{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Proof of life

Proof of life.

A phrase that conjures up mental images of a hostage holding a newspaper. Proving that at the time of recording, they had been alive. Detained by a bad actor. Deprived of liberty. Prevented from escape.

Their captors a criminal gang. Extremist. Pirate. Rebel. Religious loon. Terrorist. Oppressive regime.

For those most fortunate, of means or owed favours, a small team of crack troops resembling the Dirty Dozen or the Expendables might be loading weapons and plotting a daring rescue.

The majority rely on hope that apathy, fate, or faith might change their circumstance.

A select few understand that agency is the only reliable way to improve things.

In reality, proof of life is far more mundane. Paperwork demanded by annuity providers, benefits agencies, and pension funds who wish to turn the cash flow tap off for those whose claims have expired.

The narrative may still feature the likes of Donald Sutherland or Sylvester Stallone, but only because their advancing years place them in the demographic where their longevity is in question.

Kind readers have raised questions and expressed concerns about the absence of new content at {in·deed·a·bly}. Theories ranged from the imaginative to the absurd. Spanning the gamut of alien abduction, death, deportation, divorce, illness, incarceration, inheritance, lottery win, relapse, or surrender to the AI overlords.

The reality is simple: life happened. Nothing dramatic. Just the humdrum of the everyday.

Competing priorities.

Demanding job.

Inspiration lacking.

Scarcity of time.

A recognition that something had to give. One of those somethings was writing new stories.

Time passed. A week. A month. Approaching six months. Routines disrupted. Habits broken.

Conditioned behaviours are funny that way. It is how we learn. Encouraged by what works. Finding our happy. The path to success. Dissuaded from repeating what doesn’t. Incurring pain. Enduring suffering.

Do the work. Repetition leads to muscle memory, then mastery. An overnight success is the result of a lifetime’s efforts. Success which only comes to those who continue to show up. Choose your own cliché.

Clichés are repeated widely and often. Seldom false. Sometimes true.

Avoid the don’ts. Catch a falling knife. Play with matches. Touch the hot stove. Make eye contact with the Alpha. Challenge authority. Behind every warning label is a lawsuit, behind every lawsuit is a lesson.

Humans are malleable creatures. Capable of accepting, normalising, and rationalising almost anything.

Alcohol and caffeine addictions are accepted and indulged. Adultery and heroin are less so. Gambling, obesity, and smoking are looked down upon, viewed as the product of weak character or poor impulse control. Arbitrary distinctions that don’t withstand scrutiny. Yet accepted nonetheless, until questioned.

But where does that acceptance come from? Conscious and considered choice? Or simple conditioning?

Authority and ethics define our moral compass. Which in turn guides our decision-making.

Imprinted upon us at a young age. Then evolving based on experience.

In small part, by what we are told: “do as I say”.

In larger part, by what we observe in those who have power over us: “deeds, not words”.

Things we absorb. Accept. Adopt. Imitate. Sometimes seek to emulate.

Rarely questioned.

Seldom challenged.

Lessons baked into our behaviours, long before we learn to consider the source of information.

Before we learned that our parents were fallible and flawed. Making it up as they went along.

Before we learned that some teachers had unsuccessfully pursued their dreams. Failed their way into becoming educators.

Before we learned some childhood priests, scoutmasters, and coaches were driven by instincts more untoward than altruistic.

Not all. Not even most. But enough to raise doubts, were we to stop and consider the origin of our rules.

My employer has rules. Lots of them. The annual mandatory compliance refresher reiterated them recently.

No outside business interests. No consulting. No side hustles. Staff should be well rested and refreshed. Devoting their best hours of concentration, focus, decision-making, and motivation to perform the jobs we pay them to do. We may rent only 1/3 of the hours in their day, but we demand 100% of their energy.

No outside investments. These misalign commercial outcomes and introduce potential conflicts of interest. Staff with funds to invest should purchase firm shares via the employee share scheme.

No media, either social or traditional. Employees are representatives of the firm. Anything the employee says, does, or implies may adversely impact their reputation and by extension the reputation of the firm.

No nepotism. It doesn’t matter how qualified friends or family may be. Avoiding negative perception matters more. That means no internships or graduate placements for employee children. Unless you reside in the C-suite, then the rules don’t apply.

No intellectual property rights. Any idea or invention you create while an employee is owned entirely by the firm. A cake recipe? Tiktok channel teaching tweens to twerk? Novel? Blog? The firm demands ownership of it all, but denies liability for any of it.

