What Happens When You Quantify Happiness?

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Paul Dolan’s “Happiness by Design” became so important to me in the past month that I now own multiple copies for reference purposes. The audiobook is for commutes. The paper copy helps me gather quotes for articles, like on this blog. Though this is probably excessive, I think anyone looking to improve their life should read this book. As someone who was quite happy already, I didn’t think I could game my way into being even happier. Somehow, this book did it. Pick it up from your local library!

Here’s an all-too-quick summary you can take a look at right now. If you’re pressed for time, simply click here and save the image. This is a DRM worksheet – it means ‘Day Reconstruction Method’ – and we’ll be referring back to this later. This will allow you to quantify and prioritize your happiness as easily as you do your budget. Here’s why I use it daily.

*****

Two weeks ago, I was on vacation. For five days, I was in Seattle with friends and I was destroying my budget. It turns out $300 USD, unmonitored, just kind of goes up in smoke if I focus only on “having a good time”. Sometime around Day 3, I started questioning what I was doing. Why was I somehow miserable on vacation? I’d worked seven days straight to have five days off in a row, so I should be enjoying myself, right? Why was focusing on pleasure for once giving me so much anxiety? Without a clear answer, I spent the rest of my trip in a listless limbo, and found myself excited to go back to work. On my first day back, I was energized to be productive again, but not because I was relaxed. I was relieved. The vacation was actually a bad experience for me. What gives?

In his book, Dolan says, “To be truly happy, then, you need to feel both pleasure and purpose.” You need both, and ideally, a balance. He talks about a “pleasure-purpose principle­”. If you focus too much on either side and neglect the other, you end up unfulfilled. For me, two days of pursuing only pleasure and neglecting purpose was enough to make me go wonky, but now I know. If I’d only had the DRM worksheet, I could’ve saved myself a lot of grief.

Summing up the trip as a whole gives me some clues as to why I wasn’t happy. My main activities included “drinking with friends”, “attending panels at a convention”, “eating at restaurants”, “hiking”, etc.

Drinking with friends – [Pleasure: 6, Purpose: 5]
Attending panels – [Pleasure: 4, Purpose: 3]
Eating at restaurants – [Pleasure: 7, Purpose: 4]
Hiking – [Pleasure: 5, Purpose: 4]
THE WHOLE VACATION – [Pleasure: 5, Purpose: 4]

In this case, though my activities were mostly midrange in pleasure, they were entirely lacking in purpose, especially because I was spending significant amounts of money doing things I could’ve done with a staycation. Now, let’s look at a typical workday for me.

Commuting – [Pleasure: 5, Purpose: 4]
Working at the liquor store – [Pleasure: 5, Purpose: 9]
Having good food and drink at home – [Pleasure: 6, Purpose: 5]
Watching some TV – [Pleasure: 6, Purpose: 4]
Going for a walk – [Pleasure: 7, Purpose: 6]
THE WHOLE WORKDAY – [Pleasure: 6, Purpose: 7]

This isn’t an exact science, but if you’re evaluating your own pleasure and purpose honestly, your DRM will allow you to design your own happiness. Notice your daily visits with Mom are a bit like [Pleasure: 4, Purpose: 3], but playing with your kid is like [Pleasure: 7, Purpose: 10]? Well, you have data now, so make a choice. Do you find TV-watching to be like [Pleasure: 5, Purpose: 2], but reading a great novel to be [Pleasure: 6, Purpose: 8]? Make a choice!

The point is to think objectively about what makes you happy. Broken down into just pleasure and purpose, this is as simple as it gets.

I somehow learned I love and enjoy my day-to-day life more than vacations. I can’t imagine anything happier than that! Can the DRM help you hack happiness? I challenge you to find out.

Think of it as [Pleasure: 3, Purpose: 10]?

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Rich People Live Longer

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“The study divides Americans into five income groups and finds that each income group is healthier than the one below it and sicker than the one above it.” Full article here.

