Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tim O'Reilly - Just don't run out of gas

To me, the following analogy by Tim O'Reilly seems to be referring to 'money during retirement'. When thinking about how much is enough, the metaphor of 'gas for the road trip' seems very apt.
Tim O'Reilly: It was at this time that I formulated an image that I've used many times since: profit in a business is like gas in a car. You don't want to run out of gas, but neither do you want to think that your road trip is a tour of gas stations.
Replace "profit in a business" with "money during retirement." I have referred to the quote before, but I read it today in Tim's Google+ post, where he muses about the legacy that Steve Jobs left behind, and the wisdom of Tim's analogy hit me afresh.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Courses by The Teaching Company

This might sound like a paid advertisement, but it is not. I am just a consumer who's always been impressed with The Teaching Company's products.

This company produces quite a number of audio and video courses under its Great Courses series. I have listened to and watched several full courses. They take time, but they are invariably excellent, no exceptions.

It turns out that I have been using their products for over 10 years now, but I only started to pay attention when Bill Gates mentioned them by name, in his GatesNotes blog. I had been searching for around 3 years for a macro-economics book whose material would be accessible to me. Bill Gates recommended a macro-economics series by Timothy Taylor titled America and the New Global Economy. This course came the closest to what I was looking for. My wife and I watched all 36 episodes earlier this year.

Bill Gates also recommended the "Big History" course by Oxford's David Christian and we are watching parts of it now. I don't have the words to describe how good this course is. (Bill calls it "his most favorite course" by TTC.)

As an aside, I am delighted (and grateful) that someone with my modest means can get to enjoy the exact same products that Gates with his purchasing power can.

If TED talks are fast food for our brains, then the Great Lectures are the healthy gourmet meal plans for our intellects.

Most of these DVD set costs several hundred dollars, but I am also seeing quite a few for under $40. Personally, I have always borrowed these from the libraries. Do check them out from your library and give it a try.

Each episode of any Teaching Company disk that I watch serves to remind me of why I should always chose time over everything else -- time to spend viewing the Great Courses.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Biggest Worry

Quesiton: Deep down, what is your biggest worry?

Response: That someday I could become unexpectedly physically incapable, and my savings won't be enough to cover my healthcare costs. I really believe that we can weather all other contingencies. For now, we have a high deductible health insurance. But healthcare costs are where we are rolling the dice.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Handling Uncertainty

Back when I worked for an airline, we'd go to the airport to fly "standby." If the plane had empty seats, we'd get on. If everyone showed up, we went home. By definition we couldn't book hotels, or have concrete travel plans. A few times we ended up in cities very different from the ones we intended to visit.

We never liked it, but we figured out ways to deal with the uncertainty. Most airline employees do. Not once did we end up with no hotel room to sleep in for the night. If you have a credit card, you can find a room, albeit at a high price.

Anyway, all that is back-story. I guess we learned from our "standby" mode of existence. I am no longer with an airline, but we are still doing 'stand-by.' When there is fluctuating demand and supply, there will be instances of over-capacity or over-demand.

The people I consult with call me for short projects when they have a need (higher demand). Other times I don't work. Home-owners or landlords sometimes look to sublet for a month or two (overcapacity). We rent from them. In the end, it always seems to work out.

So why do I do this? My shying away from long-term commitment stems from the belief that Flexibility equals Autonomy. And I want (the illusion of) autonomy over everything else.

If you can handle a level of uncertainty, you can make things work.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Conviction (Pirsig Quote)

You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it is going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Early Retirement: The Only Criterion that Matters

Question: Can I retire early?

Response phrased as another question: Do you have kids (or plan to)?
If yes, no you can't.
If no, yes you can.