No compete. Experience gained at the firm can’t be used elsewhere. This means you can’t work for competitors, suppliers, vendors, or members of industry groups. Used Excel on the job? Sorry, you can’t work anywhere else that uses Microsoft products. Talked to our Big4 auditor? Sorry, now you can’t work anywhere that hires consultants from that same Big4 firm, in any capacity, anywhere in the world.

Of course, none of those rules are enforceable. The firm knew it. Employees suspected it. The threat wasn’t the outcome, it was the firm’s willingness to bankrupt employees via legal defence fees incurred.

On the deadline day for completing the compliance training, senior management announced they had entered the firm in an independent and objective “Best Places to Work” beauty pageant. They sought to apply the Amazon model, where candidates trade salary expectations for the conferred status of adding a strong brand to their resumes. All permanent staff were required to complete the survey, following firm issued guidance on how to answer the questions. “Best” place to work indeed!

A decade ago, I might have called bullshit on the cynicism and hypocrisy of these self-serving rules.

Surrendered to my inner saboteur’s urges to inwardly rage quit, while exiting with sufficient grace and dignity to ensure no bridges were burned and leaving my clients and colleagues eager to work with me again.

Accepting that attempting to fix others was a fool’s errand.

Understanding that expecting others to change was a recipe for disappointment.

Voting with my feet, to trade one bullshit job for another. Knowing all sites are pretty much the same. Yet still secretly hoping that maybe, just maybe, next time would be different. The curse of the incurable optimist!

A near death experience led to re-evaluation, as such things have a way of doing. Providing new insights. Altering the lens through which I perceived the world. No longer immortal, there was no time to waste.   

The work didn’t matter, not really. Projects were delivered, then forgotten in a month and discarded within a decade.

The games and bullshit didn’t matter, not really. Silly things amusing simple minds and fragile egos.

The money didn’t matter, not really. An enabler, not a goal. A necessary evil, but a means to an end. Once we reach the point of “enough”, magic numbers like net worth and salary level become meaningless comparators. A way of keeping score in a game that nobody else is playing.

My changed priorities resulted in five years’ worth of semi-retirement. Glorious rose-coloured hindsight remembers the bliss of idleness and the blessing of time. It conveniently forgets the yearning for meaning and challenge of identity, self-indulgent questions that only those with nothing better to do have the luxury of pondering.

Alas all good thing come to an end.

Three years ago, a hostage exchange ensued. My financial freedom for an ongoing relationship with my children. Investing the time while the time still mattered. Running interference when the bipolar winds blew strong and the behaviours became increasingly erratic. Semi-retirement surrendered for salaried employment and an eye-watering mortgage. Families are complicated, mine as much as any.

Which brings us back to proof of life. Any good hostage drama requires it. Providing comfort to loved ones and credence to cashflows whose continued existence are contingent on mortality being kept at bay.

After nearly six months of silence, this story is to reassure interested parties that I’m still alive.

In a few short months, for the first time in 15 years, school drop offs will no longer be required. School holidays transition from fun necessity to enjoyable option.

A year later, my elder son will have left home. His main university selection criteria: anywhere but here.

I’m not going to lie, the last few years have been tough. However, I’ve attempted to make the best of an unfortunate situation. Patience, preparation, and planning have put the time to good use. Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson may not be digging me a tunnel out, but I’ve embraced their theme tune if not their methods.

My employer may be overbearing. My workload overwhelming. But they are also overpaying, roughly 50% over current market salaries. It isn’t sustainable, but it doesn’t have to be over the long term.

My once non-existent pension has become a late bloomer, tax breaks embraced and salary not the only sacrifice made for the cause of future me.

After giving birth to a house deposit, my ISA has recovered lost ground, if not the lost compounding years. Proof once more that eye-watering financial hits in the moment are usually mere glancing blows over the medium term.

I trust this story puts concerned minds at ease. Thanks for caring, it means a lot.

I won’t promise that normal service will be resumed anytime soon.

Nor can I promise that this story hasn’t been autogenerated by our AI overlords, as part of an elaborate hoax or devious benefits fraud scheme.

But if it were, it wouldn’t have featured that last paragraph. Or would it?

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  1. FIRE v London 18 March 2024

    Great post, thank you.
    Crap employer. What sector, roughly?

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 18 March 2024 — Post author

      Thanks FvL.

      In the scheme of things, they are far from the worst I’ve worked with/for, typical of their sector in the Square Mile. Generously demanding perhaps? For the most part I follow the rules set by the regulator, and ignore the rest.

