All posts tagged early retirement

Living like a Lightweight.

By Brad Beckstrom

You still hear it occasionally. “That guy’s a lightweight.” When I was a kid, it may have meant you couldn’t hold your own on the playground. In college, this term was often used to describe someone who was a sloppy drunk or couldn’t hold their liquor. In business or politics, lightweight may be used to describe someone who can’t take a little heat, or bails out when the going gets tough. Today the word lightweight implies something very different. If you’re a lightweight who can compete or dominate above your weight class, then you have something. If you’re talking about a boxer like Roberto Duran, a legend like Bruce Lee, or the UFC fighter Conor McGregor then lightweight can take on a whole new meeting.

Look at any sport in the racing world, “lightweight” is the hottest thing going. Carbon fiber tubing is used to make incredibly fast racing boats to compete in the America’s Cup, and superlight racing bikes that weigh as little as 13 pounds. In a competitive world, lightweight can have great advantages.

If you’re not a professional athlete, or in the market for a $9,000 bicycle, you can still live like a lightweight. Let’s apply this term in three areas: Health, Life, and Work.

Health, Physical and Mental.

There’s a memorable scene from the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The movie is about Joe Cross who lost 100 pounds juicing. You hear stories all the time about people losing tremendous amounts of weight. What Joe did differently is he that he visually demonstrated how much weight he’d lost by carrying around six professional bowling balls to represent the weight. This really clicked with people and helped him kick start the green juice trend. Most of us could not imagine carrying around even one or two bowling balls all the time.

The bowling balls Joe carried around are a great metaphor. Think of all the excess stuff we carry around, garages and closets full of stuff we don’t use, those extra pounds, guilt and regret about things that happened in the past, huge SUVs to haul all this around, while sitting in traffic. It’s time to start looking at the benefits of becoming a lightweight. Read more…

A Short Guide to Lean Investing.

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By Brad Beckstrom

Have things gotten too complex?

Today we have more savings and investment options than ever before. Online tools and investment options that give us access to over 10,000 mutual funds and exchange traded funds, with another 40,000+ publicly traded stocks worldwide. Most of these investments are accessible without setting foot in a brokerage firm or bank. Online banking, trading, and mutual fund supermarkets give us access to sophisticated investment tools available only to professionals just a decade ago.

Yet, despite so many options, the US personal savings rate is hovering between 5% and 6% and has been in steady decline since the 50s. The retirement savings picture is even worse, one in three American adults has zero saved for retirement and 62% have less than $1000 saved. Many Americans like to blame the government for this predicament but in fact many countries with significantly higher taxes have savings rates that are 2 to 3 times ours.  On top of our tax advantages, we have a wide selection of pre-tax and post-tax savings options many other countries don’t have, including 401(k)s, IRAs, SEPs, Roth IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, 529 college savings plans, and about 10 more with various combinations of numbers and acronyms in the name. All of them are underutilized by any standard of measurement.

Part of the problem is complexity. We’ve made it easier to go out and get a loan for a new SUV or a 5,000 square foot house than to start saving or put that money away for retirement.  We’ve been incentivizing people to take out student loan debt instead of starting college savings accounts.

To solve the complexity problem we need to make it easier to save and invest. We need to create a simpler path to wealth through regular and efficient investing. I like to call this Lean Investing. Read more…

Creating a list of musts, because you’ll need it someday.

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By Brad Beckstrom

Must. That’s a funny word, but it’s a word that came to me along with some serious thoughts. Not so much as a verb, you must do this, or you must do that, more like a noun. As in something that should not be overlooked or missed.  More like, going deep on the important things is a must. Don’t overlook the musts.

About a year ago, I was pondering what old age would be like. I was struggling with what it might be, what risks or new discoveries may be in store.  Would I be healthy or sick?  Would I  be rich or poor, and in what, friends, time, money, freedom?  Outside of work, what was I doing to impact this.  Did I even know what “this” was?

Instead of making another to do list or a list of goals, I decided to write down some things that I felt needed to be musts in my life moving forward. I decided that a must is something that needs to be considered before anything that’s not on the list. A must is something that will influence all decisions. The first few were pretty straightforward: family, friends, health. They are easy to write down, but when you consider the commitment to make these three words musts, that would be a pretty complete list in itself. It was too broad.

For example, when I put something like health on the list that means it’s a must, something that’s in my life every day, not just a “to do” that I may not get to. Family and friends seem pretty obvious, but how many of us let work commitments, travel or commuting get in front of these?  I’ve done this in the past. After our first son was born, SuperK would  turn up the volume whenever the Harry Chapin song Cat’s in the Cradle came on. A reminder that you could miss much of your child’s years at home if you blink. So if family and friends are at the top of your list of musts, understand the size of that commitment.