Well, no surprise there. I think it’s more correlation than causation, and this is likely to stir up a debate in the comments, but it’s not about the money. Rather, I’ve found the people who succeed financially tend to have healthier habits than people who make less. Tom Corley analyzed “Rich Habits and Poverty Habits” and it’s easy to see how wealthy habits are also healthy habits that lead to longevity. Take care of your money, and you’ll take care of yourself too! Don’t believe me? Read his article, and let’s go through the list. Buckle up.

#1 is “Live within your means.” I had trouble doing this, and many aspects of my life were suffering. I was drinking too much. I was eating so much, I was overweight. I spent heavily on sedentary entertainment. I put myself in debt, which added to my overall stress. “Live within your means” is such an obvious piece of advice, but what’s not obvious is how much damage you can do if you ignore it. I spent so much on gluttony and indulgence, my BF% was 28.6 at its highest. (The average for men is 18-24%, and I’m at 23.4% now.) Simply by overspending, I was overindulging. It was bad news. If I’d saved more wealth, I would’ve had better health. It doesn’t stop there.

#3 is “Read every day.” This alone is how I learned to accumulate wealth. If I’d never read “The 4-Hour Workweek”, Mr. Money Mustache, Marcus Arce’s “Half Retire”, or Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules”, I’d still be broke, unhealthy, and trapped in a 9-to-5. Constant education might actually be key to longevity. It keeps minds active — book lovers live longer, by the way — and it provides me with valuable information on how to live a better life through optimized personal finance, health, and happiness. If you’re reading this now, you’re on your way to a long and happy life. Read those books I linked to above, and you’ll be even wealthier and healthier. I promise.

#6 is “Network and volunteer regularly.” Here’s a TED talk linking social integration to longevity, but there are benefits from interacting with your community that can benefit you now and not just when you’re trying to eke past 100. Looking at my 10+ years of doing professional photography, my most profitable years were when I was volunteering on fashion creatives, meeting with colleagues for drinks, and handing business cards to anyone who made eye contact with me. The more of yourself you give, the more you tend to receive back. Having been reminded of this, I made a point of attending a networking event this week. My mental health and career outlook immediately improved, and a simple night of drinks might lead to a $3,000+ wedding booking. Hey, it’s happened before! Many times, in fact!

#7 is “Go above and beyond in work and business.” How this leads to longevity is slightly less direct. I posit that high achievers in the workplace are also serial optimizers who bring their skills home. They’re the same ones who know an exercise routine in the morning sets them up for productivity in the office. They’re the same ones who read to excel. They’re the same ones who eat homemade quinoa for lunch when Matt from accounting goes out for Burger King. Sorry, Matt, but I know who I’d bet on for longevity. Enjoy your extra pickles.

#11 is “Avoid toxic people.” Corley writes, “[Y]ou need to evaluate each of your relationships and determine if they are a Rich Relationship (with someone who can help you up) or a Poverty Relationship (with someone holding you back). Start spending more and more time on your Rich Relationships and less on your Poverty Relationships. Rich Relationships can help you find a better job, refer new business to you or open doors of opportunity.” I fully agree. My stress levels were lowest when I started spending less time with my naysaying family, and more time with disproportionately successful friends. The Other Ben has been a godsend to me. If it weren’t for him, I’d most likely have fallen into the same trap my mother fell into — believing low-end wage labour was the only method of wealth accumulation. That feeling of being stuck? No bueno for stress levels, and as we all know, stress kills.

#16 is my favourite: “Know your main purpose.” Here’s a talk about ikigai and the centenarians who believe in it. I reevaluated my purpose in life recently, and realized I just want to take care of my friends. Someone who doesn’t know their main purpose might just work themselves into the ground — literally, I might add; see: karōshi — or they might have a bunch of money and spend it in a way that doesn’t bring lasting contentedness. (The Ferrari-crashing, money-flashing fuerdai are just one example.) In my case, knowing my purpose allows me to say no to things that don’t serve my goals. I don’t need a big house, so I’m not working towards one. I don’t need fine wine every night, so I stopped buying them months ago. What I do want is better friendships, and the wealth and time to help cultivate them. I also want meaningful work, and I’ve found that in wedding photography and slinging beer. My goals, purpose, and steps to achieve them are all in alignment! Though I’m certainly not the highest earner in my circles, I feel like my healthy habits will lead me to wealth in the long run.

