Morning Blues

Here’s a passage/random stream of thoughts/poem from April 2016, from when I was feeling the worst and started getting help for depression.  I don’t feel as bad about mornings nowadays, or if I do I’m a lot more kind to myself. 

Don’t worry, I’m feeling great at the moment!   I wanted to share this in case anyone else is struggling from difficult mornings, or battling with depression.  My heart and thoughts are with you.

I can’t get up in the morning.

Each morning brings a huge battle of will between my brain and body.
My soul feels crushed between the sheets.
The day ahead looms like a dark pit before me.
As minutes turn into an hour – a precious hour of oblivion where I don’t need to think…

I suddenly awake through some internal clock and groan when I see the time.

I force my limbs to move and kick my butt out of bed.
The morning stuck in bed is the worst time of my day.
The bed always feels like it will swallow me whole
envelope me in its sickly warm embrace.

I think about all the work I’ll need to do that day
meetings and training
friendly greetings with a fake smile
standups I force myself to participate in.
Questions will wash over me with its demands, stress and requirements and never ending interruptions that will distract me at every opportunity.

I don’t start any work as I know I will be interrupted,
and as I am interrupted I breathe a sigh of relief  –
that I do not have to start work just yet
a legit task has appeared before me.

I feel like a fake every time I open my mouth.
Words spill out to fill the space and cover my uncertainty.
I wish I could disappear.
I wish I could just stop and do nothing for days.
But I know if I do my joints will start aching, and then I’ll need to stretch, and I’ll need to make supper and clean clothes and feed the cats….

As I start moving through the day my joints feel looser and less painful, and at the same time my day seems more bearable and life not as insurmountable as it was.

I manage a few genuine smiles.
The antidepressants kick in perhaps.
Or maybe just the caffeine.

At the end of the day I feel happier but still scorn the time wasted that day –
being endlessly busy yet getting nothing done.
At home I escape into the internet,
reading article after article in an attempt to actually do something.

Hours pass and I haven’t done anything.

I don’t remember what I’ve read – it’s not important.

I drop into bed exhausted, wishing I had done so earlier,
and dreading the morning darkness one more time.

Advertisements

When enough is enough

If you’ve never heard of the hedonistic treadmill, it’s a concept that’s very useful to learn.
As you get used to the luxuries in your life – your sweet townhouse, your car, your stable 9-5 job – you tend to start seeing that as the norm and looking for something better.  Your expectations and desires rise with your income, and your happiness settles back to normal fairly quickly.  Net satisfaction gain = zero.

The treadmill has driven us throughout history to improve our lives and our environment.  Without this drive we would never have grown our own crops, or tamed and bred animals.  But this drive is still present in perfect, modern day – in the rich countries that we live in, causing us to want more.

I suspect this is what has driven me in my career.  When I was a QA I was striving to become a developer.  When I was a developer I was looking to improve my salary and autonomy, and that lead me back to QA (ironically, it paid more at the time!).
It drove me to seek a manager-level role, which I handled OK but perhaps didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would – especially once I had solved the “easy” problems.

I think it’s time for me to say “Enough is enough!”  If I have enough to pay all my bills, save towards an early retirement, and help out with any family emergencies, why can’t I just be satisfied with a comfortable job, doing pleasant work with a fun team?

I had this thought while reading this blog post – the charmed life of a thankful investor:

Rationalizing increasingly risky investments for the prospect of incremental luxuries seems completely unnecessary because you are thankful for the simple things in life that truly make you happy and cost very little.

This can apply to your job as well – if you’re happy and you’re earning enough (After all, earning more than a certain amount won’t make you happier) – why take career and job risks just to earn a bit more.  You’re risking a team that you don’t enjoy being in, a company that doesn’t gel very well with you, or a sudden restructure and being the first on the chopping board.  You’ll earn a bit more, but is it worth it?

Why does earning more money not make us happier?  Maybe because once you have enough to meet your needs, more money can’t buy happiness.  At around US$75k more money doesn’t make you happier day to day.  Getting 10% increases at that point may make you rate your life achievement more, but it doesn’t help with happiness.

