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ER is NOT the goal!
Old 09-11-2008, 12:44 PM   #1
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ER is NOT the goal!

I picked my title to be somewhat heretical. But this is a realization that I've come to fairly recently, though maybe this is just common sense.

The goal in life should be to have the best life you possibly can, given your personal constraints. Each individual has his or her own path to happiness, and since we're reading an Early Retirement board, presumably that's part of our respective paths.

I've been finding, though, that too much emphasis on achieving FIRE is unhealthy. My FIRE date is at least 10 years off, and that would involve everything going really right. My life is very different now it was 10 years ago, and it certainly wouldn't surprise me if things changed significantly again within the next ten years.

Focusing too much on FIRE has involved sweating the small stuff too much. I'm saving more than I'm spending ($4-5k/month savings, $4k spending), so there's plenty of leeway there. Worrying about periodic overspending (so I "only" invest $3k that month) is dumb, as long as the spending is something that will improve my #1 goal, which is enjoying life. If the tradeoff is ER'ing a bit later (47 instead of 45), so be it.

Deferring gratification goes along with saving, but I'm finding that it is stupid to go through a decade with the outlook of "yeah, I'm unhappy now, but when I ER in 10 years I'll be loving life." Start loving life now and let FIRE take care of itself.

Anyhow, for me this is more of an attitude adjustment than anything else. My work lunches now involve takeout (~$8/day), because brown bagging for the last 4 months has been ticking me off. As an independent consultant, I can take time off (as long as I don't mind not getting paid), so I'm taking days off here and there. But the biggest attitude adjustment has been about my job itself -- I still don't enjoy it, but I've somehow managed to be less uptight about it because of the mental shift. Between no longer "racing" to get to ER and just deciding to have a more positive outlook while at work, I'm feeling happier -- so I'm achieving my life's goal.

(Of course, that part about a positive outlook while at work might undergo a bit of stress when things slow down a bit again at work, which they will shortly...)
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Old 09-11-2008, 01:10 PM   #2
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For me FI was more important than RE. When I reached a point in which I was working because I was enjoying it, and I knew that I could quit anytime I want, things changed. For one, my boss knew when I reached FI, his attitude seemed to change also. There seemed to be a big difference when he knew he needed me more than I needed the job.

I think something similar to this has been discussed before, just about everything else sure has. I might put up with a degree of misery now for a happy time later. It depends on how much and how long. Each of us, I would imagine, have our own tipping point.
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Old 09-11-2008, 01:10 PM   #3
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I have to agree with your statement. Too much emphasis on ER at a young age is detrimental to enjoying life in the here and now. If the difference is eliminating the extras that enhance life in the present for a reduced but non working lifestyle in the future I will take working in the present for a more balanced lifestyle overall as the future is uncertain.

I have already decided I would rather retire later but enjoy life more now. I also plan on taking some absence of leave benefits to smooth out the path.

My view is live life in balance. Save a little and spend a little.

I also think it more prudent on my part to delay retirement into my 50's to secure the lifestyle I want while not giving up the benefits of my current lifestyle now.
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Old 09-11-2008, 01:18 PM   #4
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Kronk, we do this, with vacations. Sure it would have been great to put all that money we spent in Mongolia in the bank, but it is a balancing act. I'm with you on this.

But, hey, watch those takeout lunches calorie counts--we gotta post our weight every week, dontcha know?
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Old 09-11-2008, 01:56 PM   #5
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I think I'm in the same camp. FI and the ability to FIRE is my goal. Not that I will necessarily FIRE. As things look now, FIRE is 14 years off and a lot can change in 14 years (not the least of which is my federal pension- will it still be there?).
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Old 09-11-2008, 02:30 PM   #6
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It is all about balance.

You don't want to spend everything now and not be able to ER.
However, you don't want to die before ER and not have done things you enjoyed.

I would rather brown bag my lunch and take a vacation to India than to eat take out.

It sounds as if you could put your savings on autopilot and you would not be thinking about it so much.

http://www.thedashmovie.com/

So plan your savings, budget, and how you want to enjoy life now.

Whenever I hated my job; I tried to get focused on it more so I forgot how I didn't want to work anymore. It make the time go faster and I did a better job.
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Old 09-11-2008, 02:40 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Kronk View Post
I picked my title to be somewhat heretical. But this is a realization that I've come to fairly recently, though maybe this is just common sense.

The goal in life should be to have the best life you possibly can, given your personal constraints. Each individual has his or her own path to happiness, and since we're reading an Early Retirement board, presumably that's part of our respective paths.

