The Importance Of Forecasting Your Misery To Live A Happier Life

Do you want to live a happier life? If so, you must learn how to forecast your misery. If you learn how to forecast your misery, you'll be better prepared when that inevitable time period comes that tries to mess up your life.

Whenever I meet a fresh college graduate at a random mixer, I'm inevitably hit with a wave of bubbly enthusiasm that's rarely found in my circle of older friends. Phrases such as, “I love my job,” “I believe in my company's mission,” “this city is so amazing,” and “we're making the world a better place,” are quite common.

It's refreshing to hear so much enthusiasm, since my older acquaintances are a little too scarred to blindly believe that everything will be sunshine and rainbows. One friend is going through a bitter divorce. An old co-worker recently died at the age of 44 to breast cancer. While another person had to take out a second mortgage to keep his startup afloat. Life is hard. But you won't know until you live it.

I was fortunate at the age of 22 to experience a miserably exhilarating time working in New York City. From day one, I knew that getting in at 5:30am and leaving after 7:30pm every day was going to lead to a miserable existence. Therefore, I did everything possible to figure out a way to escape.

For A Happier Life: Accept Misery In All Its Glory

If you can forecast your misery, I'm positive you will ironically lead a happier life. Here are some examples of what happens when you don't properly forecast your misery:

1) You don't bother saving or investing as much.

Because you think you'll always have a job, always be promoted and paid, and always love what you do, you naturally don't have the urge to save and invest as much. But after about 10 years of doing the same thing, I promise you will no longer love your job as you once did, if you survive for that long. You might get a new boss you hate. Your coworker will stab you in the back. Your industry will get obliterated by technology. And so on.

I'm sitting here in startup central, and given we know the vast majority of startups fail within five years, we can also assume that the vast majority of people at these startups will have new jobs within five years. Yet, there is this blind faith from employees I speak to who believe their startup is the one that's going to make them rich!

Some the the most highly educated people with 10+ years of experience are still living paycheck-to-paycheck because they never accepted reality. Conversely, the person who properly predicts when their disinterest arrives will be able to take time off or seek something more interesting due to a healthy savings account.

Related: How Much Savings Should I Have By Age?

2) You don't bother to physically take care of yourself. 

We have a terrible way of forecasting our miserable health in America since 60% of us are overweight or obese. We love to blame our healthcare system for failing us, but it is really we who are failing ourselves by the quantity and quality of food we eat. Add on a lack of physical activity and it's no wonder why heart disease is the number one killer in America. At least cut down on sugar folks.

Like running a retirement planner to measure our future cash flow, all we have to do is run our diet through a computer simulation model to spit out what we'll look like in 10 years to keep us from binging on pizzas and sodas. Yet we do not, and so we end up suffering physical ailments that lower the quality of our lives.

I know multi-millionaires and one billionaire who are morbidly obese. This is completely illogical because if you're mega rich, your goal should be to live forever.

3) You don't bother working on your social skills.

Because you think everything will be peachy, you don't bother creating a network of friends who will be there for you in times of need. Instead of giving as much as you can while you can, you give nothing and only take.

There will be a time when you need to call upon a favor because you lost your job. Or maybe you got rejected by some institution or have something new you want to promote to the world. Without friends, you'll have a much tougher time picking yourself up or getting anything going.

As many of us have discovered during the pandemic, a happier life entails having a strong social network of friends.

Related: The Key To Living Longer: Fear Being Alone More Than Going Broke

4) You get incredibly angry at the world.

There are few “new hard things” given humans have been around for thousands of years. With over 7 billion people in the world, whatever you're experiencing has been experienced by someone else before. Yet for some reason, even with the internet, some people don't bother to listen to those who've been there before to try and minimize regret.

Starting a business is hard. Read about all the pitfalls before quitting your job. Having a baby puts a tremendous strain on your relationship. Make sure you can financially take care of yourself before adding a dependent if you want to avoid a divorce. Having no options after spending a couple decades working is depressing. Build passive income sooner, rather than later.

The angriest people in the world are failures at forecasting their misery. Therefore, the only way they can try and alleviate their pain is to make other people feel miserable as well. We've all met them. I see them at least once week on Financial Samurai, hurtling insults in the comments section. Instead of being open to new ways of thinking, they get triggered into outrage.

Related: Be Unapologetically Fierce About Pursuing Your Dreams

Manage The Suffering

“Do you want to become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?” – Saito

Everybody is destined to suffer at some point. If we can properly forecast our misery, we'll be able to better manage our suffering by taking action long before such suffering arrives. This is the key to a happier life.

