Chautauqua Portugal 2019: What Makes You Happy?

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Wanderer

The Wanderer retired from his engineering job at a major Silicon Valley semiconductor company at the age of 33. He now travels the world, seeking out knowledge from other wealthy people, so that he can teach people how to become Financially Independent themselves.
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Well, we are back from two straight back-to-back Chautauquas and once again it has been an EPIC time for everyone.

This year we did 3 weeks: one in Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK and two in Portugal, and what I love about Portugal is

  1. It’s relatively unknown. People tend not to know what to expect when you mention Portugal.
  2. The landscape is frigging breathtaking.

So having been here multiple times in our travels, it was with a great deal of enjoyment as I watched our guests board the shuttle, get driven up and down the windy, mountainous roads of the Douro Valley, and round a corner, and see…this.

“Is that where we’re staying?!?” they whispered to each other in wide-eyed excitement.

Yup.

Welcome to Chautauqua Portugal!

Location, Location, Location

The location we picked this year was called Douro 41, and it’s absolutely sprawling. It has a spa, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a library, and so many hidden nooks and crannies that it was always possible to find a place for a one-to-one chat.

Oh, and the view. This was what we woke up to every morning.

Yeah. Every morning we got to see the sun crest over the hill on the other side of the Douro river and light up the entire valley. I’m not exactly a morning person, but this was one of the few places I didn’t mind being woken up at 7 each morning. Prettiest damned alarm clock ever.

Fun fact: We actually scouted out this place last year, and back then an area was roped off because it was still under construction. We asked the manager whether it would be ready in time for our guests, and they couldn’t make any promises. So imagine our surprise when we arrived and found that an entire upper wing of the hotel that we weren’t expecting had gotten finished in time. That’s right, our two-pool joint turned out to be a THREE-pool joint!

This is one of my favourite things about the Chautauquas in Europe. Rather than having it at the same location every year, we scout out a new location in a new country and, as a result, it’s a different experience each time. And not only is this great for us speakers, it’s great for returning alumni because it’s a whole new experience for them too.

You Make Chautauqua Special

But what’s really makes each Chautauqua unique is you guys. The attendees. We’ve now spoken at 7 of these, and the best part really is the group dynamic, and even if we ran the same one 10 times in a row the event would come out different each time because each group is special in their own way.

Each Chautauqua, a theme tends to come out. Previous ones have been really numbers-heavy, others have been about climbing the “Wall of Fear” of retirement, as Mr. Money Mustache puts it. For me, the realization that came out of Chautauqua Portugal was that money is the combination of numbers and emotion.

Money = Numbers + Emotion

Money being about numbers is kind of obvious for us. I mean, we’re engineers (or at least, we WERE engineers) so we naturally see the world in terms of numbers and spreadsheets, and money is a natural fit for being analyzed in this way. However, money having an emotional aspect was something I knew, but didn’t truly understand until this week.

We think and write about money mostly from the investment side, and in that lens, emotion is your enemy. Emotion causes you to plough your money into things as they skyrocket in value past all reason (like houses) and flee in terror when things plummet (like Bitcoin). Emotions screw you over, and the more you ignore your emotions when it comes to investing, the better.

Where you can’t ignore emotions, however, is in your relationships, especially with your significant other, and that’s something I realized in the first week when Scott & Taylor were there.

These past 2 weeks, J.L. “The Godfather” Collins, ourselves, and Alan Donegan from PopUp Business School were the speakers at both, with the 4th slot changing depending on the week. And the first week, the 4th slot was occupied by Scott & Taylor, who produced and starred in the FIRE documentary Playing With FIRE.

If you haven’t seen it yet (and you should, because FIRECracker’s in it!), Playing With FIRE follows Scott & Taylor’s journey from consumerist spendaholics living in California as they transition towards an intentional life in pursuit of Financial Independence. They sell their house, downsize their lives, and start investing (in VTSAX. Go figure), and they do it while documenting the emotional roller coaster they go through in the process.

