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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Catch the Trade Winds?

Posted by Dave on December 16, 2014

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

This quotation showed up on my daily comics feed on Go Comics*, drawn out by one of my favourite illustrators – “Zen Pencils”. The quotation is attributed to Mark Twain, but may have been written by H. Jackson Brown, Jr (Mark Twain’s Estate can’t source it). For whatever reason, out of the 165+ comics that this illustrator has done, this one seems to apply the most to my life.

I am a cautious individual by nature, I keep my head down and do my cushy government job and don’t stray too far away from what would be considered “the norm”. My retirement plan, although aggressive in comparison to most of the population has been set up to be as conservative as possible in order to ensure that it was do-able – Instead of an “Early Retirement Extreme” plan [link], I have more of an “Moderately Aggressive way of Attaining Financial Independence” plan.

I think the thing that most people really worry about missing out on something. Even being a cautious individual who dislikes significant change in my life, I still wonder once in a while if there is something more rewarding or enjoyable that I could be doing with my time, instead of grinding out a corporate career.

The question I ask myself is how comfortable I would be, making a significant career change that may pay substantially less money but give my day to day life more enjoyment. A different way to look at my current life is how comfortable would I be to trade the possibility of being financially independent at age 45 in order to work a lot less now, in order to have more time to pursue some of my interests right now. Maybe if there was a project that I felt really strongly about, like writing a book or excelling at “beer-league” golf, I would think harder about my current life.

My current financial plan will hopefully allow me to “Explore, Dream, and Discover” some more of my hobbies after age 45, and I am hoping that at that time I don’t have any regrets about how I lived my years of early to mid adulthood.

Are you worried about missing out on anything? Have you made a significant career change and been happy you did it?


*I have read the comics almost every day of my life, since I was able to read – I am more than happy to spend the $12 a year that Go Comics charges in order to support this type of entertainment, which brings 5 minutes of entertainment to me every day.

Lowering Holiday Stress Levels

Posted by Dave on December 9, 2014

My feeling about the holidays as a (soon to be) 35 year-old is much different than it was 20 years ago. My holidays these days involve mostly hours of driving around the province of Ontario, in order to fulfil family obligations and witness present – opening by smaller family members. My preference would be to fit these visits in over the next 6 or 8 weeks, in the course of our normal visits we make to family, instead of over 6 or 8 days which is what has happened in the last 5 years – in some cases, causing my wife and I to spend more time on the road than we spend doing the actual fun visiting.

Over the years, my wife and I have attempted to make Christmas less stressful. I have attempted to stop adult gift exchanges – I would rather just show up and have some good food and visit than have to worry about getting a present for people that could just go buy whatever they wanted. This initiative was unsuccessful, as people apparently like presents. This year however, my wife and I stopped our own gift exchange.

Our birthdays are 3 days apart in December, a week before Christmas, which sort of compounds “present stress” that comes with the holidays. We try our best to get each other things that we’d enjoy, but this year decided to just not bother. Most years, I was essentially giving my wife an Amazon wish list of things that I liked, because I am not the easiest person to buy things for, or my wife would stress out that what she got me was nowhere near what I wanted. The whole process seemed like the opposite of fun to us. For our birthdays, we’re going to go out for dinner at a fun restaurant to celebrate – right now our choices are sushi (my wife’s choice), and gourmet burgers (my choice), but with a week to decide this could change many times.

As someone who is interested in spending my available dollars as efficiently as possible, this method of Christmas, although Grinchy is much more effective. One thing that I wanted is a cast aluminium tortilla press – I like to make corn tortillas, but kind of bent a frying pan making them the last time. My wife could comparison shop around and guess the size and type I had in mind or I can just buy this for myself and get the one I for sure want.

This change is a small thing, but I’ll take any sort of “win” this time of year – the more small changes we can implement every year to make things better in this hectic season, the better.

Is this a stressful time of the season for you? How would you, or how have you reduced the amount of stuff this time of year?

Damage Control

Posted by Dave on December 2, 2014

There are two main things (outside of relationships with family and friends) that I put great importance on – my health, and my finances. My issues with both of these items is that maintaining long-term plans with either takes a significant amount of effort and mindfulness. Being (at times) an impulsive person, I have some issues around achieving a happy medium between not being able to do everything I want to do, and doing too much, resulting in short-term issues, and Damage Control.

For me, I find the mindset that I need to get into over “blips” in my plan is to look at the serious long-term 3-5 years down the road. I have to force myself to realize that pigging out on an unreasonable quantity of pizza or Chinese food one night doesn’t mean that I need to give up on trying to get into prime shape for next year’s golf season. Similarly, if I did something rash like going overboard on video game or concert ticket purchases, the realization that this is such a minuscule percentage of my long-term budget has been enough to stop any further spending.

The thing either of these plans that has worked for me, is consistency – the minor variances from my overall plans shouldn’t lead me to completely exit all of my plans. I know that I want to be at or around 175 pounds – if I step on the scale and I’m 183 after a couple of days of unabated consumption, I know that I need to get back to my basic (healthy diet) for a couple of weeks and lay off all of the fun food I’m eating.

Money is a little more difficult – there are some bills I can’t not pay (companies seem to take issue with this kind of action), but it’s cutting out the majority of “fun” expenses for a period of time and building up a bit of savings that helps. In the fall, I played in a “Super Serious Golf Tournament” with a friend of mine (because we played with Super Serious Golf Rules, and took the rounds very seriously). It was 4 rounds of golf in 3 days at some nice courses, after a season of golf – affordable, but not cheap to do. Since then, I have stopped doing most of the fun activities that I like to do, in order to build up my personal savings so I can do things like that next year. In my early twenties, I probably would have doubled down on fun times, which may have thrown off my entire future plans.*

Long-term plans are hard – the result is unknown, but if you don’t deal with the little bumps in the road that come up, the whole thing won’t work.

How do you deal with unforeseen issues that arise with your financial, or other life plans? Do you have any strategies that work for you?
*Greg Fitzsimmons has a really good comedy bit on money in his special “Life on Stage” (available on Netflix) that deals with trading future fun for today’s fun, which I think readers of this blog would enjoy.