I’m Dying And So Are You

If your life were a movie, would you want to watch it?

I’m dying. No I don’t have cancer and I’m not starving to death. But life, inevitably, is mortal. Every day that passes by is one less day that I have left on this earth. And the same is true for you. What are you going to do about that?

I live a bit of a “Groundhog Day” every weekday. On Monday morning I get up before the sun does and work until it’s almost dark out. I repeat this on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. By the time Friday night rolls around I’m tired and worn out from the previous 50+ hours of my diminishing time spent at work. So the weekend usually becomes a time to recover my energy level back to some type of equilibrium. I know I’m not alone here. Almost everyone who visits this blog is in a very similar situation. If you were completely free to choose how to spend your time, is this how you would allocate it?

Isn’t it time to transcend all of this? 

I turn 31 years old this year. I’m certainly no old man and hopefully have plenty of time ahead of me. However, I’m also no longer a spring chicken. The time to live is now. We all live here in the now, in the present. Is life truly school, work, death? Or is there more? If there’s more to life, how do we access it? What would it look like? How would we know it if we seen it, when all we know is the status quo? Are you happy with the status quo, or do you want more?

If you want more, why don’t you have it?

I want more. I want more than a life filled with endless blurs of repetitive sameness. And I’m doing what’s necessary to have that life. There’s many ways to get to the same destination, but the train I’m taking right now is one of living a frugal life and investing my savings into high quality companies that pay dividends through common shares. I’m then reinvesting those dividends, along with fresh capital, to increase my equity stakes in said high quality companies. Where has this train taken me so far? Well, I now have what I call my Freedom Fund, which is my portfolio of aforementioned stocks, along with the skills needed to maintain a happy high quality life that doesn’t require a lot of capital to upkeep. Why is that important? Well, the less capital you need to survive, the less “Groundhog Days” you need to live through.

After all, you don’t need a high paying, time consuming and stressful job that you agonize to go to if you only need $1,000 per month to live on.

Flexibility is key!

I got on this train taking me far away from the status quo back in early 2010. I’ve been riding it for almost three years. And what do I have to show for this long ride? The enemy of rigid sameness: flexibility! Flexibility, in my opinion, is one of the greatest assets you can have. I live on about $1,000 a month right now, not including minor debt service. I’m aiming to receive almost $300 per month in dividends in 2013. That means I’ll be able to cover a full 30% of my living expenses from the passive income my Freedom Fund generates.

What does that mean? It means that I only have to cover approximately $700 per month in active income generation, most likely through employment of some kind. Not too difficult. I could work about 20 hours per week making $10 per hour for the rest of my life right now if I so chose to! I could semi-retire before my 31st birthday after only three years of riding a train that required only frugal living and wise investment decisions to board. A rather difficult ticket to attain if you’re not used to saving and know nothing about investing, but remember: you are dying. If that’s not motivation to change your life I don’t know what is.

I love the train I’m on, but even it can become the status quo.

I don’t know how long I’m going to keep working at a fast paced and stressful job that requires over 50 hours of my time every single week. I don’t know when I’m going to start taking my time back. But it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that I can. Having that choice, an opportunity that gets brighter with every paycheck I put away and invest, is truly priceless. I originally planned to keep doing what I’m doing until 40 years old, saving that large paycheck and investing as much as I can. But as I look out on the horizon, 10 years is a very long time. I think it’s important to break free, innovate yourself and stay fresh. Life, after all, is a journey and not a destination. Make sure that journey is one that is filled with love, laughter, great memories, family and friends, but no regrets.

I’m dying, and so are you. I just shared with you what I’m doing about it. What about you?

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Congratulations, DM. You’ve achieved a lot of FI in just three years. You’ve got the freedom to look for more enjoyable work. Keep up the freedom quest and keep posting! You’re an inspiration.

    Dividends Forever

    • says

      Dividends Forever,

      Thanks for coming by and commenting and I’m so glad that you find inspiration here. That’s what it’s all about!

      I hope your journey to wherever you want to go is treating you well so far.

      Best wishes.

  2. says

    Back when I had a job that I didn’t like very much, I felt exactly the same way you did. “How much longer do I have to do this much work, with this much abuse, for this little money?” I never did answer the second question, namely “What do I intend to do if I wasn’t working?”

