Author Topic: Case study: need-nothing possum would like to continue having no direction  (Read 7371 times)

possumjaw

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Hey, folks.

Have posted concerning finances once before here.  Have also been searching through threads fervently for a bit now, and figured it wouldn't hurt to make a standard case-study post.  I am doing pretty all right in the savings department, but am young and not really knowing how to go make the best of my options. 

I really kind of value a lot of non-material things, like family, art, nature, and experiences I can make without money...so I really don't want that much.  I have considered investing in a small property to take care of housing costs and then just living on part-time income at a small but valuable job...(maybe health-care related or farming)...and just living a small life.  I do value being around people I have connections with and doing volunteer/humanitarian work, but at this point, if I do this first plan, I end up working forever, having no retirement, and being pretty tied down to the property. 

My other option I'm considering is going mustachian and instead of beating them, joining them.  I do what I used to do in elementary school, and instead of refusing to do all but the minimum of the rat-race class assignment, I study extra hard for a week and ace through all the school work, then I can go do self-directed study for the rest of my semester.  This seems irritating but very do-able.  The trick will be to not burn myself out and not get seduced into the wanting-more phenomenon.

So, as I have seen so many clever and hard-working people from so many walks of life here, I would appreciate any insight you could bring to my plan.  I really feel pretty lost with all of this.  Which I guess is nice, in that I don't spend all my time caring about trying to buy a nicer speed boat, but awful in that I am floating with little know-how.

--

Life Situation:  I file taxes as single person with no dependents.  No state income tax here...just U.S. federal at about 13.7%.  I am mid-20s, out of four-year uni, (psych B.A., have minor med certification/behavioral crisis training/CPR training).  Have history of working in retail...am good at it but can't stand it; beyond burnt out.  Also have worked in restoring historic buildings, and minor experience in biology/natural conservation work.  Been working about two years with mixed savings, having come through getting out of a bad family situation, then working only temp job, then only part-time, then two part-times, now full-time for about a year.

Gross Salary/Wages: 2014 was about $16,400 USD. ($1,366/month)

Pre-tax deductions: I don't trust the non-profit I work for...and I kind of just don't like trusting other organizations who give me a paycheck with my monetary expenses in general, so no 401k, etc., for me through them.  (Though I do have a life insurance policy and worker's comp lined up through them as regular policy.  I contribute nothing to these and no strings attached.  Given that I work with people with behavioral issues, I guess my employer just plans I may get injured/killed.)  I do all my stuff through independent accounts with separate corporations like a regular consumer.  The prices on the market have been cheaper anyways.  See below for details. 

Other Ordinary Income: In 2014, my mother kindly gifted me some one-time purchase household items like a desk, a couple shirts, and some cooking containers, and about $1000 of inheritance.  No regular other income planned for 2015.  Also got about $1,000 from working a one-time overtime schedule for a couple weeks when my then-supervisor was on holiday.

Adjusted Gross Income: $18,400. ($1,533/month) (+ some negligible material stuff)

Taxes: Federal = $2131+$62 wheel tax= $2193 ($183/month)

Current (as of April of 2015) expenses per month:

Food........................$140
Alcohol.....................$5
Clothing....................$2
Household needs........$30  (stuff like gloves, printer ink, detergent)
Laundry.....................$14
Gifts for others...........$2
Medical......................$45
Health insurance.........$122
Car insurance.............$96
Electricity...................$22
Internet.....................$46
Cellphone...................$9
Banking fees...............$2.5
Travel to see family.....$3
Apartment rent...........$430
Frivolous fun stuff.......$2
Transportation...........$150  (Personal use:  about $30/month.  Rest is for work and compensated for and then some.  I hate that I drive so much for work, though, due to wear and tear on car and bad for my health.)

Total:  $1120.50

No mortgage payment, car payments, loans, or other debt of large kine.

Current single credit card expenses:  No payment ever due next cycle, but this month about $450 on card.  All of this is money for basic needs which I just put on card and pay off the next month to build credit history.  I always have savings to back up this at any time.

