Tag Archives: #Life lessons

Three simple life hacks that helped me find my Atlas of happiness!

Everybody loves a happy ending, especially when it’s the story of their own life. I have begun writing that ending today. After roughly couple of months in it, lots of scratchy notes and 2000 odd words later I have finally researched my way to be happy forever!!

Image source: ‘7 Simple Ways To Be Happier’ by Seth Symond in lifehack.org.

If you are someone who believes that one doesn’t always need to stay happy and hopeful through difficult times and seriously think that recluse in vulnerable spaces is enough to ease off your discomfort, then it’s time you come out of your therapeutic feel good irrationality!

Imagine yourself 10 years ago. Were you happier or less happy than you are today? It’s not inappropriate if you think that you were happier. But 10 years hence, things are likely to be a lot less rosy. And it’s no fun to rake your brains over it now.

Happiness tends to decline as we walk through our lives and bottoms out at around 50. Then something strange happens; it races uphill again till people get split into two groups; those who get a lot happier and those who couldn’t be any less unhappy.

Right around the“I’m so hype!”age, most of us would rush to make few good financial decisions, plan ahead and are more likely to be able to support themselves in comfort and be alive always; rest who wouldn’t, just couldn’t.

Something similar happens with happiness. As we grow old, we begin to see things differently. The excitement and fun of adolescence gives way to brutally negative jibes of adulthood. By now most of us have experienced bittersweet pleasures of life; but little do we realize that these tiny time specks can make us appreciate more and encourage us to be on cloud nine, when the going gets tough.

Tough!!… is it a bad word? It certainly sounds dismissive and cruel. We all have had our fair share of moments when wits got thrown to wilds. It hurt… but prepped us for some plucky life moments ahead!

­­­If you ask me good things happen more often than the bad ones, but often we miss opportunity to stay connected to happiness. We easily forget that age is like some fabled sycophancy that allows us to fly high in the real World. At 50 you could still be the same adorable pig tailed gal or some jaunty good looking knock-out beau. Both of you could still climb the trees, jump the wall and beat up all the boys. Young and raunchy, fiercely ambitious you both have had your share of one heart break, one breakdown, one true love, one success, one moment of despair and gloom – you have had mountains of them.

Cringing eyes, creaking knees and despairingly loosening skin, need not make you falter now. There is no shame in growing old and struggling a bit; it’s a reminder of all the battles that you have survived and the ones you won!

Once you have learned how to love your lines and folds and aches and pains, begin looking for some honest happy moments, few of which you could save for grey years.

Here’s what I did to make my life stay as full and happy as possible when I reach my later years;

Does age equals happiness?

Image source: ‘This is how to find joy: 4 simple secrets to the good life’ by Eric Barker in theladders.com on Mar.17, 2018.

Like everybody else I too will grow old. But I don’t see myself climbing mountains every day to be happy or live in a landscape where that’s an option. I would rather go for a walk or sit in a stretch of green watching the birds feeding. Doing so would give me something to look forward to each day.

For me the sweetness of doing little or nothing’ is all about savoring the moment , having joy in the present and saving a bit for declining years.

When I was young, the happy–well person in me learned well to accumulate resources and habits in pursuit of happiness. Few of these, like generational wealthso difficult to control, happy childhood-that descended from long lived ancestors and sometimes spots of depression-again a formidable enemy; all have been there to teach me about late-life happiness.  

Elders would mock, “Only handfuls heed; rest count on being lucky!”

I picked that up rather seriously!

I thought that being passionate about something that I could pride later on, won’t hurt anybody. So, I chose the best way of maximizing my chances of being happy in my autumn years.

I have made some big investments in my disposition-smoking, drinking, body weight, exercise, emotional resilience, education, and relationships ranked high in my judgment. I have dug deep, chosen the hackneyed lane and I believe that I’ve done the right thing! To some varying degrees, I have kept all of them under my fold since then.

Surprisingly simple, it’s perhaps the most reliable way to see yourself smiling forever!!

