The Joy of Working . . . When Working Is a Choice

The job I retired from was with a terrific company.  I spent 17 years working with some of my best friends and even my fake kid.

Each year, the CFO would gather her leadership group–the accounting, HR and IT professionals who reported to her for a “Summit”.  A gathering to share knowledge, communicate updates and, frankly, to spend some time wining, dining and team building.  Attending these Summits was always a highlight in my year–a paid vacation with my buddies.

I retired 14 months ago.  But this year, I was asked to attend the summit.  And wait, it gets better.  I was asked to ***geek alert*** present a short class on one of my favorite subjects–Excel.

Initially, I was both terrified and thrilled.  Terrified because I HATE public speaking.  My hope was that my short speech at my retirement party would be my last.  Thrilled because it was an incredible honor to be asked to return.  I was excited to see my former colleagues and I love teaching people about Excel.  Helping people with Excel was my favorite thing about my old job.

I got over my terror by convincing myself I’d just be sitting at a table behind my laptop screen.  And I was–it didn’t end up being scary once I got started.  It helped that the room was filled with my friends.

It was really invigorating.  The group was super excited to learn new tips and make their processes more efficient.  There was more than one “wow” comment while I was presenting.  How often does that happen?!

And I was asked to stay over–in a beautiful resort and join the group for dinner and shenanigans after my session.  The shenanigans included sake bombs that sent more than one person stumbling back to their room–thankfully, not me.

Oh, and I got paid to do this!  It will help me fund my IRA this year.

I spent a ton of time preparing.  I developed an agenda that allowed both novices and experts to walk away with a couple new tips.  And being ultra prepared helped me get over my fear.  It was so worth it!

If I thought I had to take this on because I needed the money, my fear of public speaking would have been more than a bit paralyzing.  I would have resented the amount of time it took to prepare–especially because I spent way more time on this than I could bill.  Since it was a choice, I could focus on my excitement.

Not needing the money transformed the way I thought about the entire situation.

There are more benefits to being financially independent than I ever expected. 

I expected my financial independence would mean I could replace work with fun activities.  And, yes, I have.

I didn’t really think about being able to pick and choose money-making opportunities based on whether I thought they would be fun.

Last week was a perfect example.  Hanging out with my old friends, making some new friends and being able to contribute again was a rush.  Having people thank me and tell me how they would use what they learned to improve their processes was incredibly rewarding.

Oh and at least one of them wants to hire me to help them one on one.  That sounds fun, so I’ll do it!

But even before I quit my job, my financial independence paid dividends.  My boss was doing everything he could to keep me around.  This gave me a lot more control–I took advantage of it by working from our desert home as much as I felt comfortable.

So I’d say whether you want to retire early or not, save your money.  Save a lot of money.  Save as if you were pursuing financial independence.  The rewards go beyond the ability to replace work with fun–and that’s pretty awesome on its own!

Could You Live On Social Security Alone?

The experts say Social Security provides about 40% of the typical retiree’s pre-retirement earnings.

But that percentage varies a lot.  Lower earners receive a higher percentage of their earnings and higher earners receive a lower percentage of their earnings.

I write a lot about the importance of saving money for retirement because of this 40% statistic.  But COULD I live on my social security alone?  If I could, what would that life look like? Continue reading “Could You Live On Social Security Alone?”

Make The Hard Choices

I just watched a TED talk by Tim Ferriss.  It is well worth 13 minutes of your time to watch the entire talk but one thing he said struck me:

“Easy choices, hard life
Hard choices, easy life”

Jerzy Gregorek as told to Tim Ferriss

This statement is true in so many areas of our lives but, I believe, particularly true when thinking about our finances.

Buying something on credit–easy
Paying for your past rather than saving for your future–hard

Learning new skills and making ourselves more valuable at work–hard
Taking home a bigger paycheck–easy

Aligning your spending with your values–hard
Having money for the things that matter most–easy

You get it.  Think about what you’re struggling with, what choices can you make that will turn that struggle into something that is easy?

My life is astonishingly easy right now.  I don’t worry about money.  I only set my alarm for fun things.  I’m meeting new people and enjoying new activities.  The decisions I’m struggling with fall squarely in the category of first world problems.

But my easy life was built on a foundation of hard choices–saving rather than spending, working rather than playing.

The choice is yours–make it a hard one.

Save To Retire Early Even If You Won’t

I listened to a good bit of the James Comey hearing last week.  I don’t follow politics closely but Mr. Ms. Liz does so it was on the TV while I was working.

