marsden_online: (write)
Toward the end of last week the EQC payout for the drain replacement arrived in my mailbox. Because it was a holiday weekend (Easter) banking it was less immediate than I would have liked, but after an uncomfortable couple of days sitting on a substantially large cheque I got it deposited. Now my internet banking shows two balances, one slightly unreal total and one much smaller "available".

Once the cheque clears I will be zipping most of that money off into a less "touchable" location while I work on plans for the next round of overdue household maintenance. Meanwhile my half-asleep brain suggested to me last night that this is actually quite an apt analogy for how I often find myself feeling about life. That is I am told that I have built up all this credit of various sorts (social), but I can't actually seem to access it in the ways I want it to have immediate value to me.

Objectively I realise this is because at some level I still have internalised the idea that if you do enough of the "right things" for people, you will get back the "right things" (you want) in return.

This segues into feelings about a post which has been shared through my Facebook feed a few times in the past week. The post itself is a screen capture of a tumblr post, I've tracked down the original but the author's Tumblr is very NSFW and comes with a blanket trigger warning so I'm going to quote the whole post here as well. (Not least to have a permacopy, but also because screen-caps are not non-sighted-user friendly.)
What I mean when I say “toxic monogamy culture”
- the normalization of jealousy as an indicator of love
- the idea that a sufficiently intense love is enough to overcome any practical incompatibilities
- the idea that you should meet your partner’s every need, and if you don’t, you’re either inadequate or they’re too needy
- the idea that a sufficiently intense love should cause you to cease to be attracted to anyone else
- the idea that commitment is synonymous with exclusivity
- the idea that marriage and children are the only valid teleological justifications for being committed to a relationship
- the idea that your insecurities are always your partner’s responsibility to tip-toe around and never your responsibility to work on
- the idea that your value to a partner is directly proportional to the amount of time and energy they spend on you, and it is in zero-sum competition with everything else they value in life
- the idea that being of value to a partner should always make up a large chunk of how you value yourself

Now we know that I emotionally even when not philosophically bought into some of these quite strongly during my younger years. It's probable that some of them still lurk below the surface waiting to strike when (if) the opportunity arises, as I have come to a better rational understanding secondhand through observation and "book learning" rather than through actual personal experience.

Actually reading through the list properly for the first time though it was the last one that struck me hard. Being of value to others does make up an overwhelmingly large part of how I value and define myself. I mean once you get past survival, once you get past living comfortably, what else is there?

[tangent]
For lack of a specific partner I have channeled my energy and devotion into an array of causes and people / non-romantic interactions/relationships over the years, but all the time craving that singular connection in return.

Not I should probably say as a singular recipient of all my attention, I care for others far too easily for that, but more as an anchor or a touchstone or a companion to share the journey with such that when it feels I am lost and storm-tossed on the seas of life, throwing cargo overboard for nowt but the space filling up with water I can reach to one side and be certain that someone is close there to me, and the world will well again.

That might seem like a terrible load to ask, it might seem as if I am expecting someone to "meet [my] every need", but in truth it's a fairly narrow subset of my needs, just potentially intense. I am lucky, oh I know how lucky I am, to have many committed friends now whom provide support in various ways, some who have gone out of their way to provide more than I ever asked and more importantly work on opening me up so I could accept and lean on that support for a while.

But even the most determined of my friends has not made a connection that feels like we are actually sharing each others lives to any great degree. It is more that our lives touch from time to time, like the courses of ships travelling the same way for a little while but not bound for the same port. That their course may change without notice or that they could pass beyond reach at any moment due to a swell or a storm.
[/tangent]

What else is there? Some people do fixate on a measure or measures representing material worth, striving to make the numbers ever greater. I don't know that they are actually valuing themselves. Some people spend their lives chasing the thrill of new experiences, I don't know how they value themselves. Some people seem to feel that just existing is value enough, they are welcome to that but at a fundamental level I don't understand how knowing that adding value is how the society they enjoy living in came to exist, they feel no responsibility to maintain it or drive to add more.

How does one have value to oneself? One is. Value only comes into existence when one interacts.

Perhaps I am off on the wrong track. Perhaps first I should be looking closer at another word I used without really thinking above. Perhaps value follows from how we define ourselves, but how even do we do that?

It's a post for another day now, but I do very strongly define the person I want to be because there is another person I know I am capable of being or even am by default, and that I have made the decision is not the person I value myself as.

[tangent]
Far too many people are perhaps still too busy just trying to survive to really think about valuing themselves. It take less energy to believe what others say about your value, to let others decide your value :( Another link I have already shared today: Addicts or not, workers don’t deserve public shaming.
[/tangent]
marsden_online: (write)
I thought I had already written a post on Ask vs Guess culture including an anecdote from my youth, but I am unable to find it. I'm not going to repeat the particular anecdote here because this post is to record and draw out a train of thought which occurred as I drifted into a "nap" this afternoon.

Background: I was a bit miffed at not having managed to acquire a second lotto ticket for the draw this evening (40 million must-be-won Powerball jackpot combined with a 700,00 Strike jackpot. I'll check in the morning). The reason it would be a) the second ticket and b) I didn't already have one was that I purchased the first online[1] then decided I could afford another; only to be informed I had exceeded my spending limit for the week[2].

[1] the one with maximum lines of Strike because doubling my chances in Strike seemed better odds than more lotto/powerball lines)
[2] Which was only like $30 because I set it (as a security precaution should someone get into my account) at a time when there was only one significant draw a week. And takes until the next Sunday for change requests to take effect (sensible). And would still have been fine if I was buying my usual[3] $9.60 tickets (minimum ticket because more than stuff all chance is a chance but still stuff all)
[3] only when the jackpot gets up a ways

While drifting off it occurred to me that I was /really/ miffed about being told "no" by the system. My increased determination to acquire an extra ticket was in reaction / rejection / rebellion against that. Which got me thinking (again) about my issues around asking / responding to being asked. Half-asleep brain made a new connection.

In terms of the previously linked article I would have said I grew up in a Guess culture and my asking habits reflect that. If I don't judge that there is a good probability someone will say yes (typically upwards of say 80%) I won't
- (rationalising) put them at risk of having to choose between an unwilling yes and an uncomfortable no
- (more realistically) put myself at risk of being made uncomfortable by having made them uncomfortable; or receiving a strongly negative reaction
... so I simply won't ask.

