November Stats

(A day late, a dollar short.)

I was distracted by post-Thanksgiving cleaning and rest, and I forgot to make this update.  So, here’s a quick update on our debt repayment progress:

INTEREST RATE REMAINING BASE PAYMENT EXTRA PAYMENTS
Student Loans 3.80% $22,490.06 $183.34 $0.00
Mortgage 3.50% $302,368.34 $2,259.03 $0.00
Total $324,858.40 $2,442.37 $0.00

Thanksgiving went pretty well – we hosted seven visitors, four of whom stayed the night and through lunch and a movie the next day.  We were able to send everyone who wanted leftovers home with whatever they wanted, and we had enough left over for ourselves that we’re still eating delicious Thanksgiving meals.  We have completely caught up on dishes, which is the best cleanup we’ve ever done; I’m very pleased.

I’m pretty drained, so I’ll cut it short, but I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving as well!

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ttf vs zero sum

I haven’t posted recently because I’ve felt a need to write this post (and maybe the next one) before I continued with my usual motifs, but it’s been very hard to sit down and write this.  In fact, it’s been very hard to do much of anything recently.  I spent the first few days after the election barely able to get out of bed.

I have a lot that I want to say here, so this may get a bit long.

Trump’s America

If you haven’t been paying attention, Donald Trump won the race for president.  43% of eligible voters didn’t vote, and Donald Trump won the race for president.  Donald Trump, who is racist, sexist, a sexual predator, won the race for president.  Donald Trump, who the KKK think would make a great leader for our nation, won the race for president.

(I personally think that voting should be required, but maybe that’s just me.)

I do want to be clear here:  Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric isn’t why he won.  Many people voted for Trump based on issues other than these.  There are accountants who voted for Trump based solely on his tax plans, which are more advantageous for their clients.  Trump promised to drain the swamp in DC (though that’s apparently not so easy).

But here’s the thing:  Trump’s win served to validate all of the hateful white supremacists in the country.  Not just validate, but embolden.  Hate crimes immediately spiked in the US – a worse spike than the one after 9/11, even.  (We saw this sort of thing after the Brexit referendum as well.)

I think the people who are lashing out are scared, too.  They are scared that they are being left behind, and they are lashing out.  They’re angry.  They think life is a zero-sum game, and, if things are getting better for people who have historically had it tougher, things have to get worse for them.  And, in some ways, they’re right:  as we progress toward equality, these individuals will be less able to comfortably benefit from the oppression of others.  But I don’t think that means they have to be left behind, not if they don’t want to be.

Life is actually a co-op game.  It can get better for all of us at once, if we want it to.  We just have to realize that we can be kind to each other and help each other up.  We don’t need to fight each other; we need to work together to make a better world for everyone.  Then we all win.

Peace on earth, good will toward men, anyone?

But I Didn’t Mean For This To Happen

I believe you.  You voted on the issues that were important to you, and those issues were more important to your life than the lives, rights, and safety of Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, the LGBTQ+ community, and women* – or you might not have even realized they were in such danger.  But here’s the thing:  the impact of your vote is more important than your intentions.  Hate is spreading because people feel comfortable to hate, because your vote helped Trump win.

If you’re serious that you don’t support the hate that is filling America after the results of the election, then it’s up to you to stand up to it.  Your issues won, and now it’s time to fight against the damage that came with them.  It’s not enough not to hate; you have to stand up to hate.  It’s not enough not to be part of the problem; you have to be part of the solution.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
– Edmund Burke

* Don’t forget the environment!

So How Can I Help?

Great question.  There’s no benefit to be gleaned from sitting around being scared all the time.  We have to stand up against hatred wherever we find it.  But we’re not used to doing so.  (At least, I’m sure not!)  So, where do we start?

Call your elected officials and ask how they’re going to protect civil liberties during Trump’s presidency.  Demand that they oppose Steve Bannon‘s appointment.  Spend a few minutes a week making calls about important issues.

If you have the means, donate to organizations that help protect the marginalized.  Start with the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Planned Parenthood.  Branch out to additional groups if you can.  Consider establishing automatic monthly donations.

Protest.  March.  Make sure that the people making laws and policy know that this is important.

Calmly talk to people who don’t agree with you and try to make them understand.

Stop hate where you see it.  Help create safety for people who are being abused.  Make sure they know they are welcome and valued.  Document instances of harassment.

Work together.  Don’t let our differences get in the way of our similarities.

What Shouldn’t I Do?

Don’t suggest a wait-and-see approach.  Every day presents more alarming announcements.  Being alarmed and active is the right approach here, and it can save lives.

Don’t focus on how people are sharing their thoughts; focus on the message.  We’re angry, frustrated, and scared – and these are reasonable and informative emotions for us to have.

An Interpretive Elohai Netzor

I came across a prayer in a prayer book this evening, and I want to share it with you.  Not because I think you should pray (or even believe in a higher being), but because it resonated with me.

O Lord, guard my tongue from evil
And my lips from speaking guile;

Guard my heart from hatred
And my mind from harmful thoughts.

Help me to avoid shameful speech
As well a shameful silence.