  2. Dee 18 March 2024

    Thank you. Have a great life!

  3. Michelle 18 March 2024

    Yeah!! It’s so good to hear from you 😁. I figured (hoped?) it was just a busier than usual time rather than stopping although. You have definitely been missed in my Inbox!

    Sounds like you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, whoever dug it. That’s good news, though I can imagine brings its own questions.

    Good to have you back, even if only temporarily. We’ll take what we can get 🤣😁.

  4. Calt 18 March 2024

    Missed your posts! Thanks for the update and for sharing your story so candidly. It’s refreshing in an era of fakes. Take care!

  5. weenie 18 March 2024

    Hey indeedably

    Good to see that you are alive and well – I too had been hoping that the only reason for the absence was just life happening.

    Keep digging that tunnel!

    Also, I’d like to think that I could spot if AI had written one of your posts…your story is too good for AI 🙂

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 18 March 2024 — Post author

      Thanks weenie.

      As an experiment a while back, I fed ChatGPT a few of my stories and asked it to generate one in my writing style. It did a surprisingly good job, not perfect but not a bad effort.

  6. The young investor 18 March 2024

    Thanks for being alive!
    Following the blog since 2018, I was quite scared we wouldn’t hear from you anymore.
    Your prose would be highly missed and, most of all, I am still very curious about how your perspective on life/work/marriage is evolving given that the kids will leave the nest in the next few years. Basically a follow-up on your “Spouse-FI” post, one of the best internet things I’ve read in years!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 18 March 2024 — Post author

      Thanks TYI, for the kind words and the long lived support.

      I am still very curious about how your perspective on life/work/marriage is evolving given that the kids will leave the nest in the next few years

      Short version: we make our choices, and live the with the consequences. Families are complicated!

      I’ve got two amazing kids, something I wouldn’t change. But they wouldn’t be here were it not for my relationship with their mother.

      Hindsight is a mixed blessing. Allowing us to second guess past decisions, but being in the past those decisions cannot be changed. The best we can do is learn from them, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes again and again. Instead, we find all new mistakes to make!

      In hindsight, I wouldn’t get married. By this I mean the institution rather than to a specific individual. There is a considerable asymmetry between the pros and cons. When things go well, the economies of scale achieved from sharing finances can’t be beaten. When things go less well, that same coupling creates barriers and friction.

      For me, no amount of tax breaks and estate certainty can offset the financial self-harm incurred when exiting a marriage. More than half (but less than two thirds) of marriages in my peer group (colleagues, friends, neighbours, family, etc) have ended before one of the couple expires. There are clearly sample and observer biases at work here, but demographics are destiny and middle class households have more options for life after marriage than those who enjoy less fortune. By this I mean that I suspect financial constraints rather than matrimonial bliss keep many couples together.

      In hindsight, I wouldn’t have stayed living in the United Kingdom. London served its purpose at the beginning of my career, but it wouldn’t have been the destination of choice for me since at least 2008 (possibly a little earlier). The opportunities, net income, and savings after living costs available elsewhere have outshone those here. Brexit might be the talking point, but the structural decline began long before. It has only worsened with time.

      Kids make relocating more complicated. Some parents will tear their children out of schools and away from social support networks on a whim, putting themselves first and trusting in the resilience of their offspring. Other parents hide behind their children, using them as an excuse for their own inaction or unwillingness to improve their lot in life. There are few good answers, but plenty of bad ones.

      My schools as a kid were attended by more migrants than local born kids. The top achievers were almost all migrants. But so too were the larger number of overdoses, teenage pregnancies, gang members, and suicides. Starting over at a young age works well for for those it works for, but appeared to be tough going for the rest. The older the kids are when the move is made, the harder the transition appears to be. Your mileage may vary.

      In hindsight, I would have followed much the same career arc that I fell into. Financially literate, then riding the successive technology waves of the internet, big data, and now AI. I may not have found it particularly interesting much of the time, but it has provided a comfortable standard of living for my family. It also meant I didn’t have to do heavy lifting, outdoors, in the rain!

      • The young investor 19 March 2024

        Thank you for the (much honest) follow-up! As a childless expat in his early-30s and with a decent job, it seems to me that the opportunity cost of having children is often too high: the complexities in relocating, the financial burden, loss of free time, being stuck with the mother (who might grow cold to you, especially after giving birth), loss of optionality in general, etc.

