Tag Archives: Future

Setting My Sights

Do you know that feeling where you’ve got the next few years all figured out but everything past that is a giant white hole of nothingness? In middle school, high school was this great unknown, in high school I had absolutely no mental image of what college life would be like, and now here going into my junior year of college, it seems like all the goalposts here will soon be passed. Past that, I have no idea what to expect. What’s next? Where do I set my target as I start adult life?

I’ve been reading a lot about financial independence in the past few days, because financial independence is an ancillary goal that makes a lot of other life goals possible. Specifically, I tore through Rich Dad, Poor Dad, No More Harvard Debt, and the blog of Mr. Money Mustache (MMM, who is quickly becoming a personal hero). And I’ve realized just how skewed my view of money is. I was lucky enough to have been taught well enough by my parents to never carry a credit card balance and pay off your debts early, but that information on its own was only probably ever enough to keep me from seriously shooting myself in the foot. I didn’t know that the way the rich made money- through the interest off of investment – was something anyone could reasonably do. And  I had never thought of dollar bills as little workers, who, when put to work in the right places, will give you 7-8 cents every year, forever. Gamechanger.

Of course, I’m not inheriting any family nest eggs that will turn me a steady profit the rest of my life. I’m going to have to build one myself. Luckily, as Mr. Money Mustache points out, this won’t be hard at all. It just takes a willingness for frugality and a focus on what you really need. The idea behind financial independence is simple: for every dollar that passes into your hands, treat it like a quarter. Invest the other 75%. In 7 years, you will be done.

How long it takes to retire at give savings rates

The magic graph: the time to retire based on your savings rate. At 75%, it’s 7 years. At 60%, it’s 13 years. At the recommended 10% savings rate? 51 additional years. Most people die before then.

7 years! I’m going to graduate college at the age of 22 1/2. At this high savings rate it will take me half a year to pay off student loans, meaning that on my 30th birthday as I cut the cake, I could retire, financially free for the rest of my life. And yes, this all includes inflation.

The catch is that the remaining 25% of your gross income becomes your working income. So if I make (hypothetically) $80k per year in a decent engineering job, I’ll actually take home $20k. But considering  that after the first 7 years this $20k/year is absolutely free, that’s not such a bad deal at all. And especially considering that of all of the things that make us happy, such as close loved ones, good and active health, freedom of choice, and purchasing experiences over things, a gross high income is not among them. The rest of MMM’s blog is dedicated to cutting out the financial fluff that, in the end, isn’t necessary and doesn’t really do anything to make you happier. It’s the difference between the wealthy and the rich.

Retiring at 30 doesn’t mean I’ll never work again – it simply means I won’t have to. I’ll finally have the freedom and choice to live how I want to and work on the projects that matter to me. Isn’t money supposed to buy us freedom?

All the same, past that 30 year mark is the same white unknown that has presented itself again and again. I don’t know what I’ll do once I get there, and I have no idea what’s in store along the way. But that’s to think about another day, and for now my sights are set.

Predicting the Future: Cool Tech and College Debt

“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented yet, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”  – US Secretary of Education

For my generation, when the cost of college compared to yearly income is twice that of our parents and choosing to get a degree is even more of a gamble than ever, the idea that the knowledge we are learning may not be at all relevant with the knowledge we’ll need is absolutely frightening. It’s part of why I chose a very broad engineering field (Mechanical Engineering), because I felt and still feel that too specialized of a degree is a long-term death sentence.

But this post isn’t to rant about the rising cost of college and the ever-shrinking job market. That’s been covered plenty. This post is to see, when can I do about it? How do I target areas that will be useful in the future, even if they aren’t now?

The answer lies in a report I recently stumbled across put out by the McKinsey Global Institute, titled, “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy.” Not the sexiest name, I know, but it’s very easily digestible and if you want to get a taste of where the world is going in the next 12 years, please do yourself the favor of skipping the rest of this post and just read the whole thing. (Click here [pdf] to download it).

To get straight to it, here is their list of technologies that by 2025 will drive the economy and change the world as we know it …

  1. Mobile Internet
  2. Automation of Knowledge Work
  3. Internet of Things
  4. Cloud Technology
  5. Advanced Robotics
  6. Autonomous Vehicles
  7. Next-generation Genomics
  8. Energy Storage
  9. 3D Printing
  10. Advanced Materials
  11. Advance Oil and Gas Extraction
  12. Renewable Energy

… and further technologies that will reach maturation soon after:

  1. Next-Generation Nuclear Fission
  2. Nuclear Fusion
  3. Carbon Sequestration
  4. Advanced Water Purification
  5. Quantum Computing
  6. Private Space Flight
  7. OLED Lighting
  8. Wireless Charging
  9. Flexible Displays
  10. 3D Displays

The good news is, there’s a lot of really cool technology here. As an engineer, I’ll likely get to work on building one or more of these and it means that if I can start targeting these areas now I’ll be in very high demand. (My personal target at the moment – private space flight. Seriously, how awesome is that?) But it also means lots of money for those businessmen who are able to anticipate and leverage these new technologies, as well as good work for the lawyers who will have to craft intelligent policy to address issues that will arise.

The bad news is if you’re planning on being a secretary, truck driver, or are uneducated. The jobs for the two former are going to quickly disappear, and for the latter have already gone. The days of huge portions of the population being able to work a living wage straight out of high school are far in the past. Factory jobs are being automated and the ones that aren’t are done much more cheaply by a rising Asian middle class who is desperate for that some work. Income inequality in the US will rise higher between the those who have skills in this new economic landscape and those who do not. The whole trick here is to be on the skilled side.

For the many artists, musicians, writers, and actors I know, the good news is that this whole march of technology largely doesn’t affect your professions. For you, it is the same timeless struggle of trying to make a name for yourselves in the cutthroat and unstable environment of the entertainment industry. Best of luck guys, I don’t know how you do it.

Who is the future look brightest for? Those who instead of finding a job, make their own: innovators and entrepreneurs. These new technologies drastically reduce the cost and time investment needed to conceive, prototype, and scale up a new idea or product. The rewards for successful entrepreneurs are potentially huge, and the rising world of VC’s and angel investors makes it ever more possible. Beware, however, the current app bubble we’re in.

So there you have it, my plan for escaping the crushing debt of student loans after I graduate: Make myself useful in the planning and execution of technologies that are going to change the world. I suggest you all do the same.