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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Month Off Report

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 14, 2015

So today is my last day of my currently month long vacation.  This will have been the third time I’ve done this now and I have to say I’ve learned a few things that I found interesting.  Perhaps the most telling thing is this I’m just starting to think about bit about work now and what I have to get started on when I get back and oddly enough I’m not dreading it.

I think what happens to me after taking off a longer period of time is I actually managed to detox from work.  I really do cease to care about it, think about it or even want to do anything about it.  I was contacted once during my vacation via text to confirm one small fact which I was able to answer in two sentences.  Perhaps the most difficult thing I had to adjust to was since I had a work issued cell phone was getting in the habit of not even reading the subject lines of work emails as they came in.  Otherwise, I didn’t do anything related to my job and as I mentioned to my boss: work had become a hazy memory.  I recalled it, but I no longer felt it effecting me.

In my case, I can detox fairly quickly from my job since I have set it up to be lower stress and have learned to let go of things that happen there.  I can’t control much at work, so why waste the energy pretending that I can.  Also it helps that I have a great boss now that really just cares about the results.  He is the kind of guy who gets when you say: I’ve finished what I need to get done and now I’m leaving early to my kids swimming lesson.  He replies: sounds good, have a good night.  Yes, I’m very lucky in that regard…I know.

Of course I did do some traveling on this trip, but rather than being a burden of trying to shove in too much we took it easy and did two main trips: one to Vancouver Island (where I got the chance to meet up with long time reader jon_snow, hi jon) and the other to visit family in Alberta.  Both were fun and I enjoyed doing them but at the same time we did have a week at home as well in there so it was nice to get a few things done around the house and of course play some video games (it is a vacation after all!). I even managed to be interviewed for story for CBC see here.

Yet if this life were to continue on in early retirement I can easily say I don’t think I would ever get bored.  I mean I had full days as is and could have easily tried to cram in more stuff, but resisted the urge and made sure to have some relaxing time in as well.  I have so much that I want to read, watch, write, or do around the house that I can see just going along forever with out running out of things to do.  I noticed my to do still filled up rather quickly without much effort on my part.

So in the end, I think I’m ready to leave work at least mentally able to do it.  I won’t be begging to come back after getting bored or even worry about it after I go.  Only about 20 more months of work left…I’m looking forward to the end of it.

Did you ever take an extended break from work?  Did you enjoy it or what did you learn?

Too Independent?

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 4, 2015

I was reading a book the other day that pointed out something that honestly had not occurred to me as a danger of seeking financial independence: that you can end up being too independent. To which I initially thought: pardon?!?!

Then as I kept reading the author made his point a bit more clear.  Seeking financial independence is a fine goal for anyone to do.  The danger becomes when you apply the same thinking to everything in your life.  When you seek to be independent of everything does the trouble start to come home.

You see you can start to apply the idea of being independent of your job to other parts of your life. For example, why should I buy power from the power company when I can setup my own solar and wind power?   Or why should I buy my vegetables from the store when I can grow my own?  These types of independence aren’t really a bad idea depending on how much you enjoy the project, the costs versus the benefits (not all power generation systems make economic sense) and how much time you have to work on them.

The trouble can really kick in when you start applying the idea to people and think:  I don’t need to be nice to the people I work with since I’m leaving in a few years or perhaps I don’t have to hang out with my friends that spend too much.  This is where you start to become too independent.

“No man is an island entire of itself” – John Donne

It may pain people to recall this but you can’t live without other people.  We are social beings and while I’m a strong introvert even I realize that I need other people at times.  So that means you can’t just focus blindly at savings money and ignore the social impacts of your choices.  By never going out with friends you are social isolating yourself at the cost of a few drinks or a meal out, which really shouldn’t make or break your plan to retire early (because if it is, then your margin is far too thin and you need to go back and increase your spending estimate a bit).