Assets:

Savings:  $31,000.  None invested yet, but planning on doing soon, maybe a basic Roth IRA kind of deal?  Could have invested a year ago, but a family member recommended this pushy investment advisor who was out to get paid, so I figured I'd just fire him and do some research to do it myself in another year or two.  Here I am...still sorting it out but feeling more confident.

Old coin collection:  maybe $300? 
Old federal bonds:  about $4,000.

Liabilities: None, aside from the basic liabilities of being a human with human foibles.

Specific Questions:
1)  Can I save any further?
2)  Vague investment thoughts?  I have time on this, so is not crucial.
3)  How can I increase my income?  I live in a small-/mid-sized (relatively) city surrounded by rural area, and most jobs I've considered, (nursing, social-work, carpentry, plumbing, IT work, library sci. work), seem to max out at about $45k/year in this area, even though in others they can go for upwards of $90k.  I would like to FIRE asap and am planning on reaching a goal of $350,000 savings to do so, (figure I will want to do some voluntary work for pay after FIRE, so this covers basic expenses).  If pulling in $80k/year, could FIRE in 6 years.  $50k = 12 years.  etc...Am willing to relocate, especially if for a short time like half a decade/a decade, but my COL is so low, and it's a big stress/gamble if it doesn't work out, so I wanna plan this sucker well before I go shifting house.

Concerns about after FIRE:  A rent-free location possibly, but wouldn't mind working in my free time when FIRE'd to earn this over some years.  I do have aging parents, but they currently look like they will be able to care for themselves financially, unless something happens to them like my cousin and they end up in a head-on collision with a cement-truck.  At that point, I'm not going to plan so far.  I could drop dead before I post this?  Weirder things have happened?

--

Thank you so much for all the help.  I appreciate any constructive criticism!  I also appreciate all the inspiration and gumption which everyone seems to have.  Keep on keeping on.

-Possum
« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 10:37:33 AM by possumjaw »

justajane

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If you want to FIRE quickly, what about finding something in sales? Not retail, but sales. I know you hate it, but I guess you have to weigh how much, because you make a lot of money quickly. And if you're good at it and find a niche, perhaps you could retire in even less than 6 years, given your low expenses and commitment to getting out of a field you hate.

I have two family members who worked in academic sales - of magazines, databases, etc., and they made well over 100K a year. At my husband's financial institution, the people in sales make way more.

You will find this across the board. What about pharmaceutical sales?


possumjaw

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I'm not sure if I could handle pharma sales, but what is this data sales you speak of???  That sounds right up my alley and super neat.  I almost went into experimental psych in academia, but for the lack of future jobs and my love for applied work, so that would be really cool to check out.  I also would feel like that is a valuable/ethically good thing to do, (I mean you can twist about any business deal, but data strikes me as ethically neutral), so I might even find drive in such a niche.  How is such a job done?  Do you do it remotely?  Travel?  Work with some data institution?  What kinds of places would that be then?

Thanks...this is actually a proposition with some drive behind it which I might be able to follow.  Once I have a goal which I feel some motivation for, I have incredible discipline and have been told I "have the patience of Job," so I know I could make this thing happen.  I just have to avoid muddling around on half-baked ideas and wasting energy.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 10:47:31 AM by possumjaw »

justajane

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The people I know who did this worked remotely from their homes. It requires a fair amount of travel. My MIL was a librarian who transitioned to sales later on. You are normally assigned an area of influence and travel to schools, libraries, universities, etc. and try to get them to buy your product.

Here's a wikipedia list of academic search engines/databases. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_databases_and_search_engines
These are the types of companies (the right hand side that lists the provider). Plus there's all the societies like the American Chemical Society, American Psychological Association etc. They have sales positions.

I also know someone who made over 200K selling golf equipment to courses, but that type of sales probably takes years to get into. And if you want to FIRE, you probably don't want to spend that much time working your way up.

The reason these types of jobs pay better is because so many people don't want to be in sales. If you're good at it, you can do fairly well.

