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Friday, August 26, 2016

The Dark Fears

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 24, 2016

I’m now finally towards the end of my long goal to save enough money to retire early at some point in the next year or two.  So on the one hand, I do fully admit to being a bit excited by that idea.  On the other hand I notice little bursts of fear and doubt surfacing periodically that for a moment crush that excitement in a burst of negative emotions.

Of course I think to myself: Dude, what’s your problem? You should be thrilled to be this close to done.

Yet those dark fears that I don’t spend much time thinking or talking about still bubble up.  Some of those thoughts include: Do I have enough money saved? What if I forgot something in my calculations? Can I actually pull the trigger at the end or will I fall to saving for one more year? Or even worse, if things go really well could I change my plan and pull it earlier than I’m planning? Should I save a bit longer and just don’t worry about some part time work?

Then after those thoughts burst through my head I remind myself that doubt is normal.  Hell even fear is completely normal in the case.  I’m planning to alter the single biggest part of my week days and leave full time work and the career I have always know for a completely uncharted area of my life.  So yes, fear is perfectly normal.

Yet acknowledging the fear as normal doesn’t make it go away.  So instead of avoiding these thoughts I have decided to spend some time in them looking at those questions in detail and trying to determine some idea of what that uncharted part of my life will look like.

In effect, I’m down into the weeds for a while looking at:

  • How exactly will I take the money out of the investment accounts to live on? Monthly, every quarter or yearly?  Which accounts do I use first?  How do I keep our income tax to a minimum?
  • I’m also looking at fears.  So I retire and the stock market tanks immediately – what do I do?  How much of a reduction in the markets do I tolerate prior to using that plan B?
  • What if I fail at retirement?  At what point do I go back to work full time?
  • What if I fail at writing fiction? Do I keep at it or switch to non-fiction? Or do both?
  • What else do I want to do with my life?  I’ve gained over 25 additional years without work, so what exactly do I want to accomplish with it?

Some of those are easier to answer by just writing up an investment plan that includes what do do when the stock market drops 5%, or 10% in a year.  I’ve also created a fairly detailed model of the first five years of retirement and stress tested various scenarios so I can see what happens if I don’t do any work at all during that time.

But even as I look at some of those questions I’ve come to realize something important.  You can’t always know everything in advance.  Some questions can’t really be answered in advance of that uncharted area of life.  I don’t really know what I will accomplish in the next 25 years of my life and well that isn’t that much different that most people.  I can’t know everything that could go wrong in the next 25 years with the stock or bonds markets. I can’t know government policy that will make things better or worse for me.

But I do know that I’ve learned to be more flexible about things.  I have managed to handle of lot of stressful situations in my life such as a 10 week premature baby, or working several jobs at once.  Yet I found a way to make it all work and I’m not about to really lose that skill set all of a sudden.

So in the end, I do think things will work out.  After all, why I’m considering all these dark thoughts I seem to forget something equally important: what if things turn out better than I expect?  After all I’ve been saving for over 10 years now towards this goal and I’ve consistently beaten my targets (hello, the title of the blog of free at 45, but I’m now looking at leaving before 40).  If I earn some extra money I will likely save it, since that is a really hard habit to get out of.  I’ve never spent everything I have earned and I really don’t think that will change in my retirement.

What are some of your dark fears about your retirement plans and how do you deal with them?

Reading Challenge – Update

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 19, 2016

So I meant to put up a post on this last month and then got side tracked.  As you may recall in this post, that I’m working on a challenge to read 100 books this year over at the Goodreads site.  Well back at the end of June I got an update email from the website with the following stats.

  • 59/100 books read
  • 18,848 pages read
  • 319 pages per book average

Alright I thought, I’m doing well so far.  Of course that includes some short works and some monster sized books (700 page+) so the average page per book seemed about right to me.  What made me pause was that page count total of 18,848, over half a year that means I was averaging over 100 pages of reading every single day for six months straight.  What the?!?!?  I knew I read a lot but I didn’t realize that I was averaging that sort of pace.

Yet this does point out the power of doing a habit daily.  I read just about every single day, but of course the amount is all over the map.  Some days I manage perhaps only 20 minutes, while others I will spend the evening finishing off a book for three hours.  The time really doesn’t matter, but rather the habit it what helps drive things forward to help meet my goal.

Now if I could only manage do that with a few other things in my life like flossing or writing, oh well, I keep trying to build those daily habits as well.  Good thing I learned the habit of not spending money earlier in life. ;) So what daily habits do you have?

Cherry Day

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 5, 2016

Happiness is an odd emotion.  Some days you have to go through something painful or unpleasant to arrive at being happy.  Having done several things that take some effort to complete for example National Novel Writing Month, I get that the pain while doing something can often result in something that makes you happy in the long run.

Then of course I also get a reminder of this lesson every year during our annual cherry day.  Cherry day? Yes, cherry day.  At my house I have a sour cherry tree in the backyard that most years gets lots of cherries growing on it and every year we pick the majority of the tree (there are some branches you just can’t reach safely even with a ladder) and then pit several hundred cherries (it could be a thousand, for my sanity I have never counted them).

So you might be asking why on earth anyone would put in about 20 man hours of labour into this annual event?  Well after a very long day, my wife and I put at least four large freezer bags full of cherries in the freezer which later on in the summer or fall I will take out, defrost and then make sour cherry wine.

Now after doing this for about six times now I have managed to produce a very good bottle of wine.  Actually a friend of ours commented it was just as good as a local winery that also makes something similar and that cost around $20/bottle.  So given my raw fruit is free other than our labour and the cost of the sugar and yeast is minor, my costs are around $1 or $2 per bottle.  So technically there is some degree of cost savings to doing this labour every year.

Yet that isn’t the real reason I do it.  In fact, the money savings is sort of secondary.  The fact we go through this labour every year is the satisfaction of making a good bottle of wine from the very fruit that grows in my backyard.  In sort, the results result in enough happiness that both my wife and I agree that we keep doing this every year.  Of course it helps that there is something very enjoyable about opening a bottle that contains the very taste of summer in the middle of December.

Of course this is likely why I can save as much as we have towards our retirement, I fully understand the idea that a bit of work today can go a long way to being happy in the future.

So what do you do that takes some effort that results in something that makes you happy?