If You Could Reset Your Life

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








Fretful Finance

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 Nono[note]Nono is Grandad in Italian.[/note]. 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.


24 thoughts on “If You Could Reset Your Life

  1. Sounds like you are winning SavingNinja, if your “do over” puts in you in largely the same place you find yourself today.

    The language, reading, and being nicer to loved ones are all things you can choose to do more of today should you so desire. Fortunate indeed!

    Credit where credit is due for coding a smooth first person camera. That is quite challenging to do right, the vector maths, distance/perspective scaling, collision detection, etc.

    1. Yeah, it’s nice to come to that realisation. I definitely plan on rectifying all of the small things in due course 🙂

      Games programming is definitely the most difficult, if you don’t use a game engine! Great way to learn how to code.

  2. Enjoyed that read, SN – thanks for sharing. It’s great that even if you could have done things differently, that it’s only some small things, including some (as @indeedably mentions) which you can just do more of now.

    Interesting thing about the language – maybe that was more on your parents than on you for not learning/speaking Italian? As a 3 year old, wouldn’t you speak whatever language your family spoke? I was born here but growing up, English wasn’t spoken at home, we talked exclusively to our parents in their mother tongue. By the time I was 7, I was fluent (spoken) in Chinese and English. Sadly, I never learned how to read or write in the language so perhaps that’s something I would perhaps reset in my life!

    1. Thanks Weenie 🙂

      My mother is English so they only spoke occasionally in Italian. By the time I started going to school, the Italian dropped off almost completely as they never forced me to learn it. The outcome was that I can understand it better than I can speak it as I grew up listening but not talking.

      It’s awesome that you’re bilingual. Furthering my Italian is definitely on my to-do list! Just need to find the time.

  3. That’s nice that you realise you wouldn’t make any major changes. I was a Terrible Teenager, and probably caused my parents a few headaches, but totally forgot to consider that when answering your thought experiment! So on second thought I would go back and make a few changes there…

  4. Hi SN,

    Thanks for sharing. I have very similar feelings to you on this, in hindsight a career in finance would have been appealing. The issue with winding back the clock is the specificity of the information you can take back, finance would have been the wrong choice if you joined Lehman Brothers in 2007. Fun experiment though, think I will write up a response!

    1. Hey!

      I guess I’ll never know what working in finance is like. At least as a coder I get to wear casual clothes every day and play ping-pong/pool every now and again 🙂

      This was probably my favorite thought experiment, you should totally write one! I didn’t think that I’d get to the resolution that I got to before getting to the end of the post.

    1. Oooo, what career would you want to switch to?

      And, what extra stuff would you do?

      You should write a response! 🙂

  5. Interesting read, thanks for posting!

    I think personally I would have been a little less protective and made a few more “risky” investments when I was younger if I could turn the clock back now. I saw so many great opportunities that I missed out on because I was scared of losing money. I’m an old dude and I was working in Silicon Valley in the Dot Com years so you can probably do the math 🙂

    Just found your site so enjoying the read so far. Thank you!

    1. Hi Mark,

      Ooo, that’s a good one – take more risks. I’m very envious that you worked in Silicon Valley, especially in the Dot Com years! Must have been exciting. It’s like the mecca for software engineers! Always wanted to work there, at least for a few years 🙂

      1. It was a lot of fun back in the dot com days. I’m sure it still is, expensive as heck now though.

        I just saw on Facebook an old work buddy is renting out his 1 bedroom apartment for $3200 per month 😀

  6. Get on bitcoin early and sell out at the peak , buy a beach island and live like a King! 🙂

    Seriously answer:

    -Work harder at relationships – When I look back, it’s relationships with family, friends, work colleagues and so on that stick with me the most.
    -Worry and stress less – I used to be terrible with this
    -Seek out new experiences – I’ve generally been quite habitual throughout life. Life is about experiences.
    -Not waste any time , which is tied in with the former – Life is too short to waste. Learn a new skill, read a new book, meet an new person.

  7. The obvious answer would be not to do anything different if you are broadly happy with your current life situation – which I am.

    But it was not always an easy route to get to here. My early life involved a lot of trauma (only some of which was possibly avoidable) – and in retrospect, perhaps I wasted a lot of time in my 20s recovering from it. Perhaps I could have turned it around quicker? But I’m quite sure I wouldn’t want to live through much of it again to find out.

    I also think it’s a very different world now – and the answer partly depends on whether I would be living my life all over again from the perspective of the period I grew up, or from now. I’d quite like to be a five year old with a 40 something’s learnings from now (but only if I could give some of the exogenous trauma the swerve). Or would I? I can imagine it would be a little like being Cassandra – seeing your contemporaries make easily avoidable mistakes. It would also be very frustrating have a middle aged mind in a 5 year old body. At that age, you have very little agency over anything (and that frustration is likely to persist to a greater or lesser extent until you are at least 16).

  8. there’s no mention of sex at all – I must be a deviant of some sort. 🙂

    On a serious note, I gave up my TV years ago but would do it earlier.
    In work – I would also not wait for my boss (who hated me) to change job and just jump ship earlier.
    I would take more risks – work abroad, have a sabatical/career break.
    Also, I’d like to focus more on work and spend less time checking the FTSE100, my email or websites.

    1. You’re definitely a deviant! 😉 There were some other participants that went down that route!

      Ahh, I like Game of Thrones too much to give up my TV. I did get rid of my TV license quite a few years ago though!

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