Earning More

How to Love your Job and be Happy?

Finding a good job is hard. Finding the perfect job is even harder. As part of our Better Self series, I am asking myself if there might be something better out there to not only grow in my career but as a person. How to be happy in life is no secret and we are always improving ourselves every day to slowly raise our happiness levels.


Work does not make me happy anymore

Although I recently changed positions 8 months ago, it was a lateral move. Work is now closer to home, which is great, but there is so much more out there…

Sometimes I just wonder how it would be to change careers altogether. Change my field completely. I currently work in finances, in a client-facing role. I work in sales and this skillset can be used in any company, pretty much anywhere in the world.

Having such a skillset is great and opens a lot of doors but I have yet to open them. I have only worked in finance, that’s what I know, but sometimes it is good to look outside our comfort zone.

I currently work in finances, in sales, and this skillset can be used in any company, pretty much anywhere in the world. Having such a skillset is great and opens a lot of doors but I have yet to open them. I have only worked in finance, that’s what I know, but sometimes it is good to look outside our comfort zone.

Browsing jobs site, you can come across anything from sales representative to account executive, to strategic territory expansion manager, but in the end; you are still just helping clients buy stuff.

Someone has to sell toilet paper to the grocery stores before they can sell it to you and the chain goes up and up many levels. The good thing about this is that no matter the product or service, there are a few sales-related positions where I qualify for.

Ideally, I would prefer to enjoy the product itself. I am passionate about investments and those discussions come naturally to me but I have no idea how to sell toilet paper to a national supermarket chain. However, it seems like I am dragging it.

Change does not come easily, and that is perfectly normal. I am sure there is a situation right now, in your life, where you are experiencing the same fears and discomfort as me.


Getting out of your comfort zone

Exploring outside known territory and common grounds will make you grow and ultimately, a better person. This place where you find a routine and pattern that minimizes your stress and risk, get out of it!

Your routine might provide you with a regular, decent amount of happiness, low anxiety, and reduced stress but you will never be your best. To maximize performance, you need to be in a state of relative anxiety.

Stress is productive; stress will push you to innovate.

  • Start doing everyday things differently, change it up a bit!
  • Start asking yourself; why not? What is the worst that can happen anyway?
  • Take small steps, one thing at the time. Getting out of your comfort zone takes time.

When we get too comfy, we tend to do the minimum required to get by. Without deadlines or new challenges, you might feel busy but that is only a way to stay in your routine. Making yourself busy rather than daring and innovating is just keeping you in your comfort zone.


We need a place of productive discomfort,- Daniel H. Pink


By allowing yourself to take risks and exploring new challenges, you can learn to live outside your boundaries and prepare yourself for when life throws unexpected things at you.

In my situation, maybe changing jobs is the best thing that could ever happen to me. Or not. The only way I can find out is to get out my comfort zone.


Fear of missing out

What if there is something out there that will make you richer, happier, better off? Your comfort zone is actually restricting you and you don’t even know it. If your friends are having more fun, have more stuff than you, are they happier?

That feeling that you are missing out on more or something better was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 as FoMO the Fear of Missing Out. This goes much further than just finding the right job. According to this study, nearly three-quarters of young adults reported they experienced the phenomenon. This includes the countless nights where you stare at your phone, endlessly browsing social media, just to make sure you are not missing out on anything.

If you are not feeling great and turning to social media to make you feel better, it actually makes you feel worse. Comparing your life to others, whether on social media, on blogs, or even in real life, is never a good way to cheer yourself up. That is a big reason why we do not share our net worth or income reports.


Social comparison seems sufficiently destructive to our sense of well-being that it is worthwhile to remind ourselves to do it less. – Barry Schwartz 


If you are constantly wondering if you measure up to idealist lifestyles people are sharing, you are comparing yourself to the illusions people are deliberately sharing. Out of all your friends sharing their amazing vacations on Facebook, none ever shares the credit card bill they received the next month.

Maybe there is a better job out there but am I just seeing what I want to see. I am comparing all those job postings with salary-comparison sites and dreaming about the nice paychecks. Only using the recruiter’s description as a point of reference. However, just like on Facebook, job descriptions only show what they want you to see.

No recruiter will ever describe the redundancies or annoying micro-management that comes with the position. Nor will they ever talk about the fact that the co-worker you will be sitting next to yells over the phone all day and smells of fish-fillet after lunch but that is a risk to take if I want a new position.


Be grateful

Instead of comparing yourself with others, start looking at what you have. Be grateful for everything you take for granted. Your home, family, and friends are often overlooked. Just take a second to think of a life without those.

Gratitude improves one’s physical and mental health, improves self-esteem, enhances empathy and reduces aggression. The simple act of consciously appreciating people and things around you has been proven to make you happier. According to this study, grateful people are more agreeable, more open, and less neurotic and generally exhibit higher life satisfaction.

It sounds so simple. Say yes to life, it is not just worth living, but rich with texture and detail.

I am grateful for the position I have. Grateful for the company I work for, and grateful for my great colleges.