    Keep pressing forward. You’ve made great progress towards achieving FI thus far.

    • says

      Journey,

      I don’t think I’d have much difficulty finding things to do if I wasn’t working. There’s really just so much I don’t accomplish. I don’t see family or friends nearly as much as I’d like, and although they’d still have full-time jobs my schedule would be extremely flexible. I don’t spend as much time at the gym as I’d like because I’m so tired at the end of the day. I don’t get to read or write as much as I’d like. There are so many things I’d really like to do more of.

      Keep up the great work on your end too! I’ll see you there.

      Best regards.

  3. says

    Get married, and have some kids!! Nothing will make you appreciate work more than having a wife at home waiting on you with a ‘honeydo’ list, along with some rugrats crawling around sticking fingers in empty sockets. You’re still young, dont be so focused on ‘saving’ that you forget to enjoy the best part of your life. My two cents, are you 31 or 81?

    • says

      HYS,

      This might be your dream… the family kind of dream and it is fine. Life is not only one road. Have all the kids you want and enjoy your work as much as you like it.

      I think we should all mind our business, exchange ideas and choose for ourself what is the perfect life for us.

      Just my 2 cents.

    • says

      HYS,

      I honestly have no plans to get married, and actually rather am quite sure I’ll never get married. Just not for me. The same can be said about having children. Just not for me.

      I hope it works out for you though. I say that we should all do what makes us happy. If being married with children makes you happy then that’s fantastic. I would find it extremely limiting and claustrophobic. Of course I’m still young, so my take on this could change.

      Best wishes!

    • says

      DM, my reply was tounge in cheek about the marriage and the kids. It isnt for everyone, no doubt. Im not married btw, divorced twice, actually, and have just one kid, a daughter about to graduate college.

    • says

      HYS,

      Whoops, sorry about that! It’s hard to pick up on humor/sarcasm on the internet sometimes. My apologies.

      After re-reading the comment I should have probably realized what you were saying. Sorry!

      Take care.

  4. says

    Nice post as always DM!

    Yea I’m with you…I started thinking that way about a year ago. I can’t see doing nothing for more then a year or two. Just like Jacob at ERE you are gonna stumble onto something that is interesting and pays a little something from time to time with several months off between gigs. You are right that the freedom to choose is the nice part. You might pull the trigger at some time when you could work for 10 hours a week…or perhaps one day a week with a 6 day weekend just to keep you regular? Then again there is the option to go on long term slow travel to practice your Spanish in inexpensive countries where you are just about wealthy enough right now.

    I would be with you but I have 3 kids and a wife to enjoy. I am not sure how mine will quite play out either . It will be fun to find out don’t you think?

    Chris

    • says

      Chris,

      Well the great thing about being flexible is that when opportunities arise you can take advantage of them, rather than saying “man, I already have a job…I don’t want to risk anything with my employer.” Being free to choose your opportunities and paths in life is really quite priceless. That’s what seems to have happened to Jacob. He was plodding along, but his flexibility allowed him to pursue something he wanted to really try out. The great thing is that if he doesn’t like doing it anymore a year or two from now he can move on to something else. How your resume looks doesn’t matter too much when you can already pay your bills.

      I definitely wouldn’t mind the thought of working at something enjoyable on a part-time basis for the rest of my life and semi-retiring at a young age. I figure if I was to get “bored” with all my time available to me, why not just pull the trigger now and do what I’d be doing anyway. Something to certainly think about.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Best regards.

  5. says

    This post reminds me of the quote from Shawshank Redemption, “get busy living, or get busy dying.”

    Good luck in reaching $300/month in passive income this year. I’m hoping to reach 2/3 completion on the path to early FI by the end of 2013.

    Often times, I find myself thinking about that better life in the future. Like you, I’m getting very tired of the day-to-day grind and monotony. Lately, I can see myself checking out of the game for good, and venturing outside the country, living abroad for a few years. This is something I’m really looking forward to doing, as it will allow me to stretch my wings and live life, once again.

    Best wishes!

    • says

      FI Fighter,

      Great quote there! You really captured the spirit of this article. In essence, that’s what I’m really talking about. Are we all just slowly dying? If we are, isn’t it time to get busy living instead? Good stuff.

