Since it’s a quiet week with nobody around, I thought I’d do some more mid-year reflecting.
To hold my feet to the fire, I’ve been setting public goals for a while now. But I’ve mostly just checked in at year-end, leaving me no opportunity to course correct during the year in case I was lagging. Oftentimes, I wouldn’t even remember what my goals were. Not this year baby!
My theme for 2018 is: Back To Early Retirement Life.
I spent years building a lifestyle business in order to one day be a good stay at home father. But I kinda screwed things up in 2017 when my son was born by maintaining my writing schedule, my tennis schedule, and even taking on a part-time high school tennis coaching job. As a result, I was more stressed than I wanted to be and suffered numerous injuries.
Surely, things had to change. Below are my goals made at the beginning of this year and my self-assessment in italics. Everybody reading should go through this exact same exercise because I bet you’ll be surprised by your results as well.
Mid-Year 2018 Goals Checkup
1) Return to early retirement life. As this site has grown more people are reaching out for help or contacting me with business opportunities. It’s become overwhelming. I will publish only 100 articles for the year (down from 175 a year) and start having more fun with the topics. While the business component of this site is exciting, it has become too much. Just like with day job income, after you make a certain amount of business income, there is no more additional happiness.
Went the complete opposite way: I’ve more than doubled production by writing 100+ posts and pages in the first half alone. I’ve also recorded over 50 podcasts on my iTunes channel compared to a target of 30 for the year. What the heck? I’ve been obsessed with not giving up because of my son. Kids provide a ton of motivation to stay fit, eat better, and work harder than ever before.
I also have this fear that because he is a minority, my son will face bullying in school and discrimination as an adult just like his old man did. I got into so many fistfights in grade school, it was nuts because I NEVER backed down from bullies. I always had this mentality that if you were going to beat me up, no matter how big you were, I would at least get in a good smack before I went down. Anybody who disrespected me, my family, or my friends would pay. I fear my son will be equally combative when it comes time to standing up for himself, partly because I will teach him to be a strong boy.
Because we have a lottery system to get into public school here in San Francisco, no matter how much in property tax you pay, there’s only a small chance your child will get into their local public school. That leaves costly private school at $30,000 – $50,000 a year. But because private grade school in SF is predominantly white, and not at all a reflection of the SF population, I have my doubts he’ll get into a good private school either. It’s clear private schools can do more to accept students that better reflect their environment, but they don’t, which means there’s something artificial going on. Then there’s university, which hopefully won’t matter 17 years from now.
Besides being a supportive parent, the one sure thing I can think of to help my son is to build a strong business where I can teach him the ropes so he can create his own business one day or take over ours. I don’t want to rely on the existing system because the system feels stacked against folks who are different.
The other alternative to leveling the playing field would be to move to Asia or Hawaii where he is a majority. I forgot about all the slights and fights I went through attending high school and college as a minority until I started thinking about my son’s future. It’s like my son unearthed all these repressed memories that I had buried deep within my psyche. We’ve come a long way since the 1990s, so perhaps I’m just stuck in the past. But I’d rather try and earn and save as much as possible to rely on nobody.
2) For six days a week, provide an average six hours of JOYFUL assistance to my wife. For the seventh day, provide four hours of joyful assistance for a total of 40 hours a week.
Work in progress: I think I’ve provided on average 4-5 hours of joyful assistance or primary care for my son a day. But I still get grumpy about little things because I continue to work too much and sleep too little. Things are getting better, however, because we’re now more confident parents with a routine. Further, our son is finally sleeping better through the night.
But maybe I’m underestimating my childcare help. I’m here for my family when my son is awake between 7:00am – 11:30am and 1:30pm – 8pm, four days a week. The other three days a week, I’m either exercising or meeting a business partner for three hours at most out of his ~12 waking hours.
I might not always be directly helping out when he is awake, but I do clean the house, wash dishes, make sure we have food, drive us everywhere, look after him while my wife uses the bathroom, assist with bath time, help change his clothes and so forth. Such assistance should count, right? In my mind, I was thinking six hours of non-stop primary care, which is not how co-parenting works.
3) Increase business productivity. In other words, find a way to do less and maximize my existing content to boost traffic and revenue. I will not spend more than four hours a day on the business in 2018. Further, I will cease responding to comments and e-mail questions whose answers are obviously discernible in the post and encourage readers to use the search box on my website for answers.
Work in progress: I’m not proactive in putting myself out there. I have this passive attitude where if folks want to read my stuff, they know where to find me. But in order to truly grow, you’ve got to proactively pimp yourself. Thankfully, there has been outreach from larger online publications who’ve wanted to feature my work, like when Yahoo Finance syndicated, Why Households Must Earn $300,000 A Year to Live A Middle Class Lifestyle Today.
Further, I have been doing some occassional Quora writing to build a new audience when I have nothing else to do. Looks like I’ve got about 3,400 followers and 2.6 million views from my answers. If 2.5% of the views translate into visitors coming to FS from Quora, then so far I’ve got about 65,000 new visitors. Not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but every little bit counts.
I came up with four hours a day of work because I figured I could work from 6am – 8am and then 9pm – 11pm on average. But there would be a lot of days where I would just keep on working until 1am to try and get ahead of schedule, which resulted in grouchier support during the mornings. This needs to stop.