The upcoming suffering I see in my future include: physically slowing down due to age and injury, losing my cognitive abilities, my children experiencing bullying, losing loved ones, and living a mundane lifestyle.

Based on my forecasts, I plan to: stretch more and eat better, produce as much content as possible before my mind goes, do extensive research on schools for my son, spend more time with my parents, and figure out a way to go on a perpetual family adventure.

Of course, if I can figure out a way to detach from all desires, I'll be able to eliminate suffering according to The Four Noble Truths. But I love my family too much to stop caring.

Happiness By Age: Stay Away From 35-65 Year Olds

Solving The Happiness Conundrum In Five Moves Or Less

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About The Author

36 thoughts on “The Importance Of Forecasting Your Misery To Live A Happier Life”

  1. I work in healthcare, as a nurse in Labour & Delivery actually so 80% of job result in happy endings.

    However last year, I watched a 30 year old woman die while I was holding her hand, from a pregnancy complication with her first baby. From that, I realized life could be over for anyone at any age, no matter how healthy you are or how much money you have. It was my wake-up call to live life on my terms and go on the adventures I want to now instead of waiting to do so in retirement.

    Up until then, I answered to my employer. I was lucky enough to land a permanent full-time position right out of university.. and everyone told me I am. So my plan was to put in my hours, save as big a chunk of my income as I could and retire when I hit 45. The reality that I might not even make it to 45 however prompted me to create more of a balance – so now I’m not saving as much money from my job but I’m creating more fun adventures as a single woman (I left a relationship last year that was no longer making either of us happy), I’m spending more time with my family and friends, and doing things outside of my job that make me happy (my blog and investing in real estate). I’m happier than I have been before… whereas I stressed a lot before that I wasn’t saving or making enough money. I’ve still got my big goals but I think with more happiness and excitement on my side, I actually have a better shot at hitting those goals sooner.

  2. Great essay and excellent perspective. Reminds us all that there is nothing new under the sun, and this “forecasted misery” has been happening enough around us, that we should all learn from it and be prepared. Unfortunately, we are too busy working (lol).

  3. I generally agree with everything Sam says. At the same time, I’m also conflicted.
    I also wonder about how one “hedges” for their eventual demise and enjoy life “enough” in the present? For instance, I’m going to be 28 soon and work 60-80 hours a week and save +50% of my income and deal with lots of people who say I should enjoy life more and worry less, because even though I’m young, there’s a non-zero chance I’ll die tomorrow. I guess at times I wonder what’s it all for? If you have a couple million in the bank and you get diagnosed with cancer at age 40 then what? Could you say you didn’t enjoy life enough and saved / worked to much while you were young?
    I’m grappling with finding that happy medium. Anyone else feel this way?

    1. My credo is live as though you are going to live a long healthy life, but at the same time enjoy every minute of every day. Once I decided to always be happy, I was happy. Saving money for the future is not that difficult if you make sure that you enjoy the small things and focus spending on what counts most. Every year, the amount you spend on fun increase and the amount you save increase and the amount your investments earn increase. Compounding ensures saving gets easier and easier. I don’t think you have to sacrifice and do without as much as you think or for as long as you think.

  4. Damn Millennial

    Investing in my health is just as important as wealth. If you are super rich but always headed to the doctors office what is the point?

  5. Such an interesting post. There will be struggles in life, but I’ve built my life believing that everything will always fall into place and that everything happens for a reason and that when we work hard to reach our goals, we are creating our destinies. Knowledge and faith will prepare us for the struggles and miseries that comes along with living this wonderful life. Enjoy and thanks for this reminder.

  6. I think the key to forecasting your misery is to overcome your social conditioning. It starts at home, if you’re raised by parents who fully believe the “Finish school, get a job and poof everything is A-okay forever” lie and shield you from the world. The sad reality is that it’s not.

    Work can be fulfilling creatively but it’s a social nightmare because you have to deal with so many personalities. It takes all kinds to run a corporation and the most successful ones tend to have the nastiest people until they implode.

    Life is unpredictable and there’s always a hurdle around every corner, be it health or other issues. And the younger you are when you realize that, the better you’ll be at the game and the further you’ll go and the more satisfied and happier you’ll ultimately be. Because that’s what we all want, to be happy in the end.

  7. but it is really we who are failing ourselves by the quantity and quality of food we eat


    Most Americans take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies. It confounds me. You get one body in life. One. I think a good side hustle in the future would be to simply teach people the basics of exercise and good nutrition. The market for customers is endless and I could guarantee results.

