Author Topic: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's  (Read 1667 times)

throwaway_account9988

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Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« on: March 10, 2017, 08:48:58 PM »
Life Situation: Single Male, 24, Software Dev in Denver CO

Gross Salary/Wages: 80k

Individual amounts of each Pre-tax deductions: 18k (401k max, no employer match)

Other Ordinary Income: I've just started my job, so I'll wait til things settle down to decide, but I've done math tutoring for HS students, $40 per hour. If I do that, could bring in anywhere from $40 to $200 extra a week once I establish a client base

Adjusted Gross Income: 62-67k, depending on tutoring, I'll assume 0 tutoring to be conservative

Taxes -16614.25:
Federal (including SS & Medicare): $12910.25
State: $3704.00

Take Home Pay 63,385.75:

Current expenses:
Housing, Food and Necessities   860
Rent   540
Utilities (Including Internet)   90
Food   200
Phone   20 (still on family plan, probably about time to get my own, this is based on Republic Wireless w/ 1gb data)
Medical   10 (I think the job offers plans with $0 premiums, but I should definitely check. I almost never go to the doctor)

Auto- 0 so far, not sure if I will get a car. Can bike most places I need to go, and company pays for bus pass
Gym- 0, company pays for gym

Discretionary   465
Projects   200 (I almost always have some kind of project going on. Most recently rebuilding a bike. Spending tends to fall in between 100-300)
Dining Out   70 (This is probably an over estimate. Just moved to a new city so don't want to limit options meeting people)
Fast Food   20
Travel (Chipping in for gas + occasional airfare averaged over 12 months) 150
Misc   25

Total Spending   1325/mo | 15900/yr
Total Saving   3957/mo | 47485/yr
Savings Rate 75%

Assets:
11.5k in Vanguard Healthcare Fund Roth IRA, maxed out past two years. All future contributions will be to SP500 index fund
9.4k in emergency fund with 2.5% monthly interest rate that allows 2 withdrawals per calendar year
6.0k in checking account

Liabilities: No debt. Insanely fortunate and thankful to my parents for paying for 90% of college
I pay CC off in full at the end of every month

Specific Question(s):
Basically, I enjoy software development, but I'm not ready to give up long stints of wilderness or wilderness-ish travel. The past two summers I've been lucky enough to spend in Alaska and along one of the nations National Scenic Trails. I want to do more of that in the future for sure, but I also eventually want to retire. 30 probably isn't realistic, but I don't think I could wait until 65 either. I'd also like to eventually have a family and help any potential kids with college.

I know this is a lot, and there's no one right answer, but I'd love to hear anyone's creative input on how I could maximize travel while I'm young while still retiring early?

Misc Notes:
I can travel for about 500/mo for long wilderness trips. Biggest cost is the opportunity cost: lost wages and not advancing/getting raises at the same rate as I potentially could otherwise
I'm gonna try to hold off any long trips for at least 3 years so I have some continuity on my resume
I'm considering, once I become more senior, getting a remote job and working out of a converted cargo van while traveling the US and visiting friends and family across the country
I've had decent success (with an admittedly very short sample size) as a dev, so I'm hoping to increase salary quickly. Continuously taking time off will hold me back though

ChpBstrd

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2017, 09:43:02 PM »
First of all, congratulations for kicking arse keeping your living expenses super-low, even in a moderately-expensive city!

I remember my 20's (I'm 38 now). I too was wracked with feelings that I was wasting my youth, or that I should be doing more, experiencing more, accomplishing great things, getting laid more, traveling more, etc. It really felt like the gist of my life would be over at age 30 and that now was the best things would ever be. And there I was wasting it in some way, every day.

