Happiness – Just One More Year! http://www.justonemoreyear.com One couple's story of escaping 9 to 5 until 65 Fri, 15 Jul 2016 13:52:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.11 Do You Suffer from Just One More Year Syndrome? http://www.justonemoreyear.com/suffer-just-one-year-syndrome/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/suffer-just-one-year-syndrome/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 00:15:54 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1378 I love listening to classic rock and roll. It was the music that played on the radio stations when I was in my early teens, and it has left a lasting impression on me. I often noticed that many of the groups had a title track song on their first album with the same name […]

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I love listening to classic rock and roll. It was the music that played on the radio stations when I was in my early teens, and it has left a lasting impression on me. I often noticed that many of the groups had a title track song on their first album with the same name as their album. Bad Company and Black Sabbath did this on their inaugural albums. (For those young whippersnappers reading, they were called “albums” back in the days before CDs and MP3s.) Now, after 15 months sharing our thoughts, dreams, fears, and of course our personal challenges with our readers, I think it is time to write the “title track” article of the Just One More Year blog. Let’s call it the Just One More Year Syndrome!

Just One More Year Syndrome!
Just One More Year Syndrome!

We came up with the name “Just One More Year” through a series of conversations with our friends the Billys, discussing the options of when and how we would retire early. Mrs. Billy at one point mentioned that she and her husband had the “Just One More Year Syndrome”—much like Dianne and I do. I had been kicking around the idea of starting a PF blog for several years and thought that would be a great name, and we went with Just One More Year.

The name resonated with us since we are somewhat conservative and wanted to make what we felt were safe and well-thought-out decisions before leaving our employers. We had many moving parts involving children, college, houses, insurance, health, debt, and building a passive income stream to provide the income we needed. We also had numerous bucket list items, savings needed for replacement of items, a grand travel plan, and remodeling goals in the mix. It seemed that all of these challenges kept things interesting… and rather difficult to control. My dear readers, I am happy to say we are getting close to fulfilling our early retirement dreams!

What is the Just One More Year Syndrome and can it be treated or cured?

The definition of the Just One More Year Syndrome, to me, is:

The inability to make a decision now, since we feel that in just one more year we will have better information, more money saved, or will have met some other financial goal that will make the decision to retire early seem perfect.

Our original plans were to retire last year. However, we had significant new developments that led us to not retiring one year ago. Last year we still had passive income debt, we were attempting to downsize, and we needed to hit a milestone with an employer for insurance and pension benefits. We were selling our house, buying a downsized home, remodeling, had college expenses for two daughters, and faced the likelihood that one of our jobs could be eliminated by our employers. That made decisions difficult. All of these elements made our decision tree look like a thousand-year-old redwood, with countless branches sprouting from the trunk. We needed to identify some of the problems and get past certain milestones to eliminate the clutter from our decision-making process. We have almost arrived.

I have found it therapeutic writing about our experiences over the past year. We have shared many of our plans, our frustrations, and our fears about leaving full-time employment in our early fifties. Recognizing that we are emotional creatures and can’t control every possible outcome is a good start for us, and will help us to make better decisions going forward. Granted, the expectations about the future are influenced by our current environment and outlook.

We think there is a cure for the Just One More Year Syndrome! It will come down to adopting a YOLO attitude and reaching a breaking point with our employers. For my wife, that will happen this year. For me, that will occur as late as next summer.

Just One More Year: Fear and greed are the trigger points

What’s making the decision to leave our paid employment for early retirement so difficult? It comes down to two basic emotions—fear and greed. I am at an age where it could be problematic to find employment at a wage remotely close to my current income. I consider leaving my full-time job a one-way decision that would be nearly impossible to reverse.

I know that many of those younger and more optimistic than me may call me out, saying that is BS! Why think negatively? The sky is the limit! Who knows what great things could happen once you leave your employer?

That is true, there are infinite possibilities, however the probability not being able to replace the same wage is more likely than you might think. This NY Times article points out that 48.8% of unemployed women in the age group of 55 to 64 are “long-term unemployed.” That means they both need and are looking for work, but have not landed a job after months or perhaps years of searching. There lies my fear, for whatever disaster hits me: I have to go back to work, yet the only job I can find pays 25% of what I make now.

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself.” –Excerpt from FDR’s first inaugural address

I have had some major challenges in my life that still bring fear about future uncertainties. To list a few:

  • My youngest daughter nearly died at birth and was in intensive care for three weeks; in addition to the fear of losing her, we incurred a financial cost of $120,000.
  • I have lost several jobs due to mergers and downsizing.
  • We have had multiple challenges with selling real estate.
  • When my first wife asked for a divorce, I lost half my net worth in one day.
  • I saw both my father’s successful partner and a family member declare bankruptcy. Another family member needed to “short sell” his home.
  • My father-in-law and father died at early ages. My mother was confined to a nursing home three years ago at age 71, at a cost of $80K a year and she has no nursing home insurance coverage.
  • On Monday this week, I chatted with a fellow coffee drinking companion at the local hangout. On Tuesday this late 60’s person is found dead on a park bench.

Each of these events, and many others, have influenced me as an adult and affected my decision making for early retirement.

 

Fear and Greed
Fear and Greed

How much is enough?

Let’s not forget fear’s evil twin: GREED! Check out how the fictional movie character Gordon Gekko describes greed in this video clip.

I recognize that I have not found that magic “enough” level that is described in one of my favorite personal finance books, Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. They created a great chart with a fulfillment curve, determining the point at which we reach “enough.”

The fulfillment curve
The fulfillment curve

Here is how this graphic plays out. We begin by getting jobs to make money to pay for rent, utilities, groceries, and basic insurances. This is the “Survival” stage of our fulfillment curve.

We then advance with our educations, experiences, and employers. We receive raises, make more money, and find outlets to spend that additional income. In the “Comfort” stage, we upgrade our clunker car to something more dependable. We actually take an occasional vacation. We no longer buy the cheapest foods available, and we begin to dine out more often at restaurants.

The “Luxury” phase occurs when we begin making even more money, wiser investments, and living below our means. Living below one’s means is not required, but it does help in the long term. This is the stage during which we feel we need to upsize our lifestyles across a wide spectrum of purchases and experiences. This will be different for everyone depending on what a person values and wishes to spend money on. Maybe it’s buying the McMansion, the fifth TV, or going on world cruises. The possibilities are endless. The key here is that this stage allows us to have some luxuries. Not all of them, as just above this stage, we reach the theoretical “Enough” point.

The “Enough” point is reached when the addition of another luxury, thing, or experience begins to lose the marginal utility of return on the dollars spent. In other words, the next purchase doesn’t seem to bring as much happiness as the last. It’s kind of like eating pizza: the first piece is awesome. The second could be just as good. However, on the fourth or fifth slice, it has begun to lose its luster. How do you think the twentieth slice would taste if you could somehow consume that much pizza?

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” – Italian proverb, ca. 1603

I am struggling with finding the point of “Enough.” I know that, from a logical perspective, I can’t have everything. We live below our means and continue to save a large percentage of our incomes. But the little devil on my shoulder tells me, “You only live once! You will leave more than enough money for your family… why not do something nice for yourself and buy that fancy car and take a vacation to Tahiti? You deserve it!”

Should I concede to these money-spending thoughts, I know myself well enough to realize that I would feel compelled to continue working to build the cash reserve to replace the money spent for luxuries.

After imagining all the possible ramifications of retiring early, I allow fear to grip me again, staying stuck, not purchasing that item, and continuing to work. I keep telling myself that maybe if I work for Just One More Year, then I will have plenty of money to buy that thing or experience I so desire. Essentially, I keep moving my fulfillment curve up, failing to make the decision to leave my employer.

