Gone to Market!

        

The Craft Show/Farmer’s Market season is closing down, and this weekend was the last time I’d get to “sell my wares” at the local farmer’s market. So TKD woodworking went to the local Burlington County farmer’s market to set up shop.

I always enjoy these, not only to sell, but to talk to other vendors and the people who stop by. I get a lot of questions and opinions/thoughts on the craft, and its always a joy just to engage in conversation with folks. Its been somewhat profitable at the shows, and I’ve gotten some commissions off of it which have helped expand the business. So win/win for everyone.

I hope everyone enjoyed my work, and I hope everyone reading has a happy and joyous holiday season!

Mr. 39 Months

What is the effect of Obamacare on “The Great Resignation?”

A lot has been written recently about “The Great Resignation” and how many people have left their work for greener pastures. You also can walk/drive down the street without seeing “help wanted” or “we are hiring” banners for everything from retail to restaurants to warehouses. It seems like companies are having to deal with major hiring issues over the last year (I know my company has).

There have been a lot of theories thrown out there, including the generous benefits that were given out during COVID, a mismatch of skills vs needs, and even so far as laziness on the part of some workers (lol on that comment). However, once key item I think has been left out of the analysis, and is one that FIRE people are well aware of. I speak of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.”

Before ACA, most workers got their medical benefits from their job, and to leave your job, you had to have one lined up with benefits – thus reducing the ability of people to switch. In addition, many service jobs (restaurants, retail, etc.) didn’t have medical, or had poor medical. In the end, a lot of people continued to work even at jobs they didn’t want.

With ACA, if you earn a lower wage, you can get subsidies that will dramatically reduce your medical costs. Where I live, minimum wage is $13/hour, or $26,000/year for a full-time job. With ACA subsidies, a 25 year old male would pay roughly $27/month for health insurance, or roughly 2 hours of paid labor. With that low cost, they could work sporadically, and still be covered. It also lends itself to job mobility, because if you are the one paying your healthcare (not your company) then if a better job comes along, you can jump immediately. I think this is a key reason why you are seeing folks being able to resign now.

Still, there are a lot of other reason to consider. One of the best analysis on this is the Wall Street Journal work on it (see video on it here). They go over how certain job areas saw a dramatic drop off in March 2020 (when Covid hit) and these are only just starting to recover (retail, restaurants, etc.) but some job functions (Warehousing, IT, etc.) actually grew from March 2020 on. A lot of people who got let go in retail took higher paying jobs with better benefits in warehousing (my industry). Now they’re being asked to go back to a retail job for lower pay & no benefits, and which could go away again in another pandemic. Not going to happen.

I think we are in for labor shortages for a while now – which is actually very historic for the US. For most of our history, there has not been enough labor for all the work that has been needed to get done – which is one of the reasons the US embraced the industrial revolution and immigration. People may need to get used to slower service at restaurants and retail stores not being open on Thanksgiving, Christmas and at 10pm at night.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

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Mr. 39 Months.

Saturday Linkage:

11/27/2021

  1. Weekly Points: Highest Rakuten Bonus Ever, What Are Your Points Worth, Black Friday Sale To Hawaii and More! (Travel 101) Time to get out there!
  2. Four Ways To Use The ‘Great Resignation’ To Jumpstart Your FIRE Goals (Costa Rica Fire) Some good ideas on how to help move towards FIRE in these times
  3. Lack of intrinsic motivation will destroy your early retirement (Early Retirement Extreme) Excellent advice from one of the “old dogs” of FIRE
  4. Using Scraps (Paul Sellers) One of the curses of woodworking is we generate a lot of “offcuts” of wood that we don’t want to waste – but they build up!
  5. Nine ways to become more Courageous (Art of Manliness) Sound advice for everyone
  6. Life is a Positive Sum Game (the Escape Artist) Positive article about spreading the good news of FI
  7. Lessons Learned from 3 years Outside the Maze (Life Outside the Maze) It would be interesting to see a comparison of folks who did FIRE 2-3 years before Covid and the ones who did FIRE right as Covid hit.
  8. Dealing with Uncertainty in Retirement Calculations (Can I retire yet?) One of the issues all FI folks deal with in their journey
  9. So you wanna be a Stock Picker (The Irrelevant Investor) History has shown that I suck at picking stocks
  10. Are Bonds Done? (JL Collins) In the current environment, I think they are.
  11. A Prayer of Thanksgiving (Get Rich Slowly)

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?

In the United States today, its Thanksgiving, a day based, supposedly, on the Pilgrims celebrating their harvest. Typically it is celebrated with family and friends, and folks come from out of town to be with parents/kids and remind themselves how good life can be. In these uncertain times, I think we all need this, and need to celebrate with our families. This year, we are getting together with my side of the family in Tennessee, after not really seeing each other for 3 years (we had to cancel last year).

So what are you thankful for?

