Thinking About Personal Issues: Career Stuff & Engagement with CF


I’ve been reflecting on my personal issues lately. I think there are a couple of major categories. One category relates to career stuff and one relates to my engagement with CF. I think that with both categories, a fundamental issue is a lack of any clear and coherent goals/values/desires on my part. Thoughts welcome.

Why thinking about this now?

I’ve had more downtime than usual from work and have actually managed to run out of the usual distractions I put before myself to avoid dealing with big picture stuff. I’ve also been listening to some mainstream audiobooks that touch on philosophy and that’s put me in a more contemplative mood. I also got some criticism that made it harder to avoid thinking about. I’ve also been exercising regularly and having success with that and that’s put me in a mindframe of wanting to deal with some harder issues. I’m also getting older and have some sense that if I’m going to make some big transition in my life, it needs to happen soon or else it’s not gonna happen (if it isn’t too late already). I also recently became aware of some stuff that might let me get a “clean slate” on my very poor financial situation and that gave me some cause for optimism and for trying to make some progress in my life.

Engagement with CF/FI

I’m not sure why I’m here or what I’m trying to accomplish. I’ve engaged in some learning projects as part of FI but haven’t done much with the results of that. The thing is that I think I actually enjoyed the projects while doing them, but then just didn’t take any next steps.

I think I had some cultural default goal of wanting to be part of a community that doesn’t fit with CF and has caused problems. I’ll get some criticism that I interpret as harsh and will feel alienated. I have known some people who stopped engaging with philosophy partially because they wanted more of a “normal community” type feel, and I’ve been critical of that but also apparently partially agreed with the perspective of such people.

I’m not sure how CF should fit within my life, my career, or what I want out of it.

Career stuff


I’ve been stuck in my career for a while. I do temporary work in a professional field.

There’s a couple of different ways to frame what I do and my overall career situation. On the one hand, you can frame it as a completely dead-end, low-paying, low-status, uninteresting career graveyard. On the other hand, you could frame it as a very flexible role that allows for lots of downtime and pursuing outside interests while supporting yourself. I think there is truth to both those framings. It’s a particularly bad outcome career-wise for me cuz I went to a relatively good school so it’s quite a “fall” to wind up doing this stuff. If I was using the flexibility in some productive way (by pursuing outside interests seriously) I think that’d be okay. I don’t think I’ve done that though - like, I think that the flexibility has led me (on occasion, not on a consistent basis) to engage with FI/CF stuff more than I would compared to if I’d had some super demanding professional job, but I still haven’t done very much objectively, if that makes sense.


Something In Current Field

I’ve thought of doing something in my current field.

Own Office

One option (basically trying to have my own professional office in my field, own clients etc) sounds interesting but I think I’m missing various prerequisites and I think they’d be very hard for me to get (in addition to not having substantive skills to do the actual work, I’m not very entrepreneurial and not a big social networker, and I think I’d need to be excellent at those to make this work.)

Building on Current Job/Working in Current Field

I’ve considered building on what I currently do and trying to “gain a level” in that at a standard job. I think that’d be the most straightforward thing to do for someone in my position. The issue is that I’m not sure it’d actually be better or that I’d actually enjoy it.

There’s one thing I could do in this vein - basically work full time doing the same stuff I’m doing now but with a full time job title - that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to do. The reason is that I’m not that interested in the work, and I think the tradeoffs of being a full time salaried employee would not be worth it (e.g. they expect you to work a lot without paying you extra, so the pay per hours can actually come out worse. And I actually have valued the downtime that comes with being a temporary worker somewhat).

There’s something I’ve considered in this vein that would involve getting a technical certification and working in the same field but more as a technical administrator. I think there are some jobs there - they often want people with more actual technical skills but people do hire some number of folks with my background + a certification. I think this would lead to somewhat higher pay and might be interesting for a while. And, having interacted with both some, I have tended to find the office dynamics of the places that have this type of job less annoying than the office dynamics of the places that have the type of job mentioned in the previous paragraph. OTOH, I’m not sure that it is something I want to do forever as like, my primary work, or something like that. I think I’d get bored at this too, eventually. It would just be changing the scenery for a bit and maybe getting a pay bump.

I could also try finding an entry level job in my field, especially with the government, which has more entry level jobs. Issue here is my field is very status conscious that are accessible to me. I think I’m too far removed from school, and have been doing my low status work for too long. I also don’t have much of what’s considered “substantive” experience. So now my resume looks bad. I’ve actually tried applying for jobs some (periodically) but always get rejected, though I could try in a more thorough way.

