It shouldn't take a special day to do something

by Sylvia Ji
Most people know areas of their lives that could use some improvement. It can be diet, finances, work, etc. I don't know about you but even though I know what areas I could improve I tend to get lazy and postpone a lot of these things because why start today what I could do tomorrow?

It's this way of thinking that leads people to need a special occasion to start making the changes in their lives that they want to see. For many people that special occasion is New Years Eve.

But why does it take a special day to start?

Sometimes that "special" day isn't so special, sometimes it's just significant. Some people start to fix their lives when something breaks or goes wrong. Sometimes people are forced to exercise or fix their diet after an event such as a heart attack or other medical emergency. Or they will begin to fix their finances once they realize that they can no longer cover their monthly bills.

Don't wait for an emergency to force you to make a change you already know about!

Right now I see a lot of clutter starting to build up around my house.  Some of it is art supplies that are left over from the last time I was inspired to paint, others are just small knick-knacks that have been given to me over time that I feel bad throwing out since they were a gift. Either way, it's building up to a point where I know that I will have to do something about it soon. Instead of waiting for the day to come when I am forced to clean it up (i.e. my girlfriend making me) I decided that I will take action before I am forced to. I've decided to do this by playing the minimalist game.

The Minimalist Game

Find a friend or family member. Someone who’s willing to get rid of some of their excess stuff. This month, each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day of the month. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house—and out of your life—by midnight each day.
It’s an easy game at first. However, it starts getting challenging by week two, when you’re both jettisoning more than a dozen items each day. Whoever can keep it going the longest wins. You both win if you can make it all month. Bonus points if you play with more than two people.
via the minimalists 

So instead of waiting for a special day to start this game, (the first of the month) I've decided to just start today and try to go for 30 days straight.

In the past when I've decided that I needed a change such as working out more or eating better I just decided one day to start, I feel like if I'm postponing it for a special day then I must not really be dedicated to the change that I am looking for since I'm already looking for excuses not to do it.

Do you wait for special days to start new life improvements? Feel free to join me in the minimalist game, or even better just decide to start a new change that you already know you need to make. Let me know if you do it!


Hope by Jeremy Fish
Hope By Jeremy Fish
I only have a few people in my real life that know about this blog. I keep it to a minimum for a number of reasons, and based on the number of misinterpretations by the few people that know, I feel like I made a good choice for now. People tend to think that once you start working towards a goal like retirement and you're so fanatical about it that you write about it multiple times a week that you are obsessed with not spending money. Therefore you are cheap. They believe that anything that costs money is something that you avoid like the plague.

Perhaps in some situations they are correct, I know that I could live in a fancier house without roommates, buy nicer food, or even just pay for the convenience of driving to work to save time avoiding public transportation for an extra $200 per month. But I choose not to do any of those things.

I actually think that I am horrible at being frugal. Yes, I will not buy things that I don't really need, but if I feel like it's something important then I will most likely overspend on it. My rationale usually follows along the lines of, "if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it right." That's also part of the reason that I take this blog seriously, since I'm going to do it, I'm not going to half-ass it. I'm going to do better than the "good old college try" I'm going to see if I can make it work.

Last weekend for example I had to go to a wedding for a friend from high school. I was in the bridal party so I had a specific suit that I had to wear, and I had to purchase the proper color shoes and belt to match. There was also the wedding gift, bachelor party, and booking a hotel so that I could have some place to sleep that night since it was a few hours drive from where I live. A few years ago I had a somewhat similar experience except I didn't have a role in the wedding, but I had to travel to Ecuador attend the wedding. For each of these weddings I ended up paying at least $1000 for everything involved, and I know that I could have made it through a lot cheaper, but I choose to do things "right" because they were my good friends and I wanted to make sure I would do my part to make their days special since I know it was important to them so it was important to me as well.