Check out this lady’s fulfillment curve, with a $262 million lifestyle. She is asking her ex-husband to pay for her “enoughness” level of support—including $1.3 million a year for clothes! Evidently, she has found what enough for her is, or maybe she hasn’t? There is one thing that is certain: the chart for her fulfillment curve has many more zeros in it than ours!

What can I do to cure my Just One More Year Syndrome?

I can start by counting my blessings, reminding myself that I can’t do and own everything. There has to be a compromise and a limit. I seem to want to reach perfection, where no questions are unanswered and I have twice as much saved as now. If I continue down that path, I will be working past the traditional retirement age. This is not the result I was expecting, to keep putting the decision off, when I started my PF independence journey decades ago.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey

We just have to make a decision and leave our employers and do the best we can. Even taking the pessimistic view that everything will come tumbling down the day we quit work, we still will make some money after leaving our traditional jobs. My active imagination creates the fear that the stock market will crash, all our tenants will leave, and every property will suddenly require $20K in repairs.

The good news is that because we are debt free, our basic living expenses are quite low. Even with the potential calamities that could befall us, we can figure out a way to survive. Again, those are probabilities for disaster, but not likely. The bottom line is that we need be happy with the lives we have and focus on the positive of what will be, when we are no longer chained to our employers’ desks. We have to keep that dream alive, understanding we won’t have all the answers, but we can adjust to what life throws at us.

We have already past the point of “Enough” for our present lifestyle to support us for the remaining days of our lives. Now we just need to jump!

***

Folks, do you think that fear and greed are the basic elements involved with making a decision to retire early? If so, how do you reconcile them to make decisions?

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What if our future expectations are completely wrong? http://www.justonemoreyear.com/future-expectations-completely-wrong/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/future-expectations-completely-wrong/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 00:15:26 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1347 Recently, I spent time with my youngest daughter, celebrating her graduation from high school. We shared some awesome moments and father-daughter conversations. I attended her high school graduation and took keepsake photos of the event. The next night, we had a party for her with about fifty of her friends and family. The night of […]

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Recently, I spent time with my youngest daughter, celebrating her graduation from high school. We shared some awesome moments and father-daughter conversations. I attended her high school graduation and took keepsake photos of the event. The next night, we had a party for her with about fifty of her friends and family.

High School Graduation Speeches
High School Graduation Speeches

The night of her graduation, I listened to what felt like endless speeches by school administrators, faculty, and students. Of course, they all had the common themes of hope, a bright future, and their school spirit—the best ever! I began to think back to my experience as a high school student decades ago, thinking about the speech I might have written, probably arriving at the same message about how great the future would be for us all.

Had I written a speech, would my predictions have been accurate?

I began to ponder whether my high school graduation goals have really come to fruition

As I listened to the students’ graduation speeches, I got the sense that they were painting an overly optimistic picture of the future, while of course wearing rose-colored glasses.

At their age, I could not have imagined all the opportunities ahead, or the successes and failures, tragedies, and disappointments along my journey. At 18, I felt an overwhelming responsibility to support myself financially, quickly moving out of my parents’ home. My memories tend toward feeling a lot of pressure to make it on my own.

Fortunately, my work soon began to develop into a career I could never have imagined while in high school. I worked through a series of jobs with a large employer that was soon acquired by a much larger company, providing me additional opportunities. I leveraged promotions by accepting multiple relocation moves. I became comfortable with a steady paycheck, house and car payments, and putting off increased retirement savings until some mystical “later” date. Instead of taking more risks, I settled for the career I was in and began accumulating stuff.

I didn’t “take chances and soar like an eagle” as many students recommended in their graduation speeches.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” –First inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt

Back to the graduation party. I conducted an informal survey of family members and friends, asking them, “If you could do it all over again, knowing some of the challenges you went through, would you be willing to be a graduating high school senior again without the knowledge of what you experienced”?”

The overwhelming response was “NO!

I found that answer very interesting.  As adults, we were avoiding the pain more now than the pleasure of unknown opportunities that would unfold for us as recent high school graduates.

Our mind plays tricks on our memories and ability to visualize our future

On the train trip to see my daughter, I happened to pick up a fascinating book called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologist whose book “describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions.

I gained some insights into how our minds and human emotions influence our happiness, memories, and expectations of the future. In many cases, what we think is accurate is completely wrong. We make assumptions and we indiscriminately fill in the missing pieces based on our current emotional states. Here are a couple of key items that stuck out for me.

Our past is not stored as movie

We each carry many memories that we have accumulated from early childhood up to the present day. Our mind is incapable of storing all aspects of the emotions, words, sights, sounds, etc. of these experiences. Much like a computer hard drive or a security video system recording 24/7, we soon run out of storage space. Our memories can store only some major pieces or blocks of these events. When we attempt to recall memories, our present mental state influences the recall of those memories and how we fill in what we think were the missing pieces.

We underestimate how past loss and disappointment affect us

There are studies that have been conducted on volunteers of how they would predict their happiness level if they became physically handicapped or disabled.  The traditional response is their level of happiness would be less than it is today.  Yet researchers interviewing disabled people that included blind and paraplegics found that their happiness levels were similar to the non-disabled and in some cases, they were actually happier.

Additional studies were conducted with volunteers in control and test groups asking them how they would feel about a major loss or disappointment in their lives, versus missed opportunities. Researchers found that memories of events such as divorce, family deaths, and being fired were not as unpleasant—with time—as feelings about missed opportunities. People were found to be measurably less happy when considering missed opportunities than when remembering terrible events.  For those bad experiences, the mind was able to justify and minimize the events while the missed goals had too many future possibilities to consider and needed to fill in the what-if’s.  There was a deep sense of loss from what “could have been”.. While time had healed some of the pain of past experiences, in terms of missed opportunities there was a deep sense of loss surrounding what “could have been.”

Visualizing our future is influenced by our emotional state

I like to plan future events and visualize how great things will be once I achieve my goals. Wouldn’t you know it, your present emotional state has a huge impact on how you visualize the future. Regarding the students’ graduation speeches about hope and success, it seemed like they were envisioning a future of rainbows, unicorns, and lollipops. That makes sense, though—it was a big day, one with a theme of a bright future.

I recognize that I have become weighed down by present situations

I can see that—after listening to the graduation speeches, attending the party, and reading a book on insights into our minds and thinking—I was feeling a bit blue. The last couple of years have been very busy for us, reaching financial independence, with one daughter’s college graduation and marriage, debt snowballs, downsizing, becoming debt free, and remodeling our new place. All of these things have taken energy and planning. Some have included disappointment, leaving me to wonder just how achievable my dreams really are. I recognize now that I must do something to spark the creative visualization of our future that includes positivity, hope, and discrete details.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened” Mark Twain

Time speeds by—more quickly as we get older. (I can’t believe that it’s been three decades since I was in high school!) In particular, the most recent ten years have slipped by quickly for me. We are entering a new and unfamiliar phase in our lives today. Post remodeling, post becoming debt free, and on the verge of leaving work with our employers. We believe our future involves camping, travel, healthier diets, more exercise, and additional involvement in our community. This is a pivotal point for us to change from decades of accumulating and building net worth to leaving a steady paycheck and potentially drawing on savings and retirement. The Just One More Year Syndrome is rearing its ugly head, telling us to continue to wait, due to all the scary monsters and disasters that could be ahead. I recognize that and continue to work through those worries.

Seeing the hope and creativity of young graduates is energizing, and reminds me that, no matter how discouraged I’m feeling today, there is still the opportunity to create a bright future. Even 30 years after my own high school graduation, life is still a work in progress.

Thanks for reading.

***

How about you, can you remember your high school graduation experience and your dreams for the future? Did those dreams manifest for you in ways you expected? Would you be willing to go back again and do it all over without the knowledge you have today?

