Do I Really Need Life Insurance?

Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t have life or disability insurance.

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Somehow, I seem to be okay with it. I know, however, that as an adult, it’s one of those things that I need to take care of.

The thing is, my husband and I have no children. I am also not the main breadwinner in our relationship so I feel like I don’t really need it. The general rule of thumb seems to be that if you have dependents, you need to get life insurance. Nobody really depends on my income except for myself.

My husband’s income is enough to cover our daily expenses and then some. I really don’t need to work because he can cover me under his own insurance plan. However, I choose to work because I want to earn my own money. I don’t want to be completely dependent on my husband’s paycheck only.

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However, if my income disappears, we really have no need to worry. Most of the expenses I have are related to earning that income. My paycheck is usually saved. I pay my own national health insurance, national pension scheme (like the US Social Security), and whatever transportation and work costs I need. If I don’t earn an income, all of the insurances I need will be covered under my husband’s plan.

The only thing I worry about is that my husband is not completely healthy. The main reason why I started this blog was to document our financial picture precisely because hubby became ill and I needed to step up.

Recently, my husband has gotten a lot better, but I know that his disease is not one hundred percent cured.

This leads me to wonder whether I should get insurance for myself.

The purpose of getting life insurance on myself would be to give my husband an extra layer of protection in case I died. I can probably afford a small policy to leave for my husband. Naturally, upon my death I will also leave a lot of my accounts to him. That’s the easy part.

Now, if I am still alive but become incapacitated and won’t be able to work, what happens then? In this sense, even though my husband is not dependent on my income, he is completely dependent on my physically being able to do things to help him out, mostly emotional and mental support. If I become incapacitated somehow, I probably won’t be able to support him. He probably also has to do a lot more to help me out instead. This is the more worrisome part of our life–hence the conundrum. Should I get disability insurance for myself?

To be honest, I lack the knowledge of getting insurance. I have been putting off setting up an appointment with a financial planner to talk about this particular issue. Most of the time, too, I think that my regular pension insurance does cover my medical costs just in case I fall into disability–like social security disability benefits. It won’t be much, but at least it’s there.

Insurance is also something that I just don’t fully grasp. I feel like I need to understand it more thoroughly before I jump into the whole thing, especially since I live in Japan. Most of the information is provided in Japanese, and I still have not seen any English websites that cover the topic comprehensively. (When I have the time, I will do a complete write up of the topic. Right now, I am just trying to organize my thoughts around the whole issue.)

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In reality, though, I know that I really should just jump right in. I don’t need to keep reading up on it. If not that, at least I should go talk to people who really know about the topic.

Argh.

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Summer

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I’m on a two-week break from teaching. Hooray!

I’ve debated whether I should take some time off from blogging, but really, what’s the point? I need to keep writing, or my skills will atrophy. At least, that’s what I delude myself into believing.

In all honesty, though, I just want to keep it up because working part-time, I already have a lot of free time. I need to fill that time with blogging, otherwise, I will obsess about housework. I’d rather work on something more productive than clean the house.

For my summer vacation, I will get a total of six days off. In reality, that’s not really much. The extra six days I get from my summer break is nice, but it really won’t change the way I live.

Case in point, I woke up this morning at 5:30 even though I really didn’t need to. I didn’t need to get ready for work. Still, I decided to continue waking up early because it’s just better to keep up the habit. It’s only two weeks of not working, so I might as well continue with the whole routine. I guess the two-week break won’t matter so much in terms of daily habits.

So now I am struggling to fill out those hours when I won’t be prepping or teaching. While I value the time to relax and to “play” I’m spending a lot of time reading. This makes me feel not as relaxed because I am reading a lot more nonfiction and science topics that requires a lot of brain power for processing.

Essentially, I’m looking forward to my nonworking time so that I can devote it to study.

I realize that vacation should be the time I take to re-charge and rest. And I think I am doing that by taking a break from teaching.

I wonder, though, if I should also take a break from learning? Is it necessary?

Like I said, I have more time now to read about the things I am interested in, so I would really like to do it by actually studying. I recently started reading Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, which is not an easy book to get through. I am very excited to actually sit down, take notes, and dissect the whole thing.

Part of me doubts whether I really need to do that. Maybe I should just enjoy the book for what it is, but I feel like doing that won’t make me understand the concepts. The whole thing is very interesting that I want to really wrap my head around the theories that Hawking writes about in the book. But then again, there’s really no need to go that far just to read a book.