I don't usually /consciously/ have problems with a "no" answer
- although I have been known to interpret it as a "try again later in a different way"; a behaviour I hope I have broken myself of.
- the reason this one impacted me was simply that it was so unexpected; coming from a context where I didn't even realise I was asking for something (but of course I was)
- but see my final conclusion

On this afternoons half-asleep consideration though asking wasn't really a thing when I was growing up. The way our life was structured there wasn't really any "would you like to do x?" or would you like to do y?"; "can/may I do x?" or "can/may I do y?". "Questions" were usually just polite instructions: "Can you please pass the peas?", "Have you done [chore]?", "Will you please [task]?" As such a yes (or just getting on with it) was expected; any other response was likely to lead to unhappiness.

It may be one of the reasons I'm so good at politely taking charge; but it simply didn't give me soft skills around ... negotiation for lack of a better term. Or standing up for myself verbally (which may be related to other issues that developed later on). Or saying no because my fight-or-flight[5] response to being asked to do something is to "obey"/comply or rebel (the latter aggressively, probably even when I am not consciously aware that is what I am projecting. So no wonder people may feel nervious about asking for things they think /I/ may say no to.)

[5] The 3rd option, freeze ("play dead") is to vaguely accede and then passively aggressively ignore the request.

By the same token despite my best intentions it is likely I subconsciously expect people to "do what I ask" and get subtly (or not so subtly, just oblivious to my own reactions/projection) upset when "I do not get my own way". The first bit isn't really a problem for anyone but me; the second though would negatively affect other people and that, to my mind, /would/ be a problem.