      It sounds like you’re off to a great start already in 2013 and your rental income is going to really help out. You’re going to be living a free life pretty soon! Keep it up.

      Living abroad is something I’ve STRONGLY considered. The problem for me would be the lack of seeing my family. I’m quite close to my family and being even as far away as Florida really bothers me often. So, being thousands of miles away would probably be heartbreaking. If I wasn’t so close to my family I’d really be considering SE Asia or South America, namely Ecuador.

      Stretch those wings, brother.

      Take care!

  6. Anonymous says

    DM; You have a good job that pays well, how many people in the US are out of work and would love to have you’re job? I think you need to be thankful for what you have and besides if you lose you’re job maybe you will find employment that you enjoy.

    Maybe you answered this before but what will you do for health insurance when you retire at 40? That could be enpensive. Take care and enjoy life everyday.

    Bill from Wmsport

    • says

      Bill,

      I’m not thankful for my situation. Quite the opposite. I’m very thankful that I’m in a situation that allows me to pursue financial independence. I’m very lucky, indeed!

      However, that doesn’t mean one should just continue to plod along the well worn road. It should never be frowned upon to reinvent yourself and learn new things, go new places, be a new person. Life is only lived once. No sense in doing the same thing every day for 40 years.

      Take care.

  7. says

    Hi DM,

    What if you got single again, would that change your perspective?
    Would your budget be affected by it? Maybe for a little time… until the dividend grows enough to make for the difference?

    This is so fascinating. I mean, thinking about that possibility of not being force to work… what a great thought that is!

    • says

      grox01,

      Hmm, good question. My perspective wouldn’t change much and my expenses would remain relatively flat. My housing costs would likely go up, but not necessarily. If I was single again I’d consider renting a room from someone. Food costs would come down slightly as I wouldn’t be paying for restaurant tabs so often. In the end, it would be very similar.

      I’m glad the article got you thinking. That’s really what it’s all about. There’s another wonderful road out there in the world and it’s ready to be explored.

      Best wishes!

  8. says

    “What are you going to do about that?”
    To go in age the healthier I can. Tai Chi and workout are my perfect tools for that.

    “Are you happy with the status quo, or do you want more?”
    I want more and I’m on track for it. I will be free between 49 and 53 (I prefer 49… really… lol)

    “If you want more, why don’t you have it?”
    Started late (38y.o.), not as you, and it’s why you’re in a better track than me toward liberty (that my wishes to you for all the next years)

    ” I’m aiming to receive almost $300 per month in dividends in 2013. That means I’ll be able to cover a full 30% of my living expenses from the passive income my Freedom Fund generates. “

    30% already is awesome keep it up!!
    Great post btw! Take care :)

    • says

      JF Baconnet,

      Sounds like you have some answers to these questions and know where you want to go. Good stuff! It’s never too late to start. Keep fighting the good fight.

      Thanks for the support! I appreciate it. I’m doing my best to keep it up.

      Best regards.

  9. says

    Hi DM,

    Great talking to you the other night. When I saw the title of this post in my inbox, I had to get over here and read it right away.

    Yes, our lives are all ending one day at a time. I too am on a mission to opt out of this race race called school/work/death. That’s not how my life is going to go.

    I would encourage you to not look ahead at the full 10 years at once. It will scare you and make you want to throw in the towel. Instead, just try to make it 6 more months, and then 6 more. And then 6 more after that. Eventually, you’ll look up, with $4-500,000 in investments and able to leave completely. If you look back at the past 2 years and talked to yourself at the beginning, you may have said, it’s too much. I can’t achieve that.

    • says

      Kraig,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      It was great talking to you too. Always nice to connect with like-minded people and hash out ideas/concepts/thoughts.

      I do try not to look out 10 years all at once. However, for some reason I feel this sense of urgency. I feel like if I go 6 months at a time like that, my best time will be behind me before I know it. I suppose it’s a rather depressing way of looking at time, but I know that I won’t be young forever and I really want to maximize this time.