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My reading list for the summer break.

I am trying to use my time wisely and try to prepare myself for a life in science, if I chose to pursue the PhD that I was thinking about. If I immerse myself in this world now, I’ll find out if this is really what I want to do for the next three years. So this is really part of the work I need to do in order to advance my career.

So far, it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like play–or more exploration than anything.

In a way, it still feels a lot like vacation.

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Budgeting for Lazy People

I’m just sharing my personal way of how we spend money in our family. This is just my own system of budgeting and is not meant as general advice for the public. However, I do hope that other people can look at it and find a way to develop their own way of handling money.

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But first, the basics:

First, you need to be able to access an ATM. I know this is really old fashioned, but this is actually one of the ways I am able to control my spending. I also deal mostly with my daily expenses in cash. In a previous post, I’ve mentioned that this is something I prefer because it’s important for me to feel the pain of spending actual money, as in bills and coins. I don’t like using my credit card.

The next thing to do is to make sure you have money coming in regularly. I’m not really sure if this system would work for people whose paychecks come in spurts and not with regular frequency. I get paid once a month, on the same exact day, so I know when the money will be in my bank account. My hubby is the same way.

Once you have those two basics down, the next thing is just take out the money. Every Monday, I go to the ATM and withdraw ¥10,000. That’s it. This is money that has to last me for the week. If I am going out or eating out, then I need to make sure that it falls within that amount. Whatever I don’t spend gets saved in a jar. I usually save all this money for the big events, like trips or a big purchase that would cost more than ¥10,000. The following Monday, I do it all over again.

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The key point is that I don’t touch the rest of the money in the bank. If it’s not a Monday, whatever I need will come from the cash sitting in the jar.

That’s it in a nutshell.

However, this is just for my personal fun money. This does not account for our household expenses, but the process is similar:

  1. Steady income.
  2. Access to ATM.
  3. Withdraw a certain amount of cash.
  4. Don’t spend more than that amount.
  5. Don’t touch the rest of the money in the bank.
  6. Do it again next week.

I know it’s not efficient, but I’ve found this system to be extremely helpful in keeping our expenses low. I am also not much of an optimizer. I don’t really need to optimize every single penny that we earn. When I open the wallet and see the amount of cash in there, I know how to act from there. If there’s enough money, then we can sort of indulge a little. If we’re running low, then we really have to stay home and raid the pantry instead of eating out.

What I like about this system is that it forces us to be aware of the money flows–in and out. When I mention the steady income coming in, I really meant that you have to make sure you know where your money is coming from, whether from passive income or from your steady paycheck.

When we spend money, I like limiting the amount because it’s actually more freeing. The amount of money is a guideline to how much we can spend for the week. It also frees me up from having to worry about saving the rest of the money because it doesn’t get touched. I don’t do a monthly budget because when I tried it before, I overestimated the amount we needed and thus spent more than what we should have. However, if we break it down to a weekly basis, I know the details of our spending habits.

The biggest take away is the not touching the rest of the money for the week. The fact that I need to go to an ATM is a big pain in the ass. I don’t want to keep trying to find one because it’s a waste of time. By withdrawing a certain amount of cash in the beginning of the week, it prevents me from always going to the bank when we’re out of money.

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I think if you’re good with sticking to and imposing rules on yourself, this might be a good way to do it. However, if you’re not, the best way to go about it is to experiment and try different methods until you find a system that works for you.Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 10.56.41

39

This number seems so ominous. So close to forty, but not.

Actually, that’s how old I am right now.

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The last birthday cake I got from a friend, two years ago.

Wait a minute–that does look really bad, now that I am staring that number in bold black print. Maybe I should just forget about this post…

But I need to reel myself in and focus on the point:

It’s been a month since my birthday and I am still coming to grips that this will be the last year I spend in my thirties. I guess once I hit my forties, I will be officially old.

Does that mean I am not young anymore?

The funny thing is that I still feel like I’m young enough to try any challenge, whether that means going back to school to get my PhD or starting my own business. I refuse to be bound by an arbitrary number linked to my age.

I wish I had really gotten started earlier with the whole retirement savings. I wish I was retired now and not completely bound to a job. I wish I was financially independent now. But these are things I never thought about when I was younger. Now that I am older, I am glad that I’ve finally realized the importance of saving for my future.

