Minafi https://minafi.com Financial Independence Through Investing, Minimalism & Mindfulness Wed, 02 Mar 2022 08:43:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.6 https://cdn.minafi.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/03200103/mfi-logo-200x200.png Minafi https://minafi.com 32 32 https://cdn.minafi.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/03195920/mfi-logo.pnghttps://cdn.minafi.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/03195920/mfi-logo.png My 2021 Year in Review https://minafi.com/my-2021-year-in-review https://minafi.com/my-2021-year-in-review#comments Tue, 01 Mar 2022 19:09:54 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=18462

My yearly recap of everything that happened during the previous year.

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For the last eleven years, I’ve written a “year in review” post. I highly recommend you try it. It’s a time capsule that lets you reflect on the past year, appreciate parts of it that were great, and develop a plan for the next year. You can view any of the past 10 years’ posts here: 2010,  201120122013,  201420152016,  20172018, 2019, and 2020.

Marilyn and I celebrating her birthday

2021 felt weird. Coming off of the chaos that was 2020 and January 6th, much of the year felt like getting over one traumatic experience while still being in the middle of another one. The former president was out (and off Twitter) which was great for my mental health. However, I struggled to stay optimistic as other bad news or inaction continued through the year. I started to realize how much I had let the news impact my own mental health and took steps to try to stay informed without being overwhelmed.

That was a common theme of 2021 – trying to feel connected to the world without the usual methods available.

Every year I try to pick out a few personal themes as well. Things I spent a lot of my own energy on throughout the year. My themes for 2021 included Hardcover, training for a marathon, hiking the Highline trail, learning new programming techniques, improving communication with my wife, and attempting to balance enjoyment with safety.

Those all sound like a lot and includes some lifetime goals of mine. Stating them like this doesn’t share the full story.

Hardcover is still just a startup without many users. Maybe it will succeed, maybe not. We’re just launching to beta now (March 2, 2022 – National Reading Day).

My marathon time was 5 hours and 45 minutes after not training or preparing correctly, which left me with awful cramps after about mile 15. (Side note: My time for the half marathon was 2:20, and that was with some uphill sections).

Although I hiked almost 50 miles of the Highline Trail, I ended up tapping out after a toe injury (and other issues) made every step painful.

Some of the new programming techniques and ways of doing things ended up being a lot worse than the previous setup, which meant rewriting parts multiple times to get where I could have gotten to faster.

After a couples retreat where my wife and I learned some new techniques to communicate, we’ve sometimes struggled to keep consistent with the processes we learned.

In other words – these themes aren’t “wins” exactly. I see them more as areas of growth. In some cases (like marathon running) I realized it just wasn’t for me. My preferred long-distance run is the 10k, which is what I now limit my outings to. They feel better, fresher, and more enjoyable.

For hiking, I realized I enjoy it more when trips are limited to 2 nights in the wilderness at most. Being farther away from society (and help in general) adds a bit more worry than I’m currently comfortable with. Who knows, maybe more 2 and 3-night trips out will change that.

My 2021 Month By Month

Here’s a quick breakdown of what stands out from each month looking back.

January – Besides being glued to the news after a violent attempt to overthrow the elected government, I volunteered at the Sundance Film Festival doing online support. Since it was online we watched a bunch of movies at home. My favorites were Eight for Silver, Cryptozoo, and Land.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the big screen
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the big screen

February – I became a regular at Snowbird, the local ski resort on the Ikonpass. It’s my favorite ski resort in SLC and has delicious Indian curry that tastes amazing in cold weather. I also launched the Minafi Platform Directory to showcase great places to invest (and which aren’t-so-great). Mrs. Minafi and I celebrated our 14-year anniversary by renting out a theater to watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (it was our first movie theater experience since before lockdown).

March – Lily (our 13-year-old dog) went in for surgery. We mentally prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. She pulled through, recovered, and is now in much better shape than before! It was an emotional month.

Our dog lily in a scarf
Hipster Lily

April – Lots of running, some skiing, started thinking about this idea of building a Goodreads competitor out of spite for Amazon.

May – Went 100% in on this Goodreads alternative, formed a team, started working on it. Also went on a vacation to a local resort in Park City to stay for a few nights for my birthday (complete with tasty food, new hikes, and swimming in a crater.

Swimming in a crater

June – We went to Colorado for a couples retreat to learn how to communicate better with each other. We learned a bunch and loved just hanging out with people and playing cards against humanity or Concept like the old days. It was cut short after Lily had an emergency that required us to drive home from Denver -> SLC a day early and left us stressed out for some of the retreat (the person taking care of her had given her peanut butter, and she reacted very badly to it).

July – I stepped up my running to the point I was doing 25 miles a week or so. Then on July 23rd, I ran the Pioneer Day Marathon here in SLC! It was a fun experience, although I don’t know if I’ll ever run another one.

August – Fully vaccinated and with declining COVID cases, we flew out to San Francisco to see family and extended our stay for Mrs. Minafi’s birthday with a few nights in Napa Valley. We went on winery tours, had delicious food, and had lots of family time.

Loved our stay at the Candlelight Inn

September – Two friends from Seattle came to visit us in SLC, which gave us the chance to be tour guides. We saw caves, went on hikes, and ate at some of our favorite places. The trip coincided with an Alanis Morissette, Garbage and Cat Power concert which was our first live music since COVID started. We also spent a few days in Vegas with them cautiously masked up and avoiding crowds as much as possible.

October – After a travel and activity heavy few months, October was mostly just relaxing and working on Hardcover.

November – More of the same from October, plus an amazing Friendsgiving with some of the most delicious food I had all year (plus some rock band of course). Also got a new Macbook Pro after 9 years!

December – After playing Stardew Valley with my niece and nephew, I decided to start my own farm. Somehow I’ve now put 170 hours into this game since then. 😅 (update: it’s a lot more now).

Yearly Favorites

Here are a few standouts from the year.

Favorite spot I visited: I think it’s a tossup between the Homestead Crater and being in the middle of nowhere in the High Uinta Mountains. The Homestead Crater is a fun, casual experience if you want to swim in a hot spring. Being so far away from people during my Highline hike gave me some new perspective on my own mortality that was humbling.

Favorite games I played: Stardew Valley takes the win for most hours and the most fun. That Aged Ancient Fruit Wine isn’t going to age itself! My wife and I also played a bunch of It Takes Two, which is a great coop game.

Favorite restaurant meal: After only getting takeout and delivery in 2020, we ate out a few times in 2021 after getting fully vaccinated and before Omicron. I loved Fireside Dining in Park City. It’s basically an Alps-themed buffet where you’re sitting in front of a fireplace with Racelette’s. Delicious and amazing experience. Getting the omakase at Momofuku Las Vegas was my favorite overall meal. Seriously delicious all the way through.

Favorite concert: Seeing Garbage live was my favorite of the year. Shirley Manson can still absolutely kill it. We saw Pink Martini for the 3rd time which was also fun. We attempted to go to a bunch of Red Butte outdoor concerts (in the garden), but the ones looked forward to most were called off (Counting Crows, Roger Daltrey). We ended up seeing Spoon live, which was also amazing.

Favorite live events: We only went to two (non-concert) live events: a live recording of Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard and a Hasan Minhaj show. Hasan’s standup blew me away – I loved it. Armchair expert was fun, but the big surprise was Portugal the Man doing an opening set just because he was attending the show as a guest and offered to play a song or two.

Favorite hike: 2020 was a hike-heavy year. After our 2-week national park trip at the end of 2020, and our inability to travel much, hiking was one of the only avenues I had to get out of the house safely. With more options in 2021, I ended up spending less time hiking. Of course, my favorite hike was The Highline Trail – a 120-mile trail across the peaks of the Uinta mountains. I made it about 50 miles in before an injury took me out.

Favorite movies: I rated 5 movies this year as 5 ⭐: Bo Burnham: Inside, Eight for Silver, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Suicide Squad, The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story. I watched many other emotional and more serious movies, but I tended to want escapism rather than realism this year.

Favorite shows: Midnight Mass, The Expanse (watched it all from the start after so many people recommended it), Squid Game, Alice in Borderland, Dexter: New Blood, Invincible, Wandavision, Loki, What We Do In The Shadows, Only Murders in the Building, Mythic Quest, Ted Lasso, Kevin can F*** Himself. (Yeah, I might have watched a lot of TV this year…)

Favorite books: Wallet Activism, the Murderbot series, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Project Hail Mary, Greenlights, Everybody Fights: So Why Not Get Better at It?, The Midnight Library, The Lifecycle of Software Objects (this is an amazing dystopian Tamagotchi story), Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, Dark Matter, Uncanny Valley, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy, The Burning God (The Poppy War, #3) and the entire Alice in Borderland manga.

Favorite podcasts: Make Me Smart, The Art of Product, Indie Hackers, Social Software, How we Survive, You’re Wrong About, Our Opinions are Correct, Invisibilia, Hyped, Freakonomics, Opting Out with Cait Flanders, and many more.

Favorite new programming discovery: Two standouts that I seriously love in this one. The first is Hasura, which is an open-source API that sits in front of your Postgres database and provides an elaborate GraphQL API. The amount of time saved not needing to build out a full API is huuuuge. Every API request for Hardcover uses it. The other addition is Next.js, which is one of the most simple frameworks I’ve ever seen. It’s great for a fast front-end backed by React.

Favorite project: Hardcover, of course! It’s been exciting to just start a whole new project in a space I’m passionate about. A decade ago created a widget to list what I was reading on my old blog adamfortuna.com. I updated it over the years, switching from Angular to Ember to Vue to React – using it as a testing ground for new ideas. Once Goodreads decided to cut off access to their API (which I mentioned in my 2020 year in review post) I knew I’d need to find an alternative. There’s something about a good name that inspires me. When I settled on Minafi for this site, it gave me enough momentum to work on it for years. I feel the same way about Hardcover already.

What’s Next for 2022?

We’ve been reluctant to plan much for 2022. We’d love to travel again when it’s safe, but also don’t want to be stuck in another country isolating for weeks if we catch COVID (and leaving Lily alone!). We have a few trip ideas on the agenda though:

  • Visit DisneyLand in Los Angeles (February).
  • Spend a few weeks in Seattle with friends (April)
  • Get off the grid for my 40th birthday at a cabin in Sundance (May)
  • Go on a friends-trip to a cabin for a week (May)
  • Go Helihiking in Banff (August)

That’s already a lot and without an international trip penciled in. We still want to visit Taiwan and Korea – the trip we had planned for March 2020 was canceled.

Beyond that, I still want to post here on Minafi monthly or so. It’s been MONTHS since I updated any of my financial spreadsheets or tracking. I’ve gotten to the point lately where I’m outright neglecting my finances–which has been nice for my mental health to be honest. There have even been times I’ve freaked out thinking “did I transfer money into checking to pay credit cards?”.

I’m not sure what’ll be next for Minafi. I suspect it’ll be less about specific financial topics, and more just updates on my life – a peek at what “retired” life is like for someone who is constantly working on other projects. Minafi will continue to be one of those projects. The others: only time will tell.

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Three Years of Early Retirement – Mindset Changes and Realizations https://minafi.com/three-years-of-early-retirement https://minafi.com/three-years-of-early-retirement#comments Thu, 30 Dec 2021 22:40:03 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=18428

A look into what's stood out from 3 years of early retirement life.

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On December 14, 2018, I left my job of almost 8 years to retire early. That was three years ago this month. While a lot has happened in the world since then, our life has been surprisingly stable. I previously shared takeaways from first year of FIRE and my second years of FIRE about this. Going into 2021 suck at home and glued to the news, I wasn’t expecting it to be much different from the past two years. While that’s mostly true, it’s been interesting to see how a few mindset shifts can change everything.

October leaves in Salt Lake City

When I was working, and even since I stopped, one of my favorite types of blog posts are the “what I learned by retiring early” type. The Mad Fientist has done these each of his 5 years since he retired, Retire by 40 has 9 years (!) of updates, Root of Good has updated a bunch, Our Next Life shared reflections after multiple years, A Purple Life shared her first year of early retirement, Living a FI had an epic update after a 6-year blogging hiatus and Life Outside the Maze (who retired around the same time I did) recently posted about lessons from 3 years of early retirement.

There are honestly too many other posts to count and list. Some people prefer to update monthly, others yearly. If you’ve written a blog post (or multiple) with your experience, please share it in the comments of this post for other people to read!

What I enjoy most about these posts isn’t the life updates (although those are great too). It’s how their mindset has shifted given more time to reflect. Taking a break from work is often the pause needed to shift priorities in life. It’s why many life-changing decisions happen in the years after leaving a job. This focus on personal growth to understand what’s next has always intrigued me (it helps I kind of love future planning).

With that frame of mind, here’s a look at how this past year of time away from work has shaped my own view on early retirement, financial independence and my own outlook on life.

How I Got Here

For anyone who’s been following Minafi for the last few years feel free to skip this. Here’s a quick tl;dr of where the year started.

  • Retired at age 36 after a career in tech (programmer/product manager). I’m 39 now.
  • Was extremely lucky, coupled with having the right skills at the right time and putting in a lot of effort.
  • Had a $100k windfall when my mom passed away when I was 23, followed by selling the house I grew up in when I realized I didn’t want to be a landlord.
  • Joined a startup Code School, which was acquired by larger company (Pluralsight) which eventually went public.
  • Grew up in Florida, but moved to Salt Lake City, Utah about 4 years ago.
  • Live in an apartment with my wife and dog.
  • Living at about a 3.5% ~ 4% withdrawal rate on my very boring investments (mostly a three-fund portfolio).

For a graph of how I got here financially following FIRE path that puts it all in perspective.

How to read this:

  • The Y-axis is my savings rate for each year. An 80% savings rate means I was able to save 80% of my income that year. For some years this was only possible because I had a huge windfall (noted here). For other years I tried to save what I could based on my salary.
  • The X-axis is how much I had in total investments at that point in time based on my spending at that same time. For example, When I was 25, I was spending about $50,000 a year. Since my “savings multiple” was about 3.5x, that means I had about $150,000 in savings at that time.
  • The X-axis can go “back” for two reasons: my spending per year goes up, or the value of my investments goes down.
  • A -100% withdrawal rate would mean a 4% WR for that year from investments. Since my wife continued to work for my first year of retirement, our WR was less than 2% for my first year.

Ok, now that you know how I got here, here’s a look at what I’ve learned this last year.

#1 Retiring Early Isn’t for Everyone

Let’s start here.

This year has seen the rise in antiwork, unionization efforts and The Great Resignation. It’s obvious to anyone who’s not rich that capitalism without social programs here in the US (and anywhere, but especially here) is driving people to the point where they’re struggling to pay this months bills – never mind saving for retirement. FIRE for this group is as out of reach today as home ownership. It’s a dream like winning the lottery.

For those that do have well paying jobs, health care, stable housing and investments, you’re seeing your money grow at a rate that’s hard to fathom. The S&P 500 is up 29.71% in 2021 (!). Having a high income, having windfalls, making smart investment decisions and letting time do its thing could allow you to do what very few people in history have been able to: retire early.

But should you? Here’s my honest opinion: if work is your biggest hobby, you shouldn’t retire. You’re going to be bored. That’s why creatives thrive so much in early retirement – they finally have time to do what they’ve always wanted to!

I’ve talked to a bunch of people who say “I’ll never retire”. They tend to fall into a few different groups – all of which are completely valid opinions:

  • Work is my hobby – People who genuinely enjoy their work, get value out of it, grow as humans and don’t want to stop.
  • Stop working, but still be productive – People who would stop working at their job, but still do something “productive” for society. This is more semantics in my mind. It also sometimes negates creative projects, raising a family and community involvement as “not productive”.

Whatever you want to do and whatever you want to call it – you do you. I’m not here to police the terms you use to describe yourself.

