Having twice your income saved by 35 is not obnoxious

When I was 20 I no longer worked a jobby-job with the State. So I needed to roll my retirement account savings into a new account. I found Jim Fleming nearby and we’ve been loyal to each other ever since.

During our initial conversation, I asked Jim, “How much money should I be saving each month to have a comfortable retirement?”

“That depends on a few factors. Let’s run some numbers based off when you’re 60, 65, and 70 years old,” he said.

He flipped his computer screen around and said, “These numbers assume that Social Security will exist in some form as it does today, with some modest increases in inflation.”

The numbers for what my annual retirement outlays were around $60,000 inflation-adjusted dollars per year. Keep in mind, my reported income the first year I started my business in earnest was $17,000.

“How much should I be saving then, of my own money, each month?” I asked again, driving at the real number.

Without so much as a stutter: “About $300-$350 a month”. That, on top of what we hoped would remain of Social Security, was what I needed to be saving each month.

I didn’t hit that goal at 20 years of age and $17,000 a month. Yet when I started my business I made room for retirement savings. “Let’s start with $50 a month,” I said.

That, coupled with my rollover money from the State was a start. If you’re curious, I think my retirement savings at that point amounted to around $4,000.

Each year Jim would call to check in and each year or two I would bump the amount of money I was saving by $25 or $50. An extra $25 a month wasn’t noticeable to me. I had expenses under control. I took the risk of foregoing college when I couldn’t pay out of pocket anymore so I never had loans. I got rid of my car. I lived in a modest house in the city, but at a low rate and rented out a spare bedroom. On any given month I could pay for utilities, insurance (pre-Obamacare), groceries, and some small business expenses on about $650 a month. For a while I didn’t use a cell phone, instead opting for an iPod Touch and Skype calls over WiFi. I ate a lot of tuna sandwiches in 2010.

Last year I set a life goal to get to that magic $300 a month number. I hit that in March. Looking at my retirement funds, I have a healthy amount of money in there. I’m fortunate to be able to say that. I get that some people don’t have that luxury. In fact, a lot of people don’t.

For ten years I have harped on anyone who is leaving college to “immediately start saving something, anything, for retirement.” I usually get dumb looks. I might as well be telling my friends they should hop on one leg from now until they’re 65.

The Twitter story about having twice your annual salary saved by 35 struck people as obnoxious and rude*. I don’t think it is. I think it’s math. Some people are naturally stuck in a terrible spot because they had to go to college to get a decent career. Others are there because they didn’t do the work earlier to prepare and drive a $20,000 car.

Like hours in a day, we (everyone using Twitter anyway) have some level of income. It sounds preachy, but this has to be a priority. We can’t even assume Social Security is going to be there for us.

Don’t blame education. I didn’t know any more or less than any other 19 or 20-year-old. No one is surprised to find out they get old and things cost money.

The savings advice is not rude or obnoxious. It’s not even unrealistic. It is possible, just like losing 100 pounds is possible for a 300-pound person. Don’t lament it or mock that math. Assess and take action.

* What’s obnoxious and rude is the jackass that said millennials don’t own homes because we spend it all on avocado toast.

Things on the wall are slowing down

My journal entry for May 8, 2018. A text transcription is at the end:

May 8, 2018 Journal Entry

 

A text transcription of the above:

On the wall in my office is a collection of random notes, cards, tickets, & badges. It’s almost a history of my life.

It includes tickets to Aerosmith & stones concerts. One of the few photos I have of my mom and me. A photo of Jake & me at a Japanese restaurant holding a birthday pineapple (it wasn’t my birthday).

There are also many notes- many handwritten- that clients and friends have sent.

I realized yesterday the rate I’m adding to this wall is slowing. Perhaps it’s cultural. Printed tickets are rare now. Perhaps clients don’t feel a need to write now that I’m solidly “not a kid” anymore.

Regardless, it makes me sad to think these connections are getting few and far between.

I’ve made an effort over the years to regularly write to people. To compliment their work, keep in touch, or just say hello. I rarely hear back. When I do, it’s usually a digital note through a text or Facebook message.

The State of the Justin

The President gave us the State of the Union Tuesday night. I figure it’s time for the annual State of the Justin.

New House

I’ve always been proud of the fact I was lucky and able to buy my first home when I was 20. My mortgage broker at the time joked I could buy a house before I could buy a beer. It turns out, I’ve still never purchased a beer.

On Tuesday we moved from our home on Adina Ct. to a much more historic home in Irvington on Spencer Ave.

I’ve always wanted to live in Irvington. Even when I bought the last house I wanted to live in Irvington but couldn’t afford to.

A nice young guy purchased the old house as his first home and I wish him well.

