It seems like that is a famous question from the 1980 election when Reagan ran for president against Jimmy Carter. It’s easy to see it as political, given those roots. Also, coming t this time of year with the four-year term of a United States’ President, it’s easy to see it that way. I don’t know if someone in Japan would tie it to politics. Maybe they’d use another number like five.
I don’t tie “Are You Better Off than Four Years Ago?” to myself. I first heard the question from Retire by 40, not from any of the politic-heavy news sources that I typically read. (You should click through that link, if for no other reason than to learn a new phrase like “quadrennial checkup.”)
Hopefully, with the presidential election in the rearview mirror, we can think of the question a little more literally. I like to think about it as kind the opposite of the famous interview question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” However, because we are looking back, it’s a lot easier.
Being “better off” is a difficult question. It’s a very personal decision. Four years ago, I had a 2 and a (just-turned) 4-year-old. I had a big lawsuit because I wrote I neutral review of an at-home water purification company that was using a test designed to trick consumers. They didn’t like that the neutral review exposed the trick and it ranked in Google, so BAM! lawsuit for me.
My wife’s work was (and it still is) moving the goalposts on promotions and that was causing additional stress. The suicide rates skyrocketed and others died from falling asleep while driving. It was a bad time. I haven’t heard of that happening lately and working from home for everyone helped a lot I think.
That wasn’t a great time – raising kids is difficult. This year has been easier because an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old can do more. They get themselves dressed. They can sort and put away laundry. A couple of times, I woke up and they already made themselves breakfast (cereal). It’s a big difference from having to wipe their butts. It’s all so gradual that it can be hard to notice it unless you take pause and reflect on it.
Four years ago was unique 4 years of my life. Life is a series of unique slices. Four years before that I was just learning how to be a father. Four years from now, there will be new experiences. Those experiences will come with new difficulties. Everyone has difficulties, right?
Let’s break down the last four and give some grades:
We’re better off financially than we were four years ago. Things have been almost “too good”, so I’m exploring ways to invest more conservatively. On my to-do list today is too look at reblancing into more bonds as stocks have hit new highs once again.
Fortunately, I can say that for the four-year slice before that and the four-year slice before that. I can keep on going back throughout my entire life and almost confidently say that I’ve improved my “fiscal status” over the last four years. I did have a rough patch when the dot-coms busted. I had to scramble for any programming job I could get. One of the core reasons why I started this blog is that I never wanted to be in that space again.
I was fortunate that I was taught early on how compound interest worked. I started investing when I was 16 and that created good financial habits. It really helps over the long term.
I hope that most people can say they are better off financially over most slices of four years. Most readers are hopefully investing… and that’s done well for 10 years now. If you are young, the skills you learn can hopefully grow your income. If you are retired and spending down your nest egg maybe you aren’t better off financially. I think that’s about the cycle of life you are in… again, just a personal thing.
I had a knee problem four years ago. I couldn’t drive for more than 30 minutes. I saw a doctor and he gave me a couple of exercises. My knee got better almost right away.
Earlier this year, I had a molar tooth split lengthwise. The dentist had no choice but to pull it.
Overall I’m pretty good. My health could be a lot worse. I’m four years older (44 now). I got a few more pounds since the pandemic started. I have to grade it on that curve.
I like not worrying about stuff. The last four years have been terrible for that.
I felt like I need to babysit the government… because honestly, my 6-year-old could make better decisions. For example, you don’t put someone whose career is based on destroying the environment like (Scott Pruitt in charge of the protecting the environment. You could ask any kindergarten class if that’s a good idea and they’d unanimously say “no.”
Then when half the country is on fire, these people simply say that they don’t believe the scientists. The sad thing is that they probably make a lot of money despite being so stupid.
Life was much better when the government mostly hired qualified people (even if there were occasional grifting and scandals). I liked the days when I could laugh at the news for making a big deal over a white iPhone or some Kardashian gossip. I was able to be a lot more productive. I talked with some friends and they feel the same way.
The biggest thing for me now and going forward is COVID. We have new leaders who are putting the scientists in place to help with that. We got our second excellent vaccine news yesterday. There are some positives, but the COVID cases still feel like they are doubling every week or two. It is the best of times and the worst of times.
It sounds like it will be less than four years before we can look back at 2020 and say that COVID time was a really unique slice of our lives. Maybe it allow me appreciate the end of 2024 more with whatever life’s difficulties then are.