Plan for Family and Finances

The most frustrating thing about understanding personal finances is recognizing that if a person had 100k invested by age 30, they would have 1million by age 65, and be able to comfortably retire. Of course, most 30-yr-olds  don’t have 100k laying around, so nearly everyone is disadvantaged  from the start.
Our parents didn’t plan for us 30 years ago, so now we have to plan for ourselves. Most adults try to save money slowly,  by investing 5k per year. This strategy works, but slow investments take more and longer; so it will take 40-years and 200k in investments to get to 1million. Which means that we’ll be working longer, and retiring later.

In past generations, parents didn’t need to have a financial plan for their children, but now it’s essential. Simply loving a child is not enough, a parent must prepare for their children’s future needs, and the best way of doing that is to give them financial security.

People my age are starting to marry and have babies, but most of them are going about it haphazardly; failing to plan for the long term, and not really saving money for their children’s futures.  A child is a lifelong responsibility, and they’ll need more than just food and shelter.
If you invest 10k for a newborn infant, they’ll have 65k by the time they reach 29-yrs old.  And if they invest it into their own retirement, they’ll have 750k by the time they reach 65-yrs. All without making any further investments.

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Summertime Blues

I find myself in a holiday spirit in the middle of summer.
I do not crave the sunshine, my  desire is for the joyful festivities; themed parties, colorful  décor, and seasonal sweets.  The summer months may be warmer, but they’re not jolly. I found myself singing Christmas songs in June, and missing the playful glow of twinkly lights which ornamented the neighbors houses.  But alas, the warmness of the summer months  brings me no joy.
I’ve been surprisingly busy this past month.
My leisure-hobby night-job has picked up speed and I find myself busy 4 nights a week with it. Being busy is a new sensation for me, last year I went straight home after work, but now, I don’t make it home until late. My life is now organized into little 90-minute chunks.   90-minutes for this, 90-minutes for that.
It’s not with haste, but more like a duteous lifestyle, never idle, always on my way to do something else. It’s the kind of rhythm that most people only experience during the holiday rush,  with the urgency of preparations; presents, decorations, travel plans, meals. Not all at once, but consistently, for weeks it occupies our attention.
I used to enjoy reading the news, with the hopes that something new and exciting was happening nearby, but lately, I wish the news wasn’t so ridiculous.
In the past, outrageous news was really interesting, something thrilling and curious.  But now it doesn’t even seem real.
Week after week, wave after wave, of the most unbelievable politics you could imagine.    Caged children, space-military, Chinese tariffs, misbehaving politicians, people being cruel to each other, travel bans.   I’m really disappointed with how things have been going. People are suffering; physically, emotionally, financially.
I was hoping we’d have flying cars and ethical treatment by now, but instead it seems like our culture is on the brink of collapse.

 

What’s a Wedding?

I’m getting to the age where everyone asks if I’m getting married at every occasion possible. It’s a nuisance because I am nowhere close to getting married. So obviously, now feels like a good time to be objective about the social perceptions of weddings.
– Is it fair to say that weddings are a scam, because the location and style of the wedding will not affect how I feel about my spouse?  – I would be happy to get married anywhere, with a similar level of enthusiasm as I would be happy to vacation anywhere. If the company is good, it’ll be fine.

I think people like to have their wedding at glamorous  locations just for the WOW factor. But weddings don’t actually require guests, so those weddings are for narcissism.      Some religious formalities don’t include dancing or wine; so if the theme is dutiful-pious, then the whole thing could be done in 10 minutes [prayer, vows, paperwork]. After all, getting married is easy, staying married till death do us part is harder.
But people still usually go for classy-extravagance style weddings, just to make a big event out of it. & Force their friends and loved ones to travel distances, and buy nicer clothing.
Of course, None of it will matter if the person you’re marrying isn’t passionate about being married.
I firmly believe that modern day people tend to get married for the wrong reasons, and/or expect too much from the union.  Societal pressure, or religious expectation; confusing lust with love, or financial strain; emotional dependence, or insecurity. Most people aren’t mentally prepared for married life, and struggle with the spouse-self life-balance afterward.