In my case when I stopped working at my job, I immediately started working on side projects. I dove head first into Minafi and built out an Investment Bootcamp, a Fund Directory and an Investment Platforms directory. These were all fun projects that I enjoyed, but some people might actually consider this “work”. I don’t.

In 2021 I shifted gears and spent most of the year working on a new bootstrapped startup called Hardcover. It started as a joke tweet and quickly sprang up into a 7-person startup with weekly meetings, roles based on peoples strengths, equity discussions and semi-formal practices in place. I’ve had to part ways with some people who have joined – even though we’re all working for free (well, for equity only).

At what point does working on this project mean I’m no longer “retired”? Is it when I spend more than 40 hours a week on it? Is it when it makes money? Does it need to make enough money to pay my bills?

I don’t think it’s any of these. The metric I go by to determine if I’m retired is simple: who controls my time. If I control my time, I’m retired. If a company controls my time, I’m not. Easy as that.

For working on this project, I’ve set it up to be flexible. Everyone works as much as we they want to and everyone helps the end product be a little better. There are some guidelines in place – people can’t just leave and continue to own equity – but for the most part it’s flexible. My hope is to build the kind of business I’d want to be involved in while continuing to be retired.

That will mean leaving money on the table, not putting in mad hours to hit deadlines and pick up the slack at times for others. It’ll also mean others sometimes picking up my slack as well – and that’s the important part. We’re all working together.

This is still new to me, but it’s been exciting to work on! If you’d like a sneak peak while we’re building it, you can join Hardcover today with invite code “minafi”. Just keep in mind it’s still very rough, and we have a few months to go before it’s a full replacement for Goodreads.

#2 Don’t Use the 4% Rule to Decide How Much You Need

Stock markets are up in both 2020 and 2021 – despite the biggest disruption to society and industry since the Vietnam War. Just look at $VTSAX, Vanguards Total US Stock Market index fund.

It has grown 26% in the last year – and 20% annually over the last 3. With 16% growth over the last 10 years, it’s almost doubling its overall rate since inception. While a correction could happen anytime, that’s not what I’m referring to when I say “Don’t use the 4% rule”.

The 4% rule assumes you know everything about your current and future spending. That’s an impossible task. It’s not that it’s hard, it’s that it’s actually impossible.

Instead, what I recommend is calculating your financial independence with options number – your FIO number. This takes into account both what you’re spending today, as well as more potential futures. Even this isn’t a silver bullet.

One thing I realized this year is that I reallllly don’t want to go back to work. It’s to the point where I’d cut out almost any spending to avoid it and stay retired. This aversion to going back to work is one reason I’d recommend people stay in their jobs a little longer to reach a 3.5% WR, a 4% WR with your FIO number or even a bit more. Not because a 3% is “super-safe”, but because it’s hard to imagine what you’ll spend money on later and having that flexibility to spend more later is nice.

How difficult it would be for you to get a similar job when you stop working should be taken into account. If you’re going to lose your law or medical license when you stop working, then it makes sense to save up a bit more now for the future.

If you’re a person who enjoys making money online as a hobby, then you could retire with a little less (I’m looking at you Kitty). When you do you leave your job just assume it will be difficult to restart it. Maybe it won’t be and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

#3 I Enjoy Slow Days More Than I Thought I Would

My wife left her job in January of 2020. We had big travels plans in mind. We didn’t need to plan around limited vacation time, arbitrary 2-week limits or syncing up calendars. We could just go.

Of course that didn’t actually happen. We scrapped our 3-week Taiwan and Seoul trip scheduled for April 2020 and got used to spending time in our apartment. At first I felt down about this. I finally had a chance to explore the world without time limits, but suddenly travel was off the table.

We switched from working out of coffee shops, going grocery shopping a few times a week and eating out to doing all of those things from our 2-bedroom apartment. We’re fortunate to live in Salt Lake City where there are hundreds of hiking trails within 30 minutes of us, so we were able to spend a lot of time outside. But when we were done it was just back to home.

Adam at Sunrise point in Bryce Canyon National Park
Adam at Sunrise point in Bryce Canyon National Park

We’ve taken a few trips since then – my favorite of which was a road trip around Utah & Arizona National Parks in December of 2020. Winter is an amazing time to go: fewer people and cooler weather.

Most of the last year hasn’t been nearly as glamourous. My days now typically look something like this:

  • Wake up between 8am and 10am without an alarm.
  • Have coffee and breakfast in bed while checking my phone or reading.
  • Take my dog on a long walk (my wife and I switch off).
  • Do some programming or play a game (I can’t neglect my Stardew Valley Farm).
  • Have lunch.
  • Do some tidying up around the apartment.
  • Go for a run 3x times a week. Usually a 5k with some uphill that’s equivalent to a 120 story building.
  • Do some programming or play a game (I can’t neglect my Stardew Valley Farm).
  • Make dinner or order delivery with enough leftovers for a few days.
  • Take my dog on another long walk (my wife and I switch off).
  • Cuddle up and watch a movie in bed.
  • Scroll through some social media.
  • Maybe make a cocktail, enjoy a beer and relax.

That’s a typical day. That’s assuming no errands, no social commitments, no emergencies, and no holiday preparation. It’s not all hiking around Salt Lake, hanging out with friends, or travel. Most of life is just this – staying at home and enjoying life.

And that’s what I’ve come to enjoy. The above day isn’t going to get a lot of likes on social media, but it’s been amazing. It’s a slower pace of life, with time to create, time to maintain, time to deepen relationships and time to build new ones.

Now I look forward to these days! I can hardly believe the schedule I used to follow:

  • [6am-7am]: Wake up at 6am and write on Minafi for an hour.
  • [7am-7:30am]: Walk our dog (we trade off).
  • [8am-9am]: Take public transit to work 8am-9am.
  • [9am-4:30pm]: Work.
  • [4:30pm-5pm]: Public transit to the gym.
  • [5pm-6pm]: CrossFit
  • [6pm-8pm]: Travel, walk our dog, shower, make and eat dinner.
  • [8pm-11pm]: A combination of relaxation, errands, new projects and everything else.

Looking at that now it’s insane. I have more free time before lunch than during the entire day!

It can be a little scary not knowing what you’ll spend all of your time doing, but give it a try. Maybe you’ll find new things you enjoy. Or maybe the slower pace will give you a chance to see things you missed.

#4 I Spend Even Less Time Optimizing My Investments

While working I tried to tweak my investments a lot more. A three-fund portfolio has made up 80%+ of my portfolio since I began investing. Earlier on I experimented more with that last 20%. I invested in some individual stocks, “tilted” my portfolio by including small cap or other mutual funds, and looked for ways to get that extra 1% a year.

While this was a great learning experience, I had one big takeaway: I was doing a lot of work for very little gain. Sometimes this would result in a larger than expected return due to speculative investments, but usually it wouldn’t impact the bottom line too much.

Basic diversification goes a long ways:

Since then I’ve returned to a basic 3-fund portfolio plus a little bit in REIT funds, some dividends from bonds and a slow transition from VTSAX to ESG funds by changing where dividends are reinvested. Now my focus is more on keeping it simple, holding long term and spending the least amount of time making changes.

#5 My Political and Social Views Have Polarized

I suspect this one is less about early retirement and more a reaction to events of the last few years. In just the past few years my views have migrated:

Liberal -> Democratic Socialist/Progressive – Think Finland, Swedan, Denmark. These countries are still capitalist, but try to level the playing field to make the game of life less dependent on who you’re born to. Caps on raising rent, providing basic necessities, protecting people from corporations, negotiating drug prices, providing infrastructure, making voting easy and so much more. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point we move to one such country.

Van Gogh break

Bitcoin is neat -> Bitcoin is evil – I bought some bitcoin when it was around $1. I sold it as a few bucks. I’m not bitter about it though. 😅 I still think the blockchain is great, but the implementation of it for Bitcoin taking up as much power as Switzerland to provide only a tiny bit of the transaction volume that Visa offers is crazy to me. This at a time when global warming could reshape the world feels like having a bonfire on a sinking ship. I think there are great parts to the blockchain, web 3 and decentralized computing. Between high energy use, rampant speculation and hype a lot of it just sucks.

Landlording is a way to retire early -> landlording prevents upper mobility in renters – Ok, not all landlords are bad. I mean the concept of landlording as whole is generally bad for society the way it’s implemented here in the US. I’m not against renting – I’m a renter myself. I love not needing to worry about every little thing. What I’m referring to isn’t that. It’s the price of housing being so high that people need to rent. Between NIMBY communities, single-family home districting, foreign investors and the rise of Airbnb, the amount of housing just isn’t keeping up. Now I think both of these are true (way to retire early AND generally bad for society). I support candidates that help lower the prices of housing in any way.

Republicans have different opinions -> republicans are traitors – There are some republicans who I’d still count under the “have different opinions” group, but they’re few and far between. When most of the US house votes not to certify an election on a lie, or when not single senator and 210 out of 220 house representatives vote can’t vote for voting rights, it’s clear: these people are only there to stay in power and not to help people. There are democrats in the same camp who I also don’t support. But when 98% of one party is against free and fair elections that’s a big problem. I’ve had many conversations with republicans in the last year, including a bunch while volunteering before the last election. Some are up for having in depth discussions about our differences. Too many others have clearly declared they don’t care about other people (masks, vaccines, taking away rights, gerrymandering, etc) and I’m not going to waste my time on them other than opposition at every turn. (side note: I don’t need to hear comments from “good” republicans unless you’re contacting your representatives and holding them accountable).

Billionaires must have done something right -> billionaires shouldn’t exist – There are many reasons why the US doesn’t have social programs of other countries. We don’t have universal healthcare, maternity/paternity, free college, a minimum wage that’s kept pace with inflation (did you know the minimum wage would be $28 today if it had?). Billionaires aren’t the only players fault for this, but they’ve certainly drained resources that could have gone to people that actually need it.

While I’m generally not optimistic about the US taking steps towards a more fair and just society, the thought of not pursuing it – and just giving up – is far more depressing. As with all things, none of these are black and white. There’s always a case – theoretically or practically – that disproves the statements above.

#6 Have a Project to Devote Your Time

I mentioned this in Retiring Early Isn’t for Everyone. If I don’t have a project that can fill all of my available time then I go a little crazy.

This doesn’t need to be a long-term project like Minafi or Hardcover. It could be planning a trip, organizing a game night, or researching gear for hike. During 2021 one of my projects was to run a marathon – which I did in July after hundreds of hours of training.

Planning my Highline Trail hike was as fun as the hike itself

I love pointing to goal and figuring out how to get there. Many goals I give up on before I make it, but that doesn’t discount the effort put in. Although I might not ever become fluent in Japanese, spending a bunch of time learning kanji is something that I enjoyed a lot over the past 2 years.

This isn’t a recommendation for everyone, but if you’re the kind of person who always needs to be working towards something (like me), then spend time deciding and planning out what your next project will be.

#7 Relationships Need Energy

For a lot of my life I’ve spent a lot of time on personal development. Journaling, self reflection, and planning have always been one way I’ve organized my thoughts. This results in lots of lists: goals, local bucket lists, my beliefs, and pretty much every post here that’s not all about investing.

This year marked a shift in that – from doing this entirely by myself to doing joint exercises with my wife. This started from a couples retreat my friend Gregg organized. We spent two days going through John Gottman’s “Art and Science of Love Workshop” with an instructor. Considering that we’ve never done any couples therapy (and I’ve only done ~80 hours of therapy my own), most of this was all new.

Not a bad setting for a retreat

We left this retreat with a bunch of things to try to deepen our relationship. The organized list side of me loved having concrete ways of handling complex situations. Two of these stuck with me and have helped communication between us a bunch:

Have a weekly “State of the Union” conversation with each other. This is a repeating chat to check in with each other. The format is simple:

  • Each person shares 5 things they appreciate about the other.
  • Each person talks about what’s going right in the relationship.
  • Talk through or process a regrettable incident using one of the conflict resolution frameworks.
  • Share how your partner can love you more in the next week.

Short and sweet. Processing a regrettable incident can take a while, but we’ve always felt so much better after those discussions.

The other framework that stuck with me is the “after the argument” discussion. The idea is for both people to share how they were feeling in the moment with a play by play of the argument. After each person shares, their partner repeats back what they heard. Next is a chance for discussion of what parts of the argument triggered memories of the past, taking ownership and discussing preventative planning.

Marilyn and I have been fortunate so far in our almost 16-year relationship. We don’t want to take that for granted by assuming everything will always be great.

Year 4?

The next year of early retirement looks a lot like the previous two. We renewed our apartment lease for another year, meaning we’ll be sticking around in SLC until at least January 2023. Thanks to COVID, our international travel plans are on hold still. If restrictions and cases decrease enough we might end up planning something (maybe for my 40th birthday – we’ll see).

We do have some things planned for 2022. We’re volunteering at the Sundance Film Festival, going to Disneyland, spending some time in Seattle with friends and possible getting a cabin together somewhere off the grid for a week away. It’s been a lot less stressful to plan events away from society that aren’t dependent on COVID fluctuations or shifting travel restrictions.

While I don’t plan to go back to “work” in the next year, I’ll keep spending time writing here on Minafi from time to time, building up Hardcover and spending time with friends and family. I’m sure I’ll do another recap next year too. 😉

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My Doomed Adventure Hiking the Highline Trail https://minafi.com/highline-trail https://minafi.com/highline-trail#comments Sun, 24 Oct 2021 17:47:55 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=18371

We set out to hike 100 miles across the mountains of Utah at altitudes above 10,000ft. What happened next wasn't planned.

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In July of 2021, a friend of mine reached out with a simple question: “I’m thinking of hiking the Highline Trail in August. Want to join?”. I immediately responded “Yes! I’ve been wanting to hike it for years!”. At that time I absolutely did not know what I was getting myself into.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Highline Trail, you’re not alone. It’s less popular than the big three hiking trails in the US (The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail). The Highline Trail sits in eastern Utah and travels 101 miles across the highest parts of the Uinta Mountains. This mountain range is the only range in the US one to run east to west rather than north to south. The trail is only open from late June after the snow melts to October when it comes back. Its best hiked in August/September after the bugs have died down.

I had a physical map as backup in case our phones failed.

The most unique thing about the trail is that it’s almost entirely at 10,000 ft elevation and higher. At this height bears, predators and insects are rare, but altitude sickness, dehydration and sudden thunderstorms are the biggest risks. This is also a lightly traveled trail with few exit points and no cell service. If you run into an emergency, you’ll need to get yourself out of there on your own or use a satellite device to call for help.

The elevation gain for the trail on AllTrails says it only a 18,000 ft, but that feels like an extreme underestimate. Since the trail is typically hiked in 7 or 8 days, let’s just say the real elevation gain is somewhere between 2,000 ft and 5,000 ft gain a day over 12 trail miles (or 15-18 actual miles according to my tracker).

Having watched countless YouTube videos by people hiking long trails, this duration didn’t seem too bad – at least for a week. I’d be in pain sure, but it didn’t sound like anything I couldn’t handle. What I didn’t anticipate was how much the high elevation could play a factor. Here at home in Salt Lake City, we’re already at 4,500ft elevation in our apartment. How bad could another mile up be?

Why Hike The Highline Trail?

I grew up camping. We lived in Florida, and both of my parents had a “no camping in Florida” policy after a mosquito invasion during a trip to the Everglades. Our camping trips were over the summer when we’d load up our Ford Taurus and hit I-75 north out of the state. North Carolina and the Great Smokie Mountains were our most common stop, but we also camped in every state along the East coast, and even into Canada. Once we strapped a canoe to our roof and drove from Florida up to the waters north of Michigan for a week-long stay alone on a Canadian island with 5 people in a car.