 

possumjaw

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Hmm...Yeah, golf-clubs don't sound much up my alley either...and I've been considering the long-haul versus jump-right-in approaches.  If I need to just dig in and go get a PhD or something, I can, but if I could jump in, that'd be better...figured it's good to try all avenues before investing a lot of time/money.  I am already familiar with a lot of those orgs you listed, so that's a bonus!  Also I was kind of hoping to do something from home but be able to travel all around, so that is actually just what I wanted.  Dang.  I will definitely check this out.  Thanks!

In general, I don't like working sales, because I don't really like our current model of selling things to people, but I end up pretty much doing the same exploitative processes through any job I currently work, and it is impossible to entirely escape the economic paradigm of now, so might as well do it for something which might benefit educational organizations or something and make my way to FIRE.  Idk.  Afternoon thoughts. 

fartface

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If you have 31K sitting around, my first order of business would be to open a Vanguard account TOMORROW. You have until April 15 to contribute to your Roth for 2014. I'd IMMEDIATELY deposit $5500 for 2014 + $5500 for 2015. Take the 11K and invest in admiral shares of VTSAX.

Good luck!

MDM

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If you have 31K sitting around, my first order of business would be to open a Vanguard account TOMORROW. You have until April 15 to contribute to your Roth for 2014. I'd IMMEDIATELY deposit $5500 for 2014 + $5500 for 2015. Take the 11K and invest in admiral shares of VTSAX.

Good luck!
Yes, immediately if not sooner.

Your $2131 in "Federal" tax is mostly Soc. Sec., correct?  Nothing you can do about that, but...
...if you contribute that $5500 to a Roth IRA for 2014 your Form 1040 total tax due will be $0.00 due to the Saver's Credit - and you will get a refund of everything that has been withheld from your paychecks for Federal income tax.  Then you can do the same for 2015.

If you have already filed for 2014, file an amended return.  It will be well worth your time.

MDM

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Pre-tax deductions: I don't trust the non-profit I work for...and I kind of just don't like trusting other organizations who give me a paycheck with my monetary expenses in general, so no 401k, etc., for me through them.
Well...this looks a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face.  You are in an interesting situation.  The general rule in your tax bracket is to contribute to a Roth instead of traditional (either IRA or 401k).  You, however, are within reach of the Earned Income Credit in addition to the Saver's Credit - so you may want to consider the traditional 401k to get your reported wages low enough for the EIC.  Note that the EIC is "refundable" - in other words, you can get money back from the IRS if you qualify.

Check one or more of the following to evaluate some "what if?" options (comments above are based on some quick looks using the case study spreadsheet):
http://www.paycheckcity.com/calculator/salary/ or
http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/tax-planning/1040-form-tax-calculator.aspx or
https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/calculators/taxcaster/ or
the reader case study spreadsheet.

Quote
Other Ordinary Income: In 2014, my mother kindly gifted me some one-time purchase household items like a desk, a couple shirts, and some cooking containers, and about $1000 of inheritance.
Just checking - you don't have to pay tax on that $1K, correct?


One other note: very well written case study!

possumjaw

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Hey folks!

Sorry for the slow response.  Got sick...common cold but still...my head is very fuzzy right now.

Thanks so much for the advice!  I am enjoying learning as much as I can about investing.  The more I learn about financial management, the more I realize that money is just this weird, imaginary extension of the human will...about as strong or frail as any other.  Okay, philosophy aside...

On investing:

1)  Yup.  No tax on the $1,000.  Did pay tax on a previous inheritance, but that was a long time ago.  Have yet to pay taxes on the gov't bonds, but planning on doing that one day.  Estimated worth doesn't include those taxes.

2)  What difference does SS versus personal investment savings make?  Like...I guess the main difference is if I save it myself, I am still in possession of the money, whereas if the gov't takes it for SS, I cannot access it when I choose.  Secondly, I am relying on the stability of whatever organization I am using for the account versus the fed gov't...and the answer of which is more stable really is up for personal opinion...aside from the age old answer about retirement fund stability which is:  there is none.  Diversify, plan ahead, and expect change?

3)  A friend of mine recommends Wells Fargo over Vanguard.  Thoughts?