Finally, an obvious note: Having enough cash to take care of basic health is something everyone deserves. For many, it’s not as simple as changing a few habits. That’s why I urge you to be a “Rich Relationship” for somebody. I recently helped my roommate “D” land a dream job, and I’m equally happy to connect as many compatible working relationships as possible. If you’d like help with anything, ping us on Facebook.

Let’s all get rich together and live outrageously long lives to enjoy it.

*****

After writing this article, I consulted “A” for additional commentary. This was some of what she said.

“It’s a lot easier to avoid toxic people if you have money and are not reliant on said toxic people. People are more likely to value reading if they had parents that were educated and valued education & learning & reading. Poor people don’t necessarily have the time to volunteer, it’s hard to think about your purpose if you’re depressed and in survival mode, social exclusion can make networking hard, etc. So these habits you’re writing about are hard to start or maintain if you’re not already in a semi-well off position.”

She also noted, “By writing about this though, the implication of the article is that you think that wealth doesn’t have an important effect”.

Admittedly, there were points I’d failed to consider. I decided to preserve the original article anyway — it may prove valuable as I learn more about privilege and poverty — and I invite you to chat with me in the comments about it.

What do you think? Let’s dive in.

Losing Weight Is Saving Me Money

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A year ago, I went toe-to-toe with our artist friend “A” on food spending. I did not do well. Where I spent “$1,340.83 [in] November on comestibles – $902.33 on food, $438.50 on alcohol”, “A” spent “only $360/month”. I’m still not nearly as badass as her. I’m still not vegan, and I still spend most of my money on what I eat and drink. Here’s a quick breakdown of October 2017.

I ate out a stupid amount. After wrapping up my cooking-at-home experiment, I thought I should treat myself. Obviously, this was a bad move. I even paid for some friends’ meals, and ended up with a food total of $760.17. I was fucking stupid. It wasn’t even luxury food! I toned down on booze though — thanks to this, this, and this — and ended up with an alcohol total of only $311.90. (To see how far I’ve come, check out January 2016’s total of “$1,120.27”!) Total food and drink cost for October 2017? $1,072.07. This, I consider my most recent baseline. I was eating and drinking as much as I wanted, and no diet or even a modicum of restraint was applied here.

In November, I knew I wanted to make a change. I wanted to be the best 30-year-old I could be, and that meant getting down to 163 pounds. Intermittent fasting and other dietary measures made a reappearance, so my sushi lunches and Subway sandwiches got swapped out for frozen chicken, conveniently-packaged-yet-still-affordable spinach and kale, and boatloads of beans. Alcohol crept up (and so did the discovery of an amazingly expensive izakaya) but I managed to only blow $531.84 on food, or $17.73/day. Alcohol came in at $401.50, or $13.38/day. Total for both: $933.34.

These numbers weren’t the extreme improvement I was expecting, but saving $138.73/month with better health is still a victory! I successfully hit my weight goal, and virtually every meal I eat now involves half a plate of greens. Also, we’re currently 11 days into December, and I’m watching my food expenses like a hawk. Though I expect our Christmas dinner to break the bank, I’m only at $85.78, or $7.79/day for food. That’s the way it should be. Only improvements from here on out!

As a final note, I realized beef was killing my budget. A particularly ambitious brisket set me back $50.06 at one point, and though it was good for multiple meals, it’s hard to justify when 3kg of frozen chicken also good for multiple meals was only $10. Also weird: I don’t miss beef! Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but a steak hasn’t wowed me in years. Smoked beef ribs will always hold a special place in my heart, but I don’t intend to buy a $3,999 smoker ever. It’s also worth noting “beef requires 28 times more land, six times more fertilizer and 11 times more water” than pork, chicken, dairy or eggs, and that drain on resources is reflected in the price. Even if environmental reasons don’t convince you, the price should. 1kg of prime rib is $30.66. 1kg of chicken is $7.41.