Explanation in this Time article here (Google “Study: Money Buys Happiness When Income Is $75,000” if it doesn’t show)

 Researchers found that lower income did not cause sadness itself but made people feel more ground down by the problems they already had.  …
Having money clearly takes the sting out of adversities. …
At $75,000, that effect disappears

So here’s to finding a cozy job that pays well and treats you nicely!
And to the hedonistic treadmill never starting up to ruin it all for you!

Cutting down on fancy pants living

I’m going to be running an experiment for the month of October (actually starting this week).  I’d like to cut out the daily coffees and almost daily snacks and muffins I’ve been buying.  I also want to cut out or down on eating out.  I’m spending about $450 every month on this, and it doesn’t seem like a great use of that money!

Over 5 years that can add up to $27k with interest/invested in the stock market.
I know you need to live a little, but honestly – over the last few months, those coffees have been a ritual instead of an enjoyment.  And the weekly muffin is scoffed down without much thought – going directly to the hips and stomach – while reading the terrible NZ Herald newspaper.

In comparison, I’ve had two blissful afternoons in the last two weeks.  The first afternoon I cycled around the harbour – always a beautiful route.  I gazed at the scenery, enjoyed the sunshine and exercise, and felt pretty free to do whatever I wanted.

The second afternoon I spent walking around Onehunga.  I did a bit of shopping (shouldn’t do this so much!), had a packed lunch in Jellico Park, and spent a good hour sitting in the park just thinking and planning and coming up with ideas.  I walked past a Cash Converters and spent some time trying out their second hand guitars.  I then went home and played on my cello for an hour.

Both times I didn’t need to spend money, unfortunately I did.  And that money spent didn’t add a whole bunch to the experience.

The point is, there’s a lot of different things I could be doing that’s not paying for coffee and sugary treats.  I want to break this cycle and see what it’s like to not have this automatic urge to buy coffee all the time.  At the end of the month I’ll see if it’s worth paying for it – and perhaps I will reset that particular hedonistic treadmill.  I’ll try report in on this experience over the next few weeks!

 

2017 Goals

Reviewing my 2016 Goals (which was actually more like end of 2016 and half of 2017)

 

1) Setup a regular exercise regime

I’ve started running on a semi-regular basis.  More importantly I’m biking to the train and into work on my awesome little cruiser bike.  It’s not a huge amount of exercise, but it is consistent!

2) Get off anti-depressants successfully – I’ve started and waiting for the withdrawal effects to wear off.

I went back on it for a while, and now am off it again.  Just taking 2.5mg for the brain zaps until brain chemistry comes right.  Using meditation, CBT and exercise to help me through withdrawal.

3) Get up at 9AM on the weekends (See – setting up more realistic goals, I’m learning!!)

Yup, I’m pretty much getting up at 9 or 8 if I’m doing something.  I’m also getting out of beds earlier during the week – either 5:30 and doing a morning reading, or 6 and heading straight into work.  Means I get home a bit earlier as well.

4) Install a Chrome extension to remind me every x minutes, to check if I’m reading something worthy of my time.  I’m sure there’s something like that out there.  If not I’ll develop one 😛  I hate clickbait with a passion, but somehow always find myself on those stupid “X ways you know why bla bla bla blergh” articles.

I installed something to remove clickbait, but not to remind me every x minutes.

5) Setup regular meditation – 15 minutes daily.

I got Headspace, which works quite well.

 

2017 Goals

  1. Learn to play the Cello – practice every day for 20 minutes!
  2. Meditate every day for 10 minutes
  3. RUn saturday mornings
  4. Get through my Steam games backlog without buying more games!

2016 goals and review

2014 goals review

Gee, look at that!  I missed a year… how did that happen? Oh yes, I changed companies and career, I guess that made me pretty busy 🙂

1. Spend less time reading news, blogs, forum posts.

Yeah, not so much.  I’m a bit more aware of the time wastage, but I still do it.  I wasted like a weekend on some really dumb Youtube comedy star that turned out to be a psycopath.  I won’t say who, I really don’t want them to get more views.

2. Consider a career in QA – apply for a few jobs, read a few books, see how it goes.

Yup, did it.  Best decision ever!

