Year 2: The Grind (2013)

by FI Fighter on January 29, 2013

in Progress, Thoughts

dome-2

I’ll admit, the first year’s (2012) progress towards achieving early financial independence came rather easy. Dividend investing was brand new to me, so there was a lot of excitement involved with buying stocks early on. Seeing the portfolio grow further added motivation to save income.

Finding and closing my first real estate property also provided an extra jolt, mid-year. Although there was always some uncertainty involved (until the check was accepted into escrow), the thrill made the time pass by rapidly.

As the year went on, I even managed to switch jobs and receive a pay raise + promotion. Even better, the new company eased me into projects, so I had a lot of downtime and very little work stress. Because of this, I had a lot of energy after work to look for real estate deals, write blog posts, and research stocks. Overall, Year 1 was a memorable and successful year.

Dark Clouds

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, eventually. As Year 1 approached its closing, I started to have visions of a much more challenging year ahead in 2013. Here are my reasons for concern:

  • Work stress will be at an all-time high. I have multiple projects arriving in Q1. I’m already plenty busy now.
  • Expectations to perform at work are great. I received a lot of slack (grace period) last year. I won’t be able to keep milking this. That is, a 9-5, or 40 hours a week will no longer cut it. I have to prove my worth, so in order to appease the big bosses, this means I will need to put in a lot of extra hours.
  • Dividend investing and real estate investing are no longer brand new. The thrill is gone. Will this be enough to veer me off the right path? Since work will be so taxing, will this push me over the edge and encourage me to “live it up” more? I doubt it, but I can’t say for certain that I’ll be able to stay disciplined, and resist temptations throughout the entire year.
  • My motivation and desire to learn (as it pertains to work) is practically zero. I’ve lost all interest. I just don’t care anymore. I’m bored. Will this impact my performance? Probably. Will I be able to survive another year and still earn a mediocre/average performance review? I sure hope so, or I may be in for some serious trouble.

Strategy

To help counteract these potential issues, I will try to focus on the following:

  • Look on the bright side. If time passes by rapidly, that means the year will zoom by. Is that a bad thing? Well, yes and no. It sucks to see the year slip by, as I no longer enjoy getting any older (staying 28 is just fine with me). But on the flipside, I’ll be one year closer to early FI! Those of us seeking early FI already know that we have to spin on the hamster wheel for at least some amount of time to buy our freedom. Losing one year (all work and no play) is not ideal, but I’ll gladly sacrifice one (or four) to be granted the freedom to control my destiny indefinitely, thereafter.
  • Don’t put too much self-imposed pressure to perform. Realize that my long-term plan won’t span more than four years, at most. Remind myself that i’m not here for the long haul. Do enough to get by, and do the best that I can. Earn my keep, but don’t go overboard in trying to appease anyone.
  • If the deal for Rental Property #2 goes through, this concern becomes N/A. Owning a second rental property will certainly provide that extra spark needed to spice things up. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done on the place, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty this time around. Also, I’ve already had to liquidate most of my dividend portfolio. I’m basically starting from scratch again, so I have no excuse for being bored. 😉
  • This concern is probably the hardest one to overcome. It’s a psychological battle I face everyday. On some occasions, I’m quite successful and I can even fool myself into believing that I love my job. Other days, it’s difficult even getting out of bed in the morning. The only way I think I can overcome this is to focus on other hobbies. For this year, I want to focus on my health and exercise. Hopefully that will keep my mind and body fresh enough to get through the grind. And give me something to look forward to after work.

Summary

2013 will be a grind. I’m certain of it. I will be tested this year, much more than in 2012. Will I be able to handle the challenge? I sure hope so, since I feel that the probability of reaching early FI will be mostly determined by the progress I make over the next 2-3 years. The bulk of the heavy lifting needs to be done here. If I can just stay the course, save intensely (70% to 80% savings rate), and invest wisely (dividend stocks + rental properties),  I should be sitting pretty by year’s end.

With that said, I’m tired of playing in this cave…sometimes I just wish I had a fast-forward button to reach the end of the year (so I can take another two weeks off). 😉 All good things come to those who wait, though… it’ll just taste that much sweeter once I FINALLY get there!

 

What about for you? Do you expect 2013 to be an easy, or difficult year for savings? How much progress would you like to make this year?

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dividend Growth MachineNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 5:51 am

It will be a transitional year for me, giving that I’ll be moving and starting a new job mid-year. I expect some disruption in my summer savings rate due to moving and more work-related stress associated with settling into my new job. I’m trying not to think about it much yet. 🙂

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2 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm

DGM,

Congrats again on the new job! That’s awesome news for the new year. I’m sure the short-term costs will soon be forgotten once the paychecks start rolling in. 😉

Take care!