May my words be messengers of Your will,
Humble in spirit, helpful in purpose,
Seeking justice, and pursuing peace.

O Lord, guard my spirit from weakness;
And my soul from gloom or despair.

Strengthen my worthy desires
That I may serve You, in joy, every day;
Thus may I reflect honor on Your holy name
In all that I say and do.

There are a couple parts of this prayer that seem really important right now:

Help me to avoid shameful speech
As well as shameful silence.

It’s incredibly important to stand up and speak out when bad things are happening around us.  Don’t look the other way.

O Lord, guard my spirit from weakness;
And my soul from gloom or despair.

I’ve certainly been feeling a lot of gloom and despair recently, and I’ll admit that I’m likely to feel more of it over the next months and years.  I’ve felt like all my plans mean nothing, and that I can’t count on the future right now.  I fear that I will have to give up everything I’ve accumulated – yes, it’s just stuff, but the reason it’s so hard to get rid of so much of it is because it’s stuff that means something to me – that I will have to give up everything I’ve accumulated because we will need to leave the country.  Not because I disagree with somebody’s politics, but because I fear for my safety and my future.  My parents were around my age when they left the USSR to come here.  I didn’t think I would ever have to do the same, but now I’m scared.

And I’ve never felt scared like this before.  I’ve lived a life of privilege, and I’ve felt scared for others, but never for myself, not because of who I am.  I’ve never felt hated for being Jewish until this week.  I’ve never felt hated by strangers.

In Conclusion

We have a lot of work to do to protect so very many people against so very many threats.  Welcome to the fight.

Tell no one

I’ve been talking to DW about financial independence for a while now, and she’s been great and supportive and approving.  But it wasn’t until my recent post about livingafi’s Job Experience series that she really got engaged and excited about it.  I gotta say, it’s been amazing to see her get so interested and involved!

dw_engaged
(DW on left.  ttf with poor typing skills on right.)

I’ve been really grateful to livingafi for this change.

Since the last set of links went over so well, I’m sharing another set that I really enjoyed.  This one explores what it’s like to work toward financial independence, especially how the journey and arrival can affect your relationships:

If you’re anything like me, you really want to share your journey with others.  It’s such a profound, life-changing shift, and you see so many positives to your steadily-lessening consumption and steadily-growing financial stability that you want everyone to join in and reap the benefits!  Well, consider starting a blog instead.  After all:

the_worst_thing

No Restaurant October: Results

Happy Halloween!  Was your October spending as scary as your costume, or as awesome as mine?  (I’m in a Deadpool onesie this year.)

Well, the challenge has completed, and I’ve gotta say:  though it was certainly difficult at times, this month has been great for our budget!  We both did more cooking, and we’ve recovered a chunk of the damage we did with all the eating out during the renovation.

We ate out a bunch on our Disney trip in the middle of the month, but I mentioned that I wasn’t counting that in the original No Restaurant October post.  Other than that, we haven’t eaten out at all.  There were a few grey-area situations, though:

  • I had to travel to the office for a few days this month, and they offered free Chipotle for lunch one day.  I declined, because this challenge wasn’t just about the money for me; I really wanted to see if we could do without restaurants.  I managed to make and bring enough food that I survived and thrived without a single restaurant or grocery trip while I was in town, which was pretty cool.
  • A friend stayed with us for a few days and offered to bring some Krispy Kreme donuts.  I figured that these were just a fresh version of the exact same thing that could be bought at Wegmans, so we accepted.  ..This could probably constitute cheating, I’ll admit.
  • There was a fall festival on Saturday at the local shopping center, and one of the restaurants was handing out chicken wings with samples of their famous sauces.  I passed – though boy did I want one.

In the post that inspired this challenge, Mrs. Frugalwoods mentioned that having frozen food at the ready is the key to being successful in a challenge like this, and boy was she right!  We loaded up on easy-to-make foods like freezer pizzas and just-add-water mashed potatoes, and they were a lifesaver.

So, how do we keep up the momentum from this challenge?  Well, we’ve decided to limit our restaurant outings to twice a month* from here out.  This seems like a comfortable place for us that allows us to enjoy going out while still limiting its influence.  It does mean that we’ll probably be planning our outings and using our two allowances most months, but that will still keep us from going overboard, which we have a tendency to do.

How was your No Restaurant October?  Having a great / spooky Halloween?  We’re gearing up for Thanksgiving, but we’ve already finished doing our stocking-stuffers shopping for Christmas.**  (Gotta love the Dollar Tree and Five Below!)

 

* We’re allowing an additional outing for each of us if it’s to catch up with a friend in a situation where there’s no easy way to do so otherwise.

** DW’s family picks names out of a hat to fill stockings for each other, kind of like a Secret Santa thing.  DW’s mother (DMIL) doesn’t ever put her name in the hat, though, so we end up making an extra every year so she’s not left out.  She’s surprised every year; it’s fun.

ttf vs Rule One Investing

Today, I came across an advertisement on Facebook for a “financial knowledge” quiz, hosted on “Rule One Investing,” to determine “what type of investor” I am.  Figuring this would be crap, but still insatiably curious, I clicked the ad and took the quiz.  I had to put in fake information for email address and name to get the results (red flag one), and then I came across this gem in the grading:

retirement_needs

Let’s dissect this, shall we?  I’ll even ignore Social Security, to give Rule One Investing the benefit of the doubt.