If your musts are too broad, big categories like family, friends and health may get replaced with other broad categories like work, sleep, decompress, and spend money. So, it’s best to break those musts down into actions that can can become good habits.

So, for example, under health my musts include: Read more…

Opening up a new world of possibilities by living lean. Why I created thefrug.com.

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By Brad Beckstrom

You hear the word “lean” in business a lot. Writers talk about the lean startup. Optimal, minimal, hyper efficient strategies for getting a business to run like a well oiled machine. Big companies are in this game as well. Workers are asked to do more with less. In many cases, a lot more with a lot less. Fewer resources, fewer coworkers, “re-defined” compensation and benefit plans.

We tend to jump right in, even with a few of our own ideas to make things run just a little leaner.  If we save enough money for the company, this could impact bonuses at the end of the year. We later realize that bonuses being impacted when lofty goals are missed is not always a good thing. I remember a recent car commercial, where an enlightened Mazda driver was now so confident in his epicness that he had no problem leaving his office at 5:15 PM. His co-workers stared in shock as he’s confidently strolled out the door, flipping his jacket over his shoulder. Coworkers wonder, what’s his secret? Apparently his new Mazda has made him confident enough to leave work on time. Actually, he may be headed to a second job to pay for it all.  Maybe he just wants to get a jump on his one-hour commute. In the ad we’re not privy to that part of the story.

The Living Lean Philosophy

Let’s put a positive spin on this. Maybe this guy knows about living lean. Possibly he had come across studies that show the peak of productivity comes in at just under 40 hours a week.   Maybe he just convinced his boss that he should ditch the commute altogether, save the company some money and get more done working from home, especially once you add in the time he’ll save not commuting.  With this extra time, an entire new world of possibilities will open up to him.

If he’s smart, he will spend that newfound freedom, that extra time, exploring a living lean philosophy versus just putting in some extra work.

What is living lean? Read more…

The Time Poor.

How to escape time poverty and join the free.  

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By Brad Beckstrom

My oldest son came home a bit stressed out the other night. He recently started driving and has started to experience the chaos of rush hour traffic. I enjoy having everyone home for dinner and gave him a hard time about being late.  I told him he needed to start managing his time better.

I sounded like one of my first bosses who used to say “We start at 8 Beckstrom, not 8:07 am or 8:11 am” or whatever the exact number of minutes I was late by was, as he tapped his Patek Philippe watch. At the time, I fixed the problem by planning to arrive at 7:45 AM. That worked for a while, until I realized putting on a suit and commuting to an office would not be my path.

Later, as an entrepreneur,I took time management to a whole new level, using day timers, Palm pilots, Treo phones (remember those?) I created multiple to do lists and scheduled my day to the minute, starting early and often finishing late. It was my turn to give people a hard time about being late. I was time poor.

The Time Poor from the book Vagabonding

“Sierra Club founder John Muir used to express amazement at the well-heeled travelers who would visit Yosemite only to rush away after a few hours of sightseeing. Muir called these folks the “time poor”- people so obsessed with their material wealth and social standing that they couldn’t spare the time to truly experience the splendor of California’s Sierra wilderness.”

120 years later, this hasn’t changed. Despite more people being fortunate enough to be able to travel, many, including myself often take only one week to see a place like Ireland or a day or two to see Rome as part of some whirlwind European trip. Staying in nice hotels, eating expensive meals but never really seeing a place.  “Yep kids, look there’s big Ben Parliament.”  Chevy Chase from European Family Vacation.

Many have chosen stuff and material wealth over time as a way of life.  We tell ourselves we’ll take that long trip someday, spend more time with family, friends. Will take some time to get healthy again when things “slow down” a little or after we retire.  Some of us fool ourselves into believing that by working harder we can buy ourselves some time, only to find out that managing more work and acquiring the finest, biggest stuff only makes us more time poor.  Even the wealthiest billionaire cannot buy more time on this planet. In many cases, a high stress lifestyle will shorten your life versus lengthening it.

Bigger homes, bigger cars, bigger jobs, longer commutes only escalate time poverty.  For years I was a victim of time poverty. In my 50 some odd years on this planet there are few things I wish I had picked up on a lot earlier.  The good news is we’re fortunate enough in this century to fix the time poverty problem and it’s never too late to start.

So here are a few things I would’ve told my 25-year-old self.

Develop core principles and a philosophy of life. Read more…