Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Category : Uncategorized

The difficult thing about my personality is that I always feel compelled to be productive. If I don’t feel like I’m being productive, I feel guilty. A couple examples: in college, if I wasn’t studying constantly, I would feel guilty. When I was between semesters, if I wasn’t teaching myself programming or reading a book, I would feel guilty. Even on Christmas, if I didn’t get up at some point from spending time with my family and do some work, I would feel guilty. I’ve felt a lot of guilt over the past several years, and all of it yielded me no benefit.

When I started working an engineering job after college, I felt pretty insecure. I felt like this company was taking a chance on me, a fresh grad. I worked my ass off to prove to myself, my boss, and everyone else who might care just how valuable I was. It definitely worked. Good work was rewarded with more work and responsibility, and after a year or so I quickly found myself fighting burnout.

I was used to burning out in college. The typical semester was 16 weeks and after about 8-10 weeks, I would hit a wall. Faced with this mental block, I would typically blow off days of studying by killing time on facebook, youtube, or playing chess (and yes, I’d feel guilty the whole time). At some point, I’d have an exam that I absolutely needed to study for and I’d kick it into gear and power through the burnout until the end of the semester. This type of cyclical burnout and recovery happened nearly every semester of college.

I’ve heard burnout sometimes compared to apathy towards work, or compared to depression. Burnout isn’t like either of those for me, I feel it’s more like chronic mental exhaustion.

I’m burned out at work right now, and have been on and off for some time. So why did I burn out? Is this related to my compulsive need to be productive?

Being able to reflect and ask these questions feels relieving.

My constant need to feel productive points to workaholism. Or literally, an addiction to work. While workaholism is a bit glorified by our careerist culture, it’s still nonetheless an addiction that carries with it destructive behavior. At it’s essence, workaholism is just a specific case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  In my case, I have intrusive thoughts/feelings of guilt (obsession), so I start working to reduce the negative thoughts (compulsion).

I don’t want to give all the credit to OCD though. I would like to think my goals had something to do with overworking myself.

My workaholism led me to burn myself out. I’ve worked myself too hard and now I feel mentally exhausted.

Recovering from burn-out requires recovery time; treating OCD requires introspection and behavioral therapy.  The healthiest option for me is to slow down, to downshift into something less stressful so I can fully recover. I’ve decided I’m going to take time off work, I’ve resigned from my engineering job to travel the US and rock-climb.

This sabbatical may seem like a mere escape from my current life; it’s not.

It’s the beginning of the travel journey that I’ve dreamed of.

It’s an opportunity to meditate, reflect, and enjoy nature.

It’s taking advantage of my peak physical years and pushing myself to new limits.

It’s the discovery of my real life.

2014-04-05 18.49.04



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2014 in Review

Category : Uncategorized

To give you an idea of where I started in 2014, first I need to give a general picture of 2013 and where I started once I graduated from college.

In March of 2013 I took an engineering job, and from that point to the end of the year I made about $40k after taxes. After living expenses and paying off my student loans, I was left with about $25k cash at the end of the year.

In January of 2014, I quickly started investing this $25k in blue-chip dividend growth stocks. Through 2014 I added another $43k to my investment portfolio. On average, I was investing $826 a week. This strong steady flow of cash into my portfolio allowed the amount of passive income that I receive generate to sky rocket. The amount of money I was collecting each month in dividends started pretty low ($18.90), but by the end of the year it was a couple hundred bucks ($315.87). That is some serious growth there. The best part is, each month I don’t actually pull the dividends out. I reinvest them in more dividend growth stocks. That’s a guaranteed $200-300 that I’ll invest each month, and I don’t have to work to do it! You can view my portfolio here.

2014 Expenses

I track my expenses through mint, and each month I try to break my expenses up into their pre-formed categories. I especially like the pie chart, it provides a pretty good visual of where my money is going. Month after month, I find that most of my money goes towards Food & Dining and Auto & Transport.



The chart below is a breakdown of how much I spent on each category in 2014.

Category Spending
Food & Dining $4,817.56
Auto & Transport $3,512.03
Health & Fitness $2,044.19
Home $1,200.10
Shopping $593.26
Gifts & Donations $544.61
Travel $491.52
Financial $139.00
Entertainment $137.81
Taxes $39.06
Business Services $21.74
Total $13,540.88


My Food & Dining expenses don’t need to be nearly that high. I spent alot of money in 2014 buying food from restaurants during my lunch break at work. Because I would frequently work long hours, I didn’t feel like putting in the energy or effort to packing a lunch every day to save money. Occasionally I would do this, but going out to eat everyday was the norm and packing a lunch was the exception.

So what do I need to spend money on each month? What are my fixed costs?

Car Lease Payment: $179.77

Car Insurance: $139.00

Rent: $100

Total Fixed Costs: $418.77

Car payment and insurance are self explanatory, but rent deserves some light shedding. Since I graduated college in 2013, I’ve paid my parents $100 rent per month. I’ve considered moving out and renting my own place, but I don’t for several reasons. First, the cost. Paying $100 rent to my parents has allowed me to save and invest thousands since graduating in 2013. Second, I don’t plan on staying in Michigan for most of 2015, so I would have to rent month to month and that will just be too much of a hassle.

The next category I like to define are my necessary variable costs:

Groceries: $163
(Groceries vary quite a bit month to month, but I can generally feed myself for $40 a week plus what I spend on eating out. As I spend less on eating out and more on groceries, I expect this number to rise by 25% of what I spend on eating out)

Gas: $120
$On average I spent just under $30 a week on gas in 2014. When gas was over $4 per gallon I spent over $40 per week, and now that it’s dropped below $2 per gallon, I’m spending under $20 per week.

Adding both categories together, my total fixed & necessary variable costs per month:


Rounding up to $700 and multiplying that by 12, my total fixed & necessary variable costs per year:


Those are my basic costs to live. Everything I spend above and beyond that is for climbing, eating out, giving gifts, shopping, etc. I spent roughly $13,500 in 2014, but my fixed and necessary variable costs were about $8400. The difference is $5100. That $5100 is where I want to make reductions in 2015.





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Autopilot [December 2014]

Category : Uncategorized

For the time being, I’ve stopped contributing to my brokerage account, so my portfolio won’t be experiencing the dramatic growth that it saw during 2014. I’ll elaborate on why very soon. For the time being, I will reinvest the dividends, but for the most part leave the portfolio on autopilot.

December was an expensive month for me for two reasons: gifts and skiing. I don’t regret spending money on either of these, and for this I’m proud of myself. Many previous months this year when I went over my budget I felt a large amount of guilt… I set lofty budgetary goals each month, and when I fell short, I would beat myself up. What is the point? Why feel disruptive emotions over money? Really the biggest take-away I’ve had is: wherever you are with frugality, accept it. Move towards where you want to be, but don’t worry if you have setbacks. Life doesn’t conform to your idealistic plans.

Expenses: $1507.33
Dividend Income: $211.45
Percentage of expenses paid by dividend income: 14.0%

J. Curtis Webb Passive Income Versus Expenses

Even with a very expensive month, I managed to pay for 14% of my expenses with dividends.