However, just because I got started late at being fiscally responsible doesn’t mean that it’s too late for my husband and me. I don’t feel hopeless enough to think that there’s nothing I can do from here on out. I haven’t given up yet on my dream to be financially independent. I am still driven to achieve that goal, whether that means being more ruthless with our spending or whether that means going out and trying to find other sources of income.

What I do now is going to have a bigger impact than me just regretting the mistakes of my past. Yes, I got started late, but at least I can do something about it.

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Words guide me, just like this a lighthouse guides ships to shore.

To help with achieving my goal, I try to motivate myself with simple, easy to remember phrases that I can keep in the back of my mind. Every year, since I was 35, I used to come up with a little slogan or a motto that would capture how I wanted my year to be.

For example, when I was 35, it was “My year to thrive.”

For 36, “Year of the fix.”

37: Financial Haven

38: Just create!

So when I turned 39 this June I decided to continue the tradition. However, I am struggling with something that not only rhymes with the word nine but also something that has to do with personal finance or personal development.

The only thing I can come up with is fine–but it just seems to be such a blah word. I don’t find it exciting or motivating at all.

Hmm. Wine?

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That would definitely motivate me. (Insert smiley face.)

******

I wrote the original post a few days ago and left it without my phrase for the year. I finally thought about it seriously and decided that for the year 39, my motto will be:

“Life by design.”

I love it. I think it’s fitting and encapsulates everything I want to do with my life. I will design it to the way I want it to be. My life will be flexible enough to handle whatever comes my way, but strong enough to get to where I want to be: financially independent.

I know this all seems cheesy and maybe a little strange, but I’m trying to keep myself focused on the game plan. This is one of the ways I try to be productive all the time. I don’t want to do anything that will derail us from our goals. It’s hard enough sometimes when you feel like you’re being pulled in so many directions by life in general. These words will hopefully center me and keep me working hard.

So here’s to my final year in my thirties.

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Another drink photo. Do you sense a pattern here?

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Owning Things for More Than Ten Years

I went for a drive with some friends this weekend. One of my friends kindly offered to drive us around to the places we wanted to visit. All in all, it was a very fun girls trip out in the summer.

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As we were driving home, my driver friend commented that she was going to buy a new car soon.

How come? I asked.

Her reply: It’s time. This car is already ten years old.

I was surprised because I hadn’t realized that ten years had already passed since she bought the car–new. Her car, a Honda Fit, was still in good condition. She had never mentioned anything wrong with it. I didn’t find anything else wrong with it–aside from its age. It’s also made by a company that makes good cars.

I sat in the backseat just grappling with my surprise.

A couple weeks ago, a student had mentioned the same thing. Her husband was going to buy a new car because their old car was already past the ten-year mark. His car is an Audi.

Even now, I’m still not understanding this whole I need to buy a car because it’s more than ten years old thing. I can only shake my head.

Do people not keep things as long as they can?

I’ve always been a big fan of buying things once. It’s better for the environment and it’s good for your wallet, too. I look around at our place and most of the things in here are old. Some of them we bought second hand, others we bought when we first got married–ten years ago. Some of them have been given to us by well-meaning family and friends.

Back in the US, my parents still have their 1996 Toyota Camry. It still runs. Our 2001 Toyota 4Runner (bought used in 2002) is still going strong. I attribute this to my dad who made sure the cars were running properly and meticulously maintained them. My husband’s old Nissan Xtrail–despite him not taking care of it (What’s an oil change?)–made it fourteen years before it got wrecked in an accident.

Part of us keeping the things as long as we can is because in Japan, it’s a pain in the ass to throw things out. You have to pay extra to throw out certain things like electronic goods and large items like sofas. Garbage doesn’t just get dumped into a landfill.

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Sometimes, it’s more expensive to throw out something than buying something new. If your old TV isn’t doing it for you anymore, you have pay ¥4,000  to dispose of it properly–as in they break it down piece by piece at a disassembly plant.

When my husband and I first got married, we had used his old refrigerator (that was so small) from his single days. We quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be good for our new life as a couple. It was also about fifteen years old. We had to pay ¥3,000 to get rid of it. They have to really clean it up, and I guess a refrigerator is a specialized item that has to be broken down with skill. I can accept that–all to help the environment.

