Welcome to Thought Experiment #3.
At the beginning of each month, a thought experiment question will be tweeted under the hashtag #ThoughtExperiment and everyone is invited to participate with their own posts, these will then go live together on the 15th of every month (you can still join in after this date).
The year is 2030, you’ve just spent your life savings on purchasing a ticket to ‘reset’ your life. You’ve gone back in time to your first day of school. You have the chance to live your life again. You have all of your current memories. What would you do differently?
As always tweet @SavingNinja if you have participated and I’ll add your post to the list below!
Thought Experiment #3
If I could go back in time and start again, knowing what I know now, what would I do differently?
This type of question seems to crop up multiple times amongst friends and co-workers, “If you could go back to University, what would you study?” Or, “If you could do any job you wanted to, what would it be?”
That’s basically what this proposition would allow, the ability to pursue any career that you want to. We, of course, have the same opportunity when we’re going through life the first time, but we never grasp it fully. We don’t have much knowledge of life and we’ve not had many experiences, we make the wrong choices.
How would I make sure that I make better choices this time around? Who’s to say I won’t be disappointed with the outcome? I might even end up preferring my original life. That’s a worrying thought. I’ll have to be careful when thinking about this.
The little things
It’s easier to start with the little things. What small bits would I change if I could go back and do it all over again?
1) I’d be nicer to my parents
I was an absolute nightmare growing up. At my parents peril, I didn’t care about much, other than the current thrill I was seeking.
Whilst away at University, one day after having an argument with my partner I realised that I had been terrible to my Dad about 5 years prior and came to the realisation that I’d never said sorry. I rang him up bleary-eyed and said I was sorry for all of the horrible things that I’d done. He naturally thought something was wrong as I have a great relationship with them now. I simply informed him that I felt wracked with guilt as I realised I’d never apologised.
Naturally, my parents aren’t perfect. But knowing what I know now, I know that not everyone is. We can only control the way we behave and I definitely could have behaved much better.
So, if I could go back, I’d be nicer to my parents. As I would know that I’d regret it immensely if I wasn’t and I’d known that they won’t be around forever.
2) I would read more
I currently read for at least 2 hours every single day. I love reading, it’s my favorite hobby. My perfect retirement dream is having enough time to read a lot more books. But I wasn’t always like that. My lifetime ‘books read’ count actually stood at under 10 until around the age of 22, which is embarrassing to admit.
Knowing what I know now, I realise that my life could have been filled with a lot more joy and learning if I’d read throughout my childhood and teenage years. Now, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, hense pursuing FI/RE :]
3) I would focus more on learning Italian
My parents both speak Italian and all of my family on my father’s side don’t speak a word of English. I moved over to England when I was 3 years old.
Although I can understand and speak a little Italian, I am by no means fluent. I’m getting worse the older I get. It’s always been on my to-do list to actually make a concerted effort to learn. It’s just so difficult when you’re an adult to find the time to do so. Especially when I’ve got so many other income generating pursuits.
I realise now that the best time for me to do this would have been when I was growing up and still living at home. I lived with two people who spoke fluently; my mum and my dad, it would have been way easier to learn. It also would have been a lot easier to dedicate time to it back then.
By the time I left home I could have been fluent, I’d be able to go through life with my very Italian name and say “Yes, I do speak Italian” when other Italians I meet assume that I do.
I’d be able to communicate with half of my family, including my late Nono1. I’d also have a pretty awesome life skill to add to my resume.
4) I would learn how to play the Piano
Like reading, I found my joy for the Piano later in life. I just don’t have enough time to properly learn and get graded. If I could start again, I’d make sure I dedicated some time to learning this instrument as I know that perfectly playing a piece of music brings me a unique kind of joy.
The bigger picture
I’ve covered the little things, what about the bigger picture? Would I still choose programming as a career path? Would I still have gone to University? How different may my life become?
I always jokingly say to friends that if I could be anything, I’d be a Shepherd. I’d have my lot of land and country house and all I’d care about would be my sheep and my spritely Collie dog.
I think the reality of being a farmer would definitely not live up to the dream… I may be stuck in that profession with hefty leases and not much chance of obtaining financial independence.
The fast-track to an early retirement
My passion for making money has been realised over the years from my tendencies in video games and real life. I quite like spreadsheets too. I think I’d be pretty good at managing other people’s money.
I’ve also always liked Math, maybe I’d enjoy being a Investment Banker? There are a lot of horror stories of 80 hour work weeks and a lot of stress. But, with my knowledge of FI/RE, our beautiful community – would this matter? I could stash away as much money as I could into investment accounts and retire as quickly as possible. I may even be able to top my current savings rate of 80%?
Now that I think about it, that option just seems silly. If I had the opportunity to start over, I’d pick a pretty hard, high-stress job, just so that I could quit as soon as I could? Hmm.
What do I enjoy most?
I’m trying really hard to think about this. It’s worse than the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” I don’t know! Argh.
I quite like the idea of building things, but I don’t like the thought of committing to hard physical labour for potentially decades. I like the idea of being a farmer, but again, I don’t want a tough, long working life.
What I know I enjoy is programming video games. There’s a certain thrill that you get when you program a piece of code and it works. With video games, this thrill is two-fold. You’re actually seeing shapes and animations and gravity form on a screen from the piece of code that you’ve written. When I first programmed a smooth moving first-person camera in C++ 8 years ago, it felt SO awesome. I can imagine it’s the same feeling a carpenter gets after they’ve finished building a structure that they’re proud of.
But, in my current life I’ve already tried to pursue a video game development career. I have a degree in it. I ended up choosing the money and going down a more traditional programming route where the jobs are plentiful and the pay higher.
I traded in passion and joy for money in the hope that I’d eventually go back to Indie game development when I ‘have more time.’ I didn’t know back then that I’d need to be retired before I got that time.
The final commit
Before doing this thought experiment I really thought that if I could do it all again, I’d get into a finance career. I thought I’d train to be an Accountant or Investment Banker. I like financial topics, I know more about personal finance than most people that are double my age and I like making money. Simple choice, right? Not really.
Nothing’s ever that simple. When sitting back and thinking about it properly, I’ve realised that I’m pretty happy with my current career choice. As a programmer, specifically a mobile developer, I still get that thrill and artistic-like option to design, architect and build something which you can visually see and be proud of. There are no barriers to higher salaries related to your age or years of service, you just have to be good at coding. I can work remotely whenever I like and most days are pretty chilled out.
I guess that makes me pretty lucky? It’s a blessing really to analyse your life and discover that you wouldn’t choose a different career path. I’d probably even stick with the same companies that I’ve worked for. They each gave me just what I needed at the time in order to move on and progress.
I would definitely still reset my life though. I’d do it for the little things. The little things make all the difference in the end.