Love doing what makes you happiest

Image source: ‘Being Creative Can Make Your Golden Years More Enjoyable’ by Jim Pietrangelo in healthline.com on Oct. 19, 2017.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the best way I could tweak my chances of happiness, is to pursue that one thing that could make my heart race in high octane. Not that I would let any of dopamine, adrenaline or norepinephrine run out of control.

So, I chose…

One small deed; one overwhelming gesture that when I lock my eyes onto, would make me feel all pumped up; one simple action that would make  me smile every time I looked back.

I strongly willed to improve upon my ability to weather stressful and unexpected turn of events in life. And I chose to pour my heart into it, letting it to be the last! 

Ever since, I have realized that one single most important thing for wellness in life is to raise and foster warm relationships; one that would make you quit small sins; one that you’d have to hold on to if things go south; one that would let you fit the bar pretty well even in a squeaky wrinkled frame.

I’m no die hard biophile. It’s a mean old world and we all have scars but for me happiness is no longer a matter of the heart. I know that I won’t necessarily be doomed to misery if I could work my way to few good, warm relationships.

I just want to be happy and successful. To look back on my life when I’m all old and grey, and think to myself;

“See! I totally nailed it. I have zero regrets.”

Life is surprisingly simple

We hear about success and happiness everywhere we look. We get all sorts of tips and advices about life and about things we should and shouldn’t do.

But it never really works that way every time!

Like most of us, I wasn’t sure what these words actually meant or how to get there. I might already be there and wouldn’t know it yet!

So, I looked around… What could I do to make sure I’m not getting waylaid in my pursuit of happiness? How would I know for sure that I am working towards joy and happiness that right now doesn’t feel tangible?

It’s hard to reconcile everything. Wish for an everlasting happiness and it would usually contradict ways to a successful life. The hard part is that there is no clear answer to this and all those wisdom bombs are only part truth, part value.

I needed to find the right balance for myself.

I took an inventory of all my habits and behavior and judged myself where I needed to invest a little more time, a little more energy and a little more silver to start moving in the right direction. I worked ‘smarter not harder’ so I’d still have some fun left to myself and not be exhausted or miserable when I turn 70s.

I’m no goofball; I’m hopeful and see opportunities differently. I’m sure I’ll find my  perfect grin soon.

Feature credits: ‘The Seed’ by Andy Matthews in youtube.com on Aug. 24, 2017.

As I sit quietly, I reminisce one premier episode of Grey’s Anatomy; normally a few laughs, sometimes some tears; one dialogue in particular that really hit home for me. Somewhere a patient had said something along the lines of;

“Well of course you are happy, but is there really a cap on happiness?

Lately I think I’ve been very happy; maybe I’ve maxed out. But then I remind myself; there is always room for more of happiness… there’s so many miles to go.

I also know that not everyone feels the same way. I see people battling with misery and anxiety every day and this touches me to appreciate my happiness all the more.

All this has drawn an empath in me and I know that everyone deserves to be as happy as I am.

I wish, if only you’d do just one small close to your heart thing, to bring a difference in your World and empower yourself to be happy always.

It’s unlikely that you’ll follow everything that matters and that’s Ok. Just pick and choose the one that sounds easy and worthwhile and take your first step slowly!!

Someday you’ll find yourself lucky… blessed if you may!!

Retiring before dad is no longer bizzare or insane!!

Why shy away from retiring early when you needn’t? An early retirement is more possible than you think!!

For me an early retirement simply means that I no longer have to work for money and I have created enough of it to work itself for me.

Image source: ‘How to retire early’ by Matthew Makowski in investmentu.com

I am 46 and hung my boots last week. Since then I wait in bated breath, for all I know I may have stirred a storm in my cup of tea. Nothing dreadful has happened so far and if I am any good in reading patterns, nothing ever will.

Here’s why,

At 26 I was a lead manager in an IT major. The desk that I graced smelled of bad upholstery. It at times reeked of an incapacitated future, especially when I had snappy conversations with a miffed senior or peeved track lead. Mulling in quieter moments I used to wonder what will happen 15/20 years hence when the cloud become so dense that no more data would stick to it, when the environments like Reddit   run out of inspiring ideas, when skills  will feel betrayed  and a dismayed outlook  will leave hundreds in a lurch. The rut will not take long to turn into a cesspool. For me the future felt weak and uncertain.