Well, turns out all that regret was the waste. Here are my reflections on my 20's:
  • Work is unavoidable at this age, unless you inherit money or something, in which case you become a useless person with no skills. Don't cry over spilt milk.
  • As Adam Smith first observed in the 1700's, doing the same thing repetitively is more economically efficient than doing a variety of things. So an interesting life is inherently less economically efficient than a mundane life. Most FI dreamers on this board (like me) want to escape the mundaneness of work/mortgage/routine and make life more interesting. However, to accomplish that, you have to put in the mundane work, burning some of your time. It's a paradox.
  • When you experience something pleasant, the experience is immediately over. All that's left is the memory. So the pursuit of pleasure through things like travel and variety is the pursuit of memories. For me, this was a waste. I've forgotten most of the details of my vacations, and I actually think about the past a lot less now than I did in my 20's.
  • The things your future self will appreciate are the things that benefit your future self. I'm glad I saved a few tens of thousands of dollars in my 20's, because that money is turning into a snowball for me today. However, I don't even think about the many rowdy nights "living it up" with friends at the bar. I know I sometimes had a good time, but so what?

Use those insights as you wish.

Back to your question: Spending 30 days away from work hiking the Yukon will not go over well with any boss. Realistically, you have weekends and a couple weeks paid leave. That is your time budget, until you FIRE. The facts are the facts.

Spend the weekends exploring as much of the Denver region as you can. Even if you grew up there, you haven't even scratched the surface. Save your paid leave for big trips of around 2 weeks each.

In 3 years, quit your current employer to take a job somewhere else near cool places. California near Yosemite, Arizona, New Mexico, Vancouver BC, etc. Then explore those places during weekends for 3 years and repeat.

If your style absolutely necessitates a month at a time, well, it's good you picked software development. You might actually be able to negotiate that much leave from some desperate employers. The more practical path is to become an independent contractor or do temporary jobs. Sometimes these jobs can pay 13 months of wages for 12 months of work, because most people would prefer a full-time job over a one-year contract. You could take a month off between such contracts without really affecting your income. You should probably get some experience under your belt before trying this path, but your current employer may have such openings.

throwaway_account9988

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2017, 10:19:21 PM »
Thanks! You make some really good points.

I definitely find myself thinking that my life is essentially over once I hit 30, it's subconscious and I have to fight it haha. I realize it's not true, I guess just chalk it up to inexperience and youth?

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Work is unavoidable at this age
I actually don't mind working, I find what I do engaging and there are actually mornings when I'm excited to go into the office to go solve some problems. I just tend to get burnt out after a while.

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The things your future self will appreciate are the things that benefit your future self. I'm glad I saved a few tens of thousands of dollars in my 20's, because that money is turning into a snowball for me today. However, I don't even think about the many rowdy nights "living it up" with friends at the bar.
I very much agree with this up to a point. I'm not much of a fan of bars, I think 6-10 times a year is plenty for me. I'd much rather buy freedom, to paraphrase MMM, than have a wild night. But the trips I've done I think have fundamentally changed who I am, made me more adventurous, helped me face and overcome a lot of my fears and discomforts. So while I agree that a week in a resort in Mexico would be great, but not really much but a pursuit of a memory, the stuff that I've been doing has had such a positive impact on my life and become so much a part of who I am that I really can't fathom not continuing that in the future.

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In 3 years, quit your current employer to take a job somewhere else near cool places. California near Yosemite, Arizona, New Mexico, Vancouver BC, etc. Then explore those places during weekends for 3 years and repeat.
I really like this train of thought, and was my reasoning behind actually getting a job for a while instead of living off of savings and doing another thru-hike. Anything can be an adventure with the right mindset, so moving to Denver was my adventure.

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If your style absolutely necessitates a month at a time
If only I felt like I only needed a month. The last two summer's trips have been 3 months and then 5.5 months. I quit a good job for the 5.5 month one. As I see it, my options are either get a leave of absence (best case) or just quit. Contracts could definitely be an option, but like you said, I think I'd need to be a little more senior


2Birds1Stone

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2017, 04:30:21 AM »
Great job, with a 75% savings rate you are mathematically ~7 years away from FI.

There is a great thread on these boards that might be very applicable to you.

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/post-fire/early-retirement-vs-serial-mini-retirements/

The older and closer to FI I get, the more I like the idea of serial mini retirements. I started thinking about FIRE around your age as well, now 5 years later I am halfway there at 29, my savings rate was nowhere near 75% right off the bat.