Phot copyright : Viktoriia Kazakova

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High School Graduation: A father’s letter to his daughter http://www.justonemoreyear.com/high-school-graduation-fathers-letter-daughter/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/high-school-graduation-fathers-letter-daughter/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 00:15:23 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1337 Our daughter is participating in her high school graduation tomorrow and I thought it might be good to put my thoughts down in a father’s letter to his daughter.  I do not believe she is aware of this website or blog, but will certainly find it at some point.  Sweetie, I hope someday you enjoy […]

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Our daughter is participating in her high school graduation tomorrow and I thought it might be good to put my thoughts down in a father’s letter to his daughter.  I do not believe she is aware of this website or blog, but will certainly find it at some point.  Sweetie, I hope someday you enjoy my letter and my best wishes for you as you move on to college and the rest of your life.  I love you!

Dear Sweetie,

I can’t believe how fast the school years have gone by for you from my perspective.  I can still remember when you were born – you gave us such as scare.  You spent three weeks in an Intensive Care Unit with many complications.  I can still see the image of you hookup up to all those live support machines.  You have been a special girl right from you birth, doing things your own unique way on your particular schedule.  I still have not figured out that schedule!  I guess you will keep me guessing!

I am so proud of you and the progress you have made in your young life.  You have quite the gift and talent for playing the trumpet.  I know the various bands you are in appreciate your skill and own special style.  You have been such a great daughter from a parent’s perspective, avoiding many of the struggles parents face with their children as they mature.

How I remember her
How I remember her
A Picture of you last year at your sister's wedding rehearsal
A Picture of you last year at your sister’s wedding rehearsal

I have learned many things in my life that might be helpful to you.  I know you have heard much of this before – I can see you rolling your eyes right now.  I hope that you do come to appreciate the teaching and advice I have attempted to give you.  Maybe one day you will truly appreciate the advice.

Here are a few things to consider.

It will take a while to figure out what you will do for a living.  Don’t fret now that you have graduated high school.  Very few people really know what they want to do in life until they try a few things and get additional training and education.  The first, second, or third things you might wish to do for a living might not work out.  Simply look at them for the benefit of the new skills and experience you have gained from the work.  Try to find the good out of each situation and visualize how you can apply that in your next job.

Find something that you are passionate about.   You will hear everyone tell you to follow your dreams.  That is difficult advice to follow when the rest of the world gets in the way.  It is hard to ride unicorns over rainbows while playing Xbox every day.  It could be difficult making a living.  Today you have a support group with your family to try a vocation that really interests you, regardless of the money.  If you really want to pursue music, mass communications, radio, or any other interest, try it out for a couple years.  It is not the end of the world to switch your major or job.  It is far easier to do it now than when you are in your forties or older.  What is important is to understand the big “WHY” you have some interests in your live.  Take time to reflect on that, understanding your unique aptitudes, and what would be enjoyable to you.

Live Below your Means.  I see you becoming successful in your life with work.  I have imparted many money lessons over the years to you since that is one of my passions.  I truly believe that everyone should have basic money skills.  They should have a checking and savings account, a debit and credit card, and put away a percentage (at least 10% or more) toward their retirement beginning with their first job.  Along the way it is important to build credit for the purpose of buying a home, often your most expensive item.  I would plan to pay cash for your second most costly expense item, which is typically a car.  Buy your cars used and drive them for years before you replace them.  You will find that the further you live below your means, the easier your finances will be to manage in the future.

Take care of your health.  Continue to be active, ride your bike, walk, and go to the gym.  This is the only body you will have so you need to take care of it.  You will have more energy and have a happy live with a happy body.  As you get older, you will need to maintain your strength and begin to watch your diet more closely.  I was just like you for decades of my life – tall and skinny.  The skinny part is harder to maintain as you age and slow down your activities.  Creating good habits now will be easier for you to maintain in the future.

It is a joy to spend time with you and joke around.  I want you to know that you can reach out to me any time you want to talk or have a problem you wish to discuss.  Believe me, I have made plenty of mistakes in my life and have learned some lessons – usually the hard way.

We look forward to seeing you and coming back to visit us in Sedona.  I am so proud of you!

Love (have a good one!) Dad

PS:  Sweetie I am going on the record now, that you were not adopted after all.  Your mother and I did not pick you out at the orphanage!  BTW, I let your sister aware of the fact she was not adopted last year at her wedding.

PPS:  You are officially my favorite “college enrolled” daughter!  It has been a long battle and competitive fight with your sister on achieving this favorite daughter status.  Congratulations!

 ***

 

How about you, are there any readers out there with children graduating high school this year?    Did you have any words of wisdom for them as they continue with their young lives?

 

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What if One of Your Big Goals is Misguided? http://www.justonemoreyear.com/one-big-goals-misguided/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/one-big-goals-misguided/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 00:15:49 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1332 We spend a lot of time planning in this household.  I seem to initiate most of it since I can’t seem to sit still for very long.  I feel that I need to have direction and a focus; otherwise, I am not maximizing my time and energy toward making progress in my life.  On the […]

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We spend a lot of time planning in this household.  I seem to initiate most of it since I can’t seem to sit still for very long.  I feel that I need to have direction and a focus; otherwise, I am not maximizing my time and energy toward making progress in my life.  On the other hand, maybe is it just some personality quirk I have that I must have or find a problem that needs to be solved?  I have discovered that setting goals for me are therapeutic, allowing me to create plans that gives me momentum, direction, and distinct actions toward their accomplishment.

Setting Goals
Setting Goals

What happens if you wake up one day and begin to realize you have made a mistake in setting one of your big goals?  The easy answer would be to regroup, modify, or drop the goal, and simply move on to the next thing.  That does sound easy until you add some of the emotional elements of your goals into the equation.

Many of us are dreamers when we create goals

I have sailed for around 30 years, owning sometimes and going for long stretches without a boat.  Each time I get to the point where I think it is time to buy one again, the creative juices start to flow and behold, the perfect boat is found through our exhaustive search.  We then have grand visions (as probably a large percentage of boaters) of spending much time on the new boat.  Who knows, maybe do some off shore sailing and go up and down the coasts of North and South America?  Don’t forget to through in a Transpac trip from California to Honolulu Hawaii for good measure.

“The two happiest days in a boater’s life – they day they buy it and the day they sell it” – an old boating joke

 

It soon becomes magical.  Somehow, these dreams provide us the nearly unlimited time required to pursue these passions and our jobs become the furthest things from our minds.  We envision how much fun it will be sailing with our friends and family.  Heck, let’s do the Baja Ha-Ha trip down to Mexico with a hundred other boats for a great time to be had by all.

I have noticed the unrealistic dreams like this pop into my head as I visualize how great things could be.

We had similar dreams about 18 months ago about traveling through the US when we bought our used travel trailer and pickup.  We do give ourselves credit that we didn’t rush into a quick purchasing decision.  We talked about it for roughly three years before actually buying the camping rig.  We kept double-checking our thinking to make sure we had realistic expectations of how much we would actually camp.  We decided that we would go camping roughly three months a year once my wife stopped working in December.

Last year we were able to camp 30 days while we continuing to work full time.  After this weekend it will be 9 days.  However, next year we do believe we will get 90 days of camping.

I set a couple goals for the next six months

In this post, I mentioned my three major goals for the next several months.  These goals involve my health, finishing our remodeling projects, and studying German for a trip in September to Germany.

Focusing on the German goal, my motivations are based on my mother emigrating from Germany and attempting to keep contact with that part of my family.  My mother’s health is deteriorating as she is in a nursing home.  She seems to be reverting to speaking in German – what little we are able to understand.  I mentioned in the past a former goal I had to surprise my mother by having an extended conversation with her in German.  That happened about 6 years ago and I have done virtually nothing to keep up my language skills since then.

