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Quick Book Review: Designing Your Life

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Hey everyone, we have a quick book review today – Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans. This book is adapted from their class at Stanford University. The authors teach readers about design thinking. This process can help you figure out what you want for your life and how to create it. A lot of the book is focused on finding fulfilling work.

How is this related to the FIRE movement? Well, some people discover FIRE and make it their primary mission in life. They think FIRE will solve all their problems. But is that really the case? Financial independence is a great goal. Life is fantastic when you don’t have to worry about money. Early retirement is even better. I love it because I don’t have to work with anyone and I can work on my own terms.

FIRE is awesome, but it can be a very long process even after achieving FI. Unfortunately, some people go a bit overboard. They sacrifice everything in order to achieve financial independence ASAP. They cut out all extraneous expenses and invest every penny. When you overdo this, life tends to be a bit miserable. It’s okay to do this for a year or two, but misery can be habit-forming. If you’re miserable for 10+ years, FIRE probably won’t make you any happier. You need to enjoy the journey to financial independence or else it probably isn’t worth it.

Designing Your Life

This is where Designing Your Life can help. Most people don’t hate work. Usually, they just don’t like their particular working situation. I was miserable when I was an engineer at Intel. But that didn’t mean I hated work. It just meant Intel wasn’t the right environment for me. If I had put more effort into it, I probably could have found a better fit. However, at that point, I was close enough to FIRE that I just pushed through the final hurdles. It worked out really well, but that last push only lasted 2 years. If it was any longer, I would have tried to find an alternative solution. That’s assuming that I became aware of other solutions.

Multiple solutions

Here is the gist of this book – there are multiple solutions to a problem, especially if you have an open mind. You can use the design process to try different solutions until you find something that works best. The book will show you the steps for that design process. FIRE worked for me because I had several advantages.

  • I took my father’s advice early on and saved and invested as soon as I started working. The FI part of it was 90% done by the time I discovered FIRE. Also, my career paid well from the beginning so I could save a large percentage of my income right away.
  • Mrs. RB40 and I are both frugal. We know how to enjoy life without spending a lot of money. It’s good to have a partner with a similar mindset.
  • Mrs. RB40 likes working and she isn’t ready to retire yet.
  • We designed our life to be low-drag. We simply don’t feel the need to spend a lot of money. Our annual expenses are much lower than the average household because we have optimized them over many years. We live in a duplex and rent one unit out. We rarely drive and we cook most of our food.
  • Etc…

However, everyone is different. Your life isn’t the same as mine and FIRE might not be the right solution for you. If FIRE makes you miserable, whether it is the process of getting there or once you get there, it probably isn’t the right answer. For most people, a better way would be to find the right working situation so you have time to work on financial independence. This book can help you do that.

This book is for…

Designing Your Life is a great book for young people. You have a lot of time and energy to work on designing a good life. The book is sectioned like a lesson plan. There are worksheets and homework exercises at the end of every chapter. It’s like a class so young people should be very familiar with this structure.

The book is also great for people that are stuck in a rut and want to make a life change. It will teach you to look at your problem from different angles and come up with multiple solutions. Mrs. RB40 is pretty happy with her life. However, she doesn’t know what she will do after retirement and this book gave her some helpful tools. She recommends the book.

As for me, I enjoyed this book too, but I’m already very happy with my life. Designing Your Life would have been more useful if I read in it my 20s or 30s. I don’t really need it now. I already stumbled into my ideal life. Anyway, check it out. It’s a good book that can help you think outside the box.

Alternatively, if you think FIRE is the right path, check out Buy This, Not That by Sam Dogen. That’s an excellent book when you’re all in on financial independence. He’ll show you how to get there.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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