In short, being mindful about what I eat actually saves me money! My health, the environment, and my wallet all benefit. At this point, it’s only logical to eat less, eat more greens, eat less beef, and bank the savings. My $138.73/month in savings is $1,664.76/year. If I keep this up until I’m 65, that’s almost $60,000! An extra sixty-grand to live longer and make the world a better place? That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Got beef? Let’s take it to Facebook.

Screen Time Is Ruining Your Retirement

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*ring*

“Snffxughphlbtfuck…”

*ring*

I opened one eye. I’d slept diagonally again. Jesus, what time was it? What day was it?

*rrrrrrrrring* 

“Ugh… Hello?”

“Hello? Ben?”

I sat up groggily. “Oh, hey, Grandma. What’s up?”

“I don’t know what’s happened. The TV won’t work. I don’t know how to fix it. Can you come fix it for me?” She sounded sad and helpless. I guess when you’re retired, watching TV is a pretty big deal.

I looked at the clock. I was hoping for a leisurely office day, but so much for that. Sudden errands tend to derail hours of productivity for me.

“Sure, Grandma. I’ll be over at 2.” I hung up, and rubbed my eyes.

Man, fuck TV.

*****

It turned out to be a simple fix. Unplug the cable box, wait ten seconds, plug it back in. Too bad it took me almost an hour to figure out. Asking my Chinese grandma what settings she usually had her TV on turned into a linguistic nightmare.

As I drove home, it kinda bothered me how reliant she was on her TV. I mean, I know how bad TV can be for people, but especially seniors. Only three weeks ago, I posted on Facebook, “It’s happening again. Free time is turning into screen time, and I’d honestly rather be working.” Did you know the average American watches over five hours of television a day? And that the “average retiree spends 43.5 hours per week” (or 6.2 hours a day) watching it? This is especially troubling for us because, if you’re reading this blog, early retirement is something you’ve been thinking about. I don’t want to retire just to watch 6.2 hours of TV a day! Do you? I’ve lived it. It sucks.

But then, I realized there was an amazing opportunity here. If, in retirement, the average person could change their 6.2-hour TV habit into something more productive – maybe even something crazy like work – they could find themselves with more health and money! Read this. Choosing to continue work in a quality vocation is obviously better than binge-watching “Friends” for the sixth time, so why not just work? Work is good, as long as it’s quality work. (Think more “entrepreneurship”, less “being a cashier”. Loads of successful entrepreneurs are actually in their 50s or 60s.)

Now obviously, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t prepare for a complete retirement. You should still prepare for FIRE (or at the very least, HEAL). All I’m saying is retirement tends to go only three ways: 1) You create a retirement in which you thrive, do all the things you’ve ever wanted to do, and are never bored, 2) you create a retirement that seems fun at first, only to settle into a purposeless existence where you’re bored, or 3) you go back to work. What if I told you #3 isn’t actually a bad thing, and can help cancel out the ennui of everyone who feels stuck at #2? Almost all the people I know thriving in retirement are still working in some way! The retired industrial design teacher I know found funding to write a book. The retired professor of psychology I know is wrapping up a year editing a psychology journal. Another retiree I know is building a house and continuing to add to his net worth! What I’m finding more and more as I get to know successful retirees is work is good for retirement. It opens up opportunities for personal enjoyment and enriches lives, but TV doesn’t. STOP WATCHING TV IN RETIREMENT.