As a kid under 10, I loved these trips. This was the late 80s and early 90s, before The Internet was a thing to spend time on. My summers would have otherwise been spent playing with friends, replaying NES games or collecting baseball cards. Getting out and being able to explore around those campsites, or follow along a small river and see where it went was far more fun at that age than anything else.

Even though I spend more of my time indoors now than when I was a kid, there’s something about camping that still reminds me of those trips. Just being outside, building a fire, and dipping my hands in frozen creek water brings it all back.

One thing my parents instilled in me growing up was a fascination with exploring the area where we lived. That started with biking through every street in our neighborhood. Later on that became road trips around all of Florida’s coast – Panama Beach to Key West and back up to St. Augustine. When we finally left Florida, there was almost nothing in the state that I wanted to do but hadn’t (Side note: I still want to go on a bioluminescence tour, get pancakes at Sugar Mill and go snorkeling at Dry Tortugas National Park).

Since moving to Utah I started a local bucket list. This was a way to stay sane in 2020 when air travel wasn’t possible. Most of the things on this list – including hiking the Highline Trail – were still possible during a lockdown.

One of my top reasons for doing this hike was for the grant views from the mountains. From my research on this hike, much of it is above the tree line allowing for sprawling vistas so far away from society you can’t even see it.

Preparing for a Long Hike

Switching from car camping to backpacking was the next logical step to appreciate and explore more parts of the state that are otherwise inaccessible. Over the last 3 years I’ve slowly build up my backpacking gear. One of my favorite places to get gear is at REI’s yearly garage sale, where you can get great items 75% off if you’re there early.

The best way to test your gear is of course to actually go out backpacking on overnight trips. There are a few overnights here in Utah that I absolutely love and would recommend:

Three Divide Lakes Loop – An easy, short 5 mile total hike to a beautiful lake. With only 500ft elevation gain, this is a great introduction to backpacking.

Grove Greek to Battle Creek Loop – This is my favorite overnight hike. It’s under 10 miles, close to the city, a loop trail, has springs and a river, great views of the city and even has cell service at the camping spot!

Naturalist Basin Trail – This beautiful 15-mile trail in the Uinta Mountains is generally done as a 2-night hike. It starts with a hike up to a lake where you camp for the night. You can leave your tent there and explore the basin area on the second day before hiking out on day 3.

The point of all this is to test your gear and determine if you really want to go for a long hike. Going for a 5-month Appalachian trail hike takes a lot of working up to. In my case, a 2-night trip was good preparation for a week-long hike – or at least that was the thought.

Gear

Preparation will make or break your hike. You’ll need to carry all food and gear for the entire hike from the start. If you forget something you’re out of luck.

To help with planning, I’ve been actively reading the /r/ultralight subreddit for the last few years. This is a gold mine for hike preparation. Hikers post their gear lists and get feedback in order to dial in their gear and lower their weight. It gets to the point of obsessive – recommendations to drop a few ounces of weight here or there. For a short hike that weight won’t make much of a difference. For a long hike you’ll be happy with every ounce you cut.

I started planning out my gear for the trip and ended up organizing it on Lightpack, a super-useful site for helping plan out what to carry. I settled on a total bag weight of about 37 pounds – with 8 lbs of that being water for the first 15 miles where water is in short supply.

My gear for the Highline Trail

This seems like a lot, but it’s actually not. Almost all of this is a few big things: tent, sleeping system, food, stove and water. The rest has almost no weight, but is essential for having a good hike. Food too starts out at 9 pounds, but will be reduced by more than a pound a day.

Afternoon candy bars made every day better.

Looking at it all laid out, it doesn’t look like much for a week. Most of the table is food. I used some pre-packaged meals, some ramen, salami and cheese and a can of PB&J with thin sandwiches. The goal was to mx it up so I’m not eating food in bar form all day long.

My pack all loaded up.

After getting some feedback from other hikers we were ready to head out!

The Hike

On Saturday, August 21 2021 Mrs. Minafi drove my hiking partner Max and I four and half hours out to the trailhead! We decided to hike the trail from east to west – starting lower and ending higher elevation wise. This seemed to be the most common route to go.

Along the way there are a few different trail markers to help you stay on course. Sometimes the trail is obvious, but often there are no signs for miles. The three most common markers were the orange diamond, cairns and the letter “i” carved into a side of a tree.

In the densely wooded areas the trail is well established. Above the tree line it’s less clear, with cairns as the only markers. I’m used to looking at AllTrails nonstop to make sure I’m still on trail, but that wasn’t an option here if I wanted to keep my battery alive for 8 days. I often tried to see how far I could go before glancing down at my map to make sure we were still on course.

Day 1: Trailhead to Lonely Meadow (11 miles)

We started around noon and wanted to see how far we could get. At the 4-mile mark we reached the East Park Reservoir – the last chance to get water for 15 miles. We hunkered down for lunch here (Salmon, salami, cheese and Twix) before continuing on.

East Park Reservoir

If I were to do this hike again, I’d camp here for the first night for a few reasons. It’s close to water, it allows more time for altitude acclimatization and it wouldn’t tax our body quite as much.

But at this time we were still fresh and excited to hike! We kept going another 7 miles.

A well worn area of the trail
A slim trail through a meadow.
My camping setup for the first night
My camping setup for the first night
The meadow we camped in the first night.

After 11 miles we were tired, but not exhausted. We crossed our fingers and hoped to find some water in the meadow. We found some, but it was standing water that many animals were using as a water source. To play it safe we stuck to filtered water that we carried in.

During this first day we didn’t see a single other person. We were still relatively low altitude wise – between 8,000 and 9,500 feet.

That first night was rough. Between heavy wind and rain we realized it wasn’t a great camping spot. We’d picked a spot just off the meadow behind some trees. Unfortunately the entire meadow became a wind tunnel at night and the trees didn’t help. Next time we’d move farther away and camp in the forest.

Day 2: Lonely Meadow to Leidy Peak (18 miles)

When we woke up it was cold. It dropped down to the 20s at night. The last thing I wanted to do was get out of my sleeping bag and take down our camp. We decided to wait until sunrise (7am) and get up then. It was a later start than we planned, but we were able to get going by 9am.

A few miles in we ran into our first hikers – a pair of guys in their 60s who were moving fast and passed us. Over the next few days we’d go back and forth passing each other.

Our lunch spot – starting to gain some elevation

After lunchtime we made it to the next meadow – one that we hoped would have water. We walked down to the lowest point and ran into a couple hammock camping. They assured us there was flowing water hidden farther down in the meadow. While we were filling up our water we ran into 4 bow-hunters on the lookout for elk that surprised us out of nowhere.

Water in the 3rd meadow.
The larger 3rd meadow was filled with cattle

As we continued on we were passed by a few other hikers – a couple in their 20s that flew in from Connecticut, a solo woman in her early 20s going solo and trying to speed hike.

We setup camp just before Leidy Peak close to a river. Leidy peak is the first time you get to 12,000 ft elevation on the trail and we knew that there wouldn’t be a chance to camp for a while after that.

Hiking 18 miles in no joke. It took us 10 hours, with a bunch of stops along the way. I was winded, but knew I had a bunch more energy in me. We’d often take a break for 5 or 10 minutes, strip off our shoes and socks and sit in a position where our feet were above our heads. This helped my feet feel refreshed – at least for a few minutes.

Half way through day two the problem started. I had a small blister on left pinky toe, but nothing to be concerned about. I wrapped up with some tape and kept on hiking. It hurt, but it was just a blister, right?

Once we reached camp and I got my shoes off I took a look at my toe. It was bad. Like horror movie, emergency room bad – at least that was my gut reaction. The tape I’d placed on my toe had somehow led the entire toe to become a one way street where blood was getting into it, but not back out. It had grown in size and now looked like a small blood balloon (aren’t you thankful I didn’t take a picture?).

I disinfected and heated up a small safety pin and drained it – hoping things would be better tomorrow.

Day 3: Leidy Peak to Chepeta Lake (16 miles)

This was the first full day of real alpine hiking. Much of the day was above the tree line with beautiful vistas in every direction. We left by 8 AM because we knew this was going to be a long day.

The first 5 miles or so were a struggle. Leidy Peak has 4 different trails around it, which makes it difficult to navigate. We ended up doubling back, taking a different trail, then going back to the original one – a decision that cost us a few miles and a lot of morale. If we were doing this trail again, we’d take the route north of Leidy peak instead. The older hikers started that trail after us and got past the peak before us.

Soon after though, we were rewarded with some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. These pictures don’t do the views justice.

Looking out after Leidy Peak
Hiking downhill to the lake… then back up.

Immediately after the peak, we headed back downhill to the next lake. We could already tell we were walking into a dead end and there’d be a steep climb in our future to get over it.

Luckily we spotted some snow melt coming down which gave us a chance to top up on water.

Most of the rest of the day was more up and down. We’d spend an hour getting over a pass, an hour back down – repeat.

When we finally got back down to the forest we were happy to give our feet a break from the rocks. That’s something I didn’t think about going into this. You’re mostly walking on rocks at high elevation. That means the forces on your feet aren’t going to be uniform or cushioned.

After a tasty lunch lakeside, we started approaching Chepeta Lake. We knew were close because we saw an actual road – the most established one yet!

Chepeta Lake itself was… a bit of a let down. Due to lower snow levels over the past few years, the lakes water level wasn’t what it once was. We found a beautiful campsite right by the lake and hunkered down there for the night.

Chepeta Lake
Chepeta Lake

As we settled down for the night we were both exhausted. 11.5 hours of hiking and 16 miles is a long hike any day, but 16 miles at 10,000+ ft elevation and over 5,000 ft of elevation gain while carrying 30+ pound packs is no joke.

When we finally got our tents setup and had dinner I was feeling OK. My toe was in pain, but it wasn’t much more than yesterday. I’d also developed some chaffing between my thighs which made every step uncomfortable. Add to that choosing underwear without enough ventilation and things weren’t very comfortable down there.

My hiking partner Max was feeling a lot worse. He had some blisters which were causing him trouble while also suffering from stage 1 altitude sickness. Looking back we both were even though I didn’t know it at the time.

That night was rough. I’d gotten 5-6 hours of sleep for nights 1 & 2, but this night I barely got 1 hour. I had a headache, I was cold, my thighs hurt, my toe was getting hot and I could feel every heartbeat through it. Add to that needing to use the “forest” in the middle of the night in 30 degree weather and it was more about making it through than anything else.

Day 4: Chepeta Lake to Salt Lake City

At about 1 AM while lying awake and uncomfortable I had a realization – what if I leave tomorrow? Can I do that?

There are very few places to leave The Highline Trail – East Lake Reservoir, Leidy Peak and Chepeta Lake were the only 3 “roads” in. I say road in quotes because it’s a 2 hour drive from the closest town up a rough mountain trail that requires vehicles with high clearance.

I pulled up my phone and checked out Google Maps. I’d downloaded offline maps for most of Utah, and checked how far the drive was from our apartment to the Chepeta Lake trailhead. Turns out it would be a 5 hour drive – with the last 2 hours being unpaved mountain roads without cell service.

After tossing and turning with the decision, I eventually was honest with myself: I don’t think I should continue. Aside from altitude sickness and a growing thigh friction rash, my toe was getting worse. It was as if when my toe filled with blood it became a cocoon. Once drained everything ended up different places – included a detached toenail and a swollen toe. It wasn’t a flashy painful injury, but it was enough to make every step for the next week more complicated.

This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I felt like I was letting down my hiking partner, and myself all because of a single toe. Looking back on this decision it was so much more than that. Hiking another 55 miles in that pain would not have been a fun or enjoyable hike. What’s the point of doing this hike if I’m going to be in pain every day?

Max had brought a Garmin InReach Mini – a bright orange satellite device which allowed us to send text messages back to our families. As soon as the sun was up I used it to contact Mrs. Minafi and see if she could pick me up.

The Extraction

Within a few hours she had rescheduled her plans for the day and dropped everything to drive 10 hours (total) to come and pick me up. That’s like driving from Boston down to North Carolina – it’s a long drive. It would take her about 5 hours to get here, which left me with a lot of time to just wait around, dry my gear and contemplate my decisions in life. 😅

The next big question? Will my hiking partner go with me or continue on? There would still be at least 5 more days of hiking to reach the end of the trail. In that time there would be one more extraction point (via car), but it’d be over a few mountain passes – meaning that in order to even make it to those spots they’d need to have the stamina to go up and back down.

Over the next hour or so I tried lightly to convince him to join me in heading home today. Although he’d been feeling down the night before, he woke up in good spirits and ready to continue the hike.

After an hour of thinking about it, he decided to keep going – with the intention of leaving at the next trailhead if something went wrong. I offered to carry anything he wanted to shed, and gave him a some of my Ibuprofin and other first-aid that I had leftover.

What happened next was a lot of waiting. He took off for the day and continued hiking, while I waited around at the trailhead. In some ways this was the hardest part of the entire hike. He had the satellite device to contact the outside world. That left me at a the trailhead cutoff from society.

Fortunately, I wasn’t always alone. The trailhead had a single outhouse, and a parking lot. During the hours I was there about 10 cars came or left – mostly hunters out for the day bow-hunting. A bunch of Highline Trail hikers – I’d guess about 15 over the course of the day – came through as well. For each I offered to carry out their trash, which ended up making people smile in a way it’s hard to describe for someone who’s never carried their own trash for 100 miles.

A beautiful waiting room

The area around the trailhead was still absolutely beautiful. I spent a bunch of that time listening to the river flow, filtering and drinking water and eating some of the extra candy bars I’d brought with me.

The most gut wrenching part of the wait was that if my wife ran into any car trouble making it up here I wouldn’t know. She wouldn’t be able to contact me beyond a point, and I wouldn’t be able to receive any contact for the hours waiting.

According to Google Maps it should take her 5 hours to get here if she left when she said. That would mean she should get to me by 2pm. The future-worrier in my already started planning out worst case scenarios. If she’s not here by 3pm what should I do? 5pm? Should I camp here tonight if she doesn’t show? Or should I try to hitchhike back to town? Maybe I’d see her on the road up broken down.

All of that worry ended up being useless. She showed up at 2:05pm – just 5 minutes after offline Google Maps predicted. I was at the exact spot I said I’d be, which also helped relieve her after an odyssey to get here that I’d soon learn about.

Mrs. Minafi and I at Chepeta Lake

Turns out the road up is not great. The last 2 hours are rocky dirt roads along cliffs. When I commented on how had the road was, she mentioned that this was still the “good” part.

She’d mapped directions to a local urgent care in a small town, and we headed straight there. This was my first time at any kind of medical facility since before COVID. Looking back, I’m extremely glad we went to a small town place rather than the busy hospitals in SLC.

Within a few minutes we were checked in, evaluated, my toe was cleaned up (I’ll skip the details, but a scalpel was involved), bandaged with some special gauze that never gets dry, given an antibiotic to take home and we were ready to drive home. The entire visit took under an hour.

Mrs. Minafi drove the rest of the trip home, with only a stop by In-n-Out burger to pick up dinner before returning home. The entire time I was feeling guilty about inconveniencing her with this emergency extraction – something she very kindly and repeatedly reassured me was no trouble and that she was just happy I was OK.

It was one of those moments when I realized when I asked for help as a kid my mom would often make my feel guilty about it. Just one of those fun adult realizations from reading books like Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents.

We made it home safe, had one of the best showers in my life and slept for the next week.

What About My Hiking Partner?

His story is his own. I will say he made it back safely to Salt Lake City. He continued on for another few days but eventually altitude sickness hit him hard. That was difficult to anticipate and realize at the time. I was expecting altitude sickness would feel much more obvious. For him it got to the point of feeling lightheaded just walking around – which is a big red flag to get the hell out of there. He did, and he made it home safely to his wife.

What Would I Change?

Even though I didn’t complete the entire trail, I’m still glad I did it. I managed to hike about 45 miles out of 101, while my hiking partner made it closer to 65 miles.