If I'm being brutally honest the rejection (or possibility of rejection) probably influences my decision making and risk assessment around asking far more than I am willing to admit, even to myself. [It's half-past-midnight as I type this; a fine time for staring into the darness.]

~~~
[aside]
One of the comments on the link I chose for this post talks about experience a "Yes" culture; which from the description I would actually consider
- at best the culture shock of an Asker (the poster self-identifies as) who has found themselves in a Guess environment;
- a toxic outgrowth (or ingrowth) of a Guess culture or two merged Guess cultures
- an outcome of a Guess culture being colonised by unscrupulous Askers.
In my own personal experience, I think there is a third type of culture - Yes Culture. That is, social circles that have the expectation that it is OK to ask for anything at all with the expectation that you will receive a yes. Or, when asked of anything at all, you must say yes regardless of what the request is.
...
But I have witnessed first-hand what I'm calling Yes Culture. Having been submersed in it directly, I have experienced much frustration because my expectations and those of the Yes Culture differ greatly. Likewise, I have witnessed those of the Yes Culture's frustrations in dealing with me. No matter how I explain myself or my expectations, our expectations differ so greatly that I am almost always perceived as rude, selfish, unsupportive or uncaring for saying no (and believing it is OK). And no matter how much they explain themselves, I can't quite grasp how it's possible to expect that any request will/should be granted regardless of timing, workload, responsibilities, etc."

[/aside]
marsden_online: (write)
I communicate with the pollsters by e-survey, especially since auto-dialers put me offering my phone completely. One particular company often starts with the question "What do you see as the biggest issue facing NZ today.", or something similar. This week it was beefed up a bit and led to an extended series of thoughts which I posted on FB (as being the most convenient format at the time) but am repeating here as a less ephemeral record.

The question:
What are the main social problems in New Zealand that the Government and community as a whole need to address?
My initial answer:
Inequity and poverty:
With our GDP per capita there should be no excuse for not being able to provide everyone with the basics of a warm, dry, private space to call their own and sufficient to eat; as a matter of right with no need to jump through any hoops to prove they are entitled to it.
Address this issue and a great number of other issues which stem from or are exacerbated by it will also recede.

Half an hour or so later I also wrote the following (edited a bit for clarity):
---
Ongoing thought about why our current social welfare system doesn't work very well wrt eg housing and food.

It consists of (reluctantly) giving people money and then leaving them to be able to procure the required services from "the market". But they're not dealing with /one/ market they are dealing with /many/ markets - accommodation, food, electricity ... - /each of which/
- has the goal of acquiring as much of that money as possible /without concern/ for the balance of the customers' needs
- and prices accordingly.

The result of course is that there is not and probably will never be "enough" money - see also for example how private rent increases have tracked the accommodation supplement.

The supply industries also benefit in their pricing strategy from individuals being given the money to spend rather than the services being purchased in bulk by a central authority with the clout to negotiate and keep the prices down.

For this reason I'm not opposed to government purchasing services from private providers; I /am/ opposed to the private providers being selected on the basis of lowest cost or metrics such as how fast they can get people off their books (churn). The correct metric has to be based on standard of care.

That would unfortunately require the government to care about the well-being of it's /entire/ constituency, not just those who voted for the "ruling" party or contributed to its coffers. :/
---

Back to now and a couple of other thoughts

Dealing with poverty is not a problem which can be solved by a single approach.
- Giving people money (or some form of equivalent discretionary resource) directly so they can target their own needs in their own situation is one part of the solution and has been shown to work well for getting people back on their feet. But as a sole or primary approach it risks capture as described above; where funds meant to help people into a position to better their lives end up straight in the (mostly metaphorical these days) pockets of "service" providers.
- /But/ poverty is relative and targeting the affordability of common - even "basic" goods and services is another piece of the puzzle. Not in an ad-hoc manner (eg taxes on/off fresh/processed foods - this has been a regulatory nightmare wherever it has been tried, save it for genuine luxury goods) but in a whole-of-market approach like Pharmac.
Bulk demand can shift the costs down but this is not something those already struggling with their living situation are in a position to organise. In a democratic/capitalist welfare society this should be a function of government.

One government department I think could make more of an impact here (if they were permitted) is Housing New Zealand; right now they are limited by having to use their own housing stock (which they have been forced to run down and sell down over the past decade); but if they were also able to function as a not-for-profit property management company effectively handling maintenance and property standards for those who for example
- have an investment property "retirement plan" but find the details of renting it out more effort than it is worth
- have a social conscience
- will accept a low-end-of-the-market-rent-range return

they might well be able to
- apply downward pressure on rental prices
- fill up some of those homes we hear about sitting empty
- reduce their waiting lists
- provide security for a lot of people who currently have found they can't ever trust they will still have a place to live after the next review
- upgrade some of NZ's abysmal housing stock
- and potentially be in a position to acquire some of those properties to replenish their own stocks when the bubble bursts

Yes the deal would have to be structured so as to appeal to the property owners opening it up to the criticism of being a government handout to that class; but I am reasonably certain it could be made to work for no more than is currently being handed to them indirectly via the accommodation supplement and putting beneficiaries up in motels for a week while simultaneously lumbering them with a paper debt which will, realistically, never be recovered.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Giving is a major part of my life. Probably the greater part of it is invisible; charities I regularly support, flybys on givealittle and so forth but to be honest I find these less satisfying than what I can do directly for those around me. Making someone's life immediately better even if only for a short time kicks off one of the few emotional highs remaining to me. You can argue about whether than makes it altruistic giving or not elsewhere, I don't care. What is important to me is that there is less stress in a persons' life at frankly, little substantial cost to me.
- pad your groceries? People who have full stomachs are happier, healthier and think better.
- top up your bus card? Represents pocket change to me, to you might represent the freedom to leave the house and get to where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.
- covered an unexpected shortfall? Luck comes in good and bad, I have plenty of the former so please let me share it with you.

Life does not treat everyone equally, but it is within our power as people to redress the balance. Especially those of us to whom it has been more than fair; and I think compassion demands that we do so. Some people prefer to argue from a position of self interest - make sure other have (just) enough and they won't be motivated to try and take what you have to redress the balance. That's better than building fortresses ("gated communities") and hiring guards to keep the mob from the door I suppose.

I can understand how a person who has had to struggle, work and fight their whole life to get above the line and stay there might not be able to let go of that mindset, no matter how much success they achieve it may be that in their own mind they will always be poor and one unexpected bill away from disaster. But I also know that there are many who do not fall into that trap and having made their way to a comfortable position do a great deal to try and help others do the same. That makes much more sense to me - having been there how would not want to get other people out of the situation once you have means?

I am not one of of these; the metaphorical spoon in my mouth may not have been silver but it is less through my own efforts that I am where I am today than the gifts afforded from from my parents' hard labours. And so I can understand how, up to a certain age, a person can be raised simply not cognizant of the harsh realities of life for many. In the modern world my sympathy for that mindset runs out a year or two after they have reached university and should have had the opportunity to start taking a critical look at the world around them.

As always grateful that again, life has been more than fair to me and my sympathy for the struggles of others is born of intellect and a sense of fairness than hard personal experience.

So we come back to the position where I have- more than enough and so I endeavour to share my good fortune. I give this less than I would like; for two reasons
- Rationally I do need to keep putting some aside for my own future. How much is arguable, but I am not at the position where I can absolutely soak a large expense (such as the one about to be incurred for drain replacement) just yet, and I have no certainty that NZ's welfare state will be in a condition to look after me in my old age.
- it occupies not just the physical resources but also time and energy.

On this latter we have as a society theoretically harnessed the specialisation of labour to handle this. We pay takes to a central organisation (government) and one of the things they are supposed to do with them is make sure that if life treats us poorly we are looked after to a not-uncomfortable standard. In the meantime our money is (supposed to be) used to look after those who life is currently treating poorly. This should free us from the greater part of a need to worry about the circumstances of our families, friends, acquaintances / strangers.

Our current government is rejecting that part of it's duties (granted it is not the first to do so). Instead of going directly - in cash or in kind - to people who need food and shelter significant amounts of "our" money are shown to be being spent propping up companies that by National's own market ethos should probably be allowed to fail / take their business elsewhere, or paid in bribes to already wealthy individuals in countries where corruption is blatant, or siphoned off as indirect subsidies to private accommodation providers and old-boys-network businesspeople who are already "above the line".

One result of this is that I - multiplied by who-knows-how-many-others - have to spend more of my time and energy personally directing resource to the people I can see in need, and relying on the voids which are charities to be doing the right thing just to help regular people when they should be able to focus on those who positions are truly dire. And in some ways that /waste/ pisses me off just as much as seeing people around me living in poverty and the mis-appropriation of public money.

I am one person of good but still moderate means. I cannot do enough to even scrape the surface. I can feed a few people but I cannot house them. Organisations which have been set up explicitly to address the issues and channel the contributions of people like myself are barely scraping the surface. Central government is actively and deliberately following policies guaranteed to make the situation worse while benefiting those who already have more than enough.

My local council is one of the largest providers of social housing in the country (an operation which is currently being strong-armed to privatisation by central government). I occasionally encounter people who state vehemently how they are against their rates being used for such a purpose. I have no time for this attitude. Homelessness and poverty have both local and regional aspects and I absolutely expect our elected representatives at all levels to work together at the task of redirecting a sufficient portion of our taxes to those in need (rates being pretty much the closest we have in NZ to a formal tax on land even if they are not particularly responsive to capital gains).

Taking care of those who do not have the means to take care of themselves I consider the first duty of a supposedly democratic government. All else follows from or supports that. In doing so, for those of a more right-wing bent, people are freed to be more productive and contribute their best to society and the future rather than burning our all - and in the case of those who turn to crime, others all as well - just to survive.

[deep calming breaths]

The point I was getting around to is actually about the visibility of giving. This morning I posted quickly in my FB and Tumblr

When we talk about “give and take” why is the implication always that the giving and the taking are between the same two entities?

If I am in a position to give freely what someone needs why is it expected that I am expecting something in return? If you are in want of something why should it have to come from someone that already owes you or that you are then expected to owe?

Much better that we all give what we can when we see a need, and try to make out own desires visible without guilt or suspicion for others seeking to fulfil them - or be it necessarily with the the acceptance that there may not be anyone who feels they are in a position to do so.

I know a lot of people above and below the line, and plenty of those have moved from one side to the other and sometimes multiple times over the years. I am fairly public about much of the personal giving I do, not because I desire the plaudits (although they are nice) but in an endeavour to set an example to others above the line who may meander across my trail. To make giving freely visible and accepted, because I alone cannot make a lasting difference.

~~~
Related reading: that came through my Facebook feed while I was typing this up: How we got Here
marsden_online: (Ghostfighter)
Recently I had to have the waste-water pipes to the street cleared twice in the space of about two weeks. The second time we went the whole hog and had cameras down not just the waste water but also the storm-water drains - at least the one of the latter which isn't so clogged they couldn't push through. The results came in yesterday and they're not pretty ....

Fortunately I was saving for another project and building my reserves based on when I first had the waste water pipe videoed and quoted several years ago - but they are all much worse now. (Unsurprising that :-/ #quakecity ) So the several '000 dollars worth of trenching and pipe-replacing which is shortly to be undertaken won't be too much of a a hurdle financially. I knew this was going to have to be done at some point; It's just moving the drains to the top of the list and accepting that my other goal will have to wait ...

