New Year Resolutions - 2023
Bang, straight out of the gate in 23. 9:00 am on the 1st January - Make way people, I'm fired up and ready to go!
First off, HNY to you and yours, I hope 2023 is your best yet. If you're pre-FIRE, may your magic number get ever closer and if you're post-FIRE may your savings last forever
Now I'm not normally one for New Year Resolutions but I was laying in bed this morning reading Twitter and replying to all the "Happy New Year!" WhatsApp's I received after I went to bed. I managed to get to bed at 11pm having successfully avoided being guilt-shamed into going to a New Year event that I wouldn't want to go to, be at and then being left solely responsible for getting us home with the entire population of South Africa trying to get an Uber at 1am.
I was reflecting on how 2022 wasn't exactly bad but it also wasn't exactly spectacular for a 46 year old early retiree in reasonable health, no kids at home (apart form Mrs H, who is 51, going on 7) and enough savings to mean I can largely spend my day how I like (Clearly, wallowing in a solid gold bath full of caviar whilst quaffing Cristal champagne is probably still off the table, but you know what I mean).
So whilst it may be a bit clichéd, I've woken up feeling a wee bit fired up and apart from a detour to make a strong cup of joe, I came straight to my desk and started typing. So bear with me as I'm making this plan as I type but I find writing things down and then publishing them on the internet for the whole world to see is a useful way to motivate myself into action rather than just thinking about how I could do things better.
So here we go, I'd like to keep this to 5 solid resolutions / goals for 2023 but we'll see how I did in a couple of thousand words. Fortunately after many many years in corporate leadership roles, I am adept at building performance scorecards and being paid sizeable bonusses over the years (or not being paid them!) for the scorecards that were handed down to me, so this is not my first rodeo people. For the purists amongst you, I will be using the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting methodology, which for the uninitiated means that all targets will be Simple (this is supposed to be Specific but what does that even mean?), Measurable, Achievable. Relevant & Time-bound.
Eyes down and looking:
Wellbeing - Cut The Unnecessary Negativity Out Of Your Life
Health - Lose 36kg in 2023 & Be Better At Clearing The Crap Out
Financial - Get a A Better Plan & Stop Sweating The Small Stuff
Personal - Stop Being Taken For Granted or Taken Advantage Of
Quality Of Life - Do More Of What I WANT To Do
Who knew, maybe it is 5 after all. Although I may come back and add more later so if there's more than 5 above, you know I did come back and add (How Back To The Future-Like!)
1. Cut The Unnecessary Negativity Out Of Your Life
One of the big things I noticed when I retired was how much less of shit I gave about the drama, I would meet my former work colleagues and they'd all be gossiping and bitching about each other or complaining about how bad they were being treated or how others didn't pull their weight in the team blah blah blah. I remember thinking to myself "Did I used to sound like that?", I know now that I did. It was a freeing feeling that I could see that they had the option to change all of what they were complaining about but were waiting for someone else to do it for them. I was out of the rat race and it felt good.
The Problem Statement
That feeling has since faded and I'm not sure if it's just I've got used to it or I've just replaced it with something else. What I do know is that I'm constantly bombarded with negativity in the news and social media and it feels as if the world is a bit broken right now. There's a war going on between the far right racist, ant-vax, everything is a conspiracy by the Illuminati nutjobs and the far left wokerati offended by everything and determined to tell the world about it nutjobs. Trying to keep sane and live to the pretty solid set of values I was brought up by which can be fairly simply summed up as "Treat everyone in the way you would like to be treated yourself" is getting harder and harder and being voiceless in the middle and being influenced constantly to take a side is at best distracting and exhausting and at worse emotionally damaging.
So there's only one thing for it. Social media lockdown for 365 days. and only news minimally and from an "independent" source. Social media has it's place and I used to love it but I think since Covid, it has taken a dark turn.
Twitter has to go first, it's basically a bunch of propagandists, narcissists, and opportunists either trying to make money form you, brainwash you or just yell their opinions at you because they believe they are a higher quality of being than the rest of the world. It is the cesspool of the internet and it has "gots to go!".