Recently one of my friends asked me if I went to this music festival that was in town. When I told him that I didn't he said, "Oh yeah, that's right, you don't spend money. You're saving for retirement." This kind of rubbed me the wrong way, he assumed that didn't go because I didn't want to pay for the experience of it. But that's hardly the reason I wouldn't go. I was automatically pigeonholed as this penny pincer who will sacrifice everything, including my social life for money.

For me a music festival (and most other purchases) are more of a matter of deliberate consumption. Is paying $150 to go see bands play music for 10 hours worth it to me? It could be... Maybe if the Wu-Tang Clan, Rage Against The Machine, The Mars Volta, and Radiohead were all playing on the same day, but that wasn't the case. Also, as I've gotten older my body doesn't like standing in one spot for hours on end anymore so concerts are less fun because my body complains more than it did 7 years ago. So paying money to make my body hurt doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me, I just recently did that and it was a fairly draining few days when it was all over.

The goal of early retirement for me is not specifically about not working, it's about getting what I want out of life. I don't want to spend another 30 years in an office with nothing but carpal tunnel to show for it. I want to be able to spend my time and energy on things that are important in my life. Wanting to spend my life living more intentionally just happens to also mean that the regular workforce is not something that interests me.

But there's also another twist to all of this. While I do want to retire early, it's not my only goal in life. Sometimes life happens, things come up that are more important than this singular goal of mine. My life is more complicated than working towards one thing. If one day I one day I decide to get married and have kids then I know that my family would be a higher priority than retiring early. So while I do have goals in mind, they are flexible and re-evaluated as needed. If I need to push back early retirement a few years then I'm more than willing to do that if it's for something that's important to me.

I don't know if saving aggressively is the right path for the long term. Right now it feels right so I'm sticking to it, and now that I have a decent sized snow ball built up it's momentum will still carry me along even if I can't save as much in the future.

Have you ever had people misunderstand your goals in life?

Early retirement is ruining my life.

Breaking Bad Bear By Lora Zombie
**Apparently I wasn't very clear that most of this was sarcasm. Please note that none of this stuff is really ruining my life, in fact I think everything I mention is a postive thing rather than a negative. I guess I need to work on my sarcastic writing tone more!**

I always thought it was silly that most people worked from 9 to 5 to 65. Society pretty much set this standard that everyone is meant to live by, and for some reason I haven't been listening to those rules. But a few years back I decided to save over 50 percent of my income so I could reach financial independence early. Only recently have I stared to realize how this is ruining my life, and I'm reminded of it every single day.

Because of my saving habits I don't have extra money to buy stuff that helps me fit in with my friends and co-workers. First of all, when I'm going out to meet up with them, many times I end up taking the bus or even *gasp* walking. When I'm hoofing it to meet up with them at a restaurant or bar I have nothing but time on my hands to think about the poor decisions that led me use my own two legs to get me places.

Surround yourself with like minded people

Indian body building village
The argument of nature versus nurture - which one is more important is ongoing. I think that both sides of the argument have valid points. Mental illness, hereditary diseases and physical traits can all be passed along by genetics and in some cases it can produce children that have natural physical abilities that put them ahead of others.

The other side of the coin is who you surround yourself with. I have no doubt in my mind that the development of my personality was heavily influenced by the friends I went to high school with (and yes, I am still good friends with them to this day). Have you ever noticed how good friends have the same sense of humor, sometimes that's what draws them to each other, but other times that part of themselves grows with that other person.

Not Pulling the Punches

Perhaps it's because I was out drinking after work tonight that I'm in a feisty mood. But I've sort of had this half written for a while but tonight seemed like a good night to finish it.
Here are the reasons why you aren't getting ahead:

Troy By Jessica Joslin
Troy By Jessica Joslin (Animal Alchemy)

You lease an expensive car... Actually, you lease any car.
I personally don't know anyone that has leased a car in the past that thought it was a good idea. My only friends that have ever leased a car regretted that decision when their lease was over. I believe they compared it to having a permanent rental car. You are basically renting a car for 3 or 4 years at a time and you can't return it if you don't need it. And at the end of your lease you don't even have any equity in that car, you just give it back and hope you don't get charged for any dings or scratches.