And I now have a sketch map of where the drainage on the property actually runs, which is ... not where I thought it did. That greenery on the frontage that I was planning to keep as part of the parental-unit-sponsored landscaping (different project again which has been delayed while we waited for these results) is going to have to go :(
marsden_online: (write)
Backgrounder: I engaged in the comments on this article about student debt at Stuff. Unfortunately comments closed partway through quite a long entry so I'm putting those thoughts here.

Preceding conversation
Matt N texas
Will Matthews, please explain to me why your or any persons student loan is any different, to my business loans ?...I have taken out loans for equipment, equal to or exceeding an "average student debt"...I have assumed all the risk and reward that comes with starting and running a business......no one is proposing to "wipe my loans"......why do you think that a person who borrows to fund higher education, with the intention of earning a higher income, should be subsidized by the taxpayer, as apposed to a business operator, who is also using borrowings to access a higher income ?.........thank you in advance for advocating that I receive the same treatment as a student (sic)

Marsden
Absolutely, the difference is in that taking out a business loan you are (presumably) in a position to immediately begin repaying down that debt and have done the numbers to indicate that the equipment will increase your immediate earning capacity immediately.

In taking out a student loan you are probably looking at at least 3 years before it has any effect on you earnings (in fact as laid out in the article you are looking at a very restricted income and probably taking on higher priority debt in the interim as well) before you can begin repayment, and that is /if/ you can find a position in a field where your degree adds a significant premium to your earnings. It is a massive gamble on an unpredictable future job market, but for many of the students I know (including many who already have previously "sought after" qualifications) the hope and a prayer is simply a better option than continuing to be stuck on the unemployment "benefit" (even with existing qualifications) in the current hostile job market.

Marsden
Additionally as I someone has noted in a more recent comment you would have been able to depreciate the value of that equipment on your books, thus offsetting some of your taxable income. Not possible with education, although perhaps is business owners could do that they would be more encouraged to invest in helping their employees gain relevant qualifications.

Matt N texas
Not really correct....it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success..or an "immediate " return as you seem to think...business income can be as unpredictable as any job....in addition equipment can offen require ongoing costs,repairs etc...purchasing an existing business does mean an instant income stream, as apposed to starting a business from scratch, however business loans have to be paid back starting with the first month after inception regardless of cash generated.
As for depreciation...some depreciation is as low as 2.5% per year. For 30-40 years...hardly a boon to a budding business, and if you're luckily enough to have made a profit, tax will be payable....by contrast students have a great system, they can borrow without having to repay until they start achieving an income...and then it is painlessly repaid via a paycheck deduction to the IRD...simple.
Now the last part of your comments, are impractical, as a general rule businesses are not really required to educate you....as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will stay..my investment is effectively lost..it is preferable to have the employee fund and achieve their own education, and if those qualifications are what I need or desire to operate my business, then I shall offer a salary or wages as negotiated.
It is plain to see you have not operated or owned a business


Marsden comment unposted

Once upon a time businesses were required to educate their employees, else they would have had no skilled staff at all.

This unwillingness to invest in training your own staff which has become endemic; probably dating back to the first days of public education when employers first decided that since the government was going to pay for training their potential employees it was a cost they no longer had to care about. And since the government has stopped paying all, rather than step back up to address the need themselves they now claim exactly as you do that it is up to the employee to shoulder the cost of the training; knowing that they will be able to use the threat of giving the job to someone who will work for less (read "is more desperate") to "negotiate" the wage or salary lower than the skills are fairly worth to the business.

This expectation that the government will pay for training; this determination to only employ people who are already educated - and often who are already experienced - is the reason despite our high unemployment rate and a glut of educated un-and-under-employed so many businesses are are crying out for skilled staff (as often mentioned in this publication and others). By requiring the prospective employees to take the gamble on what qualification might get them a well-enough-paying position after a year or more of study you guarantee that either
- there will be a glut of graduates with the skills you need (good for you because it forces the amount you have to pay for those skills down - but at the same time you constantly risk your employees leaving for a better paying position and having to pay the cost of replacing them)
- OR a shortage either because the public education is not actually providing the specific skills you are looking for or because few decide acquiring those skills are worth the risk of not having a job at the end of it, in which case your business suffers through having to pay highly for those skills or simply finding them unobtainable.

> .as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will stay..my investment is effectively lost.

Not really - you get the benefit of that employee's increasing skill level throughout the period where they are both working for you and gaining their qualification; you get to leverage those skills directly into the specifics your business without the need for any sort of settling in or induction period; even if they do move on you hopefully have the opportunity to have them find a similarly skilled replacement from the cohort they have gone through the qualification with (and who will be able to tap them socially for institutional knowledge about your business again cutting down the amount of time spent coming up to speed).

As returns on investment go up-skilling your employees is almost always going to pay off. Even though as you said at the beginning of your comment:

