The Resolution: June 2018

My Dad is incredibly punctual.  I don’t travel with him often as I am not interested in waiting in the airport 4 hours before my flight.  But, as should be expected, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.  Usually.

However, I am  also a firm believer in the notion of ‘better late than never’.  Mostly because it is really convenient, when you are late.  As I am here.

So what’s my excuse?  Well, this.

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Finally, after a couple of years living in Baja California Sur I made a trip up to the world famous San Juanico (a.k.a. Scorpion Bay) for a hurricane swell that rolled past.  And it was magical, as is evident in the photo above.

Something Good – Independence from work remains as enticing as ever

Since I work on a rotation of 3 weeks on (84 hours per week) followed by 3 weeks off (for an average of 42 hours per week), the time I have here at home in Mexico is quite obligation-free, and has the potential to be spent in the same way as my early ‘retirement’ will be when I am here ‘full-time’.  It’s like retirement practice, which is actually pretty important as I have observed that what holds many people back regarding leaving their job is that their not really sure what they will do with all of their free time.

And, given the way last week went in San Juanico, I can’t bloody wait for this!  At no point in the last few weeks did I feel bored or at a loss for things to do.  In fact, during June I signed up for a 35km race near home in the Sierras of South Baja that runs in November.  Much like the small Sprint Triathlons I completed in 2016, I kind of signed up on a whim, knowing that the act of doing so and sharing with some friends will keep me socially accountable for my decision, and will motivate me to prepare for and (fingers crossed) complete the race.  It was really a matter of finally finding a challenge whose dates work well with my  work schedule, something that won’t be a problem when I leave work. So for those who are afraid of not knowing what to do with themselves when they retire, I would suggest that this is only because you have never yet been retired and figured out how to fill your time with fun, enjoyable, meaningful, healthy and productive activities rather than filling it with work until you are too tired and uninspired to do much else with the rest of your hours in the day, if there even are any.  Mr. Crazy Kicks did a great article recently about his take on the first two years of early retirement, in case you want to hear from someone who is already living it.

Something Bad – Despite adjustments, still overspent slightly

In any case, let’s look at June 2018, as there have been some pretty significant developments.  First of all, if you look closely here, you will see that my monthly budget has changed.  Yes, I have once again adjusted the rules of The Resolution.  Where I started the year aiming to spend only $1,000 CAD per month, and soon adjusted to make it $1,250, I am now increasing the budget (for the final time I promise!) to $1,500.  I am trying to find the balance between the opposing notions of “don’t set yourself up for failure” and “do what you say  you are going to do”.  In any case, as we reached the half way point of 2018 I decided that it was more important to use the data collected to date as feedback to be used to adjust The Resolution to a goal much more attainable, as it was clear I was not going to be able to keep to spending just $15,000 CAD this year.  I still have in mind that I may be able to reduce this for 2019, but on the other hand the real goal to tracking my spending so closely is to find a real number, informed by real data, that I can use to inform my financial decisions of the future.  I am trying to learn what I spend year-in year-out so I know how much I need to earn from my investments in order to be financially independent.  So, ultimately it is best that I be realistic with myself about my spending rather than try to delude myself.  That said, I will still strive to find new ways to further reduce my spending in the future.  Any future surplus in my budget can always be invested or used mindfully for travel and experiences.June 2018 Spending

So, with my new monthly spending budget in mind, you will see that I still didn’t quite meet my goal for the month, but only exceeded it by $15.72.  My new annual deficit for the year is just $234.02, a number I still have the potential to make up on the ‘back 9’ of 2018.  I am currently projected to finish the year with a deficit of $128.46, having spent $18,128.46 CAD total for the year.  It was becoming clear that I just wasn’t going to make up my growing deficit of about $2,500 that I had with my previous spending goal of $15,000 annually, and I decided that to set myself up for success rather than failure would be best for the purpose of spending as little as possible in order to save and invest as much as possible.

However, looking back over the first six months of the year, I have managed to stay within $1,500 for the month 3 times.  This makes it even more evident that this is a better number for me to currently focus on, until I can find significant ways to further reduce my spending on a consistent basis.

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Something Learned – Dave Ramsay isn’t totally crazy.

I paid off a good amount of debt in June.  I had described in December how I had chosen to invest in equities instead of paying off all of my debt as quickly as possible at the time.  And I still think that this can be an acceptable strategy, depending on the details and a person’s specific circumstances.  However, with my investments being relatively small and returns rather stagnant so far in 2018, I decided to sell about half of what I owned and apply that towards debt.  As much as I would never rely on predicting the direction of the markets, I am currently of the mind that I will get as good of or better value on stocks in the future than I will now, and have used that to help justify the sell.

Now, Dave Ramsay fans listen up: I eliminated the last of a small personal loan to my parents, of which I was paying no interest.  I also eliminated two other lines of credit of a total of about $7000 CAD, with an average interest rate of about 9%.  I now have my remaining debt on a line of credit with a different bank and a not-so-great interest rate of 11%, but the emotional boost that finally seeing zeroes in front of my other three loans makes the additional interest I will pay in the coming months  worth it.  It really feels like some real progress was made, and that will help to continue to power me to strive to reach my original goals.  Therefore, I can see the benefit of Dave Ramsay’s ‘pay the smallest loans first’ approach, although from a strictly logical perspective it doesn’t necessarily make sense.  However, as most economists should understand by now, humans are not strictly rational beings.

My OCD also enjoys the idea of having fewer active accounts, especially since ultimately I plan to close all but one line of credit for emergency use only in retirement.

 

What You’re Thinking About, You’re Becoming

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What you’re thinking about, you’re becoming.