Also, MDM, thanks.  I thought the case study was a bit rambly, so I appreciate that it came off as readable.  I tried.  All those periods.................................hahaha.

-possum

possumjaw

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Also, can I just gripe here that tax deductions out of your paycheck for the gov't each time are such a pain?  Like that is literally them being like, hey, want to pay early instead of the end of the year because you suck at planning?  Nice.  Give us a free loan, and we will refuse to pay you interest. 
You're welcome (ノ◐ヮ◑)ノ*:・゚✧

Like, yeah, thanks guys.

mozar

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You might enjoy the book "debt, the first 5000 years" by graeber

MDM

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2)  What difference does SS versus personal investment savings make?  Like...I guess the main difference is if I save it myself, I am still in possession of the money, whereas if the gov't takes it for SS, I cannot access it when I choose.  Secondly, I am relying on the stability of whatever organization I am using for the account versus the fed gov't...and the answer of which is more stable really is up for personal opinion...aside from the age old answer about retirement fund stability which is:  there is none.  Diversify, plan ahead, and expect change?
For a particular job, you have little control over the amount of SS tax the government deducts.  Then you will receive whatever you will receive when the time comes (you do have some control over the start time) to receive it.
Most of the advice here is independent of SS - we're more interested in the things one has greater control over.
Not sure I'm answering the question...but then I'm not sure what the question really is...?

Quote
3)  A friend of mine recommends Wells Fargo over Vanguard.  Thoughts?
How much will Wells Fargo charge you, and how much will Vanguard charge you?

MDM

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Also, can I just gripe here that tax deductions out of your paycheck for the gov't each time are such a pain?  Like that is literally them being like, hey, want to pay early instead of the end of the year because you suck at planning?  Nice.  Give us a free loan, and we will refuse to pay you interest. 
You're welcome (ノ◐ヮ◑)ノ*:・゚✧

Like, yeah, thanks guys.

Given this perspective (and I'm not disagreeing), are you really against using a 401k?  Note the comments above about you being able to get down to $0 federal income tax, or maybe even a payment from the IRS to you.  If you arrange your finances accordingly you can eliminate federal tax deduction from your paycheck completely.  Interested...?

former player

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3)  A friend of mine recommends Wells Fargo over Vanguard.  Thoughts?
Why did he recommend it and why would it be better than Vanguard?  Have you read MMM on Vanguard?  I detect a certain amount of procrastinatory behaviour and a chronic inability to commit to the long-term in your question (I recognise it because its the sort of thing I do myself).

My advice is: forget your friend's advice for the minute.  Go back and read the reply from fartface, and implement it this week.  You will then have a nice sum of money invested tax-free in a low cost, decent return investment.  After that, you will still have more cash than you should have.  By all means then take your time check out whether Wells Fargo would be a good place for it, but frankly, simplification would suggest to me you should carry on with Vanguard, even ignoring the advantages which it has and which are set out by MMM.

possumjaw

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mozar:  yeah.......to that.

MDM:  I apologize if my question was muddy-headed.  I am learning as I go and kind of thinking explicitly here.

Quote
Quote from: possumjaw on April 06, 2015, 05:01:09 PM

    2)  What difference does SS versus personal investment savings make?  Like...I guess the main difference is if I save it myself, I am still in possession of the money, whereas if the gov't takes it for SS, I cannot access it when I choose.  Secondly, I am relying on the stability of whatever organization I am using for the account versus the fed gov't...and the answer of which is more stable really is up for personal opinion...aside from the age old answer about retirement fund stability which is:  there is none.  Diversify, plan ahead, and expect change?

For a particular job, you have little control over the amount of SS tax the government deducts.  Then you will receive whatever you will receive when the time comes (you do have some control over the start time) to receive it.
Most of the advice here is independent of SS - we're more interested in the things one has greater control over.
Not sure I'm answering the question...but then I'm not sure what the question really is...?