LinkedIn is second, I do use LinkedIn for maintaining some business relationships but that is also a virus of people trying to convince everyone that they are more successful, more clever and more innovative than you. Other than that its a bunch of marketeers and recruitment agencies trying to gather data.
Facebook is ironically the friendliest place in the social media sphere and seems to still have some relatively normal people posting pictures of their dog, dinner or new car in a relatively innocent fashion. Unfortunately there is also still some people who feel the need to have full blown public arguments between ex-friends and soon to be ex-family or decide to post their left/right/extremist views or start vendettas or cancel campaigns to gain "likes". They seem to fail to understand that everything they post will never, ever, be deleted and their kids, grandparents and in-laws will read it at some point when it seems a lot less important and a lot more embarrassing.
I suspect you get my point! Will I miss it? I'm human, I love a good scandal as much as the next man but it's unhealthy and I could spend the time I spend (which is significant) doing something more productive.
As for news, the Google feed is a dangerous place as Google / Apple / Alexa all listen to you when you're taking about the negativity and then post more of the crap for you to read because you're clearly interested in it. I am going to systematically "unlike" any news that is biased, sensationalist and/or downright propaganda in an attempt to clean up my feed. The fact I use a Google phone means that I can't actually turn it off (which may be part of the problem). However, I am going to delete all news apps with the exception of the BBC News app as I possibly naively believe that the British Broadcasting Corporation is still independent and provides actual news. So I will take my daily fix of current affairs from them and maybe also Sky News.
2. Lose 36kg in 2023 & Be Better At Clearing The Crap Out
I've been a fairly big boy since I was in my early 20's when I took my first office job. Playing football and dancing all night in clubs got replaced by going to the pub and watching movies. My active outdoors job got replaced by a desk and sitting for 8 hours and that stuck around for the next 20 years. The reality is at 46 I'm around 160kg (I think, my scales only go to 155!) and I have to order clothes online because I can't get my size in the shops (I'm also 6"3"/190cm and a size 12 shoe so it's a problem).
In the second part of this one, I hold onto things unnecessarily and whilst I've been better at clearing out the old since I retired, I hold onto things for years in the hope they'll be used/useful again. I don't need to do that anymore.
You should see my sock drawer, it must have 50 pairs of black socks in it. I must only wear socks for 10 days per year as I live in shorts and flip-flops even in the winter so I have enough clean black socks to last 5 years. Why?
The Problem Statement
On the weight, I lack self-control when it comes to food and drink and I'm lazy. It's that simple. I have an auto-immune disease that makes some normal tasks more difficult for instance I can't use a manual screwdriver for more than a few seconds as my hands gnarl up. I also can't stand still for very long as I get a lot of arthritic back pain. The thing is, although it's difficult, not being active is why over the years I've been gaining weight and that is now making being active more hard. There's a pattern there. As an avid cook I like to make things taste nice and I love to cook for people and impress them, that unfortunately means I practice on my self.
The minor hoarding is also possibly laziness and also financial. I grew up relatively poor so I remember how much I paid for things and the effort it took to get them. That set of surround sound speakers I bought in the early 2000's cost a lot of money. The fact they will almost certainly never be used again because they have been replaced at least 4 times is what I need to focus on. Giving them away to someone who would use them or sell them to get something else would make me feel good.
This one is pretty easy as I've already given it thought.
On the weight, I'm going to use fasting and calorie counting to lose 3 kg per month (1 per week, allowing for 1 miss per month). At my current weight I can still lose weight whilst eating 3000 calories per day which won't make me feel deprived. the fasting bit is easy, I don't eat in the AM. As I generally go to bed by 10pm that means I'll get at least a 14 hour fast if I don't eat before 12pm. In it's simpler terms, I'm going to skip breakfast and only eat 2 meals per day. I don't see me quitting alcohol but a coupe of nights off each week and including it in the calorie count might be a good idea.
On the hoarding, I'm going to make sure there is a dustbin in every room. Then I am going to dispose of one thing per day for 365 days. Even if it's just a sock, I will have got rid of 40 pairs in 3 months and that alone would be an achievement!