Jeremiah and I are looking forward to inviting folks over once we get all the boxes unpacked.

I’ve lost 32 pounds

InBody Scan ResultsI weighed myself this morning. The scale reported back at 149.9, which is 33 pounds less than I was in the fall.

Most people immediately query, “How’d you do that?” and “Did you even have that much weight to lose?”

Apparently, yes, I had that much to lose. It says something that 183-pound me was considered fine (albeit medically overweight by about 15 pounds). My body type is one that packs fat around organs as opposed to just on my frame. If anything, I was in more danger than the folks that carry it around their exterior.

Losing it was pretty simple: don’t eat like an idiot. I’m 30 years old, so I can’t just eat everything and the cardboard box it comes in anymore. I’m okay with that, but didn’t struggle like some people. I long eschewed sodas and fast food. But I ate a lot of bread, desserts were mandatory, and I consumed a lot of dairy in the form of cheese and creams.

Eliminating bread, getting used to fruit for dessert, and removing cheese did most of the work. I don’t miss the bread so much. I still desire a good chunk of cheesecake, but can resist. And leaving cheese off things really doesn’t impact the flavor of anything that much. Except pizza. I miss pizza. And chimichangas…

I recognize my superpower is the ability to miserably say “no” to things. It scares Jeremiah how easily I can flip to, “I just don’t do that anymore.” If that’s not your superpower, it’s going to be harder, but you can do it.

Workouts at Naptown Fitness have become routine. On Tuesday morning I had to close on two houses and move between them at 10 am. I woke up at 4 am and took the bus to the gym so I could get in a class.

Doing SWIFT (sort of a P90x/jump training/cardio hybrid) classes for 45 minutes at least 5-6 times a week is mandatory. I put it on my calendar and am incredibly defensive of that time. Meetings get placed around it, phone calls don’t interrupt it, and I’m better for it. Doing classes at 4 in the afternoon is one of the best parts of my day.

If you’re an office worker, you might find that doing a workout is satisfying because you get clear goals and finish lines. White collar work is often void of that. I like this challenge precisely because it’s hard, but defined.

And in case you think that your trip to LA Fitness is fine: the benefits of a class are tenfold. It’s awfully hard to stop and rest when the guy next to you is plowing through his work. So much so I now seek to position myself next to men and women who are as good or better than me in a class.

Reading

I read or listened to 47 books in 2017. So far this year I’m about to wrap up my fourth.

My favorites include Grant by Ron Chernow (Trump’s presidency doesn’t mirror Andrew Jackson. It mirrors Andrew Johnson, which came after Lincoln. And Ulysses S. Grant may be one of our most underrated historical figures.). I also immensely enjoyed the trilogy that is Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.

Two books have actively changed the nature of my life and work. The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande talks about the benefits of using checklists in everyday work. His thesis: there’s too much knowledge for any single human. So write down and double-check.

Deep Work by Cal Newport is equally impressive. I wrote about this over on the SuperPixel blog.

If you’re one of those people on the outside looking in at readers and wondering how they do it: the Indianapolis Public Library is wonderful. The online library delivers a good number of books to Kindles, too.  I certainly don’t buy all these books. But I do maintain an Audible subscription. Commuting on a bike or a bus is a great way to get in some extra reading time.

Slowly, then quickly at SuperPixel

SuperPixel continues to grow slowly and organically, but the work has rapidly increased lately. I still struggle with The E-Myth (short for Entrepreneur). The balance between having a scalable business that runs itself versus being a solo-preneur or nearly a solo-preneur is hard in my line of work. I recognized late last year there are almost no big, nationwide service provider businesses. There are no chain attorneys or franchise physicians. There are networks and small clusters trying, like in dentistry or in medical groups. Big corporations sell products and widgets. Or services that masquerade as products, like insurance. The only service businesses I can think of is True Green and Merry Maids. Both of which involve low-wage work.

We have reached a point where the work we have is enough. Now I want to make it really damn good. I’m more interested in solving thorny business problems for clients this year than I am in making a website or two.

Onward and upward

My goals for 2018 look something like this:

  1. Compete in a Spartan race
  2. Compete in a triathlon – Happening in July
  3. [Personal]
  4. 100 consecutive workouts
  5. Generate $10k from book sales
  6. $10k in savings
  7. Pay off debts
  8. Funnel $300/mo. to retirement – $50 short currently
  9. Launch an email series
  10. Interview a President
  11. Walk 500 dogs
  12. Share a house with great friends
  13. Travel more with Jeremiah. D.C., London – I really want to see Bond in Motion
  14. Run for office
  15. 30 days of Whole 30
  16. $200k in annual revenue for SuperPixel
  17. White Water Rafting
  18. Hang glide
  19. Jet Ski
  20. Snorkel off the Cape
  21. Ski

In July I’ll be racing in the TriIndy. I wrote a book last year that I’ve asked a few people to review. With exception of the mortgage, we’re in good shape to have most debts eliminated soon. Savings to retirement is likely to increase later this year.