This weekend, too, was Amazon Prime Day, which I don’t understand. So what? I never got into the whole thing because I have no need to buy anything else. I don’t need someone else, like an online store, telling me to buy something that I never wanted in the first place. I guess if you need something then that’s when the timing is right. I just don’t see the need to buy something for shopping’s sake.

Whatever I have in this house, I try to make it last as long as I can. We still have our couch that is still okay. Our bed will hopefully last until we are really really old. These are Ikea-like furniture bought at a local store. Our TV is still old. I don’t know what 4K vision is like or what the newest technology is for TVs now. We still have our 37-inch screen that we bought 9 years ago. It still works so I have no need to upgrade it.

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Our old TV

I guess I am just not up with the times.

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Our Numbers

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I’ve debated many times whether I really want to be completely open about our finances and reveal everything. I am all for accountability, but I also don’t want to divulge too much of our financial situation.

But at this point, it feels like I need to be held accountable for my dreams. I’ve been doing really good in accomplishing a lot of the things that I wanted to do these past few months of 2019. Now that we’re moving into the second half of the year, I feel like I need to ramp up the work that needs to be done to get closer to my goal of financial independence. I realized that I needed to be clear, to write down in firm numbers what I need to accomplish. In order to do that, though, I have to start with what we have now. So I’m just going to lay it out now and see how everything goes.

Our numbers in a nutshell

My current average monthly net income: $1900

My husband’s current average monthly net income: $2,500

My husband’s net annual bonus for 2018: $7,000 (This amount changes every year, though. It can range from $3,000 to $8,000. Sometimes, he won’t even get it so I’m going to keep this optional.)

Our combined estimated net annual income for 2019 (minus bonus): $52,800

Our retirement savings in US brokerage accounts (as of July 2019): $33,000

The estimated value of the property I had bought in (2018): $17,000

Our average monthly expenses for 2018: $4500

Our annual expenses for 2018: $54,000

Our combined current net worth as of July 2019: $130,000

I’ve rounded out the numbers using a rough estimate of 100 yen per dollar. (It is actually closer to ¥108 per USD $1 as of July 2019 but this makes things easier). Since I have a mix of US and Japanese accounts, it would be easier to just get a rough estimate in dollars.

That’s how my mind usually works. I usually wind up calculating everything related to financial independence in dollar amounts. I find this weird because I’m living in Japan and earning money in yen. (Maybe it’s my subconscious reminding me that I want to live in the US during my retirement phase.)

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These numbers are always changing, however. My income can drop depending on the amount of extra work I can do. Hubby’s bonus also goes up and down. The amount we save every year is not very consistent. I have yet to develop a consistent process of saving into investments.

But working with these basic numbers, I can estimate our retirement number is going to be more than a million dollars. (Our annual expenses $54,000 x 25 puts us at $1.3 million.) This seems a little bit discouraging because:

My age: 39

My husband: 45

I feel like we’re too old and we won’t be able to save enough in order to hit that retirement number. Hopefully, though, what I’m trying to do is try to get a cash flow going with multiple sources of income.

From our net worth, we have a lot of money sitting in cash. This is cash that we don’t know what to do with. Personally, I want to throw it all in the stock market or another rental property that generates an income. It could also be used to buy a home so we don’t have to worry about paying rent any more.

To be honest, we don’t really know what to do with it, but it’s there and it’s giving us flexibility and peace of mind. It’s not earning a lot in interest (make that 0%) and I’m well aware of the opportunity cost of not investing it to get the maximum possible returns… but, it’s there if we need it. Right now, though, we haven’t agreed about what to do with it so we’re just going to keep it in a savings account instead of a brokerage account.

I am also saving aggressively to buy another rental property. That’s part of the reason why it’s sitting in cash. Right now, the plan is to save as much cash as I can to buy another rental property–without having to take out loans–that will generate more monthly income. I hope to save 70 percent of my income this year.

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You might also wonder why our expenses are so high for last year. A lot of it went into savings, though. There were large amounts of cash that got moved from savings accounts into brokerage accounts. I’ve counted those savings into our expenses. This year, it looks like it’s the same. I have’t done the averages yet, but I hope they are the same as last year, or at the very least, lower.

Also, because hubby is still sick, we have to spend a lot of money on his treatments. Other times, these are expenses related to things that ease stress in our lives. This means eating out at restaurants and taking trips. Sometimes these expenses are also family related gifts–which is a big part of the Japanese culture.