      You know, I think most people out there want “something different”. But that same majority doesn’t really do what’s necessary to go out and get it. There is a lack of urgency. It’s always “I’ll change my life tomorrow.” Change is hard, especially when you’re going so against the grain like us. Doing what’s necessary is incredibly difficult, and sometimes I wonder if I’m doing enough myself.

      One of the great things I’ve noticed is that success breeds success. A little bit of progress really builds on itself. You can actually see this in the tangible form of compound returns on your investments. Your returns are amplified when they’re reinvested and lead to even bigger returns, which then further compound into bigger returns. Looking out on the road of 1,000 miles does begin with one step…but looking back on your progress once you’re halfway there reminds you how far you’ve come. I feel the same way right now looking back over the last few years.

      It’d be great to talk again sometime. Hope all is well up north!

      Best wishes.

  10. Anonymous says

    i love to work been working for 43 years or longer i could have stopped years ago if i left they wouldn’t even know i gone two weeks latter i guess i don’t have a life but working is fun i think i go even if they didn’t pay me by the way your girl friend
    seems like a good kid see what she says about getting married it might be a good thing go ask a paster or minister they usually have a good hold on stuff like that

    • says

      Anonymous,

      It sounds like you found a job you truly love. If you’d go there for free than you must truly find some type of meaning or fulfillment there that other people have a hard time finding with paid employment. Typically the fulfillment comes in the form of a paycheck, which of course can get old…and that’s really why we’re all here.

      I’d be very open minded to the idea of finding a job I loved and saving significantly less money. My issue with that idea, however, is that I don’t know if there’s anything out there that I’d love to do for 40 hours per week or so. Maybe there are some pretty desirable occupations that require less hours. I just haven’t found any.

      I’m happy for you. I hope you continue to prosper!

      Best regards.

  11. says

    Great post DM!

    Looks like you are on the right track. Understanding your own mortality helps to keep things in perspective.

    My plan is to continue investing in quality dividend-paying stocks when they are undervalued. My dividend income continues to increase over time, but keeping expenses low is a challenge. :)

    • says

      Kanwal Sarai,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      My plan is pretty much the same as yours. I love few things more than finding a high quality dividend growth stock on sale.

      Keeping expenses low is always a challenge. I hear you on that one. Right now the idea of higher future consumption/more time through investing trumps the lower current consumption/less time I could undertake with my current capital, so I continue to invest with great gusto!

      Best wishes.

  12. says

    I frequently feel like I’m stuck in the movie Groundhog Day as well just going through the motions each day trying to get to the weekends. Like you I have a goal of early financial independence so that I can have more flexibility to do what I want. However I’m still quite a long ways from that goal. I find it good to create other shorter term goals in the meantime. This year I have a goal to run a marathon and growing my blog has become a good hobby as well. I think these other goals help give me something to look forward to and hopefully make the day to day living a little less boring.

    • says

      Dan Mac,

      Great ideas there. Short-term goals are a fantastic idea, as they set realistic time-based marks and allow you a chance to reach them and set the next mark. I do this with my yearly goals, and then do my best to exceed them.

      I’ve found that investing and writing on the blog has definitely made the daily doldrums much easier to deal with. It not only takes my mind away from the stressful/depressing aspects of work and life, but also gives me hope that I’m working on something that will eventually allow me to sail far away from the island I’m currently on.

      Best wishes!

  13. says

    Enhorabuena ! Congratulations dear friend. I call you friend because I feel you are a great thinker, philosopher and investor’s friend. You nailed exactly what I felt about life 30 years ago. I happen to be exactly twice your age now, with some more capital than you, still struggling to adapt to a frugal life, but enjoying this new financial freedom more each passing day. It is thanks to you that money flows again regularly into my account. You are my third mountain guide after Ben Graham and Warren Buffett.

    As to flexibility, I think it is the key for many solutions in life. A site I visit and practice each day is lumosity, it helps me keep flexible and help my brain keep fit to find solutions.

    I truly wish you all the best in life, riches, wealth, abundance, health, love, laughter, and so on….

    When I saw this black tunnel today, made me think twice !

    Good luck, I am sure you’ll be soon a free man.

    • says

      Aspenhawk,

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I really appreciate that. Very, very nice of you!

      I’m honored to be your third mountain guide. That’s some company that I truly don’t deserve to be in.