Is it worth it to jump ship? What do you think? Xyz.




Managing your Personal Finances to Maximize your Happiness

It can be hard to find how to be happy when you do not really know where you are heading. Without goals, life can seem a bit vague. Fortunately, it is never too late to find your purpose and find your true happiness.

This week, I have learned that our water tax bill just jumped from about $90 to a whopping $600 because of a small plumbing issue that was leaking fresh water down the drain twenty-four, seven for the past year!!! I never looked into the issue before I got a real incentive to do so. Honestly, I heard a strange noise coming from a pipe but never looked into it. In the end, I fixed the problem myself for a total cost of ten dollars.

Most issues can be fixed cheaply if you ask the right questions to the right people. I have zero experience in plumbing and thought I had to call a plumber. They usually charge at least $50 just to show up then, $45 to $150 per hour of labor but instead, I called a local plumber and described my problem, simply asking which parts I would need to fix it.

I then visited our hardware store and chatted with one of their oldest guys on the floor to seek his knowledge. He explained to me the proper way to attach the parts and my total cost ended up to be right under $10.

If you are ready to get your hands dirty, you can fix almost anything around the house for a fraction of the price. Ask the pros or search YouTube for some How To videos, they are some on every topic imaginable. In the end, it only took me half an hour to fix my issue.

How to fix your financesAny house owner should be attentive to his property. Listen to new noises, look for new cracks. Fixing it early on will always be easier and cheaper than if you wait until a problem becomes critical.

Moral of the story is; if something breaks, fix it now. You do not always need to outsource all your house maintenance, you will learn a lot and save a ton!


Fix your finances early on

The same goes for your personal finances, if there is a leak somewhere, fix it now. Take the time to rethink your financial life to optimize it and attain your goals faster. So many people and spending away without thinking about the true meaning of their expenses. Living their life buying things to impress people they don’t know with money they don’t have.


Goals and happiness

The first step of our financial makeover is to clearly define your goals and to create a plan to attain each goal. Money is often thought of as an antagonist, an enemy that keeps you from doing what you want to but it is exactly the opposite; Money is a tool to achieve your goals. Ultimately, money can be your tool to financial freedom. Money should make you happy, not trap you in a lifestyle influenced by peers and marketing agencies.

I suggest writing down your goals and going back on them at least once a year, depending on the time frame of your goal, to reassess.


How to have good financial goals


Having long-term goals is a great start and can be a great motivator. Retiring early, for example, is certainly a huge priority for me and this pushes me to outperform at work, pursue side-hustles, and stay on target with my savings.

However, I am also thinking of my other goals to work on projects I love, travel the world, and spend time with my family. Balancing all of these, I get to fully enjoy the journey towards early retirement while living a life of happiness.

Once this is done, start writing down everything that truly makes you happy. This might be a hard exercise but it will truly enlighten you in later steps.


what makes you happy


Track your finances

Do you know how much you are actually making per year? Do you know how much you spent on food last month?

Now that you know what your goals in life are, you need to know if you are on the right track to attain them. I highly suggest Personal Capital to track all your accounts in a simple, clean, app that lays out all your earned income and spending.

Once you know how much is coming in and where it is going out, you can then start optimizing your financial life to attain your goals. Personal Capital offers a great free tool to set monthly spending targets and easily budget all of your expenses.


Fix the leaks

Start working towards your dreams instead of working simply to pay the bills. If you feel trapped in a consumerism hamster wheel; buying things you feel you deserve since you work so hard and working so hard to pay for all those things, know that it is never too late to change. Now that you see where all your money is leaking, you can go back to your happiness list and see which expenses are truly making you happier.

Break down your expenses into 3 general categories; Activities that make you happy, Things that make you happy, and stuff you have no choice to pay for.

The latter should be optimized to maximize the other two. For example, I do not get much joy out of driving, so we own 10 years old cars that get us from point A to point B. Even if manufacturers spend billions on advertising (the big-3 spends almost 3 billion a year each), I am not inclined to spend my hard-earned dollars on a brand new car just to keep up with the Jones.

By optimizing our transportation expenses, we are able to enjoy life and focus on our goals.

To come back to our example, we have a super economical Honda Fit, but we also own a mid-size SUV that consumes twice as much gas and did cost more to purchase. It may not be the cheapest way to get from A to B but it is a great contributor to my happiness since it has all the room we need to enjoy all the outdoor sports we enjoy. Would a newer SUV make me even happier though? I do not think so.

Once you categorize your expenses, go back to your goals list and see which expense is compromising your greater life plans. Once you start patching up the leaks in your budget, you will find yourself with more flexibility, more power over your life, and more happiness.


Stay on top of things

Just like a house, your budget needs maintenance and refining. Revisit your goals and happiness list once in a while and stay on top of your finances.

Add to your lists, tweak them, and never forget to enjoy the journey.

If you are only focusing on the end destination, you will give up long before the finish line. Hopefully, you will be able to maximize everything on your happiness list while completing your goals list within the time frame you imagined, Mr. Xyz.