You go to Starbucks regularly - It's even worse if you go multiple times per day
Look, if you need your coffee get your coffee. I know a few things about being tired and it sucks. But if you're a regular coffee drinker invest in a coffee machine and make your first cup of the day at home. I have a hard time justifying any drink that costs $5 and does not contain alcohol. And even with alcoholic drinks I still feel like most of that is paying for atmosphere, otherwise I'll be at home or a friends paying less than half the price at a bar.

The easiest way to early retirement is to fast forward life

Fuck You by Marion Peck
Fuck You by Marion Peck
It's no secret that the older people get the more they start to save for retirement. There's a number of reasons that peoples savings increase as they get older: You start to earn more, you've paid off all your debt, you have paid off your house, you no longer have to support kids.

But I think another reason that doesn't get much credit is that as people get older and closer to retirement they start to realize that they haven't saved as much as they would have liked for retirement. When you're 30 years old most people think they have another 30 years to go before retirement. That's as long as they have lived to that point! If I had to live my entire life again before I retired I would think I had a LOT of time to figure it out before I got there. But the years start to go by, you get busy with new house projects, or your kids always seem to need new clothes because they are growing so fast! The next thing you know you're in your mid-forties and you realize, oh crap! I need to save how much in the next 15 or so years?

Sure you might have saved some by that point, you were diligent, but a lot of financial advisors are saying that for millennials their retirement will cost them 2 million dollars! Wow! That's a lot just to write. So you start ramping up your savings as you get older because you know your future self will not be able to work forever and you need to have something saved.

Once you're in your fifties you are getting into the home stretch, you can start to actually visualize the finish line so you keep making that last push to up your savings to last you the rest of your life. Most people can cut some fat from their budget, they just don't bother trying until they start realizing they need to.

And that's the secret to early retirement. It's pretty simple. Fast forward life. Save like you're 55 years old. Save like you only have a limited amount of time to work. Look for the finish line early, don't put your head down and go with the flow, that's the way you approach a marathon. If you want to reach early financial independence then you need to push like a 4x4 race. Every year you pick it up a notch until your last leg you make that sprint for the finish.

I know that you have bills to pay and other things to save for, but so do I. So do a lot of other early retirees, it's not impossible. If leasing that new car is high on your list of priorities then go ahead and do it, but don't expect to save money very quickly with monthly payments that you could probably avoid.

What do you think? Would you fast forward life? It doesn't have to be everything, I'm not fast forwarding the health problems, I can wait for that.

Employee Retention and Becoming a Better Manager

Layers by Anna Ignatieva
Why do we stay at our jobs?

Well besides for the most obvious factor of money there are many other factors that determine job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. In fact, the reasons you like a job aren't necessarily the reasons you stay at it. It's actually suggested that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are measured in different ways rather than being on different ends of the same spectrum.

Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory describes what keeps people satisfied with their work as well as what factors contribute more to job dissatisfaction.

Give Yourself a Bonus!

Crimson by Greg "Craola" Simkins
It took me a few years to get my savings to the point where I could max out my 401(k) every year. The main reason I wasn't maxing it out was because I followed the standard advice of only contributing 10 or 15 percent of my income to it.

Retirement Advice 101

I thought that if was following the advice that I always heard that I was ahead of most people. To be honest, I was probably doing better than most people by saving just 10% anyways. But I wasn't making $175k per year so 10% was not going to even get me close to maxing it out. Years later, if I still followed the 10-15% advice I would still have a large gap between how much I was saving and the maximum allowed.

But why did I follow the standard rules for what I had heard about saving for retirement? I knew if I followed the standard advice I would be comfortable once I got closer to retirement.

But if I followed the beginner's rules, then I would probably end up with the beginners retirement, and 67 does not sound like the age I want to retire at.

What is Normal?