Cut More Weight 🎒

At 30lbs base weight, I thought I’d cut my weight enough. Honestly I should have tried to bring it down to 20lbs. That might have meant replacing a few things: switching from a sleeping bag to a quilt, trimming weight from my cooking setup, not bringing 2 batteries, optimizing my food and a few other things. Less weight means less calories to eat, less wear on your feet and a less effort each day. Even if you’re feeling strong at the start, when you’re climbing over rocks at 12,000 ft all day you’ll wish the pack was lighter.

Simple Food 🥫

I tried to bring food I liked that would give a bunch of variety. During the hike though, I honestly didn’t care what I ate so long as it provided calories. Knowing that, I’d reduce my food options and focus on caloric density. Get more meal replacement bars for lunch. Switch to 1,000 calorie pre-packaged camping meals. But still keep the candy bars, because those were 🔥.

Better Shoes 🥾

The one that did me in. The hiking shoes I wore I’d been using for 3 seasons. They weren’t the most comfortable, but they’d served me well on a half dozen backpacking trips. On some of those trips I’d had small blisters but nothing serious. The thing is though, if shoes give you a small blister on an overnight hike, they’re going to give you 10x that on a longer hike. It’s best to get to the point where you’ve worn in your shoes, and you’ve confirmed they’re not giving you any blisters.

Set a Start and End Time Each Day 🕐

In order to complete the hike in the timeframe we planned, we needed to hike around 15 miles a day. That meant that we were going longer and farther than our bodies wanted to go. Leaving camp at 8am and setting up camp at 7pm wasn’t sustainable for me given all of the other variables (altitude, elevation, feet). A better approach would have been to set start and end times for each day. For example: we’ll leave camp by 7:30am and start looking for a place to camp at 3:00pm. Wherever we are at that time is where we’ll camp.

Would I Complete the Hike?

Probably not. I wouldn’t rule it out if I was with a larger group of hikers I trusted and were around a similar fitness level as me. When I got back from the hike I did realize that I don’t enjoy long periods away hiking.

As much as I love the wilderness, and can enjoy seeing someone share their hiking journey on social media, I prefer the 1 or 2-night backpacking trip instead. It still allows for getting out into nature, appreciating nature and disconnecting from society. I can do that without needing to push my body to its limits, or need to be rescued.

I’d consider going back to hike Kings Peak as a standalone hike. Kings Peak is the highest point in Utah, with it’s peak just 0.5 miles off the Highline Trail. It can also be hiked as an overnight trek from a trailhead. Doing that one next year sounds exciting.

But for the rest of the Highline trail itself? I’m OK with not completing it. This hike helped me realize the kind of hiking and camping I do like. It’s 1 or 2-night trips with friends, where we can hang around the campsite, build a fire and enjoy each others companies. It’s the kid where we can slowly watch the sunset over a lake with some hot chocolate we packed up. It’s the kind that reminds me of camping as a kid. That’s the kind of camping trips I’ll be doing more of in the future.

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Startup FIRE https://minafi.com/startup-fire https://minafi.com/startup-fire#comments Sat, 11 Sep 2021 22:07:49 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=18349 Highline trail

How do you explain what you want to do after you stop working at your current job. My explanation? Startup FIRE.

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Highline trail

When I left my job almost 3 years ago, I had a bunch of things lined up to do. I had a list of goals, I had Minafi to continue working on, and a whole new state to explore (Utah).

What I didn’t realize at the time was how much I longed to use the skillset I’d developed during my career. The difference was I wanted more control of what I spent my time working on. As a software developer turned product manager who also loves to create content, I tended to eschew mastery in favor of being a jack of trades. I very much prefer being able to take a single idea to completion than to require coordinating multiple people to get there.

Highline trail
The view from the Highline Trail in Utah

A therapist might bring this back to being an only child and doing things on my own. It’s likely why I tend to play character classes in video games that allow me to go solo.

A Life Change

I’ve noticed a trend in FIRE community of people doing exactly this. They leave their job to “retire” at a point where they may not ever need to work again. They then devote themselves – sometimes working even more than at their jobs – to a new project.

Many people say this isn’t “retirement”. I’d say it is:

Retirement is the withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from one’s active working life. 

It’s more about the first definition than the second. It’s a transition from working for someone else and using those skills to using them however you want in a way where failure doesn’t matter.

Whether you call this “retirement” or “fully funded lifestyle change”, the result is the same. It’s an author who needs to sell a book to pay rent and compared to an author who’s financially independent and doesn’t need the book to sell. Which would you rather be?

A brainstorming activity called Crazy 8s

This is the dream scenario for professionals across every industry. Builders who long to build their own dream home rather than someone else’s. Teachers who want to channel more of their energy into their own relationships and family. Marketers who want to build their own brand. Designers who want to explore their own artistic style. The list does on and on.

Are Side Projects Encouraged?

While it’s completely possible to work full time and also do these things, you quickly run into a hard limit: 24 hours in a day. For Minafi I started waking up at 6am and writing for an hour every morning before work.

Not all jobs encourage side projects. In fact, some even aggressively discourage them. One startup I worked at claimed they would own any projects you worked on during your nights and weekends. It was a threat that wouldn’t hold up in court, but was enough to drive away many talented software engineers who wanted to grow their skills outside of working hours.

The reason many of these professionals feel resistance in their careers isn’t that they have awful jobs, or that their coworkers are unpleasant. It’s because they have the skills to do awesome things, but they’re limited by quarterly goals, driving revenue for the business and completing KPIs. They struggle to find work that’s challenging.

That’s the position I found myself in too. I loved (and still love) tons of my coworkers. I hang out with many current and former coworkers frequently – especially now that we’re all vaccinated.

But the lack of creative control over what I spent my skills on always got to me. When I was tasked with a project I loved at work, I’d throw myself into it to an unhealthy amount. I still remember many courses at Code School that I worked 80 hour weeks on in order for it to feel just right. Rails 4: Zombie Outlaws was one of those:

When you work on projects that are that enjoyable – personally or professionally – time flies by. If you’re fortunate in your career you’ll be able to work on a lot of them. They can be used to increase your skillset, challenge your mind and give you a sense of accomplishment for a job completed.

I’ve grown the most where during these times.

For many of those who have built up skills in their lives and careers, they’re constantly on the lookout for projects like that. Projects where they forget time altogether and can go into a state of flow.

I call this goal Startup FIRE.

Startup FIRE

Startup FIRE doesn’t mean creating a business or a startup. Or is it based on having a specific amount of money like Fat FIRE and Lean FIRE. It means using your skillset in the same way you would if you were at a startup that doesn’t need to make money. Here’s my definition of Startup FIRE:

Using the skills you learned during your life in a way where you have full creative control and the required outcome is no longer generating revenue.

My definition of Startup FIRE

With a traditional startup the outcome is always money. Unless you’re creating a B Corp of a non-profit, eventually you’ll need to make some money to pay people.

With Startup FIRE, the goal is typically to do something alone or in a small group with others.

As an example, Minafi itself is a Startup FIRE project. It started when I was less than half way to my FIRE number. After I left my job I had more time to experiment. I spent the first 6 months building it out in ways I always wanted to but never had the time for. I experimented with ideas I’d always wanted to create at past companies. For example, the entire blog platform you see here where I can inject interactive graphics in. If I’m talking about compound interest I can just drop in a component like this:

A good data visualization is worth 1,000 words (or more). Another fun project was the Minafi Investor Bootcamp which uses video and interactive elements to help explain complex financial topics. Most of the interactive elements I’ve created are used in this pay-whatever-you-want bootcamp.

For the last 2 and half years, Minafi has been my primary creative outlet. It’s always been a fun way to challenge myself from a technical level, a creative level and a content level. The marketing side has been one of the hardest, but I’ve seen consistent growth up to around ~1,000 unique users a day lately.

In February of this year I launched an Investment Apps & Brokerages directory that I think is one of the best ones out there. I created an automated way to compare two funds, for example FSKAX vs VTSAX, which has been picked up by Google thanks to some SEO magic. I even did a more personal project and moved over some photos from another blog to Minafi, starting with my Japan trip.

I’ve been on the hunt for things to do on Minafi that excite me beyond just writing. I’d even started talking with another blogger about creating a new visualization tool, but I ended up stumbling into another project.

A New Startup

That new project? Hardcover.

I’ve been a Goodreads user since 2009. If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, it’s the de facto website on the internet for getting details about a book, reading reviews, keeping track of what you’ve read and want to read, and seeing what your friends are reading.

For some it’s a wikipedia for books. For others it’s a social network for readers.

I’ve always loved Goodreads, but I’ve been disappointed by their lack of updates since they were acquired by Amazon back in 2013. Updates came to crawl and most of the changes lately are just to keep the site running. As the #183 largest US site on the internet (according to Alexa.com), it’s a behemoth that gets over 100 million page views a month.

For years I’ve considered trying to build my own competitor to Goodreads. That’s no small task! A serious attempt at a competitor would involve many months of work. It would take at least a year by myself – or maybe less with some help – just to get to a launch.

Hardcover homepage
Hardcover’s Homepage

When I started working on Hardcover back in May, I thought I’d take a break from Minafi and test the waters of working on another large-scale project. Either it would build enough momentum to take off on it’s own, or it would fizzle away and I’d switch to something else.

So now that 4 months have passed, how are things looking?

  • We have a small team of 7 people working on it (me + 3 other part-time developers, a marketer, a designer and a UX researcher).
  • An email list of 200 people waiting for launch.
  • A book database of 300k books, and another 25 million that can be accessed.
  • A working app with authentication, a Goodreads importer, basic book tracking and more.
  • A bunch of design prototypes exploring next steps.
  • A unique selling proposition that differentiates Hardcover from all other book tracking sites out there.

Not a bad start! One of the biggest changes for me personally has been the switch from thinking about finances all day to thinking about books, reading and the new technology stack used on Hardcover. I haven’t opened my expenses tracker in months and have rarely checked my net worth during that time too. It’s been a welcomed break.

It’ll take the rest of the year working on Hardcover to make it to launch. I’m excited to have a new project to throw myself into that’s interesting, challenging my skills and something I’d personally want to use.

What does that mean for Minafi? Now that my summer break is over, I’m going to resume writing here once a month. That feels like the right cadence for the amount of time I think about finances now a days. By thinking about finances less, I’ve had far fewer ideas. I’d rather write one good post than a few sub-par articles.

The idea of Startup FIRE is one of the reasons why I believe creatives thrive so much in financial independence. It’s all about finding exciting projects that fill your days. Whether that’s using your existing skills or building new ones, one thing is assured: what you spend your time on will change over time.

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Minafi Summer Break, Life & Goals Updates for Q2 2021 https://minafi.com/2021-q2-goals-update https://minafi.com/2021-q2-goals-update#comments Sun, 04 Jul 2021 20:22:59 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=18315

Travel, goals, Hardcover and eveything else I've been up to lately.

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You can tell I’m not optimizing this post for SEO by the amazing title. ? Instead this is more of a life update. At the beginning of this year (and every year) I decided to set a few goals and themes for 2021. This is an update on how these are going and everything else I’ve been up to lately.

Me waking up to snow during a hike (more on that later)

One of the reasons I write these is to share what a FIRE lifestyle can look like. If you’re new here, we’re an upper-middle class couple (no kids) who retired early at 36 spending roughly $80k a year. We live in an apartment with a lovable pup that just turned 13 years old last month.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at what I’ve been up to!

Minafi Summer Break

Let’s start with the big one. You may have noticed I haven’t exactly been actively posting lately. Back in late April I decided to take 3 months off from Minafi, planning to come back in August.

Because I just can’t help but work on something, this pause was so I could put 100% of my mental energy into a new problem. In this case it was starting a new startup – one that I’d been thinking about for more than a decade.

The startup? Hardcover. An alternative to Goodreads that allows you to track and discover new books that’s not related to Amazon. I read or listen to over 100 books a year (ok, mostly listen), and Goodreads has been essential in tracking, understanding my habits and helping me learn my own preferences. There’s something to looking back and seeing what books I’ve loved that help me more accurately find new favorites.

So in April I posted on Reddit looking for a UI/UX designer to work on this idea with. We formed a team and started researching out the idea! The progress of the site has gone something like this:

  1. Form a team. We started with a team of 5, went down to 4 and are now up to 6 people.
  2. Create a hypothesis. Decide what type of user we’re attempting to connect with.
  3. Talk to those users. We talked to about 15 users to understand how they’re using Goodreads, and if they have issues with it (which most did).
  4. Create a prototype. Based on the common problems users brought up, create a prototype that solves those while taking into account their most common use cases.
  5. Discuss the prototype with users. Go through this prototype with users! This is one of the most fun steps to be honest. It’s sooo nice doing this with a prototype because I’m not attached to the solution. If it doesn’t work, we can still change things before programming it.
  6. Build it. This can be started at the beginning – creating a login system, loading in books, etc – but the building of the individual pages can’t happen until we understand how users interact and respond to our prototype.

This is the process that I followed for years in some way or another as a developer, but then much more dogmatically as a product manager in the last 5 years of my career.

In high school and middle school I was always the quiet, introverted kid. I wasn’t one to start conversations and honestly didn’t have much to say. It was only when I switched to Product Management that I realized I love to talk! It just depends on what we’re talking about. Talking to someone about something I’m passionate about? I can go all day. Books are one topic like that for me, while FIRE and investing are others I can go all day about.

In talking to potential users initially, we found that people tend to use Goodreads foremost for two things – looking up books when someone mentions them and tracking what they want to read. Other features like reading reviews, seeing what their friends are reading and tracking what they read were up there as well. That left about 8,355 other features on Goodreads that weren’t mentioned once.

Not all ideas we had were gems from the start. We had an idea for an upvote/downvote system for each book if you liked it – similar to Netflix and Youtube. This makes algorithms easier. When we showed this to potential users they hated it.

We quickly realized we’d need something more for people to be able to represent how much they enjoy a book (and why it all comes back to rating systems). We’re getting ready to test a new idea that uses both. Something that allows readers to communicate a lot more information about how they feel about this book and have it impact future recommendations in a way different from the traditional approach.

An example I’ve been using for this is “The Diary of Anne Frank”. I still remember how emotional and impactful that book was even though I read it in high school. I’d no doubt rate it 5 stars. But do I really want my recommendations to have more books like that? Probably not. I’d rather seek out those emotional journeys on my own. In that case I’d say I don’t want more books like it.

We’re still experimenting with this idea, but I’m seriously excited about it.

This project is still in the early stages, but I’ve been programming away on it most days when I’m not doing user interviews (side note: thanks to A Purple Life for being the very first user interviewed both for the voice of customer and the prototype chats!). There’s a lot more we want to do, but I’ve been blogging over on the Hardcover blog with progress along the way.

If you’re a reader or audiobook listener interested in book tracking or discovery, I’d love to talk to you! Whenever we’re looking for people to talk to we first reach out on the Hardcover mailing list. Or if you’d rather reach out I’m adam at hardcover.app.

Vaccinations & Trips!

I can barely believe that it’s only been in the last 3 months that we got vaccinated and began traveling again. We got our shots as soon as we could schedule them here in Utah – even though that meant driving 45 minutes away to a more rural Fresh Market.

COVID Vaccination

Both shots were uneventful. We sat in the very tiny pharmacy section of a grocery store, got our jabs and then headed home. The second Moderna shot was the exception. I developed a fever, aches and pains for a few days and didn’t want to do much of anything. It resolved as quickly as it came on.

Now that we were finally vaccinated, we realized we can actually go out in public again and feel (mostly) safe. We continue to use our masks if we’re in communal indoor places. We ate inside at a restaurant for the first time in mid-May for my birthday. It felt fun but I was exhausted by the overwhelming noise and activity. That’ll take some getting used to.

We ended up taking 3 trips (!) during this time. None of them are what I’d call “high risk”.