Changing Fields, with a Focus on Earning Potential

I’ve considered changing fields, like maybe doing some sort of coding school or whatever. I now think I actually could probably accomplish the educational part of this (which I was not previously confident about) and that it’d let me do more interesting work than I am now. Issue here is whether it’d actually help me achieve big picture goals, and the issue there is figuring out what those goals actually are.

Also, one concern is that I selected my current field based on earning potential and that wound up being a total disaster. I don’t think the same factors apply cuz 1) I actually have more emotional maturity and have addressed at least some of the issues that caused my career to be such a failure and 2) there wouldn’t be such a big up front financial commitment to switching fields as there was to entering current field, so that reduces the downside risk somewhat (though there’s still the opportunity cost of learning a bunch of new stuff).

Changing Fields, with a Focus on Interestingness

This is super vague but I’m just mentioning it for completeness. I’ve vaguely considered the idea that maybe I should try to focus on economics or philosophy or something like that in a professional way. I’m not sure what I’d actually do here though (e.g. I don’t think there’s a clear path for me being an economist at my age, despite thinking that I have some actual genuine interest in the topic). So I’m not sure what exactly this would look like. At some level, it seems like it’d be a good idea to connect professional and intellectual interests rather than have them be more separate, but like I said, this point is pretty vague in my mind.

Big Problem: Lack of clear goals/values/desires

If I just arbitrarily pick some small goal, I can break it up into steps. But when I think about the big picture goal of what I want to do with my life, I just have a tree where the parent is “Goals” and a child is “Steps” and that’s as far as I get (which I guess makes me “the most depraved type of human being”.) The actual goal I seem to have acted to obtain is “avoid stress and maintain a minimal standard of living”. Well, I’ve largely succeeded at that but that’s not very ambitious…

I feel like I’m missing something important - like some actual genuine interests. I feel kind of like someone trying to make purchasing decisions without any sense of what they want or like. So my shopping cart comes out a confused jumble without rhyme or reason or coherent theme, and then I’m trying to somehow make a dinner out of marshmallow fluff and veggie burgers and horseradish.

That’s fine. Like it’s better than watching TV. If you think of it as a better alternative to TV – it’s more intellectual – and you enjoy it, that’s cool. It’s just a problem if you’re expecting big results or misleading yourself (or others) about what you’re doing.

Also some people pressure themselves to do learning activities because they want the big results, so then it’s a disaster if they don’t get big results. But you said you enjoyed it at the time so that’s better.

Ah, okay! I think you said something along those lines previously but it didn’t really register. Thanks for repeating and expanding the point. Yeah I totally enjoyed the learning projects at the time, and I don’t think I was expecting big results from them.

Y’all are welcome to do/be a community – it might well help you guys – but should not expect much of that in normal ways from me. It’s a normal thing to want and I’m not recommending you just avoid convention if you already want it (and don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t want it).

I do some community and social things (e.g. sharing links partly fits that) but I also don’t do some. If you want the full regular experience you’re going to have to get some stuff from people other than me.

Don’t try to copy how I live. If you want, you can aspire to some stuff as a long term goal to work towards. But you can’t just transplant what I do into your life or copy specific actions and choices. You need all the ideas behind them before they’ll work well for you. Plus people are different. There are many good ways to be. You could get great in your own way and still find that some things I do, that work for me, do not work for you. (Also I don’t share lots of things about myself. Some people make guesses and assumptions. Some of those are wrong and I leave some uncorrected. Sometimes people try to copy me but the stuff they are copying is not me…)

That makes sense. And I have made topics and posted stuff that’s somewhat community-oriented. I think I wasn’t sure if that was like, okay, or if maybe I was doing too much of it, or something. I think your response here clarifies that that kind of stuff is okay for other people to do so long as they don’t have expectations around you in particular participating or engaging with that kind of stuff.

That’s pretty normal btw. E.g. Sam Harris doesn’t socialize with most of his fans. His fans can still form a community and socialize with each other. I’m unusually accessible in some ways re discussion but not in all the ways.

Yeah makes sense (I would have just liked this post, but I seem unable to like things in my anonymous guise)

Your financial situation is not “very poor” even by USA standards.

I almost wrote a qualification/explanation on that point but like forgot or something. Anyways I think I disagree with you and will briefly explain why and you can discuss it further if you think it’s worth going into. I won’t take a failure to follow up as any sort of agreement with what I’m saying here (am trying to elaborate my thinking but not pressure for a reply).

