Decade Transitions

A look back and an optimistic look forward.

As we are about to go from one decade to the next, like many folks, I wanted to take a look back and then try to look forward. As opposed to rattling off achievements, if there even were any, I think there is a more interesting approach to take here. If you truly enjoy your work and live below your means, then there's a good chance that your starting point is that your pretty content in life. I am lucky enough to have figured out how to have made that happen. If you have too, that is great, but don't take it for granted.

Life throws challenges at us, how we handle those challenges is pretty important in defining who we are. As someone once said, we learn more about ourselves during the bad times than we do the good times. I had a few of challenges across some of my constituencies, a couple at work including launching an ETF that failed to attract enough assets. It was a great experience and I learned a lot, it just didn't gain any traction.

The beginning of the decade was tumultuous for the fire department where I have been a volunteer since 2003. We had a lot of turnover in the Chief position and a lot of dysfunction on the department's board of directors. I spoke out against some of the nonsense as it unfolded but hung in there because it was (and still is) very important to me. Since I've been the Chief since 2012 I have focused keeping drama and politics out of the firehouse and trying to ensure we have fun (why would anyone volunteer for something that is not fun for them?). I think the lesson is to take the long view where something you love is concerned. I couldn't know how long the department would be a mess but I knew it wouldn't be forever.

I increased my optionality by becoming an EMT (as well as some other fire-related training). I don't want to be a full time EMT but these are useful skills to have and it could help if somehow, my hand is ever forced professionally.

My father got sick in August, 2014, shortly after his 88th birthday and passed away in early 2015. He lived in Southern Spain for the last 35 years of his life and long story short, I was the only sibling who was in regular contact with him. I went over there twice in a very short period to be with him as well as handle his affairs. My wife went with me the second time to help me clean out his apartment as well as for him to see her (he loved her very much). There were both emotional challenges and logistical challenges (including having his remains brought home to be buried in a VA Cemetery which was his wish). One of my brothers referred to this entire episode as my having a mission. This was not tragic, he was 88 and was healthy and very active doing what he wanted for all but a few months.

Of course I would have liked for him to have lived a lot longer, he knew what Joellyn and I were doing for him and while we were always pretty close, I think it brought us closer together which I am grateful for. Not everyone is so lucky. Some spend years caring for an elderly parent which can foster resentment. I know it might be difficult but try to avoid this sentiment.

I became more interested in photography in this decade. I'd been interested in taking some pictures here and there but my interest really accelerated in this decade. I think it is important to find creative outlets and find new interests. I also learned a lot more than I used to know about diet and exercise. However interested I was in National Parks ten years ago, I am much more so now. There's a lot to see, a lot to do and a lot to learn about, I would encourage everyone to learn more. I have always worked out but have learned how to do so much more effectively and while I was aware too much sugar is bad for us, I didn't understand the full definition of what sugar actually is (carbs=sugar, once you break through on that, much healthier outcomes await). It looks like gluten is just as bad but I am in the early innings learning about that.

Just as important as health is being happy at home. Twenty six years in and all is well on that front. Every other aspect of your life will be better if you're happy at home, have your health and live below your means.

Looking forward at the next ten years, I will be 63 in 2030, I hope to have the same luck with any adverse circumstance. Every now and then we have to confront difficult circumstances (I realize I said essentially the same thing above), understanding this at a high level can make enduring them easier.

I hope continue to increase my optionality. Aside from having more options if needed, this is a way to learn, it is crucial to continue to learn new things--to stay curious. The lowest hanging fruit for now is fire-related optionality but who knows what might be of interest in the future. Learning skills in a new area of interest or expanding skills in an existing (for you) area of interest could be very important to making a sustainable living in your 60's if you need/want it as technology obviates more and more jobs.

Photography became a new hobby, I'd like to add another hobby in this decade. Obviously, anyone can just start something today and call it a hobby but photography just came to me naturally and that is what I have in mind here, I stumble across something or it will just come to me as opposed to forcing it.

I plan on remaining very active in the fire department well past 2030 but I don't expect I will still be Chief in 2030. Of course it is fun for me, it helps the community and is another source of motivation to stay fit. The importance of health and fitness cannot be overstated. There are quality of life benefits and financial benefits. There are no guarantees of course but with the right behaviors, people can stave off the limitations that are often associated with old age. I will continue to deliver that message in hopes that more people understand the role they can play in determining their outcomes.

Financially, I have no goal about having X amount of money, I do hope I can remain a net saver. Your 50's can be a rough decade career-wise. There are countless articles that talk about people who planned to work into their 60's, or later, having their hand forced at fifty something. Sometimes, circumstances are dictated by health concerns and sometimes a job loss can force our hand, I realize there can be others as well. The way I look at it, if we can still be net savers in eight, nine or ten years then our odds of financial success increase.

If you're anywhere close to my age, what are you doing to prevent/solve any health issues that could force you to retire before you planned on? If you're anywhere close to my age, what is your resiliency for an unexpected job loss? Resiliency could be defined by how much you have accumulated or your optionality to find work that could at least pay the bills in case your retirement fund is not yet large enough to sustain.

Very little in this post is about being wealthy. Anyone can afford a positive attitude with the willingness deal with challenges in a constructive way. Anyone can afford to consume less sugar and do some pushups. Anyone can afford to stay curious and try to learn more. There are plenty of hobbies that are free or at least very cheap.

Net net, the teens were terrific for me, I hope for you too and I wish the same for everyone in the 20's. Happy New Decade!

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