> it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success

~~~
Snark didn't make it into the final draft about what it says about his experience running a business with the attitude that he can't trust his employees not to leave. Snark didn't even reach the draft about the "painlessness" of losing 12% of your paycheck each month especially if your degree is not earning you a 12% premium on wages.
marsden_online: (loved)
Several years ago now when money was a lot tighter for me I stuck a money-box (teddy bear shaped) on the mantelpiece in the lounge to solicit coinage from the significant number of people who were at time gaming here on a regular basis. "Donations towards cleaning and utilities." In the intervening time I've occasionally
- fished out notes (which clog up the slot)
- extracted just a denomination of coinage which was being removed from circulation
- raided it for a few $$ for door-to-door collectors or minor groceries

It was getting pretty full so now seemed as good a time as any to empty it properly. Possibly better as I am hosting a charity board games day on the morrow and money is no longer such an issue for me that it can't find a better use elsewhere. After all this time the bear contained a bit less than $100 in assorted coinage.

The bear will go back on the mantel but I'm going to change the sign to reflect its new purpose as a charity collection point. There's no reason some wider benefit should not continue to accrue from my willingness to accept guests :)
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Although my relatively comfortable position in life is due at least as much to good fortune as to good planning / hard work I like to believe that an organised approach to managing my money helps maintain the state of affairs and bolster it against future misfortune.

One of the things I do is typically set aside some time Monday evening to pay any bills that have come in over the past week and make any other movements which are required. Sometimes this rolls over to Tuesday but rarely longer and I will often pay a regular bill as soon as the scheduled transaction pops up in GnuCash; but I don't open that every day. (I have also discovered that enabling 2-factor authentication on my internet banking (which everyone should do, if you haven't already) discourages me from logging in as often and encourages this sort of batch processing.)

To a lesser extent Friday but Friday is also payday and I kind of like to let that money sit in my account for the weekend.

This is particularly relevant today because today had a very big invoice (scheduled in two parts because transaction limits) paying the next instalment on my home solar panels, which were installed on Friday [happy dance].

2.6kw

This also means I am back to paying off a mortgage because the installation happened a little earlier than I originally intended. Yay having an open revolving credit facility for such occasions. (The revolving bit is important - if you don't pay it off it's not revolving.)

Since I really don't enjoy being in debt[1] I'm going to be a bit more cautious with my spending over the next few months. Fewer dollars to random good works and charity, more self restraint on impulse buys, and hoping no more crowd-funded investments (my only expensive vice at present) come up that I really want to get into.

That's more flippant than serious; I will "borrow to invest" in this fashion but only because I am confident of being able to re-earn the amount quickly. As the saying goes "don't lend what you can't afford to lose". I call crowd-investing a (personal) vice because it is putting significant amounts of money into limbo with no guarantee of when or if it will come back; very high risk for someone with normally a very conservative risk profile. I do however select the companies I invest in based on the principle that even if they fail, they will have added something to society in the process. [Eg cleantech, medtech, social enterprise].

In a similar fashion (and this has been a frustration throughout the process of researching, quoting and having installed) I'm not concerned about "payback" time on my solar installation, nor on the expansions planned to come. All the installers are like "Oh you don't want to install any more that you need for personal use; the electricity companies aren't paying enough to make your money back". I'm like "dammit, I don't need to make my money back, I'm spending money that I have to spend."

The energy companies can have my surplus for free if it means other electricity user get to pay that little bit less. Think outside your goddamn pocketbooks people!

~~~
[1] I know very few people who claim to enjoy being in debt, but several who claim that despite their dislike of it going into debt to get the things they want and then having to pay it off is the only way they can maintain financial discipline. I can sort of see where they are coming from, but it's like peeking into an alien dimension.
~~~

This post hasn't quite gone in the direction I intended but I'll leave it here and hopefully retain the enthusiasm to make another sometime soon.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
An acquaintance asked for suggestions on "worthy" investments in the range of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. My reply became long enough to do double duty as a blog post :)
~~~
Advice no. Opinions and a little experience.

Rule 0. Don't invest (lend) anything you can't afford to lose.

1. A lot depends on what you want to get out of your investment, usually defined as income (periodic dumps of money into your daily account) or growth (it just sits there getting bigger - hopefully).
1a. There's a third approach, since you use the descriptor "worthy", and that is assessing your "return" based not on dollars but on social good. See below.

2. (NZ specific) if you aren't in / making that minimum ~$1050 into Kiwisaver each year, top that up first. The government 50% match is hands-down the best return available.
2a. (aside) as a young person if you are in a 'default', conservative Kiwisaver scheme get yourself moved into a growth scheme ASAP.

3. If you think you will need to free up that money in the short to medium term just put it in a term deposit, (lightly) managed/index fund or maybe Bonus Bonds.
3a. (Bonus Bonds) the anecdotal consensus seems to be that you need ~$5000 in Bonus Bonds before it becomes worth it. Initially I was getting about net 4.8% which is significantly better than current term deposit options, but that has dropped back recently so I may just have had a few lucky months.

4. If you want to go directly into the share market - probably don't unless you have the time to spend schooling yourself on how it works and on the companies you are looking at investing in, and the discipline to stick with an investment strategy during the down periods.
4a. (I have nothing but the family silver (energy company) shares that the National govt was giving away the past couple of years; every few months that has resulted in $30-$60 worth of dividends; past performance is no indicator of future performance etc.)

*Higher risk options*
5. If you can afford to lose the money or are more interested in outcomes than returns the place to look for "worthy" investments right now are the equity crowdfunding sites. Examples of projects I have funds committed to are Carbonscape (a cleantech company with technology capable of converting waste biomass into Green Coke and other valuable products) and Breathe Easy (developing an inhaled medicine for the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis)(both through Snowball Effect) and Powerhouse Wind (developing a single-blade turbine)(through PledgeMe)
5a. These generally require a minimum of ~$1000 per project.
5b. I haven't had the spare funds to personally experiment with this yet (it's on the list), but Harmoney does NZ peer-to-peer lending.

6. There's always the direct option if someone you trust is trying to get a business going. The model I suggest for this is to agree on a total amount to be repaid (capital plus some) and then they repay it at a rate of $x per sale or $% of each sale. That generally means you recover at least some of your money in short order and they can factor the repayments into their prices as an overhead rather than stressing about finding the money to repay you if they have a quiet month.

