A Year Of... interesting things

2022 - Year of Retirement Prep

Years ago I’ve read a site that was discussing retirement to various destinations, ranking them on affordability, medical care, quality of life, easy of residency, etc.

I don’t remember the site, but I remember the shock of finding out that there are places where one could retire and live decently, though generally frugally, for as little as $1,200 per month.

The influential Trinity Study laid down the famous “4% rule” as a yardstick for what would be a safe withdrawal rate with the goal of preserving a portfolio for 30 years.

In other words, one would need a wealth of only $360,000 to retire with an income of $1,200/month (360,000 * 0.04 = 1,200/month * 12 months).

All of a sudden, I stopped thinking in how much money do I have saved or invested and started thinking in “what country can I retire to now?”

Am I Colombia-level now? Can I be Panama-level next year? etc

I didn’t think there was any scenario in which I could retire in the US. In a way I still don’t, but between a good market run, a partner that can chip in even if they can’t actually retire, step-kids moving out, it all seemed like it would be at least worth investigating.

Eyeing to retire early – thank you FIRE movement – maybe within the next year or two, I owe it to myself to start investigating my opportunities and start preparations for it.

I don’t have a particular goal this year, but rather a vague checklist of questions I would like to, and likely need answered before taking the jump:

  • What country can I afford to retire to? What is the current status and ranking of various countries known for retirement-friendly environments?
  • How would my investments need to be structured in preparation for retirement?
  • What would retirement look like financially?
  • What are the tax implications of living off investment incomes?
  • What are the taxation regimes in various locales, in particular towards US citizens?
  • Would I benefit more from having a EU citizenship if Europe FIRE is a reality?
  • What do I do for healthcare?
  • Do I buy a house somewhere and use it as a home-base or do I just digital-nomad it?

As a bonus: what if I were to take a one-year sabbatical and slow-travel the US or Europe by motorcycle? What would that cost me and how would I do it?

Reflection on Year of Ones

A year of one giant failure and yet surprising progress.

Let’s see how I tracked:

  • One hundred pushups - ❌
    Barely managed 25.
  • One hundred squats - ❌
    Could do 50, though.
  • One pound lost a week - ❌❌
    Gained over 20 instead.
  • One meal a day (OMAD) - ❌
    Tried, but I’m a stress eater and there was quite a bit of stress. For the largest part, I’ve been successful in sticking to OLMAD - one large meal a day.
  • Eating out no more than Once a week - ✅
    Finally something I managed.
  • 10k steps at least three times a week - ❓
    Increased to 7k a day and in the last 3 months managed to average about 10k/day.

And yet not a total failure, though I’m struggling to wrap my head around the results.

The general theme of the year has been physical exercise. Body-weight.

I was doing pretty good, and then when I went back to the office I switched to weightlifting 3 times/week, and 30-40 minutes of intense elliptical the other 2.

I started with baby-steps. Could barely bench-press or squat 50 lbs (on the bar).
By the end of the year I was benching 110 lbs (+bar), squatting 140 lbs, and dead-lifting 160 lbs. And yet, I couldn’t do more than 25 push-ups, and couldn’t manage even a single pull-up.

The work-outs helped though. I used to get some pretty terrible mid-back pains from poor posture. Every few months, like clockwork. In more than 6 months I have been going to the gym I haven’t experienced a single incident.
That alone is a massive win as far as I’m concerned.

2021 - Year of Ones

The Year of Ones is mostly focusing on myself and my health.

Not sure yet if the goals are doable or too lofty, but they have a nice ring to them so at least I’ll try.

  • One hundred pushups - be able to perform one hundred pushups, in a row, by the end of the year.
    I’m a wimpy noodle that can barely do ten now.
  • One hundred squats;
  • One hundred of something else - crunches? Dips?
  • One pound lost a week;
  • One meal a day (OMAD);
  • Eating out no more than Once a week;
  • 10k steps at least three times a week. Right now I’m sitting at 5k / day.

OMAD is going to be hard, not because of the obvious hunger – I already tend to eat only once or one bigger meal a day, but because my family tends to focus on a larger dinner, whereas I would need this to be more in the middle of the day.

I’m also going to need to ask them to stop bringing left-overs home.
We all love trying out new places and having exciting food brought home will not do great for my already low ability to resist.

I will allow myself snacks, in the shape of high-fiber or high-protein snacks: mostly fruits that help stave hunger (apples, citrus) and protein shakes. A slice or two of cold-cuts also seems to help.

I will reduce my intake of sugar and carbs outside of the one meal.

To reach 100 push-ups, I would need to increase it by 10 pushups every month, allowing for a margin of error. Having reached 30 in three months or less, that seems doable.

That being said, I was also not doing full pushups, but only 90 degree ones. I will try to for 100 proper/full pushups, but I’ll settle for even being able to do 100 half-pushups, or whatever you want to call them.

As a bonus goal, I’d like to end up being able to do 10 pulls up. Right now I can’t do one, so maybe that’s too big of a jump.

Can’t hurt to try.

Reflection on Year of Writing

Back in January I wrote a short story. Barely. More like a vignette, really.

When I started on it, I felt driven. I felt as if I had a good angle, I wrote about something I loved and then seeing the word-count barely break 1,000, after all that effort, broke me.

I always felt words came easy to me. If that was true, then perhaps it’s story that comes hard.
Taking steps is easy, running a marathon or even arriving at a set destination is a multi-layered skill. One that the skill of putting one foot in front of another, in isolation, does not amount to much.

I thought I got distracted and other tasks took me away from what I was trying to accomplish, but now, twelve months later, I can see it clear as day: I got deflated.

Writing is hard. Long form is even harder.

When all adds up, 2020 - Year of Writing is a clear failure. Not even small goals have been achieved.

That being said, there’s a naïveté in my heart that has me want to try this again, at a future date.

If all I’m looking for is some modest financial success, I believe my fundamental approach is correct:

  1. Build an software solution to analyze gaps in the market;
  2. Make attempts in those niches;
  3. Re-tune;
  4. ???
  5. Profit.

That’s a story for another year.

March Report

I don’t know what was about March that completely set me back to zero. No writing. Nada. Barely any reading too save for books because of travel Wildlife of the National Parks and Reserves of Costa Rica by Michael and Patricia Fogden and Costa Rica - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture by Jane Koutnik.

(On the flip-side, I’ve discovered a really cool sunscreen: Blue Lizard. The bottles starts white and they turn blue in the sun to indicate protection needs to be applied.)

I could blame my lack of progress on any number of issues:

  • travel/vacation - on one hand no more work, on the other hand exhaustion from activities and adventures;
  • COVID-19, which provided constant anxiety; travel + COVID-19 proved a real worry machine;
  • ramped up work to make up for vacation then catching up after vacation;
  • uncertainty over the direction to pursue and seeming lack of “inspiration”.

I need to meditate a bit on this and figure out exactly what’s holding me back. Perhaps it’s a matter of time, available time, but I feel there’s a deeper reason there. I need to find that deeper reason and work with it or against it, whichever gets me move forward.

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