Financial Independence

Does Money Bring Happiness?

What makes you happy? Like really happy. More money will not necessarily make you happier but building your investment strategy around happiness will certainly help.

We were pleased to read this recent article in The Globe and Mail a sentence about wealth and happiness that simply resonated with us. Your investments do not need to generate the greatest returns; they need to generate the greatest amount of happiness.


Here’s a radical thought for retirees-to-be: Instead of obsessing over how to squeeze every last drop of return from your investment portfolio, think instead about how to generate the greatest amount of happiness from your accumulated wealth. – Ian McGuagan


This statement is perfectly in line with our outlook on life. We keep it simple, enjoy every moment of it, and maximize happiness.

The article goes on saying that there is a finite amount of wealth one can accumulate until it actually becomes a hassle.


Once you’ve saved up more money than you’ll ever spend in retirement, you have to become a wealth manager as well as a retiree. – Dr. Finke


Keep it simple

The solution to all of this is to have simple investments that do not require much managing. Having a three-fund portfolio, for example, would only need a yearly or bi-yearly reallocation. This is the whole basis of the Lazy Portfolio that takes its name from this exact characteristic. You could easily build such a portfolio with Vanguard or other index fund providers with a simple allocation such as:

  • 33% in Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTI)
  • 33% in Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund (VXUS)
  • 33% in Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund (BND)


Lazy Portfolio with Vanguard


Once you have the right asset allocation for your investment style, you can relax and enjoy the ride.


For something even simpler, we suggest Wealthsimple.

Start your automatic investment account today!


The key to maximizing happiness from your investments is to keep a healthy mind and portfolio. By keeping your emotions out of investing and focusing on facts. You can minimize stress and anxiety that market swings might induce.

As the great Warren Buffett says, if you are a saver (in your wealth accumulation phase) you should be happy with the stock market drops. Market swings are just great sales where you can buy your favorite investments for less. If the market tanks 30% this summer, we will still be saving and buying more Vanguard index funds for 30% less!


stockmarket on sale


Buffett also said to invest in things you understand. Keep it simple and refer back to the numbers when in doubt. We use tools like Personal Capital, FIRECalc, and cFIREsim to back-test portfolios and retirement simulations.

For us, knowing that our asset allocation would have survived the Great Recession or the 2000 Dot-com bubble is quite reassuring. If ever you doubt your investment strategy, go back to the research. Remember the reasons you chose this strategy to begin with.


Make it happen

Once you know what you are investing in, you need to know what you are investing for. Having goals is a great way to keep a healthy portfolio. It will keep you moving forward while staying positive.

Whether you break it down to small, short-term, goals such as saving $2,000 for a vacation or a general long-term goal such as reaching financial independence in the next decade, having something to look forward will motivate you to stay the course.

Look forward to the freedom wealth can bring you rather than thinking about the material things wealth can buy.

When creating your goals, focus on what you can control and keep it visible. Most of us forget or simply overlook the objectives we give ourselves.



Keep your goals current and never be shy to adapt your goals. We are curious beings, we constantly learn. You might adapt your goal of saving $1,000 a month to $1,500 once you realize how your standard of living did not really change even after depriving yourself of those thousand dollars.


Everyone has there own ways

After asking a few of our blogger friends to share their thoughts about wealth, we saw how it contributes to there happiness.

Teacher Investor said that wealth allows him to give back. To do what he loves. Just like us, his investment strategy is congruent with his lifestyle; simple, streamlined, automated (i.e., not time intrusive).

For his part, Akash Sky said that wealth does not necessarily provide him with happiness, but it most certainly prevents unhappiness such as struggling with finances, unable to purchase high-quality food, etc.

His investment strategy, which involves investing into a ton of random things, provides him happiness through knowledge. He enjoys learning about different asset classes and the specific details about investing in them.

For example, he learned recently that our interest rates are not directly related to the Federal Funds rate (fixed income assets dropped starkly when the FED proposed to increase the federal fund’s rate but have since more than recovered their fall due to our interest rates falling).

His investment strategy greatly differs from ours. We like to keep it as simple as possible with index funds while he prefers to invest in individual stocks and likes to spend the time researching. There is no right or wrong strategy, as long as you are enjoying the journey.

Our friend Fulltime Finance mentioned that wealth buys less stress and the ability to take greater risks. What you then do with that reduced stress and greater risks can lead to happiness while Matt from Finance Yo Self noted that wealth can be used however you see fit to make you happy.

For some, it’s giving it all away to causes they believe in. For others, it’s using that wealth to build more wealth. This also means that everybody has a number that is “enough” – enough to fulfill whatever purpose, whatever they’re trying to achieve, from having wealth.

However, for Matt, the purpose of his wealth is to give him more choices – with the understanding that you can do everything right and life might still not work out the way you hope.

You can’t control everything.

As far as investing, this translates into a hands-on, DIY approach (control) with a set of guidelines designed to prevent me from making decisions based on what’s happening now (what you can’t control).