Working past traditional retirement age keeps your brain sharp and “may even help stave off dementia”. Also, any decrease in sedentary activities like watching TV is a good thing. If you spent even 16 hours a week doing an entry-level job you enjoy – like what I do now for $13.50/hour – the ballpark math of it is you’d add ~$10,000 to your annual retirement income just to stay mentally and physically active through work. I think it’s a no-brainer. Sell the TV, and get a job doing whatever the heck you want! By this point, you’re financially stable enough that you’re retired, so even that ~$10,000 is secondary! And you’re most likely so experienced in your field, you could earn way more! You’re just looking after your physical health and mental wellbeing, and getting richer because of it!

The bottom line is if you’re retired and have a TV, that TV could be robbing you of the longevity and prosperity you’d gain from casual work. Even at 29, I see that happening to me now, so I’ve cut weekly TV time down to 4 hours. I’m choosing to work more, and invest more energy into my business. From now on, Netflix and PlayStation have no power over me. I sincerely doubt I’ll be 65 and wanting to play The Last of Us: Part XLIII.

Whaddaya think, TV-watching retirees? Is it time to go back to work?

This is Trikey McTrikeface, or How Cycling Changed My Life

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I can’t ride a bike.

No, I’m serious. I really can’t ride a bike. I grew up in hilly New Westminster, BC with overprotective parents who used to drive me to school even though it was literally a block away. My repeated attempts to learn have failed. I don’t know if it’s a balance thing or a confidence thing, but if you put me on two wheels, I’ll go face first into a blackberry bush. It’s embarrassing, but I’ve made my peace with it.

That’s why, when I read this, it really bummed me out. I was missing out on so much. I was missing out on exercise, the money savings, the social aspect of riding with friends, and the thrill of the open road. I remember once, in Bruges, my girlfriend at the time wanted to bike around the city and I couldn’t go with her. It fucking sucked. I resolved to find a solution. After all, I live in Richmond, BC now – a city with no hills and quiet suburbs everywhere. That’s when I decided to man up and buy a trike. I knew I’d look like the village idiot, but it was hard to argue with the positives. Now, I ride all the time and I love it. I even crash into the occasional blackberry bush.

I found one for $280 on Craigslist, and it’s the Kent Alameda 26” Adult Trike. It’s got a huge basket in the back, and when I go cycling with friends, I usually bring four growlers of beer to make the ride more interesting. I ride it to our local brewery a lot, and it’s a 15-kilometre round trip. I save about $2 in gas each time. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s entirely feasible that I’d ride this trike 2,100 kilometres (15 KM x 140) in a year, meaning this trike WILL PAY FOR ITSELF in a year! I’m already driving less. When I get to know Richmond’s side streets, I’ll be making most of my in-city trips using this trike! It’ll be great!

For those of you who cycle, I know I don’t need to break down the benefits. I’m just glad I was finally able to join in. For those of you who don’t, here’s some quick math: In a 2012 Forbes article, they found the “average annual operating cost of a bicycle is $308, compared to $8,220 for the average car”, meaning a bike (or trike) could save you $7,912/year! Using the ol’ compound interest calculator, investing that over 10 years at 7% interest results in $116,967.84! Can you imagine if someone did this from the time they were 25-35? A $116,967.84 boost at 35 would be insane! Can my derpy little trike actually save me that much money? It can’t hurt to try! Cycling can also increase your life expectancy anywhere from six months to eight years. Given my old life expectancy and a little luck, that could put me up to 90!

Do you cycle? If not, why? I can’t even ride a bike, but I found a way to tap into the goldmine. What’s stopping YOU? Tell us on Facebook.

Fitness Ben vs. Fatness Ben, or How to Lose 10 Pounds in a Month

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It’s a sunny day in Steveston as I write this, home of Once Upon A Time and the Power Rangers, and I’m treating myself to a cold pint of rye porter. A month has passed since I wrote ‘Financial Planning for Your Life Expectancy’ and the week following that was kind of a scary one! I mean, I was staring my mortality in the face! All of a sudden, 77 seemed like too young to die. In that post, I knew I had my finances sorted, but what could I do to live an even longer life and actually get the chance to spend the money I’d been saving? I decided to double down on my health. Here’s how that went.