So there you have it. Our real numbers.

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Getting a PhD. Is it worth it?

I did a bad thing last night.

Yesterday, before going to bed, I made the mistake of browsing through different PhD programs from all over the world. Instead of going to bed early so that I can get some much needed rest, I spent two hours looking at different websites that offered all kinds of PhD programs.

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I started with online programs offered by academically strong schools in the US. I then moved on to the Japanese universities in Honshu.

I finally found one offered by Hokkaido University that seems perfect for me:

  1. It is the cheapest one so far that I’ve seen. For a total of about USD$12,000, the program is a steal.
  2. It’s conducted in English and the barriers for entry into the program seem low. All one needed was a master’s degree. You don’t even need recommendation letters.
  3. Hokkaido University has a strong academic reputation all over Japan–and even the world, judging from the amount of international students it gets.
  4. Plus, it was not an online degree. It was at the campus in Sapporo–right where I live.

Unfortunately, it is in the environmental sciences. Yes, that’s a hard science degree–in a field that I have never even thought of.

Then I start thinking that I can swing it. I made excuses in my head that this is something I can do. Okay, maybe not excuses per se, but more like justification as to why this program would be something that I should do. Yes, my bachelors and masters degrees were in the social sciences, but I think I can make the case that in some way they were related to this doctorate degree. I can easily make it work. If we’re dealing with environment science applied to climate change, policy issues, and sustainable development, my previous degrees in political science and international relations could easily fit into this field.

Even when I turned off the computer and I was lying in bed, my mind was just thinking about that doctorate degree and all the advantages it can bring.

I want it.

I really want it.

And then I start to wonder why?!

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What triggered this desire to get a PhD, suddenly, yesterday?

I don’t even know.

With that said, I’ve always believed that the ultimate goal was getting a PhD for me–even when I was younger. It was a given. All this time, in the back of mind, I know that I want to have that degree. And it looks like there’s one right within my reach. I just never asked myself why was it so important to get.

Is it even worth it?

Then how the hell can I apply this doctorate degree in my real life? I will continue to teach English–most likely–if I live in Japan. That seems to be the career path that a lot of non-Japanese people fall into when they are here.

How will having a PhD affect me in the future? What is the return on investment on this degree? Like I said, I don’t even know why I would get it. Maybe I can use it to gain entry into teaching at a university setting. I could also do something with it if I leave Japan and work with international NGOs that deal with sustainable development issues.

On and on these things were running in my head as I struggled to fall asleep.

But now I am wide awake, and in the light of day, seriously thinking about applying to the program. If I do, it will be a huge time and financial commitment.

As I sit and think about this more deeply, I think I just wanted a degree to prove to the world that I am a smart, successful person. After all, having a PhD would prove to the world that I am intelligent. It would also be proof that I can go through the academic process and succeed in defending a dissertation. I think I just want to be acknowledged for that.

Or, maybe–just maybe, my current job is not as fulfilling as I think it is? Maybe I don’t feel successful in my capacity as a kids English teacher working part-time…

For ten years, I’ve been working primarily with children, teaching English. I acknowledge that I use different parts of my brain when I am teaching children. I think I’ve developed a lot of skills that can help me deal with different types of people. I also still find it intellectually challenging to come up with ways to engage my students.

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I think, though, that I am bored with this particular job. I think I am realizing that I crave the intellectual stimulation of working with adults. I don’t really get much of that at work, to be honest. There’s just not enough time to sit down and talk about other, more academic and non-English language teaching, stuff. This is why I’ve always wanted to work within a university setting.

There’s also the issue of learning for learning’s sake. I am curious about the whole process of getting a doctorate degree. Even if I don’t use the degree in any capacity from here on out, I still think that going through the process would be worth it.

But then again, I am also wondering if I am going through the shiny objects syndrome–after all, it’s something new and interesting. Maybe I’m just distracted by something that I’ve never done before. In any case, I’m going to wait and see if this feeling goes away. I’ll also look into other options and see whether there is some way I can make this work if I really end up going back to school.

 

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Flexibility

What constitutes an emergency, I wonder?

Right now, I’m on a plane bound for Tokyo, but this was not the original flight I booked.

My flight was scheduled to leave at 10:10 am with Jetstar Japan. However, due to mechanical problems, the flight was originally delayed. On further questioning, the ground staff said that at that point, it was difficult for the people in charge to make a quick decision. Things needed to be checked carefully for the safety of everyone. They needed time to check that everything was in working order with the aircraft.