Coming back to our point of keeping things simple, Wall Street Physician mentions that it is important to keep things simple with your investing and personal finances. As you become wealthier, the added happiness from having an additional dollar goes down. As you accumulate wealth, you should reduce the time-consuming micromanagement of your personal finances. This frees up time to do the things you really love.

We got a similar response from Mrs.Groovy from Freedom is Groovy that said that wealth allows her to feel light and unencumbered.

No nagging thoughts or worries. It provides more mental space for enjoying simple things in life like relationships, nature, being a good person, and doing good unto others. Just like us, she finds that wealth is freedom.


Wealth can’t buy me a happy marriage, a happy child, or a happy dog, but it can buy their good health in the form of healthcare and good food to fuel their bodies, and it can buy us the free time to spend with each other, all of which are important foundational aspects of being happy. – Revanche from A Gai Shan Life


Tawcan, for his part, finds that wealth opens different doors and creates options in life. One really needs to differentiate between happiness and joy.

Happiness is typically externally driven and momentary. Joy is more internally driven and can last for a very long time.

Lastly, our friend Lily from the Frugal Gene shared how wealth allowed her to leave something behind.


I can leave something for my children someday. For those reasons and only those reasons do I consider wealth as good.

I’ve once sat on a pile of gold (figuretively) but I couldn’t help feeling sad and lonely because there was no one to share it with and no purpose to utilize any of it. – Lily


To conclude, always keep in mind how your wealth can provide you with the most happiness. Build your investment strategy around that premise.

Thanks to everyone that shared their stories with us.

We invite you to comment below. How does wealth bring happiness to you? We all have our ways, find yours. Xyz.



Debt-Free Living

Living a Simple Life with Less

We live a conscious life.

We consciously choose our purchases, our investments, and our lifestyle.


When we face a choice, we try to think of alternatives and try to pick the optimal option that will maximize our happiness while minimizing costs. Using the utilitarianism ethical theory, for example, “Happiness” here is defined as the maximization of pleasure and the minimization of pain. Pain here being; departing from our hard-earned dollars.


Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, described utility as the sum of all pleasure that results from an action, minus the suffering of anyone involved in the action. – Jeremy Bentham


There are greater consequences behind consumerism; everything we buy or choose not to buy is affecting someone else. The conspicuous consumption North Americans have become used to is affecting the lives of many around the globe. Production of so many goods is exhausting our planet’s recourses and exhausting workers across the globe. Factory workers in China, for example, often work over 16h a day, six days a week to produce all this stuff.


Choosing happiness through minimalist living

We chose the path of voluntary simplicity for our own and the greater good. Some live extremely frugally by refraining from luxury and indulgence but we are not ascetics. We still enjoy some material possessions and luxuries but we consciously choose where we splurge. Our decisions tend to balance value rather than completely depriving us of some things.

We restrain ourselves from unnecessary purchases and impulse buys and when we do want something, we see if anything we already own could accomplish the same utility or we try to find it used for less than half the retail price.

Companies like Amazon try to make effortless to spend your precious dollars. They offer Daily Deals, Lightning Deals, 1-Click Ordering and algorithms will always show you a product that you might want but the only function we like to use is the Wish List. Saving everything you want there, before completing your orders, will allow you to see if you actually need it. Wait a few days and come back to it. Half of the time, we forget stuff was actually saved there.


How to save money on AmazonSource: ABC (Youtube)


Not only is consumption costly but it does not always make us happier. The diminishing marginal utility implies that your happiness and wellness level will increase when you first start buying things but after a certain level, any extra consumption will not make you happier.

How to be happy

We like having a 60’ TV, nice modern furniture, and staying in luxury hotels when we travel but we have a balance and live a life of luxuries without going into debt. Most of our furniture was bought second-hand, we never paid retail price for clothes, and we travel like kings for a fraction of the price using rewards points.


Choosing a stress-free life

Because we do not have any debts other than our mortgage, we enjoy a significant level of freedom. Our cars were paid cash, our furniture was never bought on payment plans, and we never carried any credit card debt. Living within our means increases our happiness and well-being considerably.

We are consistently bombarded with messages trying to convince us to consume more and it is all easily available through credit but living within our means allows us freedom. The freedom to live a stress-free, happy, life.


Live debt-freeOwn your stuff, do not let them own you.


Adopting a minimalist living made us happier. Decluttering our home has been a great exercise to make us rethink the things we actually like. This past year, we sold or gave away a lot of dust-collectors and clothes.

  • We sold a TV and with a stand for $100. Who needs more than one television anyway. It was untouched for months.
  • Gave away about 3 bags of clothing to our local charity. If we did not wear a certain article of clothing in the past three months, there probably is someone else who needs it more than us.
  • Finally sold an extra pair of skis for $80.
  • After staying unused for years, we sold an old iPod for $100.
  • Sold four PlayStation games for $15 each.
  • Looked through our garage and sold a ceiling lamp for $20.

At the end of the day, we now have a cleaner, decluttered home. We gave a new life to our old stuff, passing along the joy it used to provide us, and we made $360 along the way!