I now realize that our ancestors never taught us everything about future. Choices have an uncanny way of echoing narratives. We are always okay with choices what we love to talk about fundamentally but do not understand them at all.

It’s complicated but I felt nowhere anymore clearer in my choices than I did at that moment.

I decided to let go of things.

It was dreadful and I feared if I was leaving little room for a stupid decision. But then decision is where everything starts from. It’s meant to cut off all options and decide on one path. Good or terrible… decisions are the firepower that make you unstoppable.

Leaving a cushy job meant changing life forever. Everything shades dark for a while. I may easily regret it later. An unknown destiny may conspire to draw me to a choice I knew nothing about or what lay beyond. Whatever, predicting consequences makes you no less a fool. Even mystically I couldn’t have foreseen the future.

For once I felt being mobbed with a million $ decision. Did I ever get to choose wisely? All I knew that time was worth more than the money and with less time I could be making poor decisions with worse consequences.

However, I am not allergic to facing the truth.

I decided to hustle things and make the change worthwhile. Not every time charging your Smartphone wirelessly could mean a disaster is waiting to happen.

What it’s like to stray out of the way and succeed

Retiring early is not end of everything. I had drawn plans to focus on bigger things, larger projects. For once I felt for no- nonsense pep talk. I wanted to make it big and beyond. No longer a remotely paged skit to be rehearsed and updated every weekend night. No Monday morning briefs, mindless meetings, meaningless briefs. For once, I craved to shut being gaslit. Crappy, but quick and simple enough reason..

It’s ok not to be busy always and I do not underrate the rest either.

I am not a minimalist but I know how to ease into my present.

So, the first thing that crossed my mind, how much I can spend each year without running out of money if I retire early.

I surfed through customized retirement plans, advises and toyed with online calculators. There were several underlying assumptions that I decided to keep in mind, if I were going to go ahead and retire early

In most cases, the beginning happens to be your worst nightmare. People usually tend to withdraw at a higher rate and drain their resources much more rapidly. Re-balancing the corpus annually unmistakably ends in trimming of expenses. Annual spending increases every year keeping pace with the rate of inflation, howsoever hard we bite our tongue each time. These adjustments just happen regardless of  inflation even if it exceeds 10%. You just could not make adjustments to the annual distributions on your invested assets and rate yourself ‘excellent each time, for these are largely market driven. You are hapless and you could do no more.

The labyrinthine equations and combinations had then left me scarier. I knew that the other side of planning and investing for early retirement has an ugly face, the one which is replete with loose ends.

What those twenty years changed for me

I had hung my boots then and I don’t regret it now. A free lance developer, a consultant, an avid reader, happy family, increasing circle of influence … if this is what my choice has landed me with, I think I had figured it out right that one time. I am glad that I didn’t wait for it to happen.

I am now all the wiser about building wealth and achieving financial freedom. Research and data analyses with refined results that I have gone through over the time, have surprising takeaways. I could now evaluate the longevity of my assets using assumptions other than those I was reluctant to accept in the first place. 

At the beginning I had reckoned that we could live comfortably on about 2% of our nest egg, yet I was worried stiff that I might somehow someday run out of money. It was natural but It felt like I was on a life boat in the middle of ocean rationing what little food I had left.

I had gone from earning and saving money to hiving off it!!

Retirement is scary even for the most passionate persons who gut their entire lives working ten-to-five and then are left with a miserly retirement purse to cling on to for the remainder of their lives. And to retire so early!!… I might have bitten the bullet.

I followed the 4% rule and discovered that half the battle was won

Most of us have heard about ‘The 4% rule of retirement spending”; the one that says that you can spend 4% of your nest egg in the first year of retirement. Thereafter you can adjust your annual spending by the rate of inflation. If you follow it, you shouldn’t run out of money during a traditional 25-30-year retirement. Having spent years studying retirement investment and spending, I know that relying on market is a recipe for retirement disaster.

But a combination of bucket strategy and 4% rule saved the day for me and helped me to brace for bad returns.

