deal with it easily. She also knows that I have been a typical “type A” personality (take charge, prefer action, can’t sit still) and so believes I will go nuts if I retire.

At her place of work, they (like so many others) play the lottery as a group. As she was there talking with a coworker in the break room, they stated that they had a small winning at some part in their lives (about $600,000). That got Mrs. 39 Months thinking about what she would do if she won something like that in the lottery. When a group plays, you obviously don’t win the whole $100M, you win that divided by all the people in the pool.

When we discussed it while cooking dinner, she wondered what sort of income stream she could get off that. I talked with her about the 4% rule, and this would be about $24K a year/$2K a month. She then asked about how you go about creating that sort of income stream, so I had to go into the “3-bucket” method (2 years of cash, 3-5 years of bonds, rest in stocks) to create a safe method for withdrawing.

Suddenly, we were talking about our lives in the near future, whether we would work in low-stress jobs, etc. Its been some interesting conversations over the last week.

As we close in (just a little more than 23 months to go) I’m sure these conversations will get a little more intense and involved. Looking forward to it.

Along those lines, Minafi has an interesting article for dreaming about your FI lifestyle – writing up your perfect week

 

How have your discussions gone with your significant other?

 

Mr. 39 Months

 

 

 

What do you do when your reason for living has gone away?

The comments below reflect the thoughts and idea of myself, a 54-year old man, raised in that time period. Some people may question the assumptions or thoughts here, but they are mine, and I believe they reflect a certain percentage of the men my age in the FI community. Since the purpose of this blog is for me to discuss my thoughts on FI, and its impact on my life, I do not have any problem with voicing my opinions and thoughts on the matter.

As someone born at the tail end of the boomers/beginning of Gen X (1964) my general thoughts on men is that we are the providers in a relationship (I know, everyone has different opinions here – I’m talking in generalities here, so sue me). Men have the ability to generate excess resources beyond their needs. Anyone who has ever been to a bachelor’s home knows that they don’t need much to live. I once heard a female comedian call men “bears with furniture.”

A typical bachelor pad will have some basic furniture, maybe a card table instead of a dining table, and a functional bed. Not much on decorations, curtains, exotic cooking gear, etc. They will probably have a great TV/entertainment set up. Their clothes requirements will be simple and not excessive. After that though, they don’t need much. Yet they have the ability to generate large incomes and throw off excess money.

This is why the basic family unit worked so well. Raising kids takes an awful lot of time and resources, so by having two people working on it, the man can generate the excess resources necessary for the family to get what they need. In return, the man gets a feeling of accomplishment on his work, and the belief that he is contributing to the success of his family.

So where am I going here?

As you close in on FI, and you reach the point where you have sufficient resources to maintain your lifestyle, the primary reason for many men’s existence suddenly is threatened. If they have reached the point where the family has what it needs in perpetuity, then why is he needed? One of a man’s primary roles in the family is gone. What do you do?

I think this is a major reason why we see so many men dying shortly after their retirement. Their major role in life is gone, and they struggle to find something new. They’ve been working at this since they are 18, and for some, that is 45-50 years of life’s work that is suddenly gone. All they’ve known in their adult life……

I’m struggling with that right now. I’ve got 24-1/2 months left to go, and while I have some short-term goals (travel, writing, etc.) I am not sure what I want to do once I hit FI. I know I want to take some time off (sabbatical?) but then what?

An interesting book that I have just started reading is Find your Why, by Simon Sinek. The idea is to search for the core idea of “why” you do stuff, “why” your exist, “why” you act the way you do and what that gives you. Knowing your “WHY” gives you a filter to make choices, both at work and home, that leads you to finding greater fulfillment. The book is interesting (as is the TED talk) and I’m hoping the exercises it has will lead me to further revelations.

Other blog postings related:

I hope this helps

 

Mr. 39 Months

Sorry, been sick for a while…..

Cue the whining.

Sorry the posting has been light, but I’ve been battling a major ear infection (steroids, antibiotics) that has wiped me out, and I just can’t seem to kick this thing. For those who have had them (or have had children with them) you know how much pain they can cause, and how it is difficult to do anything.

I’ve continued to go to work every day (concept of duty drilled into me in the military). Work has been a little stressful, as I had to loan about 50% of my resources out to another team for the next 4 weeks, and my team’s workload actually picked up – so I’m doing extra work to cover, while sick and tired. Actually was asked by my boss on Thursday to take on a project for another team, because they’re even more swamped. I’m such a glutton for punishment that I said OK. When I get home, all I end up doing is watching TV/read for about an hour, then head to bed early. I also haven’t been exercising, so I can get an extra 30-60 min of sleep in the morning.

I tell you what, being sick sucks!