How much does this average American actually spend?  Well, the average American between ages 55 and 64 makes $58,145 pa and saves very little of that.  To give Rule One Investing even more benefit for their calculations, let’s say that this average American pays no taxes and saves no money – they spend every penny of that $58,145 every year and plan to continue doing so into retirement.

The average retirement age in the United States is currently 63, and the average life expectancy in the United States is currently 78.8 years.  Let’s just round that to 79 for easier numbers.  That means that the average retirement last for 16 years, and your retirement funds need to cover you for that time.

Since we’re talking about a traditional retirement age, we should be conservative with our withdrawal estimates; this theoretical person won’t be easily able to go back to work to earn more.  Instead of the 4% withdrawal rate I’ve mentioned in the past, let’s say that a safe withdrawal rate for this retiree is 3%.  That means they would need close to $2 million in their retirement accounts to retire.

But wait!  That’s for a retirement lasting 30+ years – and likely coming out the other end with lots of extra money.  But we already know that our average retiree is only going to enjoy their retirement for 16 years.  For a conservative investor spending 15 years in retirement, Vanguard recommends a 6.2% initial withdrawal rate.  Let’s drop that down to 6% to cover that extra year.  At a 6% safe withdrawal rate, this retiree only needs $1 million to keep their spending levels up in retirement.

Now, several of the answers on this quiz were geared toward convincing me to sign up with this Rule One Investing site to learn to pick stocks and beat the market, so of course they’re going to try to make me think I need more money.  But, even giving them the best benefit of the doubt I can, I can’t come anywhere near that $3 million figure.  And, when you take a more realistic view of retirement – that the average retiree pays taxes and saves while working, and that expenses go down for them even while Social Security starts supplementing their income – you find that the $500,000 number is actually closer to the truth.

So don’t get too discouraged if you don’t have millions in savings.  Stay the course, keep saving as much as you can, and you’ll be just fine.

October Stats

Another quick stats update:

INTEREST RATE REMAINING BASE PAYMENT EXTRA PAYMENTS
Student Loans 3.80% $22,605.16 $183.34 $150.00
Mortgage 3.50% $303,741.46 $2,259.03 $0.00
Total $326,346.62 $2,442.37 $150.00

We received housewarming gifts from my grandmother and my aunt and uncle this month, so we immediately applied those to the student loans.  Other than that, breathing room is nonexistent, as always, here.

It’s getting colder, so heat’s been running some.  We bought some sealing solutions for the front door, and I’m hoping to install those this weekend so we can stop the enormous air leaks that make it more difficult to stay warm.  I also need to hit a store to get long johns and slippers.

We’re hoping to head to the local Regal on Friday to see The Nightmare Before Christmas in a theater.  It’s my favorite movie, and I’m very excited!  It’ll be nice to get out of the house a bit, too.

The Job Experience, by livingafi

This past week, I read and really enjoyed The Job Experience series of posts by livingafi, and I wanted to share it with all of you.  This series documents basically the entirety of his career, in short, digestible chunks.  The entire series is pretty lengthy, so I’ve linked to parts that I really liked below:

Other than being a thoroughly enjoyable read, I really took away a couple key pieces of encouragement.  First, you don’t have to be a natural saver to reach financial independence; you can even have a rocky start and really turn it around and get on track.  Second, even though I complain a lot, I have been really lucky in my career, when compared to some people’s hellish experiences.  I’ve had my doozies in terms of work environment and company culture, but I’ve never had to work 60 hours in one week, much less week after week.  I’ve been able to get away with ~40 hours most weeks in my career, and I’m pretty thankful for that.

This quote from the last post I linked above is particularly encouraging to me, who is still years away from FIRE:

I often see people on financial independence forums say things like:  I’m saving so that a future version of me will be happy.  As the current version of “future me,” let me say this:  I’m incredibly happy that past me has stayed the course.  And that’s a drastic understatement.  This needs to be over — and thanks to the choices I’ve made, it will be, soon.

10/25/16:  One more quote that I really wanted to share, this one from the effects of work link:

Everything has shifted now.  I don’t want to be great. At anything, really. Instead I want to be happy. And that requires a mental adjustment to wanting to be merely good at a few specific things — a good husband, a present and loving family member, a supportive friend, and a decent human being.  I want to pursue things that provide pleasure and satisfaction on a day-to-day basis.

This really rings true to me.  When I was younger, I wanted to do great things; now, I just want to enjoy life and be a good husband and friend.  Maybe father one day.  Like livingafi, I don’t know if this is all from work or all from getting older, but I imagine it’s a combination of those things; as I experience more of life, I find that I want to spend more time being happy and less time pursuing great accomplishments.

Of course, as DW rightly points out, my ambitions haven’t really died – they’ve just shifted to the journey toward financial independence and reclaiming my time for myself.