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3 Compounding IncomeNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 6:59 am

I’ve been on autopilot for a long time, I feel you here. I no longer volunteer for anything and I really don’t care if I get promoted early or not. I just need to put in the time to collect a pension and build my passive income. An extra pay grade or two is not worth the added stress at this point.

One advantage of being on autopilot is increased patience. I do not feel the need to jump on any particular stock. There is no excitement at all anymore which makes it a lot easier to wait for an opportunity to fall in your lap. It’s easier to be objective and not get wrapped up with emotions.

I expect 2013 to be exactly the same as 2012 for savings, except I won’t be getting bonuses. I run about a 40% savings rate and have zero motivation to increase it. I honestly don’t know how you guys do it!

On the bright side I’m going to be sitting at the beach drinking pina coladas in Thailand next month…

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4 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 10:49 pm

CI,

Yeah, my thoughts are very much the same. When I first started out, I used to spend a lot of free time reading application notes, textbooks, and other learning materials to build up my knowledge base. After so many years, I just don’t have the desire to climb up the ladder anymore. I’ve never enjoyed being a one trick pony, which is what work is making me.

Patience is a virtue. Especially now in a bull market. Once you’ve seen the market fluctuations enough, you know that it will drop again… eventually. This works out nicely for me, and hopefully the market will dip again in a few months when I have new funds to invest with.

Enjoy your time in Thailand! Laying out on the beach and drinking a refreshing beverage… man, that’s how I picture early FI!

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5 LeighNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 8:29 am

I think that 2013 will be a pretty good year for savings for me since I’ve accumulated a lot of deferred compensation (RSUs) that are finally vesting this year. I don’t have very many currently scheduled to vest next year. I’ll probably get some more at review season, but most likely not very many, so I need to kick myself into gear in 2013 to get a good review next year and get more stock since part of my paying off the mortgage and early retirement plan hinges on using my bonuses to save faster. For example, if I take my current mortgage balance and only pay the required minimum from today forward, plus the amount I can pay extra monthly, it’ll take a total of 8 years to pay off the mortgage. But by using my 2013 and 2014 bonuses and then the regular monthly savings, it should be gone in 6 years, 2 years fewer.

So one of my biggest goals for 2013 is getting back into a regular schedule so that I *can* be productive and exceed at work again.

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6 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Leigh,

Wow, you are making an absolute killing with those RSUs. Those come in so handy… and they provide a very legitimate reason why I would tend to encourage my younger co-workers to leave a company.

From my experience, if you stay at the same company for too long, you’ll never get much in return. You have to jump around to get a lot of RSUs. I’m glad I did this early on, and often. Maybe your situation is different?

Keep at it! That mortgage is quickly vanishing before your very eyes.

Take care!

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7 LeighNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 8:02 am

That’s quite possible and what I’ve heard other people say, but I still have some of my original ones left. They’ll be gone shortly and the later ones aren’t nearly as shiny, so we’ll see how long I stick around before looking for another company. It is kind of nice though being vested in the 401(k), actually having vacation time, etc.

It’s not really me that affected most of these RSUs…it’s how much the stock price has gone up since they were granted. Pretty sweet deal!

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8 John S @ Frugal RulesNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 9:41 am

I think 2013 will be a good year for us. Our business has firmed up and we’re seeing great progress with it and new clients. That does mean extra work, but we get to see the results right away plus it gives us more money to save/invest.

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9 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 10:57 pm

John,

That’s awesome! I hope the best for you and your family. 2013 sounds like it’ll be a great year. Keep up the savings + investing!

Take care!

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10 Brick By Brick Investing | MarvinNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 9:54 am

FI when I learned about financial independence and how it was achievable for my family I lost all ambitions in my career. Please make no mistake I still do my job and do it well but I don’t engage in the politics trying to move my way up. I am absolutely comfortable staying where I am as all my focus is on investing, my blog, and my family. With that said it’s not a bad thing that you are no longer excited about your career.

2013 will be a rough one for me as we are expecting our second child. Definitely a blessing but a lot of responsibility and time is required. It will be interesting to see how I maintain my investments and blog.

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11 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Marvin,

That’s funny, you and I are alike on many levels. Once I started FI last year, I completely lost motivation for advancement in the workplace. I’m grateful too, b/c I stressed way too much during the early years. Now, I still do my best, and I care about the quality of my work… I’m just unwilling to kill myself for the sake of a job. Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out. I’ve only recently started adopting this mindset.

Congrats on the forthcoming bundle of joy! I’m sure you’ll be plenty busy, but hopefully you’ll still find some free time to keep blogging. I know I really enjoy following your site/articles.

Best wishes!

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12 EvanNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 9:31 am

I have had lows in my excitement when things are going REALLY well in terms of investing and blogging, but it comes rearing back when the markets have a down month. Makes me grateful for that paycheck ever 2 weeks.

