Saturday, 26 March 2022

Retire@39 fail. Retire@49?

I haven't written for a while. Truth is there's not much to write about. I'm simply grinding out the lifeless-life of a sector-7g worker drone, in a spirit-crushing urban hell-scape, stacking as much $Dong as I feasibly can in order to not have to do this again. I mostly spend the time daydreaming about my time in Battambang, Chiang Mai, Nepal and the many epic motorbike trips I enjoyed in rural Thailand. Treasured memories, getting harder to evoke, elusive, like grasping for smoky tendrils near a ceiling fan. Man, I couldn't be further away - in both spatial and temporal domains.

View from mate's pod

There's a couple of fellow drones so deeply entrenched in the matrix that they'd slam their slime-pod hatches back shut should they be exposed to the flames of Plato's allegorical cave. So hopelessly inured to the vicissitudes of wage slavery and unfreedom that they've gone full 'IKEA coffee table'. To say they have 'stakeholder buy in' would be a criminal understatement.

Final night in Mui Ne

Despite their incongruent values, I'm very fond of them and grateful for their friendship - this being one area where I fell on my feet. One of them likes a tipple and wields a sense of humour that would be at home on a 1990s submarine. The other is my first ever gay buddy, boasting Armin-esque abilities to shoot the shit all day on 5hr walks - watching him turn his life around has been rewarding. I should mention he's not the type, on first inspection, to set off your gaydar - at least not mine. Like I say, without their company this two year Shawshank-shit-pipe-crawl would've been even more onerous.

However, viewing life through a life-ain't-fair-son lens, one has to first smell the shit before enjoying the roses. That is to say, one can't retire before crawling through the shit-pipe. I'll reach Shangri-La one day.


9 nights in MuiNe at Christmas were followed by a 4 week grind in the big smoke before a further 14 nights back in MuiNe for Tet.

Tet-2021 I stupidly stayed in the city. Tet-2022 I spent many hours in the garden of BinhYen guesthouse patting myself on the back for not repeating that mistake - once bitten twice shy.

The green stuff

May 2015 (age 41) I had a net worth of $0.

Apr 2022 (age 48) I have a net worth of $360k.

Zero to hero in just 7 years? How did you manage that? Well, it's really less than 7 years since I took 5 months off in Chiang Mai and 10 months off in Cambodia. So how did I get here? Well, it was far from plain sailing.

In 2013 I'd retired at 39 with $180k invested (in a scam), losing it all a year later. I pissed around for another year before realising I needed to get back in the shit-pipe to rebuild. So, at 41, I begrudgingly took a job teaching A-Level Maths and Physics in Chiang Mai (for a pitiful salary by industry standards). Still, I knuckled under and did what I do best which is living on <$500/month.

In China I was given a free apartment and ended up cooking my own meals so only spent $300 there. Back to Thailand and the liquidators recovered 33% of the scam money - so a whopping $120k down the shitter - sad face emoji. I occasionally dipped into the stash to buy a CBR500 for $7k and to live in Cambodia on $400/month. Then off to Vietnam and my highest ever paid job while still living off <$500/month despite Saigon's temptations.

So how do I live on so little? Well, I eschew women, booze and tabs - it's incredible how much I pissed away on those. I live in shit-box rooms (except for China). Eat local food. Cycle/walk everywhere. Basically, delay gratification. Adopt a luxury-is-weakness mindset.

Where do you invest the money now you're not a financial tard? Couldn't be simpler, an 85/15 split between a low cost S&P500 ETF and crypto. I've invested about $210k ($180k/$30k) but it has grown to around $360k - around double what I lost. Apply a 4% safe-withdrawal-rate and I should be good for $1,200/month. However, that's way more than a minimalist man needs.

Rather than pulling the retirement trigger now, I've engineered a lower stress gig for a considerably lower salary than shown and will likely grind another year out - taking me to 49 - a respectable age to pull the plug. I'm self-aware enough to see my cognitive dissonance - moaning about being here while extending the stay. Well, I'm being pragmatic - milking the lucrative work cow a little longer. Additionally, I quite enjoy (but fall short of being passionate about) teaching Physics at A-Level - it reminds me of my apprenticeship in the RN - just not in a noisy af concrete jungle.

As an aside, there genuinely is no peace here. It's impossible to find either solitude or silence. I sympathise with me old mate Shoppy on this, though I doubt your average noise-generating Saigonese has ever mulled this over:

Noise is the most impertinent of all interruptions, since it breaks up and indeed breaks down even our own thoughts. But where there is nothing to interrupt, noise is of course not particularly sensed. - Schopenhauer

Back to finance ..... I thought retirement was off the table and penury lay ahead after losing my life savings at 40. However, I'm living proof that with some hard work, discipline, sacrifice, delayed gratification and self-taught financial education ..... anything is possible. Even as a dumb-fuck teacher in southeast Asia.

My intention is not to brag but to inspire younger working class lads, by demonstrating that it's entirely possible to lift oneself out of whatever socio-economic shit-show you happened to emerge from. Learn from my mistakes - had I educated myself about investing in my 20s/30s I wouldn't have spent my 40s enslaved. It's one of the most important things you should study - especially if, like me, you yearn to be free of the bonds of wage-slavery. One of my inspirations is a lad who grew up piss-poor in Detroit -  started with nowt at 27 and was financially free by 33. Him and I are evidence that hard work, discipline and a sprinkle of financial knowledge pays off. If we can do it, anyone can.

He who knows he has enough is rich - Lao Tzu

Adjust the weekly schedule based on student academic readiness - Andy

Education never sleeps - Me


  1. Thanks for the update. Mrfree and you are the only two blogs I've ever regularly read.
    after you've finished your last stint in a hut in Dusseldorf, oops I mean HCM any idea where you will go?

    1. Working on the site, morning til night - that's living alright .... lol - idk man. I just dk. Cambo or central America. If btc goes batshit ... possibly look at the 800k Thai thing.

  2. I got a lot back from Buttonwood/ Argentum so am only say 15% down on before when we ent into the Aussie scam territory. David Fisher Pranburi Thailand.

    1. Good on you lad. 66% shat to the wind in my case. Wish we could go back to 2011.

  3. Remarkable turnaround. Congrats!

    Just make sure not to delay gratification (via whatever may be gratifying to you) until death. Even Andy Dufresne didn't dig forever. He was gratified in the end.

    Appreciate the shoutout. I'm still doing my best to inspire others to dig their way out and enjoy more moments in the sun.

  4. Great update matey. Jason's blog was great while he was publishing his original posts, then he turned it into a 100% profit oriented website and his posts vanished. You are the only one left standing! Your posts are interesting even if nothing is happening. Looking forward to more.

    1. I dont know Jason's blog specifically but I agree there is something old timey about our host's blog here. Distinct feel of the golden age of the internet.

  5. Your stuff is great. I wish you would post more often even if there is "not much to update." It is fascinating.

  6. Hi Stephen it's Willie. How's life? I'm trekking halfway across Newcastle to my new digs, a clean room in a hostel. I'm doing the morning commute! (Sort of).

  7. I freakin LOVE this blog, adore it!! The only one thing I don't like is that it's not being updated regularly. Waiting on an update for 2-3 months is way toooo long!!

  8. Both crypto AND stocks shat the bed as you would say Stephen. How much %-wise is the portfolio down?

    1. Way too much lad. Far south of what was stated in this blog.

    2. So, the retirement is no longer in the cards for only one measly year? Gotta crawl through the shitpipe longer?

  9. Update is way overdue matey!