One New Year Resolution to Rule Them All

new-year-resolutionMerry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all those who celebrated the occasion! I guess you can say I celebrated this year, albeit a very different experience when sleeping in a beach hut on a tropical, primarily Buddhist country. Was Christmas good to you? Did you make a New Year resolution or two?

To be quite honest, I’ve never been huge on the concept of a New Year resolution (surprise, surprise, eh?), especially when people make multiple resolutions in one go. I think probably my distaste for them stems from my distaste for trends in general, including pretty much anything people do en masse because other people are doing the same thing. Lemming behavior, to put it smugly.

But that is not to say I have never dabbled with the resolutions myself! I just think that if you are going to make one, it is very important that you keep it to one and only one resolution, that you actually think about what is important enough in your life to do better at (not just compare yourself to magazines at the checkout stand), that you most importantly choose a resolution that will last a lifetime, not through to February, and ideally that you choose a resolution that improves more than just one thing in your life. Deal with the root of the problem, so to speak.

You see about a year ago, I was aware of a whole array of things I was really not happy about in my life: sleepless nights, being more overweight than normal, spending way too much money all the time, drinking too much, not exercising enough, not getting what I wanted out of life, not getting ahead in life, and just a general level of unhappiness. Being tired of always waiting to live, I later understood (post coming on that too, one of these days!)

A common and obvious reaction people might have had to my conundrum would be to pick the problem they think bothers them the most, and that they know of a way of easily solving, or at the very least improving on, and then spending a month or two down the obviously unnatural road of taking a stab at doing it. Picking the low-hanging fruit, as they say.

But the problem in my case a year ago, and I have to believe many other peoples’ cases every year, is that everything in that list was not a problem that needed to be dealt with directly at all. They were all symptoms of the real problem that needed to be addressed.

And so instead of slathering cream on one of the itches I had from my dietary intolerance towards the daily grind, I instead identified the root of it all and took the first step towards a life where the source to so many of my problems was no longer there. Since last year’s resolution I have been working very patiently and diligently towards a lifelong solution to the source of all those itches. I’m not there yet by any stretch, but each and every day it is being worked on in some way.

As a result I’ve naturally and effortlessly improved each one of those symptoms, without having to apply any creams at all. Work on the root of the problems, and the problems fix themselves, right? My hope is that after a few more years of working at it, you’ll see me on one of those magazine covers talking about how to get flat abs by typing blog posts on an iPhone in the back of a bouncy, Thai minibus.

I invite you to give your New Year resolution a quality check this year, and don’t be embarrassed if you decide it can be better, or more effective than it is. And just because you already told all your friends what it is, doesn’t mean it can’t be changed!

Oh, and lastly, if you’re like me and try hard to avoid making a New Year resolution, that doesn’t mean this article doesn’t apply to you :) Everyone has their problems, and whether or not the solution comes in the form of a New Year resolution, my advice still applies!

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Letter to Santa

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A Glaring yet Ignored Reason for Why Corporations are Bad

why-corporations-are-badApologies for the quietness on the blog front the past couple of weeks, I know everyone has been waiting with bated breath for the next set of Noble words! Spoiler alert: I’ve actually been working hard on a magazine article for the New Escapologist that will be coming out in the new year. More to come on that when it actually happens!

This week’s post is an attempt to point out something that was pointed out to me a couple years back that I don’t think many people think about, or probably have ever even realized for themselves in the first place. I know I didn’t until I was told.

There are many reasons to hate on the corporations as I’m sure everyone knows if you’ve seen or read even one of the countless movies or books on the topic (if you haven’t, for shame, go watch The Corporation!). But this isn’t your typical tale of greed, mismanagement, and environmental destruction I’m about to tell! Instead It is a tale (well, a point, at the very least) about why the inner workings of virtually all corporations are so inefficient.

As I’m sure you already know, corporations almost always have a hierarchy of employees in place: workers at the very bottom being managed by other workers, being managed by managers, being managed by managers of managers, reporting to the Vice President, etc, etc, etc, right up to the king sitting high on top of the castle. The corporate ladder as people love to call it.

But not only is the obvious greed to seep out from this blatant pyramid scheme a reason for why corporations are bad at what they do, there’s another, more sneaky side effect from it all: other than people who just got hired, no one is actually ever qualified to be doing the job they are currently doing!