      I’m glad you noticed the black tunnel. When I seen that photo I realized it was perfect. Not only does it have the train tracks…as we’re all on our own set of tracks leading us to different places (mine being hopefully to early retirement). But, the tracks all inevitably lead to the same place: the end. We can all go about our lives and do all these things and forget it’s going to come…but it will come whether you forget about it or not. I never forget, and that definitely helps me maintain perspective.

      I wish you all the best in life as well!

      Take care.

  14. Anonymous says

    But what if you die tomorrow? Have you considered eternity? I am impressed at your passion for freedom, just don’t miss it!

    • says

      Anonymous,

      It’s the exact thought of dying tomorrow that compels me to seek freedom. My odds of dying tomorrow get larger every single day that passes by. Time is not lost on me.

      I think I’m giving my search for freedom a great shot. The only thing that could probably improve the plan is by focusing more on the journey and less on the destination via a job I enjoy more. This is in the cards, but I’m trying to maximize my income for right now to get the portfolio jump started. Once it’s humming along I’ll likely disengage from what I do currently (something I do only for the money) and engage is something I enjoy deep down inside.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Best wishes.

  15. Anonymous says

    I hope your employer does not read your blog and the related comments. They may disengage you before you disengage them…..unless you really don’t care.

    I check your blog every day for updates and also stumble across articles you have written that appear on other blogs. I enjoy watching your progress.

    Keep on forging ahead.

    • says

      Anonymous,

      I’m fairly certain my employer is not aware of this blog.

      Thanks for stopping by and supporting the blog and the journey. I do appreciate it. I’m extremely lucky to have had the progress I’ve enjoyed so far, and I hope that I can continue at a similar pace for the foreseeable future.

      I hope your journey is just as prosperous!

      Best regards.

  16. Anonymous says

    DM
    Have you every thought about becoming a personal trainer in a gym? You obviously have the background and motivation that rubs off on others.
    Scott

    • says

      Scott,

      It’s funny you mentioned that. I actually wanted to be a personal trainer back in the late stages of high school and early stages of college. I even purchased a package from ISSA at one point and did quite a bit of studying on it. What got me away from that idea was the thought of not making a living from it. There are certainly some very successful personal trainers out there, but I was concerned about the income that vocation would provide.

      It’s something that I could probably transition into fairly easily if I wanted to. The cost of education in this field doesn’t have a high barrier to entry. I’d have to get back in excellent shape as I believe in leading by example. Something to ponder.

      Thanks for adding that.

      Not doing what I do now (working at a car dealership) and doing something I’d like is a constant mental issue with me. The question becomes “what would I like doing for 40 hours per week?”. Naturally a few ideas come to mind, but I’m always afraid that no matter what I do, if I’m forced to do it for pay and do it for a great percentage of my time (at least 40 hours per week), after a while I’ll dislike it no matter what. So, may as well get paid well for something I’m going to dislike.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Best wishes.

  17. Anonymous says

    Hi DM,

    My wife and I started our FI journey in 2010 as well (a few months after you). Like you, we are dividend growth investors. I very much enjoy following your journey because it is very similar to mine. These philosophical posts are my favorites because they truly resonate with what I feel. Regardless of the path we each follow to reach FI, I think these are questions that all of us ask ourselves at one point or another during our journey.

    A year ago I stared at the 10 year abyss between that point in time and the FI horizon, and it depressed me quite a bit. Then I discovered ERE and learned that I could pull the horizon a lot closer (the original FI budget was a bit silly and included certain luxuries I could do without). And after that I discovered Escapology and learned how I could make a “mad-dash” to FI if work became unbearable (which it isn’t, I enjoy it 85% of the time). Anyway, I now what you have exquisite knowledge of your expenses and everything ERE related, but you might figure something out in the future that will make that 10 year abyss look less daunting.

    I have to give you props for being an anchor point for a growing community of FI seekers. I hope to start a blog some day and give back to the community in a similar way.

    cheers,

    DM Fan

    • says

      DM Fan,

      Thanks for the kind words. Comments like this are what encourage me to keep writing.