I began to have second thoughts about my renewed language goal when I looked up the last time I went to Germany:  July 2003.  In thirteen years, I have not gone back once.  Hmmm…

I seem to have a trend here.

On a walk this past weekend with my wife, I brought up the subject of my German studies.  I am studying multiple college textbooks, all five levels of Rosetta, and listening to various podcasts.  I began looking into an immersion course to really jump-start my learning. The cost of the immersion course was emailed to me over the weekend and it made me pause (due to the cost) as to what my language goal really is intended to achieve.

Why study German if I will not use the language?

History doesn’t have to repeat itself, but often it does.  Will it be another 13 years until I go back to Germany after this September?  Will my language study fall off after this trip?

“Goals are only wishes unless you have a plan” – Philanthropist Melinda Gates

 

In talking with my wife, I asked her for honest feedback about our continued travel to Germany.  Are we going to spend 3 months a year there – every year?  Where does “THE CAT” go during that time?  What happens to our planned 3 months of RV’g each year?  When we leave our jobs we will certainly have more time, but realistically is it going to be traveling to only one country?  There are 198 other countries in this world and a lot to see!

Then we talked about if it is really worth six months of study for a two-week trip?  I am beginning to believe it is not.  This is a tough decision for me since I have wanted to visit Germany on an extended stay to immerse myself in the language.  I don’t really have a good method of keeping those language skills up in a remote Arizona town of 12,000 people with half of them living here part time.

It is a complicated decision for me because I don’t like quitting on important goals and I would feel as though I am closing a chapter in my life.  I also don’t want to give up because something is hard for me.

I am in a holding pattern while I reflect on my German Language goal

In a week, I will see my youngest daughter’s High School Graduation ceremony in Colorado.  I need to think about this German language goal over the next couple of weeks to see if it is realistic and if the end justifies the work of my studying.  I have mentioned before that some slow travel on Amtrak has a way of clarifying some questions and providing me some answers.  Maybe I will get some clarity on my train trip.

I have been successful with setting big goals in the past and have been able to stay focused on them for many years.  Becoming debt free and Financially Independent would not have happened without these big goals in place.

I do plan to continue to study for half an hour per day to keep the momentum going.  It just bugs me that if I don’t do anything later with travel or family, maybe I am wasting my time.  For now, I feel compelled to study as much as possible.

Perhaps it is time to start golfing again or take up other hobbies.

***

Folks, have you ever had big goals that your wonder if they were worth achieving?  Have you changed a goal midstream and found it difficult to do?

Photo copyright: kittichais / 123RF Stock Photo

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Financial Preparedness: Creating Your Resignation Letter http://www.justonemoreyear.com/financial-preparedness-creating-resignation-letter/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/financial-preparedness-creating-resignation-letter/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 00:00:45 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1323 When it comes to thinking about the future, I tend toward constant brainstorming and preparation. This includes plans with family, schedules, vacations, and most things related to personal finance. People who know me see this pattern in my daily life and actions. I spend a lot of time and energy planning. In preparing for my […]

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When it comes to thinking about the future, I tend toward constant brainstorming and preparation. This includes plans with family, schedules, vacations, and most things related to personal finance. People who know me see this pattern in my daily life and actions. I spend a lot of time and energy planning. In preparing for my eventual departure from my employer, I’m already thinking about my resignation letter.

Don't forget to quit and hand in the resignation letter
Don’t forget to quit and hand in the resignation letter

Just for fun, I’ve come up with a couple of fake resignation letters.

I thought it would be fun to create two resignation letters, one positive and one negative. For the negative letter, I decided to write as if I were throwing all caution to the wind and letting the bridges burn! The positive approach would be the kinder and gentler resignation letter that continues the butt kissing and “corporate speak” one encounters in large companies.

I know that my sense of humor leans toward the dry side. I don’t plan to use either of these resignation letters once I decide to notify my employer of my parting. For now, this is just a way to poke some fun—at myself and at the process of leaving “the man.” For the sake of these resignation letters, I am using the movie Office Space as my inspiration, blatantly borrowing the characters’ names. My boss is Bill Lundbergh and I work for a mythical company, Initech. These are the letters I would have written after losing it, when I heard the woman chirp for the thousandth time:

 “Corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking – JUST a moment.”

The Negative Resignation Letter

May 19, 2016

Bill Lundbergh

123 Main Street

Anywhere, USA 54321

Billy Boy,

I have had it. I quit! I can’t stand another day carrying out the meaningless, mindless, and completely irrelevant tasks you seem to dream up on a daily basis. However, I have to give you credit for creating an endless stream of stupid ideas. Where do you get all your energy and creativity? Do you actually believe your own shit?

I’m telling you right now that two weeks from this second I am walking out the door and never looking back at my job at Initech. I wish you the best of luck finding someone to do this bullshit work you have assigned to me.

There will be no more goals or new plans this year that you will cram down my throat. What the hell was wrong with last year’s plan? Oh yeah, we have re-org’d three times since then. You constantly feed us the company line about how wonderful these changes are for “aligning our objectives” with some other obscure team we never heard of until 15 minutes ago. How can it actually be better every time?

You created freaking banners asking, “What can you do for Initech?” and organized Hawaiian shirt days. Great job!

Thanks so much for calling me on weekends, sending endless emails 24/7, and my favorite:

“Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too…”

You have been so busy interfering in my life that you forgot about your own. News flash: Your wife has been having an affair with your boss for the last four years. That’s right, and everyone knows. Have fun driving the Porsche home tonight!

Speaking of Porsches, while you have been spending all your money on fancy cars, clothes, vacations, houses, and country club memberships, I have been saving. In fact, I have saved my full paycheck the entire time I’ve worked for you. My family has lived below our means, driven one car, and put our money in passive investments. My wife and I never need to work another day in our lives. How does that make you feel?

Initech has been very effective at running off the best people. After two mergers and eight re-orgs in the last five years, some of us find it hard swallowing the company propaganda about how great these changes will be for us. Those who dissent and question changes are labeled troublemakers. I just love managers like you tell us, “If you don’t like change, you should consider leaving the company.” That is awesome motivation for empowering your employees. Guess what, I did “update my resume” as you suggested at least fifty times in our monotonous internal meetings.

BTW – screw the internal education and compliance stuff from now on. I digress, just as you do when you ramble on, discussing five different subjects in one long-ass sentence that seems to go on and on and on and on… and never gets to the point. You also might want to keep an eye on Milton Waddams and forget about taking your Swingline stapler back.

So “take this job and shove it” as Johnny Paycheck sang, “I ain’t workin’ here no more!”

Please don’t call me ever again,

Peter Gibbons

The Positive Resignation Letter

 

May 19, 2016

Bill Lundbergh

123 Main Street

Anywhere, USA 54321

Dear Mr. Lundbergh,

It is with great trepidation and after intense soul searching that I regrettably tender my six-month notice of resignation. It has been so hard making this decision since Initech has been the best company I have ever worked for. I can’t say enough about you, Bill, as a boss. Your leadership qualities and abilities are the best! I believe business schools should use you as a case study for their textbooks on effective business management.

I will miss the new ideas and changes you generate that always makes Initech a better place to work. It helps to keep a healthy and challenging environment by not staying with the same plan each year. Our customers completely understand these changes and recognize us as thought leaders. I am so happy when you fire those non-conformists, or they quit, because they don’t see the perfect logic and wisdom in our company’s changes. How could they possibly leave the best company in the industry? They must be stupid. I can’t imagine how unfulfilling my life will be once I leave Initech.

