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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Slacking Away

Posted by Tim Stobbs on March 11, 2016

Well in a previous post, I pointed out my plan to not work so hard at work anymore since it didn’t seem to be an effective usage of my energy based on the flaws in our performance review system.  I think I used the term coasting, but slacking would also cover it.  One particular astute person commented that I might find myself out of a job if I wasn’t careful, which was a valid point.

So the trick was a slack away at my job a bit, but not too much as I might find myself out of job.  Well another cycle of my performance review is over and I got exactly the same rating as last year.  Ironically, with about a magnitude less effort on my part (and yes, I mean magnitude like logarithmic scale) so I would say my slacking was just about bang on.  I even got a raise this year (which is better than last where they gave to us and then took it away).  As an aside, I timed this perfectly this year as there was no difference between the top performance people and my raise (again supporting my theory that the process currently discourages people from being exceptional performers).

Now I basically go into to work, do my job until the day is done and whatever isn’t complete will have to wait until tomorrow.  I avoid overtime like the plague, I don’t put in that extra effort I used to on projects and I don’t even bother thinking two steps head of most of the other people.  The result is my job stress is basically dropped like a stone and I have to say I like it.

Perhaps the only interesting constructive feedback I got on my performance was regarding my interactions with some other people in the department.  Apparently,  I believe the term they used was “abrupt” with some people.  Which is fair since in the last year since my tolerance for office politics has tanked to a all time low. I’m not crude, I just won’t bother playing the game.  But ironically, my boss noted he felt he was reaching to find something to say with regards to that comment.  He doesn’t mind my tendency to get to the point in the slightest and nor does my co-workers who I spend the most time with.

So overall I’m putting in a lot less effort and enjoying my day job a lot more since I don’t stress over it.  I now aim for ‘good work’ not ‘great’ or ‘hard’, just good enough.  I just wished I had discovered this pace of work years ago, but oh well, I know it now and I’m enjoying my last few years of work because of it.

How much effort do you put into your job?  Would you slack off at the end of your career or not?  Why?

When the Government Thinks Your Poor

Posted by Tim Stobbs on March 4, 2016

I have a confession to make to you all.  I generally ignore our Child Tax Benefit statement that comes in from the federal government each year.  Why? Well with our combined income we don’t really get a whole lot of money from it and second all of the money I do get, plus some of our own, goes immediately into the kid’s RESP.  So from my point of view the money doesn’t really exist since it only passes through my bank account on the way to the RESP account.  I think of it as my kid’s money and not mine.

So when I did all my retirement planning I generally ignored any potential tax perks I may get when I leave full time work and our income sinks like a stone.  I knew we would be paying less tax but I didn’t really consider that we may qualify for any other benefits programs like an increase to our Child Tax Benefit.

Yet the other day it did occur to me finally that we would get a bit more Child Tax Benefit, so I finally sat down and plug our projected numbers into the government calculator.  Then my jaw hit the table when I saw the result.  See the screen shot below.

Child Tax Estimate

In my head I was expecting perhaps $100/kid per month, so $2400/year.  I certainly was not expecting $8,873 a year.  So how the hell did that happen?  Well it appears that there was a high degree of dumb luck on the numbers when I looked into it.  I figured we would end up between my wife we would have a taxable income of about $26,000/year between RRSP withdrawals and some work (recall my wife will keep running her daycare after I leave work which is her choice).  The rest would come from TFSA accounts so won’t impact our qualification for government programs.  That $26,000/year number is just under the threshold to tie into the National Child Benefit Supplement which for two kids under 18 is fairly generous (over $350/month), then we would also qualify for a few other programs like the GST credit which would give us a bit extra money.

Of course all of this is set to change with the next federal budget as they have previously promised to overhaul these particular benefits during the election campaign.  So I can’t depend on these numbers but it does provide me with some useful input towards my retirement planning.