Jetstar’s electronic boarding pass.

I checked with the staff later to see whether the flight was still scheduled to fly. They said that they didn’t know for sure and asked us to wait. They would tell us as soon as they knew.

Fair enough. For safety reasons, I definitely do not want to fly on an airplane that was iffy at best.

I wasn’t in a rush so I didn’t need to be on the flight soon. In fact, I had all day to get to Tokyo.

Another hour goes by and they still haven’t made any decisions on whether to fly or cancel the flight.

Thirty minutes later, several of the passengers have given up and started to line up to either cancel or make other arrangements. They also gave us an estimated time that the flight might leave. They said that everything might be okay in about 5 to 8 hours. At best, the flight might be available at 4:30 pm.

I took my time and thought more about what I should do.

I was supposed to meet with my husband today. I called him and talked about our options. I could wait until 4:30 to get on the same flight with Jetstar, or I could get on another flight with a different airline. I’d been checking other flights already so I knew there were available flights on the same day. The only catch was it was going to be expensive. Flights were at least $200.

Hubby wanted me to get to Tokyo as soon as I could. Meanwhile, I was a little bit leery about getting on a plane that had to be grounded because of mechanical problems. It was just too fucking scary.

We decided to book another flight on the same day. Thank goodness for technology. I opened up the app on my phone and booked a flight leaving in 45 minutes. Everything went smoothly. I was able to call and cancel the original flight and was on the next plane bound for Tokyo. I got a refund for the original flight but spent an extra $350 for that one way ticket.

Booking a flight on ANA’s app. This was the only available flight.

But for that price, it was worth the peace of mind. I just didn’t want to ride a plane that might crash. I know I’m probably being paranoid, but I just didn’t want to risk it.

In any case, I’m set to land at Haneda in twenty minutes. I’ve even had the time to write up a quick blog about it on the flight.

If you’ve read everything up to this point, thank you for hanging on. There is a point to all of this: flexibility, or the ability to get to my destination despite a big problem. I am extremely grateful for the fact that I could do so.

I’m not going to gloss over the fact that I was lucky to be able to solve a problem because I have the monetary means and the tools to do so. Like I’ve always said, I am grateful that I can. We have enough money in savings to cover something like this. I also had a working iPhone to book a ticket. There is also the fact that I live in a city that had so many available flights bound for Tokyo.

I think about the people who wouldn’t be able to do what I could because they just don’t have the money to cover the price of that flight.

ANA’s Star Wars-themed airplane

This whole thing just brings home the point of being flexible and having the ability and resources to adapt to changing situations when you are financially independent. This experience has made me even more determined to save and spend money wisely because I have the power to do so.

The fact that I also had time to think and decide was a blessing. Because I was off and had time to spare, I wasn’t panicking as much as the other passengers. I think I would react differently if I had to worry about having to be at a specific place at a specific time. Because my time was my own, I wasn’t under too much pressure.

Having flexibility is true power. Being able to adjust my time and my resources to something unexpected means I don’t bend under tough circumstances. I would be able to adjust my plans accordingly. I may have altered the path, but it still means I move forward on the road that I have chosen.

The path is not always laid out in stone. It can be flexible.

Financial independence means having flexibility to adapt to many unexpected things. It’s something I will strive for. This is why I think spreading the message of financial independence is always such a great thing.

Japanese Nenkin

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Expert discussing discussing Japanese pensions on TV

Pensioners and retirees are in an uproar here in Japan over a recent report by the Financial System Council. The study revealed that elderly couples (males over the age of 65 with a wife who is 60 or over) whose income is dependent on social security pensions are short an estimated ¥20,000,000 or USD $184,000 in income if they expect to live to 95 years old. This is the estimated total for thirty years.

According to nippon.com, most couples receive an estimated amount of ¥200,000 (USD $1900) but spend about ¥60,000 (USD $500) more. Essentially, they are spending more than what they are “earning.”

Debate of this shortfall is rampant. Some officials have then suggested that people are going to have to start saving for their own retirement–which is what we’ve been told a lot in the US.

Government officials have had to reject this study that they had requested because people are going crazy over this sum of money that they don’t have or won’t be able to cover. Interviews among elderly people show them worrying about coming up such a big amount of money.

