Travel Photography

If you plan on retiring early, like me, you have to have hobbies. They are part of your retirement ecosystem. Myself, I enjoy photography, an expensive hobby that I’m not very good at. I especially enjoy photos from my travels. Fortunately, these hobbies work out perfectly for a blogger!

An added bonus of writing this blog, is a need for content. I enjoy getting out and shooting photos but I can get lazy and spend too much time on other things. Now I NEED to go out and snag a few photos a week, which has helped self regulate my photography sessions. I always enjoy the sessions and find that self managing myself in this way is super useful. Kill two birds with one stone.

Finding a way to build your hobbies into your life before retirement will help you plan better. You may not enjoy a hobby after a while, you might take it really seriously. Knowing what you like before retirement will help you plan ahead. You can’t always be sure, but it’s vital to try!

Hopefully I’ll continue to enjoy my hobbies, and maybe even profit from them one day. You never know!

-Mike

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FI/RE-Friendly Job Hunting

I am very focused on reaching FI in less than 15 years. That involves a lot of sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. If you don’t like your job, change it, even if it means taking a small hit to your finances. If you do change jobs, and you do take a financial hit, make sure the benefits out weight the negatives. Here are some things I like to ask a prospective employer:

Preface: So I’ve gotten to a point in my career where the type of work that is available for me has become quite specific due to my skillset. This means when I look for a new job, my decisions almost completely lies in what the company culture has to offer, and what benefits the company offers. Here are the questions I usually ask that end up adding the most weight to my decisions.

How big is your company? I want to know how many people I’ll get to work with and learn from. Small group places allow you to meet the other members of your proposed team. Larger groups increase the likelihood that you’ll make long-term friends. This all depends on the general culture of the company, however.
What is the career growth path of your company? Do you stay as a [job]? or do you become a [job manager]? is there room to become at [job vp]? Companies that are excited to tell you about the growth room tend to be growing and like to promote within!
How do you reward tenure? Sometimes not moving from job to job can stifle your growth both personally, experience-wise, and salary-wise. However, some companies who treat individuals as a valuable cog in the large machine, offer incentives to keep people growing. This can include bonus time off, milestone rewards (5 years, 10 years), salary reevaluation, conferences, and more. This is a huge deal breaker for me usually, as I like to become invested in my employer.
How much time off do you offer? The more the better. Period. Can you bank vacation days? Can you get paid out for vacation days? Are they generally more flexible around your needs? Do they track or limit sick days? This is a huge question for myself as I like to travel. If you don’t, you can always use a day at home to play catchup. Think about it!
What do you guys do for fun around the office? I go to the office to work. However, sometimes it’s nice to get up and take a breather, have an after work event, or a holiday-related event. A fun work environment is always a good thing.
How do you celebrate victories together? If the company ever takes you out for lunch, dinner, or drinks, you can definitely consider that a bonus. I’ve received gift cards, days off, and been able to attend some excellent team parties when deadlines are reach. These are the best days at work, and the more the better. Booze isn’t really a huge benefit honestly, but it’s a nice treat.
Let me know what you think. Anything else you really look for in a company?
-Mike

Learn Useful Skills

If you’re into homesteading, DIY, and reducing your costs before and during retirement, it pays to be handy. General skills with tools like tape measures, levels, chalk lines, saws, drills are all simple things to learn well and let you do things yourself without having to pay someone else.

For myself, who might sit on the slightly extreme side of DIY, I’m planning on picking up some more specialized skills. I may even be able to make money offering these skills to others further down the road, but the intent is to make myself very self sufficient. The list of skills I have going so far:

  • Welding
  • Sewing
  • Basic Car Mechanics

In addition to DIY skills, you should also consider what your physical fitness has going for it. Being active is important but there are some skills that could save your or a loved one’s life. These include:

  • Being able to run a mile without stopping. The faster the better, but the fact that you can get somewhere on foot fast is huge. An accident while hiking? Get to a road. Need to run from something? Self explanatory.
  • Being able to swim 100m. I would actually say more than this. If you can rescue someone from the water, make it to shore from a sinking boat, you’re way ahead of so many people. After the sinking of the cruise ship off of Italy where a lot of people died, could I have swam 500m to shore? Hell no. I’d be sunk.
  • Being able to drive manual. Manual cars are more efficient on gas and generally less expensive. Less people can drive manual cars so you can get a better deal buying used.