3. Get a A Better Plan & Stop Sweating The Small Stuff
As you would imagine, as a FIRE enthusiast and someone who lives off his savings, I'm pretty good at managing the finances but I've also noted that I'm getting a bit slack at forward planning and living a bit more "in the now" at the moment. I think that is because the side-hustling has been going well and I'm slipping a bit back into working although it is only a couple of days per week. It does feel like there's a lot of money leakage that could be avoided and I suspect I'll look back and kick myself if I don't take action.
Conversely, I spend a lot of time stressing about the small stuff like how much butter costs these days (that is ridiculous though, it's just milk shaken up right?) Or I will buy R500 of stuff online when the thing I want is R100 because I don't want to pay the R100 postage charge.
The Problem Statement
I think what I'm saying is that if I spent more time on the big ticket stuff like tax optimisation, reinvesting returns wisely and actively managing my portfolio, I'd generate waaaaayyyy more income than I save by driving across town to the cheaper supermarket because Woolworths feels so expensive. It's a false economy and a distraction.
My gut feeling is that if I just stopped wasting time on it, went to the nearest supermarket, bought only what I needed and came home and spent some time on something more useful, it might not even cost any more than the additional petrol, the overbuying and the missed trading opportunities because I was focussed elsewhere.
the grocery shopping example is just one example but it's a good one. I could find a number of other things I do that are like this. I think it comes from a feeling of being ripped off and a little bit of trying to beat the system which is essentially what FIRE is.
So I guess I already answered the sweating the small stuff thing. I'm going to spend a year being less conscious of our monthly spending (without being stupid) and see if it makes more than a 10% difference to the budget. If it doesn't, I'll change my behaviour forever. If it doesn't I guess I'll go back to watching the pennies or try something else. The starting point is a monthly budget of R72k / $4.5k / £3.6k per month and if by the end of 2023 its still less than R80k / $5k / £4k, then it's a win.
On the financial planning side, I'm sort of already underway with simplifying the investments and only buying income based investments using my business profits and only buying capital investments in my personal capacity. Regular readers will remember a coupe of years ago I did a very anti-FIRE thing and hired a financial adviser to help me with my planning. Well its 26 months later and its time to revisit that decision. I really like my adviser, he's a good guy but I'm starting to wonder if he is able to provide the service I need. I'm hoping he comes out of the corner swinging in 2023 but if he doesn't that will have to be deemed a failure and I'll take back the end to end planning myself. The reality is I've been holding off on decisions due to the very fact I pay for an adviser so I've already missed opportunities.
4. Stop Being Taken For Granted or Taken Advantage Of
This is a bit of sensitive one but a great man once told me, if you're scorecard doesn't make you feel nervous and a little bit scared, you're not stretching yourself enough.
I'm a fairly soft-natured fellow. I like to help people and I see the opportunities for others to achieve more. I'm a sucker for an underdog and I am guilty of taking people under my wing and trusting them way too much. This often results in me being taken advantage of, used or simply ripped off. I'll never change who I am and I actually think it's one of my greatest qualities but its emotionally painful to find that someone you trusted and wanted to help let you down and it then takes me a while to bounce back.
In a similar vein, certain people develop over time the concept that I don't need to be considered because I'm easy going or that my feelings don't matter as I'm "strong" and won't fight back. I guess I do have a bit of a fear of conflict but I also have a fairly long fuse so when I finally do choose to stop letting someone take me for granted, it then becomes a fairly nuclear event. I need to better than that and call people out directly earlier. I wouldn't tolerate it in business so why in my personal life?
To give you one interesting statistic that illustrates this issue in the 8 years I've lived in South Africa I have loaned, lent and invested in at least 5 or 6 things with people I met here (including some with so called friends). Do you know, not one stuck to their part of the deal. It was my money but every last one either paid me back late, short or not at all. I would go without food rather than not pay back a friend I'd borrowed money from on time and in full. Am I the weird one?