The more FU $ you accumulate the more risk you can take with your career and future income.
"A small house can hold as much happiness as a big one." - Fortune Cookie

29 Months till FI - Stop by, or stay a while.....
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/fire-by-thirty-five-chronicles-36-months-till-sabbatical!/

Itchyfeet

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2017, 04:57:57 AM »
I am sure threads like this are dime a dozen on MMM. I haven't looked or counted, but have seen a few over the past year or so.

Nobody wants to waste any part of their life. Be it childhood, teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, golden years, final years!

I am now 45 and am worried about wasting potentially my last years of physical prowess. I am convinced I will be in a walking frame by 60. Lol. It's unlikely but it is hard to escape the feeling that life is fleeting.

I think that one needs to come to terms with their mortality and just accept that with so little time and so much to be done, some things will probably not get done. It is a delicate tightrope walk, making sure you make the best decisions for you each and every day. And it is really personal. What is of greatest importance to you won't be the same as for others.

There are many things I wish I had done when I was in my 20s, but there is no point having regrets, as I remember living a packed 20s and I am not certain what I would have given up to fit other things in place of what I did. Sure, I worked a lot but that was ok. It financed some great times, and set me up with a home etc.

On the financial front, even though I worked all of my 20s, my net worth after those 10 years of working was only 150K. Last year my net worth increased by 300K in one year alone. So, financially speaking working in my 40s has proven far more efficient than working in my 20s was. But maybe if I had bummed around most of my 20s I wouldn't have snagged a high paying job in my 40s....... personally I don't believe this and think a few years of travel in my 20s would have made no difference to my career.

I do agree with you that working for 3 years or so will help you build your career, which is likely to give you better options down the road. It needs to be done at some point, so why not Now. But I fully understand your angst. 

I do agree with the other Poster, that your future self will thank your Past self for working hard and saving hard. I never heard any of my 40 something friends say "I really wish I had saved no money by this point in my life and that I was starting my career at ground zero again."

I would also say that there will also be things that you want to do in your 30s or later that take lots of time too. Your 20s is not the only time poor decade. You will ultimately value your 30s just as much as your 20s.

At 30 I spent 4 months traveling SE Asia. At 35 I spent 3 months traveling Sth America. At 45 I am looking to FIRE in Jan 2019 so I can do some of the same long hikes you want to do. Back in my 20s I settled for month long hikes in Nepal, and shorter hikes in Canada, Australia and NZ because I was overly worried about building a career. Currently I am living in the Middle East and plan on cycling half way across Europe this summer. Last year I hiked for a few weeks in the Dolomites in Italy. Adventures never end!

I hope my thought dump will help in some way.... mostly the ramblings of an over the hill dude. Haha.

throwaway_account9988

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2017, 09:49:35 AM »
Love that serial mini retirements thread, thanks! That's exactly what I would be looking to do. The ideal, as mentioned in the thread, would be 6 months of work followed by 6 months off, because of the tax savings. And the fact that would be super badass. Maybe I'll eventually get to that point, I'm not nearly in high enough demand now.

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I am now 45 and am worried about wasting potentially my last years of physical prowess
I guess it never stops haha. I don't know, it may be a good thing as long as it's not making us chronically depressed. That small dose of fear of not being able to eventually hike the PCT is one of the things that made me do it when I did.

Sounds like you have some great stuff in store, I've always wanted to go to Nepal.

Thanks for the help friends!

Hotstreak

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2017, 01:26:03 PM »
I definitely find myself thinking that my life is essentially over once I hit 30, it's subconscious and I have to fight it haha. I realize it's not true, I guess just chalk it up to inexperience and youth?


I think you are on point here.  At your age you have how many years of independent, post college living?  3, 4?  At your age I couldn't see more than a few years in front of me.  I spent the money I earned thinking that I had to "live while I could".  Well, now I'm 30, and I'm still doing it.  Looking back I would have much rather saved money to buy freedom down the road.  You said you want to have a family - do you want to be working when your kids are growing up?  If not, then these are the years you need to be saving.  You'll thank yourself in 10 years.  Despite what your instincts are saying, you can still hike, camp, and do any manner of physical activity in your 30's.

throwaway_account9988

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2017, 02:44:46 PM »
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do you want to be working when your kids are growing up?

