I lost my wedding band, and I don’t care

wedding ring


Spending a lot of money on nice wedding and engagement rings might be the right decision for some people, but don’t be fooled.  Spending unnecessarily on expensive wedding rings is a bad financial decision and a really inefficient way to prove your love.  Save up to $8,000 over 10 years by simply buying less-expensive jewelry.

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How long until retirement: an interactive tool

ice branches
how long till your financial dreams thaw out and come to life?

How many more years will you have to work before you can retire / achieve financial independence?  With it being the start of a new year, I wanted to get a handle on this question myself.

I’ve already written a few articles on this subject (pretirement, financial independencepower of a high savings rate, etc.), but all those calculations are pretty static.  For example, the pretirement calculations assume that you stop saving completely at some point in your career and just let compounding investment growth take care of the rest.

But what if you don’t want to take your foot all the way off the gas, and instead want to keep saving, but perhaps at a lower rate.  I’m thinking of McDude, a regular reader that recently decided to switch to a lower-paying but more satisfying job.

Knowing him, he probably went through some math about how much longer he would have to work in his new, more satisfying job to reach financial independence.  And that’s exactly the kind of information that this interactive tool should hopefully be able to provide to other readers as well.

fireworks and hangovers aside, new years is a good time to re-align financial goals and priorities

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Location arbitrage: living abroad to save money

beach cocktail


Living abroad in countries like Ecuador or Thailand can save the average American serious money (and serious working time).  Specifically, living in an inexpensive country abroad for 10 years saves nearly $225,000 versus living in the U.S., and even more than that for big spenders.  As more and more people transition to location independent careers, this is an option that deserves more than just a passing thought.

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Live good: 1,500 of America’s experts share their wisdom

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something.  According to this standard, the 70-year-old life experts I’m going to discuss below have earned this designation 40 times over.  Nobody can argue with that kind of experience, but it only matters if it makes you more effective than a lot of other people, right?

So what is the verdict, are older people better at life?  If your definition of a good life is one that is filled with happiness and contentment, then the answer appears to be yes.  Older people are happier than any other age group, and they continue to get happier as they age. The phenomenon looks a little something like this:

Happiness and Age Chart
Happiness and Age Chart

I first came across this chart in Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness.  It is sort of funny that happiness declines steadily as people’s children age, dropping to its lowest point right before kids leave the house, but that is beside the point. Look what happens from age 52 on (once those pesky teens leave the house); happiness goes on a growth tear breaking all previous records at age 70, and continues to post solid gains every year after that.

Can someone please fast forward to age 70 for me please? Just kidding.  The point is that older people know how to live a happy life, and we can probably learn a lot from their experiences.

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Live close to work to save on commuting costs

German road
this road sort of makes me want a longer commute, maybe a bike commute actually

Right off the bat, I have to mention that my inspiration for this post was Mr. Money Mustache.  He has a very similar post, and I want to give credit where credit is due: The True Cost of Commuting by Mr. Money Mustache. That being said, I had to get this into my ROI scoreboard because car commuting is such a big expense, and therefore likely to be one of the biggest savers as well.

The way I set this example up was to assume that you moved 10 miles closer to work.  Remember, these costs / savings are on a per person basis, so with a two car, two person household, the savings could be double.  What I found is that over 10 years, if you live 10 miles closer to work, you will save about $37,000! That is about 1 year of work every 10 years at an average U.S. household income after taxes.

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Lifestyle inflation: pocketing America’s spare change since 1950


How did our young, handsome grandparents spend money back in 1950 and how do we spend it today?

a happy couple from back in the day
a happy couple from back in the day

In real terms, our quality of life as Americans is much better today than it was in the past (but maybe not for much longer?). Goods and services are cheaper than ever (such as flights), and salaries are higher too. While these trends might not continue, I thought it would be fun to compare how someone from 1950 would spend their money today.

Going into this project, my guess was that people from 1950 would be able to save a lot more money than we do today. This turned out to be true.

If the average American adopted spending habits from 1950, their savings rate would be 5 times higher, at almost 20% ($75,000+ every 10 years)!

As we know, however, most Americans haven’t pocketed productivity and/or salary gains over the last 60 years. Instead, we have inflated our lifestyles to accommodate all the extra cash floating around.

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Keep it 100 with a low-information diet

clouds sky

If you’ve read this blog much in the past, you’ll know that a recurring theme of mine is owning your own life. In other words, prioritizing the things you care about and allocating your time and money accordingly – living intentionally.

For me, one of the things that meant was getting rid of a bunch of stuff that wasn’t adding much value in my life, at least compared to the things that I could have been doing otherwise. And I have to say, although sometimes it has been really hard to get rid of things, I have truly come to love cutting shit out of my life… very liberating.

It is one thing to acknowledge at an intellectual level that much of our lives revolve around stuff we don’t really need to be happy (or worse, things that actually lower our happiness), but it is something far greater to experience the joy of prioritization and ruthless simplification first hand.

So today, I’m going to tell you about my recent implementation of this CUT-IT-OUT philosophy via the low information diet.

cut it out old
cut it out new

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Why it pays to bring your lunch to work

portland food cart goodies
Portland food cart goodness

I bring my lunch to work every day except for the occasional Friday when I go out with my coworkers.  This is pretty hard for me because restaurants are the Achilles heel of my household budget, well, that and travel.  I love a nice meal, especially one with friends, so I figured that I would make sure the view was worth the climb.

I can now definitively say that it is worth it for me to bring my lunch to work.  I am probably saving about $1,800 per year by bringing my lunch to work.

In this example, I took a conservative approach by assuming that you would pack a moderately gourmet and healthy lunch every day and that you weren’t wasting any time or fuel when you ate lunch out (ex: delivery or in-office cafe).  If anything, the numbers are a little understated.

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Intentional spending for happiness

happy kids
kids have it all figured out, man!

This blog is loosely about the best way to spend your time and money. That is a pretty loaded statement, so let me break it down a bit.  By best way to spend your time and money, I mean the way that will maximize your happiness.  Because that is what time and money are for, right?  They are a means to an end (Money, you’re such a tool!).  They are not valuable in and of themselves; they are valuable based on how you spend them, or to put it another way, they are valuable for their potential to be spent.  Even though I denominate everything in dollars here, time needs to be included in this equation too because there is an inevitable tradeoff between time and money.  Acquiring more money requires more of your time, and having more time requires more of your money.  So what kind of balance should you strike between time and money activities to maximize your happiness (aka utility in econ-speak)?

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The importance of narrative

road trip

The stories we tell to ourselves and each other matter a lot.  I don’t know where I read it, but I remember coming across research that said humans’ thought processes evolved first and foremost to win arguments rather than to understand the world for exactly how it is.  In that sense, our minds are more political than they are scientific.

For this reason, ancient philosophers such as Plato had a healthy sense of scorn for sophists and other rhetorical magicians. They accused sophists of using language tricks and storytelling to deceive people and/or support faulty reasoning.  In their eyes, sophists ultimately distracted people from The Truth.

But I think the sophists were on to something, and a smattering of anecdotal research supports this claim.  Humans have a natural proclivity for stories, which can be exploited to both the benefit and detriment of individuals and large groups of people.

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