The Problem Statement
We have a saying for pretty much everything where I come from in England and the one most relevant to this situation is "Do not confuse my softness for daftness" which would more appropriately be "Don't confuse my kindness with weakness". I'm neither stupid or unaware of when I'm being played and you are the stupid one if you miss that.
I'm very different when it comes to business, once a year I review every aspect of my career / business / side hustle and I systematically cut the dead wood, get rid of the waste and demand more from the survivors. I need to be more like that in my personal life.
I find it extremely easy to say "it's nothing personal, it's just business" so I need to find an equivalent saying when it is personal.
Answers in the comments!
This one is hard to make measurable but I think it's a set of behaviours that I need to adopt. I don't want to stop being helpful and caring but it can't be to my own detriment:
Don't lend money to anyone, if you need my money, it's probably because you're not good at managing your own, so lending or even giving to you is not going to help you
Stop having "people-projects". The advice is free and opening a door for someone through an introduction is fine but nobody helped me and I feel more pride in my achievements because of it. The fact you don't help yourself but expect me to is part of your development
Embrace the conflict. If your actions are inconsiderate or disrespectful towards me or you are clearly taking advantage or trying to benefit from our relationship to my detriment, we're going to have a problem.
I'm not going to lie, that one is going to be hard but I suspect it's the one I'll get the best gain from.
5. Do More of What I WANT to Do - Without Guilt
There's a couple of ways you can read the sentence above so best I clarify.
Even now, I spend a lot of time doing stuff that is not what I would choose to be doing if I was only thinking of myself. That's not always because of other people (although that plays a part), it can be laziness, conditioning or even fear. Let me flip it around to make it make sense, it's not that I spend too much time doing things I don't want to do, its that I don't spend enough time doing the things that I really want to do.
The Problem Statement
I'll give you a really good example. Most days, at around 3.30pm Winston the wonder puppy comes to find me and starts pestering me to let me know he's ready for his daily trip to the dam (lake) where he spends about 45 minutes searching for the tennis balls that sank which he dives down to the bottom to retrieve on a kind of catch and release basis. On the way back I call at the shops to pick up dinner and generally wine / rum for the evening ahead.
The fact that has become a thing that I do for Winston every day has become a good reason for me not to spend the day doing something I want to do. I start the day with good intentions and then it gets to about 10am when I've done all my side hustle stuff and I think, what shall I do now. I then start to plan around being finished by 2.30pm so I can get changed or check email etc. before I take Winston for his walk.
I do it instinctively and Its bonkers.
He doesn't need to be walked at 3.30 pm he could go at 5pm, or guess what not at all, we live on a big plot with a swimming pool, he doesn't need to go to a lake every day! Mrs H could walk him or I could pay a dog walker to come, I could even take him at 10am or for a 15 minute scoot around the block.
You get the gist but the issue is I'm bad for routines and I stick to them religiously because they create order. That has to stop and 2023 is the year I'm going to do more of what I want to do even if it means that someone else has to fit in around me instead of the other way around.
This one is going to be easy. One day in the week which will be chosen by elimination as my first point of order on a Monday morning will be Mr H day and it will be blocked out in the diary and designated to do what the f***k I feel like doing. Even if that is just sitting playing video games (although, I don't really do that, maybe I should").
I suspect it might involve woodworking, gardening, cooking or some kind of gadget based activity but it will be of my choosing and involving me. If anyone else wants to get involved, I'll consider your application!
The reason for the day being variable is I can fit it around any side hustle stuff but if that's not working I'll fix the day and clients will just have to be told I'm on leave that day.
I'll be interested to see what I do with the time but I would like to hope it becomes time out of the house pursuing new hobbies or the like. let's see.
And whilst that was probably a bit longer than it should be, that's it. My 2023 scorecard. I'll revisit this in January 2024 to see if I actually achieved my targets and who knows maybe I'll pay myself a massive bonus if I do.
What I do know is that I would like to remember 2023 as a good year and may be the year that I changed my life a bit for the better.
Good luck with whatever New Year Resolutions you come up with for yourself and maybe write them down. The only thing between them being resolutions and reality is you.
Until next time, keep living.