While trying to de-stress, I was reading online and saw some pictures of a Hollywood starlet that reminded me of Mrs. 39 Months when we were first dating. It lead me to think about how lucky I am, and how lucky folks are to have a significant other in their lives, not only when they are sick, but just to come home to and talk with, to have support them. We’re both looking forward to FI and what how our lives will change in the years ahead, as we grow old with each other. Kinda nice.

This also had me thinking about the recent/upcoming celebrity deaths in the US. Just this week, two celebrities committed suicide this week – Anthony Bourdain (chef, show host) and Kate Spade (designer). While we can argue the morality of committing suicide, I always wonder what drives people to the depths of despair that they feel this is the way out. I have tendency towards depression and have had suicidal thoughts (very minor ones that I think pops in everyone’s mind for 30-60 seconds). For the most part, I really can’t understand how bad it must be to do that sort of thing. Still, it is possible that it was a medical/chemical depression issue with their bodies, and since I’m not a doctor, I can’t find it in my heart to judge.

I contrast that with Charles Krauthammer, the Fox News analyst who announced this week that his cancer has returned, and that he has only weeks to live. Putting politics aside, here was a man going through Harvard Medical School when a freak diving board accident paralyzed him from the neck down. For the last 40 years, working through numerous illnesses and rehabilitation, he has built a life and worked hard to support himself. He beat cancer once, but it has finally returned, and he now has only weeks to live. He never gave up until the last moments, and then he announced to the world his status and how he intended to finish his days. He is being shown as an example of bravery and manliness in the face of adversity.

I don’t know how I would face either of these two challenges. I hope that I would do it well, and not do anything that would cause my loved ones pain or suffering. I can only hope that I would never be put in that situation in my life. I also hope that all of you escape it as well.

Sorry for the “downer” posting – guess it comes from being sick.

 

I hope you all have an excellent weekend!

 

Mr. 39 Months

The Long and Winding Road….

Cue the Beatles Music.

What do you do once you’ve gotten all your investments in order, your spending in control, and you have maxed out how much you can put away towards your FI goal? You have run the numbers, and now you just have to wait the 2 years, 4 years, etc. till you hit your FI number. What do you do in the meantime? I’ve seen this topic covered a couple of times in the FI blogs that I read.

I would say one of the major things people do while on the path is worry.

  • Did I choose the right investments?
  • What if there is a market correction?
  • What is going on with healthcare (primarily a US issue, but other western countries have their own health care issues)
  • Is there any more money I can squeeze out of my income to put towards FI?
  • What do I do once I hit FI? Retire? Continue to work? Move to another job?

I can say that these and many other issues continue to bubble up in my head, now that I have worked through the basic numbers and have a date – as well as quite a few others. Each of them can involve hours of going around in circles, trying to determine if the decisions made were correct. What is a more productive use of your time while you slowly wait to hit your FI number?

Here are some ideas on what you can do to occupy yourself while the clock ticks down:

Determine travel you want to do once you hit FI, and determine basic costs for it: This is probably one of the most popular ones. Most FIRE people dream of travel – going to exotic places, seeing the world, visiting with friends and family. Since most of us are research fanatics, this is a way to get your jollies by doing research and pricing stuff out. It is one of the best ways we can dream while waiting to hit our date.

Continue researching FIRE via Blogs, Podcasts, etc. to glean additional ideas (travel hacking, etc.): The FI community is growing larger every day, and everyone has their own “spin” on the topic. One of the things I love about it is that I am almost constantly learning new ideas, new thoughts on the subject. While many of the topics don’t get me closer to FI (I don’t change my plan) I do take them to heart – and occasionally I do find something that will help me.

Research potential alternate career fields/jobs once you hit FI: You often hear people talk about hitting FI, so they can pursue a career in what they really love to do. Well, while pursuing FI, why not take the time to do the actual research on the career field, so you can find out if you really will love it?

One of the best books on doing this sort of career research is “What color is your parachute.” They called it informational interviewing. You find someone working in the career field that you are interested in and ask them three questions:

  • What do you like about it?
  • What do you not like about it?
  • Who else do you know that I can talk to about it?

By doing the research, you can narrow down the wide range of possibilities into things that are more manageable, and identify career paths that looked great, but ended up not being so “sweet.”

Look for ways to teach, even for free, in order to share: There is always an opportunity to share the lessons you have learned on your path, either in FI or in your current career. Take the time to share them, through writing, lecturing, etc.

Look for additional ways to reduce stress in your life: Even as we approach FI, there are other things causing stress in our lives (family, health, etc.). As you slowly eliminate the stress of finances, look for other ways to cut the stress out of your life.

What are you doing to take up your time while waiting to hit FI?

 

Mr. 39 Months