YMMV, IANAP, etc etc
~~~
@todo as part of the conversation I have become aware of http://smartshares.co.nz/ which I will need to investigate closer next time I am looking into managed funds.
marsden_online: (BlueDragon)
Jotted in my Fb this morning:
Feels stuck in a holding pattern destination unknown.
This is not doing any for the areas of my life which require me to be self-motivating. Which is having flow-on effects for others ...

The area in particular is work where I am managing closer to minimum hours than maximum; which means that projects I am working on are not being delivered as quickly as they might (should) be; which must flow on to the client's perception of the company.
I am managing good periods of focus - the hours I am at work are being well spent and the work I am doing at present is challenging and a learning experience. But I might describe it like a favoured food - it's still not something you want to eat every day. This is in comparison to a staple food, which you can have for e.g. breakfast every day. As my source of income I really need to be able to chew through work every day.

Planning to do other things before work isn't helping; do things (housework, writing) before work and I am afraid I will be out of spoons before I get there. The result is I cannot be bothered getting out of bed until not only is it to late to do whatever I had planned but too late to get to work at the time I would like to (not that I am achieving that with any regularity anyway).
Scheduling things after work is a little better; but the usual pattern is I am a little less late than usual and work harder down to the wire where I have to leave.

Before work also usually means someone at the Hall (because for it to be something I have to keep to there have to be other people involved). And for all that many people are enjoying their association with that place and I still feel it is where I can make the most difference right now - as a project it's not returning/achieving what I'm looking for and I feel hamstrung by others lack of commitment and follow through.

And for all it feels like a holding pattern objectively most areas of my life are progressing nicely.
- Gaming continues to be excellent, with the recent, possibly temporary; addition of non-junk-food/meals to my mid-week game making it feel less like a group of over-aged teens and more like a group of actual grown-up friends socialising (this is a new experience).
- A deposit is down for solar panels to be added to the house, measurements taken and it is currently at the design stage; I don't mind if it's stalled there as I wasn't originally budgeting to initiate the project until next spring/summer.
- by my maths I will finish paying off my student loan this month and be properly debt-free - plus an effective pay rise of some tens of dollars a week.
- even the recent plumbing issues may have a silver lining in that I may discover that the next major project *needs* to be the kitchen; which would simplify certain decision trees.
- I have built a small reserve of money and investments - a long way away from closing off the mortgage aka emergency fund or living off the interest, but it feels those might one day be possible.
... if I can keep myself working and earning. Back to the start.

There's a little ... verse I found running around in my head in the car on Monday -
"Want to make a difference;
need the resources to make a difference;
back to working in an attempt accumulate the resources;
will I ever have enough to to make that difference?"
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Normally the news that a company like energy efficiency and insulation business Right House has gone into liquidation would pass through my radar with just a moment to pause in sadness for those whom have just lost their livelihoods. However this time there is an indirect personal connection - it was a telemarketing call from Right House house and the following obligation-free quote which made me decide that then was the time to start the ball rolling on actually getting grid connected solar installed here.

The first step of course was googling up solar installers in NZ and sending off for more quotes. when it came down to it though two I already had bookmarked gave the best results. A shout out here to CPS Solar (Canterbury based) who provided a lot of useful information and food-for-thought in our conversation. Definitely consider them.

My choice though has gone to Solar City despite the fact they they were the tardiest in replying to my enquiry. I'd like to write a bit about why.

First off is their innovative Solar Care offering. For $0 or $1000 down they will install panels on your house and sell you the electricity generated for a fixed monthly cost for the next 20 years. (You then use or sell excess power into the grid.) This effectively locks in the cost to you of that much power for the next 20 years, and the contract is set so that the cost-per-unit is probably lower than you are being charged now.

Personally I think projects like this are what the major generators should be doing, to conserve hydro and fossil-fuel (ugh) generation for night time and winter use. But of course they don't make money by providing people with cheap power :-/

I was almost sold on this, it works out very well for both the homeowner (who gets rapid access to solar without massive expenditure or worries about insurance, monitoring etc of the panels) and for the company who get regular cashflow (instead of constantly having to chase new installations) and to depreciate the value of the solar panels on their books :). Had I investment properties I would be having Solar Care systems installed ASAP. Any of my home-owning/paying-off friends I strongly recommend taking a look.

However the desire and years of expecting to outright own the installation asserted itself and I was unable to bring myself to deviate that far from the plan. What actually sold me on a fixed install from Solar City installation was not the price but the opportunity to become involved with / contribute to a new initiative they are setting up with the University of Otago to (quoting the flyer)
Conduct a comprehensive study into household and commercial solar energy use, to better inform and guide the nation towards a 100% renewable energy future.

(As a bonus, "Customers will have the opportunity to beta test new technologies in the energy efficiency and solar space." Eh-heh-heh ...)

This will involve a period of monitoring before the installation which is fine because for me "starting the ball rolling" on a project like this means I have a 12-18 month horizon in view for actually affording and completing it. This is something I make clear of my requests for quotes but find a lot of companies have difficulty with - and their pressure (and oft-times effectively bribes) to commit sooner is something which I find distinctly off-putting.

Companies, I am (charitably) sure that you are genuinely interested in making sure your customers get good value for money but if you want my custom please do me the courtesy of understanding that I know and understand my own values, finances and finance options and that I am not undertaking such a large project on the spur of the moment. If I am not the typical customer in this, well that is simply a sad observation on today's society.

Another issue where I have struggled to reach common ground with all the companies I have talked to is my desire to install more generation capacity than is "economically efficient" for me. (The generators don't pay a terrific amount for home-solar production fed into the grid and these tariffs have only been dropping.) The concept that I might have broader, non-economic goals like future-proofing the amount of generation on my roof (nominally economic), or happily working towards overall lower power prices for everyone else by feeding cheap power into the grid and setting an example for wider home generation is completely foreign.

(I've had to temporarily throw in the towel on that one, but the system I am getting is eminently extensible at a later date by the addition of more panels and micro-inverters.)

~~~
Speaking of finance options this entire post / mini-rant was actually triggered by a quote from the Right House article.
But the business had not had the demand for their services, from home insulation to energy advice, that it had hoped for, Fisk said.
"I think that has been influenced by whether people are getting offer subsidies to insulate their houses," Fisk said.
The company failure may seem "counter-intuitive" when there is a housing boom especially in Christchurch and Auckland, he said.
Asked if the government cuts to home insulation subsidies in 2013 had affected Right House, Fisk said he believed it had "some effect".

Now this is a Stuff article so don't assume that quote from the liquidator (probably not yet familiar with the company finances) is entirely in context. It's obviously being played a bit by the reporter and as such I believe it reflects a wider feeling that the only reason people might be interested in getting into solar (and more broadly other technologies) is the money. That's a meme I'd really like to squish out of society's group consciousness because there are so many wider possibilities once you broaden your view from what is purely best for the individual.

[tangent]For example Christchurch (City Council) is currently looking at painful rates rises and having to privatise some of it's utility assets to afford the costs of the earthquake rebuild foisted on us by the national government. But we could build a new asset as a (somewhat seasonal) electricity generator right alongside the rebuild to offset some of that cost if only by generating some of the power required. I think most households and businesses would be happy to have some council-owned panels on their roof in exchange for the promise of lower rates increases (or the offset in lower electricity costs).[/tangent]

It is true that for the majority of homeowners (unlike well-privileged, mortgage-free, no-dependants self) the availability of subsidies will probably have a significant impact on the affordability calculations. (And part of the genius of Solar Care is how it simplifies that calculation.) It is good business for eg. an installer to point out the available options which may make what they are selling more affordable.