Choosing our way out

By consuming less, we can also save a lot more. We are currently saving over half our incomes and at that rate, we are right on track to retire 10 short years after committing to this journey. Once we reach financial independence, (a bit more than 8 years left!) we will have the freedom to work, or not, on whatever we want. The projects, the hustles, the hobbies… Anything is possible once money is out of the equation.

Meanwhile, we enjoy every moment we can throughout our journey towards financial freedom. We opted for a good work-life balance. Each working less than 40 hours a week with semi-flexible schedules and traveling the world a few weeks a year. We can enjoy our weekends together, both finish work around the same time, and follow each other’s schedule.

  • On the work side, we do want to perform and grow our careers but we do limit the hours we are devoting to it just to keep our sanity.
  • On the life side, we try to fill our lives with priceless experiences rather than pricey materialistic stuff.

We hope you are enjoying your journey as much as your destination.

Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.



Financial Independence

Don’t like your Job? Just Retire Early

I was reading this study about happiness in the workplace and it really surprised me how little of us truly enjoy our job. Yet, so many are working over 40 hours a week until they are over 65. Why work so long when you hate your job?

If so few are enjoying their work, why so few are taking the necessary steps to retire early? I understand that financial independence takes a few sacrifices but it does offer its benefits.


Only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, according to Gallup’s new 142-country study on the State of the Global Workplace. – Gallup


The statistics above can be misleading given that it is a worldwide survey. Not everyone in the world has the luxury to choose where to work. Not everyone has our working conditions but even when looking at North America, almost 1 out of 3 workers are satisfied with their job.


At the regional level, Northern America (that is, the U.S. and Canada) have the highest proportion of engaged workers, at 29%, followed by Australia and New Zealand, at 24%. – Gallup


work happiness levelsSource: Gallup


Why are we not saving more?

So only 1 out of 3 workers are satisfied with their job, that is quite alarming given that average Americans are saving less and less of their take-home pay and therefore, are delaying retirement even further.  Personal savings rates have fallen under 5% compared to when they were in the double digits before the 80’s.

With so few workers satisfied at work, I would imagine that more people would make the effort to retire earlier. With simple math, we can determine that this low savings rate mean that people will be working their job they do not like for roughly 60 years (or basically, until the government subsidizes them). Even without thinking about retirement, such a low savings rate greatly lowers your freedom and security.


retire early Savings RateSource: JP Morgan


Having enough in savings to be able to pay for emergencies without going into debt is the first step to financial security. Having a few months of expenses saved up gives you the luxury to shop around for the best job that suits you and enables you to negotiate better terms for yourself without worrying about your basic needs.

In addition, having a healthy emergency fund allows you to say no to underpaid offers and negotiate a better salary when you are job searching. It worries me that so few Americans are saving a healthy portion of their income. It creates a frail society that is ready to accept any job at any salary just by fear of not being able to pay the bills.


Retirement is not dead, yet

The actual age of retirement is rising rapidly and people are expecting to work even longer. Without the security of a strong nest egg, average American is solely dependent on government programs, which seems to extend the working age ever so farther.

Looking at the chart below from Gallup we can see the actual retirement age among today’s retirees (baby boomers). If we look at U.S. Census Bureau data for a more actual retirement age, the national average retirement age is currently 63 years old. Still surprising to me given that the social security age is now 67.


early retirement is possibleSource: Gallup


Early retirement is very possible

With all this data on hand, I can just be thankful I am not the average. I plan to retire at 35 years old and enjoy life fully! I simply cannot imagine working until 67. It’s not that I do not necessarily enjoy my work. However, having a clear goal in mind and knowing that I have a chance to retire in less than 10 years really helps me get through the day.

I follow simple maxims that will give me the best chances for financial independence and I hope you can find inspiration in them too.


1. Save at least 50% of your salary and invest it for the long-run.

2. Invest any bonuses or raises instead of spending them.

3. Always try to shop and compare to minimize costs.

4. Always try to maximize your income with raises, job switches, or side hustles.

5. Avoid all consumer debt except for a mortgage.


Saving more than you spend will exponentially decrease the number of years you will need to work before being financially independent. The key takeaway is investing your savings in the long-run.


What to do when you hate your job?

Savings enough to be financially independent with a savings account returning 0.5% annually is nearly impossible. However, investing in the market makes it more than possible in a short amount of time. 🙂 The key here is to invest for the long-run. When you hate your job, do whatever it takes to retire sooner.

Do not follow the financial news or constantly look at your balances. Staying on course is one of the strongest assets you can give your portfolio!

In addition, if you invest any bonuses or raises you get, you will not only increase your nest egg but also beat lifestyle inflation. You might get used to a higher lifestyle and this would increase your required nest egg before being financially independent.

Minimizing your cost of living will also minimize the size of nest egg required. If you can live on only $30,000 a year, then you only need a passive income to cover those expenses. For example, you would need to have $750,000 invested to safely withdraw 4% or have $1,000,000 if you prefer to withdraw only 3% to be even safer over a long time horizon.