Why? Because shortly after you prove to the closest one above you that you are competent at what you do, you get moved up to something else you don’t necessarily know how to do, and your previous role is filled with someone else having the same level of competency for their new job!

It’s kind of bizarre, when you really think about it.

Companies often like to put a positive spin on this silliness to attract employees: “We only promote from within”, “Come grow with us…”, that sort of thing, but really it’s just a cover up for why the product or service they produce isn’t as good as it could be. Actually, perhaps it isn’t a cover up at all, perhaps I have it completely the other way around: the growth-from-within shtick that companies do is a self-fulfilling detriment to the company that needs to be done because of the inefficient corporate structure it has setup for itself. Either way, it kind of feels like they aren’t doing themselves any favors by doing it!

The Broken Corporate Machine

And so this “corporate machine” you end up with is not a machine at all. Imagine a car where the original wheel is now working as the differential, which is now working as the drive shaft, which got promoted to the transmission, which is filling in for the engine.

…all because the old engine had to step down after the last tank of fuel went 20kms less than expected!

I don’t necessarily have the solution to the problem, other than the obvious, “only let people do the job they were hired for and find other ways to reward existing employees”. One thing is for sure whatever the answer is, when you are trying to build a working machine, you want to have all the properly engineered pieces in their proper places!

 

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Hiking in the Cameron Highlands

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Coffee at Home, Tea on the Road

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Brian, My Guardian Angel

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Keep Your Eyes on the Prize and It Will Happen

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Out of the HR Frying Pan and into the Fire!

Out of the frying pan and into the fire

Those are actually Jen’s pants burning in there!

…that is exactly where three pairs of Jen’s devout work pants went this past Saturday night as she finally said goodbye to her old role in the HR frying pan, and hello to her new role in this adventurous world on the other side. Remember to stop, drop and roll kids: it is amazing how quickly synthetics go up when given the chance, I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes!

All joking aside, last week finally marked the end of an old era, and the start of a new one  for Jen – a big congratulations for taking the plunge. A new day, a new way!

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How Much Do I Need to Retire on September-Style Spending

How Much Do I Need to RetireThis year’s September was a drastically different experience from the last one. Whereas last year the month was spent slogging it out in the city, working 9 – 5 (or much more) at my day job, going out after work and spending much of the day’s earnings on eating and drinking, blah, blah, blah, this year’s was spent primarily engaged in a large-scale project out here in the woods building a super-awesome deck on our house. An incredibly invigorating achievement, I suggest you try it sometime if you haven’t!

I was thinking about this the other night, and it occurred to me how little I must have spent during the month… so of course I decided to add it up:

I ended up spending a grand total of roughly $1600 for the month, or $60/day, which would be in stark contrast to last September’s calculation of $150/day. Isn’t it interesting that one of my favorite months in recent memory was also one of my cheapest months on record! Important note: deck material money was already saved up via Airbnb earnings throughout the summer.

So then of course the next thing that occurred to me was, what is my minimum amount of savings such that I can invest it semi-safely, and live comfortably enough without having to worry about paying bills and such, much like this year’s September was. It is a lot less than you might be thinking as you read this (most people seem to think they need millions before they can retire). Yes, of course things will come up, car troubles, travel costs, etc, etc, I’m not including inflation and bad economic times, I get it… but this is just an exercise to demonstrate that the end goal can be not nearly as far away as you think it is, if you live a certain way that I promise, can be just as fulfilling as my old way was.

How much do I need to retire?

Roughly $300,000 in the bank, give or take. Nonsense, you say!!

A very simple calculation: $1600/month is $19,200/year. If I can make a return of 6.5% somehow (like, collecting dividends from this), then you just type this into your calculator: 19,200 / 0.065, and you get 295,384.62

Again, my number may be slightly off, perhaps I’ll actually need an extra $50K – $100K for safe keepings, but the point I really want to get across here is, if you get your cost of living way down while still enjoying the life you live, and you get over the fear of managing your own investments and start actually doing it, retirement can be a lot closer than you think.

And I think being able to actually see a goal causes a person to make an effort towards it, resulting in arriving to it much more quickly than if the goal were out of sight, like it is for most people due to the assumptions that they’ve made.

How quickly can a person save up that kind of loot?