3. Get up earlier on the weekends, at least 7AM.

Nope, nope, nope.  On average I now sleep until 10 on the weekend…  I blame it on the depression >.>  (I suspect I’m just lazy and my bed is too warm and comfortable)

4. Read more non-fiction and fiction books, 1 fiction a month and 1 non-fiction every 2 weeks.

Am reading a bit more library books, could read more.

 

2016 goals review

1) Setup a regular exercise regime

2) Get off anti-depressants successfully – I’ve started and waiting for the withdrawal effects to wear off.

3) Get up at 9AM on the weekends (See – setting up more realistic goals, I’m learning!!)

4) Install a Chrome extension to remind me every x minutes, to check if I’m reading something worthy of my time.  I’m sure there’s something like that out there.  If not I’ll develop one 😛  I hate clickbait with a passion, but somehow always find myself on those stupid “X ways you know why bla bla bla blergh” articles.

5) Setup regular meditation – 15 minutes daily.

I only have around a quarter of a year to get this going, wish me luck!

 

The Path to Wealth – the road less travelled

As readers can tell from my last post, I have accumulated a bit of knowledge over the years on how to invest in the stock market.  Most of this has just been reading some key financial blogs rather than consuming massive financial textbooks.  One of my favourite blogs, JLCollinsSnh, has an excellent series on Stock Investment, and I am excited to also share that he has just released his book on the topic,
The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life
by JL Collins.

I received a free preview copy in exchange for a fair review, which I was quite happy with since I was keen to dig into the content as soon as possible.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also didn’t have time to finish it completely in time for the release. Like most people I have other things going on – holidays, work, other hobbies – that are competing for my time.  That’s why I enjoy taking in financial knowledge in small bite-sized blog pieces;  I enjoy reading about it more  and remember it better by doing so. Fortunately The Simple Path to Wealth is perfect for this method of consumption – being both enjoyable to read and well paced.  A good few breakfasts were spent devouring cereal and a chapter in the morning.

I started off thinking I’d just read a chapter or two to start – I ended up reading 10 and forgetting about lunch.  That’s pretty impressive for a book on money – usually I’m asleep by chapter 2 or finding an excuse to put it down.  JL Collins is very experienced in delivering difficult content in easy to assimilate pieces, and I really noticed this in his chapter on bonds.  He divided the chapter into stages to explain bonds, explaining to only read as far as you thought you needed and then move on.  It was a brilliant idea to actually get me to read about the most boring subject on Earth, and also allowing the reader to not stress too much about how “difficult” the content would be.

Another brilliant chapter included a comparison between Martial Arts and stock picking.  When Mr Collins was learning Martial Arts, he was given a warning – if he was ever tempted to use kicking techniques in a street fight, he needed to ask himself – “Am I Bruce Lee”?  If the answer was “No”, then he should keep his feet on the ground… because it’s always harder and riskier than it looks.  Stock or fund manager picking is exactly the same – ask yourself “Am I Warren Buffet?”.  If you are not, you will come off second best.

The Simple Path to Wealth contains tried and tested wisdom; forged in the fires of several market crashes, a recession and hyper-inflation.  Jim has lived through these, as well as a retrenchment and some “F*** you” moments with his boss, and lived to tell the tale. I really enjoy his writing style, and the serious financial content is lined with gems of his own stories in between.  This makes it a very enjoyable read and you won’t find more down to earth, sensible, advice very often.

I really appreciate how The Simple Path to Wealth is devoid of any horror stories or scaremongering.  In the age of “The Stock Market is doomed!” type stories, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear that it’s happened before, it’ll happen again, and don’t worry – you’ll be just fine if you stick with the ride.

This is advice that I heard years ago from my Dad as I started out on my own financial journey, and it certainly shines through that it’s his love for his daughter that has driven his blog and stock market investing series.  I’m just glad that he’s shared this insight with the rest of the Internet and now offline readers as well.  Here’s hoping that many, many more people will now hear his message, and gain many years of simple stock investment and a prosperous path to wealth!