For me, it’s a variety of things:

  1. I’m thankful for my good health, and the good health of everyone in my family. We’ve had friends who have lost loved ones this year (non-Covid) but luckily our families have been ok.
  2. I’m thankful for the fact that we are both still gainfully employed, earning money that helps further enhance our FI position. While we are “financially independent” we’ve chosen to continue to work at this time.
  3. I’m thankful for the friends we have, and the hobbies/crafts that we enjoy with them. As we transition to retirement, these are the areas that are going to keep us involved and active.
  4. I’m thankful for the fact that I live in the US. While it has a lot of problems, there are a tremendous number of reasons to rejoice in the opportunities the country provides, and the people that inhabit it. We really are blessed in this regard.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage:

11/20/2021

  1. What’s your Why? (Tic Toc Life); Why pursue financial independence?
  2. Where Americans find meaning in life has changed over the past four years (Pew Research) Various ways that people seek meaning in life
  3. Ten 5-Minute Money Actions to Help Your Finances (Becoming Minimalist) Some basic, some inventive
  4. The Most Important Decision in Life (Of Dollars and Data) Your relationships will force so many of your financial decisions, so choose wisely
  5. No Such Thing as Enough Money (Incognito Money) One of the keys to happiness is to be satisfied with what you have. Envy really is one of the deadly sins.
  6. Happiness is pretty simple (5am Joel); Very simple
  7. Early Retirement Paycheck Ruminations (Freddy Smidlap); A discussion of some of the variety of ways and needs for a retirement paycheck 
  8. How much money do you really need to live off dividends? (Mr Free at 33); I just haven’t seen a way to do this.
  9. Does inflation matter if you’re frugal? (Government Worker FI); Yes, yes it does!
  10. Fire Movement: The Uncomfortable Truth (Geny Money)
  11. Should We Eat the Rich? Wealth Taxes and Inequality (Bravely Go). Wealth taxes are a horrible idea, and have caused the downfall of so many civilizations over time.

Hobbies – the path to an enriching retirement

I’ve written numerous times on the benefits of having hobbies both during your FI journey and after your retirement

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This last weekend, I took 3 days to travel to central Virginia, just south of Shenandoah National Park, to backpack about 17 miles on the Appalachian Trail. As I’ve written before, I enjoy the trips and the comradery of hiking with a group of friends. In this case, we had a rough time – not so much with the terrain but with the weather. It was supposed to be highs in the mid-40s and a low around freezing. It turned into a high of 40 and a low of 21, and we has 20 mph wind gusts the last night. We all struggled, but in the end we all (seven of us) got our safely and had some good stories (and a good campfire the last night)

As I hiked, I often thought about how long I could continue this hobby in retirement. While I have met 80 year olds on the trail, I know that this is rare. I think the best I can hope for (with my numerous minor leg issues) is to go to 70.

It has long been said that someone should retire “to” something, instead of “from” something, if you want to have an enjoyable retirement. So what are you looking to retire to? Most folks talk about travel once they retire, but that will only occupy so much time, for a certain number of years. Then what?

For me, I’ve been working on the following hobbies:

  • Backpacking
  • Woodworking (including building a side business)
  • Handyman/Home Remodel/Habitat for Humanity (an interest I’ve had for 30+ years)
  • Travel (primarily in the US, but some European sites)
  • Military History

I’d also like to start working on some things that will keep my mind nimble

  • Crosswords
  • Learning another language
  • Learning a musical instrument

I can see myself being very busy in the years after I retire, and I work through these. Hopefully I won’t be bored. I know in reading a lot of FIRE blogs that people have ended up busier in retirement than when they were working. That’s my goal.

So what are you planning to do once you retire? What are you doing now in preparation for it?

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Mr. 39 Months

Continual Learning throughout your Life

Sorry I’m a day late – I got tied up with work, which took up some time.

Speaking of work, I’ve got some mandated training on a new database package that my company is using to download and analyze data for our prospective customers. As is typical in our day and age, we’ve been asked to become trained and certified by the end of the year. So I’m a little busy.

As you may be aware, I’m involved with third party logistics, which involves doing the trucking and warehousing of other customers product. Often the customers don’t have good data, or its “messy” and needs to  be massaged to be able to make good decisions on for equipment, personnel, etc. I was pleasantly surprised at this new package, and I’ve enjoyed learning it. Its going to save time and offer a lot more options.

That brought to mind the need to continually learn throughout life – not just when young, but throughout your lifetime. You need to work on keeping your mind flexible and keep interested I new things as you age. Many retirees use travel for this, but I also think people benefit from classroom learning, learning new languages, and just gaining new experiences throughout their life.

I’ve planned to take some home repair and basic plumbing classes in early 2022 at my local technical institute. I’m still taking some classes for my professional work and I’m interested in both learning a new language and a musical instrument. The whole idea is to keep learning into my 60s, 70s and 80s.

How are you working to keep learning throughout your life

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Kevin

Saturday Linkage:

Sorry I wasn’t able to do the Saturday linkage last week. Got tied up and ran out of time.