As is typical in these situations, one spouse gets introduced to the idea of F.I.R.E. and is extremely into it, while the other spouse kind of gets pulled along. These transitions, by the way, don’t always go smoothly because intentional living and becoming F.I. requires some sacrifice (or at least compromise) and if both spouses aren’t doing it for the same reason one can quickly grow to resent the other.

We had more than a few couples during this week struggling with this exact issue, and I quickly realized that while FIRECracker and I are experts at the numbers part (MATH SHIT UP!), we have no idea when it comes to the relationship part. When I found out about F.I.R.E., FIRECracker was doing a job she hated and people were dropping like flies at her office from overwork. I didn’t have to sell the idea very hard at all. Once she vetted my math, the only question she had was “How soon can we do this?”

But that’s not the typical experience. Couples fight about money. A LOT. And what I realized was that while we are super lucky to have each other since the last big fight we had about money was 7 years ago, it does make us unrelatable to people who are not as aligned as we are.

And that’s where Scott & Taylor really did a fantastic job. While our one-on-one’s and our round-tables were filled with spreadsheet dissections and discussions about portfolio withdrawal strategies, theirs became a sort of financial couples therapy. Over and over again, we kept hearing about how couples that came to Chautauqua had their lives changed because they were finally able to get on the same emotional wavelength when it came to finances, and that was all Scott & Taylor.

Plus their talk was funny, poignant, and above all, vulnerable.

Anyway, my point is Scott & Taylor made me realize how critically important the emotional core of a relationship is to F.I.R.E. Without it, you can’t achieve F.I.R.E., and if you have it, count yourself lucky (as I do) because most couples have to work really hard to get there.

Money != Happiness

The second week shifted gears completely. This group generally wasn’t struggling with couples dynamics, but what they were struggling with was happiness post-F.I.R.E. The demographics of this group just happened to be such that many of them weren’t worried about the money aspect, or even the relationship. In terms of money, a lot of them had way more than they needed to pull the retirement trigger, but this group seemed to be so burned out by their jobs that the question they were struggling with seemed to be “I have the money. How come I’m still not happy?”

And I totally get it. Money does not equal happiness. Not having ENOUGH money equals unhappiness, but the inverse isn’t true. Once you fix the money part of your life, you don’t magically become happy. You still have work to do.

Now don’t get me wrong. Crossing that million dollar mark and hitting our F.I. goal was pretty frigging awesome, but for us happiness didn’t come because our spreadsheet said we should be happy. Happiness came from building the awesome life that we now lead, and that was, for lack of a better word, work.

Learning how to travel together was work. Learning how to live nomadically out of our backpack was work. Learning how to blog, and do SEO, and publish a book with Penguin was DEFINITELY work.

But what F.I.R.E. does is it frees you from having to direct your time and effort towards money, and instead allowing you to direct it towards your own personal fulfillment.

What makes you happy?

That was the question we dealt with in week two, and that was where our friend J.D. Roth came in.

Fun fact: Many people (including myself) think of J.D. Roth as a money guru, and he’s definitely an authority on that. But what I found really surprising the more time we spent with him is that he’s not actually as interested in the numbers side of F.I. as I expected. Instead, he’s much more focused on happiness.

Which, when you get right down to it, is what we’re all really pursuing at the end of the day. Yes 25 times our annual spending is great, but why are we spending all this time micro-optimizing our spreadsheets to achieve that goal? It’s not numbers for numbers’ sake, it’s happiness. It’s important to realize that we shouldn’t just retire AWAY from something (i.e. our hateful jobs), we have to retire TOWARDS something (i.e. a happy, fulfilling life). And that’s what he spent all week working through with our attendees. Because what makes us happy (living out of our backpacks, travelling the world, and publishing books) might be torture to someone else, and vice versa.

His talk was ALSO funny, poignant, and vulnerable. Only great speakers get invited to these things, it seems 🙂

So long story short, every time we do a Chautauqua the attendees have a great time, in a great place, with cool people, and often they come back from the experience a changed person. What surprises me each time is that this change happens to even me.

