Tag Archives: Success

10 Questions For: Retire By 40

Joe Udo and Baby RB40 Photo courtesy Retireby40.org.

Joe Udo and Baby RB40
Photo courtesy Retireby40.org.

Today I’m kicking off a brand new feature on Pretired.org. It’ll be an occasionally recurring piece called “10 Questions For”. For the first one, I felt it only appropriate to feature the man who is basically my blogfather: Joe Udo of Retireby40.org. Joe’s blog is more than a detailed primer on how to escape the corporate treadmill, but is also an inspiring journey. Go back to his first post and read your way forward the way I did and you’ll be drawn in by his complete transparency and you’ll share his joy as he finally makes the move and quits his job. It’s a great blog and I recommend it to anyone considering pretirement. But I wanted to know more so I asked him 10 Questions.

How old were you when you decided to “Retire by 40”?

I think I was 36. Before that point, I was just planning to switch jobs or try to find a job at a different company.

I imagine there was a certain moment when you realized that you were throwing your life away working at a big corporation. Can you share that turning point?

It was a gradual process for me. I started getting some mysterious illnesses like dizziness and panic attacks when I was 35. The doctors never found anything conclusive, but I figured the stress was getting to me. I hated walking into work every day and that’s not a good way to live.

You figured out the path to financial independence earlier in life than most people in America. To what influences do you give credit for learning how to get there?

Actually, we’re not quite there yet. Mrs. RB40 is still working and that’s how she likes it. Our next target is to be able to function without her paycheck and save all of it. I think starting the Retire By 40 blog really helped me figure out how to quit my job. I had to research all the articles I wrote and the more I wrote, the more I learned. I was already reading a lot of personal finance articles, but writing my own blog was a big step toward financial independence.

You could have decided to “retire by 45” or “retire by 50”. You chose 40. Did you ever think about working a few more years to pad your retirement?

Not really. I already stayed at my old job longer than I wanted to. I figure if I couldn’t make it work, I could always go find another job. We also continue to save so our net worth is still increasing. We are not drawing-down yet so all-in-all we are doing fine.

It’s fairly unusual for the male in the relationship to be the one who stays home to raise the child. How did you and your wife decide you’d stay home? How does she feel about it?

She loves that I’m able to stay home with our kid. She knows she can’t be a stay at home mom because she likes to work and she is not the most patient person in the world. It’s not for every family, but it works well for us.

At what age does your wife plan to retire? What are her plans?

I think she’ll keep working until about 60 or so. She is restless and she likes being in the workforce. Perhaps she’ll cut down on the hours if we don’t need her salary anymore.

Your last day at your old job must have been amazing. What was that like?

It wasn’t dramatic because I wasn’t going in much in the last week. I worked from home and just took care of a few things. It felt great to drive away from the office for the last time, though.

Many, if not most, people are afraid to leave corporate life at such a relatively young age. What fears did you have before and do you have any worries now that you’re a stay-at-home dad?

Of course, I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to make the cash flow work. You can plan, but you never know how it’s going to turn out. Things are going really well, though, so I don’t worry much about the finance at this point. 

Do you think everyone should try to retire by 40 or is it only for people who hate corporate life?

It’s more applicable to people who don’t enjoy their job anymore. However, you should still plan ahead even if you love your job/career. You probably won’t love it forever and it would be good to have an alternative plan.

What are your plans for when your son goes off to school? Obviously you’ll have a lot more time on your hands.

I’m still trying to figure it out. I would like to start some kind of micro business or just work more online. How about you? Do you have any plan for when your son starts school?

See folks, this is how nice of a guy Joe is! I’m asking him 10 Questions and he turns it around to find out more about me! But I’ll answer anyway: I’m not sure what I’ll do when Pretired Baby goes off to school. I’ll be 50 by that point so it’s going to be pretty hard to get a real job at that point, even if I wanted to find one. Ideally I’d have a little business of my own or maybe we’ll just do a lot of travel and sort of home-school him from the road. Short answer is I’m not sure yet, but it sure is nice to have options!

Thanks again, Joe! And for anyone who hasn’t already discovered Joe’s excellent blog, be sure to head over to Retireby40 right now!

I’m sure Joe will be stopping by at some point so feel free to say hello in the comments as well! 

What’s the best way to raise successful kids?

Is private school and expensive college the right move?

“You give your children enough money to do something but not enough to do nothing.”

-Matt King in The Descendants, as played by George Clooney

Now that I have a new baby, I’ve been doing a lot thinking about what it means to be a good parent and how best to set my son up for success.

Pretired Nick having fun on the beach instead of learning another language or music.

Pretired Nick having fun on the beach instead of learning another language or music.

Parents feel a lot of pressure and guilt to produce perfect adults and, of course, in the process inevitably screw up their own kids in their unique way. In America, where schools have been gutted by right-wing politics, desperate parents are spending gobs of money on private schools to protect their munchkins from the scourge of public school. And who is to say they shouldn’t? Schools in America are (largely) a joke, particularly in middle school and high school. Unfortunately this latest version of “white flight” is setting up a self-selecting cycle of failing schools as those who can afford to flee do so and leave the struggling masses behind.