I definitely would prefer not to be, but I do think that I would rather be working 4-5 days a week when kids are growing up than be backpacking for 5 months straight and not seeing them at all. I know I don't have to do long thru-hikes, whereas I do have to make money.

I think this question gets at the crux of the issue, which is this: I don't mind work, except that it stops me from doing things I would rather be doing. Long wilderness trips now; (potentially) devoting a lot of time to kids later. Any time I spend traveling and not working now is time that I would have to work while potentially raising kids plus the penalty for missing out on compounding interest when I'm younger.

They are both things that are important to me and I'd like to find a way to make it less of a zero-sum game, but it's sometimes hard to gain perspective, which is what I asked for here, and what people are providing, so thanks!

waltworks

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2017, 08:59:30 PM »
I'll offer a somewhat different perspective.

I wasted my 20s. I wanted to be a professional athlete (spoiler alert: didn't make the cut, at least if you define "the cut" as making a living) and I wanted to not work much, so I went to graduate school and spent my free time training/competing/goofing off. I ended my 20s with a net worth of zero.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. There's no way I could compete as a 35-40 year old, so if I wanted to give it a shot, it was then or never. I enjoyed every second of it and I'll always remember the good times.

So I worked (not all that hard, even) for 10 years and had some kids and now we're FI. No biggie. I can still enjoy myself (hopefully for another 30+ years) doing the outdoor sports I love, I get to help the groms learn to do all kinds of fun stuff, life is good.

It sounds like you (OP) like doing fun adventurous stuff - but that none of it is dependent on you being 24 and in perfect shape. If that's the case, just enjoy your weekends and vacations and pile up the stash. You'll be just fine doing backcountry adventures well into your 70s if you're careful about your fitness and health and have reasonable luck.

If, on the other hand, you want to finally break into the pro halfpipe circuit or something, you have a harder decision to make, because you will never make it as a 30 year old.

-W

Laura33

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2017, 07:02:06 AM »
I am a very different person than you, so I can't tell you what the right answer is for you.  What I can tell you is that at 50+, I am still me -- the same person I was at 20-something, with just a little more experience under my belt.  Let me say that again: I still feel exactly the same.  I still want many of the same things I wanted 30 years ago -- and even where my priorities have changed, I still want what I want with the same intensity I used to.  I am still active and engaged with the world and making plans and dreaming of my next 30 years.  I just now have a little more cash to do some of them.  ;-) Oh: and my 70-yr-old mom is still running 5Ks, and my 71-yr-old dad is still doing multi-day cycling road races and hiking tours that would kick my ass.  So I don't see "me" changing that dramatically over the next 30 years, either.

I'm not going to even bother to tell you what my particular dreams and regrets are, because they are totally irrelevant to your life.  I am just going to suggest that when you think about what you want out of life, you should envision Today's You at 30 or 40 or 65 or whatever -- not some weirdo stranger with grey hair and a pot belly who wants nothing more than to sit in a BarcaLounger all day and run the clicker, but You, the real you, who wants what he wants passionately.  What position is that You going to want to be in at 40?  Is he still going to be happy working a year or two at a time to be able to afford a few months off?  Or is he going to want to be done with needing to work for a living?  And if it's the latter, how much is Today's You willing to suck up to make sure Future You is where he wants to be?

The way to live "right" in your 20s is to live so you have no regrets in your 40s.  For some, that means ignoring careers and savings to take advantage of truly time-limited opportunities, like waltworks.  For others, that means busting your ass working for the man so you are done with all that before 40, like MMM.  For most of the rest of us, it is something in-between.  Figure out what combination will work for both Today's You and Future You, then dive in.  You can always adjust later if you started off too far one way or the other. 

But I will say: it's easier to adjust course with a big 'stache.  :-)  (Yeah, ok, I couldn't resist.  I'm a mom, sosume).
Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

citizen24128

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2017, 11:05:55 AM »
It's always nice to see other long-distance hikers here! I'm pretty sure that experiencing temporary freedom on my PCT and CDT thru-hikes is what got me interested in personal finance at a relatively young age. It's great that you are taking control of your finances at young age.