First, a story: I was kinda fat. Not like “my shorts could double as a parachute” fat, but fat enough. When my friends wanted to take me on a hike, I had to ask them how “bennable” it was. Would I have to scramble up a mountain? Was the trail longer than 5 kilometres? A lot of the time, I’d simply stay home. I was content in my shittiness. It wasn’t until the neon sign appeared in my mind, flashing “YOU WILL DIE AT 77”, that I knew I needed to get my shit together. A month later, I’m happy to announce I have my poop in a group. It all started with this article.

Losing 10 pounds in a month was my new challenge. Not just the weight loss, but also the healthy habits that come with maintaining a proper weight. While everyone else was watching the ball drop and smooching strangers, I was standing on my Fitbit Aria™ noting down my weight – 182.4 pounds. I knew what I needed to do. It was radical.

Beer intake got under control for the first time in my life. I knew every bottle I opened would set me back almost a day of weight loss progress. I started walking everywhere, sometimes reaching 30,000 steps a day. I loosely adopted Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet (SCD) and started cooking my own food aggressively. I started experimenting with intermittent fasting (IF), though I don’t recommend that for reasons like this. I read up on basal metabolic rates (BMR) and even went so far as to deliberately put myself in cold environments to increase calorie burn. On January 30, at 3:51 PM, I stood on my Aria, nervous because I only had one day left to meet my goal… I damn near cried. I’d done it. I was 169.6 pounds.

You can do it too.

*****

This should be obvious, but there’s a huge caveat as you read this: I AM NOT A FUCKING DOCTOR. This is only what worked for –ME– to lose 12.8 pounds in under a month. Be careful, and if you’re not feeling well, DON’T CONTINUE TAKING THIS ADVICE. You have been warned. I don’t want anyone in the hospital because of this. Sound good? Okay, let’s move on.

_____

HERE ARE SOME SOLID STEPS TO LOSE 10 POUNDS IN A MONTH:

* Cook your own food as often as you can, and treat bread, pasta, potatoes and rice as though they come with a warning.
* Greens and eggs are your friends. My typical breakfast is now a spinach omelette, but in case cholesterol is a concern, offset that with lentils for dinner. They seem to reduce LDL, or “bad cholesterol”. Here’s a great recipe I used. Here’s a more indulgent one.
* Walk 15,000-20,000 steps a day. It’ll burn roughly 3,500 calories after you factor in BMR, equal to roughly a pound of fat gone. Use a Fitbit to keep track if it helps motivate you.
* If you have unhealthy eating habits, DON’T actually use a full cheat day once a week. It’s one thing to allow yourself a little bit of fried chicken on a Saturday/Faturday. It’s entirely different to mainline Twinkies for 24 hours.
* Feel guilty when you’re sitting down. Unless it’s for work, you should be moving. Now that you know you can ALWAYS burn a calorie (like you can ALWAYS make a buck), turn your Netflix marathon into preparing for an actual marathon. You don’t need to actually run one; just get fit enough that it becomes a possibility someday!
* Get knowledgeable on fitness and food: I recommend “The 4-Hour Body” on audiobook as you walk, and “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” for a quick read. Both books offer contradicting advice. Find a balance that works best for you.

_____

A FEW WARNINGS AS YOU DO THIS:

* You’ll lose weight drastically when you start eating better, and it’ll shoot back up in 5-8 days when you get insanely thirsty. This is water weight. Don’t let it throw you off your goals.
* If you experiment with IF, which totally works but isn’t recommended, you –WILL– feel occasionally dizzy. Don’t drive while doing IF.
* The more accustomed you get to walking long distances, the more you’ll start to experience akathisia when you’re forced to sit still for too long. That’s normal. Try not to let it fuck with you too much.
* Have some goddamn fun as you do this! Seriously, drink the occasional beer. If you deny yourself the simple pleasures in life, you’ll inevitably backslide in huge ways. Don’t let your weight loss program get in the way of your happiness. This is important!