In terms of excitement…maybe update your stock buy list sooner? I know that always gets me amped up

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13 FI FighterNo Gravatar February 3, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Evan,

I hear you. When the market is down, and lay-offs are aplenty, then naturally I become more grateful to have my job/investments.

I guess right now isn’t too exciting a time for me b/c I’m kind of just sitting on the sidelines. It’s good timing that the market is hot right now, but even if stocks were plummeting, I wouldn’t have any cash to invest with. I’m hoping things will return back to normal after rental property #2 gets rented out. Hopefully by mid March timeframe.

Cheers!

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14 MichelleNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I think 2013 will be great for me. My extra income keeps increasing and my debt is decreasing!

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15 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Michelle,

Sounds like a winning formula for success! You’ll have to teach me about the whole side income thing. You’re an All-Star when it comes to building side income!

Cheers!

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16 eemusingsNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 2:45 pm

2013 will be exciting for me – exhilarating, challenging, terrifying – I’m going to be making a leap to pursue a particular dream. Agree with you on time slipping away faster every year (which terrifies me, even though I really like my job!)

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17 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 11:06 pm

eemusings,

Sounds like the makings of a film worth watching! Best of luck on achieving your dream. My dream of early FI is still a work in progress… hopefully it will conclude with a happy ending in 4 years 😉

Yeah, time does fly by when you’re busy. Gotta seize the day and enjoy what we can. Glad you enjoy your job! That should help tons!

Take care!

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18 The First Million is the HardestNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Whenever I hit a bunch of extra time and stress at work it motivates me even more to focus on my investing and other income sources so that I don’t have to put up with that grind for any longer than I have to. Just keep your head down, plow through it and you’ll be hitting your goals in no time.

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19 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm

First Million,

Yeah, I agree. Sometimes work stress is inevitable. I relaxed for over 6 months last year, so I knew this day was coming. I guess, sometimes there’s really no other way than to buckle up your chinstrap and have at it. Who said life/early-FI would be easy, right?

No pain, no gain? Glad you have motivation to fuel the fire! The thought of early FI keeps me going when things get rough.

Cheers!

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20 TicohombreNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I can sympathize. However, no one should settle for just existing or subsisting. This is a general observation and I’m not applying it to you because I don’t know you. But I find a lot of FI seekers on blogs to exemplify the “I’ll be happy when…” mindset. It’s easy to let life become all about the money (even if it is only the means to an end = FI) Each day is precious and needs to be spent on a deeper level.

On the other hand, your blog discusses many thing we have in common, i.e. rental real estate. If your interested in my developing rental real estate story, I just started blogging about paying off 168k of real estate over the next 42 months. Feel free to visit. http://payoffmyrentals.blogspot.com

Your blog interests me and I’ll be back regularly to check thing out. Thanks.

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21 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Ticohombre,

Great point about not settling. I heard this quote a long time ago, but it always stuck in my head: “live a life you wouldn’t mind watching on the big screen someday in the future when you’re old and grey.”

I hear you on how sometimes early FI seekers get a little too fixated on thinking about tomorrow, often times forsaken today in the process. Obviously one has to save and invest a ton to achieve early FI… but it should be possible to strike a reasonable balance and still enjoy today.

I know I write a lot about how “I’m tired of work”, or “I can’t wait until I retire”, but the truth is, I also focus a lot on today. It’s just I’ve learned to appreciate and enjoy the simple things in life. Everyday, I make sure to get some good exercise in, enjoy my meals, and just appreciate being alive. It’s kind of interesting, but once I learned to embrace the simple life, I realized how even more pointless the rat race was to me. It’s because I enjoy being alive today so much that I want to exit out ASAP. I want more out of life!

Thanks for sharing your blog. I’ll be sure to check it out soon!

Cheers!

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22 Dividend MantraNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm

FI Fighter,

I hear you.

I’m in an odd place right now. Recently, there was some unnecessary stress at work that came my way and management made it seem like changes were in the cards in my department. My “department” is extremely small, so that was worrying. I started saving more cash lately to counteract any possible changes in unemployment. I was actually half wishing to get fired as I personally view my 7:30-6 grind as a personal hell. However, it’s times like this that remind me why I’m on this wonderful journey to financial independence – freedom from tyranny.

Stay true to your path and your future self will be very thankful. Although I hate my work now more than ever, I continue to go in every day because it gives my future self the best shot at having complete freedom. I’m okay with sacrificing 5 years or so for 50 years of complete freedom.

Best wishes!

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23 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 10:47 pm

DM,

Sorry to hear about the stress you’ve been having at work. I really do hope that things work out for you. My company implemented two rounds of layoffs last Fall, so I was a bit uneasy myself these past few months. It’s a good idea to keep a steady supply of cash available, just in case.