      I’m glad you enjoy these types of post. I enjoy writing them more than typical stock articles. I guess I consider myself a quasi philosopher first and an investor second. I mean once I’m actually free to do what I want with my time I’d much rather wax poetic about life and the meaning of it than look up stock reports. That’s not to say I don’t quite enjoy investing, however. Quite the opposite.

      I’d like to hear more about this “mad-dash” you speak of. I really don’t know much about that. I’m guessing it involves some sort of immediate “FU” cash and quitting for a while until something else pops up?

      The 10 year “abyss” does seem daunting at times. I think the personal enjoyment one receives out of one’s work has a lot to do with exactly how daunting this all is. If work is pleasant enough, and you don’t completely hate going in every day, than the journey can be quite painless. On the other hand, if your work makes you miserable the destination can seem unreachable and the abyss too large. I’m somewhere in the middle of those two extremes currently.

      I do hope you start a blog some day. I’d love to read it! Keep us updated on that if you decide to engage in blogging.

      Best wishes!

    • Anonymous says

      Hi DM,

      Yes, one version of the mad-dash involves just using a modest pile of FU money to make a run for it. Escapologists reason that once you are out of the 9-5 madness you can use your time and ingenuity to generate a modest income that can help sustain a minimalist lifestyle (the FU money would provide the backbone for the escape and the other activities would fill the gaps). One way to generate some income is to engage in so-called “cottage industries” where you do something at home, such as a blog. It could also involve some temporary, part-time employment. This approach is not very sustainable, but at least it provides short term relief.

      The other day I thought of another possible way to shorten the horizon to FI. Let’s say that you have been investing in dividend growth stocks and you are 3-5 years away from having enough passive income to cover your needs. Instead of continuing the grind for another 3-5 years you can work for a fraction of that time to save relatively small pile of cash, say $10K, that you can withdraw from on a monthly basis to cover the rest of the 20-30% of your monthly expenses. For example: Suppose you need $1000/mo to meet your needs, but your passive income covers $800/mo, you can use the pile of cash (call it the Escape Fund) to withdraw $200 each month to fill in the gap. Meanwhile, the dividend growth component of your portfolio will continue to increase your passive income. If we assume an aggregate dividend growth rate of 8% (which we both know is very doable with a typical basket of DG stocks), the Freedom Fund will reach the $1000 mark in about three years. At that point you would have used $7200 of your Escape Fund. Assuming a 4% dividend yield, you would have needed about $60K in the Freedom Fund to generate the $200/mo that the Escape Fund provides.

      You can play with the numbers in many different ways (you may have to wait longer or have a bigger EF in order to offset inflation), but the gist is that you can play with different scenarios for getting the hell out of dodge if being at work feels like having your head in a vice.

      cheers,

      -DM Fan

    • says

      DM Fan,

      Thanks for adding that. I had figured as much on the “mad dash”. Not else it could be, I suppose.

      You know, I’ve actually quite often thought about what you’re describing in paragraph 2. That is something that would be pretty realistic. If you can get close enough, but just can’t take the full-time gig anymore it wouldn’t take long to save up your “parachute” until you’re ready to hit the ground. If one has a high enough savings rate this might only take a few months, rather than the couple years of full-time work it would take to get to 100% FI based on passive income generation alone. Great stuff. I really like those ideas!

      Thanks again for taking the time to hash all that out. Really appreciate it!

      Take care.

  18. says

    Hi all,

    This discussion is what I was looking for beside stocks. Everything related to the purpose of investing is the driver of our actions.

    I am too on that path, what to consider, how to achieve, what to do with the income… the plan, the ideas, the living style…

    Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      grox01,

      I’m glad you find the discussion here engaging and enlightening. I do as well. The comment section is filled with much greater information than I could ever hope to type up in a post.

      Best wishes!

  19. says

    Unfortunately as soon as we come into this world we continue to get that much closer to leaving. That’s why the flexibility and opportunity is one of the best things in life. Surely everyone has something that they would like to be able to devote time to learning. For me, I want to learn more about woodworking and digital photography. And luckily these are both things that could potentially lead to creating extra income if I decide to call it quits before actually reaching FI.

    The less you can comfortably live on the better because you have the freedom to take on other opportunities that come up. At some point in the future I would like to spend a year in another country being able to fully immerse myself in the culture rather than a 1 or 2 week snippet.

Join The Discussion!