Have you ever read those news articles about “Tax Freedom Day”? It’s the day in which you stop working for the government (because of your income tax bill) and you start working for yourself (because you get to keep your after-tax earnings).

F.I.R.E. is the day in which you stop working for money, and you start working for yourself.

Thank you Chautauqua, and thank you once again to J.L. “The Godfather” Collins, Alan & Katie Donegan, Scott & Taylor, and J.D. Roth for making Portugal Chautauqua another wonderful experience for everyone.

What Makes You Happy?

So to return back to that question that kept coming up over and over again, what makes you happy? I’m asking you, person reading this article!

If you haven’t thought about it, think about it now. One of the most interesting scenes from Playing with FIRE was when Scott & Taylor sat down and listed out 10 things that they do that makes them happy. Do it for yourself, and if they’re game, ask your significant other to do it to.

Because what Scott & Taylor realized was that despite the wide chasm that seperated their approach to money, what actually made them happy included stuff like having a coffee with friends, or playing with their kids. Those things weren’t actually all that expensive.

And further, a lot of their happiness list matched up. So they discovered they were a lot more aligned on what made them happy than they thought. And that was what kicked off their journey towards F.I.

So what 10 things do you do that make you happy? Share it with us in the comments below, and if you can get your significant other to play as well, let’s hear it!

What Makes You Happy?

And of course, if you want to be the first to know about next year’s Chautauquas, join the mailing list here.


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32 thoughts on “Chautauqua Portugal 2019: What Makes You Happy?”

  1. Bryce – I love this, and am trying to think back to whether you and Kristy gave us any emotional / relationship advice?!? Not sure, but Mrs C definitely came away from our chat a lot more comfortable about our financial position. So in a way that was some advice…

  2. 1st commenter WAHOO! Loved the article and the idea that Chautauquas have themes. The emotion piece is so important and I feel like one of the least talked about. So I love that you guys really addressed that here. Our emotions don’t have to be the enemy. They can be great indicators of what we really want and even what isn’t working is we have the capacity to listen. I feel like the longer we’re on the journey to FI the better we get at doing just that. Love you guys and the article! I will be going next year to Portugal for sure!

  3. Nice. I wish I could join you guys on these Chautauqua..Is it by invite only?
    A question I have. You talk so much about this VTSAX but it’s a mutual fund, meaning with FACTA only americans can buy it. Foreigners like me cannot buy mutual funds anymore. Do you guys own it? How do you do to dribble Facta? Please explain. Thank

    1. I’m not sure what you mean. I live in London but buy mutual funds through my broker here in the UK. They may just go by a slightly different name as they may be in the local currency. Best to ask your broker.

    2. Anyone can join, but spots are limited and when the tickets go live they tend to sell out FAST. Make sure you sign up for the mailing list by clicking the link in the article to be in the loop.

  4. If it ain’t about happiness, then what’s the point?

    Alright, 10 things:

    1. My family laughing at my dad jokes
    2. My wife snuggling up to me
    3. Eating great cheap food in a street market
    4. Running on a brand-new (for me) new trail/mountain
    5. That first sip of fresh coffee in the morning
    6. The feeling of writing elegant simple code with surprisingly beneficial emergent properties
    7. Being gifted with ‘presents’ (favorite stuffed animal, etc) by my dog when I get home
    8. Flow or ‘being in the zone’
    9. The smell of an alpine forest
    10. That perfect hamburger when you’re starving after a 20-mile run. And the second one.