The journey to early FI isn’t a particularly long run (compared to traditional retirement), so the good news is that you don’t have to put up with this for too much longer. I’d like to believe that all the hard work now will payoff in the future. You are on the right path, just keep at it!

Take care!

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24 KK @ Student Debt SurvivorNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm

It’s hard when you feel like you’re stuck in a wheel. I recently moved to a different part of my company because I thought I needed a change to stay motivated. It wasn’t more motivating, in fact it’s actually sort of reminded me how much I want to work for myself someday (I guess that’s a good thing too). I think 2013 will be a pretty good year for saving for us. My goal is to have $25k total saved by the end of the year.

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25 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 10:50 pm

KK,

$25k in savings after one year is outstanding. I’m hoping to replenish my dividend portfolio as soon as my loan is finalized and the new rental is rented out.

Yeah, sometimes we take a gamble when we switch jobs, or move to a new group within a company. The grass isn’t always greener, which is something I’ve experienced myself. Hopefully you do get the chance to be your own boss someday. I would like the same, as well.

Take care!

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26 The StoicNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 8:09 pm

FI…. I think Strategy #4 is a big one. Focus on the things outiside of work. Begin to cultivate the things you would like to be doing in retirement now. Work is a necessary evil, but only a temporary one 😉

I empathize with what you are going through. I think that taking six months off hurt me because I have a taste of what it would be like to not work… and I loved it! Going to work is a serious chore and one I fight with through the week, but I try to take my own adivce and spend time on the things that matter. Wish you the best as you navigate the grind of 2013

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27 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Stoic,

Great point. I’m trying to focus more on my hobbies, as they will provide the detoxing I need to continue on this path. If my focus was entirely spent on work, well it really wouldn’t take very long for me to lose my mind and go crazy 😉

I totally hear you on the time off. Although I only had 2 weeks off during the shutdown in December, my body and mind quickly got acclimated to being “lazy”. I was really dreading the return back to work… For me, it seems the longer I’m away from work, the harder it is to get started again. What can I say, I love being free, all the time!

Best wishes in 2013!

Take care!

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28 MartinNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Fighter, I have the exact same problem. Although I love my job and enjoy it, many times I feel bored, tired and without energy and hoping for some fast forward run so I can retire. Weill it is impossible to do it without job. I am not there. But that boredom is killing me. I still couldn’t find a way how to get motivated.

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29 FI FighterNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Martin,

Yeah, it’s very difficult to feel engage with work since for most people, it’s basically the same thing each and everyday. I like my job too, and in fact, I would probably even really like it if I didn’t have to do it 40 hours a week (at the minimum).

If you can’t find motivation or relief from boredom through work, perhaps you also need another outlet to turn to? I’m focusing on exercise and health this year. If I had kids, I would give them all my attention.

Best wishes!

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30 MartinNo Gravatar February 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm

FIF, my current focus is on rebuilding my portfolio and get it to the level where it can pay for some of my bills. I do not want to save the whole life and then die without enjoying it, so as soon as my portfolio will be sufficient to pay my bills I am out of the rat race. Last year I made the commitment to save aggressively and that’s what makes me happy right now.

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31 FI FighterNo Gravatar February 10, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Martin,

That’s great! Saving aggressively also makes me happy. I’m glad to be on this journey. It really does wonders in teaching a person discipline, even if you already possess a great deal of it.

I’m on the same page with you. Once the bills are accounted for, I’m out of the rat race! I look forward to seeing you on the other side of the mountain, my friend.

Cheers!

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32 IntegratorNo Gravatar January 31, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I’m more motivated than ever to save up for independence because we can now see the end game in sight. If all goes to plan, it will be 5 more years, 1 Jan 2018. We hope to have $50k/yr in dividends at that point, which should meet all our expenses plus a little left over :).

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33 FI FighterNo Gravatar February 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Integrator,

Wow, that’s awesome for you! 50k/year would be more than enough for me to get by in early-FI.

Looks like the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. Best of luck in reaching your goals and checking out of the game soon!

Take care!

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34 JC @ Passive-Income-PursuitNo Gravatar February 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

Year 2 is the difference maker. Year 1 of anything new is always easy because the learning curve is so quick and progress gets made quicker since it’s new and exciting. I know you’ll stick with it in Year 2 and be even better off than you expected at the start of Year 2.

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35 FI FighterNo Gravatar February 3, 2013 at 10:08 pm

JC,

I sure hope so! I agree, Year 1 was definitely more exciting and easier. We are only 1 month into 2013 and I’m already finding things more difficult. This is mostly due to work-stress, but also closing on the second rental property as well. Hopefully the rental stuff gets concluded next month, as I really would like to get back to a “boring” routine. This helps me better focus since I’m dealing with a lot of moving targets right now.

Best wishes!

Reply

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