“Your password expires in 14 days”

Dear Diary, (<– this is my way of telling you this is just a stream of consciousness, yet another random rant on my journey to financial independence.)

I had told myself I would never have to endure that kind of “reminder” message in my work inbox, ever again, but I was wrong as I still haven’t hit my number for Early Retirement.

There was an interesting point recently in a personal finance article I read (can’t find it anymore) on the difference between work (meaningful, engaging, productive) and a “job” (the gruesome aspects of work).

I think my work, which I was passionate about a decade ago, has progressively turned into a “job”, where a bunch of meaningless tasks and little annoyances now just happen in sequence all day long.

The reminder that my password needs to be updated (or my manager will get an email too if I don’t comply within a week), the stupid online mandatory trainings that are the same every year, the “performance” reviews (yeah, we all love those)…

Then there are all the processes that have been piled up over the years. I won’t go into the details of a very technical system (I work with a software engineering team after all), but it sometimes feels as if everything was designed to slow us down to the max between the time a project starts and the time the team is finally able to release it.

The folks in my team are nice enough, sadly they are not the ones I have to deal with most of the time. I’m usually interacting with other teams, and, this is not to say most of them are douchebags (although a handful of terrible people are basically enough to make work hell for me), but interacting with other teams on shared projects, in particular when I’m in Japan and they’re in the US, is just a nightmare.

Outside of work though, things have been going well. Our house was completed and we moved in at the end of July. I took a few days off to help with the move. It “feels” like the house is properly insulated, and the centralized air conditioning mechanism (1 air conditioner for the entire house*) seems to do its job. At least the house does feel fresh. We won’t be able to tell for sure until we start seeing electricity bills, but here’s what I’m seeing so far:

  • On an average summer day, with the wife and kids home, we use about 500~600Yen worth of electricity. This is with an air conditioner unit blowing 24h a day, 7 days a week, 100% electric house (no gas) and the kids watching way too much TV. This puts us somewhere between 15’000 and 18’000 yen a month, or almost 3 times the electricity bill we used to have in our “manshon” (condo). It feels terrible but might not be that bad considering we won’t have a gas bill, and that the air conditioning is on constantly (which we never did in the manshon). Looking at last year for August and September, our average gas+electricity bill on these two months was 11’500 Yen.
  • On sunny days, the Solar Panels (we have a 5kW installation) generate a bit more than what we use. On cloudy days, the solar panel output drops significantly. So far for August it looks like we’ve been generating more than we’re using, but the beginning of the month was extremely sunny, while the past week has been cloudy (and it seems it will continue this way for a while)

It looks like our energy bill for August, after taking into account the solar panels, could be close to zero, but I’ll see what the actual invoice says at the end of the month.

I’m not super happy that we are using the air conditioning unit 24h a day (at both financial and environmental levels this feels bad). I know keeping the air conditioning on is not efficient in general (that’s a regularly debunked myth), but in our case there is some inertia we have to take into account: The 130 square-meter house is cooled by a single AC unit, and on our first day it literally took 10 hours to go from 35 C to a more acceptable 26 C. So unless we’re able to predict 10h in advance when it will feel “too hot”, it’s easier to keep it on. The other problem of a well insulated house is that we cannot open the windows when a breeze of fresh air shows up.

The good aspect, of course, is that the whole house feels great to live in, which I couldn’t say of our manshon experience (we would endure the heat for most of the day until the kids were all sweaty, at which point we would all regroup in one room, close all the doors, and crank up the AC.

My commute is hell: door to door it’s 1h45 to the office, and being an “inaka” station there’s only a train every 20 minutes, which is kind of a shock for someone like me who’s lived in Tokyo for more than a decade. The plan as it stands was for me to quit my job roughly after we got the house, but our financial situation is still not where I want it to be. So, for now I’ll endure the terrible commute until we are in a better place.

A lot of the people who have retired early say their main regret is to not have done it sooner. I’m in the position where if I gave notice now, I might be ok, but I’m a bit scared to do the jump now. I’m still significantly below what I consider to be my “lowest acceptable number”.

I might have mentioned my salary will take a huge hit in 2020. I’m now waiting for my November stock bonus to hit, then see. Had I been in a better position this month, I was planning on giving my manager a 4 month notice in early September, but now I’ll be playing it by ear. I’m still hoping I could reach my “number” by end of the year, but it would take a very positive “Mr Market” for the remaining 4 months of the year. Who knows.

* Details on our air conditioning system for those who are interested: https://www.yamatojk.co.jp/yucaco/system/index.html. (I am not affiliated with these folks in any way. But they built our house)

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