I've been finding, though, that too much emphasis on achieving FIRE is unhealthy. My FIRE date is at least 10 years off, and that would involve everything going really right. My life is very different now it was 10 years ago, and it certainly wouldn't surprise me if things changed significantly again within the next ten years.

Focusing too much on FIRE has involved sweating the small stuff too much. I'm saving more than I'm spending ($4-5k/month savings, $4k spending), so there's plenty of leeway there. Worrying about periodic overspending (so I "only" invest $3k that month) is dumb, as long as the spending is something that will improve my #1 goal, which is enjoying life. If the tradeoff is ER'ing a bit later (47 instead of 45), so be it.

Deferring gratification goes along with saving, but I'm finding that it is stupid to go through a decade with the outlook of "yeah, I'm unhappy now, but when I ER in 10 years I'll be loving life." Start loving life now and let FIRE take care of itself.

Anyhow, for me this is more of an attitude adjustment than anything else. My work lunches now involve takeout (~$8/day), because brown bagging for the last 4 months has been ticking me off. As an independent consultant, I can take time off (as long as I don't mind not getting paid), so I'm taking days off here and there. But the biggest attitude adjustment has been about my job itself -- I still don't enjoy it, but I've somehow managed to be less uptight about it because of the mental shift. Between no longer "racing" to get to ER and just deciding to have a more positive outlook while at work, I'm feeling happier -- so I'm achieving my life's goal.

(Of course, that part about a positive outlook while at work might undergo a bit of stress when things slow down a bit again at work, which they will shortly...)
You make what sounds like about 8K/mo take home pay. That gives you the option of savings a lot for retirement AND enjoying live along the way. For those who make 1/4 of that like me or less like a lot of people it's more like a one or the other situation. I grew up going grocery shopping at a food pantry and only being allow to take a shower once a week until high school because water was too expensive so I can save half of my 2K/mo and still be relatively happy. I'm not used to extravegances so I don't miss them.
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Old 09-11-2008, 05:45 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Rustic23 View Post
For me FI was more important than RE. When I reached a point in which I was working because I was enjoying it, and I knew that I could quit anytime I want, things changed. For one, my boss knew when I reached FI, his attitude seemed to change also. There seemed to be a big difference when he knew he needed me more than I needed the job.

I think something similar to this has been discussed before, just about everything else sure has. I might put up with a degree of misery now for a happy time later. It depends on how much and how long. Each of us, I would imagine, have our own tipping point.
You'll still be stuck working with morons who think that you and they are fighting for that last few spots on the org chart. I had a co-worker suggest that we should fire a West Coast colleague. This colleague, though a bull dog in personality, actually has the best work ethic I have seen in the last 5 years. The guy making the suggestion is a high school grad working as a customer service representative who only works hard when the boss is in the office. The West Coast guy is an engineering manager with real factory experience. Yeah, I see this customer service rep taking over the other guy's job. I think this guy would do much better if he spent a little less time worrying about other people on completely different career tracks and spent a little more time getting a degree at night instead of playing The World of Warcraft. Well, at least I'm no longer his focus. At first I thought he had a specific beef against me. Then I realized that his aggression is just the manifestation of his insecurity and that he would always need a target, so I told him drop that crap and behave like a professional. At first I thought I may have gone to far, but now I see that I was right to nip it in the bud.
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Old 09-11-2008, 05:46 PM   #9
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During our short 7-year careers, my wife and I have struggled through many job uncertainties. More than once we lost our jobs due to business bankruptcies and we endured too many rounds of layoffs/downsizing/reorganizations to remember them all. Every time we go through uncertain times like these (and these days it looks like it's every six months or so), we go into panic mode. What if we can't find another job quickly, what if we have to move, what if, what if, what if... We are tired of it.

We understand how precarious jobs are nowadays and we want to make sure that we reach the "survival FI" stage (where our portfolio generates enough dividends to pay monthly bills) as soon as possible. While "Survival FI" would not allow us to retire, it would ensure greater peace of mind during uncertain times. We are blessed to make good money at the moment, so there is no way we are squandering it.

It doesn't mean however that we live like paupers. While I am used to live on a very small income, I understand that I would alienate my wife by tightening the belt too much, so as long as we save 40-50% of our disposable income I am OK with our little and not so little extravagances.

Early retirement would be fine, but reaching FI is far more important to me.
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Old 09-11-2008, 06:06 PM   #10
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My problem is that a lot of the things I really love to do, on a much higher level than pretty much anything else, take up huge chunks of time. These hobbies are simply not possible while working a significant amount of hours. I have tried doing them when I had a workload of about 20 hours/week (works), 45 hours/week (pretty difficult), and at 70 hours/week (I haven't even bothered trying).

