I’ll Be Happy When…

I’ll be happy when I get a raise. I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds. I’ll be happy when we move into that new house. I’ll be happy when I meet that special someone. I’ll be happy when the little one sleeps though the night, or when they’re out of diapers, or going off to school, or finally graduating. Hey, I’ll be happy when I get the job. Maybe I’ll finally be happy when I retire. Wait, will I ever be happy?

Ill be happy whenTake a moment to evaluate yourself. How is this season going for you? What is making you happy? What is causing you to be stressed? What will likely change and what will remain consistent? I spent a little time thinking through the various positive things in my life and also considered many of the unique stressors that are impacting my current environment. Sure, having a toddler and newborn bring about some new challenges, but the excitement of watching the little guys learn and play is incredible. The seasons will change but the challenges will only evolve as we age. They certainly will not go away. Part of living a happy, healthy life is understanding our mental tendencies and learning to appreciate the challenging seasons of life we are all certain to face. Continue reading

Time Poverty of the Ultra Rich

A billionaire’s conference? I didn’t know such a thing existed. I was listening* to a discussion the other day about a conference put on exclusively for billionaires. Founding members of the conference noticed a strange phenomena. Although the conference was originally planned as a week-long event, none of the wealthiest individuals on the planet could actually attend the entire time. Most were only able to come for a day or two. The irony is simple- wouldn’t the wealthiest people in the world have the greatest ability to take a few days off? The surprising answer is No. Although we currently do not have billions, a lot of us fall into similar situations as our careers, incomes, commitments, expectations, and responsibilities grow and mature. The question begs to be asked: Is the money we make bringing us any closer to actual freedom?

stressThis observation has also been discussed on the other end of the spectrum when looking at individuals with very little money but plenty of margin. Although the case is compelling, Simple Economist readers tend to be high income earners with above average accumulation rates. In essence, we actually have to deal with a different set of challenges and expectations that arise when our incomes go up, even if we are maintaining consistency in our levels of consumption. We must be attuned to the fact that income often comes with responsibility and, if we are not careful, can limit our freedom rather than add to it. Continue reading

Why We Paid Off Our Mortgage at 30

Is it wise to pay off your mortgage early? The debate about when to pay off a mortgage seems to be a popular one in the financial world. Some prevailing financial personalities abhor debt and suggest paying it off at all cost. Others (including many finance professors & rich dad) seem to enjoy low-rate mortgages, and fundamentally love the idea of a leveraged debt position. I’m not really sure there is a right or wrong answer in the debate, but I know we have chosen a side and I’m pretty happy with where we currently sit.

Pay off house earlyAbout three years ago we found a little house we liked in a great southern town. We saved pretty aggressively after we got married so we had a good down payment to go with a small mortgage. We fixed up the little house and it has been a great place to live as our family has begun to multiply. Although we chose a traditional 15 year mortgage, we realized if we put a little extra towards the house we could pay it off pretty quickly. Once the idea was planted, we focused, and ended up paying it off much faster than our initial estimates. So, why did we pay off the house? Why not invest the money in the market instead? Is it ever smart to pay off low-interest debt? Continue reading

100 Days of Real Food

“Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much” says Michael Pollan in his book about eating simply. Our diets can become extremely complicated with all of the choices available and the extras that have been added into the products that line the grocery store shelves. Even when we try to eat healthily, many of the products we buy are filled with highly processed ingredients that do not even sound like food. Overall, our family tends to eat a pretty balanced diet, but occasionally we like to try new things to challenge ourselves and break the routine of our weekly diet. So, bring on the 100 Days challenge.

100daysWe discovered 100 Days of Real Food a couple years ago while searching through food/nutrition blogs, and have completed the 100 days challenge in the past (a 100 days without eating any highly processed, refined food). The blogger and creator, Lisa Leake, implemented this meal plan in her family, saw amazing results and is now challenging others to do the same. The plan simply promotes healthy eating, learning to read the ingredient labels on packages, and removing highly processed foods. We conveniently received her cookbook for Christmas, and thought the new year would be the perfect time to start.

Health is one of the most important aspects of lifestyle design. It is hard to do anything efficiently when our bodies feel bad or we do not have energy. So fueling up with healthy foods is a must for feeling good, sleeping well, and overall productivity. 100 Days is really about simplifying our food choices and removing all of the crazy substances that have crept into our food over the last fifty years. -SE

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The Post Christmas Declutter

Christmas is a pretty exciting time in our household. We were able to spend a lot of quality time with our immediate and extended family, eat tons of delicious food, and relax without many external distractions. The highlight of christmas is really spending time with people we care about, but we also enjoy the gift giving process as well. Although the Christmas season is a time of extreme accumulation for many individuals, it can also be a time to evaluate everything we currently own and the new things we received. One of my goals this years is to end Christmas with less stuff than I started with. Is that even possible? What about with kids? We currently have a lot of stuff (and added plenty more), but in the next few days we will take some time to go through our stuff and donate/recycle/sell anything will not be using in the near future.