You are more than your job title

Doing a job on your own terms is also very rewarding, anyone can start a side hustle and generate income without the bosses. I really enjoy having the liberty of working on projects I believe in, on my time and my terms. Anyone can start earning money on the side now with affiliate programs. Agencies are quick to signup and let you choose which product to promote. Once you mention a product on your site and close sales, you will get a cut out of it. This is how this site is run and I find it much less intrusive than ads.

If you want to start your own site, the first step to any website is web hosting. I use BlueHost and it is ideal to start your own blog or website.


Avoid the traps

On top of all this, avoiding expensive consumer debt is critical to financial independence. Carrying credit card debt at 19%+ interest or even having an unsecured line of credit at 8 or 9%+ can really cost you a lot over the long-run.

The average U.S. household with debt carries $15,762 in credit card debt. At 19%, this costs a whopping $2,994 a year just in interest! Don’t be the average and pay off your credit cards in full every month. Try to invest that $2,994 a year in the market instead. 🙂 Investing this with the average market return of 7% would give you $50,151 over only 10 years.


how to become financially independentSource: Money Chimp


Following these maxims do not guarantee anything but it sure guarantees peace of mind. I do not think that you need to be engaged in your job to be happy. However, I do believe you need to be engaged in your future and your long-term goals.

Giving a purpose to your paycheck will not make the job better but at least it will give you a reason for it. In addition, having a purpose motivates you to push even harder and maximize your job for that purpose.

What do you think? Are you happy with your job? I wish you the best of luck in your career and in your journey to financial independence 🙂






Financial Independence Traveling

Free Things to do in the Adirondacks?

This weekend, we joined some friends in the Adirondacks mountains up in New York State. After a little drive, we were in the middle of nature, in the cold, cold, nature.

We walked the beautiful trails for over 3 hours and it got me thinking about the true importance of financial independence in my life. Exploring what makes people happy and how to survive this consumeristic life.

I will try to share my thoughts in a readable fashion, hopefully, you can find some value in my observations.

First off, nature is beautiful. I find it so relaxing and hiking is such a great hobby to have. When you think about low-cost activities, there is not much that can beat hiking. Apart from a small up-front cost for proper clothing and footwear, hiking can be done for free or a small park entry fee.


living below your means


The importance of having cheap hobbies

Having expensive activities can be a huge drag on your financial freedom. I think that it is super important to follow your passions and hobbies but find the best way to do them.

Of course, everyone has some costly activities. For us, it is snowboarding and skiing. A single day can cost anywhere from $0 to hundreds of dollars. Some rent mountainside cottages or hotels for the night. Eat and drink at the restaurant and go to the biggest hills in the county. However, it is not the only way to enjoy yourself. Once you figure out how to be happy with less, then you can do more!

We go skiing at local hills for under $50 a day and usually use coupons and promotion to save on the lift tickets. Another great way to practice this sport is to ski uphill or walk up and then ski down which is generally free to do. I highly recommend you shop for gear off-season when the promotions will be greater or look into used gear.

When we go hiking, we generally keep expenses to zero. I think it is important to have a list of free activities you enjoy. The American way of spending to have fun is unsustainable. There is no formula that says that spending more with equal more fun and happiness. Here is a simple graph to show exactly how money spent correlates with happiness:



A simple chart to show how money spent correlates with happiness.


How to be happy with less

As you can see above, free does not mean boring and expensive does not mean fun. Find what you like to do and then find a cheap way to do that. Having this ability will not only increase your saving rate but also lower your future expenses.

If your goal is to retire one day, doing so while enjoying the many luxuries this world has to offer will probably cost you dearly. Either you will need to work much longer before retiring, or you will run out of money.

In the chart below, I looked at the 116 possible, 30 year periods in the available data. Starting with a portfolio of $1,000,000 and spending $40,000 each year thereafter. This would be a healthy spending amount, in my opinion, that should let you enjoy a middle-class lifestyle without running out of funds.

For those of you that never tried this tool, FIREcalc is a retirement calculator that uses Monte Carlo simulations to see how your portfolio would have withstood the different periods of time throughout history. If your retirement strategy would have withstood the worst ravages of inflation, the Great Depression, and every other financial calamity the US has seen since 1871, then it is likely to withstand whatever might happen between now and the day you no longer have any need for your retirement funds. It assumes a 75% stock portfolio with an average expense ratio of 0.18% ad an inflation rate of 3% starting in 1900 and counting 30 years of retirement in 116 rolling periods.

In this scenario, the lowest and highest portfolio balance at the end of your retirement went from $-400,986 to $5,679,475, with an average at the end of $1,845,488. (Note: this is looking at all the possible periods; values are in terms of the dollars as of the beginning of the retirement period for each cycle.)

For our purposes, failure means the portfolio was depleted before the end of the 30 years. FIRECalc found that 6 cycles failed, for a success rate of 94.8% which I would be comfortable within my own retirement. Failures, in this case, would happen if one retired just before a large drop in the market such as in 1929 or in 2000. To visualize the chart below, FIRECalc advises to not follow any individual line but to look at the mass of lines. You can get a clear visual representation of how frequently your strategy would have failed (dropped below zero) or succeed.