[aside]If you have a mortgage with Kiwibank also check out their Sustainable Energy Loan (link not guaranteed to be current).[/aside]

But I don't believe it is broadly good that our consumerist, buy now (worry about paying later) culture tries to rush people into accelerating financial plans that should be taken time over and focuses on the monetary payback value of long-term purchases to the detriment of other values. And just like if your business relies on the government topping up your employees wages because you don't pay them enough to live; if your business relies on pressuring people into making financial decisions for cashflow perhaps you should take a hard look at how sustainable it / its growth path really is. When I look at who I give significant amounts of my actually-earned money to, you better believe I'm taking that into account. Often it is through [your business'] salespeople that I have the most direct experience of that.

[aside]No I'm not a fan of commission sales, why do you ask?[/aside]

~~~
Disclaimer: this has not been any sort of solicited promotion and I have no connection (yet) to any of the mentioned companies except as outlined above. (Haven't even signed and returned the quote.) :p
marsden_online: (Default)
The homemade spreadsheet I have used in one form or another to track my finances for the last decade and a bit has reached its use-by date as life becomes more complicated, expenses become more varied and a greater degree of granularity is desired than could easily fit across one screen.

So this morning I installed GnuCash (an open source accounting package) and entered all-the-things. Well most of the things.

My spreadsheet was just incomings and outgoings but this includes the house and various investments, which has given me reason to check on where eg the balance of my Kiwisaver and the current value of my shares are at. So for the first time ever I have a near-approximation of my current net worth in one number. This is about what I thought it would be (given that the bulk of it is the house) but it's not necessarily distributed quite as I expected.

The best surprise was logging into IRD and discovering that my student loan balance is lower than I thought it was - that should be gone in only a few months and then I'll get that not insignificant increase in $$ in "hand" each week.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Looking back it has been a year of ups and downs - but overall ups. Despite some pretty tough patches I'm in a much better place emotionally than I was this time last year.

Freeze frame )

Dear diary

Dec. 8th, 2014 10:17 pm
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
Recording quite a surprisingly pleasant weekend. Somehow I found myself under pretty much no pressure to be anywhere or do anything which led to a lot of napping and a surprising amount of productivity in between
- picking up an Xmas present for the elder niblings
- some significant reading
- going to a party and dancing early and hard (which in retrospect may have been a bit of a mistake as it contributed to my fading off home early)
- some significant hedge pruning
- Some minor stuff at the Hall on Sunday - not what I had sort of planned due to the weather completely sapping my enthusiasm for the outdoors but cleaned up some glass indoors and emptied the water containers while photographer etc did their thing.
- catching up on writing game logs (several hours of writing there)

The reading and the writing in particular were aided immensely by finally managing to come up with a comfortable arrangement for sitting up in bed with either book or laptop. (This may in future also result in more media watching). Time spent out of the "office" and away from the preponderance of possible "to dos" on the main computer is good for me.

~~~
Today was also quite unusual - a Hall alarm at 5:15am (unusual time, unusual day), pretty much just on dawn meant by the time I got home again there was little point in going back to bed even though I had only managed 4-5 hours broken, dream-filled sleep (probably due to all of the aforementioned napping). This led to
- doing a load of laundry
- six fairly productive hours at work
- washing the dishes
- vacuuming

At this point I had to take a nap because while I could have pushed myself to do the next thing on the list it would not have been done well and it would not have been good for me I woke up with enough energy and more importantly determination to pick up momentum again.

- mopped the floors -> bringing me up-to-date on the household chores
- cooked a good dinner which will double for tomorrow night
- caught up the accounts (and discovered my recent foray into Bonus Bonds is starting to pay out - must make a separate spreadsheet to track ROI on that)
- dug up some information about our power usage and emailed it off to one of the companies I am talking to about Solar (and probably the one I am going to go with).
- made a dear diary post :)

I'd like to think I'll be able to get a good nights sleep and an early start for an equally good day tomorrow but as I remember all too well from the start of last week, that's actually probably going to prove pretty arbitrary and random.
marsden_online: (Ghostfighter)
It's been over two months since I posted anything about life in general which wasn't dumping angst. So here's a less-transient-than-facebook record of some events.

Hall )

kitty )

gaming )

dentist )

other stuff )
marsden_online: (Default)
So after a telemarketing cold-call I had a chap around from RightHouse to do one for those obligation-free quote thingies on slapping in that solar system I want. (Which is substantially larger than the one he initially recommended, because future proofing.) Turns out prices have dropped markedly in the couple of years since I was last seriously considering pricing it; far enough to bring what I want in range of the 5-year plan.

That is: coating the north and west sides of my roof with panels which will apparently give me a 3kW system; grid-connected (theoretically about 75% home use 25% sold into the grid); no storage batteries at this stage because they are apparently not particularly economic yet especially if you have a reliable grid connection but the potential to retro-fit them later.

~ $12,000 ($10k if I wanted to take advantage of their current special, which I don't)

Our power usage profile (thanks Powershop! 9who I will unfortunately have to part ways with upon becoming grid-connected) in no way matches the averaged one they use so grid-connected numbers above and calculated savings and return on investment taken that with a certain amount of salt, but "repayment" looks to be 7-10 years.

25 year warranty on the panels / life expectancy of the system.

I'm not rushing into anything, as I said this only moves it into the 5-year plan (from the 10-15 year plan); now I weigh this against the other $$-requiring projects on the list and how long I think it will take me to save at least the deposit, preferably the lot. There are also at least two other companies I want to get quotes from.
marsden_online: (write)
Back in my post on a Universal Base Income I briefly mentioned transactional tax. The more I think about it the more I like the idea of replacing large chunks of our current tax system with a comprehensive transactional tax or set of taxes.

Many of our current taxes can already be framed as transactional taxes with little effort. Our consumption tax GST is effectively a tax on certain transactions. So is income tax especially as it is currently implemented with PAYE. A transactional tax would also capture those capital gains (although would be considered hard on those taking capital losses).

Transactional taxes are usually considered to be a flat (to regressive) tax, but there's no reason one couldn't be implemented progressively based on the value of the transaction. Some people would doubtless find it worthwhile to "game" this - regardless of where the bands were set but they would also still be paying the lower tier (times n) regardless. It is likely that the bands could be set to minimise this.

Collecting transactional taxes in our electronic economy should prove little more difficult (technically) than accounting for that pesky withholding tax (also a transactional tax as it is deducted when interest is paid). Financial institutions will doubtless balk at being put in the position of tax collector but they are the ones who have the transaction records (and they also have the computing power) and the ability to deduct the taxes in the same way as they would deduct an account fee.

