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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Unknown Road

Posted by Tim Stobbs on July 3, 2015

So I finally started down an unknown road at work, figuratively speaking.  During my mid-year performance review with my boss I planted an idea with respect to my career goals.  I actually wrote on the form for near term goal (1 to 3 years): retirement or reduced hours to approximately 50%.  Then I submitted it to my boss to see if any fireworks ensued.

Oddly enough, the entire conversation was oddly civil and straight forward.  From my boss’s point of view he wants to keep me around as long as possible, so if we need to look into options to make that happen he is at least willing to explore them and ask how it could potentially work.  If we can find a compromise that works for both of us, why not look into it.

I made it clear I don’t expect changes immediately (after all I’m still working on building my savings), but I would like to know what options may exist.  Currently we are exploring a few different ways to make something like this happen including:

  1. Cut back to half time.  This would be using the same policy that let me drop down to 90% currently.  The issue here is figuring out how picks up some of the work that I’m no longer doing.
  2. Cut back time and reuse the budget to pick up another employee.  This one is a bit trickier to pull off and requires some help from HR on what is possible and what isn’t.  The idea would be to free up enough budget from my current position to allow another person to come on board and pick up the remaining work.  In effect splitting the budget from my job into two.
  3. Shift to a contractor role.  I had thought of this idea myself a while back but somewhat discounted the idea as the work involved to setup and obtain clients while still working.  This way would be easier as I would start with one client right off the bat, which would make the shift easier.  The downside of course if contractor budgets are often the first things to get squeezed out during budget cut backs.  So my income would be more unstable and there is a risk of me being hung out to dry.

Of course I’m not sure where this is going to end up, but I figured that it would be worth the time to at least explore semi-retirement with my current workplace.  Oddly enough I sort of discounted this idea in the first place as I thought they would shoot it down at once, but the reaction has been more hopeful than I would have guessed.

Anyways, worse case scenario it doesn’t come to anything, I finish my savings and just leave in about two more years.  Best case would be dropping down to 50% by next year and staying in semi-retirement mode for a three or more years until I get enough savings to leave entirely or just get sick of the entire thing and pull the plug.

Has anyone else had much like convincing their employer to allow you to go part time?  Any tips or ideas?

Down the Rabbit Hole: Writing New Book

Posted by Tim Stobbs on June 24, 2015

Holy crap?!?! I didn’t realize I haven’t posted here for so long.  Sorry about that folks.  I’m currently down the rabbit hole of writing a new non-fiction book.  After struggling for a while, I finally got a workable angle on it and I’m roughly half finished (~38,000 words so far).  So yes, you get less posts in the short run as I get consumed by my project.

Working title is: Break the System.  So while I do touch on some similar topics as my first book, Free at 45, of financial independence and happiness, I widen the scope of this one considerably to bridging any large scale change to your life.  So weather it be shifting careers, changing your hobbies or following your crazy dream of your ideal life or even just retiring at 65, I want to help you make the change with this book.  You can see why finding a workable angle has been a problem for me. ;)

Just so you know, my writing process tends to go like this…lose myself brain dumping ideas, and writing parts of chapters for several weeks until I get close to a workable first draft.  Then I shift to edit mode and hack the crap out the first draft and cut back to the core ideas/chapters I want to include in the book.  For example, in Free at 45, I cut a full third of the chapters from the first draft (30 chapters) to the second draft (20 chapters).  I expect something similar this time around as I cut back on duplication or too much similarity between chapters and hack out those ones that don’t support the book that well.  Then after that I clean up the book a bit more I’ll be sharing it with a few people for some beta reader feedback.

I’ll keep you all in the loop as the book moves along and I’ll try to remember to actually write the odd post here as well.  Have a great summer.

Tim

 

The Frugal Computer Upgrade

Posted by Tim Stobbs on June 4, 2015

After recently buying a replacement for my old netbook computer this post might come across a bit hypocritical, but I don’t actually throw money at all my computer problems.  For example, our other laptop computer while being ok for most tasks for my wife and the boys was getting a little slow.  But rather than just blindly replacing that computer I decided to do a bit more work and see if I couldn’t fix the issue with a bit less spending than a new machine. (I should point out while I’m the tech guy in my house I’m no where close to an expert, this is merely stuff that isn’t to hard for the average person to try out.)

I used a two stage process to make sure what I was doing would be worthwhile.  First up I did all the free stuff you know you should do on your computer but never seem to get around to doing.  You know, like:

  • Uninstall all the programs you don’t actually use.  If you haven’t used it in a year it is really good candidate to remove.
  • Turn off all the extra features you don’t use on your desktop (for example, a clock on a sidebar when all you do is look at the corner of the screen anyway) and remove all but the essential shortcuts.  Put any files on your desktop into folders.
  • Turn off all the programs that load every time you start the machine, but rarely use.
  • De-fragment the hard drive.
  • Install all those updates you’ve been ignoring, but your computer keeps reminding you to install.  In some cases, those help fix a slow program.

I did all of the above in perhaps an hour or so.  After that there was a noticeable improvement in the computer starting up.  So ya!  At least that was a minor battle won.

Then I started looking at the computer’s stats and realized it was a bit underpowered for RAM with only 2GB (but when you consider I bought the computer for a $1, beggars can’t be picky about the specs).  So I did a bit of research on which RAM I could use and came across this handy little tool on this website which can tell you EXACTLY what kind of RAM you need to buy if you want to upgrade your computer (you can either enter the specs yourself or have it run a little bit of software to tell you want you need).  Yes of course the website recommends their particular brand of RAM, but frankly I don’t care as it saved me hours of pissing around to sort it out myself.

Then I went to Amazon and did a search for 4GB of RAM (two 2GB chips) and found it for just over $60 (which had free shipping).  Then four business days later the RAM arrived at my house.  I had previously upgraded my old desktop computer RAM before, so this wasn’t entirely new territory for me, but I hadn’t do a laptop yet.  But when I pulled off the section where I thought the RAM was located I could find the one chip, but not the other.  Oh crap, now what?

Like any modern person, I just asked Google, which immediately brought up a Utube video showing me how to find the other chip of RAM hidden under the laptop keyboard.  Three screws and four clips later I had the keyboard up and the other RAM chip in sight.  I installed it and put everything back together and tried to turn on the computer…key word tried.

It didn’t boot up at all.  Oh crap! I had a blank screen and my cap and number lock LEDs were blinking at me.  Damn it!  Back to Google and HP’s website which pointed out the lovely three blinks I was getting was because of a memory issue and if you tried to upgrade your RAM you likely didn’t seat it right.  So I took everything back off and pulled out the new chips and put them back in again.  Then crossing my fingers I pushed the power button again.  This time I see the Window’s icon on the screen and I said “It LIVES!” (To which my wife, just laughed).

Then I tried out a few tasks on the machine and noticed it was working much better now.  So for a total of $60 and perhaps 1 hour to uninstall a bunch of software and another hour to piss around and finally get the new RAM working I have a much better computer for the rest of my family to use.  Two hours of my time and $60 is dirt cheap compared to a new laptop (which ran me about $770 if you must know).  So rather than just assuming you need a new computer when your old one starts to slow down, you might want to consider a simple clean up and RAM upgrade instead.

Ok, to all the much more savvy computer people out there…what else would you recommend people do?  Or if you have fixed this issue yourself, what did you do?