The same idea applies to being a self absorbed egotistical ass to other people just because you are good at saving money and they are not (yes, even I have done this and regretted it).  Everyone has their particular gifts and skills so don’t just burn bridges to stroke your ego, you might find out that you being an ass has a much higher price in your life than you realize.

You see your social network also provides a degree of support to your early retirement plan.  For example, a friend will typically look after our house when we go on vacation.  Or if you need help moving something heavy to the dump a friend with a truck can save you the cost of a rental.  You in turn also help your friends with projects like painting a fence, installing a patio or putting up a garage.  It’s called social capital and it is just as important to have access to as financial capital and it works on a give and take basis…you help others and they help you.  I caution you not to underestimate the value of this…I mean having a friend to call when the world goes to shit on you is nearly priceless at that moment in time.

That same capital even applies outside of your good friends.  Think for a minute about work when you have two tasks to do to help two different people: the first one is for a nice guy who helped you out of jam last month and the other is an over demanding prick who is never helpful back…which one do you help first?  Sort of obvious, right?

So in your focus to financially independent don’t forget to also grow you social capital as well of your financial.  Both will serve you in the long run to getting to a better place in life.  Also there is the nice side benefit of feeling better by helping others…especially those you actually know and like.

Have you ever gone too far and become too independent?  What was your wake up call and how did you turn it around?

What’s the Point?

Posted by Tim Stobbs on July 29, 2015

I was chatting with someone the other day regarding my plans for early retirement and he asked a basic question: what’s the point of early retirement?

Ironically, the person asked that in a more general sense and I of course pointed out that the reason why people go after early retirement is hugely personal.  There are thousands of reasons to go after this goal, but in the end the only one that matters is your reason.  Why do you want to retire early?

There doesn’t have to be a single reason why.  In fact, I think the most successful people planning to retire early have more than a single reason.  The more reasons you have the more motivation you can bring to your plan to help you see it through.  Getting to early retirement is very much similar to training and running a long distance.  At the start you can’t go more than a few blocks before being exhausted, yet over time you get go further and further towards your goal.  But unlike running, the changes to get to an early retirement may span a few decades.  It isn’t an easy feat to do, so you have to be very sure of why you are doing this otherwise you can give up on that dream.

To me personally the best way to summarize my why is: freedom.  I love that feeling on vacation when you do what you like, when you like within a broad context of the amount of time and money you have put aside for the trip.  I just want to expand that feeling to have nearly unlimited time and a modest amount of money to do things.

For me the time is worth more than the money.  Also putting it into context when I am on vacation, like right now, I tend to focus on doing things that interest my family and me.  A lot of the time these things don’t have to be very expensive like a hike in a provincial park to see a few waterfalls then swimming at the base of the falls.  Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t spend some money on things that we want to do, we just keep in mind the fact we can’t do everything at once.  Besides, I sort of like taking things easy while on vacation.  I hate rushing around so the idea of jamming in as much as possible in a week isn’t fun.

Yet there are other reasons to seek out early retirement for me that include but aren’t limited to:

  • I like to write, but know it doesn’t pay that much. So it takes a lot of time to write a book, but your hourly rate usually sucks.  So I can’t afford to do it full time right now.
  • I dislike waking to an alarm.  Really, I never sleep in that much so why should it matter if I’m 20 minutes late some days for work anyway. (Work has a different opinion, so I keep the alarm clock for now.)
  • I dislike working full time at my day job.  I don’t hate my work, it just loses some of the fun when you have to do it for the majority of your week.
  • I love to read books and watch movies, which with a library is a fairly affordable way to entertain myself.  Add in Netflix and I could happily stay entertained for years.
  • I like to slowly fix things.  Doing a little project over two weekends rather than cramming it into a long weekend.  I like to get things right the first time and have time to think about the project.
  • Savings is natural to me.  Early retirement just defines a bit more of a goal for that money.

Are these great reasons?  Not really, but they don’t have to be as long as they make sense to you.  Find your own reasons and don’t worry if they seem silly.  After all, you only have to convince yourself.  So what are a few of your own reasons?