The objective of presenting the information this way is to allow you to get a “big picture” sense of the way your strategy would have performed historically.

Withdrawing $40,000 per year (with inflation) out of a $1,000,000 portfolio historically had a 94.8% success rate. Use it for yourself to see how your scenario plays out. Source: FIRECalc


What makes people happy?

Now in contrast, if you wish to own a jet-ski, have an ATV, and drink cocktails every night to entertain yourself, you might end up spending a little more than $40,000/year. To calculate this very basic example, let’s say you have a loan to pay for a $13,899 jet-ski, your monthly payments would be around  $268.71 (assuming 6% APR for 5 years).

On top of that, you would finance a $16,599 ATV with a monthly payment of  $320.91 and would spend $10 a day on a cocktail. You quickly see how this all adds up. On top of that, you would need to pay insurance, gas, maintenance, storage fees… Now, let’s just assume your lifestyle costs now $20,000 more than our simple middle-class example. Do you think you would ever run out of funds?


How to live a happy live in frugality #Frugal #Retirement


Here is how your portfolio would have fared in each of the 116 cycles. The lowest and highest portfolio balance at the end of your retirement was $-3,316,154 to $3,868,324, with an average at the end of $210,483. FIRECalc found that 57 cycles failed, for a success rate of only 50.9%. It would basically be a flip of a coin.

how to retire early

Withdrawing $60,000 per year (with inflation) out of a $1,000,000 portfolio historically had a 50.9% success rate. Use it for yourself to see how your scenario plays out. Source: FIRECalc


Having flexibility is key

As shown above, your withdrawal rate can greatly change the likelihood of your retirement. Discovering and developing low-cost hobbies will allow you to live on less, increase your savings rate, and ultimately, live on less in retirement. Having the flexibility in your budget is a huge advantage, not only in retirement but throughout your whole life.

Hiking was just my activity for the weekend but there is a ton of things to do at a very low cost. Here is a list of hobbies and activities for you to try:

1. Learn New Things (free online or with friends)

2. Gardening (a few cheap packets of seeds, and a bit of dirt. You can even learn gardening online)

3. Camping (tent, snacks, drinks, maybe a small park entry fee)

4. Board Games (buy secondhand board games or lookout for sales)

5. Free Community Events

6. Yoga (use videos on Youtube to learn and master some yoga positions, no need for any membership)

7. Writing (from blogging to writing a book, there are lots of different ways to enjoy writing. You might even earn a few bucks!)

8. Learn To Dance (use Youtube videos and tutorials to teach yourself new dance moves)

9. Reading (great way to exercise your mind. Checkout your local library or keep reading blogs for free)

10. Explore Where You Live (every street, tunnels, and bridges in the area you live in, can be fascinating)

11. Visit Local Museums (museums usually offers free entry on certain days)

12. Listen To Podcasts (funny podcasts, educational podcasts, podcasts with celebrities, even financial independence podcasts!)

13. Cycling (If you don’t have a bike yet, borrow one or find a used one for half the price of new models)

14. Play a Ball Sport (sports like soccer, baseball, or tennis are all really cheap to play and you can find used equipment easily)

15. Geocaching (geocaching is a fascinating and exciting hobby that costs very little, all you need is a GPS capable device, they’re free apps for your phone and plenty of adventures to go on)


Find what you like to do and find a cheap way to enjoy it. You will live a long, low-cost, lifestyle full of excitement and savings. 🙂




travelling cheaply



Financial Independence Traveling

Family Trip to Guatemala Living with the Locals

Back in 2014, I went on a 1 month-long trip to Guatemala with my family. This trip really changed my views on life and on the meaning of happiness in general. Seeing and learning about this amazing culture helped me realize how little we need. I was strolling through life without knowing how to be happy but the answer was right in front of me all along.

It is possible to live on a lower budget while living a fulfilling, happy, life. Their culture and beliefs were an eye-opener and a true pleasure to discover.

Travel on a budget

Experiences over things

The main takeaway from my travels was to value experiences over materialistic things. This has its limitations but for most things, the total happiness derived from an experience will be greater and last longer than from materialistic things.

Of course, this statement has certain limitations. I am sure that a minimum-wage earner would prefer having a roof over his head than spending on travels. Technically, as long as all our basic needs are covered, this usually holds.

For my example, let’s use a new study from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School that states that happiness increases with higher wages up to about $75,000 a year (TIME). I have experienced the same results when saving 50% of my income, the extra happiness that spending more could bring me is minimal since I can still live a plentiful life on half of what I make.


Sometimes more is less

With this in mind, we can now compare common middle-class expenses such as spending $20,000 on a brand new car versus spending $10,000 on a used car and spending the extra $10,000 on an amazing trip with your family. The new knowledge, memories, and bonding you will get from a family trip will greatly outlast the new car smell. That will wear off after a few months anyway. Vacations and travels are a great source of experiences but there is plenty of activities you can do locally like sports, shows, museums, foods.

