I Want You To Half-Retire (HR)

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I worked this week. Well, kinda. Yesterday, I drove a few towns over and dropped off a wedding photo delivery I’d shot two months ago. Between lazy shifts at my liquor store and prodding at Lightroom edits for the past few weeks, I’ve been averaging 20 hours a week for a few months now. It’s enough to get by. Considering that a week has 168 hours, working 20 hours is only 12% of that. Not a bad trade, I figure.

Anyway, I know a lot of you work 40 hours a week, and that’s certainly smart. Everything you invest now is worth 10x more, so I can see why you’d want to put in your hours and aim for an early retirement. I mean, what’s better than never having to work again? Well, as I found out, the closer I got to No Work, the worse my mental health was. When I was working just 30 days a year, I was definitely less than sane. What eventually happened was the idea of Half-Retirement, or HR. Statistics Canada “examined data for more than 265,000 workers over 28 years” and “shows that of those Canadians who exited a long-term job at age 55 to 59, 60% were re-employed in some capacity within 10 years”. Based on that, it looks like Retirement is as ill-defined as ever. Even when shown Early Retirement, most people chose Half-Retirement instead! What gives?

Well, I’ve theorized that people need to actively work on something in order to feel truly fulfilled – progress equals happiness, after all – but after some basic digging, it turns out research backs me up. In the Netherlands, over “half of Dutch workers are on part-time hours” and they consistently rank as “one of the world’s happiest countries”. Meanwhile, this article suggests “people who keep working after age 65 tend to be much happier than their peers who are retired”. This was particularly interesting to me because full-on Retirement no longer seemed like what to aim for. The goalposts had been moved. If Half-Retirement was what made people happiest, WHAT’S STOPPING US FROM DOING THAT RIGHT NOW?!? All we need is basic frugality.

I certainly feel content with a light workload, and I’m confident my decision to not frontload all my moneymaking towards my youthful years is a good one. While I’m young and dumb, I want most of my weekdays off, and I’m honestly not just fucking around with them. I’m taking time to learn skills and meet people who will benefit me for years to come. This past month, I’ve taken time to hike with FI nerds, I’ve started work on a new garden, and I’ve expanded my writing opportunities by applying for an ACTUAL writing job that I can’t even tell you about yet! It’s all stuff I couldn’t accomplish if I were working a 40-hour 9-to-5, but here I am, financially stable (though admittedly, debt is an issue) and happy as can be.

I’d also argue if you take the time for self-care early on and use an HR mentality, your health won’t degrade as much and working part-time in retirement age would be more rejuvenating than torturous. Why not half-retire now by being frugal, AND EXPERIENCE THE SAME LEVEL OF FREEDOM AS SOMEONE WHO’S 65?

Consider that Tim Ferriss wrote “The 4-Hour Workweek” after presumably mastering a 4-hour workweek. He then wrote “The 4-Hour Body”, “The 4-Hour Chef” and “Tools of Titans”. IF A 4-HOUR WORKWEEK IS THE IDEAL AMOUNT OF WORK FOR A PERSON TO DO, WHY IS HE VOLUNTARILY TAKING ON A LARGER WORKLOAD? I humbly suggest a workload of anywhere from 20 hours (working for someone else) to 40 hours (working on your own projects). Maybe fulfillment isn’t just chasing Happiness. Maybe fulfillment has something to do with Usefulness.

If HR is the goal, WE CAN ACHIEVE THAT NOW WITH FRUGALITY. Then, we can coast our entire lives on a lifestyle that even retirees find preferable to full Retirement! As someone who’s lived it, it’s fucking wonderful.

Imagine this: Most of the week, I wake up without an alarm. I poke around in the kitchen and decide what I want to make for dinner. I make sure the gardens are okay, leisurely edit some photos and maybe blog a bit while having a beer, then shop for ingredients. Making dinner is a joy. If I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I ride my trike to the brewery and pick up a growler. I go to bed whenever I feel like after some screen time. If I work in the morning, I set an alarm. Even then, it’s usually just 8 hours at the liquor store for a day, or an 8-hour wedding. It’s good to know I’m needed somewhere. I can honestly say coasting like this forever is what I want. I will never tire of this. It’s goddamn magic.