Mohamed Ali once said this in an intimate interview.  It may be my favorite quote ever.  Simple enough to feel like you’ve known it all along, yet profound enough to shake you to your core.

But the mindset behind this quote from The Greatest was hardly a new notion at the time, nor is it yet completely forgotten nowadays.  For example, in the brief literary essay As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (1902) – about a 30 minute read – the foreword opens with this encapsulating verse:

Mind is the Master power that molds

and makes;

And Man is Mind, and evermore he

takes

The tool of Thought, and, shaping

what he wills,

Brings forth a thousand joys, a

thousand ills:-

He thinks in secret, and it comes to

pass:

Environment is but his looking-glass.

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What Shit Really Costs: Gas and The Power of Data

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After a long wait since my first installation of this series on the real cost of car ownership, I am here to add this to the mix.  I guess you could see it as supplemental to that post, since fuel economy and car ownership are inextricably linked.

Now, you may be wondering why I think that you give any hoots about what my gas mileage is when you’re vehicle is not the same?  Well, although I will get funky with a little bit of basic arithmetic and algebra, like most of my posts the point is the message – the mindset – rather than the details.  For me, gathering some data on something – some real, hard, data that I myself went and got on my own –  that has a monumental impact on my ability to incorporate real change into my life around that thing around which I am gathering data.

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Freedom Notes: Zen and the Art of Creative Curries

 

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Zen is a fascinating notion.  Often seen as some sort of illusive state, rather than what it really is, a practice.  Much like happiness and bitterness, Zen is a choice.  A choice to live your life and to view events in a certain way that will maximize the amount of inner peace you experience.  There is no magic involved.  Theteachings of the stoics are much the same: make the choice to make a practice of viewing life and all that happens with a certain lens and, eventually, that shall be the lens through which you happen to find yourself experiencing life.  It is to your benefit to choose a positive lens, and to train yourself to scrupulously distinguish between that within your control and that outside of your control.

As I have noted in the past, one of the main motivations behind this blog is to continue to remind myself of my goals and the things I’ve learned that I believe will help me.  And now seems like a timely occasion to remind myself of some of the simple and foundational pieces of a life well lived.  A life of Zen.

It really comes down to the small and simple things that we do consistently.

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The Resolution: May 2018

Well, folks. The tracking continues. May has passed us by and I continue to chase my elusive goal of spending just $1,250 CAD per month for an entire year. As we come up on the half-way mark of the year, I still haven’t managed to meet my goal once. And, despite hopes coming into the month that May would be different, I fell short once again, although not from far.

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What Will You Do? A Reframing of the Question

Don’t just do something, stand there! -White Rabbit

The world is a dichotomous place.  For every action there is a reaction.  For every instruction there is an alternative approach.  And so it becomes difficult to tease apart what is real and what is finely-crafted rhetoric.  Perhaps rhetoric is all this piece is.  But if it comes from a place of truth does that not make it real?  And if it comes from a place that is meant to disguise one’s true intentions is it not then rhetoric? It may not even matter, as it is only that we can’t expect what works for one to work for all.

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You Have to Just Do It

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Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us.  Between the two stands resistance. -Steven Pressfield

You have to just do it, or it will never be done.

We spend a lot of time just thinking of what will be when we get to where we’re going.  And so we often lose track of the route completely.  We also try to think ourselves into taking action, into doing something, into making change and into becoming somebody.  But sometimes it’s difficult to convince ourselves that those things are possible, so we don’t take any action.  We rely on motivation and inspiration, but these things are fleeting.  Amazing when present, no doubt, but they are not easily sustained in most of us.  Not always, anyway.

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Jane Eyre: A Portrait of Monetary Boundaries

 

 

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More than a century and a half ago, in 1847, the novel – once believed auto-biography – Jane Eyre was first released.  As we know now, it is a fictional story in which the title character, Jane, is loosely based on the experiences of the books eventually unveiled author, Charlotte Bronte. In its time, the novel challenged many Victorian values and brought rise to numerous questions as to what was proper and improper conduct within society.  With its release began a landslide of discussion and opinions, from peasant to princess, about the books’ many controversial issues.  One of the most pressing of these issues put forth by Bronte was the injustice in labeling a person based on the amount of wealth of which they are born into.  It is clear that Bronte recognizes the existence of this type of discrimination and takes a stand against it in her story of the endearing Jane Eyre.  In Bronte’s tale, Jane is an ideal example of how a person’s economical situation, in Victorian times as well most other points in history, can be the defining limit of their potential instead of – as it should be – their ability of body and mind.

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T-Minus 12 Months Until Financial Independence

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Today is May 9th.  33 years ago today, my journey to early retirement began inside the Vancouver General Hospital.  It just took me 31 years to figure that out.  The premise of this blog, of course, is that I will be retired before I turn 34, which means that I have less than 12 months left of being a working stiff.  That’s pretty !@#$ing exciting actually!

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The Teachings of Juasco the Mexican Housecat

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As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. -Alexander Pope 1734

 

Following his ambush of the Search Bloc, Escobar emerged from the fiery wreckage in the streets of Medellin, gun drawn, cronies at his sides, and Carrillo wounded and helpless on the ground before him.  “Come mierda”, he says before executing him, leaving viewers like me with that sense that there is no particular reason that good should ultimately prevail in the world after all. 

 

Or something dramatically meaningful like that.

The desert breeze – normally dry – is very humid in the autumn months.  It sweeps across me as I lay there stunned at the semi-fictional events that have just unfolded before me on my small laptop screen.  It was September 2016 at my friends home in Mexico and I was smack dab in the middle of Narcos Season 1.  The same day, ground had broken on what would soon be my new home and ‘retirement plan’ just down the road towards the beach.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I know that life was going to be a little different here in the desert.

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