About a decade ago, when Illuminatus interviewed me, we briefly talked about how I imagined my life to play out. I stated that I think I’ll just kill myself once I have seen enough, and certainly before reaching old age. My views have changed a bit. Back then, I didn’t really have any worthwhile goals in my life. I basically wasted my 20s. No, I didn’t really waste them. My 20s were amazing, but those years nonetheless were a lost decade. Hedonism is not a good guide through life, though.
In my 30s, I managed to turn my life around. I’m now a serious professional in a field with pretty good job prospects. So far, I haven’t gotten tired of life yet. I recently thought about what my ideal endgame would be like, taking into account my personal views, experience, and goals. It probably is not much of a surprise to any of my regular readers that I believe the West to be in terminal decline. We’re basically done. A good reset, like with Covid-19, might help, but even if it wipes out our corrupt elites, you still have the problem that demographics are really bad. There are civil wars going on in major European countries, and that won’t stop even if, for instance, Macron or Merkel died of Covid-19. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t brighten my day if I learned that they succumbed to that virus. It would be a cause for celebration in any case.
A major problem of the West is that we have lost a vision of the future. We’re floundering without a compass. If you’re a young male of fighting age, would you be willing to sacrifice your life to defend diversity, limitless immigration from the third world, and sexual deviancy? Probably not. On a personal level, my issue is that my substantial taxes help finance a system I detest to its very core. I’d be happy to pay high taxes if I saw it put to good use, for instance the erection of monumental buildings that withstand time as opposed to nurturing the dregs of society. In countries like Germany and Sweden, about half the tax revenue is spent on welfare. Imagine that we instead erected a modern-day Acropolis or Colosseum instead! We waste so much money on welfare that Germany could probably build half a dozen Colosseums a year instead. What pisses me off the most about the Western welfare state is that the government forces me to put money into the pocket of people who are keen on robbing me — twice did Arab-looking men try to rob me during the few years I have been living in Sweden. My welfare payments also ends up in the pockets of people who cause the urban decay I see all around me: there is boundless vandalism, dirt in the streets, and a sense of dread come nightfall.
Thus, my goal for the next few years is to make my exit. The last few years I focused on building up relevant skills that increase my employability. I am ready to leave already, but due to Covid-19, I have put those plans on hold for a while. Then again, I have heard of Chinese nationals living in Sweden who recently returned to China because they have no trust in the Swedish authorities to handle this pandemic well. That’s quite a statement. More concretely, my aim is to move to Singapore. I am married to a Singaporean citizen, which helps in that regard. If you work in the technology sector, your skills are highly transferable. The issue is more one of finding interesting work, because the bulk of work in this field is anything but. There are a few ways to keep the drudgery at bay, though, for instance by changing projects at your employer, changing your employer, or taking on short-term consulting projects.
In my ideal scenario, I’ll buy an apartment in Singapore and slave away. Once the apartment is paid off and I only have to cover living expenses such as groceries and health insurance, I want to take it a bit easier. I have met people who get projects ranging from three to six months, and in-between they take a few weeks off, if they feel like it. That work is also better paid than regular employment. The premium you charge is for the lack of job security. In my field, remote work is also a possibility. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic pushed many companies, including large numbers that were categorically against remote work, to embracing work from home. What wasn’t possible for decades was suddenly possible within a week or two. Therefore, I think that remote work will only get more common and be a very realistic possibility and, no, I am not afraid of Pajeet who is offering his services for $5/hour.
In some corners of the Internet, the idea of early retirement due to financial independence (“FIRE”) is very popular. I don’t think it’s particularly viable. It may work if you get a very high-paying job in the US and manage to keep your cost of living very low for about a decade, for instance by sharing an apartment with some random guys. In Europe, salaries aren’t high enough to make this possible because someone’s got to finance the welfare state. (Yeah, you, productive member of society!) But even if you assume that you have a lump sum of money and income-generating assets: we now not only live in Clown World, we also live in Financial Clown World, with zero-interest-rate policies, absurdly high price/earning ratios with stocks, and bonds that pay negative interest. Sure, if you want to “FIRE”, go ahead, but keep in mind that your long-term strategies may include unrealistic assumptions that may have held in the 1970s. I’ll have more to say about this in a future article.
The malevolent politicians ruling over you have been working on robbing you of your savings. Everything is a lot more expensive than it used to be, including stocks and housing. I would consider it rather fool-hardy to “retire” in your 40s and 50s, and believing that you will be able to generate sufficient income with your assets for decades to come, seeing how poorly the world is run nowadays. Thus, your best bet it to keep drawing a salary because those tend to get, at the very least, adjusted for inflation over the years. In contrast, the dividends your overpriced stocks pay may approximate zero.