Nah, that was pretty much it.  Also I think the question was just how much control does one have over gov't versus other retirement savings kind of stuff?  So you answered it by stating how much control there is as facts.  I was just asking a noobish question...as I am kind of ignorant.
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Quote
Quote from: possumjaw on April 06, 2015, 05:09:25 PM

    Also, can I just gripe here that tax deductions out of your paycheck for the gov't each time are such a pain?  Like that is literally them being like, hey, want to pay early instead of the end of the year because you suck at planning?  Nice.  Give us a free loan, and we will refuse to pay you interest.
    You're welcome (ノ◐ヮ◑)ノ*:・゚✧

    Like, yeah, thanks guys.


Given this perspective (and I'm not disagreeing), are you really against using a 401k?  Note the comments above about you being able to get down to $0 federal income tax, or maybe even a payment from the IRS to you.  If you arrange your finances accordingly you can eliminate federal tax deduction from your paycheck completely.  Interested...?

Precisely.  I just would like to not do this with an employer--especially the one I'm at--because I want to be able to quit at any point and not have to rearrange or lose my savings...and I currently have some seniority at work because I didn't quit at the average of six months.  We have ridiculous churn.  Comes with the territory.
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former player:

Quote
Quote from: possumjaw on April 06, 2015, 05:01:09 PM

    3)  A friend of mine recommends Wells Fargo over Vanguard.  Thoughts?

Why did he recommend it and why would it be better than Vanguard?

He just seemed to trust it due to his family recommending it to him.  He wasn't very specific.  I just figured I would throw it out here, as you all seem to have more extensive knowledge on accounts of that nature, and at worst case I could go research it on my own time with my lesser experience.

Quote
I detect a certain amount of procrastinatory behaviour and a chronic inability to commit to the long-term in your question (I recognise it because its the sort of thing I do myself).

My advice is: forget your friend's advice for the minute.  Go back and read the reply from fartface, and implement it this week.  You will then have a nice sum of money invested tax-free in a low cost, decent return investment.  After that, you will still have more cash than you should have.  By all means then take your time check out whether Wells Fargo would be a good place for it, but frankly, simplification would suggest to me you should carry on with Vanguard, even ignoring the advantages which it has and which are set out by MMM.

I hear you, but naw...I am merely whittling down my options until I find just the right one and then executing it.  Money is important to me, given the current power structures I am submitted to right now.  It allows me (currently) independence from an abusive family, the ability to determine my own way of living, and in large ways, the ability to live out who I am...I appreciate your concern and honesty.  I'm kind of the opposite of unable to commit/procratinating...I am more aptly just untrusting until I fully investigate something. 

People said the same thing, (and I guess still do), about my inability to choose a career option, but what I've realized is that there is no linear path to happiness via career and that my liking multiple types of work has to do with my gifts for all of those types...The reason I wasn't satisfied with any particular career trajectory had more to do with me pinning all of my identity and monetary independence goals on a career--which is naive...though a majority of the population does that and then wonders why they are dissatisfied.  It seems that a job is a job.  Work and contribution to society is separate from that.  Sometimes you get good return on both.  And then sometimes people get paid oodles of money to build a BassPro inside of the Memphis pyramid.  Idk.  I'm sure someone's life out there is immensely benefiting from that.  Perhaps I should be less judgemental about the cultural value of things.

My point is...just two years ago, I didn't know if I'd have a roof over my head, let alone what to do with retirement.  I've been working nonstop since to amass the savings I do have...and I haven't been researching how to do this thing for that long.  I can change course with a lot of things, but if I lose too much too soon on stupid mistakes, then I will lose opportunity.

possumjaw

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former player:

Thanks much for the thoughts on vanguard.  I don't know why, but reading that has changed my search criteria a bit, and I am now finding even more good stuff on this site concerning investing.  I also just found that MMM and I use the same kind of cellphone?  It is cheap indeed. 

Thanks to all for letting me bounce my ideas off of someone.  Refining.

MDM

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Precisely.  I just would like to not do this with an employer--especially the one I'm at--because I want to be able to quit at any point and not have to rearrange or lose my savings

An employer may restrict an employee from contributing to a 401k until the employee has some minimum service time.  And a given 401k plan might have restricted investment options.

