Author Topic: Self-Improvement Versus Saving  (Read 2693 times)

SpeedofTim

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Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« on: November 10, 2016, 07:37:22 PM »
Hello my friends,

I've been running into a bit of a struggle with where to head next in our FI journey, so I'm coming to the only place with other like minded individuals I know of, the MMM forums.

A little about me. I'm 37 years old, marred with one 11 year old kiddo. We currently live in small town Kansas with a fully paid for home valued about $70k (decent house around here).  We have no debt, $10k emergency fund, $25k in investments , $12K so far in a college fund (goal of $50k) and about $125k in a traditional 401K.  We actively invest every paycheck and pull over any windfalls from selling employee stock or bonuses at work.

My wife retired this last year to focus on homeschooling our kiddo and writing.  She worked child care before and brought in around $25k before taxes and such, so her early retirement to focus on the kiddo just made sense.  I currently make around $80k pre-tax with stock options, employee stock purchase plan (which I take advantage of, of course), benefits, etc.  Things are great.

We just paid off the mortgage on our home earlier this year and I'm running into a bit of a mental rut.  What next?  Do we simply stay the course, keeping expenses low while saving (we were both raised under the poverty line, so pretty easy), or do we look for additional opportunities that we can now take advantage of with our expanded funds and cash flow?

Things like education, land ownership, business ownership, EIT's, or something of the sort. My head is stuck thinking about preparing for early retirement. If I don't take the time to gain any additional education (I love building furniture, but have no training or background), will I be able to afford it when I retire early?  Will I want land but not be able to afford it as the costs are too high and land too rare?

I know, lots of what if's, but I figure if anyone else has ran this gambit, they would be here.

And thanks in advance for your thoughts.

~~  Tim

Syonyk

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Re: Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2016, 07:57:52 PM »
Personally, I'm plowing excess right now into skills, tools, and useful property improvements over investments, but I'm a bit pessimistic about the markets over the next ~60 years or so I hope to live.

For me, I view a productive chunk of property as a significant investment and a strong hedge against things going pear shaped.  If I can produce a good bit of my own power (including the feasibility of running my house without grid and possibly backfeeding the local neighborhood if needed), produce a lot of my own food, and generally have useful property, that insulates me from an awful lot of market volatility.

So, were I in your spot, I would invest in learning how to build quality furniture.  That's a useful skill, and if you can obtain the tools for a good price (as in used/already depreciated), you won't "lose" much on it if you decide to sell stuff off.

This is, of course, a somewhat unpopular view on this forum, in which index funds are assumed to grow forever and will always be optimal.

Proud Foot

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Re: Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2016, 08:44:39 AM »
So, were I in your spot, I would invest in learning how to build quality furniture.  That's a useful skill, and if you can obtain the tools for a good price (as in used/already depreciated), you won't "lose" much on it if you decide to sell stuff off.

I would second this too.  This is something that you can easily learn for very cheap from blogs, youtube videos, or books from the library.  Find a book that has plans in it and start learning how to make those.  I'm sure others will disagree but the first couple tries just get cheap wood from a place like Lowes so you don't feel as much pressure to not make mistakes.  Start getting quality wood once you feel comfortable with what you are doing.

mountains_o_mustaches

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Re: Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2016, 09:00:28 AM »
I'm one of those relying on index funds - we'll see how that turns out in the long-run.  Luckily my job is always going to be in demand and is not particularly physically taxing, so if the worst happens, I could (begrudgingly) come out of retirement to earn more money if I needed to.

I also understand your feeling of stagnancy.  I think the goal of FIRE is to live a happier more fulfilling life.  I second people's recommendations to pick up hobbies, but I would shy away from picking up a hobby or activity just because it's perceived as valuable - choose to do something that makes you happy.  If it's woodworking or farming or installing solar power or whatever, great - it makes you happy and could be a valuable skill, but if the thought of woodworking, etc. seems like a chore, don't do it just for the sake of it.  That's just my two cents.  Some of my hobbies are more "valuable" than others.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2016, 09:39:58 AM »
I also understand your feeling of stagnancy.  I think the goal of FIRE is to live a happier more fulfilling life.  I second people's recommendations to pick up hobbies, but I would shy away from picking up a hobby or activity just because it's perceived as valuable - choose to do something that makes you happy.  If it's woodworking or farming or installing solar power or whatever, great - it makes you happy and could be a valuable skill, but if the thought of woodworking, etc. seems like a chore, don't do it just for the sake of it.  That's just my two cents.  Some of my hobbies are more "valuable" than others.
Quoting for emphasis.  You can call yourself a SWAMI, or "Satisfied Working Advanced Mustachian Individual."  You're being frugal, you're plowing lots of money into retirement but you have some number of years before you're FI.  This is not a bad thing.  While it's important to track your spending, elinimate waste, and maximize income, you don't have to obsess over it.  It's important to enjoy life now, not just in retirement.  mountains_o_mustaches is right--quit worrying about it and find something that makes you happy.  For me, I like puttering around in the garage, whether it's building furniture, making a hook rack to hang aprons in our pantry, doing maintenance on the car, or just cleaning up and organizing stuff.

Also, make sure to spend time with your kid, doing things he/she likes. :)

marred with one 11 year old kiddo.
Not sure if that was intentional, but as a parent of an 11-year-old, it works :D

SpeedofTim

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Re: Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2016, 05:29:52 PM »
Just want to tell each of you, thank you.  I was more so feeling guilty for wanting to spend time and a bit of money (very little in the big picture) on these "artisan" type skills that interest me.  My job has always been to take care of a provide for my family. Now that we're there, it is ok to spend some time on myself.  Speaking of which, I literally just wrapped up building a loft bed with and for my kiddo. :)

I"m now going to do a bit of research and homework to get a good idea of what does actually make me happy. I've never had much schooling or teaching around handmade topics, so it might be worthwhile to take a weekend class somewhere. Maybe head out to the John C. Campbell Folk School or Arrowmonth to learn from those much more skilled than myself in woodworking, knifemaking, or who knows what else.

Again, thank you everyone. I was stuck, but now I"m back to moving forward as a SWAMI. 

~~  Tim

meghan88

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Re: Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2016, 05:59:49 PM »
Sounds like you are in a wonderful place in a LCOL area.  Looks like you are tuning into what makes you happy ... congrats!!

stashgrower

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Re: Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2016, 04:38:49 AM »
If it makes you happy, don't feel guilty about it. It's the gratuitous spending that is not MMM mindset. Besides, if you have love for, say, building furniture, it may turn into a future income source.

Rockies

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Re: Self-Improvement Versus Saving
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2016, 08:48:21 PM »
I've got a friend who decided to build and sell furniture for a living in his mid 20's. It was brutal at first - really hard to make money, hard to find people to commission jobs. He'd often work for months on a job and do the math at the end and realize he was only make 4$ per hour. But he gave it a few years of intense effort while living in poverty and slowly started doing better and better. It doesn't hurt that his furniture is extremely amazing to look at and well built.  But he does put a huge amount of effort into it and admittedly working as a carpenter for a construction company would probably pay a better hourly wage.

So if I were you I'd obviously treat it more as a hobby than a way to make money. Don't go and drop huge sums of money on equipment at first, but get the basics and enjoy yourself! Everyone needs an activity to stimulate different corners in their brain and there is no reason to not enjoy life if you are just trying to pinch every last penny.You will likely see that it brings you a lot of mental satisfaction.