I am a product of public grade schools and a private high school that I later realized offered a completely inadequate education such that I found when I reached college that I had to work much harder than everyone else just to catch up. I paid my own way through college using just one small loan at the very end so I could quit my job and take a few extra credits to graduate sooner.

So given all of that, what’s the best way to set my own child up for the greatest success?

To answer that I had to do a lot of thinking about what success means. What I realized was that it wasn’t about money. To me, success is the ability to pursue whatever interest you might have to your fullest ability to pursue it. It’s impossible to talk about this concept without mentioning Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. But this Maslow quote best sums it up for me:

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.”

-Abraham Maslow

The word “happiness” is thrown around quite often, but it is actually very difficult to define. Obviously the word connotes images of someone blissed-out and smiling. But it’s actually easier to understand by thinking about its opposite. We can tell when someone is clearly not happy, but not always when they are happy.

However I did have something of an epiphany some years ago. When working on a big remodeling project I realized that when I really got into a groove, my mind went blank, my hands operated without mental intervention and hours disappeared. Later I read about how Tibetan monks often report being happier than the rest of the population and even are proven to be so under brain scans. As I paid more attention, I realized this feeling of intense concentration did actually put me in a state of what you could call happiness.

This could happen when deeply focused on a spreadsheet at work, when writing, creating music, gardening or any other thing that seized my full concentration. Letting our brains become absorbed with deep concentration on something we enjoy may just be the secret to a happy life. This is why the quote from Maslow above is so important. A creative person pushed by his parents into a uncreative career may be chronically depressed without knowing why and despite huge wealth. Meditation may be a way to recover some balance, but finding the right activity for your own personality and doing that may be equally effective.

Again, a way to understand this may be to look at the opposite. When we’re depressed or stressed, we are often multitasking or have many things on our mind at once: This report is due by Friday, I’ve got to pick up the kids after work, we don’t have anything for dinner, what if I lose my job, etc. Contrast that to a day at work when you were really in the zone with what you do. You are at peace, settled and balanced. The hours fly by. I want to live that way every day.

So how does this relate to parenting? Setting an example of living as much as possible in a self-actualized state is probably the best thing you can do for your kids. Show them what contentment looks like. If you’re constantly chasing dollars and are captured by consumerism, your kids will only understand those values.

With that understanding, here is how I hope to approach raising my own kid. I’m not so arrogant to think I won’t be screwing him up in my own wonderful way, but hopefully with this approach, he’ll be able to find his own way to whatever happiness he chooses.

  1. Be there. Kids need support and attention. The idea of “quality time” is total bullshit. Kids need “time”. I refuse to spend weekend time watching TV or running errands. Our time together is about learning and exploration.
  2. Display nonconsumerist values. Teaching a young one that “stuff” is a drag on our lives, not a benefit will do more to set him up for success than any other factor.
  3. Teach him smart money management. His freedom depends on an ability to avoid being trapped by debt. No one taught me how to manage money and I think it would have helped a lot having someone guide me through this confusing aspect of life.
  4. Making him responsible for himself. Earning money and paying for his own toys and activities will help him learn to take care of himself. Hopefully he doesn’t turn out to be a “bad kid” that needs tough love, but only time will tell.
  5. Ensure he learns another language while still young. It pains me greatly that my parents didn’t give me access to another language. Can I learn another language now? Sure, and I am learning and that will continue. But it is in NO WAY the same to learn a language as an adult vs. as a child. Entering adulthood as a monolingual person is a huge disadvantage.
  6. Ensure he learns music while still young. Similar to learning another language, learning music while a child makes a massive difference. It helps with brain development but more importantly gives the child access to an important skill.
  7. Let him access the world. Seeing the world will, of course, give him a greater perspective and appreciation for his fellow humans, but if I can engineer a way to grant him dual-citizenship to another country the menu of options he’ll have for his life will be even greater. But at minimum, we need to travel quite a bit so he can see what else is out there.
  8. Teach him respect for nature. Learning to appreciate, understand and respect nature, not only makes you a better person, it could even aid your survival in extreme situations.
  9. Teach him self-sufficiency. No one knows that the future holds. Skills like gardening, construction, canning and fire-making could end being critical skills in the future. But even if they don’t become necessary for survival, they are important for building confidence. He shouldn’t have to worry what will happen to him no matter what occurs.
  10. Teach him about physical health. Learning how to stay healthy is becoming increasingly important in a fatter America. Enjoying and understanding physical activity is so important and so is learning to eat healthy food, in particular avoiding processed crap. I hope we’re able to prevent him from even knowing some of this “food” exists until he’s much older.

Much of this perspective, naturally, comes from what my parents either did or didn’t do for me. We all react against the way we were raised, right? If I could pick just a few things I wish my parents had done for me, they’d be learning another language, learning music and dual-citizenship. Those are things that it’s just very hard to replace as an adult. We’ll see how I do with my kid.

So, I could sacrifice my pretirement, work 20 more years to pay for his private school and college, but that is not only unpleasant for me, I don’t even think it’s the best thing to do for him.

What do you think? Is it just selfish rationalization that it’s best for him that I don’t go back to full-time work to finance his education? Or is it his best chance at happiness?

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