First off it tells me that I will likely get enough government benefits that I shouldn’t need to save any additional money to finish funding the kid’s RESP account.  I had previously estimated I would need around $20,000 stashed away for that prior to leaving my day job (I had assumed five years of contributions at $4000/year).  But now it entirely reasonable that we should get enough government funds to cover that amount.

The second particular useful fallout of likely getting more benefits than I thought would be the fact this provides a minor cushion to my plan.  As you may be aware one of the particular risks of retiring early and living off of investment income is if you get a series of bad returns on your investments in your first five years, you may end up running out of money in the long run.  So to combat this issue I have a series of backup plans on the ready to help cushion the blow should anything go wrong during those critical five years including: being able to cut back on some spending, having a year’s worth of spending money put aside, being willing to pick up some part time or consulting work in those first five years…you get the idea.  This unexpected money just provides an additional cushion, if we ended up needing it.  On the other hand, if things go well, I would continue to not depend on the government benefits and just put the money aside for the kids.

Ah the joys of having a government think I’m poor based on income, just because I don’t tend to spend a lot regardless of our income.  So this was news to me, did anyone else out there with kids look at this when planning their early retirement?

Overly Happy

Posted by Tim Stobbs on February 11, 2016

Given the amount I talk about happiness on this blog, you might assume I live a charmed life with a constant smile on my face but that isn’t true.  In fact, when you consider happiness from a evolutionary point of view being constantly stung out in a good mood would likely ensure your species didn’t survive.  After all without fear or worry, your offspring might be lunch for something else which is hardly productive to a species long term survival.

In reality, my life is fairly good most of the time, but it also has its ups and downs just like yours. For example, last year I had a bit of a down period of a few months where I was just utter disengaged from my work.  I didn’t care about my work at all and really didn’t want to be there.  Being in that frame of mind for too long started to eat into the rest of my life and the end result was obvious: I wasn’t that happy for a few months.  Not full on depressed, but definitely down.

Yet shouldn’t I be happy with my life?  Well people might consider my answer should be yes, but you also have to consider that  the constant pressure from everywhere to be happier and improve yourself.  This isn’t to say I don’t like some degree of self improvement, but with happiness our culture seem bloody well obsessed with it.  Don’t believe, do a Google search for ‘happy’…I got 2.4 billion results.  Or if you want to refine things a bit search “how to be happy” and you will get 639 million results.  Given the amount of research, books and other media on the topic we should all be walking around with a permanent smile on our faces. Yet we still aren’t happy all the time.

So what’s the problem? Well basically we can’t stop feeling the negative emotions in life.  We still feel fear, greed, envy, and yes even the dreaded sad emotion.  But that is actually a good thing. The fact of the matter is your negative emotions are there and they do serve a purpose.  You actually need them to help define the other positive emotions like happiness.  It’s like trying to define zero without the one in binary or vice versa.

We aren’t meant to be happy all the time, so it is okay to stop trying to feeling happy constantly.  It’s like we all got addicted to being happy and we all collectively on the constant search for a our next high from it.  Yet that kind of thinking can be dangerous to your long term well being.  For example, as you can start to overeat to feel better, watch too much TV to feel better and then over time feel bad that you got fat and don’t do anything in you life but work and watch TV.  Your quest for happiness ended up with you being unhappy because you didn’t consider the long term cost of being too happy.

In the end, you should adjust what you are doing in your life when you do get down for a period of time.  That is a healthy thing to try, but we shouldn’t be a constantly evolving trying to get just a few more minutes of each day of being happy.  Oh, I got 49 minutes of happiness at work today, that was better than 45 last week. That isn’t healthy, so my advice is find that point where you have enough happiness in your life.  That you generally feel fairly good about the world, but still have your bad days too and then stop trying to be happier. Life is meant to be lived, so don’t spend it overly trying to improve something that is already just fine the way it is.

So do you feel pressured to be happier in your life? If so, how do you deal with it?