Financial situation in my mind includes a balance sheet of assets and liabilities. I think the balance sheet is really bad - it’s super in the red cuz of student debt. So that’s why I think my financial situation is bad.

OTOH, my material circumstances and conditions - like, the stuff I have access to, and how I live - are decent. Like I don’t live in a trailer park. I live in a decent city in my own apartment and eat good food and have recent tech gadgets and some assets.

So, in how I am understanding and thinking about things, my material circumstances are much better than say someone who has no debt but lives in conditions of extreme poverty. I’d much rather have my current material circumstances and debt than no debt and extreme poverty material circumstances. But it still makes sense for me to talk about my financial situation being very poor.

I don’t think that’s a good way to define “financial situation”.

People’s financial situation includes things like their ability to afford housing, buy food, get credit, get a cell phone, travel, etc.

For some reason you count those as “material circumstances”, not “financial situation”. That seems like kind of a weirdly biased way to think of “financial situation”. You seem to be defining it in a way that puts you at the bottom.

By your logic, you also have a worse financial situation than the majority of the world, not just the majority of Americans: your financial situation is also worse than people who live on $1 a day or less. It is worse than the homeless children in India who beg for food and end up in documentaries.

So you have defined “financial situation” in a way that puts you near the bottom, and much worse off than people who literally cannot afford housing, food, basic hygiene, or healthcare, let alone travel, internet access, computers, cell phones, etc. I think there’s something weird going on when you don’t count things like inability to afford food & shelter as part of one’s “financial situation”, and instead count them in an entirely different category.

Yes. I was aware of that implication btw (like I’ve thought about it before).

Let me try to understand your perspective with a question: Suppose I was a 100 trillion dollars in debt, hypothetically, supposing such a thing were possible for an individual. But assume what I’m calling my “material circumstances” were the same as they are now. Would it be reasonable to describe financial situation as very poor then, or no?

I’m also curious, since you are just looking at the balance sheet – if after you finished school you had lived at a lower standard of living (say, 100% of the US federal poverty level, which is currently $12,880 for a single person), and put all your money above that into your debt, would your situation still be “very poor” by your own definition?

(If yes, how far would you be from not being “very poor” by your own definition? Like, how many more years would you have to continue to get to a net worth of 0?)

Ah, that’s an interesting question. Quick ballpark estimate calculations say I’d still be negative but fairly close to the end of payments.

Yeah. When evaluating financial situation, stuff should be taken into account like:

  • net present value of the rest of your career (or in other words, value of your degree that you went into debt for – if you’re going to look at all the debt right now, and not just the monthly payment, then you should also look at all the benefit right now)
  • ability to get credit (if you were actually worse off financially than someone living on a dollar a day with no debt, or a homeless guy in a park with no debt, no one would loan you money)
  • current and expected future standard of living
  • size of discretionary budget (which includes not just luxuries and entertainment but e.g. the choice not to have roommates)

I don’t really know how to answer this question. It’s unrealistic and doesn’t have enough information. (E.g., you are missing things like, what did you get for the $100 trillion and what value does that have? Will you ever have to actually pay it back, or will you just die $100 trillion in debt?)

It doesn’t actually seem like an attempt to try to understand my perspective: it seems more like an attempt to try to reframe the discussion into your perspective. Like, I feel like you are trying to make a point or something, and I don’t quite understand what it is.

So it seems like you purposely chose to put yourself into this financial situation, instead of in what you are calling a better financial situation. If you really believe your current financial situation is worse, why did you choose this over the better one?

I was trying to figure out if the size of the debt was kind of irrelevant from your perspective or if it the issue was that you think the actual debt isn’t that bad. Making the debt really big seemed like a good way to figure that out.

Because I preferred higher consumption to better financial situation. Financial situation still seems bad though.

fair point

The amount of debt can be relevant. Like, if you are actually planning on paying it back, and you have to work extra to pay it back, then things like the debt to income ratio matter.

But if it is just debt that you don’t have to work to pay off (say, you make income based payments like with student loans), and in the end it is just going to be forgiven (or you are going to die in debt, and it won’t affect you), then I don’t think it actually makes a difference. Like, if it is far above your ability to ever pay it off, and you don’t have to pay it off, and no one is going to try to make you pay it off… Then, it’s not even really “debt” in the normal way that people think of that word.

And especially if you got something in return for the “debt”, and you are able to fully manage this “debt” while still being financially comfortable, it seems kind of perverse to call the situation financially worse than the situation of people who are literally starving because they can’t afford food and were never even given the option of amassing this fake “debt” that never has to be paid off.