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Saturday, August 30, 2014

All The Time In the World

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 21, 2014

If you ask any aspiring early retiree why they want to retire early the answer is often about freedom.  Yet another common answer is related to time.  We want the major of our time to suit our own purposes, which seems very similar, but in some ways is a bit different.

Time is really a subjective experience, it goes fast or slow depending on how we view it. Work can feel like it was twice as long was it really was or when you are enjoying what you are doing hours can vanish in what seems like minutes.  Also feeling busy comes out of your perception of time as well.  So if you have that awful feeling of being frantically busy, keep in mind that it is mostly in your head.

The major issue with our time beyond our basic perception that there isn’t enough of it.  Which ironically exists only in our head.  So the other way to look at the world is just reverse your basic perception and think to yourself: I have all the time in the world.  I know that sounds incredibly nuts, but if you do start adjusting your basic thoughts about time you tend to take those odd moments and actually enjoy them.

For example, I was recently driving home later in the evening and the clouds turned that perfect pink colour in the sun set and it for a moment reminded me of one of my favorite Monet paintings.  So I looked ahead and behind me on the road to confirm no one was near me then I enjoyed the view for a few seconds.  I took the time to enjoy the moment.

The other major thing to take back your time is to restructure what you are doing with it.  So often we end up trying to cram way too much stuff into our days and feed that feeling of being frantically busy.  So the solution to this is be honest with yourself and develop so priorities and stop trying to do it all.  Cut out 80% of the crap you were doing with your time and you will suddenly have lots of time to do the last 20%, which is often the most meaningful anyway.

So for me this meant I stopped writing endless to do lists.  Instead feeling guilt over things I thought I should be doing I’ve realized that if I just write down the few most important things I need to do in the day I can typically manage to get all those items done and feel better about things.  I accept I might forget the odd thing, but mainly I’m just forgetting the crap that would just stay on the list for weeks and not get done.  So how important is something if I can safely ignore it for weeks: the answer is not at all.

I also got honest with myself and stopped trying to do too much at once.  I realized that relaxing is just as important as doing something for long term health.  So yes I do a few items on a weekday after work and then I typically spend the last few hours relaxing reading a book or watching a movie with no guilt at all.  I stay in the moment of what I choose to do and actually enjoy it more.

In the end, you don’t need to retire to get more time.  You have enough time right now if you allow yourself to use it and accept you can’t do it all.  Even with an extra 52 weeks of 40 hours you aren’t going to be able to do it all. So start adjusting your life now to enjoy your time.

So how do you make yourself feel less busy?  Or what have you stopped doing that wasn’t that important?

Capital vs. Cash Flow

Posted by Dave on August 19, 2014

An early retirement plan is an inherently risky thing to take part in. The risk in following through with the plan is that money will run out before you are readily able to make more of it, but there are still bills remaining to be paid. On the other hand, there is the risk (although less detrimental) that I could be one of those guys that drop dead at 52, while walking up a steep hill, or shaking my fist at a bunch of punk kids to get off my lawn.

My wife and I live fairly cheaply – beyond my golf habit and my wife’s desire for warm vacations, we really don’t have expensive lifestyles. Beyond the possibility of health problems causing significantly increased monthly expenses, I wouldn’t expect much in the way of lifestyle inflation to take place.

I like measuring sticks to show progress. In the past, I have written about slowly knocking off individual bills through investment returns – slowly taking chunks out of monthly expenses until they’re all taken care of (with a buffer). From my standpoint, it will be difficult to tell myself to keep working (especially on a full-time basis) at the point when all of my annual expenses are taken care of. The risk at that point will be that my investment portfolio gets wiped out and I’ll end up sitting in a dark, cold house eating beans and rice.

I’m sure I’ve read this somewhere else, but I’m not sure who to attribute it to, but living off a portfolio of 20+ diversified stocks and bonds does seem to be a lot less risky than my current dependence on a paycheque. Even though this pay has been continually deposited for over a decade, and I don’t expect it to end, it is dependent on me continually showing up and working for the next 10 or so years.

If I have adequate cash flow to cover my lifestyle at age 45, with enough of a buffer built in to cover major expenses within a diversified portfolio how much risk exists? If, for example, I have $750,000, yielding annual returns of $25k, and my household expenses are only $20k – should I work until I get to $1 million?

How long would you stay working? How did you arrive at your comfortable “exit number” ? Did you err on the side of caution, or plan on exiting the workforce as quickly as possible?

The Afforable Home Upgrades

Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 18, 2014

Sorry for the lack of posts last week I’ve been up to my eyeballs in projects around the house.  The major one is my wife’s long awaited cork flooring has arrived so I was doing a small test run on installing it in the front entry.  That way I’m ready for the much bigger project of installing the cork floor in her kitchen.  We also decided to buy enough material to do the same flooring in the back hallway and laundry room.  So while the material wasn’t that cheap ~$1900, it will cover a large area so it should make the house a fair bit more enjoyable once I finish all the installs.  Here is what it looks like so far.

Cork in Front Entry

Yet that wasn’t the only project I was working on.  The other project was completed in a single day for a cost of a mere $155, which is the main subject of this post.  It consisted of rescuing our backyard plant bed from the weeds and putting down two yards of mulch to suppress the weeds from coming back.  I recently learned I previous wasn’t putting down the mulch thick enough to do a good job of weed suppression.  I last time put down perhaps two inches of mulch when in fact 4 or more inches is required.  I learned the hard way on that one here is the before and afterwards pics.





But that project was the perfect example that home improvement doesn’t in fact have to be expensive.  Unfortunately due to media brainwashing everyone tend to think of major improvement like redoing a kitchen when in fact there are a entire class of projects that can make a home more enjoyable which can be done on a limited budget.  The trick to find something that largely requires time to complete it, but you have the skills to do the work yourself and the material costs are low.

So as I already mentioned, mulch is a damn cheap material to work with. So it can be used under trees, in beds to keep down weeds and also look a bit nice looking.  Other bulk materials like crusher dust can be used to create pathways or support patios and if you order is bulk is again fairly affordable.  Also ask friends and neighbours about splitting perennial that already exist in their yards like iris or day lilies. You can often create a nice bed of plants with a bit of labour and some patience.

Inside the house your best friend in the world is paint.  Per can it might be expensive (DO NOT CHEAP OUT ON PAINT YOU WILL REGRET IT – trust me I learned that also the hard way), but your coverage is fairly huge and it can make a big impact on a home.  This is by far the most common reno we do after buying a new property as we can often get a room done in a regular weekend.  Or if you can secure some help for a week it is possible to paint an entire small house in just a week.

Other project that can be affordable include change out light fixtures (as long as you don’t shop for a new chandelier), flooring projects (if you choose an affordable option and keep to a smaller area) and most projects that involve fabric if you know how to sew (new pillow covers or curtains).  Then if you are open to shopping around a bit you can also snag some excellent deals on materials, it just helps to have an open mind and not being bothered by buying other people’s leftovers.  I once got a great deal on oak hardwood just because the people in question decided to sell their house instead of finishing the flooring project they had started.

So in the end, don’t think you need to spend $20,000 to do a reno project to your house.  In fact, you can like make your house a lot nicer for a fraction of that cost as long as you don’t mind doing the work yourself.  Since I like learning new skills I rather enjoy that sort of thing myself.

What was your lowest cost project in your house?  Any other ideas on affordable renos?