  8. Well, Sam, as usual, you have the most creative and entertaining way of approaching a subject. I think I follow your point.

    I think of “predicting misery” in terms of knowing yourself. I see people that make decisions impulsively even after they should know themselves. For example, I know I don’t like resorts, gambling, cruises, sports, etc. and no amount of trying has changed that, so I don’t agree to do those things. People retire to far off places without ever having travelled there or tried to live there for awhile to see if it’s for them. They talk about all the things they want to do, their dreams, but make decisions that will ensure they never achieve them, like go into debt or have children before they buy a house or save a nest egg so they can sail around the world.

    Planning — most people cannot see more than a few steps ahead. They feel it’s futile to plan anything, that life just happens. I noticed this in business e.g. forecasting numbers for new building projects or new products — people are unable to imagine a range of possible outcomes, and solutions or strategies for all eventualities.

    I do think it is helpful to be realistic as you say so you have incentive to make sure you are not miserable. Or better make sure you are ecstatically happy all the time. I don’t predict any misery in my future but if any comes along I am making sure I have plenty of money to ease my pain. I have rental property and stocks — both of which I can easily cope with at least well into my 90’s. But if not, I can simplify to a penthouse condo and go to cash or near cash.

    Being single and far from family with friends aging out faster than I am, I do not plan to rely on friends and family. I already tend to make a lot of new friends especially travelling.

    To make sure I can cope well into very old age, I eat well, exercise a lot, and challenge myself with complex and adventurous travel. Also smile, enjoy, laugh, and be good to myself and other people.

  9. I always tell my kids to plan ahead and anticipate the worst. But, I believe it goes in one ear out the other. The youngsters all think life is all hunky dory until they face their first struggles. Unfortunately, some people just have to learn it the hard way.

  10. C @ Working Optional

    Interesting notion about ‘forecasting’ one’s misery…

    1. I think “health” – while easily ignored – is an easy one. (Same can be said for $#$@^%! healthcare premiums!)

    2. One can also work towards forecasting financial needs that might come up later in life (even before retirement) and save+invest accordingly.

    3. What may be impossible to forecast or plan for is a drastic event like losing your job suddenly. All you can do is expect it to happen I guess and be in a state of “constant learning” (something that’s easy for me to say, but tough to do)

  11. Great post, Sam. I used to love my job, I believed in my company’s mission so much that I never sold a single share. Now at 51, I could retire a few years ago thanks to, uh, not selling my shares, but yes, I don’t feel the same enthusiasm anymore. But that also happened to a lot of other things when you’re my age, like, ahem, marriage, hot cars, starting your own companies, etc.. Maybe it’s our hormones, or because I no longer need money? I don’t know.

    We all need some kind of delusions to get through life, and especially for young people, they *need* to see the world as it should be, not as it is. Having started a company myself and failed when I was young, I’d still do the same if I go back in time: especially if you want to do startup for the things you like, or do it with friends you like, or just because you want to be your own boss, then by all means do it. But make sure you try it when you’re *young*. If it doesn’t work out, you can still recover, and even if you failed, you can still say at my old age, well, at least I gave it a shot and there’s no regret.

    I’d still encourage young people to start companies, or join startup for a year or two, just for the great experience.

  12. Financial Orchid

    “I love my job,” “I believe in my company’s mission,” “this city is so amazing,” and “we’re making the world a better place,” are quite common.

    I lol’d in my office drone cubicle.

    Gonna write a post about having self employed parents from perspective of the offspring. The good bad and ugly

  13. Hmmm interesting about misery in your life, try having an online affair like I did at age 64 with a girl overseas, now that will bring misery.

  14. Love this! I have a similar list. “Things I won’t do”

    *I don’t look at social media or personal email during the week. For me this just takes me away from productivity and makes me miserable.
    *I won’t go into debt ever. This is my opinion here. But being a debt free landlord has helped me prosper. The reverse is true. Meaning I don’t do well with debt at all.
    *I won’t watch Netflix unless I am on the treadmill. Two birds, one stone.
    *I don’t spend money outside of my budget.

    These top four have really helped me, I’d be curious to see what your other readers list.

    1. I am not clear how your list relates to the post exactly, but as for productivity, I do anything I want to do, including email, FB, watching videos, as long as I am keeping fit, walking and working out daily, eating really well, maintaining my property, looking after my tenants, monitoring my investments daily, socializing several times a week, making detailed travel plans, reading a variety of written material, attending cultural events, keeping in touch with family and friends, does it matter if I watch videos and check email?