Park City Birthday Trip

The first was a 3-night birthday getaway to Montage Deer Valley near Park City for my birthday. Imagine the place from The Shining, but not creepy. It’s a beautiful mountain getaway. We enjoyed delicious meals there, local hikes, room service and even snorkeling in a hot springs inside a crater! Since it was close by and most of our activities were outside, we felt like this was the perfect reintroduction to travel.

Breakfast in our room!
Swimming in a crater hot springs

Friends Backpacking Trip

The second outing was a 3-person overnight backpacking trip to Grove Creek and Battle Creek. This is the 3rd time I’ve done this loop with friends, and it remains my favorite backpacking trail on the Wasatch front. As an added bonus, you can even get cell service for most of the hike!

For this hike I was able to try out a new tent (The Two from Gossamer Gear) and a new pack (their Gorilla 50L Ultralight). I’ve been trying to cut weight to make backpacking more fun. I can confirm – the hike is a LOT more fun when carrying 15 lbs compared to carrying 30 lbs.

View on the way up
My campsite
One of the best fires we’ve ever had

The first day was beautiful! 70 degree weather, clouds to block out some of the sun and a clear day. This trip was on May 22, 2021. Then we woke up to this. It had

View from my tent
The little tent that could
My sitting log for snow reference
About 8″ of snow

Let’s just say it was a cold night. I was completely warm in my tent and even managed to stay dry. Throughout the night the tent was covered in snow and I needed to shove it off. That left a bunch of extra snow at the edges of my tent weighing it down. Next time I’d like to create some kind of a shovel or have a rock for clearing it out that I can use to clear that area in the middle of the night and prevent it from piling up too high.

The hike back down was magical though.

The hike back looked like a winter wonderland

The Art and Science of Love Couples Retreat

The 3rd trip was an unexpected one. A former coworker of mine invite Mrs. Minafi and I out to Colorado for a couples retreat. We would stay in the mountains outside the city and go through The Art and Science of Love training with an instructor. With only 4 couples there, it would be an intimate environment where we could also focus on our relationships and make them even stronger. Honestly, being able to do this with other friends and couples was one of the best gifts I can think of. I mean, just look at the view from this place.

Mrs. Minafi and I haven’t previously done any couples training, but this felt like an excellent foundation. It gave us language and structure for approaching a bunch of different conversations that are hard to have, but essential for a strong relationship. It also was a good reminder to not skimp on continuing to build our friendship deeper and make intentional time to do just that.

I hadn’t heard of the Gottman method for this before, but after learning the basics, I’m a fan.

Being able to do this with friends, hanging out in a hot tub, playing Card Against Humanity and Concept at night and watching deer through the dining room window is something I’ll never forget.

There was a small herd of 5 deer nearby

Goals Updates

A lined up a bunch of goals at the beginning of this year, annndddd I kind of dropped off on a lot of this this quarter.

My Goals spreadsheet

A few of these are subjective. There’s no measure of what a “values based life” means – and that’s OK. It’s more of a feeling on if I’m trying too hard or just letting life happen (which I’m trying to do more of).

The “local first” one is a measure of how much I’m spending locally. I haven’t run the numbers on this, or on Minafi’s income during the last few months. Since switching over to Hardcover I really haven’t been looking at my finances at all. That’s been a welcomed respite! It feels nice to know those parts of my life are on track from the systems I’ve set up, even if I’m not constantly tracking them. I’ll likely fill these in eventually, but I’m not in any rush to keep them up to date.

“Avoid big tech” went in an unexpected direction: instead of just switching off Goodreads, trying to create a full replacement for it. I didn’t expect this when I set this goal, but it felt like the natural next step.

Running – I’ve struggled to run lately since the temperature has been exceeding 100 degree lately. I want to run more in the mornings, but that means actually setting an alarm and waking up. I’m still aiming to run a marathon in July, so I’m trying to train more to make that goal. After that I’ll probably ease off running for a bit.

Learn Japanese – This one has been on pause lately. I still love the idea and the language, but I’ve switched to learning other things lately (more on that later).

Skiing at Snowbird

Skiing – My last ski trip of this year was April 14th at Snowbird. There was so much snow that I couldn’t see anything at times. On one or two runs the I saw nothing but white in all directions. Following someone down was one of the only ways I knew where to go. I quickly realized I don’t enjoy that type of skiing.

Create an iOS Application – This one has some movement! Hardcover is being developed using React with the intention to use React Native to build an iOS and Android application for it later. Although I’m not actively working on an iOS application yet, the APIs I’m building for the website can be used for the iOS app later.

Minafi to $1,000 a month – I had this idea at the beginning of the year to try to turn Minafi into a business. I launched the Platforms directory as a way to move towards this while providing real value to people who are trying to figure out where to invest. At this point Minafi is making enough money to cover all it’s expenses with some room to spare, which is good enough for me. For the last 3 months it made roughly $200 a month. Not too bad considering it was making $0 last year. I’m most excited that this means that keeping Minafi running doesn’t eat into our savings. I don’t think it’ll reach the level where it’s funding my lifestyle, but I’m OK with that. For now I like the idea that Minafi is a place to write, learn and share more than anything else.

Monthly journaling – I’ve dropped the ball on this. For a while I was doing a weekly journaling exercise. This helped set an intention for the next week and keep me focused. You can see from the chart above that as soon as I stopped doing this I also stopped a bunch of other things (Japanese, tracking spending, etc).

One other way of journaling that I enjoy is writing up detailed reports of trips I’ve been on. I enjoy being able to look back at these and revisit the trip again. I published one for our first trip to Japan a few years ago here on Minafi. I wrote this years ago, but wanted to make sure it lived on.

Happiness >= 8 – June has been a rough month. Lily ended up in the doctors office once and the emergency room once (while we were traveling no less). The rest of the month has been great. The only downside is me being down on myself for not doing more.

What Next?

There’s a lot happening in July. I initially set a goal of 3-months of work on Hardcover and would evaluate how it’s going after that. I’m two months in now and have been absolutely loving it. The downside? It’s going to take a lot more than 3-months. After writing a Hardcover roadmap, it looks like it’ll be closer to 7 months (so 5 more months) to get to a solid release.

One of the big things for me to figure out is how I split my time between Hardcover and Minafi. I no longer plan to write on here every week like I used to, but I do want to keep writing here. That’ll mean finding a new cadence for writing. I’m leaning towards writing once a month – but trying to make it something more impactful and thought out. Let’s face it: a bunch of posts are more filler. I’d rather post less frequently, but better.

We also have two trips planned for the next 3 months – one to Napa Valley/SF to see family (and try some wine) and another one to Las Vegas in September. I’m still concerned about that one if I’m honest. Either way we’ll be mask-on for these trips. It’ll also be the first flight since COVID. More than anything I’m excited to see family and spend more time with friends again.

What about you? Are you open to traveling again? Is there a limit to where you’d feel safe?

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My Biggest Investment Mistake and the Lessons I’ve Learned https://minafi.com/my-biggest-investment-mistake-and-the-lessons-ive-learned https://minafi.com/my-biggest-investment-mistake-and-the-lessons-ive-learned#comments Wed, 05 May 2021 14:23:04 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=18293

Money mistakes are one of the most personal. It's easy to hide in shame. How do you learn from the experience and grow from it?

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With Minafi is on break for 3 months, I’m highlighting stories by a few Minafi readers and friends of mine. Todays article comes from Mia Wilson, a financial advisor who wanted to share her story.

2 years back then, I became a victim of my worst investment mistake and lost $30,000 in one day. It was a heart-wrenching day because 90% of the stock was down the drain. I was shattered and flabbergasted by how this might have taken place as I had two partners collaborating in my projects. 

Being a business graduate and a professional investment analyst, I was sure that I am running my investment business strategically. I quarreled with my two partners as I was unaware of how I lost thousands of dollars in a day. It took me months to recover from the loss of my business being severely crashed in a day. I had to liquidate one of my companies and reduce my shares in the stock market. After pondering over the cause of the investment failure, I was unimpressed by the fact that my carelessness drowned me. 

Let’s dig into the story of my biggest investment failure

I won’t completely blame my partners because they were my sincere friends but maybe the envy took over. I trusted my partners blindly for all my shares, companies, small business, and major investments. One of my partners asked me to invest in a newly launched company with a fiscal market capitalization of less than $200 million. On his suggestion and without researching the progress of the company, I invested a significant amount of my money in the company. Being a professional investor, I was happy about my new investment and upcoming profits. The first three months went fine with 30% profits and a surge in shares.

The next 4th month was a disastrous time as 70% of the company’s stock lost their value. I was furious and speechless as my investment image in the market was eroded. Concluding my biggest investing mistake, in a nutshell, make a thorough and deep analysis of a project or company before investment. Also, never blindly trust your partners, employees, and shareholders.

I worked hard tirelessly in my initial days to become a renowned investor in my country. I was about to reach that position but because of my own investment blunder. It took months to recover mentally and financially. This investment mistake taught me multiple financial and investments that I would like to share with my peers.

Lesson#1 when everything turns upside down, focus on the good

I had the dream of becoming a domain expert in my country. This dream of mine kept my identity, other talents, and a complete life hidden for years. 

The moment I lost my thousands of dollars in a day, that moment made me realize how unrealistically I was running after my dream. That failure made me explore other dimensions of career and investment. I diverged my interest in entrepreneurship and startups. I found it an exciting and impressive way to fulfill my dream of being an investor and businessman in parallel. 

Warren Buffet quotes, “There should be more than one source of income otherwise you will fail miserably.” 

On the personal side, losing investment in such a short span of time forced me to adopt some saving habits. I have set a saving goal for 2021 just so I could make up for some of the lost investment.

Tip: There’s a way to turn your worst investment mistake into a good thing? You
just need to answer the following questions.

Question #1: what was the flow in your investment strategy? Take self-responsibility and don’t put the blame on your colleagues, improper investment advice, and poor market conditions. 

Question #2: How are you going to cover the loss to prevent it from becoming more dominant and how quick is it going to be? What will be your coping mechanism?

Question #3: What changes are you going to make in your investment strategy and is it going to be impactful in the future?

Question #4: how are you going to ensure that your new investment strategy is worthwhile? Verify your research, studies, and market history to evaluate its scope in the future?

Answering these questions may take a while and require you to do some soul searching but it will be all worth it in the end. 

Lesson #2: Utilize technology and make independent decisions

Without doing my research and using my instincts, I followed the lead of my friend and invested my hard-earned money in a scam. It was my money and it was supposed to be wisely invested. One should be independent and mature when it comes to financial management and investment. With this, there’s no harm in utilizing technology. While I am someone who likes to do things the old ways, it’s never ideal to ignore some of the gifts modern technology has to offer. 

New technologies such as big data are helping not only businesses save money but also investors in identifying trends and reducing uncertainty in investment decisions. Anyone that looks past these modern innovations is bound to repeat my mistake.

Lesson #3: Turn your mistakes into a fee 

Life is an exam and you pay the fees of it by surviving the hardships. Likewise, I took my failure and loss of dollars as a fee not a fine. I convinced myself that life has always blessed me with uncountable blessings in the form of successful investments. Why am I not able to accept one of my failures? 

The words fees give a positive impression on the mindset of the person in times of financial strains. My graduation and master’s in the business domain cost me ten times more than the loss I faced in one mistake. Rather than focusing on my one investment mistake, I should shuffle that mistake in a form of a fee for my investment journey. Investing your money, efforts, and feelings in anything will always give you endless benefits on the larger side. Just be positive and move on. 

The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on your gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligence, and it makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool.

William Bolitho

Lesson #4: Understand the significance of financial consultations

Although I was an investment analyst, yet I made a terrible career mistake. Maybe my successes made me arrogant and over-confidence. Would I have failed if I had a financial advisor with me at that time? It’s a smart move to ask for opinions, bits of advice, and to consult before investing your money and any other commodities.

Adam says: I still firmly believe most investors likely don’t need a financial advisor. But if you’re on the fence and would like a second opinion, a fee-only financial advisor can help gut check your decisions before they become solo failures.

Warren Buffet is a real-life example of how to turn failure into fix-its. In 2020, he announced that he made a humongous mistake investing in an airline of North America. It cost him a loss of approximately $US 50 billion for shareholders. He is a well-known personality in the pavilion of investors. If such a successful investor can make a mistake after years of his career, it’s normal for every one of us to move on from our financial mishandlings.

Lesson #5: Risk management and financial management run in parallel

Risk management protocols and strategies are necessary tools to protect your investments from failing. Being an investment expert, I knew the importance of risk management, yet I did not apply it in my career. It, basically, sets alarm protocols when there is a chance of potential loss. It automatically guides the investor to take appropriate actions under the risk objectives and tolerance. I am using my present investments and it has significantly helped in analysis, identifications, and acceptance of any investment hazard. 

Adam says: This has a lot of names, but it’s also called a investment policy statement. We discuss how to write one in the last lesson of my free course, The Minimal Investor.

The pay off

Sometimes in life, a single financial strain can shape your whole life and career into something innovative. The mistake I made taught me an uncountable lesson and valuable experience that would help me in my upcoming entrepreneurial startups. I imagined myself gearing up an entrepreneurial business if I wouldn’t have lost thousands of dollars. 

Everyone’s famous investor Charlie Munger shares a legendary saying: “Envy is the stupidest of the 7 deadly sins because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at.”

About Mia: Mia Wilson is a financial consultant. Her focus is on small investments, managing debts, smart online shipping and finding alternate sources of income. Mia is also mother to two Persian cats.

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Most Iconic Road Trips in Every State https://minafi.com/iconic-road-trips Wed, 28 Apr 2021 18:00:33 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=18272 Road Trips

There are few more nostalgic experiences than a road trip. It can bring us back to childhood, connect people with their roots and let them explore the country at a relaxed pace. These sites are the ones you shouldn't miss if you're in the area.

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Road Trips

I love road trips. I grew up with road trips from our home in Florida to almost everywhere in the US – from Maine to Washington state. There’s still a special place in my heart for being stuck in a car for 12 hours a day for weeks on end. This week’s post by Monica from Planner At Heart highlights some of the best road trips from around the country. There are more than a few on here that I can’t wait to try next time I’m headed that way!

Hitting the road to get away from it all and explore new places has never felt more thrilling. These trips offer an adventure for everyone from stunning coasts to epic mountains or even music and bourbon trails. If you have a weekend, a week, or a month, there’s a trip for you. Whether you’re looking for roads less traveled or a cheaper way to vacation, here’s The Most Iconic Road Trips in Every State to inspire your next holiday.

Road Trips

1. Alabama’s Mobile to Fort Morgan

Mobile is less than two hours from the white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast and is perfect for a weekend road trip. Take I-10, Baldwin Beach Express to Foley Beach Express, and you’ll be on island time in no time. En route to the shore, see over 500 animals at Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Explore the 32-mile long peninsula of sugar-white sand beaches, watch for dolphins, fish, or visit the 200-year-old Fort Morgan on the coastal roads of AL-180 and AL-182.

2. Alaska’s Anchorage to Seward

Alaska is a regular destination on people’s bucket lists. Whether you’re looking to extend a cruise or prefer road trip vacations, driving the Seward Highway is awe-inspiring. From Anchorage, the Highway passes between the shoreline and Chugach Mountains’ giant peaks. Along the route, take your pick of National Heritage areas to explore and immerse yourself in the history of the determined people who have lived in this land.

3. Arizona’s Phoenix to the Grand Canyon

While you could drive this stretch of I-17 in about 4 hours, give yourself a week to explore all its beauty. From Phoenix, head north to the Montezuma Castle National Monument. Next, spend two or more days in Sedona to explore the 1.8 million-acre Coconino National Forest, a stunning mix of red rocks and pine forests. Enjoy Flagstaff’s college culture and star gazing at Lowell Observatory. For a grand finale, explore the South Rim of The Grand Canyon 90 minutes away.