        I am glad you find the experience so rewarding to be worth the cost. I guess I might be still too young for that, and I hope that when the time comes, cognitive dissonance will fix the rest (we are creatures of biology, after all…).

        You are spot on with the divorces rate – I have similar observations with my married or co-living peers. What worries me the most – being a somewhat still idealistic young fella – is the life of quiet desperation most of them seem to be leading, even if they are childless: the boredom, the pettiness, the sexual frustration, etc. Especially the husbands/males, who I suspect are less well-equipped to deal with all of that (and have less and less incentives to do so, nowadays). At the same time, the unmarried ones can also look quite desperate, especially after a certain age. As you said, few good answers and plenty of bad ones.

        Good luck with your journey and please keep us updated from time to time, as reading this really helps me to reflect on how to play my cards the best I can. Also, I am sure that putting it on paper helps you gain some further perspectives on your own direction of travel.


        • {in·deed·a·bly} 19 March 2024 — Post author

          reading this really helps me to reflect on how to play my cards the best I can.

          By all means prepare for the worst, but ensure you don’t mitigate the downside so much that you miss out of the potential upside entirely. Some folks do live the “happily ever after“, 80-year-olds walking hand-in-hand along the beach together, still best of friends and content in one another’s company. When it happens (and it does happen) it is a beautiful thing.

          A counterpoint to the doom and gloom above is that getting old sucks, while getting old alone is frankly terrifying. I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to spend time in chemo clinics, cancer wards, and hospices. Having someone dependable in your corner is priceless, even if lust is a distant memory, love has long since faded away, and now there is little more than familiar contempt. For some (arranged marriages for example) that might be all there ever was.

          It doesn’t have to be a spouse, it could a partner, relative, or just really good friend. But whatever form the connections takes, they are important relationships to curate and maintain.

  7. Your Money Blueprint 19 March 2024

    One of the few writers on the internet I can tell is definitely not regurgitated AI garbage!

    I hope you can make the most of the time of your son’s last year at home.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 March 2024 — Post author

      Thanks Nick. All new garbage here! Though it will only be another year or so before we won’t be able to tell whether the author was a bot, content farm freelancer, or living breathing person.

  8. unsolicited mentee 20 March 2024

    Thanks for the post. Reading and pondering the remarks you are making in these posts helps me contemplate what I could be dealing with in my life in 10+ years, it is like having a “general approach to life” mentor I never had, I am sure there is more of us, please keep on sharing.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 March 2024 — Post author

      Thanks unsolicited mentee. I may be cautionary tale of what not to do, but certainly not something to emulate!

      If you want advice: lead your own life, make your own choices, be honest with yourself and learn by doing.

      What I did think I knew has become less certain with age, as I’ve learned much of what I’d previously attributed to skill and judgement was largely good fortune and good timing. Luck isn’t a sound basis for a plan, any more than hope is.

  9. AoI 21 March 2024

    Thank you for the post indeedably, I was also most pleased to see it land in my inbox. I see your writing has lost none of it’s eloquence or tendency to provoke deep thought during your blogging semi retirement. I hope things at home evolve positively for you

  10. Pendle Witch 22 March 2024

    Hey Indeedably!
    Nice to hear from you after all this time. I’m not going to proffer any words of wisdom, after all those above, but I hope you are reasonably content muddling through. That’s all we are doing anyway! If not content, then obviously some changes might be necessary…
    Good luck and best wishes 😊😊

  11. Gnòtul 23 March 2024

    An heartfelt “Thank You!” for this update, Indeedably.

    As always, excellent writing: the bit about falling off the wagon of habits and routines hit close to home. Our time on Earth feels like a continuous effort, a constant struggle against entropy, but man am I grateful for the opportunity I’m given on this spinning little blue marble!

    I sincerely wish you all the best on your personal and career endeavors!

    In the meantime, I will eagerly await the next thought-provoking pearl of wisdom, wrapped in an original, humble and delightful style! 😉 Kudos

  12. John Smith 24 March 2024

    Gladly enjoyed your proof of live 🙂 Looking forward for the next one!
    As a multi-citizenship shadow and multiple countries resident, I think the truth is “Ubi bene ibi patria” – Homeland is where it (life) is good.

  13. ermine 25 March 2024

    Sorry to hear about the tough time you’ve been having, hope it works out well in future.