The only reason I am leaving is because I won fifty million dollars in the lottery last month and my attorney says I need to move to the Caribbean to shelter my income. I know you don’t encourage remote working arrangements and would prefer that we share conference room tables and desks. That builds a sense of collaboration that living thousands of miles away in an island nation would not foster. I get that. Now I am going to purchase all those fine cars and things that I was so envious of you owning all those years.

I sincerely want to keep in contact with you through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and will follow your personal blog. I want you to call any time you just feel like talking. Also, I can’t get enough of your joke emails, so please keep those coming. Should I find that something changes in my situation, I would love to come back to my old job again. I will continue to keep my skills up to date so that I can fit right back into my old position.

I now feel like I am making such a big mistake leaving Initech. There will be many sleepless nights as I think about all the great things I could have done with the company.

Your most loyal employee, 🙂

Peter Gibbons

The final version of my Resignation Letter will be professional

This was a fun exercise for me, releasing some direct and passive-aggressive tendencies in written form. Needless to say, neither of these letters will be my final version. I will probably take the weasel’s approach and keep it positive, sans sarcasm.

My decision to take the professional resignation letter path ensures my leaving under the best of circumstances. This has paid dividends for me in the past in terms of building my career. My future could manifest in ways that I cannot imagine at this point, so why alienate people on the way out?

I don’t see the need to work again, but who knows for certain. This is part of my conservative nature—wanting to have a fallback position if needed, creating my own version of an employment insurance policy. Who knows, I could form some other business with my boss or coworkers in the future. The future is uncertain; why not make something positive out of leaving work with my employer?

***

Have you already written a resignation letter in preparation for early retirement? If so, did you take the negative or positive approach?

Photo copyright : fuzzbones

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Celebrating Our Blog’s One Year Anniversary http://www.justonemoreyear.com/celebrating-blogs-one-year-anniversary/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/celebrating-blogs-one-year-anniversary/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 23:00:29 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1318 This is a quick update to celebrate one year ago today that the Just One More Year blog was launched. Hmmm, why am I still working after one year?  How many “one more” years are there going to be for me?  Why continue to work after reaching financial independence?  It might make you wonder why […]

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This is a quick update to celebrate one year ago today that the Just One More Year blog was launched. Hmmm, why am I still working after one year?  How many “one more” years are there going to be for me?  Why continue to work after reaching financial independence?  It might make you wonder why I named this blog Just One More Year if I really did not want to retire within a year.

Believe me; I did want to retire in less than one year.  These are all excellent questions that I will attempt to cover in next week’s post.

Since we are a Personal Finance oriented blog, maybe this is an appropriate image for one year.
Since we are a Personal Finance oriented blog, maybe this is an appropriate image for one year.

Stay tuned next week as I attempt to explain my thoughts around the realization that I have been unable to walk away from the perceived comforts of a steady paycheck.  I knew that I would suffer from the “Just One More Year Syndrome” once we reached the magical and logical point for us to stop work.  It is darn hard to walk away from a nice paycheck at the top of your career.  Especially true when you are in your mid-fifties where the odds of making more money in your career begin to dwindle!

I know my wife and I will both retire early.  For her it will happen by the end of this year.  For me, I am guessing that it is now less than a year from now.  It is interesting because in this post last year I mentioned that by July 4, 2016 I would have arrived:

“This year’s holiday is special for me since it will be the last July 4th Independence Day I spend dependent on an employer for income!  Next year my wife and I will celebrate an entirely new experience when we declare ourselves Financially Independent!  July 4, 2016, here we come – only 363 days to go!”

These darn blogs have a way of making you accountable.  I have found writing down goals has the same effect too.  So now, we have made it to a point that neither my wife nor I need to work for our employers to afford our lifestyle.  I can say that we have partially accomplished the goal because we have not yet actually stopped working.

So why not get on with quitting already and stop working another day filling out TPS reports, receiving the new cover letters (also PowerPoint & Word templates, new reporting systems, processes, etc.) to use as we deflect any work away we can for someone else to complete?  Unfortunately, I think it will come down to an emotional decision for me.  I will get super pissed off one day with my employer and decide I had enough.  That will be the last straw and I will give a one-month notice of my leaving.  I will be building my internal justification with every new stupid task and email I receive.  It will come to the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.

I think I will go ahead and write that resignation letter now to be prepared.

It has been an action packed year!

We have been on a path toward early retirement and reaching our comfortable financial independence level that gives a sense of security.  Reflecting back over the last twelve months, we have had a lot happening in our lives.

  • I started the Just One More Year blog. I posted twice a week for most of that time period and have posted 90 articles counting this one today.  I guest posted on Retire by 40 and Angry Retail Banker.  We had the opportunity to meet Steve and Courtney at Think Save Retire and Abby and Tim at I Pick Up Pennies last December in Phoenix.   Steve Miller and ARB guest posted on our site.
  • We took our house off the market after nine months with no luck listing it with a realtor. Important lesson:  Houses are not liquid investments – it can take a while to sell them.
  • I celebrated as my oldest daughter graduated from college and got married in September.
  • My youngest daughter graduates from high school in three weeks.
  • Through word of mouth, we sold our home to a co-worker’s parents. We had numerous inspection issues to fix as part of the sale that took time and money.
  • We nearly upsized to a McMansion in a different city located 20 miles away. What the hell were we thinking?
  • We became debt free!
  • We downsized into a smaller place and have been remodeling for the last five months! We are only three of four weeks away from finishing.
  • I celebrated my 55th birthday in style.
  • I have begun focusing more on my health by walking at least 10,000 steps each day and eating a healthier diet.
  • I booked non-refundable tickets to Germany for September to visit family and friends. I have been studying half an hour each day to improve my German speaking skills.

Thanks for reading!

There are several upsides to writing about various topics on your own blog.  You begin to meet and know other bloggers and readers that can relate with your situation.  I do not consider myself a natural writer; it is often difficult to string my thoughts together into a post that conveys my ideas.  I would much rather talk.  I have been invited by two blog sites to do a couple podcasts that will give you a chance to hear my voice.

What does the next year look like?  That is a great question!

I have already found that my focus has changed once we became debt free and built up a large cash emergency fund.  I believe I will be discussing more lifestyle design and travel related topics as we wean away from our employers’ clutches.

It is amazing how quickly the last year has gone.  Thank you dear readers, for visiting our blog site, for emailing me your thoughts, and commenting on our posts.  I appreciate your support!

 

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There is a Story in Every Campsite http://www.justonemoreyear.com/story-every-campsite/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/story-every-campsite/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 00:15:10 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1280 We just got home from five great nights of camping at Lake Pleasant.  This location is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots to camp.  The area has multiple campgrounds and sites that are quite different in their settings.  You can camp right up to the water’s edge, in areas with million dollar views of […]

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We just got home from five great nights of camping at Lake Pleasant.  This location is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots to camp.  The area has multiple campgrounds and sites that are quite different in their settings.  You can camp right up to the water’s edge, in areas with million dollar views of the lake, on hilltops overlooking the rolling hills and mountains, and finally a combination of all of these views.  On each of our camping adventures to Lake Pleasant, we have met some fascinating people and heard their story about how and why they camp.  Not to disappoint, this trip yielded some more interesting stories.

I bet you don’t see a sign like this very often!
I bet you don’t see a sign like this very often!

Our first night in camp was in a convenient pull through spot since we arrived around 8:30 that evening.  My wife had a concert commitment that kept us from leaving earlier in the day.  The next morning we were enjoying our morning cup of coffee gazing at the unobstructed views of the mountains when we heard something being pulled on the street.  We turned to look and notice a grandfather pulling three of the most adorable grandchildren in a wagon, designed with facing seats like an old time horse carriage.  We said hello and chatted for a few minutes.

Later that morning we moved about six spaces up to another spot we had reserved for the next four nights. We settled in and began to unwind.