Spending 30 days away from work hiking the Yukon will not go over well with any boss. Realistically, you have weekends and a couple weeks paid leave. That is your time budget, until you FIRE. The facts are the facts.

This has not been my experience, at all. I work for a software company. After working with my employer for several years, I asked for six months of unpaid leave to hike the PCT. My request was granted, and I even got a cost-of-living raise while I was off hiking the trail. A few years later the same employer granted me another six months off to hike the CDT. Do good work for your employer and it's quite possible that you can negotiate unpaid leave for adventures and still keep your job.

Meg77

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2017, 11:18:11 AM »
"I know this is a lot, and there's no one right answer, but I'd love to hear anyone's creative input on how I could maximize travel while I'm young while still retiring early?"

To answer your question, I don't think you can "maximize travel" in your 20's and also retire extremely early (by 35 or so).  You can surely do one of the two.  And you can try to do both simultaneously by taking sabbaticals and time off between jobs or contracts.  But organizing your career around your travel aspirations rather than around maximizing your income means you're going to be a lot less efficient at reaching FI - and you'll probably be less satisfied with your travels too, since you'll still have to worry about money, find new jobs, and go back to work.  At minimum you'll do less efficient traveling, since it will have to be organized around your job(s) and shorter term in nature.

I am 33 and am approaching FI, so I can offer a slightly different perspective.  I managed to have a lot of fun in my 20s, and I wasn't very frugal by MMM standards, but I prioritized my career and my savings rate - and I am SO glad I did.  Now I have plenty of options - and plenty of healthy years in front of me.  I could quit work and raise kids full time.  Hubby and I talk about spending winters in Utah, summers in Minnesota and 3 months in South America each year.  We could start or buy a cool business.  We could keep working and pile up even more money while it's fun but without really caring about the jobs or long term career path (current plan).  Had I galavanted around the globe in my 20s, I would have had amazing adventures I'm sure.  But after a decade of that with little money in the bank, I'd be faced with trying to start from relatively nothing and build a career at an unconventional life stage - or worse, never build a career and be forced with trying to save on an irregular, relatively low income for the rest of my life. 

The point is, why do you want to maximize your travels in your 20s?  What do you plan to do with your 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond?  I used to visualize squeezing all my bucket list items into the next 5 years, but I've gradually started to realize that I have decades ahead of me (God willing) and that it's OK to save some goals for later years.  I can always live abroad and perfect my Spanish skills.  But I may not always be able to command a 6 figure income.  Make hay while the sun shines, so to speak, and pile up money while people are willing to pay you.  If you're ever laid off or want to switch employers, squeeze in a 3 month trip.  If you stay at one place for years, negotiate a sabbatical.  Then when you reach FI by 30 or 35, take a few years off and travel if you want to.  Take forever to do whatever you want. 






throwaway_account9988

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Re: Reader Case Study: Don't want to "waste" my 20's
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2017, 10:35:12 PM »
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It's always nice to see other long-distance hikers here! I'm pretty sure that experiencing temporary freedom on my PCT and CDT thru-hikes is what got me interested in personal finance at a relatively young age

CDT? I'm jealous! I really want to thruhike before it goes the way of the AT and PCT (to a lesser extent) in terms of number of people out there. And I actually heard about MMM through a PCT forum, so that's yet another positive that has come from thru hiking.

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why do you want to maximize your travels in your 20s?

I guess it comes down to wanting to be physically able to do the kinds of trips I want to. Hiking 20-30 miles every day, sleeping on the ground, eating crappy food and then repeating is taxing. Older people definitely do it, and I have a lot of respect for them, but it's really nice to not have the same level of concern about injury.

And everyone has given very good, thoughtful answers that have made me reconsider my natural inclination to call my life over once I hit 30. I do try to make my future self happy in general, so I can definitely get behind that FI-focused line of thinking. But I think the pull of the mountains will be enough for me to at least take a couple sabbaticals during my career. Only time will tell. At any rate, thanks for all the suggestions and thoughts!