Money, Freedom, Happiness – 1st Anniversary Post

Sagrade Familia. A must see in Barcelona, and one of the most facinating buildings I have ever see. Under construction, estimated building time: 144 years.

Sagrade Familia. A must see in Barcelona, and one of the most fascinating buildings I have ever seen. Under construction, estimated building time: 144 years.

One Year of Blogging!

Hurray!

As stated in the opening posts, Woodpecker started the journey on happiness more than 15 years ago.
However, the journey was very unstructured and into the blue until one year ago, when I hit the philosophical concept of downshifting.

So let’s see what the first year of shifting the journey to a more conscious level brought:

Financial Progress

Very satisfying. See here.

Albeit a new family member was welcomed to the Woodpecker clan (family size +33% 😉 ), total spending were down -15% in 2012. That was way beyond the goal of -5%.

A very good result that cannot be beaten in 2013 as many savings potentials are now realized already.
Given also significantly higher income this year (Woodpecker unfortunately back to full-time all year employment – hopefully not for long! Mrs. Wp employed 40% this year instead of zero last year), we will release the brake a bit and allow for +15% spending in 2013. Chances are we’ll stay below again as we now are so used to spending efficiently.

Savings rate was about 24% last year. Goal for 2013: Savings rate should stay the same.

Investment Incomes were good. Although not fully satisfying given the huge rise in stock markets. Slightly underperformed there, whereas goal is to outperform the DAX by 5% after taxes and costs.

Philosophy of Money and Freedom

The culumns resemble trees.

The columns resemble trees.

Financials are one thing, and I did put very much focus on those in my first months of “active downshifting”, but then they are not all. Obvious? Well, anyway, to take that really to heart was one of Woodpeckers biggest mental progresses last year:

At one point Mrs. Woodpecker very correctly remembered me that by thinking about saving and maximizing efficiency all the time, I am actually doing what one should not do, because it makes unhappy: Thinking about money all the time. (There is ample prove that people who think about money too much are less happy than their peers)

Very helpful comment, now I try to take a more playful and relaxed standpoint, somewhere along this line:

Try always to spend as efficiency and save where you can, care thoughtfully for your investments, but see it as game rather than a question of life and death.

You lost money stupidly? Did make wrong decisions? Fate, tax or something else were against you?
Well, no need to anger, bygones are bygones, learn and look forward.And don’t count the nickles every minute, as this will make you a grumpy old Scrooge no-one wants to be around with.

Remember:
Freedom means being slave to no-one and to nothing.
So no matter how important financial solidity is, you must not be a slave to your money as well as to anyone else.
Necessary to have you financials in order yes, but in the end life is about living not accumulating money. That’s important, I’d guess.

Excercise on getting relaxed about money

If you are not there yet, try this exercise:

While you are sitting idly at your desk at work or at home or in the tube, imagine once every day, what would happen if you’d lose all your money tomorrow.
If you’re hardcore, add the imagination of loosing your job as well.
Imagine as lively as possible. What would it feel like? What would you do? How would you get up on your feet again?

You’ll see, after a few rounds the fear will slowly melt away.
After 20 rounds it will probably be gone. Not that you will wish this to happen, but you’ll have found ways in your imagination how to carry on and this means you are even more free from slavery to external circumstances.

(I stole this method from conflict training, where you image again and again confrontational conversations in detail until you lose the tension and are able to do them in a more relaxed way)

Happiness

Well, some happiness moments were listed here.
As happiness cannot be planned, no goal on that.
Happiness simply kicks in without warning if you set the conditions right.

Stress

Free time and control over it made a huge progress.

I’d say stress was reduced significantly. I try to follow my own rhythm as far as possible. Improved in not letting others pushing me and saying “No” or “It will take some time”. Took parental leave, switched from over-time pay-out to additional free days. Stayed at home when feeling ill.
(Btw: My “Performance Review” result at work for 2012 was exactly in line with the years before, so no harm done! Interesting, isn’t it?)

You can do the same once you understood that you have much more control about stress (e.g. at work) than you might think.

Tough job for the stone masons. All this is chipped massive stone not some cheap concrete.

Tough job for the stone masons. All this is chipped massive stone not some cheap concrete.

As we are often slaves to our money, we are also often slaves to our own high expectations.
Be a bit more relaxed about what you expect from others and from yourself, and you’ll see it works. Colleagues and bosses will – after a moment of shock – adapt when you leave much earlier from office, when you stay away if you are ill, when you just leave your blackberry at the office etc. If someone starts mocking I tell them frankly about downshifting philosophy.

By now I think many people are just too frightened (of loosing their job or miss a promotion or someones disapproval) and lack courage to change things for the better.

And then they complain about circumstances. Well, sure, often circumstances are bad, but still, most people underestimate their power and forget to exercise the control they have themselves. Don’t be one of these drones!

Goal for 2013:
Banish the alarm clock as far as possible. Listen to the body clock. Try some weeks (probably holidays or my colleagues will get crazy 🙂 ) living without any clock and timings at all.

Holidays

Unbeatable in 2012 due to parental leave.

Goal for 2013:
As much as possible!
Maybe more weekend short trips to surrounding cities. Boss, I need more time off!

Activities

Quite a lot in 2012! Although a bit hampered by the baby and lack of sleep etc. Nature sometimes is cruel, but it gets better every week.

Goal for 2013:
Join Sailing Club.
Do much more mountain activities, e.g. start mountain biking again.
General more frequent sports activities, running in the morning or biking to work.

Well, enough for now. It’s saturday and time for some chilling!

Woodpecker

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2 comments on “Money, Freedom, Happiness – 1st Anniversary Post

  1. Woody says:

    Congratulations to your 1st anniversary! Keep blogging – it’s always a pleasure to read about thoughts on downshifting from a German point of view.

  2. […] was not very ambitious on new year resolutions, but one of […]

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