*****

My goal now is to simply maintain 170 pounds and a good baseline of physical activity. Remember the life expectancy calculator I used? Here’s what I get with my new stats: M, 28, 5’ 8”, 170 pounds, normal blood pressure, quit smoking, 3-5 drinks a day, active? 84 – A SEVEN-YEAR LIFE EXPECTANCY INCREASE! THAT’S EVEN ASSUMING I DRINK LIKE THIS FOREVER! You can make a change like this in a month too! If you could increase your life expectancy by SEVEN YEARS IN A MONTH, wouldn’t you do it?

Fatness Ben is dead. Fitness Ben beat the crap out of him because Fatness Ben was a wuss.

Ask me anything on Facebook.

Financial Planning for Your Life Expectancy

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77. I’m going to die when I’m 77.

I was playing around with this life expectancy calculator and dutifully filled in my personal info, dreading the results. Would I die like my dad did, from heart complications at 55? Or would I flip Death the middle finger like my grandfather who passed away at 84? It was hard to tell. On one hand, I was reasonably healthy for a 28-year-old. On the other, I was a regular drinker and wasn’t as active as I could be. I was fully expecting my number to be below 65, making all my retirement planning silly and useless, but what I got was 77. Respectable, I thought. Now that I knew, it was time to start planning for it.

Using this compound interest calculator, I punched in my current investments and contribution rate: $17,245 to start, $3,000 a year, 37 years to grow (until I’m 65), and 7% interest. The results were heartening. Even though it’s fuzzy math, it estimated $725,479 when I’m 65. Not a bad little number. I wasn’t exactly a millionaire, but I didn’t need to be. I just needed enough to carry me through to my life expectancy. Here’s what I found.

Accounting for inflation – I used 2% – I was able to adjust my $725,479 to what it’d be worth in 2053, when I’m 65. I was shocked at what inflation ate up. My spending power was only about $348,673 in today’s dollars. Since that’s the more relevant number at this point, I’m using that to calculate my retirement plan. I want to know my spending power, not some wildly-inflated, future number. You can calculate your current dollars for inflation here.

My “$348,673”, at 7% interest, gets me “$24,407” a year while it’s invested, or “$2,033” a month. That’s about in line with my current spending. I spend just over $2,000/month now. If I play my finances this way when I’m 65, I could live off my nest egg FOREVER. But let’s say for a second the financial climate of 2053 is a riskier one, and I no longer want my money invested in US equity. If I cashed out EVERYTHING – like an idiot, but I digress – I could pace my “$348,673” out to “$29,056” a year, or “$2,421” a month until an expected death at 77. I am, somehow, covered both ways! Well, that’s a relief. By sheer luck alone, I don’t have to make any alterations at all to my retirement plan! Yay!

You have the tools now in the links I’ve given you above. You NEED to run your numbers and make a retirement plan that works for you. Ignoring this post could be the difference between literal life and death. Being broke at 80 is a far different story than being broke at 25.

On a happier note, with my finances taken care of, I can now shift the focus towards health and living a longer life. Let’s look at the life expectancy calculator again. I filled it in as follows: M, 28, 5’ 8”, 180 pounds, high blood pressure, quit smoking, 3-5 drinks a day, somewhat active. My life expectancy: 77. The best way of increasing my life expectancy is to bring my exercise level from “somewhat active” to “several times per week”. New life expectancy: 81. I can go even further by bringing my alcohol consumption from “3-5 drinks per day” to “2 drinks or less per day”. My life expectancy then becomes 82. Uhh… FUCK THAT. I like my beer. One extra year is not a fair trade. More beer now.

This might be an extreme method of measuring personal finance, but it’s still a useful exercise. It took me 10 minutes to come up with the numbers you see above. If a 10-minute time investment helps you make better financial and health decisions FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, wouldn’t you take it? Tell us what you thought in the comments.

With that extra four years, maybe I’ll take up scuba diving…