      Totally agree on the debt and spending. I never borrow except for mortgages and never have (no student debt, no car loans, no credit card balances). Borrowing for anything but real estate is bad. I spend less than I make and increase net worth continuously even after retirement.

  15. Jason@WinningPersonalFinance

    The number one reason I hear why people don’t care to save for FI is that they like their job today. They don’t want to do anything different, so why save to retire early? I believe them too. The problem is, life will change over the course of the next 20-45 years. The great job gets a new boss that’s no good. The industry you specialize in can be replaced by technology. You can have a kid and not want to spend your time at work. Life happens. Saving today gives you the option to work or not work tomorrow. Not saving today, makes you stuck.

  16. Makes so much sense. I’m so glad I started saving and investing in my 20s and added side hustles while I was working. Energy really does fade with age and thank goodness I worked long crazy hours when I did. I already forcast arthritis and sore joints in my future esp based on my parents condition so I’ve started being kinder to my knees! I’m also trying to avoid over eating and am working on getting better sleep so I can do more during the days.

  17. These are strongly Stoic sentiments. I still keep copies of works from Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus around. It’s timeless wisdom that can teach you a lot about minimizing regrets and enjoying the time you are granted in life.

    Moving to a place where I love to be outside everyday changed my life. I was previously physically active. Now I’m able to run, workout, or engage in sport happily 4-5 days a week. I think it has impacted everything about my life: energy levels, outlook, and output.

    I work from home with no commute. I enjoy work and I value having some purpose from it and maximizing my own potential, but I don’t really think there’s much of anything that will stack up in the end against having spent more time with my kids. That said, I don’t think I would be happy doing nothing else.

  18. You know I always say my motivation in life is not success, it’s the avoidance of failure. My parents were horrible with money so I built my financial life to do everything I could to avoid my kids associating the same with me.

    Plan for the worst hope for the best.

  19. Deryl Brown

    Great post, Sam!

    I expect failure in my future. That’s a hard pill for me to swallow, but the truth is that we win some, and lose some! I think that accepting failure as a ‘normal part of life’ helps reduce the suffering. I also focus on what can be learned from failures…life is about living and learning.

    I don’t think people plan ahead because procrastination is so much easier. Also, planning usually involves change, and we all know that most people struggle with change. Lastly, planning can be painful because it takes effort!

  20. Think ahead and plan ahead! My hubby thinks I’m weird because I plan ahead for life’s…improbables whereas he’s more easy going and simple. I can’t for the life of me understand why some people, fully capable financially, can’t predict the things that are inevitable like aging, health and retirement.

    I’m expecting some chub for us both as we age. We have to start eating healthier and cut down on snacks. Ahhh my tempura and fryer

  21. Wow, living a mundane lifestyle. That’s a tough first world problem. :)
    I’m being very conservative about old age. People say 70 is still healthy. They are enjoying life and still traveling. I don’t see that with my family. My mom is having some cognitive problems and she doesn’t like to travel anymore. Travel makes the cognitive problem worse. She’s relatively healthy, but she still has some kind of medical appointment about once per month. That’s why I’m trying to get all the adventurous stuff done by 65. I plan to slow down a lot after that. If I’m still healthy, I’ll do more, but I’ll conservatively plan for a slow life at 70+.

    1. Well, I don’t plan to be average. I am 70 this year, and if anything going faster and faster. I feel great, look after myself and my money, travel half the time, more adventurous the better. I use my mind and my body, not doing the same things I used to do, but still run them hard.

  22. One problem you don’t address is that people are not necessarily accurate at forecasting, even when they make a good-faith effort. In a nice coincidence, early retiree blogger Thriftygal has just posted “What if I’m wrong about everything,” (linked) in which she questions her decisions and wonders if she would have been happier in a more conventional “sister life.”

  23. Brian McMan

    I try to avoid planning ahead because it’d be an admission of responsibility for the complete lack of success in my life. I’ve lived my life suppressing my wants in order to allow those in authority decide what I will do. It’s what you’re supposed to do.

    But if we’re going to be honest I still don’t fully believe that I can make a difference in my life. If I’m 100% convinced something will work then I might gather the courage to try it, but other than that I have work I’m supposed to be doing, and video games to be playing.

    Recently I heard Warren Buffet say something like an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but a pound of cure promptly applied is worth a ton of cure. So I had a lot of discomfort because the gums were peeling off my teeth, luckily that Warren Buffet quote motivated me enough to go to the dentist for the first time and get the stuff chiseled off of them. its a 100% thing now if I brush and floss and rinse and get cleanings I’ll get to keep the discomfort away, so I do it despite never being able to lift a tooth brush before. I think that’s the secret to planning ahead and doing stuff, ya gotta get motivated by people who matter seeing how you don’t.