We walked every day and checked out different rigs at the campsites

I find if fascinating all the different brands, types, sizes, and configurations one can choose from for their camping experience.  There are motor homes, trailers, and tents, to come up with some broad categories.  Within each category there are nearly infinite possible set of combinations; all customized to the camper’s particular needs.  For us, we went with the half-ton pickup pulling a tandem (double) axle trailer.

We made a point to walk on the trails along the lake and to stroll through each of the campsite areas.  In general, the entire state park was one quarter full and very quiet.  We were quite surprised how empty the campgrounds were with the weather in the 70’s to low 80’s each day.  It was great “shorts and t-shirt” weather for us.

I wonder what each camper’s story is

I have a rather overactive imagination sometimes regarding the story of people at their campsites.  Often we arrive at some basic theories based on things we observe.  The size, age, and style of their rig, the state they are from based on their license plate, the outdoor setup of chairs and tables, various motorized toys, how active they are, any pets, and their age.  Granted this is observational information that could be used to draw the complete wrong conclusion about their story.  I try to engage in conversation when possible because I am genuinely interested in hearing about other people’s experiences.

Now back to the grandpa pulling his grandchildren in the wagon.  I made multiple laps around the campground each day working on my 10,000 steps per day goal of walking.  I struck up a conversation with Don.  Over the next day, we talked on several occasions.  He finally asked if we enjoyed red wine and invited us over to watch the sunset that evening with him and his wife Carol.

Don and Carol became full-timers 8 months ago

Once the conversation began to flow, after the first glass of wine, we learned that Don and Carol sold their home in Phoenix eight months ago and became full-timers.  They had camped in prior years with a 26-foot trailer, so they had realistic expectations of how living in a smaller space would be.  Their new rig is a 35 foot Class A diesel pusher with a Jeep Wrangler as their “toad”.  This is a beautiful and comfortable setup for them that they are really enjoying.  They recently returned from a road trip to Denver the week before, visiting their other grandchildren.

They have access to a townhome in Sun City that Carol’s mother owns and they use that as their home address.  I told them about Steve’s recent post here discussing the options of owning or renting real estate and that they recently moved into their Airstream in Tucson.

Don works remotely with estimating and proposal work for a flooring company while Carol works at a part-time, flexible position selling appliances at Sears.  She spent years working for an aerospace and high tech company as a project manager.  She retired from the pressure and the expected 24 x 7 commitment to her employer.

They need to do some part time work that allows them to be location independent.  Don mentioned several times that “we are not millionaires” and that they need a bit of extra income in addition to their other sources.  They want to begin taking longer trips away from the Phoenix area once they have their additional income sources in place.

I wanted to share part of our story and early retirement dreams with them, but the conversation never moved back in that direction.

An elderly retired couple’s story

I noticed a nice Mercedes Class B camped in a handicap campsite near the public bathrooms and showers.  The camper had Ohio plates and the couple appeared to be in their mid-70’s.  Their labradoodle barked at me each of the 20 times I walked by their site.

The story of a retired couple from Ohio

The story of a retired couple from Ohio

The gentlemen wore compression stockings that led me to assume he may have DVT and the need for the handicap license plates.  I thought it was great that they traveled all the way from Ohio and were taking advantage of their gorgeous rig and wonderful weather at the lake.

I never had the opportunity to strike up a conversation with this couple.

A mystery story that revealed no answers

A regular minivan with several noticeable dents pulled in late one night into a campsite.  The next morning I walked by and noticed the van’s occupants spent the night in the vehicle.  Certainly, they would be pitching a tent the next day.  Nope!

Living in a van down by the river next to the lake

Living in a van down by the river next to the lake?

This group appeared to be a three-generation family with grandma, the mother, two teen-age boys, and a cat. Both women required wheel chairs to move.  The campsite showed that they had a reservation for 5 nights.  It appeared that during most of the day they either stayed inside the van or lounged at the picnic table.  A tent or campfire never did appear at their campsite.

I was intrigued to understand their story.  Were they homeless?  Perhaps they were moving across the country?  If that is was the case why camp 5 nights in one spot?  Were they hiding or in trouble with the law?  Maybe they were simply taking a vacation?

This story really perplexed me.  Unfortunately, I will never know.

The campsite of the young, athletic, and on the move couple

This campsite had a Toyota Forerunner pulling a small Casita trailer that was loaded with nice options.  The gadgets included a solar panel, an AC unit, tinted windows, and an anemometer.  They also had two nice mountain bikes chained to their trailer.

The young Colorado travelers?

The young Colorado travelers?

Their vehicle and trailer displayed Colorado plates, making me believe this was not the first time they camped, since they were 500 miles from home.  I never saw the people and I could only assume they were young based on the size of their rig and the mountain bikes.  This is probably the wrong conclusion.

Who knows, another unsolved mystery.

I think that as people we tend to place labels and categories on others

Writing this post demonstrates to me how I label people and things in my attempt to understand and group.  As I see and talk with people, I see these categories forming in my mind in an attempt to sort out what I am learning.  Are they friend or foe, young or old, friendly or rude, quiet or loud, the list goes on.

I truly am interested in other people’s stories and hearing about their life experiences and dreams.  I try to be open, smile and wave at people in their campsites when they appear open for the interaction.  I do the same when they walk by our campsite.

I would never walk into a site without being invited.  That is just plain rude!

It is fascinating for me when I see people camping with out of state license plates that appear to be at retirement age.  I wonder for how long have they planned, if are they full-timers, if they enjoy the experience, and whether they are happy.  What is their story?  In most cases, we will never know.

****

Do you have dreams of traveling around the country camping?  Are you a camper and if so, what is your story? 

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Today’s Article is Brought to You by My Hands http://www.justonemoreyear.com/todays-article-brought-hands/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/todays-article-brought-hands/#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2016 00:15:50 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1275 We have been a bit quiet on the Just One More Year blog here lately.  I have also been absent from my regular comments on my friends and blogging community sites.My recent pneumonia and bacterial infection sapped my energy for weeks.  Work with my employer has been busy with numerous new projects and goal setting […]

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We have been a bit quiet on the Just One More Year blog here lately.  I have also been absent from my regular comments on my friends and blogging community sites.My recent pneumonia and bacterial infection sapped my energy for weeks.  Work with my employer has been busy with numerous new projects and goal setting for the year.  To top things off, we are in full demo/remodel mode on our kitchen and two bathrooms.  My wife and I are doing most of the demo and helping with our two skilled workers as much as possible.  Because of the construction activity, my hands have taken a beating.  It goes to show how sedentary and soft we can become, sitting behind a monitor and keyboard all day, instead of going out to hunt, gather, or grow our own food.

The Human Hands
The Human Hands

I find that when I decide to take on a goal or project, I don’t hold back on my energy or time commitment.  I throw both my mind and body into the task, often scraping my hands and injuring various other body parts.  It often takes a couple weeks away from my handy man activities for my body and hands to fully heal.  I have also noticed that it seems to take longer to recover, as I have grown older.

Working on our rental properties for nearly two decades enabled me to learn some skills and gain some efficiency on projects.  This involves planning to have all the materials ahead of time, having the right tools, and having the help around if needed.  The latest project has got me thinking about how important my hands are to me.

I appreciate my hands and normally take better care of them

You would not think that I appreciate my hands based on the dings I received during our kitchen and bathroom demos.  I had the sledgehammer out for short periods of time to knock down some walls, break cabinets loose that were held by paint, and finally pulverizing into pieces a 400 lb. 30-year old tub.  This was a monster-sized tub that would have been impossible for us to carry down the stairs to the ground floor.  Just to go on record – not once did I hit a limb or anyone else while swinging that sledgehammer.