4. Arkansas’ Eudora to Ohama County

Travel the entire length of the state on a 300 mile Great Highway 65 Road Trip. U.S. 65 passes by some of Arkansas’ most popular attractions. Starting in the state’s southern delta, drive north to Pine Bluff, with museums, history, and numerous family-friendly attractions. Continue to Little Rock, and explore the state capital and the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Next, hike Pinnacle Mountain to take in the views at the top of East Summit Trailhead. On your way to Clinton, stop at Woody Hollow State Park. As you finish your road trip, see the infamous Natural Bridge of Arkansas, and spend a day canoeing on the Buffalo National River.

5. California’s San Francisco to San Diego

California’s Pacific Coast Highway is perhaps the most famous road trip in America. Enjoy all that California has to offer over a 600-mile two-week trip. Explore large cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, small towns like Cambria and Manhattan Beach. Savor Santa Barbara wine country, magnificent mountains of Big Sur, the glamour of Hollywood, and the opulent beach towns of Orange County. End your trip with the picture-perfect weather and family-friendly attractions of San Diego.

6. Colorado’s National Parks Loop

This epic week-long road trip allows you to see stunning destinations like Red Rocks Canyon and Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs and four of our country’s beautiful National Parks. Start and end in Denver not only for the convenience of their international airport but a bustling downtown and craft beer scene.

As you leave Denver on I-25 South, stop at Colorado Springs’ sandstone rock sites on your way to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Next, take-160 West to Mesa Verde National Park, known for its well-preserved Pueblo cliff dwellings. As you make your way back north on CO-145 and US-550, enjoy the dramatic mountain views while hiking the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. As you travel north to Rocky Mountain National State Park, make a stop in Glenwood Springs for thrilling outdoor adventures.

7. Connecticut’s Lisbon to North Woodstock

This 32-mile road trip on National Scenic Byway State Route 169 is perfect for a day trip or staycation. Leave the crowds behind and explore small, quaint New England towns and countryside. Particularly beautiful in the fall, take your time exploring The Quinebaug and Shetucket River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Mashamoquet Brook State Park, and historical museums in Canterbury, Brooklyn, and Woodstock.

8. Delaware’s New Castle to Fenwick Island

Explore the entire length of the state on this 100-mile road trip. In New Castle, hop on the Bayshore Byway, a scenic two-lane road that hugs the Delaware river and bay. Stop in historic Dover for lunch or snacks before exploring the tranquil small towns far away from the interstate. At the end of the byway, take Highway One to beloved shore towns Rehoboth, Dewey, and Bethany Beach.

9. Florida’s Miami to Key West

One of the most iconic road trips in America takes you from a vibrant multicultural city to the edge of the world, U.S. Route 1 Mile Zero, the southernmost point in the continental United States. The 150-mile Miami to Key West drive includes the over-water Seven Mile Bridge linking towns and islands in the Florida Keys. Take your time stopping at award-winning beaches, state parks, and fabulous restaurants before arriving in Key West.

10. Georgia’s Atlanta to Helen

Leave the urban sprawl of Atlanta behind on a US-19 N road trip to experience Georgia’s rolling hills, valleys, and mountains. Stop at Amicalola Falls State Park with incredible vistas, hiking, fishing, waterfalls, and a chance to step foot on the Appalachian Trail. On your way to Helen, make sure to stop in history-rich Dahlonega. Helen, one of the most popular destinations in Georgia, is a mini-Bavarian alpine village and the gateway to the Chattahoochee River, perfect for tubing.

11. Hawaii’s Paia to Hana

The Road to Hana day trip is one of the most popular activities on Maui for a reason. This 52-mile journey allows you to explore an undeveloped portion of east Maui that feels like the Hawaii of yesteryear. From a “Half Hana” to a full 12 hour day, plan your Road to Hana stops to famous sites like Keanae Peninsula, Wai’anapanapa State Park, world-famous Hamoa Beach Pipiwai Trail located in Haleakala National Park. The Road to Hana is about enjoying the journey, not reaching the final destination, so don’t forget to stop at infamous food stalls like Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread and Coconut Glen’s.

12. Idaho’s Swan Valley to Ashton

The Teton Scenic Byway road trip is perfect for fall foliage, the spring bloom of wildflowers, or the annual summer balloon festival. This 70-mile drive has stunning views of the Teton Mountains, skirts nearby Targhee National Forest, a geotourism excursion in Driggs, and year-round activities at Grand Targhee Resort.

13. Illinois’s Cave-in-Rock to Cairo

Add what Teddy Roosevelt called “the world’s most beautiful drive” to your vacation bucket list. The Ohio River Scenic Byway runs next to the Ohio River and puts the best of Southern Illinois on display. Destinations include Shawnee National Forest, historic small towns, various recreation areas like Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock, Glen O’Jones Lakes, and Cave in the Rock State Park.

14. Indiana’s Northern State Parks Loop

This road trip features six state parks offering soaring sand dunes, lakeside relaxation, and rugged hiking. Start at Indiana Dunes State Park and explore Lake Michigan before hopping on IN-4 E to Potato Creek Park. Take I-80 E/I-90 E to Pokagon State Park, then I-69 S to Chain O’Lakes. Stay for the night in nearby Fort Wayne and explore the Freimann Botanical Conservatory and Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Head to Ouabache State Park on Route N 450 E. As you loop back, check out Tippecanoe State Park as your finale. Whether you live in Chicago or nearby South Bend, it’s an excellent staycation road trip.

15. Iowa’s New Albin to Keokuk

The Great River Road National Scenic Byway runs parallel to the Mississippi River through the length of the state. A perfect trip for outdoor enthusiasts or history buffs, this 328-mile drive features stunning vistas, quaint river towns, limestone bluffs, and the history of the people living there for thousands of years.

16. Kansas’ Canton to Ellsworth

The Prairie Trail Scenic Byway is an 80-mile road trip full of scientific landmarks, historical sites, cultural experiences, and fun activities. Highlights include the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge and Buffalo Tour, Kanopolis Reservoir State Park, Smoky Hill Wildlife Area, Marquette Pioneer Trail, Coronado Heights Bluff, Valkommen Rail Trail, and Broadway RFD, the state’s longest-running outdoor theater.

17. Kentucky’s Louisville to Lexington

Few things are more iconic in Kentucky than bourbon, so why not explore the state on a Bourbon Trail road trip? After enjoying Louisville, travel south on I-65 to Shepherdsville, home of Jim Beam, the most popular bourbon in the world. Continue south via KY-245 to Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto and enjoy a different tasting bourbon known for its delicate sweetness.

Travel east on US-150 to Danville, the birthplace of Kentucky. Grab a bite to eat in their historic downtown and stroll their award-winning Main Street. You’ll be rewarded at the end of your trip with the scenery of Woodford County as you travel along US-127 N to Woodford Reserve Distillery outside of Lexington. Whether you have a designed driver or join day trip tours, stay safe along the Bourbon Trail.

18. Louisiana’s New Orleans to Lake Charles

A perfect add-on to a NOLA visit, this short road trip along I-10 West illustrates a more diverse side of Louisiana. First, stop in Baton Rouge for lunch at the famous Louie’s Cafe and explore the capital city, home to LSU. Continue to Avery Island, home of Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge and The Tabasco Factory. In Lafayette, learn about exiled French Canadian settlers, the forefathers of Louisiana Cajuns at the Acadian Cultural Center, and enjoy James Beard award-worthy chicken and waffles at The French Press. Plan to stay a night, or two, in Lake Charles.

19. Maine’s Acadia National Park Loop

Acadia’s Park Loop Road covers 27 miles of one of America’s favorite National Parks. This mostly one-lane road was thoughtfully created over 30 years to protect and display the stunning landscape. This loop begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and gives easy access to the park’s sites like Sieur de Monts, Sand Beach, Otter Point, and Jordan Pond, one of Acadia’s most pristine lakes. The road steeply climbs Cadillac Mountain, the top destination in the park. It’s the highest point in the Eastern Seaboard and offers gorgeous coastal views.

20. Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Loop

Far away from the suburban crowds of Bethesda and Baltimore, enjoy a weekend road trip on the Chesapeake Country Blue Crab Byway. Explore lower Eastern Shore historic towns and quaint villages on a scenic 210-mile stretch. Along both the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean routes, you’ll have many chances to enjoy local Maryland Blue Crab dishes. Fans of the movie Wedding Crashers might want to add Saint Michaels to their itinerary and book at night at the real Inn at Perry Cabin.

21. Massachusetts’ Boston to The Berkshires

Whether you’re off to see the fall foliage, a summer show at Tanglewood, or skiing at Jiminy Peak, explore the countryside of Massachusetts and vibrant small towns along the Massachusetts Turnpike or its northern parallel route MA-2. From hiking trails at Mount Greylock, featuring the highest peak in the state, to the MassMOCA in North Adams, the entertainment of Great Barrington, or fine dining in Lenox, it’s perfect for a long weekend or even a week.

22. Michigan’s Standish to Mackinaw City

This coast road trip on the historic Heritage Route US-23 puts the best of the Sunrise Coast on display. You don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re visiting another world. As you drive along Lake Huron’s coast, there are miles of beautiful beaches, lighthouses, bike trails, and remnants of mysterious shipwrecks. Plan to stop at Tawas Point State Park to experience one of Michigan’s best beaches, Au Sable, for a day of fly-fishing, kayaking, and the quiet of the oceanfront forest, Shipwreck Alley in Harrisville State Park, and bike riding, swimming, and picnicking in Ocqueoc Falls.

23. Minnesota’s Park Rapids to Winona

Drive US-10 across the state for a 600-mile journey through cities, country, and everything in between. Stop first at Itasca, a 32,000-acre state park with more than 100 lakes. Consider staying in the Brainerd area, known for its hundreds of lakes and legendary resorts. Continue to St. Cloud for its granite Quarry Park Scientific area, The Twin Cities for epic views of meeting rivers, and end in Winona, an art lover’s mecca.

24. Mississippi’s Hernando to Woodville

For music lovers, U.S. Highway 61 or The Blues Highway is sacred as it gave birth to the roots of modern music. Whether you want to leave your troubles behind like blues artists or just pack up and go, you can experience the history of the blues in the places where it was born. This route is marked with Mississippi Blues Trail signs across city streets, cotton fields, train depots, cemeteries, nightclubs, and churches. Make sure to stop at The Birthplace of the Blues Dockery Farms, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi in Cleveland, and the various birthplaces of your favorite blues artists.

25. Missouri’s St. Louis to Joplin

Experience Americana at its finest by taking a road trip on our most famous Highway – Route 66. Missouri, the show me state, has plenty to offer from National Forests, museums, retro drive-ins, and all the neon and kitsch of yesteryear. While not the famed Rosebud Motel, you can stay in some of the original route 66 hotels like the Wagon Wheel, the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, and the 1939 Boots Court Motel. Leave time to explore the Mark Twain National Forest, The Meramec Caverns, Route 66 State Park, and the Route 66 Museum in Lebanon.

26. Montana’s Bozeman to Yellowstone

While you could do this drive along US-191 in two hours, savor all that Big Sky country has to offer over a weeklong road trip. Start in Bozeman, the adventure capital of the Northern Rockies, for fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, or backcountry tours. Drive south to Big Sky Resort, a four-season mountain destination. Lastly, continue to West Yellowstone, a convenient base for exploring Yellowstone National Park. Give yourself at least two full days to explore all of its beloved 2 million acres.

27. Nebraska’s Odell to Scott’s Bluff

Travel along the Oregon National Historic Trail to see the beauty of Nebraska and learn what life was like for those early settlers who traveled the same land. There are over 60 historical mile markers and museums to explore during this road trip. Consider stops at Rock Creek Station State Historic Park, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Lincoln County Historical Museum, and Chimney Rock, one of the most noted landmarks along the Oregon Trail.

28. Nevada’s Las Vegas to Valley of Fire

While some never leave Las Vegas during their vacation, consider a road trip along I-15 to Valley of Fire State Park. The 100-mile round trip drive and 40,000-acre state park are perfectly sized for a day trip. See for yourself why this otherworldly place is the filming location for faraway lands in movies like Star Trek and how the sun’s rays on red sandstone rocks illuminate the valley like fire.

29. New Hampshire’s White Mountain Trail Loop

Explore the 100-mile National Scenic Byway White Mountain Trail, particularly beautiful during the fall. In the words of New Hampshire resident Robert Frost, consider taking the road less traveled. Take your time exploring waterfalls, covered bridges, and endless overlooks. Start at White Mountains Visitor Center, continue to Franconia Notch State Park, and Crawford Notch State Park with stunning views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range.

30. New Jersey’s Englewood Cliffs to The Delaware Water Gap

While most people only know The Jersey Shore, the congestion of The New Jersey Turnpike, or towns featured in The Sopranos, the garden state actually has a wide range of destinations and natural beauty. Before traveling I-80, fill up with a big breakfast at Brownstone Pancake Factory and take in Manhattan Skyline views in Englewood Cliffs.

Stop at Paterson State Falls National Historical Park to see the 77-ft. waterfall that Alexander Hamilton used to launch the country’s first industrial city. Stop in Denville for dinner at Hunan Taste, lauded as the best Chinese food in the state, or The Pasta Shop, a local favorite. Enjoy a relaxing and quiet getaway at one of the many Bed and Breakfasts in Sussex County.

31. New Mexico’s Ohkay Owingeh to Las Cruces

Whether you’re a foodie, a historian, or an outdoor enthusiast, this road trip has it all. The El Camino Real National Scenic Highway traverses the length of the state. Take a week to enjoy the cities (and food) of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, as well as the historical sites of 16th-century Spanish explorers. Explore White Sands National Park, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, and the 1.6 million acres of the Santa Fe National Forest.

32. New York’s Albany to Niagara Falls

Take a week-long road trip covering the length of the Empire State along I-90 West. Start in the state capital to experience America’s Main Street before visiting quaint towns and farms on your way to Syracuse. It’s a large city and college town in one chock full of museums, shops, amusement parks, and a zoo. Next up is family-friendly Rochester with The Strong National Museum of Play and boat rides on the Erie Canal. Continue your road trip by driving along Lake Ontario to witness where the lake meets the Niagara River. Enjoy a day exploring Niagara Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in the world.

33. North Carolina’s Cumberland Knob to Heintooga Overlook

Travel the Blue Ridge Parkway through the whole state right to the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Plan a week-long road trip to experience the variety of attractions North Carolina has to offer. From Cherokee life, agricultural history, Southern Appalachian culture, the largest home in American, and some of the world’s oldest mountains, there’s something for everyone. Explore the beauty of Grandfather Mountain, Pisgah National Forest, and trendy Asheville, home of The Biltmore Estate.

34. North Dakota’s Washburn to Stanton

Travel the route of Lewis and Clark along the Sakakawea Scenic Byway and Missouri River Valley. Retrace their incredible journey while learning about the people who’ve lived in this land for centuries. Plan for stops at Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, Cross Ranch State Park, Fort Clark State Historic Site, and Fort Mandan Historic Site.

35. Ohio’s Cleveland to Cincinnati

Give yourself time to explore the major cities of Ohio on this I-71 South road trip. Start in Cleveland to enjoy the shore of Lake Erie and visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Continue South to Columbus for their arts & food scene and beautiful botanical gardens. For airplane enthusiasts, take a side trip to The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton. End with two days in Cincinnati. It’s the largest metro area in the state with history, art, architecture, children’s museums, and a zoo.

36. Oklahoma’s Talihina to Heavener

Take a week to explore all the destinations and historic towns along the Talimena National Scenic Byway. Plan day trips and hiking excursions in Ouachita National Forest and Queen Wilhelmina State Park. For white water enthusiasts, enjoy the Ouachita, Mountain Fork, Caddo, and the Cossatot Rivers’ adventures. Don’t miss the 1,000-year-old Viking carvings in the stunning Heavener Runestone Park.