Here’s how,

What lies in a bucket is what will help you tide over the worst

This strategy works best when you divide your savings (it’s early to call your retirement money) between short term spending needs and long term investment needs. Its simple; just call it two buckets incarnated- Cash and Investments.

And let me remind you one thing; when investing for long term cash needs, you face a marathon and not a sprint, so don’t dare to rush.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Your cash bucket is meant to hold three to five years worth of living expenses in cash (savings, term deposits, short-term bonds, mutual funds). Remember to deduct any other type of retirement income (eg. annuity plans, money backs, social security support etc.) when you decide on the amount that you are going to put in this bucket.

For example you need a modest Rs. 8.50 lac a year before taxes and inflow from other retirement income is Rs.2.50 lac then your cash bucket for a five year horizon should hold Rs. 30.00 lac ((8.50-2.50)x 5 yrs). If you have worked for say, twenty years in a middle management job, it will not be difficult to save Rs. 70.00 lac  to Rs. 75.00 lac within this time horizon. This assumption is based on monthly earnings pegged at Rs. 75k and savings at a religious 35% of net. Interest accumulation, annual increments, DA raise, bonuses etc. are enough to keep inflation or contingency hiccups at bay.

Your Investment bucket could sail you through rough weather

Investment bucket will hold the remainder of your ‘other monies in  diversified  low-cost index funds. The question, however, is exactly what asset size to hold in this bucket. Is it 100% in stocks? A 50/50 in stocks/ mutual funds and bonds? Or may be something else?

Just how much stake to put into this bucket? To give you an example; adjust the annual inflation rate @4% with what you will require from sixth yr onward, anything between Rs. 45.00 lac to Rs. 50.00 lac @12% rate of return shall get you what you earn today for the next 25 yrs. Your corpus of Rs. 45.00 lac would have earned you a whopping Rs. 91.10 lac in all these years and another Rs.28.73 lac @10% for the first five years of investment.

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Few of you would argue that with diminishing buying value over the years, it may not suffice to be enough. These are no more than negative voices in your head and are irrelevant. Don’t let them win. They do not serve you, so don’t give them any undeserved attention or energy.  Remember every day statistics have a strange way of revealing secrets. None of our forefathers ever lived in penury, nor shall we. What  more, at 46  your drive to learn and earn is still young.

While you make these decisions, just be watchful of your overall asset allocation. So long as you follow the 4% rule, you will survive even a Bear economy. This IWR (Initial Withdrawal rate)  is considered “safe” because it works best when things turn worst.

Add guardrails and breathe easy

As popular as the 4% rule is, it’s hard to imagine that you would follow it through a 30-year retirement. For one thing, who spends the exact same amount of money, on an inflation-adjusted basis, each and every year for three decades? More importantly, it is natural for you to cut back on your spending once bearish sentiments sink in.

This is where you need to put up guardrails.

It works simple. When the bears are raging, spend a little less than the 4% rule would permit. When bulls lock their horns, its time to spend a little more.

This ‘simple’ approach could prompt to you to ask .What do we mean by a ‘little less’ or a ‘little more’. Just how much the economy should swing up or down before these guardrails take effect. There is no end to complex spending rules but one popular and easy one says that you start your retirement with a 5% IWR adjusted annually by inflation. To stay protected from over or under spending, do not allow the annual withdrawals to go below 4% or above 6%. One potential downside to this rule however is that, every year distribution is adjusted for inflation. This adjustment occurs regardless which way the economy swings. Here you could do well to;

Cap the inflation adjustments to no more than 6% and skip them when your asset value has slipped.

Only 70% of your last year’s distribution determines what you will have in your purse this year. So make good the difference. Multiply 30% of your last year distribution with your portfolio’s year-end balance and then take 5% of that amount. Settling with a lesser IWR has a tendency of better leverage.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s Your Call

After retiring early, I’ve spent considerable time studying umpteen articles on spending strategies and I am clear on one thing; even the best planned strategies are somehow checkmated. So, it’s your call to make success happen to yourself. This world doesn’t owe you one damn thing and it won’t deliver anything without a price.

Dare take a shot and who knows success may reshape your early retired life for good!!