One of ,my hands after demolition to the kitchen and bathrooms
One of ,my hands after demolition to the kitchen and bathrooms

Sitting at my computer I noticed how beat up my hands look against the black desk mat.

However, I did wear gloves for much of the remodel demolition.  I was able to haul off multiple truckloads of debris to the dumpster and avoided further damage to my hands.  The demolition was very therapeutic mentally, knowing we are making progress on our projects, and that we are creating a wonderful improvement to our living environment.

An interesting note:  My right hand has only one gouge on my thumb.  I am right handed, so does this mean I am clumsy with my left hand?

I appreciate my hands and what they enable me to accomplish

It seems that when I go out of my daily routine or comfort zone, I find myself reflecting.  I certainly enjoyed doing this work over the last few weeks, however from a financial perspective, I am better off not putting a hammer or a saw-saw in my hands.  This holds true from the perspective of the physical toll it takes on my body.

The job with my employer requires very few things from me on a physical level.  The ability to think, hear, see, speak, and most importantly type.  Those TPS reports don’t type themselves people!

To break it down to the core of my job functions, I basically talk on the phone and do a bunch of typing.  I manage my email, create many documents in Word and PowerPoint, and talk with coworkers and customers.  My hands play an integral role in typing and dialing the phone.

Reflecting, these tasks require the use of my hands in my daily life:

  • 10 key data entry: I learned 10 key by touch years ago when much more data entry was required for the accounting systems we used in business.  That was a great skill I learned which still serves me well today for spreadsheet work.
  • Typing: Typing is something I learned on a manual and then electric typewriter in junior high.  BTW, I was one of the only boys in the class.  How things have changed!
  • Blog posts: Today’s post was brought to you by my hands.  Yes, I know it is typing!
  • Making phone calls: My hands are a great help to dial the the VOIP and mobile phones.  Once I am connected, my voice takes over.
  • Surfing the internet: How could we surf if we didn’t have hands?  There probably is software out there that helps solve that problem.
  • Construction projects: My hands have been required to rip off drywall corners, remove cabinets, knock out two walls, carry off trash, clean up, etc.
  • Eating: I particular enjoy eating and it would be difficult to do so without the use of my hands.  That goes for shopping and preparation of the food as well.
  • Everyday life: Activities such as bathing, dressing, driving, riding my bike, hugging, and touching others would be much more difficult without the use of my hands.  Difficult, but not impossible.

 

So I have hands, what’s the point?

I am grateful for the use of my hands and that they have helped provide an income and standard of living that we enjoy today.  The last few weeks of construction confirm this fact.

We are looking forward to getting through with our remodeling projects.  If all goes well, that will be completed by the middle of May, taking 6 months of work and dust.

As previously advertised, today’s post was brought to you by my hands.  I guess that my brain and eyes helped too.  The fingers are a bit stiff as I type these words on the keyboard, but I know they will get better as they heal.  What a wondrous creation we are as humans, that in many cases our bodies have the ability to heal themselves.

***

Do you find that your hands take a beating when used to do activities outside of the norm?  Do you make your living more from typing or more physical use of your hands in a skilled trade?

Photo Source:  Wikipedia

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Goodbye Old Buddy; Say Hello to My New Friend http://www.justonemoreyear.com/goodbye-old-buddy-say-hello-new-friend/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/goodbye-old-buddy-say-hello-new-friend/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 00:15:09 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1243 Since achieving some of our major financial milestones, we are beginning to see some changes around our household. Some of these changes include allowing personal finance magazines subscriptions to lapse and re-focusing our attention away from a debt snowball app. For the past decade, our goals had been focused on financial independence and retiring early. […]

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Since achieving some of our major financial milestones, we are beginning to see some changes around our household. Some of these changes include allowing personal finance magazines subscriptions to lapse and re-focusing our attention away from a debt snowball app. For the past decade, our goals had been focused on financial independence and retiring early. One of our secrets to maintaining this focus was to create big goals and to document them on a whiteboard. This week marks another change for us: saying goodbye to our old buddy and bringing in a new little friend.

Our old buddy and our new friend
Our old buddy and our new friend

I like to think of our old whiteboard (technically, it was silver) as a magic genie that granted many of our deepest wishes. We simply had to take the time to dream up what we wanted, agree on mutual goals, and write them down. We hung the board in a conspicuous spot in my office where we would see it on a daily basis. This provided us daily reinforcement, keeping the dreams we were trying to accomplish fresh in our minds. This board ultimately fell apart on us from so much use and activity over ten years.

Last week, I spent $5 on a new whiteboard I found in the clearance bin at the local office supply store. I brought it home so the wife could say hello to our little friend! Just like Al Pacino, this little whiteboard wields a lot of power in a small package. I can only imagine the impact it will have on our lives moving forward.

Our Old Buddy served us well

I plan to throw the old buddy away after I finish crafting these final words.

It has been a challenge for us, recognizing the importance of having the board front and center but trying to maintain our privacy while showing our home to potential buyers and having friends and family visiting. The goals we shared with our old buddy were deeply personal. Now, two months after becoming fully debt free, our focus has moved from financial goals to health, friendships and family, and of course remodeling.

We’ve made a point of updating our short-term goals every three months with actionable and quantifiable objectives. This allowed us to break up bigger goals into manageable pieces. We categorized them into seven broad categories: health, marriage, emotional/spiritual, children/family, friendships, financial, and hobbies. Every three months we would come up with goals that we felt were important enough to accomplish in the short term. We went nearly half a year without updating our goals much since we were on such a roll with becoming debt free. We essentially became hyper-focused on becoming debt free… to the detriment of everything else.

A Glimpse at My Future Goals

Choosing a smaller whiteboard was intentional. The outside dimensions are only 11 x 17 inches, quite small when compared to our old buddy in the picture. I mentioned in a recent article that it is difficult to accomplish more than three things at a time. My intention with the smaller white board was to name fewer goals and bring our focus on only three big items at a time.

Of course that has not happened yet. Old habits are hard to break!

My top three goals in the next three months are my health, completing our remodeling, and a crash course in German. Let’s take a look at each goal.

Goal #1 for 2016: My Health

I mentioned about how the stresses with selling our home, becoming debt free and remodeling have become a major challenge in my life. When I took a look at a recent picture, I got an objective view of my weight and lack of focus on my health. This hit home two weeks ago.

I had hiked nine miles over the weekend on some beautiful Sedona trials. Monday afternoon I began to develop a cough. By Wednesday, after little sleep, it felt like I was coughing up a lung. Thursday morning after no sleep, I checked myself into the emergency room. The prognosis: bacterial infection and pneumonia. I was given antibiotic treatment, strong cough medicine, and ordered to get rest. Two weeks later, I still have not fully recovered.

Early last week I was finally able to get in to my doctor for a visit. I then got some more disturbing news. The X-rays found an 18 mm lump on one of my lungs and my blood work showed some elevated enzymes. Last week I had a CT scan and this week a more comprehensive blood test is scheduled.

The past two weeks have been a wakeup call as to how short life is and fragile our health can be. My eating habits have already changed and I am including gentle walks each day to keep my body moving and to recover.

Goal #2 for 2016: Finish the Remodeling

I believe the amount of activity and energy spent on our various remodeling projects has weakened my energy level and immune system. I am ready for it to be done! My wife is beginning to play a more active role in the projects so that I can focus more on goal #1: my health.

If things go well, we should have 99% of our remodeling work completed by the end of May.

Goal #3 for 2016: A Crash Course in German

One of the most rewarding things I have ever done was a certain birthday surprise for my mother. This happened about six years ago. I decided that I was going to make a huge commitment to speak conversational German.