I saw a Shakespeare play recently; As You Like It, and in the final scene there’s a wedding where 4 couples are married in one ceremony.  Rosalind to Orlando, the jester to Audrey, the shepherd to the shepherdess, and Celia to Oliver. The wedding ceremony is brief and afterward all the characters gleefully renaissance dance in a circle.
–  Perhaps it was a simpler time, and people were happier with their choices because of their shorter lifespans. Perhaps marriage was informal back then, so people committed to it nonchalantly. Or perhaps people were just aware that the ceremony is less important as the spousal commitment itself [which doesn’t explain why they’d get married having known each other less than a week].
Fast forward 400 years,
There’s a tv show on Netflix right now called Cheapest Weddings, where Australian couples economize their wedding spending.  About half of the couples are doing this  because of other priority life expenses, and the other half because of a previous divorce [no sense in having an elaborate wedding  for a marriage that might not last].
Most of these ‘cheap’ weddings still cost ~$5k, and resemble a regular party.
Just thinking about organizing a extravagant event is a headache. And not even in my imagination will it ever be as fun or themed as want it to be.
Specialty event costs are high, because no one owns a restaurant that already offers the location, catering, tables, and chairs. Which means that each and every thing has to be hired out individually.
Easiest-case scenario is a restaurant party thrown beside a seasonal event. Ideally, a faire or festival, or something of a similar themed ambiance.  At least that way, the entertainment and decorations are taken care of. Buy dinner and  drinks for the family at a restaurant, and then release them all into the festival.  No fuss.

People Don’t Change: this is you

The way you do 1 thing, is the way you do all things.
If you like a  [insert an adjective: creative/modest/hectic/messy/tidy/unadventurous] home, you’re a [adjective]  person, your work environment is also [adjective], Everything you do will be [adjective].
People don’t change. People lie to themselves about situations where they could potentially change, but they always fall short.

I have a dear friend, who is a slob. Years ago, when I first met them, they were this way, and now, years later they are still this way.   They lie to themselves, and to everyone else, saying things like, “when this happens, I’ll be totally different”.  But people don’t change.  This friend has traversed many life milestones, yet their behaviors have stayed the same throughout.
Trusting that you’ll be proficient at something that you’ve never put into practice   is delusion.   No one wakes up suddenly and has an innate desire to be dramatically different; people are obstinate, and it takes time and training to learn new habits.

I have a different friend who preaches about being a traditionalist-at-heart, but his life is the exact opposite of this; he’s actually a Nonconformist in every way.  He doesn’t have a traditional home, he doesn’t have a traditional career, he doesn’t sleep or eat or behave in traditional ways. He preaches about what a romantic he is, but in 47-yrs has never been in a long-term relationship.  He just likes to lie to himself and others about the type of person he is.

I have other friends that also like to lie to their dates.
They lie about being more interesting than they actually are,  having more hobbies or more talent; being more successful or more conservative. They have no reason to lie about these things, since their dates are new acquaintances with no preconceived notions, but they do it anyway, risking the possibility  that their date may figure out the truth; in essence, setting themselves up for failure.

People appreciate honesty, but Being honest with oneself is just as difficult. Self-confidence plays a role, so does denial, procrastination, humor, presentation. ect.
Question your own behaviors to see if they even remotely align with how you’ve been picturing yourself.
Do imagine yourself to be more generous than you actually are?  More kind? More social?
If you wanted to change yourself, could you? -Or would you most likely continue being  the same person  you are now?

Tech Fatigue

In the age of technology, I find myself with less and less enthusiasm for it. Especially when I think about how it’s restructured the way that humans socially interact.
Perhaps it all happened too quickly.
Over the past 3 decades tech has gone from the 8inch floppy, to 5inch, to 3.5inch, to USB, to SD, to Micro SD, to cloud. A home computer tower used to be the size of a car tire, now they’re the size of a soda can. My grandparents had records, then laser disks, then cassette tapes, then CDs, then minidisks, then MP3s, iPods, now literally everything is streamed onto our phones and tablets.
The era of intangibility.
People would rather be on their phones maintaining their digital life, than having a tangible experience. A ‘like’ instead of a visit, a Instagram-opportunity instead of date, a ‘check in’ instead of eye-contact.
With technology continually making advances every year, I find myself fantasizing about a simpler time. So I think back as far as I can remember, and then I realize that I’m visualizing the 90s.
The 90s was not a great decade, but it was before the technology era ramped up. Phones were still tethered to the house, photographs still  had to be developed, paperwork was still on paper. I remember passing notes in class, owning a journal/scrapbook, and owning hundreds of colored pens.
It’s pretty amazing how quickly smartphones infiltrated our lives; socially and professionally. It’s only been 11 years, but I don’t think we could go back to the way things were.

