All posts in Work Lean

Why you should stop checking your stocks every day.

By Brad Beckstrom

I purchased my first mutual fund about 6 months before Black Monday in 1987. We didn’t have the internet or online investing. Not even email! That was so sweet. Imagine going through your workday largely uninterrupted. When I was a field employee in my first real job, pretty much everything came through the US mail. Our 401(k) statements came quarterly. Savings Bonds were in a drawer, and mutual fund statements came monthly, but only after I had consolidated a few of them into a brokerage account.

Then everything changed.

First came 24/7 cable news with tickers, then in the 90s things really took off with the introduction of websites like Yahoo Finance. In the late 90s everyone was talking about or buying some sort of tech stock. Then they would watch the stocks along with their company stocks or mutual funds in online portfolio trackers. Most didn’t actually link to your investment account yet, but you could manually enter your shares and ticker symbols. Read more…

Creating a Freedom Plan

Image. Fog Rolls In. Brad Beckstrom

Image. Fog Rolls In. Brad Beckstrom

By Brad Beckstrom

“The message here is that people need a freedom plan, not a retirement plan. The traditional work until you’re 65 to cross some imaginary finish line is going away fast”

It’s never too late to start, but start now.

My knees burned as I climbed up the hill. It was 103° and I was hiking up a steep trail in a jungle north of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Lightheaded again, need more water. What if I just keeled over right here on this trail? How long would it be till someone found me?  I have a family at home, I have responsibilities.

As I slowly got my stride back, it hit me. It’s not unusual for my knees to burn, or to feel lightheaded in hot weather. Hell, this happens when I’m walking our dog on a trail at home. But it happens more than it used to.

The Question

This is where I came face-to-face with the question…. what if I waited too long to do this?  I mean, not just this trip or this hike. How late is too late to set out on that big audacious quest?

What’s a big audacious quest? That thing in your head that you’ve always wanted to do. Most likely It’s been lingering back there since high school. Not some short trip or vacation but a quest. Something that may take years and requires focus and dedication. Something you don’t want to wait too long to start. Read more…

Let’s Clean This Mess Up.

What you can learn from a minimalist lifestyle even if you’re nowhere close to adopting it.

By Brad Beckstrom

Minimalism is hard. After five years of working on it, I’m not even close to my original goal of a vastly simpler lifestyle. I’ve worked on applying minimalist ideas in everything I do. I’ve slowly realized that for me there is not some ultimate minimalist goal or destination. The reason is that there’s always stuff coming into our lives. And it’s not just our stuff, it’s our family stuff, our work stuff, stuff related to our home, our hobbies, our kids. The average American home has 300,000 things in it.  So, I guess my family’s making progress — we’ve gotten rid of about 50,000 of these things over the past five years.

I think part of the reason adopting a minimalist outlook is hard is that many of us have lived our lives doing the opposite. It’s only much later, after decades of accumulating stuff, that we realize it’s all really just weighing us down. Given this, it’s going to take some time to unravel all that.

One of the interesting things I’ve found is that you can apply minimalism to a lot more than just cleaning out closets and garages. Over these past five years I’ve developed everything from minimalist investing strategies, work habits, and exercise routines.

As I’ve been working to apply minimalist principles, I look around and notice people adding more more more. Like spending 30 minutes driving to and from a CrossFit Gym to spend hard-earned dollars on increasingly complex workout routines. Constantly bringing complexity into life with high-tech toys often built into expensive new vehicles and smart appliances. Using social media, news apps, and productivity apps to create more and more urgent notifications. Complex volatile investment schemes involving everything from crypto currency to weed stocks. Utilizing multiple tools and technologies that were designed to lighten the load, but instead end up adding hours to the average workday.

Let’s simplify this stuff.

I don’t think anyone will ever look at me and my home or family and say “Oh, that guy is a minimalist”. For me it’s not about that, it’s about applying minimalist principles to one part of your life at a time and making small improvements. So, in the spirit of minimalism, if we could apply just one idea across everything we do it would make a big difference. Here’s one idea I use: Read more…

Start, Stop, and Continue.

The big things I started doing, stopped doing, and continued to do on my journey to financial independence.

By Brad Beckstrom

A few months after I started my first real job, some nice folks from HR came to our regional meeting and did some “break out exercises” with our office. One of the exercises I remember was called: Start, Stop, Continue.  We sat around in a circle and everyone discussed things in the office that they’d like to start to happen, stop happening, or continue to happen.

I’ll always remember this particular session because some people in the office obviously wanted to get some things off their chest and saw this as a great opportunity?! One of the recommendations was a certain manager stop yelling at field employees using the speakerphone on his desk, with his office door open. Everyone wholeheartedly agreed that this was great thing to stop doing. Or I think some people just hoped it would be a good idea to pick up the receiver and close your office door (back when people had actual offices).  

Just when we were ready to move on to the next item our regional manager said “Wait a second, you’re talking about me! If you’re going to call me out on something why don’t you just say who you’re all talking about!” Our HR facilitator immediately intervened to smooth out the situation and then recommended we all stretch. I remember these times fondly, but don’t miss them. Our office really was “The Office” with meetings, weekly numbers, HR, late reports, managers, drama, all of it. The stop list was the longest list by the end of our exercise. The exercise had a big impression on me personally, well, hey I was 26. Ever since then I’ve always tried to look at things that I can start doing, stop doing, or continue doing in life.

For those of us pursuing financial independence and freedom from the corporate grind, offices, commutes, managers, and meetings, it’s important to keep those start, stop, continue ideas coming.  Whether you’re looking to achieve financial independence through starting your own company, or aggressively saving and retiring early, it’s important to look at your own habits first.

Here are the most important things that I started, stopped or continued doing on my journey to financial independence. Read more…

Welcome to My Demise.

Some simple steps you can take to put your affairs in order, well before they need to be.

By Brad Beckstrom

It’s An Emergency.

Sounds like the title of every email I get asking for political contributions. No donations requested here. I’m talking about a real emergency, you just kicked the bucket, vanished in the Amazon, or no longer have a solid grasp on your first name.

Welcome to my eventual demise.

Don’t feel bad, it’s something that none of us get to avoid. We all know someone that left us too soon or someone still going strong in their 90s. We don’t get to choose. If you’re old enough maybe you’ve had to deal with the estate of a relative or family member in a nursing home.

However, something has changed. When my mom passed, most of her financial information could fit in a single file folder. Things have gotten a bit more complicated thanks to the cloud, online banking, investing, social media, smartphones.

“ Where did Brad stash those bitcoins? They must be around here somewhere.”

I can imagine just dealing with passwords for all these accounts, devices, would be a bit of a nightmare for anyone. I’ve been using a program called 1Password for about five years. There are about 1000 passwords and secure notes in the app. And where do I keep the password to the password manager?  Well, I finally got around to setting up a family trust and organizing all this stuff.

Nobody enjoys writing about their own demise. Once I started working through it, I realized this was a pretty efficient way to organize your finances, imagining someone else having to figure it all out. What could I do to make this easier for them? I decided this would be a positive thing and started drafting a welcome letter, well, a “welcome to my demise” letter.

It’s not just those final moments of your life you need to think about. Many of us are living longer but those last several years can be pretty rough. You need to think about what would happen if your communication or your memory became very limited. I did this a bit backwards. About a year ago, we put together a revocable trust and will and now I’m just getting around to a welcome letter, that includes all the important details that may not be included, including where to find a copy. Read more…

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