Today marks the end of Whole 30. And many other things on this list are in progress or coming soon.

I’m also participating in this March’s Polar Plunge with Crystal. You can donate here. If we make the fundraising goal I’ll post the photos.

Fixing Windows Hello PINs not working after a BIOS update

This weekend I updated my Lenovo Yoga Book’s BIOS to fix some sleep issues with the device. This BIOS update came through Lenovo’s website, along with some driver updates, and not through Windows Update.

After I updated I realized two things about changing the BIOS out from under Windows 10:

  1. Bitlocker will lock your device on reboot because it thinks something deep within the hardware has changed, and that is true. Make sure you have a Bitlocker key handy. This can be generated from the Settings or is tied into your Microsoft Account (so you can access it via a phone or another device). You can get that here: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=237614
  2. The Windows Hello PIN won’t work anymore. Try as I might, I kept getting an error with no error code identifiable online. Removing and re-adding the PIN threw me into a “Something went wrong” loop.

The solution to this was pretty easy and I’m writing it here to help anyone else in the future:

  1. Go to Settings > Accounts > Switch my account to a local account. Don’t worry, it won’t delete anything or change much.
  2. Go back and select “Sign in with a Microsoft Account” again. This switch from online to local or local to online and back again flips whatever’s needed in the security key and PIN settings to clear it up.

Once I did that it worked great. And the BIOS update from Lenovo is about two versions ahead of what’s in Windows Update. It fixes Yoga Book sleep issues where it requires a force reboot to load after hibernating. WiFi driver helps speed it up, too.

Mike Pence is not “Indiana nice”

I’ve always heard this claim about the Midwest being “Midwest nice.” More locally, “Hoosier hospitality” and “Indiana nice” might as well be on our license plates. But then a guy like Mike Pence comes along, and he’s just not a very nice man. He seems downright mean.

My grandmother used to say some people “had a lot of meanness in ‘em.” No one was safe from her scorn – Democrat, Republican, young, old, didn’t matter. Her litmus test seemed to be if you caused someone harm, damage, or were otherwise uncouth, you were mean. I feel the same way about Mike Pence. More broadly, it’s starting to feel that way about the entire Republican party.

When Pence was still Governor, I began to realize why a generation of people had begun to shift to the left and continue to stay there: everyone in my generation was taught more than any other to “just be nice to people.” I can’t prove it, but I’d bet 50% of Indiana’s brain drain problem is directly related to the politics of our State House. I’m not even talking about bag bans and Tesla sales. I’m talking about all the social cruft that strikes an entire generation as somehow mean, like a bully.

The Republicans aren’t doing a superb job of framing their agenda as “being nice.” And when someone isn’t “nice,” they’re probably being “mean,” and that’s very off-putting. The Democrats may just be better at hiding their meanness because the government can certainly be a bully to a lot of people the more it expands.

“Justin, this is ridiculous. Just because a bunch of sissy millennials can’t handle some toughness is no reason to coddle them,” you might say. If you did say that I would say you just proved my point by being a dick.

It doesn’t make a generation of people weak to be nice. It just means we don’t see a reason to push large groups of individuals away. Pence’s, and now Trump’s, Muslim ban, the wall, Sessions, the Supreme Court nominees, etc. are all just mean dick moves. Their downsides are worse than the potential purported benefit.

Don’t get me wrong – everyone’s kind of a dick some of the time. Left-leaning folks love shows like The Daily Show and Full Frontal precisely because they’re mean. They poke at people in a way that you’d never do to someone’s face. Bill Maher is mean. Sean Hannity and others on the right are mean.

Pence, and certainly Trump, come across as that kind of person. A sort of faux-niceness that’s him just pushing people in ways they don’t want to be. That is against the grain of what it means to be “Indiana nice” where we stay out of the way, help when people ask, and kindly say hello and smile when interacting with others.

As an aside, I find anyone who blindly supports a specific party, votes straight ticket, doesn’t question everyone and everything, and anyone who lacks some level of empathy to be psychopathic. That can’t be healthy. In what other endeavor do we do that? Do you only drink one beer? Do you only ever always and forever buy one brand of batteries or toilet paper?

I can support a lot of reform efforts that Democrats largely don’t like. I can get behind a lot of issues that Republicans generally don’t like. And I can feel at home with a good chunk of the Libertarian party because they’re increasingly just, “Leave people alone, and be nice.”

Don’t be mean. Leave people alone when they want to be left alone. Be Indiana nice.