  14. andybrownaus 26 March 2024

    Echo the comments of others – down under – I appreciate the sharings and if you are able to be replicable by the AI overlords, then probably time for me to take the pill like in the Matrix. Sounds like a difficult home situation. I read an interesting comment recently on various difficulties in life “it is not possible to determine whether something was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ until many years after the event”.. For many situations I think this is true (and perhaps our own lenses colour our perception and memory anyway!) Hoping your children make it through to the next stage; and the potential increase in time freedom is able to be taken full advantage of. Feel free to visit australia – we are inundated with new arrivals post Brexit and China-exiteers!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 27 March 2024 — Post author

      Thanks andybrownaus.

      For what it is worth, I don’t think it is a question of absolutes, more perspectives and personal preference. Nobody is absolutely “good” or “bad”, in the same way nobody is “normal”. It is more a question of compatibility and shared preference. We all independently evolve along separate development arcs, some of which bring us closer together and some mean divergent paths, and sometimes both but over differing timescales.

      It isn’t so much a question of them, as whether we choose to invest our scarce time and energy interacting with them. At its heart, that is a choice, albeit sometimes not a simple one. Things can get a bit more spicy when any/all children, money pressures, or mental illness are added to the mix, but those things can be excuses just as readily as reasons for action or inaction.

      Happiness is a lifestyle choice, one generated from within rather found in externalities.

  15. Nick 31 March 2024

    6 months goes by fast…

    Good to hear that you’re still around!

    I miss the graph-heavy posts that you used to produce! Now that you have become a home owner (or a Co-owner, mortgage assumed? :-P) surely some of the financials have to look different now?

    We are 10 years+ out from being kid-free. But we are very much looking forward to the day! Haha (it will be bitter sweet, no doubt).
    Any thoughts on what your next chapter will be, once you become “child-free”? 🙂

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 9 April 2024 — Post author

      Thanks Nick. Don’t wish the time away, you’ll never get it back!

      As you miss the charts, here’s one related to your child-free anticipation. It plots the big child related expenses on a timeline of my life. After school nannies and educational establishment catchment area shenanigans are almost a closed chapter!

      Life phase summary chart

  16. Sophie 8 April 2024

    Hi indeedably. I’ve read all posts in a glut and enjoyed your writing a great deal. Thank you!

    Intrigued particularly by your thoughts on London life.

    Are you still considering a return to Australia (when circumstances permit)?

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 9 April 2024 — Post author

      Thanks Sophie, glad you found my ramblings to your liking.

      Intrigued particularly by your thoughts on London life.

      London’s a great town to visit as a tourist.

      For those happy to live like a student/backpacker then it is a fun base from which to enjoy a working holiday.

      However, those who are ineligible to receive benefits-FI council housing or enjoy parentally subsidised housing (Bank of Mum and Dad or inheritance, two sides of the same coin), the cost of housing can be eyewatering to the point of financial self-harm.

      I’m content with the decisions that led me here, but would likely choose a different destination if I had my time over or was making the same decisions again today.

      Are you still considering a return to Australia (when circumstances permit)?

      Maybe one day, something for future me to worry about about when my kids are both grown.

  17. Chris 15 April 2024

    Thank you for the long awaited update. I’ve enjoyed your unique writings from the start and am a few years behind, on what feels a similar-ish path. It’s great to hang on to the coat-tails of someone to learn from their mistakes, without incurring such a cost. That’s why this site stands out to me – the honesty giving a peerless insight in the FIRE community, into what could be. Thank you!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 April 2024 — Post author

      Thanks Chris, glad you’re enjoying what you find here.

      I think my exploration of the FIRE rabbit hole taught me a few (and obvious in hindsight) lessons about the role of luck, acceptance, prioritisation, and the power of compounding decisions.

      When we dig through all the attention seeking and marketing bullshit, financial independence is simply about having options. Options that enable decisions, while removing the financial excuses that we hide behind for not exercising those options sooner.

      Which opens the door to a whole new set of questions about contentment, fulfilment, utility, and relationships. Things that come from within, are influenced more by mindset than money, and that our attitudes to which evolve with experience. One revelation has been that worrying about those things fades with age, much like the way most of us eventually grow out of worrying about being cool, trends, fashion, peer pressure, and popular culture. Perhaps there is a reason they are called “mid-life” crises: we grow out of them!

      What I do know is that humans yearn for something different. Always finding something to worry about. Consequently, most of us will learn that contentment is a temporary condition, before boredom and our innate desires to hunt, gather, and hoard kick in to set us off chasing after the next novel thing like a cat dancing after a laser pointer. It is our nature, starting with having enough food, shelter, and company… perhaps ending with a space ship or yacht with its own helipad and submarine.

What say you?

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