Thus, I think that a more sustainable approach is to keep working, maybe with reduced hours or by taking on projects as a contractor. That’s something to aim for once I’m in my fifties. Once you’ve achieved your material goals, you may want to take it a bit easier in life. Still, I think I’d like to work for as long as it makes sense to do so. One aspect is that it is certainly reassuring to make more money in any given month than you spend, and another is that the problem-solving aspect of work in the technology sector can be quite rewarding. This depends a lot on your domain and industry, however. In my case, I find my work invigorating. It’s basically like playing a video-game for high-IQ people, and getting paid for it.
It is a bit too early to think about when to leave the world behind. Old age also does not necessarily mean to be bed-ridden, decrepit, or senile. The men in my family, as far as I know, seem to all have aged pretty well, with some remaining active until their very end. My maternal grandfather, for instance, was physically active to the very end. He also had a peaceful death. He withdrew to the bedroom after lunch, fell asleep, and never woke up again. That kind of outcomes is probably only in the cards for you if you have no serious illnesses in your 60s. Anyway, that’s still quite some time off. I’ll revisit this topic the next time in 2030 or so.
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8 thoughts on “My Endgame (2020 Edition)”
“but keep in mind that your long-term strategies may include unrealistic assumptions that may have held in the 1970s”
Given the 70s were a period of stagnation and inflation, I’d rather say that the FIRE crowd thinks they are in the late 80s.
Actually, I’m going make a call here and say that I believe we’ll see a replay of the 70s. Inflation is kicking in, growth is killed b demographics, regulation and the after-effects of Covid19.
So if anybody thinks the same, now is the time to not buy stawks, but rather gold, bitcoin and maybe some good trend-following CTAs (given the times of endless mean-reversion and buy-the-dip enabled by stock buybacks are definitely over). It’s “momentum”-time and the BTFD folks will go broke.
I’ve been trending towards precious metals as well for quite some time.
I actually planned to relocate away from Germany further to the East (Austria, Hungary), but Corona and other issues at hand prohibited that step for the time being.
I believe Western European culture and society needs a massive invigorating dose of traditional christian religion and spirituality to combat the destructive ideas nagging away at its very core. Otherwise it will never muster the inner strength required to survive in the future. And I do believe that in one way or another, eventually this is going to happen.
The Jewish revolutionary spirit overplayed its hand during the past centuries several times already – so in a way, all of this is nothing new, it has happened before.
Those are good points. This was not the article on FIRE I’ve been working in which I mentioned to you privately, by the way. I’ll try to publish it within the next few days.
Looking forward to it!
Some of the FIRE minded people i have read, given their age, may have even the late 1990s in mind.
I agree its a risky proposition given the advances in life expectancy, and only really feasible in countries with stable economies. Being from a country that suffers chronic double digit inflation, recurrent defaults, and a decade of economic stagnation, I tend to heavily hedge against the future (oh, and btw, we are probably heading to a hyperinflation later in the year, or maybe 2021).
Its key to keep your fixed expenses and you liabilities to a minimum. I live a rather minimalist life, not spartan by any means, but no unnecessary luxury. Given my savings and my current expenses, if I lost my jobs tomorrow, I could comfortably sit on my ass for 7-8 years without lifting a finger.
This is an excellent approach. In a more stable country, a buffer of 3 to 5 years should be sufficient. Of course, the idea is not that you’re really going to cover such a stretch of time but that you’re able to ride out a year or two if a recession hits and nobody is hiring, or that you’re able to maintain your standard of living while looking for a new job, without being forced to take the first one you get offered just because you have bills to pay.
“On a personal level, my issue is that my substantial taxes help finance a system I detest to its very core. I’d be happy to pay high taxes if I saw it put to good use, for instance the erection of monumental buildings that withstand time as opposed to nurturing the dregs of society.”
I see now why you are railing against the EU countries. Social welfare is substantial over there. Goods are more expensive in there. Europe used to have no welfare in the 19th century. Perhaps Imperial Germany under Bismarck was the first country to implement social welfare program for workers.
In the US, I think social welfare is not as substantial. The social mechanism forces people to go to work. Everyone around me had to work before the epidemic.
“I stated that I think I’ll just kill myself once I have seen enough, and certainly before reaching old age. ”
I have read that interview. I have to say that when I read I thought it was just a piece of soap opera. Why? Because almost all living creatures possess self-preservation. Thus suicide is difficult unless you suffer from certain emotional stresses.
Live well and live long. It is not easy to be reincarnated to be humans, so says a Buddhist sutta.