Weekend Reading: The Power of Anti-Aims Editing

The self-improvement market is estimated at over $10 billion in the United States and $40 billion worldwide. Indeed, there is no shortage of books, blogs, and online courses to increase your productivity and life satisfaction.

Hey, if morning routines, vision boards, and smart goal setting motivate you to make positive changes in your life, then get down to earth.

I like to set goals each year for my personal finances and for my business. But the truth is, my life changed for the better when I thought more about what I didn’t want my life to be like. I’m talking about anti-goals.

Think about your worst day. Is it full of useless meetings? A strenuous journey? An endless list of household chores? Stuck in the office until 7 p.m.? Do you miss your child’s extracurricular activities? No time to exercise?

Unfortunately, that’s what almost every day looks like for many of us.

Then we read self-improvement books and life hacking blogs to help us save some extra time on those terrible days. Wake up at 4:30. Set up phone calls or dictate emails during your morning commute. Spend your evenings cleaning and doing chores. Spending your weekends driving for your children’s activities.

What if we flip the script and design our lives to reduce the time we spend doing things we hate, or avoid doing those things altogether?

  • Live within walking/biking distance of work. Or, negotiate a remote work agreement.
  • Block out time in your work schedule to do your actual work.
  • Pay for a housekeeper. Hiring a handyman. Organization of a grocery or meal delivery service.

I recognize that I live a very unusual lifestyle compared to the average person. I am independent and work from home. I set my own hours, working as much or as little as I want. I have a home gym. I travel 8 to 9 weeks a year. I eat a plant-based diet.

I used the power of anti-goals to help design this lifestyle. Some of my anti-goals include:

  • No daily commute
  • No meeting before 9:30 a.m.
  • No meeting / work after 12 p.m. on Friday
  • No Disney/Vegas/Stampede
  • No truck/trailer/boat/vacation home
  • No weekend activities planned for children
  • No clutter in the garage or guest room

I started designing my ideal lifestyle with these anti-goals in mind. I quit my job to focus on my online business. I created a home office and a gym. I train 60 minutes every morning of the week. I use Calendly to block out early mornings, Friday afternoons, and travel days. We aim to travel 8-9 weeks per year, with a focus on the UK and Europe. We enroll our children in extracurricular activities (two each) during the week. We regularly declutter by donating or selling unused items.

Anti-goals have worked well for us to help design our weird-but-wonderful lifestyle. Let me know if they work for you.

Recap of this week:

We have returned home after an amazing 24 day trip to the UK. We visited London, the Lake District, Stirling, Fort William, Inverness, St. Andrews and (our favorite city) Edinburgh.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and hired a car for our three night stay in the Lake District and nine days to explore the Scottish Highlands. I am happy to report that no mirrors were damaged during the trip.

I managed to post two posts while we were gone. A Weekend Reading: London Edition, and an article on mental accounting.

Now that I’m back home, I hope to post a little more regularly here. And stay tuned for my DIY investing course to launch shortly.

Promo of the week:

Repeating this a few weeks ago –

The most frequently asked question about our trips this year? How did you earn enough points to fly a family of four to Europe/UK three times in 2022?

My wife and I each have our own American Express Cobalt Cards and be sure to charge $500 per month on groceries (not hard these days!) to cards to earn 5 points on groceries plus a monthly bonus of 2,500 points for the first 12 months.

This adds up to 30,000 points for regular spending, plus the 30,000 bonus points for reaching the monthly spending goal. There are 120,000 combined points, which we transfer to Aeroplan to use for flight rewards.

We also signed up for American Express Aeroplan Prestige Cardwhere you can currently earn up to 90,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 per month for six months ($3,000 in the first three months and a total of six monthly billing cycles where you spend $1,000).

I know a lot of people will be hesitant to pay an annual fee of $599. But you need to objectively look at your net return after fees. You can earn up to $2,800 in travel rewards with the American Express Aeroplan Prestige Card during the first year of card membership. Subtract the annual fee and you still earn $2,200.

For me, as long as I can meet the spending requirements without making significant changes to my normal spending, these cards might make sense. For example, I just received our home insurance notice in the mail. It’s up 15% and will cost us about $2,600 this year. Luckily I can prepay with an Amex card.

Weekend reading:

I should go more often. After a brutal first half for equities and bonds, investors were treated to an exceptional month of July. The S&P 500 rose 9.1% for its best month since November 2020. Vanguard’s Balanced ETF (VBAL) rose 4.92%, while Vanguard’s All Equity ETF (VEQT) rose 5.96%.

It’s funny, I’ve received several emails from clients and readers asking if they should sell their balanced portfolio and buy a 4% GIC. This reminds us that the worst returns in stocks and bonds are often quickly followed by strong performances.

Selling a balanced investment portfolio at a loss and locking in a 4% return might make sense if you expect your investments to continue to lose money. But we don’t know when things will change, and the turnaround can often be lightning fast (see April 2020).

That’s why it makes sense to stick to your plan and ride out temporary volatility. It’s the best stock market advice in the world.

Portfolio Manager Markus Muhs wrote a great primer on RRIFs – what they are, how they work and how to convert your RRSP into one.

Millionaire professor Andrew Hallam explains how to retire early with less than you think:

“Pairing a lower cost of living with lower taxes (or no taxes) can increase the purchasing power of the money you’ve saved.

Not everyone will want to retire in another country. Some might lack family and friends.

But at a time when adult children are often dispersed to different cities (even different countries), many retirees in beautiful destinations say they see their families more because they live abroad.

Retirement “like winning the lottery”: how these retirees are enjoying the summer despite economic concerns.

Baby boomers are leaving the workforce in droves, leaving more vacancies than there are people to fill them.

It’s hard to escape the hedonic treadmill of conspicuous consumption. Ben Felix answers an important question about whether luxury vehicle owners enjoy their vehicle more:

Rob Carrick says it’s time to quash the idea that a big mortgage is a noble burden because house prices will rise.

Finally, it’s an Andrew Hallam trifecta – here he explains why young ETF investors should party in the streets at present.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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