Spoiled by Smartphones

I think being a little ‘uncomfortable’ is good for people.  A little discipline  keeps you from being a spoiled person. As if the act of giving something up makes a person more mindful; more realistic about whether or not they needed it, and more appreciative of it when they have it.
Most religions ask people to use some type of personal restraint. Most fitness/diet regimes also ask for self-control. Most social societies pressure people to dress a certain way, and behave a certain way.

But in the modern era, people get used to doing whatever they like, because there isn’t as much pressure from social etiquette to keep them from becoming spoiled.
No one’s forced to wear a clean collared shirt every day. It’s not mandatory to keep a tidy home, no one is obligated to be polite/courteous, and no one’s accountable. The modern era doesn’t require people to be decent, so people basically do whatever they like.

I know people who neglect everyone and everything, in order to spend 90% of their life on their phones. It seems like the real-life responsibilities that people should be mindful of, are now in the backseat to their own self-centered natures. They don’t want functioning relationships with other humans, they want entertainment smartphones.
An example,   I was in a restaurant, and at the table behind me was a couple with their infant child. Both adults were on their phones, not talking to each other, nor caring for the infant. They ate in silence. Their baby ate a napkin. Neither parent noticed.

Convey Confidence, Marketing Matters

You often hear that artists are their own worst critics. For this reason, marketing matters; the way the masses absorb the media allows for greater influence.
Have you ever seen a good trailer for a movie that was dreadful?   Same idea.
The way I see myself and my art, is not the way others see me.  Presenting a favorable concept to the world, even a false one, serves to influence the masses into behaving as if it’s true.
If the only artwork you see from an artist is the very best ones made, then you believe that all the past and future works are just as good, when the artist knows that you’ve only see a small number of the highest-quality pieces they are capable of making, and could not possibly understand the mountain of failed attempts it took to produce just 1 good one.

Fake It Till You Make It. Media defines reality.
I am not terribly confident in real life. But when I write, I write with confidence, and so, my readers believe that I am confident.   Their experience reshapes their reality.

People derive complex pleasures and emotional experiences from media consumption. So Marketing must be done with strategic care in a intentionally-indirect way, making no assumptions about what the viewer actually experiences when they see it. Display an idea that appeals to a viewer on a subconscious level without demanding their affections.
Media is not just entertainment, viewers also get:  information [about the world, events, society, & education]; as well as very real applications of their own personal identity, with values and behaviors; and social integration and interactions with digital mingling, like viewing and being near real-time social exchanges; it’s also amusing, and thus an emotional reprieve.

Try to convince people of something using The McGuire Model of the persuasion process: presentation, attention, comprehension, yielding, retention, overt behavior. Show something in a way that gets the viewers’ attention, and in a way that they’ll understand and accept, so that they’ll  remember it, consequently changing their behavior in their future interactions whenever they come across it again.

Work Less, Spend Smart

Financial freedom is a practical desire, but for many people in the 24-34 age group, it’s just a fantasy.  In the Bay Area, costs of living are simply too high for young people to consider their financial choices. ‘Saving for the future’ never really caught on, especially since many Millennials have been burdened with college loan debts for all of our adult lives.   A lifetime of debt is a reality that most of us have come to accept as normal.
So of course, Millennials fantasize about being financially stable.

I read a Time.com article this week, about an emerging group of Millennials that are passionate about the idea of early retirement:  ‘A Growing Cult of Millennials is Obsessed with Early Retirement. This 72-Year- Old is Their Unlikely Inspiration’.  What surprised me about it, was that in the past 5 months, I had also become very interested in planning for my own retirement.
The inspirational woman from the article, recommended smarter spending habits and not relying on employment to keep afloat [finding sources of income that aren’t contingent on working the 40-hr/week].