It is also important to discover the things that can bring great experiences in life. For example, buying a camera, a new bike, or new skis are materialistic purchases but can provide great experiences. You should especially focus on your hobbies and plan them in your budget even if they might be expensive. You can always find great stuff on Craigslist or Kijiji at a fraction of the original price.


How to be happy?

Traveling to lower-income countries really opened my eyes to the relativity of standard of living. Some might think it is impossible to be happy without having 350+ channels on your TV but do you think everyone in the world needs HBO to be happy? I don’t. Your happiness level is something you can control.

We went hiking up the mountains of Guatemala and saw farmers work in the mountains, on a terrain so steep that we found challenging after a single day.  They were working with the land that was available to them, every day, all year long. The conditions are less than perfect. Yet, those farmers are only earning an average annual income of $1,619 US dollars (World Bank) and they seemed happier than some stressed-out Americans making that amount per week!


Once the basics are covered, we don’t need much more

As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that your physiological needs such as food, clothing, shelter are the most important. The second tier is safety; this includes insurance, utilities, and so on. Anything after those can be reduced, cut, or accepted as guilt-free spending.

Once you attain this mindset and choose your luxuries, you will enjoy them even more. In terms of happiness, I think that one can choose to be happy in life once his needs are covered and anything above a livable wage will not change happiness levels much.


Money cannot buy happiness


money happinessNominal GDP Per Capital. Source: U.N. World Happiness Report


does money equal happinessNational Happiness Rankings according to respondents. Source: The Washington Post


Above is an overlay of the world’s nominal GDP per capita followed by the world’s happiness rankings (U.N. World Happiness Report) (The Washington Post). Looking at both overlays, it is interesting to see how lower happiness levels seem to correlate with nominal GDP under $6,000 per capita.

Coming back to my concept that happiness level will not be greatly affected once basic needs are met. We can see that most of the Americas are happy even if there are income discrepancies. In ranking, the US ranks 17th of the 156 ranked countries, behind Mexico (16) and Panama (15) even if the US comes ahead in GDP and average income.


Happiness also correlates to things like life expectancy and GDP per capita, though perhaps not quite how you’d expect. While longer lives and more money do correlate to national happiness, they’re not nearly as important as social support, which researchers define as “having someone to count on in times of trouble.” The report also found that perceptions of corruption and generosity (the latter measured by donations to charity in the past month) are better indicators than GDP per capita.  – The Washington Post


I can relate to this quote, “having someone to count on in times of trouble”. It is a great factor in happiness levels. I can clearly see this on my path to financial independence. Having an emergency fund and building a strong nest egg brings great security to my finances and that makes me happy. I can sleep at night knowing that the bills will be paid and I will not lose my house if I lose my job.


Traveling to Guatemala

In Guatemala, we stayed a week with hosting families to learn Spanish. It was an immersion program where you would get Spanish lessons every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then stayed with a host family every night for a week. You were given a room and meals throughout your day by your host family as part of the school’s package. What I liked about this program is that it was from a non-profit that gave back a lot back to the community. They do projects in the region to help the farmers, children, and families in need. It is nice to know that the host families would get fair compensation for their work and hospitality.

Living with the locals helps you learn their culture and really see how they live their daily lives. As a guest, we did not choose which family we stayed with nor did they have enough room for all of us with one single host family. My sister, for example, was placed in little bungalow/shack with a tiny room. She was served a variation of rice and beans every day.

Me, on the other hand, was placed with my mom and my other sister in a large, two-story house where three of us had a whole floor as living quarters. We were served different meals every day and even had hot water showers!


how to spend your moneyTypical Guatemalan Multi-Generational Houses


Not much but enough

It was still clear that my host family was struggling. The house was slowly breaking down since its construction in 1954 and they could not afford to maintain it. They had inherited it from their grandfather who was a wealthy dentist back in the 50s. However, the outside of the house still looked clean and the grass well trimmed. They ate very simple meals but always had enough.

Comparing the two host families from the outside, one might think they lived completely different lifestyles. One was struggling while the other was well off.

However, getting to know these families, it was clear that they were both on tight budgets. Both still living happy lives. Once you realize that at least 80% of humankind lives on less than $10 a day and experience it for yourself in your travels, you will change your views on consumption.


how to lower consumption


The American Consumerist Dream

Most of the world’s private consumption is consumed by the wealthier countries but do we really need all this stuff? The world’s richest 20% consume over 76% of the world’s private consumption and, for the most part, we waste it! All that stuff that we accumulate, throw away and buy again makes you think about the real priorities in life.

To come back to my travels, I was fortunate enough to stay with the local community and learn about their culture and way of life. Contributing and helping in that community was a great way to give back a little to the world.


how to lower consumption


We are lucky to live where we live. Always remember that happiness is not about money but is about your choices. I will continue to talk about my travels in future posts, stay tuned. Be happy, Xyz.