Christmas TrashBoth my wife and I come from very generous families who really enjoy the holidays. We get a few things and the grandkids get all kinds of crazy stuff. They really enjoy it. I enjoy it too, but I also dislike the deadweight loss of Christmas and the over-consumerism that tends to expand each year. We have done pretty well about communicating our expectations and keeping the entire holiday season focused primarily on spending time with each other. Somehow, we still end the year with lots of new things that make it into our house and take up our valuable space. Continue reading

Getting What We Don’t Deserve

We are pretty lucky. Our lives are filled with abundance and we should be thankful and grateful. We received a pretty lucky historic roll of the dice. Sure, many of us work very hard. We often take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to us. We define our obstacles and overcome them. But overall, there are so many blessings out of our control; we just need to sit back and be thankful for life and the opportunities presented before us.

medium_2915376577We hear a lot more stories about bad stuff happening to good people. We hear about tragedy, sickness, war, conflict, famine (especially on the international scale). We rarely step back and give appreciation to the fact that we are very fortunate people. If you read the Simple Economist, or any other blog for that matter, you are a member of the elite group of people who has received an overabundance of good fortune and luck in life. We have options, we have freedoms, and we have our health (at least enough to enjoy reading on the internet). We are pretty lucky. Continue reading

Are you planning to retire early? Extremely Early? Our Plan.

Family, children, and travel. The simple things in my head that made me consider the idea of working towards financial independence at an early age. The idea of retirement is pretty simple to me- getting to the point where I no longer need to work a mandatory job to cover our family’s expenses (ever again). Will we continue to be active and productive after we complete our mandatory employment? Sure. Idleness in not the end goal, choice is. I enjoy my current employment and lifestyle, but there are certainly a few tweaks I would make if money was of no concern.

Goa SunsetHave you ever considered becoming financially independent at an early age? What would be a good target? 30, 40, 50? Have you ever stopped to consider what it would be like if you never had to work for an income again? Any changes you would make? I would love to have a little more time in my days. The primary motivations for me are: time with my family, financial simplicity, and a lifestyle of minimal environmental impact. Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin have been writing about this type of financial lifestyle for over thirty years since the original publication of Your Money or Your Life in 1992. Continue reading

A New Edition To The Simple Economist Family

It has been a pretty incredible week. We added a new member of the family on Thursday and we were able to come home from the hospital this weekend. It has been a fun few days adjusting from a single little one running around to having two. It has been a blast. Our little lady seems to be getting along with her new baby brother so far. Everyone is healthy and we couldn’t ask for more!

baby jamesHere is our little Baby James. His two favorite hobbies are eating and sleeping and he is pretty good at both. It will be interesting to see how adding a new one effects the financial picture but most of that impact will be much further down the road. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how much I enjoy spending time with my kids. If there is anything that can motivate me to financial independence (faster), it would be the ability to spend even more time with my growing family! I’m looking forward to seeing him grow up and I’m really enjoying watching our two year old girl learn tons of new things every day.

Unexpressed Gratitude Communicates Ingratitude

I’m pretty sure we all have people in our lives that we are thankful for. I’m sure you can think of a few off the top of your head. I have more than I can count. However, it is very rare that I actually communicate my gratitude to the people I care about. I know I should be more intentional about letting people know when they impact me in a positive way, but I rarely take the time to extend my gratitude.

gratitudeOne of the hardest parts about expressing gratitude for me, especially to other guys, is the difficulty of getting over the awkwardness it takes to randomly send someone a message of thanks. It is easy after I have recently interacted with them; however, many of the people I’m extremely grateful for I do not see very often. I actually received an email out of the blue from a really good friend. It was a simple thanks for being a friend but it was very encouraging. In addition, the subtle joy of a quick message was just enough to motivate me to pass along some gratitude myself.

Who are you grateful for? I know we have moved past the traditional thankfulness season, but I think it is worth extending (and possibly building lasting habits). Have you let the people you care about know recently how much you appreciate them? Do you think it is possible that unexpressed gratitude can actually communicate ingratitude? Continue reading

The Best Books I’ve Read This Year (2014 Edition)

I spend quite a bit of time reading. Most of what I do for work, research, writing, and academia all involve massive amounts of reading. If you throw in my parenting and religious interests, I certainly spend a large portion of the average day reading content in various forms. I really enjoy reading plenty of other blogs and online sources, but when I really want to delve into a subject, I actually still prefer long form books. I tend to focus primarily on non-fiction, but I always enjoy throwing in a popular novel or two into the mix.

My methodology is pretty simple when it comes to finding new material. Anytime I hear about a new book, my first response is to find it on Amazon and send over the sample to my Kindle. I rarely have time to jump straight into a book when I first learn about it. So, samples are a great reminder tool, as well as a nice little addition to keep a running list of my current interests. I think most of the books I’ve read this year have been personal recommendations or ones I’ve seen recurring on blogs or other feeds that I follow.

I’ve discussed my all time favorite books in the past and also a handful of books that have changed my life. I’m always looking to add to my list, and books remain one of my favorite ways to learn. So, without further ado, here are five (or more) of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I’ve also included some bonus ones at the end and some on my reading list. Do you have any books you think I should read next year? I’m always looking for things to add to my list.

vagabondingVagabonding – Ralf Potts
If there is a book I would recommend to anyone that is considering traveling overseas, it would surely be Potts’ classic. It is also a pretty good resource to encourage people to expand their horizons through a broader international perspective. I really wish I had been given this book when I was in my early teens. Although I already had a penchant for traveling, many of the logistical tips and overall insight would have been perspective changing on what to expect when traveling. The book talks about travel through the eyes of someone who wants to spend more than an hour or two at the tourist traps on a journey overseas. It also includes a lot of insight about the nature of things you can learn and experience when you travel with time and flexibility. I enjoyed the book so much, I actually ended up getting the audio book from Tim Ferris’ book club so I could share the audio with my wife. I could realistically add this to my favorite books of all time. Continue reading