(With modern computing I'd expect the tax-accrued to an account to be able to be displayed with every balance request.)

Who pays the tax is another important question to answer: the person sending the money or the person receiving it. I toyed with the idea of halving the rate and having it apply equally to ingoing and outgoing transactions but viewed one the scale of income tax and the ease of PAYE it became obvious that this was not feasible. Having the recipient responsible for paying the tax in that case is a recipe for those with poor financial planning skills to end up with terrible outstanding tax bills and would be a step backwards. Additionally having to somehow tag every transaction into or out of an account as tax-paid / tax-incurring would be additional unwanted complications for every account holder. So it seems to me that such a tax must be implemented as the transaction is *outgoing*.

Some allowance would need to be made for the cash economy - I think this is simply handled by applying the tax to "cash" deposits (it would already apply to withdrawals) and not worrying too much about the intervening time except for transfers above a certain level which should be required to be declared.

Even a comprehensive transactional tax will need exceptions or claim-backs as with GST to prevent it all being loaded on to the consumer. And every-so-often waiving accrued amounts not worth collecting seems reasonable. Although given that a comprehensive transactional tax rate would be much lower than GST (we are hopefully talking fractions of a cent on the dollar) and overall everyone should have more to spend the accruing increases may not make sufficient difference to be worth it in many cases.

Why so low? We are, if you're a cynic, double dipping or taking many nibbles of the cherry.
- get paid? Taxed (paid by your employer).
- withdraw or deposit cash? Taxed (accrued to the account and deducted monthly / at a certain value by the bank - unless they are offering some sort of sweetener whereby they are paying t.tax on the account for you).
- purchase something with cash? Taxed (accrued to the merchant's account when they deposit the money).
- purchase something with EFTPOS, Credit Card or paying a bill by internet banking? Taxed (accrued to your account).
- paying off the credit card or otherwise moving funds between your accounts? Taxed (accrued to the originating account).
- sending money to a friend? Sorry, taxed to you.

I don't see an implementation of this sort of tax being sufficient to bankroll the country, not immediately anyway and Robin Hood tax effects notwithstanding, particularly if we're funding a progressive social welfare system. We would still need a (lower) income tax and we would still certainly want health-related excise taxes - tobacco, alcohol, carbon .... but it could simplify a few things and even if the effect on an individual were fiscally neutral I think the lower income and (preferably abolished) GST would be welcomed.
marsden_online: (Default)
If the banks mailed out an annual summary for transactional accounts, neatly presented in tabular and graphical format displaying annual, monthly and maybe even weekly outgoing a) counts b) average value c) proportion of point of sale (EFTPOS etc), cash withdrawals, online transactions and internet-banking transfers.

Or they could go a step further and make these reporting tools available in their internet-banking sites. Does anyone know of a bank or similar financial institution which already does this?
marsden_online: (Default)
So I was once again wishing it was possible to purchase some sort of earthquake bonds to direct money to the rebuild effort her in Christchurch*, and I came up with a bond variant. Maybe this does already exist out there in some form, I'm not investment-savvy enough to know.

Regular bonds you pay the initial amount and then they pay a predictable regular amount in interest; returning the initial sum on maturity (which in the mean time has (probably) decreased in real value). Freeing up this cash early means selling the bond on the secondary market which could go well or poorly.
- The debt immediately starts incurring a cost, but a reliable and predictable one, on the issuer.

I am envisaging a bond where instead of paying out the face value of the bond is guaranteed to increase by inflation plus 1-4% of the original (or inflation adjusted original) sum per year. I'd set maturity so as to to make the bond unlikely to more than double in real value. The bond could be cashed up at any time for it's face value (presumably requiring some period of notice).
- Much like a term deposit or interest-bearing savings account but with a more stable return.
- There might be a small secondary market for people who can't wait for the notification period but I'd expect the prices on this to hew pretty closely to the face value.
- These bonds carry the risk of a "run" on the issuer where many of them are cashed at once, although a suitable cause in the fine print should provide some protection for the issuer. This is why I think they are only suitable for highly stable entities such as local councils.

These seem to fall somewhere between regular bonds and "Bonus Bonds" where you can get your money back at any time but any return on your investment is a lottery (literally).

~~~
* I calculate they would get about my rates again out of me, per year. Although rates are about to change next period, so hang fire on that.
marsden_online: (write)
Life is expensive and some decades are more costly than others. One of the most expensive is from age 25 to 35.

- Diana Clement: Sensible savings choices pay off big time (NZ Herald)

Starting the post with a tangent - The above article is actually about managing to save and use that money wisely when you are in your younger years. I have a few issues with it - one is that despite the larger range of example couples provided than is usual for such an article we get no feel for their backgrounds / level of societal privilege. None of them seem to have come up from the gutter though, shall we say.

~~~
What I actually wanted to type about was retirement savings. Now that the mortgage has been more-or-less knocked on the head it's time to take a hard look at what I'm going to do with the money that was disappearing into that hole. There are some big-ticket items coming up to do with the house but I want to get some savings put aside first "against a rainy day"; if that rainy day never comes then they will be part of my "retirement" or "post-work-income" resources.

Some simple maths gave me a ballpark figure for how much will be in my Kiwisaver (at minimum input and assuming the 50% government match continues at that level), and the sorted.org.nz calculator agrees with me. I'm reasonably confident that money *will* be available in one form or another; not so NZ Superannuation which I would rather not take if I can afford it anyway.

Based on that, and another 30 years working ("retirement" age 70) Sorted reckons I need to be putting aside about $1000 per month (on top of kiwisaver) for those 30 years to have enough capital to slowly consume over another 35 years after that (the longest life expectancy it will allow). Conveniently that is about how much I have, on average, been putting against the mortgage. Which means assuming my life trajectory doesn't change significantly for the next 30 years and after (comfortable, but lacking family, no significant health issues) I'm pretty set.

Some pretty big assumptions there. So I hope to do better in the short term.

Another thing I noticed is if I took that lump sum and could get say 4% after tax on it, I'd still have about the same $$ income I do now, possibly better. I'm not actually a fan of consuming your capital unless the end is clearly in sight.

~~~
The two best pieces of advice are still
- pay off debt first; especially debt which is costing you interest then debt which might start costing you interest in the future
- the sooner you start saving for retirement the easier it will be. When you are in a position to start saving make sure to split some off in that direction.

And if you habitually live off debt now, please think very very hard about how that is going to work when you are no longer earning the income to service/repay it.

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