 

 

Advise to a friend

I decided to share this on my blog as well – some advice I gave to a colleague when he expressed interest in what I was investing in.  People are stunned when I come up with this in conversation, but it’s not that I’m an investing guru – I’ve just read lots of great blogs on the matter.  And I’ve had many years of practice and making mistakes – ever since my Dad got me started with a decent sum of money in an investment account for me to work with (Thanks Dad!!).

I started off with sharing the best investment series I’ve ever read.  I love Jim’s blog – he’s got heaps of great advice and a fantastic writer. 🙂

His full series on investing

If you don’t have time to read all of that (it’ll take a while, don’t blame you), read through these first:

What I invest in

Advise below is from a New Zealand point of view, where I mention FIF or taxes, review your own country’s policies on foreign investment.  If you’re from AU, UK or US you can invest in Vanguard directly and then you just need to follow standard investment tax information.
My hubby and I invest in Vanguard ETFs – VAS (Aus 200 index) VTS (US index), VEU (world index) and NZ index SmartFunds

 

NZ SmartFunds are an easy place to start, but they have quite high management fees
 0.75%.  It doesn’t sound a lot, but it adds up over many years!!
Inline image 2
Vanguard – yay! VEU is only 0.13%
 Compare to Vanguard which is from 0.05% to 0.20%

 

Inline image 1
SmartFunds – 0.75% – not so smart 😦

 

 

Smart Funds allows you to sign up and invest a small amount monthly, like $100 or $500 – might be a good way to start saving and investing, then the investing bug might bite!

 

Downsides to direct investment in AU Vanguard:

  1. International investments over $50k (single account) or $100k (joint account) will mean you’ll have to pay FIF tax.  Below this you’ll need to pay tax on the dividends you receive.  Over $2500 a year in RIT kicks you into provisional tax regardless!
  2. You’ll have to be disciplined to not sell your shares if there’s a market crash, and you’ll be tempted to fiddle with the assets – buy/sell when you think the market is high or low.  It doesn’t work – you just have to leave it X)
  3. Each purchase incurs broker fees, so you have to do the math (And save up enough) for a purchase that’s enough to meet the minimum brokerage fee, else you’re leaving money on the table.
  4. The US and world index funds don’t re-invest the dividends for you.  You’ll be sent Australian cheques that you then have to cash in at the bank where the tellers need to work out every single time how to process an international check!  You can pay your broker to handle that, but it’s more money on the table you could be saving instead.
  5. You need to do the purchasing of shares every now and then – can be anxiety provoking.

Alternative to investing in the market directly yourself:

If you don’t feel confident to tackle the stock market just yet, sign up for a managed fund like SuperLife – they charge lower fees than most fund managers, as they in turn invest in low fee ETFs themselves.  They’ll diversify your portfolio for you across international and local markets, plus they handle all the tax for you as it’s a PIE fund – WIN!  They are pretty much investing in Vanguard like ETFs and Smart Shares on your behalf.

 

 

If I didn’t know too much about the stock market already, and didn’t really enjoy managing my portfolio and tracking it myself, I’d sign up for this.

 

Alternative, alternative to investing:

Simply increase the percentage you save on the Kiwisaver you’re on (You are signed up for it right?? ) [Note this is the NZ equivalent of a employer match saving scheme into a fund that you can’t withdraw on until a certain age/retirement)

 

It’s got tax incentives (I think…) and it should be a fairly decent investment.  You will need to just…
  1. Check what fees your Kiwisaver company is charging ( SuperLife was the cheapest when I signed up)
  2. Make sure your Kiwisaver is going into a “growth” fund or similar that invests mostly in the stock market.  You don’t want it in a “income” or “conservative” type fund – that’s for seniors who are about to cash out 🙂

Kiwisaver is awesome because the employer contribution is like getting a 100% ROI right off the bat.  There is no investment that will give you 100% back for your contribution.  I think my company matches up to 3% or so, but there’s nothing stopping you from paying in more to save up.

I think I’ve had a ROI of 110% so far with the employer and government contributions, and the investment growth – WIN!

Downside is you can’t withdraw until a certain age, except for when you want to buy your first home.  Not being able to withdraw the money could be a good thing!
Hopefully this was useful, and good luck with starting out in investing!!