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The talk shows have had a field day over the whole issue. One of the shows featured economists on the panel as the host asked a whole bunch of questions. There was also a specialist on hand to explain the situation in more detail.

At one point, the host asked the celebrity guests if any of them are investing. None of the people raised their hands. Now, these are people usually on TV and are pretty famous. Presumably, they should be making more money than the average person. However, none of them were investing in stocks. Actually, one guy said he did have some stocks on hand, but when he went on to discuss it, it seemed like it was invested in single stocks and not necessarily a diversified fund.

The celebrities then said that they didn’t know where to start. They also have a lot of fears if they lose all of their money.

So this made me think that a lot of these people are saving their money in regular savings account that are not even keeping up with inflation.

It also shows how very illiterate Japanese people are when it comes to financial issues. It’s so surprising. It also goes to show you how people are so reluctant to talk about money in public.

I also know how they’re feeling. When I first started my journey toward financial independence, I didn’t know where to begin, either. But at least I knew that I had to do something about it. It was definitely my responsibility to save for my own retirement.

I don’t want to judge, but this news made me realize how much I need to save as much as I can now so that I don’t depend on the government for my retirement. When I plug in my numbers in retirement calculators, I usually don’t include social security in any of the calculations.

First, I don’t know which one I will get. Will it be from the US social security or from the Japanese Nenkin system? Second, I also know that both governments are in trouble managing their debt. Will there be any money for our generation when it comes time to get our own social security checks. I’m not so sure. In order to avoid relying on them, I just don’t even include any amount when I calculate future retirement savings.

In any case, if I get it the future, I will be happy. If not, I hope I saved enough to cover my needs in the future.

Now it’s driving me to save more than ever. I will do my best to save for retirement on my own.

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Arigatou Your Money

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I was listening to the Stacking Benjamins and the Afford Anything podcasts last week and they both had Ken Honda on the show. Ken Honda is known as the Mari Kondo of personal finances in Japan. He is one of those people who is financially independent but still works because he loves what he does.

I’d never heard of him before–and I live in Japan.

However!

I’m glad I’ve heard of him now. On both podcasts, Honda talked about the concept of Arigatou Your Money. Basically, he said that every time money comes into or goes out of your life, you say thank you to it. When you go to pay for something at the store, you say, “Thank you, money.” When you receive money, you also show appreciation by thanking it.

This whole concept resonates with me. In a previous post, I wrote about gratitude before, and how just being grateful for all the things I have in my life has changed how I feel about the future. I’m glad that I heard this message again. It was a good reminder to never forget how good my life is right, even if there are a lot of things I struggle with. Even though I still have problems, I know how lucky I am to still be living the life that I have right now. I know that things could be worse–but even if they do, it’s still not as bad as I always imagine it to be.

So I did try doing the exercise that Honda described. I arigatou-ed my money. As soon as I finished the podcast, I had to buy my train tickets for my commute to work. I held the money in my hand and said thank you to it in my head. I placed it into the ticket dispenser and bought my tickets. I then went into work feeling happy.

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In between classes at my regular school, I usually teach an extra private lesson. It’s a very informal thing that I do. I’ve also had this student for many years. We usually meet for coffee at a cafe where I teach her some grammar and practice some conversation. It just happened that on that day of her lesson, she was due to pay me for her classes.

She handed me the money, but she then suddenly said, “I want to pay you more for my lessons.”

I was surprised, of course. Coming from a customer, this is not something you hear a lot.

She said that she had always felt that her lessons were great but that she was paying so cheaply for it. When we had started a few years ago, there were two other people taking the lesson with her. Since they were studying as a group, the lesson fee was cheaper than for a private lesson. However, even as those other students dropped out and she continued on, I never raised the price.

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I just felt that she was accommodating me so much. We had to meet at the place and time that I chose. She even had to drive so far, while it only takes me five minutes to walk to the cafe. She had to pay for parking, too.

In any case, she insisted on paying me more–which means I got a raise. I didn’t even have to do anything. At the end, she even paid for my coffee.

As I listened to her, I thought back to what Honda said about saying thank you to your money. I’m so glad that I did it and it was such an easy thing to do! I really also felt the love my student was sending my way. In turn, it also made me appreciate her for being such a great student and customer.

Call it good vibes or karma, this whole gratitude stuff really works–so go out and try it!

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