4) Spend more time doing work in the hot tub. Through voice dictation, I’m actually writing this post in my hot tub right now. Yeah baby yeah! Not only am I utilizing my hot tub investment more, but I’m getting some stress relief while also producing work.
Success! I go to the hot tub roughly 3X a week for 1 hour each session. While in the hot tub I’m reading research, interacting with folks on social media, and responding to comments. The hot tub is the best $15,000 expense ever.
5) Aggressively spend more money on help. Until recently, we’ve always done all the lawn work, housecleaning, and childcare. There’s something therapeutic about gardening and cleaning. But now that we are tired parents, we need to prioritize. I really need help at this stage because my lower back is still tender. It’s kind of torturous to crawl around and chase a baby for a couple hours with a bad back.
Making progress. We finally hired cleaners for $200 a session once every two months. Not cheap, but feels darn good to come home to a clean house while we go outside and play with our boy. We’re also spending $20/hour for nine hours a week of babysitting help on average. This allows us to go on date nights and unwind. So important for our sanity. But to be successful in “aggressively” spending money to hire help, we need to spend 3X more. We just haven’t found reliable help because they’re either sick, traveling, or have other commitments. Oh, and thank goodness, my lower back pain is no more!
6) Continue to help people of all types in different ways. This means publish two times a week, produce at least 30 podcasts, see my foster child mentee at least 24 times, coach high school tennis, and participate in more fundraising events.
Success! The best benefit of staying consistent with Financial Samurai is the nice e-mails saying how Financial Samurai has helped a reader’s life in one way or another. I’ve also been pretty regular with my private newsletter as well, sending out one out at least twice a month.
The foster care system is a difficult place. I’m not sure how I can make a bigger impact besides donating more time and money. Being a mentor makes a huge positive difference to young kids who have very little. I guess I can just continue to be an advocate and encourage others to get involved in their communities.
7) Stop feeling guilty for not doing more. Since I was 13, I’ve always had the belief that if I can, I must because a friend of mine died in a car accident and was never given the chance. Every time I catch myself slacking off for more than an hour, a little voice inside my head tells me to do something productive instead.
Work in progress. The more my son sleeps, the less guilty I feel about working because that means my wife needs less relief during the day. But why should I feel guilty working to support my family so my wife and I don’t have to go back to a day job? If I was working 70+ hours a week and never home, that’s one thing. But I’m home all day most of the time and get most of the work done while he is asleep.
For those of you who’ve been able to get rid of the paradoxical guilt of working to take care of your family, let me know some of your strategies. I’m thinking that all I’ve got to do is not work so much for the first five or six years until he goes to kindergarten, and then turn on the after burners.
8) Get regular physical checkups. One in three people will get cancer. And one in four people will die from cancer. The closest thing to curing cancer is early detection. However, most cancer is detected only after a patient feels symptoms. By stage three, only 8% of cancer patients live past five years.
Fail. Haven’t gotten a full physical yet. Time to schedule one! Ugh. But I am regularly exercising 3X a week and have also joined a softball league. So fun.
9) Find a way to grow net worth by $2 million. With the estate tax threshold doubling to $22 million for couples, why not shoot for more wealth while trying to take things down a notch.
Failing. Based on my +6.7% net worth growth for 1H2018, I’m not going to make it. Getting to $2 million is extremely difficult with only my public investments and savings because my public investments account for less than 40% my net worth and I don’t earn enough. But if a private investment hits big or if I sell off a piece of Financial Samurai for a good price, there’s a small chance. Unfortunately, I think there’s also a 40% chance the stock market and real estate market stays flat or goes down, hence my relatively defensive portfolio. We live off about 2% of our net income a year.
With the good times fading, we’ve got to either work harder or finally start enjoying our returns. I’m choosing the latter! Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how we can all benefit from our wise investment decisions.
Learning To Let Go Of Opportunity
Thanks for humoring me with this review because I really did forget some of my goals. Discovering all those repressed memories from childhood was also a surprise. Despite working more this year, I’m less stressed because I’m more comfortable with my new role as a dad.
For the remainder of the year my priorities are:
- Be a better caregiver by consciously providing one more hour a day of care
- Produce three items of work a week (post, page, podcast, or newsletter), not three posts plus a podcast and newsletter
- Work on outreach for one hour a week (PR, social media, interviews, commenting on other sites)
- Stick to two hours of work in the morning and two hours of work in the evening before midnight
- Protect our wealth from declining
- Provide updates to all the pre-schools we’ve applied to for 2019 about our son’s progress
- Start potty training our son in 4Q
- Spend a week in Napa before September (our first trip away from the house)
- Spend a week in Tahoe this winter to show our son snow for the first time
- Make all grandparents come to visit before year-end (will pay for flights)
- Practice daily gratitude during dinner
It’s been very difficult to take things down a notch. The correlation between effort and reward is so great when running an online business that it would be a shame not to take full advantage while my mind still works. At the same time, for the sake of my family and my health I must come to grips with letting go of opportunity.
How are you guys doing with your personal goals so far? What do you need to work on for the rest of the year? How do you learn to be OK letting opportunity pass you by? If you’ve been able to create work/life balance, please share your secrets!
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