Archive for December, 2021

2021 in review

The word is white once more. It feels like I’m in a snow globe, sitting here cozy while so much snow is falling outside…

This has been an eventful year. I finally did something I’d been dreaming of for years – left Amazon after 11.5 years. (Oh, the stories I can tell… If your journo friends want a scoop, send them my way!) I also spent most of the year – 7.5 months, to be precise – enjoying my early retirement, lean-FIRE style. The 37-day, 7-city revenge vacation in June-July was admittedly an overkill, but I’d really needed it. And now, at last, the beautiful Quebec City, where I can live comfortably (and enjoy every season!) for less than $1K USD a month. Yay rent control!

So much of what’s to come will have its roots in 2021 – on just about every front.

I ended up beating Mr Market once again: I had a lot of money moves in my main taxable account, so the calculations are difficult right now, but I estimate I made roughly 45% this year, while my Roth IRA (which is sealed till February 2046) went up by approximately 340%. Life is good, eh?

2022 will bring me far better fluency in French, my first-ever trip to Europe (family reunion in Greece next summer, hopefully), membership in a semi-secret society (go Masons!), a lot more writing success, maybe a book deal for my Amazon memoir, definitely one giant e-book (since no agent wants to take the risk on the 220,000-word “Plague Diaries” compendium), and lots more.

Lest I forget, some memories of 2021 for my future self, who will re-read this someday… The move to the tiny Spadina studio. Seven months without any fried food. Gamestop, and Blackberry, and the Workhorse fiasco. PR at last, in late March. Two giant road trips from Toronto to Ohio for the Pfizer shots in April. Yelling “I AM IMMUNE!!!” on my drive back. At long last, Amazon promotion to L5, followed by an insultingly small pay raise. Quitting at last: 5/14/21. Very nearly crying as I bit into my first (admittedly crappy) cheeseburger and drank (admittedly equally crappy) beer on the deck of the nearby restaurant when Toronto finally reopened on June 1. Hanging out with Spadina neighbours on the porch. Giving Anshul his first-ever taste of maple syrup. Exploring Toronto’s parks and the Centre Island. Selling my car at long last.

The revenge vacation. The indescribably cool Richmond/Vancouver city train. The whale-watching tour. The anthropology museum in Vancouver. The tourist trap town of Snohomish. Hiking the fake mountain in Portland. Growler’s Taproom. Being a seagull paparazzi in Huntington Beach. Old habits and older friends in Reno. The gun range and the rollercoaster in Vegas. The view from that Treasure Island room… Hanging out with the NY nephew and hitting up rooftop decks. The multifaceted coloured mirror in that children’s museum, a perfect metaphor for the alternate multiverse selves. Walking to Canada across the Niagara Falls bridge, all empty and deserted. The perfect pizza and the cider stein at the West of Brunswick bar. Walking all the way up and down Spadina… The 5-day exploratory train trip to Quebec City. The solo Uhaul move. The cluttered apartment. Getting a used 20-gallon aquarium out of videogame-less boredom. Starting the FIRE blog. Padmini and Josie and Audrey. Getting more shots, this time Moderna. The palladium challenge. Starting up the Medium attempt. The very short-lived Twitch career and making $200 on the re-released Diablo-2. Getting the PR card at long last. The end of the Expanse series and the all-nighter to read the entire 416-page thing in one sitting.

Who knows, maybe at some point (decades from now?) this will refresh my own memory. I might start writing these every year. Thanks for sticking around and following my blog, oh mysterious stranger, and I hope this year was mostly good for you too. Here is to a better future.

New project:

I grew up reading personal finance blogs: there wasn’t much else to do for fun after graduating college during the 2008 bubble. I always wondered about that elite and mysterious tribe of bloggers, the influence they wielded, the lives they might have led. As tempting as it was, I never set up my own personal finance blog, if only because I didn’t want to be just another non-entity who was still stuck in the rat race, daydreaming out loud, sharing less-than-motivational updates along the lines of “just 51 more months till retirement!”

After I achieved my lean-FIRE early retirement in May 2021, life got a whole lot more fun and easier. Eventually, an online acquaintance teased me: “is it really a FIRE if you don’t have a FIRE blog?” (A bit like that joke about how to figure out if someone is a vegan – they’ll tell you within three minutes. Heh.) And so, the seed got planted…

I’ve launched my Let’s Retire Young blog just over two months ago, and it’s finally fleshed out enough (and not at risk of being abandoned like yet another infatuation) that I feel it can be shared with the world at large. It’s quite separate from this here blog because while a large part of that new blog is based on my own experiences, it’s mostly just money advice. Conversely, while this blog occasionally mentions money, it’s more of a personal memory repository. And, of course, “Let’s Retire Young” is far easier to memorize and pronounce than “Grigory Lukin.” (Which, if you’re curious, rhymes with “story” and “win” when pronounced correctly. Russian names are weird, I know.)

The new blog’s tagline is “Earn more, spend less, invest the rest” – and while I was pretty bad at the “earn more” part, it’s a valid part nonetheless. (Like this post I wrote about getting a tech job without learning how to code.) So far, I’m writing three posts per week: I meal-prep them every Friday (because, as we all know, Friday = “write day”), and there are already 24 of them out there. Once I make it to the big #25, I will have proven my commitment to the bit, and might be able to secure some sort of a semi-professional writing gig. (That’d be a pretty huge upgrade for this writing hobby of mine.)

Just for the fun of it, I’ve also set up a mirror version of my blog over on Medium: I may have missed that platform’s golden age, but it still gets me some readers, especially after I joined a publication for newbie writers – which, admittedly, accepts absolutely everyone, a bit like a tutorial level in a video game.

The blog itself is about early retirement, with a side of geographic arbitrage: I strongly believe that anyone’s financial situation can be changed for the better (if only a little), but that can require significant lifestyle changes, up to and including moving to another city or even country. My advice won’t suit everyone (it would be rather strange if it did), but for the right kind of person, my stories could provide a valuable blueprint. I escaped the rat race at age 34, without having rich parents or a huge inheritance or a high-paying job. (I never once made $100K USD in a year.) I found and exploited multiple glitches in the system, and managed to escape it in one piece, with my sanity mostly intact. Now I live on roughly $1,000 USD a month (rent is cheap here, eh), and loving it.

When I started that side project, I didn’t realize how interesting the monetization component would be: thus far, I’ve made $22 USD through AdSense on the main blog and $4 USD on Medium. Not exactly a huge income stream per se, but according to the r/blogging subreddit, search engines generally ignore you until you put out 25-30 posts. We’ll see how that plays out – but meanwhile, I’m enjoying this gamification process of all the different indicators that can be tracked and improved. Earnings rate, visitors, clicks, page loading time, etc…

Getting to the first 25 posts is the first major milestone. At the pace I’m going, I’ll cross the 100-post threshold sometime in June/July. (Unless, of course, that money-related reality TV show I applied for calls me back, in which case I’d probably be offline for a few months in early 2022. My life is pretty eccentric.) Once I get to that point… Perhaps I’ll be able to get a book deal, and get an actual, real book published from some of my best posts. Perhaps something else. Maybe I’ll switch to just one post a week, or end the whole project with just 100 posts so as not to dilute it with random generic gibberish. We’ll see.

In the meantime, though, head on over to and check it out for yourself, eh. Feel free to leave comments, ask questions, share your favourite posts on social media, and tell your friends. I know that personal finance blogs are a dime a dozen these days (things have changed a lot since 2008), but hey – it’s better to have blogged and lost than never to have blogged at all, am I right?

Cheers, y’all.