FIRE.142 Structure yourself for decades

Sometimes my head just starts thinking.  This thinking can head down many paths, and frequently calculations are involved.  I don’t know why, they just are. 

In one recent brainwave activity pattern, I realized that one day you’re 25 years old, and then the next week you are 45.  That is almost how the decades happened— without thinking about it too much at the time, but looking back, it is definitely a “whoa” moment.

It seems life gets in a routine, or more specifically a groove, and the time passing by turns into larger and larger chunks, almost instantly.

In our case, we do not have children—life’s natural time gauge—marking schools/school years/height charts/birthday parties, the sort of life events that mark time into chunks.  I never took Physics, so I assume there’s more applicable terminology than “natural time gauge.”

To make time flow even more seamlessly, we live in Arizona, where looking out the window every day reveals the same sunny blue sky, day after day.  I often say the only way to tell the season when looking out the window is to touch the glass and feel its temperature.  Cool, hot, or super hot.

In looking back at my lifetime, I see that everything flowed along in the groove/routine year after year.  Knowing that flow now, I realize how important it was to have a smart structure of saving, living nicely, living wisely, giving, and having a network so that as the years went by that structure remained mostly constant, or in many cases improved naturally. 

Our financial saving, and tracking of our expenses became more fine-tuned and optimized over time without too much additional effort.  There was no need for us to have that “oh man, we’re so far behind, we really need to get it together” moment.  We tried to structure for the future, which is the now, and the upcoming decades.

We lived smallish lives.  For example, we never had the too-nice-for-us cars that required thought about changing to less expensive cars.  We tended to buy at least 3-year-old cars and drive them for 10 years.  This ownership strategy gave us plenty of time to really figure out which car we wanted to purchase next. We did research and used price optimization, even avoiding sales tax buying from private parties.  All of which saved SO much money over the decades. 

Our vehicles were a large example of the delayed gratification that allowed many years of future daily employment to be eliminated.  No need for a paycheck since we already saved the funds that those work hours would have earned.

An even bigger example is our home.  It’s a “starter” home.  It’s a whopping 1026 square feet.  It’s a nice but small home.  It happens to be in an almost perfect location.  We’re 3 houses from a 10,000 acre (20×3 mile?) mountain preserve with running, mountain biking, hiking trails, and a lot of privacy.  Speaking of privacy, our home is on the uphill side of a large (100’ across?) mountain drainage wash.  Our backyard is almost totally private.  During the day (yes, we get to use our house/yard up to 168 hours per week) there’s almost nobody around, especially with regard to our backyard viewing area.  The decision to stay in our starter home decades ago helped us stay in our home these days (rather than in the office these days).

Not only is the starter home size small, but so was the purchase price and loan payments.  It’s interesting that the standard mortgage is 30 years if so many people move every 7 or so years.  (from articles I recall, I could be wrong)  Another good thing, a small home/yard is easier to maintain as the decades pass.

Heading further into our retirement I’ve been mentored by friends and cohorts who have mentioned making things easier to do, easier to manage, and easier to process.  Mark Trautmann told me “reduce the friction” of activities if you can.  He’s just brilliant.

I’ve taken this advice in bill-paying.  I know, I know-finally getting more modern than.  No longer do I have to be staged in front of a screen on/around the first of the month to give my money away.  I simply built the automation required to reduce the time-friction I had endured for decades.  Let’s be clear, my manual online bill-paying process had far less friction than the older days of driving checks to some of the local companies you owe money to (Bob do you hear me?).  That’s how my dad trained my mom to pay the bills almost 20 years ago.  Now, I get a notification telling me a payment will be made in a couple of days and the amount, then a notice when the payment is complete.  I let the bits and bytes work for me.

I’m now working more towards the “Set it and forget it” mentality.  Or maybe a “set it and just check on it” process.  Or even…improve it as you go. 

The point of my thought here is; you have structured your past to be where you are, good or bad.  You have the option to structure your activities and lifestyle now for the decades in the future.  Isn’t this a great time to try and put a nice, planned, well-tuned structure into place?  This may allow more time for you to enjoy your life, because you reduced the friction of everyday tasks.

*** Nothing in this article is to be construed as financial advice.  I am not a financial planner, nor do I pretend to be.  You should always consult your own professional when seeking advice. This post is not a piece of literary mastery, just a random thought I had.

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