  5. 10 things that make me happy:

    1. watching awesome shows or movies
    2. hiking in the wilderness
    3. biking scenic trails
    4. relaxing at the ocean
    5. un-rushed coffee & breakfast
    6. wine & conversation in the evening with good friends
    7. watching my kids enjoy something they love
    8. stillness and peace somewhere in nature
    9. fixing broken things around the house
    10. saving money because I used my brain, skills and sometimes youtube

  6. 1. Being near my wife
    2.being with family
    3. Being with friends
    4 traveling
    5 movies
    6 exercise
    7 good food
    8 reading
    9. Interacting with people
    10 earning money

  7. I got my hubby to do this too. His, happily, matched many of mine.

    1. Snuggling in bed with hubby
    2. Spending time with my dog
    3. The smell of that first cup of coffee in the morning
    4. Hiking on a pretty trail
    5. Listening to podcasts or music while walking
    6. Late night talks with friends
    7. Listening to live music / dancing
    8. Being able to be giving
    9. Visiting new places/travelling
    10. A good black and white movie

    1. We considered it, but a big part of the appeal behind Chautauquas is an exotic location that people don’t typically go to. I love Canada, but it’s just a little too familiar I think…

  8. Emotions indeed . The bull market marches on , now the the Fed starting QE 4. A sea of sovereign and corporate debt .GE just said no to pensioners ,we can’t pay

    Going to be real fun when we get a real crash ala 2008 … Will see how emotions play out 🙂

  9. As a successful FIRE graduate and an engineer, I too struggled with what would bring happiness, fulfillment and meaning to my life once unconstrained by a full-time job. It turns out there is a lot of data out there on this, and ultimately it boils down to one thing: healthy relationships. To quote the former director of the Harvard Grant Study on Human development, “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

    I also put together a slide deck for a presentation that I gave to some peers earlier this year titled “Reasoning Your Way to Happiness with Science and Logic”
    https://www.slideshare.net/davecortright/reasoning-you-way-to-happiness-with-science-and-logic

    I have some additional refinements I’d make today (Dunbar’s Number, more on Bowlby’s environment of evolutionary adaptedness), but overall I still think it’s a good foundation. 😊

  10. Top 10 things for Tigermom:
    1/ spending time with husband
    2/ spending time with miracle baby
    3/good food!
    4/ reading interesting work
    5/ spending time with great friends
    6/ travel!
    7/ spa treatments
    8/ emotionally healthy time with family
    9/ learning interesting new things
    10/ freedom to do what I like 👧🏻😊
    Best wishes to all!

  11. Is there a way that I’m not finding to watch Playing with FIRE in Canada?
    I’m in Montreal and it looks like the closest showing is in Maine… Kind of far 🙁

  12. In no particular order:

    1. The feeling I get when I am really inspired and writing a song
    2. Playing my guitar and singing for an appreciative audience
    3. Watching the sunset at the marina by my house
    4. Seeing the wildlife that life around my house
    5. Photography – mostly of the last 2 things mentioned above – the best part is looking at all the pictures for the first time and seeing how they all turned out
    6. Binge watching Netflix with my spouse while we both work on our art projects
    7. Having a nice meal with my spouse – typically one that he cooked because he is the best cook I know
    8. Good conversations with friends, family or even people I just meet online
    9. Playing video games – either a good strategy or simulation game I can play alone or having a good group of people to raid with in Warcraft
    10. Learning new things

  13. 10 things – in no particular order

    1 meditation
    2 helping others grow
    3 singing / listening to music
    4 dancing
    5 yoga
    6 listening to husband read books aloud
    7 time with husband
    8 laughing with others
    9 time at the beach / swimming / walking / reading
    10 time in the sun / warm weather

  14. Happiness a state of mind. It is transient from one moment to the next, and it is unique from one person to the next.

    Here is the common denominator framework to harness your very own happiness:

    1. Financial Security – Financial Independence is an excellent process for bringing FS into reality.

    2. Relationship Fulfillment – A family with mate and CHILDREN is the ultimate goal, not a million or a billion. This is the foundation of our existence.

    3. Healthy Mind and Body – Life is about experiences. On a DAILY basis, design a lifestyle with foods, exercise and interesting activities to keep the Mind and Body operates at optimal level to take in the flow of experiences.

    Structure your 24 hours with this framework and happiness will organically blossom into your life with little or no effort in searching.

    Good luck!

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