Obviously it depends on a lot of things, but it can be a lot quicker than you think if you put your mind to it. Back when I had my regular job, had I had my spending under control to the level that I have it now, I easily could have banked $2000/month, resulting in a total savings of $375,000 after only 10 years (feel free to play with the numbers yourself if you don’t believe me!). Bump the saving up to $3000/month (which actually also might have been possible had I really put my mind to it), and I would have had $350K after only 7 years. Amazing!

So what is required of a person to actually make this a reality?

  1. Get your cost of living down as much as is possible for you to still have a comfortable and enjoyable life.
  2. Stop borrowing money to buy things. Period. (well, perhaps a house is the one and only thing. Perhaps.)
  3. Make paying off debts your number one priority, or sell whatever you have the debt on. Stop buying anything until that is done.
  4. Learn how to invest your own money. It is as easy to do as it is daunting to the uninformed.
  5. Most importantly of all: start right now. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can make it a reality!

Easier said than done, I know, but there are people out there doing exactly that. Just try to imagine yourself retired at your age, plus 7-10 years…  perhaps if you try hard enough, the above steps will just become natural!

Feel free to tell me I’m crazy in the comments section, but you’ll have a hard time convincing me :) As always, please spread the word if you enjoyed this!

 

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Renting Your Home

renting your home My original title for this post was going to be “An Ode to Airbnb”, but then these rental services come and go, and although airbnb might currently be the flavor of the month, it won’t always be, and I wouldn’t want the opinions expressed here to die with it!

So we’ve owned (along with a friend of ours) the current place we’re living in out here in the country for around 6 years now; we bought it after much frustration from the inaffordability of owning anything in Vancouver where we used to live, mainly with the intention of coming to visit our little getaway on weekends, and with the hopes that the value of the place might one day go up. When we found it, we were very excited because it actually had two completely separate living quarters which at the time seemed ideal, since there were three of us going in on it.

Having the two units on the property turned out to be a far greater blessing than I ever would have imagined, and not at all for the reason that we originally had thought.

Interestingly, our second unit is very much not allowed to be built these days in the District of Sechelt, and so the grandfathering in of it is crucial here. I often wonder if they would let us rebuild it if it were to burn down one day!

Over the years we dabbled with renting one or both of our cabins out, mostly through word of mouth to people we knew plus friends of friends, and then later on airbnb, but it was always incredibly difficult to manage, us still living in Vancouver and all, having to organize cleaners, pass on keys, etc, etc, etc.

And so back in last April after we had jumped out of light speed from city life to country life, we decided I should take over the airbnb account from our partner who had been managing it up until then since I’d mostly be over here. Not to toot my own horn here, but goddamnit look at some of these reviews we’ve been getting!

You Could Live Mortgage Free By Renting Your Home

Getting down to the nitty-gritty here, our first rental with the account in my name happened on May 3rd, 2013. Five and a half months later as of the writing of this post, we have earned $7500 to date. Incredible, if you ask me. And there isn’t a single thing about the entire experience that we haven’t thoroughly enjoyed either!

The administrative side of it takes a little bit of my time, I’d suggest perhaps two hours a week at most, and the cleaning also takes a little bit of our time, on average perhaps another two hours a week (cleaning the cabin takes one hour, and we might have to do it twice in a week). **Very important note: we charge a $25 cleaning fee, so since I’m being paid for that time, I don’t consider it as overhead, unlike the administrative side of things.

I was assuming that as soon as summer was done, so would our rentals, but amazingly that has not at all turned out to be the case so far – I don’t know yet how much we will have made by next May, but I will be surprised if it doesn’t top $10K!

We are in a bit of a unique situation here as we have a third person involved, plus the big cabin that we live in is rotting away from under our feet (well, that might be a little on the extreme side), and so we’ve agreed that all the money goes towards fixing up this ol’ house (DIY deck story coming soon!) But it is important to note that since our mortgage is around $1K/month out here, a person could come very close to living mortgage free with this setup, if they wanted.

Note that you don’t at all need a separate building with a suite in it to be making money on airbnb! If you take a look at the site, people rent everything from treehouses and yerts, to pullout couches in peoples’ living rooms. I’d be willing to bet that most people who read this do have the space to have something up there and rentable if they tried just a little.

Do yourself a favor and spend a little time thinking about how you might be able to pull it off. If you are able to somehow do it, trust me, it is well worth the effort!

 

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