11/6/2021

  1. Workers: Expect Higher Salaries and More Perks in 2022: (Kiplingers) The Great Resignation and Inflation are having an effect
  2. A Place for Everything (Including Certain Kinds of Work) (Art of Manliness)
  3. The Only 3 Expenses that Matter for Saving Serious Cash (Mr. Money Wizard) Housing, Transportation & Food. Still the bigger one is taxes!
  4. Lessons learned from 3 years outside the Maze (Life outside the maze) Good stories
  5. 60 Life List Ideas: An Adventurous Listicle (Budget Life List) Some ideas I might have to take up
  6. Even Zillow Can’t Trust Its Zestimates: How To Profit From Its Mistake (Financial Samurai) I want to invest in real estate, but the market is just too crazy
  7. How Much Time I Spend Managing Our Money (the Retirement Manifesto); Try to automate as much as possible
  8. 7 Ways to Reduce Money-Related Stress (Steve Adcock) As you approach FI, the stress will drop off.
  9. Aren’t You Bored in Retirement? (Route to Retire); Don’t retire away from something, retire to something
  10. The New Retirementality, Working in Retirement (ESI Money); My intention is to work to keep occupied and interested
  11. How to Protect Your Retirement from a Market Downturn (Kiplingers) Focus on your risk, have some “buffer” money in savings, and don’t make decisions based on emotions  

You Are Welcome…

Well, I wrote about the potential for me to be let go due to vaccination status, and my need to potentially “time the market” with my deferred income account. At the beginning of October, I noted that October was typically a bad time for stocks, and with the potential of the account being paid out in cash if I was let go meant that I might or might not get the stocks liquidated at an opportune time. Because of that, I chose to, at the beginning of October, to move it all out of mutual funds (S&P500, International, Small Cap, Bonds) and into pure cash.

As everyone knows, my previous attempts to “time the market” have been dismal failures. Well, October 2021 was no exception. I had left my IRAs and 401Ks invested for October, and instead of going down they went up +4.7% in one month. So my decision ended up meaning I missed out on an estimated $11K of gains if I had just left everything in place.

I’m sure everyone else pretty much left their investments in place, and gained the benefit of this increase. All I can say to that is – You are Welcome.

Hopefully I’ve learned my “time the market” lesson again, and this time it might stick. As of Nov 1, I put my deferred money back into the market.

Anyway, congratulations, and I hope you all have a profitable final two months of the year.

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Mr. 39 Months

“One More Year” Syndrome

Well the Chinese Covid virus has caused a lot of issues in people’s work lives, mine included. My company was holding to a “everyone has to be vaccinated by Nov 18th” mandate, and stated that anyone not vaccinated might be subject to termination. I’m not an anit-vaxxer (I got my shingles vaccine earlier this year) but I do have some concerns with the RNA based vaccines coming out, primarily based on my military history with government vaccines and “Gulf War Syndrome” with some of my comrades.  We are hoping to get the Nova-vax when it comes out, hopefully in 4th Qtr 2021 or 1st Qtr 2022.

So what does this have to do with “One More Year” Syndrome? This is something folks in the FIRE community have talked about before. Physician On Fire notes that “To be afflicted with OMY syndrome is to continue working for “one more year” even though you’ve reached your financial goals, and no longer need the paycheck to make ends meet.” Many of us fall into this after we’ve reached our FI goals.

My company reached out to me with a proposal that I shift positions to a project engineer role, where I could work from home full time. It would not be a cut in pay, but it would decrease my bonus from 15% to 10%. I was a little surprised, because I didn’t think I was contributing that much, and wasn’t valued. As I’ve noted before, we have already hit our FI goal, so I wasn’t really sweating the Nov 18th date. Now with their offer, I have the potential of working “one more year” and further setting us up for our independence. So what do I do?

Benefits:

  • An extra 18+ months of salary & Investments (if I retire on my new date of July 2023)
  • Don’t have to begin drawing down our investments to live on
  • Continue to work at a job I find interesting (for the most part)
  • Continue to maintain medical benefits, as opposed to having to go on Cobra or the ACA marketplace
  • Can continue to develop my post-retirement interests, plans and bucket list

Minuses:

  • Still only have 3 weeks of vacation, so my free time is still severely restricted. No thru hike of the Appalachian trail in 2022!
  • Starting to develop my “side hustle” of TKD woodworking. Looking at other potential work (handyman, etc) that would have to be put on the backburner if I go in that direction
  • My mother is in her mid-80s and if she has medical issues, I’d have to request leave, as opposed to just having time to go visit whenever she needed it

Its an interesting question, and its one of the key benefits of FI, that you can actually compare and make a decision. I would hate to be in my late 50’s and still have to depend on work to make ends meet. All the hard work and saving for the past 20 years has put us in a great position.

I hope all of you either have or will be able to get this level of flexibility as you continue on your FI journey.

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Mr. 39 Months