Retirement isn’t what it used to be.  No one stays at the same company for 30-yrs anymore; no one plans long-term, contributing to a 401k with predictable future returns. And young retirees don’t necessarily have to amass enough money to last the rest of their lives, but just enough so that they don’t need to depend on a 40-hr job to cover their main expenses.  Invest wisely [in ETFs or real-estate], then be frugal; have a relationship with your money, find out how much you actually need, and buy less stuff.
Assuming a person has a skill set or resources, there are things they could do to economize their living expenses, spend their income better, and find more time for the things they desire. Retirement is long, and young retirees are going to need some activities to occupy all that time.
SO at the end of the day, if the charm of early retirement is in Not working a 40-hr/week job, then there’s already a solution; work less.
Once the living expenses are under control, you’ll be able to do some type of part-time work, the key is looking for jobs that don’t soak up a lot of time; renting out space, consulting, tutoring, transporting, independent contract work, child or elder care, online reselling, helper jobs, ect.

Stuck in the Waiting Line

I know a dozen people [aged 25-30] that can’t seem to think long-term enough to get past the ‘wishful thinking’ phase.   They have desires for a fine future, but seem powerless to start working toward that future. Even simple things like having a hobby, learning a new skill, keeping a tidy home.         I realize that the Millennial generation may never reach the traditional milestones  of past generations, because we’re struggling to accept our own adult responsibilities, like: basic home/car maintenance, healthy diets, financial responsibility. It’s like we’re stuck in the waiting line, unable to truly  get started on our real-life adult endeavors.

I read an article several years ago, about how the popularity of fantasy and science fiction in current movies/hobbies/games is a symptom of a depressed generation which prefers to experience their leisure activities in fiction because their reality isn’t enjoyable. And several years later, it’s still true.

Of every acquaintance I have in real life, only 2 are married, both are careless, only 1 owns property, and neither have children. Despite the mounting social pressure to get married and start families, no one in this age group seems truly capable of successfully achieving it to the standards that past generations expect.
We aren’t well-rounded, we’re a generation of dreamers, burdened by our social-political-economical situations, twiddling our days away because there’s no end in sight.     Consider IF people living during the 1930s Great Depression knew that it would eventually end, or if every single person  worried everyday about  their friends and neighbors who were going to die in poverty because things were never going to get better.

Why People Want

I’ve come to realize that lots of people act impulsively, but they don’t know where their desire stems from. Most prominently with love and money, people seem to rush into things because of an intense desire for something that they can’t fully explain.
So let’s try to analyze shortsighted ‘desire’, the ultimate goal of why a person would start something.
Love?
People seem to rush into relationships because they enjoy the stability of being in a well-defined relationship. People yearn for the traditional trajectory of a ‘stable relationship’ because it’s easier to predict  than unformulated casual-dating. Stable relationships lead to Marriages. But Marriage is frequently an impulsive decision, brought on by cultural pressure, or financial, or legal, or convenience.  Since human emotions are fickle, it’s unlikely that the couple  legitimately fell in love, and half of marriages end in divorce.  But still, society looks favorably on the idea of marriage, celebrating it as a valuable milestone in a person’s life, instead of a simple cultural norm.
Spending?
People impulsively buy things they don’t really need, because of some sense of grandeur they find in it. Buying a flashy sports car or high-end home appliances, generates the impression of popularity,  acting like a symbol of status, creating the illusion of prestige; same thing with smaller purchases, like fashionable clothing, new technology, trendy home décor. Buy a product and maybe it’ll change your life.
Their motivation isn’t having the money itself, it’s their purchases.
People use their purchases to motivate themselves, believing that since they bought it they’re more likely to use it and reap the benefits of it. Gym memberships, healthy lifestyle options, sporting gear, self-help books.  As if the purchase is the first step toward a grander life, and now that they’ve bought it, they’re on their way to reaching their goals.
It’s all superficial and culturally based. Items that are highly valuable in certain social circles, becomes worthless in other circles. Consumerism means popular items change every season, so impulsively buying consumer goods actually means that you’re locked into cycle of upkeep. Shortsighted impulse buys become worthless quicker, because you never really needed the item in the first place, you just liked the idea of what it could potentially do for your life if you actually used it.