I kept wondering–does he have F U money?

We haven’t talked about F U money before because I find it to be a bit vulgar and I know some of my readers are sensitive to such things.  But I haven’t found a better way to express this concept.

Jim Collins, one of my personal finance heroes, coined the term.  If you haven’t read his stock series yet, do it right after you finish this insightful post :).

Does James Comey have enough money to move on to something else without worrying about how he will keep his family afloat during the interim?  He’s 56, could he retire? Continue reading “Save To Retire Early Even If You Won’t”

Reflections On My First Year of Retirement

I’ve been retired a year–it’s crazy how fast it has gone!  It makes me better understand a line Gretchen Rubin often quotes “The days are long but the years are short”.

I hope you’re not disappointed but I’m not issuing a report card like I did for my first four months of retirement.

Mainly because my grade would go down and I’m a gold star junkie.

Not because I’m not loving this retirement thing but because retirement has turned into more of a vacation than something I can grade myself on.

I feel like this first year has been a detox.

I’ve allowed myself to be far less productive than I expected I would. Continue reading “Reflections On My First Year of Retirement”

The Easy Way To Fund Your Dreams

What do you dream of?

Traveling? Buying a home? Staying home with your kids? Taking time off? Sending your kid to college? Retiring someday or even early? Buying a camper and heading for the open road?

Don’t know what your dream is?  Read this and figure it out!

Unfortunately, few dreams are free.  If you want to pursue your dream, you’ll probably need to save some money.

It may seem really hard to eek out savings from each paycheck.

But I promise it will only get easier!

As long as you’re not spending more than you make, you don’t even have to reduce your spending.  IF you’re spending more than you make, sorry, but you have to get yourself on track.  Cut, cut, cut and earn, earn, earn until you’re not living beyond your means.

You just need to commit to keep your spending where it is. Continue reading “The Easy Way To Fund Your Dreams”

My Visit With Warren Buffett

The typical investor has no business investing in individual stocks.  Most of my investments are in Vanguard index funds–VTSAX is my favorite.  Until recently, I owned only two individual stocks.  I also own some managed funds (which carry higher fees) but I would move all of my investments to VTSAX if I could do it without paying taxes on my gains.  You can learn more about my investment philosophy here.

A few months ago I broke one of my cardinal rules. I bought another individual stock–BRK–Berkshire Hathaway.  I bought it only because I wanted to go to the annual meeting and see Warren Buffett (world’s 2nd richest person) and his partner, Charlie Munger talk about investing and life.  A trip to Omaha doesn’t sound all that exciting but this annual meeting is a real spectacle–more about that later. Continue reading “My Visit With Warren Buffett”

How Can Money Buy Your Happiness?

I’m reading the book Happy Money. It is helping me understand how we can use money to create happiness in our lives.  It’s an easy read–follow the link above to buy it on Amazon (and I’ll receive a small commission) or look for it in your library.

The research on how money makes us happy is super interesting and not always intuitive.

I always thought the more money I made, the happier I would be.  It seems like life would just get easier.  But the research shows that once you make $75,000 a year, you don’t get happier with more income.  I’m sure this number varies based on the cost of living in your area but once you reach that amount, your happiness doesn’t rise. Continue reading “How Can Money Buy Your Happiness?”

Little Decisions Help You Reach Your Dreams

It is hard to set money aside for your future.  Damn hard.

Especially when you are surrounded by people who spend money like it never runs out.

I hated being the one saying I couldn’t do something because I didn’t have the money.  Really I had the money but I didn’t have the budget.  So then I started saying those things weren’t in my budget.

But it got easier–people got used to us being more frugal and adjusted to it or they sort of slipped out of our lives. Continue reading “Little Decisions Help You Reach Your Dreams”

What Is Weighing You Down?

I wrote this a couple months ago–I wish we had 10″ of snow today, that would be super fun.  I woke up this morning thinking about what was weighing me down and decided to put this out into the world.

We were blanketed by 10″ of snow today.  We live 30 minutes from world class ski areas but are in a banana belt where we get much less snow and big storms like this are not that common.  After shoveling the driveway, we grabbed some friends and went cross country skiing on our local golf course.

It was warm and the snow was wet; it was sticking to the middle part of my ski.  It’s pretty hard to glide on a ski when you have a heavy lump of snow underfoot.

This is how life is.  In life, we can’t get where we want when something is weighing us down.  I came up with several ways to get rid of the snow.  Each sort of worked but none worked great. Continue reading “What Is Weighing You Down?”