37. Oregon’s Portland Loop

The Columbia River Gorge Highway connects some of our county’s most stunning sites. Stop first at Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area with beautiful vistas, trails, and 90 waterfalls. At the Washington state border, the Columbia River Gorge will take your breath away. Take the windy drive up to Sandy River and stop at Crown Point Vista House for an incredible view of The Gorge. As you continue, make sure to visit Multnomah Falls, one of the most visited sites in the Pacific Northwest. As you return to Portland, explore Benson and Ainsworth State Parks, Eagle Creek hiking trail, and the town of Hood River, a favorite with kiteboarders.

38. Pennsylvania’s Jim Thorpe to Milford

For over 100 years, the Pocono Mountains have attracted visitors to its quiet beauty and outdoor adventures. The small towns along Route 209 are known for their seasonal celebrations, historical sites, and family-friendly activities. Start in Jim Thorpe, dubbed America’s Switzerland, for its international architecture. Whether you’re an advanced hiker, train fanatic, biker, or white water rafter, it’s a great place to kick off your vacation.

Next, enjoy Stroudsburg’s downtown as you make your way to The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area. This 70,000-acre park offers endless outdoor adventures and stunning views of the Delaware River Valley. Dingman’s Falls right off US-209 is a must-do stop even if you’re short on time. End in Milford to tour their historical sites and Raymondskill Falls, the largest waterfall in the state.

39. Rhode Island’s Watch Hill to Newport

Take a weekend road trip along historic Route 1 to see all that coastal Rhode Island has to offer. Start at Watch Hill, the southernmost point in the state, and snake your way through quintessential New England towns. Rhode Island’s coast contains beautiful historic lighthouses scattered on gorgeous peninsulas, islands, and cliff sides like Point Judith Lighthouse. In Newport, stay a night, or two in luxurious resorts, tour historic mansions and enjoy award-winning restaurants.

40. South Carolina’s Cleveland to Charleston

While you could drive this stretch of the state in five hours, take your time traveling from the mountains to the coast. Start in Cleveland and enjoy a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Caesars Head State Park. As you drive south on Poinsett Highway, stop in Greenville, dubbed America’s Friendliest City.

As you continue towards the coast on Veterans Highway, visit Columbia, the capital city, and take a stroll in its riverside park. Plan for a day in nearby Congaree National Park and Lake Marion. Conclude your drive where Route 26 ends in Charleston, one of America’s most popular vacation destinations. Leave time to enjoy the state’s oldest city and some of the best restaurants in South Carolina.

41. South Dakota’s Crazy Horse to Badlands National Park

Consider taking a road trip through South Dakota’s rolling prairies, twisting mountain roads, and iconic American monuments. Start at historical Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. Take US-16 E to enjoy a couple of days in Rapid City, a vibrant town with outdoor festivals, concerts, and a unique food scene. Travel I-90 E to Wall as a base for exploring Badlands National Park. Drive the Badlands Loop Scenic Byway to see its 16 stunning overlooks and hike among its surreal landscape.

42. Tennessee’s Nashville to the Smoky Mountains

With a music capital, amusement parks, foodie havens, history, and the most visited national park in the country, it’s no wonder so many Americans are flocking to Tennessee. This 200-mile I-40 E road trip starts in the entertainment-rich Nashville, the country music capital of the world. Next, drive to Knoxville with stops in Old City and Mead’s Quarry. Before entering Great Smoky Mountains National park, enjoy a day in family-friendly Pigeon Forge, home to Dollywood Amusement park. Its neighbor city, Gatlinburg, is a perfect base to explore half a million acres of the Smoky Mountains.

43. Texas’s Austin to San Antonio

While 30 million people visit The Live Music Capital of the World annually, many don’t leave Austin. Consider expanding your vacation with an I-35 S road trip to San Antonio and experience the Texas Hill Country. Stop first in San Marcos and enjoy the hundreds of river springs perfect year-round at 72 degrees.

Next, explore New Braunfels, a beloved vacation destination for Texans. This small town boasts a historic downtown, an infamous water park, and Comal River, a beloved tubing spot. Next, visit San Antonio, a vacation destination in its own right, with a beautiful miles-long River Walk, unique culture, and historical sites like The Alamo. On your way back to Austin, consider a side trip to Lockhart, with some of the best barbeque in the state.

44. Utah’s Torrey to Bryce Canyon

If there’s a Million Dollar Highway, it must be on your bucket list. U.S. Route 550 features two national parks, one national monument, a national forest, and a stunning state park, all with million-dollar views. While the Highway is under 150 miles long, leave at least a week to explore all the incredible sites in this portion of the state.

Start on Capitol Reef Scenic Drive to reach the first of many, National Parks in Utah. Explore Larb Hollow Overlook, Burr Trail in Long Canyon, and Lower Calf Creek Falls. Continue to the town of Escalante, home of Grand Staircase with 1 million acres of mind-boggling geological formations. Don’t skip over Kodachrome Basin State Park. It’s so vibrant it was named after the popular color photography film. End this epic road trip in Bryce Canyon National Park’s Mossy Cave Trail, often overlooked by the crowds.

45. Vermont’s Brandon to Goshen

Witness the beauty of Vermont on the West-Central Mountains & the Appalachian Gap Loop, particularly beautiful in the fall. This 100-mile route passes through Green Mountain National Forest, Lake Dunmore, and ten quaint, welcoming towns. If you’re looking to stay for the weekend or longer, make lodging reservations well in advance for this popular road trip destination.

46. Virginia’s Arlington to Shenandoah Valley

If you’re planning a vacation to Washington, D.C., add a Shenandoah Valley road trip to your itinerary. As you head west on I-66, stop at the historic Manassas National Battlefield Park and Skyline Caverns. Stay at family-friendly four-season resorts, inns, or romantic bed & breakfasts to explore nearby Shenandoah National Park. During your stay or on your drive back, check out the Shenandoah Spirits Trail featuring more than 45 vineyards, craft breweries, distilleries.

47. Washington’s Seattle to Portland

Whether you live in the Seattle area or are visiting the area on vacation, this awe-inspiring road trip to some of the Pacific Northwest’s most awe-inspiring sites is bucket-list worthy. From Seattle, travel along I-5 N on the coast to Bellingham, your base for exploring nearby Mount Baker. Continue to North Cascade National Park, Stevens Pass, and Cascade Valley. Next, explore all that the White Pass Scenic Byway offers, like Mount Rainier National Park and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, before ending in Portland. This walkable city is known for its food and distinct culture that turns visitors into residents.

48. West Virginia’s Charleston to White Sulphur Springs

Travel 180 miles of The Midland Trail National Scenic Byway to see stunning vistas, experience thrilling outdoor adventures, and learn the history of the people who lived in these hills for centuries. Jump on U.S. Route 60 in the capital city of Charleston and snake your way through the mountains to Hawks Nest State Park, with panoramic views and white water rafting. Fayette County offers fishing, horseback riding, and world-class rock-climbing. Continue to Greenbrier Valley’s limestone landscapes, farms, historic sites, and quaint towns. End your journey with a stay at The Greenbrier, a National Historic Landmark and world-class resort that has hosted half our country’s presidents, royalty, celebrities, and guests from around the world since 1778.

49. Wisconsin’s Madison to Prairie du Chien

Explore 100 miles of the Lower Wisconsin River countryside on the Wisconsin Scenic Byway. One hour west of Madison is Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s sprawling estate with a national historic landmark designation to honor our country’s most famous architect. Follow the Wisconsin River to the town of Boscobel with one of the best River Outing tour companies in the region. You can book an excursion for a couple of hours or even days. End your road trip in Prairie du Chien, a town established in the 1800s. Make sure to visit Wyalusing State Park 500 feet above the river for stunning views.

50. Wyoming’s Beartooth Pass to Yellowstone

Did we save the best road trip for last? The Beartooth Highway, a National Scenic Byway, is thought to be the most scenic drive in the United States. While less than 100 miles across Northeast Wyoming, this 80-year-old road draws global visitors to its diverse environment, family-friendly wild west cities, and breathtaking scenery. Set next to epic mountain ranges are endless glacial lakes, national forests, waterfalls, and fantastic wildlife. You can experience the highest and most rugged mountain areas in the continental United States from your car. Leave time to explore Custer, Gallatin & Shoshone National Forests, and the Crown Jewel of America’s National Park System – Yellowstone.

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

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Here’s Why You Feel Exhausted: A Look at Thinking vs Doing https://minafi.com/thinking-vs-doing https://minafi.com/thinking-vs-doing#comments Sun, 25 Apr 2021 18:00:00 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=17768 a man in a field

I've been reading about happiness lately and one thing stood out: there's a reason why we feel tired.

The post Here’s Why You Feel Exhausted: A Look at Thinking vs Doing appeared first on Minafi.

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a man in a field

Tell me if this sounds familiar. Some days you just feel exhausted. You may not have even done anything productive and yet you wind down at the end of the night and quietly think “why do I feel this way?”.

The good news is that everyone has days like that. Learning why you feel that way can help improve your happiness a few points. Who wouldn’t want to shift a few thoughts around and end up 10% happier?

a man in a field

As some of you may know, I tried an experiment in 2020 where I set themes every month. My December theme, Enjoy, was focused on intentional happiness. While I’m no expert in this subject, I have been trying to read more about it.

One book I read that stood out was The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything=Have Everything. The author, Neil Pasricha, seems like a down-to-earth guy. While going through a divorce, he decided to start a blog: 1,000 Awesome Things. Each day for 1,000 days he would write an article about something awesome.

These ranged from opening and sniffing a pack of tennis balls, to the first scoop out of a jar of peanut butter, to double spacing your essay so it takes up way more pages and 997 more. The titles alone are enough to make me smile.

Although I didn’t read these through at the time he published them, the activity of writing these is a form of gratitude. Each day Pasricha was taking time to reflect on the day and find something to be appreciative of.

By the time he’d reached 1,000 new doors had opened for him. He was now a NY Times #1 best selling author, a TED speaker and now writes on his blog about whatever he wants – which tends to focus on personal happiness, productivity and personal potential.

That Sounds Exhausting

Writing 1,000 blog posts sounds absolutely exhausting to me. I’ve written fewer than 300 here on Minafi in a much longer period of time. There have been days, weeks, and even months where I didn’t want to write a single word (and I didn’t). I can guarantee that there were many days he didn’t want to write either.

When I feel that way about a project now I just let myself be unproductive. I think to myself “I don’t really need to do this”, and I allow myself to back out of an agreement that’s only with myself (or perhaps my weekly plan).

But something happens when you do this over and over again. At some point, you stop believing in yourself when you say “I can do it.” You feel drained, unmotivated, and unproductive. But is pushing through on projects you don’t enjoy really the solution?

No! The reason you feel that way isn’t because you didn’t meet some arbitrary productivity goal. That may be part of it, but it’s not the entire reason. In fact, Pasricha lays out 9 reasons why we feel this way in The Happiness Equation. It’s worth reading, but for simplicity, I’ll share them all here:

  1. Be happy First. This is the primary takeaway from the book. Instead of relying on something external to make you happy, make the choice to be happy.
  2. Do it for you. Don’t decide to be happy for someone else. Do it because you want to be a person who’s happy.
  3. Remember the lottery. Lottery winners aren’t inherently happier. Once your income reaches a certain point, money has diminishing returns.
  4. Never retire. Never stop learning, challenging yourself, or growing. (but it’s OK to retire from your job).
  5. Overvalue you. Take care of yourself and invest in yourself. Spend time doing things you enjoy.
  6. Create space. Take steps to create space for your goals, ambitions, and hobbies. This includes both physical space, mental space, nature space, and time.
  7. Just do it. Make progress on what you want to do – however small. Even researching the next step is progress.
  8. Be you. You don’t need to put on a mask or pretend to be someone else. You’ll be happier if you’re natural.
  9. Don’t take advice. No one knows what will make you happy. Others can share what’s worked for them, but it’s up to you to figure it out.

I love these. They’re elaborated on in much more detail, but this is a good tl;dr.

He makes it a point to mention that if you’re depressed then advice like “be happy” is absolutely not going to work. If you’re at that point I’d encourage you to find a therapist and work together on a plan (and it is work). The hours I spent in therapy in my 20s/30s calmed me down in ways I can’t even describe. In my case, it was mostly occupational therapists at my job. That was causing most of my anxiety and it’s well worth the time.

Now though, I get most of my personal growth through self-evaluation – a combination of personal journaling, reading self-improvement books, scouring blogs, and looking for those elusive mindsets that I can adopt to improve my happiness. This book helped with that.

Doing vs Thinking

One exercise in the book (and there are a bunch of them) stood out to me – and only partially because it involves graphing. Here’s the exercise:

On a sheet of paper draw a vertical axis and a horizontal axis meeting in the middle creating 4 quadrants. In these quadrants we’re going to place activities throughout the day based on two criteria: how much thought is involved and how much action (doing) is involved.

  • Top left: “Think” – These are actions that are high in “thinking” but low in “doing” (reading, math). These require you to generate your own thoughts but don’t require any action on your part. They’re one way.
  • Bottom right: “Do” – These are actions that are high in “doing” but low in “thinking” (running, yard work). These require your action to get them done.
  • Top right: “Burn” – These are actions that are high in “thinking” and high in “doing” (playing a sport, building something, working through the night, taking care of family). This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re running around. Your “doing” could mean focused work.
  • Bottom right: “Space” – These are actions that are low in both “thinking” and “doing” (social media, sitting on a beach).

With this graph filled out, you can begin arbitrarily plotting tasks you do every day. Try going through your day from when you wake up and plotting points for anything you spend more than few minutes on. When I tried this, my graph looked something like this:

Adam says: for extra credit you can make the size of each bubble based on the amount of time in a given week you spend on that task.

One thing to point out: these are my own personal scores for thinking and doing. A writer would likely rate the “thinking” as a 10. A runner would likely do the same for running. A CrossFit Athlete the same for CrossFit. A teacher the same for teaching.

Is there an activity that comes to mind for you that maxes out your thinking and doing? For me, that’s programming – specifically pair programming. Pair programming is when multiple programmers (usually two, hence the name) share screens and work together to solve a coding problem. Pair programming can be one of the most educational experiences, but it’s absolutely exhausting. I remember coming home from work some days and not even having the energy to do more than stare blankly at the TV.

None of these are set in stone either. You can browse Reddit with an intention to look for specific answers – ditto for YouTube. This is a snapshot of how I mostly use these sources (and a few made-up ones for reference).

Finding Time

Remember #6 from the above list (“Create Space”)? One aspect of that is finding time. Take a hard look at this graph and figure out if there are points that are just too big – or ones you’d like to get rid of altogether.

There’s a reason why the thinking + doing quadrant is called “burn”. Too much time there and you’ll burn out. You need time away to recover. You need time away from checking emails, replying on Slack, taking care of family, and even your goals.

The hard part is balance. In every moment of your life, you’ll be in one of these quadrants. Well-rounded people know when it’s time to jump from one box to another. The key to not burning out, and giving yourself time to recover is to jump between these boxes. Learning enough about yourself to feel confident moving around is a learning process.

That’s been my absolute favorite part of FIRE – I’m constantly in control of which box I’m in. If I’m not feeling like doing something in the “burn” quadrant, I’ll shift what I’m working on.

Too many people seem opposed to early retirement because they believe they’d spend all of their time in the bottom left quadrant and want to go back to work. What they really want is to get out of the bottom left quadrant! You can do that without going back to work.

It’s one of the reasons that creatives thrive in FIRE, they have lots of projects to jump around between! When I realize I’ve spent too much time in the “burn” quadrant, I switch can switch over to something else at any time.