Once you do invest in a 401k, however, that money is yours - not your employer's - and you are free to take it all with you when you quit.  Yes, you might have to spend a few minutes on the phone or mailing a form to rearrange the holdings from the old 401k to a new 401k or IRA.  For the benefits you would get, why not....?

It's ok to be a noob - everyone was at one point.  It does seem that you are declining something (a 401k), that could be very good for you, based on incorrect assumptions about 401k details.

possumjaw

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MDM,

Thanks!  That is interesting.  shows what I know...haha.  I will look back into it. 

possumjaw

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Okay, talked to my pal again.

Evidently, his grandma just set up an account with...I guess it was Etna at the time?  And they got bought out by someone who got bought out who got bought out who etc...and eventually it became Wells Fargo.  Which tells me that it might have at one point been good financial advice, (if it was then), but now is not.  I also much prefer the investor-owned model of Vanguard.  Am rearranging finances.  Things seem good.

former player

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Okay, talked to my pal again.

Evidently, his grandma just set up an account with...I guess it was Etna at the time?  And they got bought out by someone who got bought out who got bought out who etc...and eventually it became Wells Fargo.  Which tells me that it might have at one point been good financial advice, (if it was then), but now is not.  I also much prefer the investor-owned model of Vanguard.  Am rearranging finances.  Things seem good.

Congratulations.

Valhalla

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Interesting thread. Good advice so far.

My take is you need to worry about how to increase your income, more than the savings portion.  Your income is probably near or below the poverty level, I'm guessing?

You need to make more of that 4 year degree.  You can give away your future time as charity and get paid very little, or figure out what you like and are good at, and get paid for it if there is market demand.

Every human has intrinsic value that can generate money.  The problem is most are too lazy to pursue it beyond the typical job boards.  Don' t get stuck in that trap.

There are probably things you can do that you will enjoy and get paid.  Time is money. Use that time to make money.

possumjaw

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formerplayer:  Cheers!  Thanks again for the advice.  Went for the Roth IRA.  Maxed for 2014 and '15 and sent in amended tax return.  Still waiting for refund from the IRS and am reorganizing accounts a bit, but I already have made a small handful of change.  Making money while doing nothing is indeed a powerful feeling.  Humanity is weird.  Am super excited about this!

To all:  have invested mostly in stocks via Vanguard.  The common advice seems to do a bit (maybe 10%) in bonds?  Does this ring true?  Thoughts?  I have some government bonds in non-electronic form, but they are ancient.  I think keeping those aside and managing an electronic portfolio of its own right would be better, as the variety can increase as accumulation grows.

Valhalla:  amen. 

I am also thinking the sales avenue is not going to work.  For most search engine/data sales related jobs I've investigated, you need several years of non-retail experience.  I am also somewhat worried I would be too much of a social weirdo to pull off cleaning up each day for such a job--although that is probably more just imagined fears...and I need to draw a line and choose how much to sacrifice too.  If I need to go invest a couple hundred dollars in nicer clothing and dress a little more gender-normatively for a couple years to buy freedom, perhaps I just suck it up and do that. 

I think at this point I'm going to keep looking around, as by the time I got that couple years experience, perhaps I could have just been doing something else?  If I'm still at this point of indecision in a year, I'll probably just go jump into...something.  But yeah.  At my current savings/income/investment returns, (if I assume I'll be getting returns at 5%, which seems conservative?...and I assume I've done the math right...which is...possible), I am on track to retire in 20 years...which is still much earlier than the U.S. humanoid norm of 65.  Not bad, but I think I can reduce that.  Constructive criticism is welcome.

Prepube

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i think your budget needs some work.  TWO dollars for "frivolous" stuff?  Every MONTH?  Facepunch. 

Seriously, though, you'd probably be happier if you increased some of those spending categories a little bit and enjoyed your life a little more instead of worrying about whether you will die tomorrow.

possumjaw

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Oh, but where's the fun in that?

I hear you though.  The job thing.  That.  Yup.  That's really what I need to work on, but I feel kind of stuck with it.