Travel Canada in a Camper

Quick Rant: I talk a lot about alternate lifestyles. Some of these lifestyles may seem strange but in the year 2017, a lot seems strange. With climate change, dwindling resources, and uncertain political climates, we need some drastic changes in the world to help get back on track and survive as a species. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it doesn’t seem too farfetched does it?

Not too long ago I discovered /r/vandwelling¬†while being SUPER productive one day. Despite not spending my time usefully that day, I really discovered something I’d like to do. With a homestead as a frugal home base and a warm weather getaway property, living costs might cut into my travel budget. Enter an adventure van.

North America is a massive place, and I’ll certainly never see ALL of it. A van will help me get around to a lot of it, and do so on a budget. Never needing accommodation, having a place to cook, and keeping the amenities of home; these are all advantages of an adventure van.

There may come a day when I don’t need the van anymore, so I can pass it onto the next. The value from retrofitting a $5000/$6000 van will pay itself off in no time! RVs are hugely expensive and guzzle gas; I’m looking for a smaller platform. If I fall in-love with living in a van, I could always upgrade as well. An adventure van seems like a great way to test the waters of a different lifestyle. Check out the stories available on the web, instagram, reddit, and more. If van life isn’t for you, it’s certainly an interesting look into a different type of life.

I’ll continue to write about different lifestyles, with the hopes of people looking at alternatives. You never know how you might find happiness, try something new!

-Mike

Emergency Preparedness

I haven’t been able to bring myself to adopt a ‘prepper’ lifestyle, but recently with the large number of natural disasters it made me think about how well prepared I would be for one. I’m definitely failing that class. It’s not a huge concern for me, but thinking forward I’d like to be prepared in the future.

Living off the power grid sets you up for success in the event of a disaster. Having your own power source that doesn’t comes from the lines is crucial. Having multiple heat sources in a cold country is hugely important. Fresh water is another hugely important factor.

I haven’t gotten too detailed into my plan, but I will without a doubt recommend the following:

Two or more sources of clean water

  • 365 Gallons of drinkable water
  • Water purification tablets
  • Water Distiller

Food

  • A good stock of perishable foods (say 1 month?)
  • Optional stock of Meals Ready to Eat (MRES). Costco sells a year worth, it’s expensive but it would be a game changer
  • Ways to grow your own food (I think without an emergency this is important)
  • A weapon and ammunition. You may not want to hunt, but it might save your life. Ammunition is tradable in the event currency isn’t of much value

Heating

  • Wood Stove and a winter’s worth of wood
  • Propane heating and a large tank/bunch of tanks

I don’t have a hazmat suit on my shopping list yet, but it’s always worth keeping an open mind. All of the above things you can use day to day anyways, just keep more of it than what would be considered average.

-Mike

 

Canadian Pension Plan

I recently stumbled upon this excellent tool from the Canadian government that you can use to determine your retirement income. A lot of the data you’ll need may require some digging to find but it should give you a pretty clear picture of what your current situation and future situation will look like.

I came upon this will trying to figure out how much CPP I will receive in early retirement and it’s entirely dependent on how many years you have been earning and how much you earned each year. I can’t recall what I was earning before starting my career, so I can only assume I’ve been hitting the top target for 4 years. That means I’ll need to work another 16 years in order to receive 50% of the maximum monthly payment. It’s not a lot, but every dollar counts.

How do Canada’s social programs factor into your retirement?

Hang Dry Your Clothes

A couple years ago while visiting friends in Melbourne, Australia, I had some downtime so I decided to do some laundry. After the washing was done, I noticed there was no dryer. Oh, looks like I’m using a clothesline for the first time since childhood. I still get grief from my Aussie friends regarding North Americans’ use of dryers. In Canada, we don’t have the luxury of drying clothes outside all year round, but you can hang them inside during the winter as your house will be very dry (for those of us in Southeastern Ontario, anyways).

There are a huge number of benefits for such a simple task:

  1. Less damaging to your clothing [Lint is your clothing degrading]
  2. Wash Less! [Okay, so it’s labour intensive to dry everything. Only wash when dirty!]
  3. Better for the environment! [No electricity required!]
  4. No electricity required so it’s free! [No electricity or coin dryer cost]
  5. Humidify your house! [In the winter the added moisture will keep you healthier]
  6. Get outside! [Enjoy a few minutes outside; we all can use it]

Try it! More money in your pocket and better for the environment; it’s a double win!

-Mike