My mother emigrated from Germany when she met my father, who was in the U.S. Air Force. I have visited Germany many times and have had the opportunity to see family on their trips to the U.S. My mother attempted to speak German in the house to get us acclimated prior to our overseas trips or when family came to visit. Unfortunately, we missed an excellent opportunity to become bilingual in our childhood.

I completed German courses in high school, one class in college, and have used various home study courses to brush up my skills. I decided to “go all in” six years ago with the goal of calling my mother on her birthday, speaking to her only in German. With that big goal in mind, I dedicated a significant amount of time and energy to accomplish it.

My plan including taking two local community college courses, hiring a private instructor, joining a monthly German meet-up, and beginning weekly calls with a lifelong friend of my mother, who has known me from birth. In my spare time, I was consumed with self-study home courses. I was motivated and spent nearly two years on this goal.

I remember that day well. We were still living in the Bay Area and I was walking with my wife along the Pier 39 area in San Francisco in April 2010. I called my mother and wished her a Happy Birthday in German. She responded in German and a couple sentences later, she was speaking English. I continued to respond and direct the conversation back to German. Nearly 20 minutes into this conversation I remember her saying something that still sticks with me today: “Ich bein sehr stolz!” (I am very proud!) That was a defining moment for me; those two years of work were worth it!

Now I have an opportunity to take a trip to Germany in September with my mother’s lifelong friend (the same one who helped me with German) and her daughter whom I have known since she was born. They are traveling to the same area where my relatives and family live. This is a golden opportunity for me to work on my German again and to keep the family connection strong.

We bring power to our goals when we can accomplish many other benefits

The Germany trip and language goals are big for me. I have found that when I combine many different goals together I can gain some momentum and help generate the motivation I need to stick to a big goal. Examples: listening to language courses when exercising or when engaged in slow travel.

Less than a year after her birthday call in 2010, my mother began developing signs of Parkinson’s disease. In July three years ago, she entered a skilled nursing home at only 71 years of age. This has been tough on my family and stepfather especially. One of the disease’s effects on my mother’s body is that her mind is slowly shutting down. This has affected her ability to communicate. When she has a difficult time speaking, she is now reverting to using German, her native language.

Who would have known a goal I had six years ago—to speak with my mother in German—would have turned out to be so important to me and to my mother? My mother receives calls from German relatives and friends periodically that my stepfather attempts to answer. Essentially, he holds the phone to my mother’s ear, attempting to give health updates. He speaks almost no German, even though his family is also from Germany. This has made communication with family difficult.

An additional note: Neither my brother and nor stepsisters speak German, and my stepsisters have never visited their relatives in Germany. I am the last link to our German heritage on both sides of our family. It is up to me to keep the communication alive. Talk about motivation!

Making some strides

I began this post by describing how our old buddy is being replaced with our new whiteboard. This monologue quickly morphed into a discussion about health, family, and German. It simply reaffirms why being clear on short-term goals can help shape and accomplish long-term objectives.

I plan on making my three goals a priority over the next three months. Our new whiteboard is now hanging on the back of my home office door, enabling us to read it on a daily basis. It is important for me to plan on hiking, while listening to my language studies, immersing myself in both health and German.

The benefits of these goals are that my visits with my mother will be more rewarding and helpful, enabling me to converse in a manner that is easiest for her.

 

How about you, do you write down your goals and measure their results? If so, has it helped you accomplish your top priorities?

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Health: The last few weeks have been tough http://www.justonemoreyear.com/health-last-weeks-tough/ http://www.justonemoreyear.com/health-last-weeks-tough/#comments Fri, 11 Mar 2016 00:15:26 +0000 http://www.justonemoreyear.com/?p=1234 We have been on a journey the last three to four months with selling our home, moving, remodeling, becoming debt free, and capping it of by going on a nice vacation cruise.  I have continued to work from my home office while the various remodel and construction projects are under way.  My wife and I […]

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We have been on a journey the last three to four months with selling our home, moving, remodeling, becoming debt free, and capping it of by going on a nice vacation cruise.  I have continued to work from my home office while the various remodel and construction projects are under way.  My wife and I have completed some of this remodel work ourselves, while the rest was finished using sub-contractors.  We crammed a lot of activity into a short period, attempting to get projects completed before our vacation.  I had been in great health through this transition and for the week immediately after the cruise.

A bug caught me and affected my health
A bug caught me and affected my health

The first week back from our vacation was rough returning to work.  The nature of my work means that essentially 95% of the activity waits for me to manage when I return.  No one else does the work for me.  Our cruise was intentional in having an electronic blackout with no phones, internet, and email.  This was our attempt to disconnect and recharge the batteries.  It worked!

I came back to hundreds of emails and new tasks that needed handling.  I attempted to balance this with replacing all our windows and installing new mini-blinds.  I topped off the first weekend back with a 9-mile hike between Saturday and Sunday.

 Then my health began to suffer

I developed a cough on the Monday after my hiking.  It got worse Tuesday and that night I barely slept two hours.  I felt like I was coughing up a lung.  My wife called my doctor to schedule an appointment however he could not see me that week.

Wednesday night brought no relief or sleep.  This was driving me crazy and I knew I couldn’t go another day in this condition.  (BTW – I very rarely get sick.  This is highly unusual for me.) I went to the emergency room at 6 AM Thursday.

My vitals were taken and the ER doctor examined me.  He order x-rays of my chest, which then revealed I had pneumonia.  He mentioned I was dehydrated and that I had a bacterial infection that he prescribed treatment for.  He also gave me some heavy-duty cough syrup with Codeine – life began to improve immensely.  🙂

 

I received a couple health surprises from the doctor

I was able to see my doctor first thing Monday morning to follow-up my ER visit.  He read the ER doctor and x-ray technician’s notes, and then dropped this bombshell on me: you have an 18 cm lump on your lung that is probably from the pneumonia, but we should get it checked out.  I thanked God that I am a non-smoker!

After working through the insurance company, I was able to schedule a CT scan that required them to inject dye into my blood stream.  That was completed yesterday – I have no idea what the results are at this point.

[Update 3/11:  The doctor gave me great news that the spot on my lung is arthritis, probably caused from a prior skiing injury in my youth.  Also, he is not concerned about the enzyme level, since the antibiotic treatment can cause that particular side effect.  We are still proceeding with the blood test next week just in case.]

Surprise #2: I was told I have some elevated enzymes.  This is probably attributed to some prescribed medicine that I started taking about four months ago.  I believe this will be resolved with the next scheduled blood tests.  They should be able to adjust my dose or change the type of medicine.

I have little energy and tire easily

This really kicked my butt.  I have never felt this sick before and it has forced me to really slow down.  I am finally sleeping well each night and I am attempting to nap at least 30 minutes each day.  Walking up a hill can make me feel winded and start a fresh round of coughing.  I have been quiet on the blog and negligent on visiting my favorite sites while attempting to rest.

The good news is I am at about 80% energy now and I have lost weight because I ate very little for a week.  My appetite is back and I am monitoring how much food I eat – trying to stay at healthy portions.

Getting sick helped me appreciate my health

I have had a lot of time the last two weeks to reflect about my life, my health, and how much longer I should continue working.  My biological father died at 73 and my mother moved to a nursing home at 71 due to Parkinson’s.  It is difficult to see my closet relatives in poor health and at such a young age.  It seems that for many of us we must hit rock bottom to receive a wakeup call, as Luke mentioned in his recent article.

My thoughts are leading me toward my wife stopping work very soon and we start traveling more in our camper.  With my friend Steve buying his rig recently I have been feeling motivated and more in a retirement mood now.  Heck, he is doing it in his early 30’s!  I know I can continue to work for a bit more with my employer remotely and still enjoy the camping experience.

Dear readers, I think the Just One More Year mantra will now morph into just a few more months.

 

 

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