    And now I have a second quote, Financial Samurai says planning is free. That is huge, even though I’m now wary of free stuff it is at least in my price range.

    So yeah since God or cause and effect or spaghetti monsters have predetermined everything why even bother. Ya can’t change what’s been given to you.

  24. I was one of the lucky ones who had the great prognostication that I would want (need) to retire earlier than the societal norm of 62-65. That was at 25 when I got my first real career job at a large corporation. 25 years later I am still with that same company because I have been able to climb the ladder (swim with the sharks) and my earnings are now close to 300K. That balanced against a horrible divorce 11 years ago and a medical diagnosis that while not a death sentence, indicates I may not have the longevity of my peers. As soon as I started working I saved as much as I possibly could in my 401K, sacrificing my immediate wants. Even with the financial devastation of divorce, the magic of compounding and additional savings has put me in a position to retire now (50) if needed. I want a little more cushion so I have a absolute retire date by 55.

    My point here is that I can’t believe how miserable the corporate grind has become the past 3 years. I do loathe it but once I had the comfort of knowing I am financially secure, it does make it better since I know I can dial it down a bit and even if I get let go, there is a severance package in it for me. I try and evangelize to family and friends to save as much as possible when younger but I fear it falls on deaf ears. It seems there is a larger percentage of younger people driving the FIRE movement but I don’t seem to come across too many of them. Anyway I don’t respond to posts much but this one resonated with the message that at some point even the most optimistic worker will become tired of the corporate cubicle prison life. I can’t wait to be done!


  25. Most important, get some exercise. Sitting is worse than sugar, it’s the new smoking. Working in the Silicon Valley we sit at our desks for 8 hours a day then sit another 2 to 4 hours in our cars commuting. No wonder heart disease is the # 1 killer. Sitting all day is killing our bodies and our minds.

  26. You never know when you or why you will hate your job. That’s why I’m glad I hated mine at an early age, and was smart enough to realize I was trapped by debt. But since I was single, I jumped anyway. Financially (and emotionally) I had nowhere to go but up. Having passive income smoothed out the times I had to scale back on my self-employment in order to take care of family (and create a family!), though it was still very tough. I, too, am amazed that younger folks think they will have glamorous, good-paying jobs forever, and that they will not encounter any of life’s bumps….even when I point out to them my 50 and 55 year old friends with masters degrees in engineering who’ve been laid off and were never able to get a similar job, or other folks who are too young to traditionally retire but are too old to start over, trapped by golden handcuffs, yet the company they work for is closing/consolidating/moving.

  27. Interestingly odd notion to forecast your misery, but so true too. We are programmed to think things will be better so to hang on for the change in tide. Instead you are right we should be planning for the worst, expecting the best and living life to the full right now (which is actually the only time we live in).

  28. Great article! A couple of thoughts:

    1. You’ll love a concept in Ray Dalio’s Principles ( that he calls “struggling well”. Life is a struggle, those who succeed have learned to struggle better than others.

    2. It’s probably easier to struggle on the way up (aging into your prime) than on the way down (aging past your prime). It seems easier to manage the complexities and challenges of growth than decline. But for all of us, decline is inevitable.

    3. I think the hardest struggles in the future will be a deteriorating mind and body. Would you rather have a clear mind and deteriorating body, or vice versa? I’d probably vote to keep my mind as sharp as possible, even if my body goes. But they both decline in the end.

    Great post, as always!

    1. Well, yes life is a struggle, but I don’t think of it that way. To me life, is stimulating and exhilerating and fear, stress, and worry are just part of it.

      I am age 70 this year, but so far still not reached prime. I am busy and fit so do not plan for decline. I am sure some adjustments — but most of those so far are just changes in focus and interests. Sure I gardened 10 hours a day at one time, but now I travel 6 months of the year. Is that decline?

      You must keep both body and mind healthy, they go hand in hand. I am not assuming detioration is inevitable.

  29. Very interesting posting SAM, it’s so easy to get in a groove (rut might be a better way of describing the situation) and just keep plodding on earning the money and hating what your doing a little more each month.

    Checking out likely future misery and planning ahead as part of your overall life plan makes total sense.

    As a side issue your posting about starting a site and the benefits if it’s done right, inspired a friend and I to do so here in the UK.

    Many thanks for giving us the kick that got us started.

    Good luck with all the stuff you’ve got going on.



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