If I could find a job out there that was only 20-30 hours/week, pretty good pay, didn't require giving up a decent portion of my productive life for free just so I could have it later, and wasn't incredibly boring, I would jump at it. Sadly, these jobs don't exist. So I'd prefer to reduce the time away from my most enjoyable hobbies as long as possible.

The things I really love: Gaming, reading books (in one sitting) and really good tea
The things I like: Learning useful information, movies, short vacations, tea, playing with my cat
The things I don't like: Traveling, resturants, wasting money, boats, buying clothes, large groups, outdoor work of any type I have encountered, indoor work of any type I have encountered

So the plan is, figure out the most efficient way to work for as short a period as possible so I can move back to doing the things I really love. I get by for now doing things I like sometimes and rarely doing the things I love (since it is impossible for me to do the things I love while working). So far, I have a high stable income setup and invest in retirement accounts. I also have an intermediate level of knowledge on investing, have a buisness plan for a small buisness in the future and a plan for real estate investment.

Still working on the timing of whether I will implement the small buisness plan first or the real estate plan first, since I plan to still be doing the high hour/high income stable job as well. I am also trying to figure out exactly how much liquidity I will need for each of these plans (I may not want have everything in retirement accounts if I want to start a small buisness/buy property sometime in the next 3-4 years. I need a certain amount of liquidity to repay the minimums on the 2-3% student loans, and some liquidity to pay off the formerly subsidized 6.8% student loans fairly quickly).
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Old 09-11-2008, 07:11 PM   #11
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The things I like: Learning useful information, movies, short vacations, tea, playing with my cast
And where is your cast ?
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Old 09-11-2008, 07:34 PM   #12
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Interesting topic. We also save about half our income and tread this same balancing act between enjoying life now and deferring gratification. It would be easy to fall into the trap of living solely for ER, and arriving there bitter, or dead. In general I think we've made the right compromises. As time goes on, it seems that major luxuries are less and less material to happiness.

Recently I have been thinking the problem is not work, but working on other's schedule and priorities as so many of us do in corporate life. A part-time job could speed up ER, provide insurance against inflation and unexpected expenses, and generate satisfaction. Rather than flogging myself through the last few years of corporate life so that I can (with luck, inflation, medicare, and ss willing) never work again, it might make sense to look at part-time, self-employed work options.
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Old 09-11-2008, 08:58 PM   #13
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Plex, like Cycling investor, I am curious, not only about your cast, but also your tea. What kinds do you like?
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:06 PM   #14
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We're a veritable tea shop, here! DW is a tea addict, and got a short term post-retirement job at a place called Teavana. It's a chain, but not sure where they all are. Mostly down south, I think. Anyway, I don't think she ever brought home a paycheck. It all came home as tea, teapots, tea makers, etc. I now know more about tea than I ever wanted to.

I'm personally a diet pepsi/dr. pepper drinker, but I have to admit she makes a mean cuppa. Except for the really weird ones like Aztec Fire, part chocolate tea, part red pepper. Interesting, once. But the Earl Grey/Peppermint headache tea really works. Getting rid of one, I mean.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:08 PM   #15
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whoa, that is some wild flavors of tea, Harley--chocolate and red pepper! I've heard of Teavana, I think, but we don't have them here. I love Earl Grey, the bergamot oil is such a wonderful citrusy combo with black tea.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:13 PM   #16
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Affirmative on the Earl Grey. They also have various fruity Rooibos teas that mix well with the blacks too. We've actually been drinking a lot of green teas recently. I'm attributing that, along with the walking and diet, with my weight loss and blood pressure and sugar improvements. She can actually make it taste good, which is quite a task with me. But I'm becoming a convert, although I still need the morning deit pepsi to get my eyes open.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:15 PM   #17
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Green tea is pretty grassy tasting, adding some other flavor will help. It is the same plant, just hasn't been macerated and oxidized which is how you make black tea. Oolong tea is sort of an in-between. You may like that better if you can get it.
Tea is good stuff--a member of the Camellia family for you botanical types.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:17 PM   #18
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I really like a tea called, Smooth Move.
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:17 PM   #19
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Please pardon if this is awkward, but that sounds like a laxative. Not that there is anything wrong with that. What the heck is it?
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Old 09-11-2008, 09:19 PM   #20
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I guess you can get it at any place where good tea is sold. Just stay close to home if you drink it. (heh)
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