Wired up like Neo in the Matrix
I'm wired up like Neo in the Matrix....
As I sit here, hooked up with 12 electrodes to my head, 2 on my chest, 2 on my legs, 2 belts wrapped around my chest, a tube in in my nose and a monitor on my finger I begin to wonder how I got here... Not how I drove myself to a sleep center to run tests to determine if I do or more likely, don't have narcolepsy. But I wonder how I got to the point of needing this test to begin with.

All of my life I just thought I was more tired than other people. At first I blamed it on typical things like being in high school and college, where it was normal to stay up too late on a regular basis cramming for tests that I should have prepared for earlier. Or just staying out late with friends and regretting signing up for that 11am class because it was waaaay to early to need to be presentable to the world. Many times I would just go to class unshowered and wearing what I fell asleep in. (side note: PJ's are acceptable to wear to class in college. Bathing suits on a rainy day are probably not.)

Everyone Makes Sacrifices

Guardian by Sam Flores
Everyone will have to make sacrifices at some point in their life. And I'm not talking about the little ones either, like going to a certain restaurant because that's what you're significant other wants, or settling on used car with low mileage because you can't really afford a new one. I'm talking about career goals, things that will change years or decades of your life.

The most common sacrifice is the debate of working for money or passion. If money wasn't important people wouldn't sacrifice their passion for it. Sometimes people (myself included) don't have a passion that is strong enough to outweigh the money we could make doing something else. Sure, I could have picked a different profession like working with animals that would have given me more personal satisfaction than my current job. But my current job affords me the lifestyle that I like and will hopefully get me closer to my goals much quicker than any other use of my time.

Everyone will have to make a sacrifice at some point. There's a reason the term "starving artist" exists, it's because most of them don't make enough money to get by. They have decided to sacrifice money for their passions in hopes that eventually some reputable publication takes note of their work and helps them "break out".

But it's not always a sacrifice between money and passion. Entrepreneurs have a passion for the products and companies they build, and occasionally they make money off of those passions pretty quickly, but they sacrifice something else. Their time. Do you think that someone like Mark Zuckerberg didn't sacrifice his time when he started Facebook? Or what about Elon Musk when he started PayPal? Mark Cuban is known for not taking a vacation for the first 7 years that he started his company.

Everyone has to sacrifice something

Don't Live With a False Sense of Security

Morphine by Michael Hussar
Morphine by Michael Hussar
People don't save enough these days.

It's apparent in almost every survey done when we ask people how much they have saved for retirement. The most recent survey that I saw was conducted by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint supports my thoughts pretty well, it's actually quite shocking how underprepared the average person is for their future retirement. I think that many of these people are going to have to work for much longer than they really want to.

But what comes before savings is living below your means. If you can live off of 50% of your income then you can save a lot more compared to someone that lives off of 95% of their income. It's simple math. But actually executing this is the hard part, not everyone can live off of small portions of their income. In fact some people live off of more than they make thanks to credit cards.

The other day a person that I know was talking about sending their daughter to summer camp. There were various courses that they could sign up for at this camp but they mentioned that they couldn't afford to sign up for certain courses because they cost $75 more than some of the courses. While I'm glad they recognized their limits I was stunned that they weren't able to afford the extra $75. After all, this family of 4 had season passes to Disneyland, ATV's for each of their children before they were even 10 years old, and own their own RV. So why were they spending so much that the $75 for their daughters summer camp was too much?

I think they were living with a false sense of security

Can You Over Diversify?

Casey Weldon - Cat
Painting by Casey Weldon
In a word - Yes.

At least I think so.

But I think that there are multiple ways to over diversify. The first one that you probably are already thinking of is owning over 100 different individual stocks. There's probably no way you can keep up that well with all of those companies on a regular basis unless you happen to work in finance or have a LOT of spare time on your hands.

But because of over diversification you may be killing your returns without even knowing it. Investors think that they are playing it safe by spreading their money around everywhere when in fact they may be whittling away at their returns before they even start.