Mrs. Minafi seeing the "you might die" warning before hiking Angels Landing at Zion National Park.
Mrs. Minafi reading how not to fall at Angels Landing, Zion, UT.

I’ve found that I feel equally tired if I spend all day in any of these quadrants. Spending all day on Reddit can give me the same tired feeling as spending all day reading, or all-day programming. Likewise, if I’m in dire need of a change, spending all day in one quadrant feels like heaven.

Sometimes you need that time to just work on something mindless (high in “Doing”, low in “thinking”). I have a tons of mindless activities that I love! Yet for many people their “mindless” activity if their job. Waking up, commuting to work, going to the same meetings every week and having the same thing expected of you. It’s comforting in its familiarity.

When I think about parts of my jobs I’ve missed it’s usually that feeling of mindless productivity. Maybe that’s why during my first year out of work I hiked so many times. ?

The hard part is knowing when you need a break.

Something else interesting happens when you combine activities on this chart. I love going for hikes while listening to audiobooks. That’s thinking + doing, but somehow it doesn’t feel anywhere nearly as draining as items in the top right quadrant. Ditto for reading while taking a bath or cooking a familiar meal while listening to music.

Is It Possible to Have Too Much Space?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, it’s one of the reasons why so many people are scared to retire. They believe they’ll hang out in the space quadrant and that’ll become their new life. Why challenge yourself if you don’t have to?

For people with that mindset I say the same thing: try giving yourself a little more space. You can start small – an hour a week to do whatever you want. If you can’t find an hour to keep yourself occupied then that’s its own problem. In that case, you can research new hobbies (think) or make a personal goals list to get yourself excited.

The takeaway here is to not confine yourself to one type of action. If you’re feeling burnt out, exhausted, or just not enjoying yourself, you have the option to change what you spend your time doing. Try mixing it up! The more you do, the more you’ll discover what it is in life that you truly enjoy.

The above visualization was made with Google Sheets data, the free version of Tableau and edited in Sketch to add the Minafi logo.

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Understanding the Expense Ratio and How It Affects Your Investments https://minafi.com/how-expense-ratio-affects-your-investments https://minafi.com/how-expense-ratio-affects-your-investments#respond Wed, 21 Apr 2021 18:00:15 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=18266 Expenses

When it comes to anything in life, you don't want to pay more for anything if you don't have to. Keeping your expenses low can be the difference between retiring early and retiring late.

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Expenses

This is a post written by my friend Jeff Cooper from Have Your Dollar’s Make Sense. If you’ve been through my free investment course, you’ll know I focus a LOT on keeping expenses low. Cooper touches on this with a focus on expense ratio’s – the largest fees we usually pay as investors.

Not wanting to pay for anything you don’t have to is also true with investing. You want to maximize the return on any investment you have. You might think that means finding the investment with the best returns. High returns are certainly an eye-catching statistic. They are a significant factor when deciding where to invest your money. However, there is a bit more to it. The flip side of it is how much its costs you to invest in any particular fund. That’s where the expense ratio comes in.

Expenses

What is an Expense Ratio?

An expense ratio can most easily be defined as the cost for a fund to operate vs. its assets’ total value. Think of any fund as a business. Employees need salaries, rent for the office needs to get paid, utility bills to pay, office supplies to buy, and just general costs of doing business. Well, a mutual fund is no different. There are people actively working behind the scenes doing all sorts of research, making trades, working through legal formalities, and various other tasks. These management fees and operation costs get passed on to you, the shareholder.

Determining a fund expense ratio is relatively simple. Take the total of the operating expenses and divide that by the fund’s net asset value or NAV. For example, if a fund has 500k in expenses and 50mm in assets, it would have a 1% expense ratio.

Why Are Expense Ratios Important?

Knowing the fees associated with anything you’re paying for is essential, and investing is no different. When you invest in a fund with a higher expense ratio, the returns you earn are lowered by that much more. If you are interested in a few funds, lower expense ratios make an excellent secondary factor. Would you rather invest in a fund that charges you 1% or 1.25%? Simple math says if the returns are about equal, you would want to pay lower fees.

Don’t think because you aren’t investing millions of dollars that you can ignore these fees either. They may seem small, but even a slight difference in expense ratios will add up to any investor over the long term.

Take two investments of 10k each, one investing in a fund with an expense ratio of 1% and another of 1.25%. Using a 7% return rate and assuming no additional contributions after ten years, the 1% ratio will net you an extra $400. After 20 years, you’ll have an extra $1500, and after 30 years, you’ll have an additional $4000!

The above are some straightforward calculations and assumes the returns for each fund are precisely the same. In the real world, you won’t find two funds like that, but it does illustrate my point that although the fees may seem small in the short term, there are most undoubtedly long-term implications. Now imagine the difference in your investments when you keep contributing!

How do I Know a Funds Expense Ratio?

Now that you know about expense ratios and how they can change your investments, where do you find them? Well, the good news is that they are relatively easy to find. Funds are required to make them known to investors, so we’re not talking about hidden fees here. There are a few ways potential investors go about determining a funds expense ratio.

The primary way and likely the easiest can be done using your brokerage accounts. When looking up any fund, you’ll typically see many of its attributes along with it. Most of us look straight at the money-making aspects like a fund’s overall return rate or dividend yield. The expense ratio is listed along with those attributes, and you didn’t know it was there!

Another way to find the expense ratio is to find the fund’s prospectus. A prospectus is an overview of a fund’s investments. It needs to be filed with the SEC and sent to investors each year. Within this, you’ll find a section about any fees associated with the fund. If you do this, you might see two expense ratios, net and gross. Without going into all the details, the net expense ratio is eventually passed along to the investors.

You can find the prospectus itself in a few ways as well. If you are already an investor, this will be sent to you every year by the fund. Search through the piles of emails in your trash bin, and you’ll likely find it in there. Typically brokerage firms will also have the prospectus available to you when researching their site as well. Finally, you can go directly to a funds website, if available, and you’ll be able to find the prospectus there as well. It might take some poking around, but it’s there.

Finally, if all else fails, do what you do for anything else, Google it! Doing a quick and simple search for a stock ticker plus the words “expense ratio” will quickly find you the information you need.

Can You Avoid Expense Ratios?

Any fund you invest in will have operating expenses, so no, if you are a mutual fund investor, you can’t avoid them. Don’t let it deter you, as other investment choices will have costs associated with them as well. However, what you can do is find funds with relatively low costs associated with them.

“According to independent investment research firm Morningstar, the 2019 average asset-weighted expense ratio in the US was 0.45%.”

Even with that average in mind, there are still a few things to consider. Primarily the type of the fund and its strategy. Nowadays, there are three main types of funds, mutual funds, ETFs(Exchange-Traded Funds), and index funds.

Mutual funds and ETFs are considered actively managed funds, meaning that they are actively making trades on your behalf within the fund regularly. An active fund typically comes with higher expense ratios as it’s more expensive to research and make trades constantly. A typical or average expense ratio for an actively traded mutual fund or Etf would be around .66%.

Opposite to the active management strategy, index fund investing is more of a passive investment. Indexes are diversified and aim to track a particular section of the market or even the stock market as a whole, like the Dow Jones Industrial Average or S&P 500 index. These funds typically have a low portfolio turnover and are rebalanced far less than their actively managed counterparts. So on the expense side, these naturally come in much lower. The average ratio for passively managed funds is around .13%. Many firms such as Vanguard Group, Fidelity Investments, or T. Rowe Price will have index funds specific to their brokerage accounts with even lower rates as well.

Which Investment Strategy Should I Use?

Your investment strategy comes down to how active or passive you want to get with your investments. Over the long haul, actively managed funds don’t typically outperform index funds. With the higher fees involved and similar returns, passive investing make sense for most of us. Index investing allows us to put our money in an index fund and forget about it, making better use of our valuable time.

However, mutual funds can outperform index funds over a short period of time. In investing terms, that might mean a few months or even a few years. If you want to take on a more active role in your investing, you can review and rebalance your portfolio as you see fit. Short-term investing can be difficult in a good market, nevermind a volatile or bear market. Please make sure you are ready to put in much effort consistently see returns high enough to make an effort and higher expense ratios worth it.

You can always take on a hybrid investment portfolio. You can invest most of your money with index funds while investing in a few mutual funds to see higher gains. As always, it’s about diversification and making sure your investments align with your personal goals.

Conclusion

A fund’s expense ratios help us understand the costs of investing in any particular mutual fund or ETF. Actively managed mutual funds need to cover their expenses. The fees and expenses typically get passed onto the investor in the form of expense ratios. Before you buy shares, invest a little time understanding mutual fund fees charged. They may seem like small fees to pay. However, over the long term, a reasonable expense ratio can drastically change your capital gains. When deciding which type of investment you want to make, they should be taken into consideration by any investor.

Additional Sources

  1. Robin Kavanagh. What is an expense ratio? The most important fee to know when investing in mutual funds or ETFs.2020). https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-expense-ratio
  2. ADAM HAYES. (2021). The Definition of Expense Ratio. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/expenseratio.asp

This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been republished with permission.

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Calculate Your FI Number With State and Federal Taxes (It’s More Than You Think) https://minafi.com/fire-tax https://minafi.com/fire-tax#comments Sun, 18 Apr 2021 18:00:00 +0000 https://minafi.com/?p=17827

Your FIRE number is often calculated by multiplying your expenses by 25. That's the amount of after-tax money you need. But how much extra do you need in taxes?

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In order to reach financial independence, one of the fundamental ideas is that you need to save up and invest at least 25x your yearly spending. If you spend about $40,000 a year, you’ll need at least $1,000,000 to be set for life.

While there are no sure things, this is a good baseline. It’s unlikely you’ll be set for life if your savings are below this number. How much higher it should be depends on a bunch of things: your future expenses, health & healthcare, your life goals – and most importantly how flexible you want to be with your spending.

I’ve always thought of the 4% rule / 25x rule as the bare minimum needed to reach financial independence. There’s a kicker to this though: that’s 4% in your pocket after taxes!

In other words, if you withdraw $80,000 a year from an IRA, even in a state with no income tax, you’ll end up with about $73,810 (in 2021). Because of that, you actually need to withdraw a lot more each year to cover taxes.

Let’s figure out how much more we really need.

A California vs A Washington State Retiree

Let’s look at two people. They both live out on the west coast of the US, enjoy similar weather, and somewhat similar politics. They’ll pay the same amount of federal taxes, but their state taxes will be wildly different. Washington state has a 0% income tax, while California’s marginal tax bracket goes up to 13.3%!

State and federal taxes in retirement will impact your FIRE number. How much depends on which state you live in and which accounts you’re withdrawing money from.

Let’s look at an example retiree couple in these two states to see how much they’d pay.

  • Yearly spending: $80,000 for a married couple.
  • Which accounts: All of it is coming from a 401(k) accessed early using a Roth IRA Ladder.

How much do they need to retire in each state? If taxes weren’t a thing, the math would be easy: $2 million ($80k x 25).

CaliforniaWashington
Yearly Spending$80,000$80,000
Federal Tax$7,775$7,022
State Tax$3,151$0
Tax-Deferred Yearly Withdrawal$93,210$87,022
4% / 25x Amount Needed$2,330,269$2,175,550

Adam Says: This is assuming a married couple takes the $25,100 standard federal deduction and the $9,202 California standard deduction.

In order to spend $80k a year from your IRA in California, a married couple would need to take out a little over $93k. That’s a lot higher! In fact, it’s about 16% higher for California and 9% higher for Washington.

These calculations are tricky. You need to adjust the amount you’re withdrawing up so you can take out money for taxes. But increasing the amount also increases state and federal taxes – driving the numbers up a bit more.

Luckily all tax brackets are marginal. There’s no point where raising your withdrawal amount triggers more taxes on the money you’ve already taken out. It’s marginal, so you’ll only pay tax on the next dollar after that.

What If: They Retired with 25x Spending?

Not taking into account taxes would have a catastrophic impact on both retirees. For the California retiree to withdraw $93,210 a year, that would be a withdrawal rate of 4.6% based on a $2m portfolio. It’s closer to 4.2% for the Washington retiree.

According to cFIREsim, that gives only a historical 91.74% chance of success for our Washington retiree, but only an 80.99% chance for the California retiree. This assumes a 30-year time horizon.

I don’t know about you, but a 20% chance of failure is WAY too higher. That’s worse odds than rolling a 6 on a 6-sided die.

You can increase your odds in both cases by saving up more money. If the California retiree saved up $2,330,269 and the Washington retiree saved up $2,175,550, they’d both get to a 95+% success rate over a 30-year period.

Calculate Your Tax-Adjusted FI Number

Knowing how taxes work, you might be wondering: what is my REAL FI number taking into account taxes? And how much less would I need in different states? Well, it’s time to find out! Just answer a few questions to get your tax-adjusted FI number.

What’s Not Covered With this Calculator?

Taxes are complicated. Two people making the exact same income could have wildly different tax rates. This calculator is very naive in what it takes into account – mostly because recreating a calculator that works for every state is beyond even what the government offers. ? There are some known edge cases not covered here, and many unknown edge cases. Here are some of the know edges cases not covered:

No Alternative Minimum Tax – The AMT is a minimum tax for higher income earners who manage to lower their taxes.

No state tax deductions – The state tax doesn’t take into account any deductions. This could result in a lower state tax bill.

No federal deductions beyond the standard deduction – This calculator assumes only the standard deduction for the federal level. No child deductions, charity deductions, mortgage interest deductions, or anything else.

No SALT deduction for state and local taxes – This doesn’t include deducting state tax – which would only make sense if your state tax is above the standard deduction and you itemize your deductions at a federal level. This is more common in states with high property taxes.

Tennessee capital gains and dividends tax – Tennessee charges a 1% tax on capital gains, interest, and dividends. This calculator WILL calculate tax on capital gains, but not dividends or interest.

How Can You Lower Your Taxes for FI?

Let’s get this out of the way first: there’s nothing wrong with trying to lower your taxes. There’s a difference between tax avoidance (illegally not paying taxes) and tax reduction (taking advantage of the tax code). It makes sense for everyone to lower their taxes. It’s more money in your pocket, and less you have to save!

So how do you do it? I’ve documented my approach to spend $80,000 a year and pay no taxes as one route. Another approach is to understand tax tiers and be money in multiple account types.

For example, let’s say you (filing as a married couple) wants to spend $80,000 a year and pay no taxes. Here’s one way to do it:

  • $0 – $25,100 – Keep your IRA withdrawals, 401(k) withdrawals and unqualified dividends in this range. With the federal standard deduction, that’ll ensure you pay no taxes.
  • $25,101 – $105,901 ($80,801  + $25,101) – The next $80,801 you can withdraw from a taxable brokerage account and pay no long-term capital gains. In other words, any investments you’ve held for longer than a year, can be sold tax-free up to this amount.
  • Anything else – If you don’t have this much in a taxable account, you can also use Roth IRA.

This involves having a LOT of money in a taxable brokerage account, which isn’t always the case. If that’s not your situation, you can raise your tax-deferred withdraws and pay some tax, but use your Roth IRA to slightly lower the amount you need (and the taxes you pay).

One way to lower your capital gains basis is to take advantage of tax-gain harvesting each year after you retire. This works by selling stock then immediately rebuying it. You pay taxes on the gains and reset your cost basis. The trick, if you call it that, is to sell long-term capital gains while you’re in the 0% tax brackets for long-term capital gains. This results in resetting your cost basis and allows you to withdraw more in future years while paying fewer taxes. And it’s all completely above-board.

What’s Your FI Number?

Depending on how you’re funding your retirement, your number may change by up to 25%. If going through this calculator raise your FI number higher than you previously thought, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It’s still going to be better than leaving your job and running out of money.

The good news is that the last few percent growth in your investments gets to benefit from all of the growth up to that point! Compound interest is your best friend in this situation.

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