Priorities: In Retrospect And For The Future

My current predicament is the result of having misguided priorities for far too long.  I used to believe that my future happiness was dependent on a prestigious, exciting occupation.  I dreamed of fancy suits, expensive cars, and designer handbags.  I worked hard to obtain material possessions and stature that are no longer important to me.  The problem was that I didn’t know myself and had such a short-sighted view of the future.  I anticipated having a family, but it wasn’t my focus.  Now, I’m stuck in a life that doesn’t fit and am climbing uphill to undo my previous mistakes.

sunsetbig (2)
The finality of sunset. Today is over. Time to accept and prepare.

Over the weekend I was looking through our finances once again.  The credit card bills, the consolidation loan statement, and the student loans.  I borrowed quite a bit of money for my education, but those loans finally will be paid off in 2019 (assuming we can’t do it sooner).  That will be three years before the deadline that we set for reaching our goal of financial semi-independence.  Schooling has allowed me to earn a higher income, which will enable our early retirement from full-time work.  However, I find myself wondering about the profit margin.  Once we pay off these loans, if I only continue to work full-time for three more years, was it really worth it?  The time, effort, and money spent on my education seems somewhat wasteful in light of our new goals.

In the midst of this contemplation, I happened across a challenge to supplement the “About” section of this blog.  The details of our plan to be semi-financially independent or semi-retired made me realize that my education is not a waste.  Even though my priorities have changed drastically, the plan for our future still utilizes my degree and experience.  FIRE is not a “one size fits all” aspiration.  There are many different ways to break free from the status quo of working full-time until old age.  Simply put, we are going to pay off debt and build up our assets.  We already have one income property and a small amount of 401K savings.  We will continue to live frugally and keep our expenses very low.  By 2022, I will only need to bring in enough income to cover our minimal cost of living.  I anticipate being able to work part-time as a consultant in my professional field.  I hopefully will be able to bring in some income with this blog, other freelancing, and side hustles.  Our assets, including 401K savings and paid-off income property, will provide for us once we fully retire.  This arrangement will give us more time to spend with our family, work on hobbies and homesteading activities (which will help with expenses), and go on that road trip across America.  These are the things that drive me now.  I want to create a kaleidoscopic life, not one dominated by work, with time for other things on the side.  I visualize our future as a well-distributed blend of different colors, with each color representing a different facet of our life (family, hobbies, wellness, work, etc.).

We might have been able to achieve our goals sooner if we hadn’t wasted so much time and money chasing the wrong ambitions.  I’m trying not to feel guilty, however, because there is no progress made by wallowing in regret.  Guilt truly is a “wasted emotion.”  It only depresses and demotivates.  In order to enact monumental changes in your life, you need optimism, hope, and energy.  It’s easy to look back and think about making better choices along the way.  Who doesn’t do that?  For me, I would have taken fewer school loans and most likely chose a different occupation.  I would have researched to find one with the highest income to education ratio.  This would better facilitate the goal of maximizing gains and minimizing the necessary amount of working years.  However, it really is pointless to think that I could have made the right choices back then, before I knew the source of my sincere happiness.

I long for days to spend with my family, enjoying the outdoors, snuggling, or going on adventures together.  I want to spend my time reading, getting lost in deep conversations, and creating wonderful things, from collections of words to crocheted blankets.  I hunger for fresh vegetables, nurtured from seeds with my own two hands.  I dream of opportunity to admire the subtle perfection of the world that surrounds us, yet is so easily neglected in favor of demanding schedules.  But for now, as hard as it is, I must remain focused on the present.  My current occupation is the vehicle for our eventual freedom.  I am the breadwinner and carry the burden of providing for my family.

My life’s lesson thus far is to question everything, including yourself and your own plans.  It’s reassuring to know that our current plans will afford us extraordinary flexiblity in the future.  By minimizing spending and creating financial resources, we will have the freedom to choose our own path, instead of remaining trapped in a corner.  We can’t go back, only forward.  But as we forge ahead, we do so with purpose.  We refuse to fritter away any more of our time distracted by the trappings of a “normal” life.

6 Comments

  1. There has been much discussion lately about why higher education isn’t worth the cost. But I think any investment in yourself is worth it. I’m primarily a stay at home mom with a Master’s Degree (which has allowed me to have a part-time job from home), but I don’t ever regret that decision. I am a better person because of that investment and I am my greatest asset. I don’t want to shortchange myself. That’s one of the hard parts to remember on this journey. There is more to the numbers than just the numbers. You’re doing great. Keep up the good work!
    Maggie recently posted…August 2015 Plan UpdateMy Profile

    1. You’re absolutely right to point out that there’s more worth to education than the income potential. I always knew that I would attend higher education. For me, the issue is that my chosen occupation is just that, a job. I didn’t follow my passions or pursue a personally meaningful path. So, if the only point was to earn money, I wish I would have chosen a job with a better income to education ratio. I would have had less loans, but still increased my earnings and obtained an education.

      Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  2. Really enjoyed reading your introspection. Those thoughts are not specific to you, by any means. We all struggle one way or another with the realization that we’ve wasted resources (time, money, etc). This is the proverbial Hedonic Treadmill. What makes us happy often does…until it doesn’t. That’s the problem with thinking “If I can just get X, I will be happy”. Something everyone does…but it rarely works.

    “My life’s lesson thus far is to question everything, including yourself and your own plans.” I love this quote. I couldnt agree more. With this in mind, I find myself almost daily thinking of something and coming to the realization that, wow what I assumed to be true is just not true at all. Maybe conventional wisdom isnt wise 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
    Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz recently posted…Why we should hang around unhappy friends, Buy new furniture several months after we buy a new house and Do anything painful all at once!My Profile

  3. Hi Harmony,

    Visiting your blog from the Sunday Blog Hop. Thank you so much for linking up this post with us!

    It’s not a good feeling for us frugal types to feel like we’ve wasted a big chunk of money on something. I’m glad you were able to avert those feelings and find value in the choices you’ve made.

    Hope to see you again next Sunday 🙂
    Jenn Peters recently posted…Sunday Blog Hop ~ September 6th 2015My Profile

  4. I completely feel for you in questioning your past choices, and reflecting on what you could have done differently. We definitely blew lots of money in our early years which could have been saved, and then we could already be retired. It’s easy to dwell on that, but like you, we choose to look forward instead. We’re grateful that we figured things out when we did, and not another 10 or 20 years down the road! As for your education and whether it was worth it, surely that’s tough to think about when you’re paying off loans every month, but investing in yourself is a noble pursuit all its own, regardless of what it does for your income. The fact that your advanced degree also lets you earn more income is icing on the cake, and it’s great that it will give you the opportunity to freelance once you semi-retire!
    Our Next Life recently posted…The “Our Next Life” Series // Time to Join In!My Profile

    1. I try to be optimistic and my mantra is that “everything happens for a reason.” Who knows? If we hadn’t dug ourselves into such a deep hole, perhaps we would have mindlessly followed a more traditional path to retirement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge