Pursuit of happiness?

MLK - What are you doing for othersAround this time of year, I start hearing and reading about people’s resolutions for the new year.  A portion of them deal with their level of happiness and this idea that folks are going to resolve to be “more happy”.

I struggle with this for a couple of reasons.

1.  Happiness is a byproduct and not a goal.  It seems everyone’s time would be better spent understanding what actually causes them to be happy than making that itself the goal.

2.  Constant happiness is unsustainable.  Emotions are relative and in order to feel the peak sense of happiness, you also need to experience states of indifference or unhappiness.  Every peak has two valleys after all.  Maybe I’m getting hung up on semantics and the definition of happiness.  I don’t know.

Beyond having our basic needs met, I tend to think people want to sense that they are fulfilled.  Not content or happy, but that they are contributors and part of something greater.  I know I do.

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Our $50,000 Spending Plan

Wat Arun - Bangkok
Travel will remain our largest expense.

Forgive me while I stay on the numbers game for a minute here.  This is the time of year I spend a healthy portion of time evaluating our finances from the previous one.

I must say, I feel like a bit of a schmo as I browse all my favorite personal finance blogs.  Many of which are posting their yearly budgets.  Mr. Money Mustache famously spends $25K per year, the 1500’s are shooting for a cool million to support their $30K of yearly expenses and Justin at Root of Good published his $32K retirement budget.

So who the heck are we that we need $50K?  I’m not sure, so let’s dig into this a bit.

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How to be a one-percenter

No, this isn’t a post about how to become one of the nation’s highest income earners.  Not that kind of one-percenter.  I’m talking about those tenets in life that probably fewer than 1% of us actually follow.

I like lists.  I’m also a rule follower.  So during my slow, snowy commute home today, I jotted down some rules about how to live a more meaningful and deliberate life.  I’m not going to pretend I follow all of these to a ‘T’ but as I sit here and reflect, they certainly would lead to a “rich” life in the top 1% as I define it.  And none of them have anything to do with money.

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How cutting cable altered our life’s path

cut-cable-cord

It’s time to update some details of the blog.  In its 7 months of existence, there are parts that are already out-of-date.  The tectonic plates that make up our lives have shifted. We’ve made some influential decisions since I first put the heading pages together and even the blog’s tagline was inaccurate.

I thought it would be good to summarize some of the changes.

That Was Then…

Early 2013 – Life was on cruise control.  Not necessarily in a bad way.  I always had grand plans, but they were always for a later time and certainly not now.

My wife and I felt like we were working three full-time jobs.  Both gainfully employed, we were also trying to raise two kids by being present and active in their lives.  As many parents can attest planning housework, laundry, meals, and all the extracurricular activities of a lively household makes for at least another job.

One day, tired of haggling with the local provider, I cancelled our cable subscription and stopped watching TV.  I suddenly had time in the evenings after the boys went to bed to do something productive.  I started this blog to organize my thoughts and keep myself accountable to my aspirations.  There is nothing like publicly publishing goals to give you that extra little motivation to follow-through.

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Today was a good day

Today was a good day.”  – Ice Cube circa 1993

You can start to feel Old Man Winter’s breathe in our neck of the woods.  Today I busted out my favorite goose-down coat as I headed out the door this morning.  I reached into one of its pockets and discovered an unclaimed $20 bill.  Gosh, I love it when that happens.

I had that same feeling earlier this last weekend when I was catching up on my favorite blogs.  I learned of a new resolution to our issue of having too much money tied up in retirement accounts that, in theory, couldn’t be touched without penalty until age 59.5.

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Get to Know Bo – Creator of cFIREsim

Bo Knows

In my last post I gave an introduction to my favorite retirement planning tool called The Crowdsourced FIRE Simulator (cFIREsim for short).  For those of you new to the community, FIRE stands for Financially Independent, Retired Early.

That post sparked a conversation with the creator and he graciously agreed to an interview.  His name is Bo and while I haven’t met him in person, I envision him to be some sort of programming wizard with a keen understanding of personal finance and early retirement.  Bo of cFIREsim is to retirement planning what Bo Jackson was to sports.

If you haven’t already, be sure to give it a test drive.  You can also get the latest updates on the tool by following him on Twitter.

Who are you and what did you create?

My name is Bo (on several FIRE websites, I go by “bo_knows” which is a homage to Bo Jackson, one of my favorite athletes during my childhood), I’m 32 years old, and I’ve created a “Retirement Simulator” in my spare time, largely as a learning experience.

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Introduction to cFIREsim

crystal-ballAs you may be able to guess, I like to play with numbers and spreadsheets as much as the next dropout engineer.  One question that I know a lot of us looking for financial independence ask ourselves is “how much will be enough?”.

Many financial calculators spit out “the number” based on basic forward-looking assumptions, like an average return on investments. Sure, the U.S. stock market has returned an average of 10% since the mid-1920’s but it certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride.

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