If this all sounds too good to be true, it’s not. If rent is too high, live with someone. If you’re short on cash, you can always make a buck. If paying for gas is killing your budget, live closer to what you need. If you spend too much on events, don’t pay for them. If you drink too much, use smaller glasses. And so on, and so on. You can live HR now, and it’s better than full-on Retirement. It’s just frugality and part-time work!

I had trouble finding Unconbentional’s core message before, but this is it: HR is better than Retirement, and you can have this now. Build your wealth and optimize your situation until you can live on part-time work. Give yourself the gift of free time, especially while you’re still young enough to make some memories. Work isn’t a bad thing. You need it to live a fulfilling life. What you want is work-life balance. Don’t blindly sacrifice your youth chasing a day when you no longer have to work, but also don’t be a dumbass with your money. HR is the goal now. You can make this work, and you’ll be miles ahead of the modern workforce. You. Yes, you. You can do it.

I believe in you.

Am I nuts? Tell me 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.

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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.

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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.

Successful People Say No

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“Uh, you know I literally charge 10x that, right?”

This was nothing new. A friend of a friend was offering me work, and though I appreciated the gesture, $300 to shoot a wedding just wasn’t in the cards. I politely dismissed the offer, and spent the rest of my day fantasizing about what I could’ve said instead.

“Write another zero on the cheque, and we can talk.”

“I don’t need exposure. I have exposure. That’s how you fucking found me.”

“So, is this a short-term wedding?”

I’m starting to think I might be an asshole.

*****

I used to take every photo job I could get because I wanted to shoot full-time. What ended up ACTUALLY happening was far from full-time, but photography’s still my main gig. I just spend way less time at it. Why? Well, I say no all the time now. It’s one of the most important mindsets a person can learn.

If I were to write a long-winded CV, my photography experience is wild: I’ve done weddings in Greece and China. I’ve shot more conferences than I can remember, but my favourite one was a medical conference in San Francisco. I’ve worked with world-class athletes, including an Olympian and one of the BC Lions. I’ve done boudoir, concert, event, newborn, sport, editorial, fashion, and maternity photography. I’m used to making $4,000/day. I shot for Royal Bank once in my living room. I have 10 years of experience, and there’s no doubt in my mind I’m worth what I’m paid. I’ve even sold fine art photography. And so on, and so on. You get the idea.

Well, you can’t have all those experiences and NOT learn a few things. One of the things I got hung up on was what felt ethical. I stopped doing fashion photography because shooting young girls in revealing outfits felt predatory to me. I stopped shooting nightclubs because I don’t think drunk douchebaggery should be promoted or glorified in any way. I stopped doing boudoir professionally because – and it pains me to say this – I’m not great at it, and I didn’t feel good charging for it. Doing it for free seemed even weirder and creepier. Then I asked myself, “What was worth my time?” $300 weddings were obviously out, and so were destination jobs. I can see some of you freaking out now, wondering why I’d ever turn down shooting another wedding in Europe. The reason? Time and money! I make more on local weddings, and destination weddings tend to be multiple-day commitments. I dropped editorial photography because getting paid $50/photo was too low, I stopped shooting newborn after getting my set peed on, and I stopped doing concerts because I started to hate crowds. It was just no after no after no. And you know what came out of all that?

I always shoot for thousands a day now, and most importantly, I became fucking happy.

*****

Tim Ferriss is a big advocate for getting the largest possible gains out of the least possible work. There’s no way I can do it justice here, but you should read his “4-Hour” series, and pay special attention to the chapters on Pareto’s Law. I’m not going to spoil it here, but I live by this rule. Pareto’s Law is THE reason I say no to 80% of job opportunities and STILL make enough to live on. If you want to go full Unconbentional, this is required reading. Buy “The 4-Hour Work Week”.

I figure there are two kinds of successful people in the world: “yes people” and “no people”. The ones who say yes all the time get money because there is literally nothing they won’t do. They’ll be a footstool for a day if the money is good enough. The ones who say no are the ones who rule the world. You think Annie Leibovitz jumps on a $300 wedding? FUCK, NO. And it’s because she doesn’t that she’s able to command the rates she does. She’s now worth $20M. What you DON’T do matters more than what you do. Say yes ONLY to what matters.

Don’t EVER feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do. Don’t EVER allow money to be the sole reason you do something. Don’t EVER compromise your integrity. LEARN TO SAY “NO”.

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For further reading, check out MMM’s article, “Making Space for Badassity”.