This past week has brought me back to the beginning of our financial semi-independence journey. Whereas short-term goals may help keep you focused, I find that the vision of achieving your long-term goals can light a fire. The full picture may be somewhat unclear from this distance. However, the confidence that something extraordinary is waiting for you in the future can provide all the motivation and drive you need to get through trying times.
Writing up our most-recent financial update required me to review the ones from 2015 and 2016. Then, I read a fantastic post on 1500 Days To Freedom about the Four Phases of FI. Mr. 1500 Days discusses his journey to financial independence, and how it’s not over yet. Although he retired at 43 years old, he’s still figuring out who he is and his core principles. He writes, “One thing that I’m sure of is that I can’t be the person I want to be with a full-time job.” Finally, Laura Vanderkam interviewed me for her new book. It was really awesome to chat with Laura. Her books and blog have given me so many ideas on how to better manage my time. Laura had quite a few questions about our current sacrifices and future goals. I found myself explaining where we started, remembering past struggles, and exploring what motivates us to continue our journey down this unique and often-difficult path.
Why not just takes things a little easier? I could just work my one, primary job. Or, maybe switch to a lower-paying, less-demanding position? I could choose to spend my off-work time relaxing, reading books, and watching movies. We could use some of our income to spend on things like taking the family on a vacation to Disney, like everyone else does. We could pay for a babysitter and go out on relaxing dinner dates. Why not just be “normal,” quit the hustling, take life at a slower pace, and stay employed full-time for the next couple of decades?
First of all, from a financial standpoint, I highly doubt that we would ever escape from debt. Spending and debt are seductive, slippery slopes in much the same way that an alcoholic should never have “just one drink.” We have come a long way in changing our attitudes about money, possessions, and the meaning of “available credit.” However, I worry that relaxing our grip on frugal living and hopping back on a consumerist path would have disastrous consequences. One small splurge will beget another one, and soon there would be excuses for all sorts of discretionary spending. I worry that we would “treat” ourselves to everything from eating out more to shiny new iPhones. The credit card balances would once again climb to seeming insurmountable levels, obliterating all of our progress.
The other main reason that I can’t back down from our goal is that my job is slowly destroying me. I know it sounds dramatic, but this is an honest assessment. It’s not just about losing hours spent in an office. I’ve written before about how work-life balance is a myth. No, it’s also about how work uses you up. It is draining to commute, sit at a desk all day, concentrate, and be productive. By the time you return home to your family, your few hours of time to spend together is usually exhausting. Something like reading time is supposed to be special. Instead, I often find myself just robotically reading the words on the page, while my mind wanders to throwing in a load of laundry and calculating how much time is left to kill before bedtime.
I despise how work often interrupts my thoughts and distracts me from the better parts of life. I cannot accept a future that includes lying in bed at night thinking about deadlines, for several more decades. Physical escapes from the demands of work are limited to weekends and vacations. Even then, the emails and phone calls continue to reach me. And, there is no true mental escape from my employment. I could be lying on a beach somewhere, when anxiety over a big project or overflowing inbox suddenly intrudes on my attempts to relax. Yes, work is destroying me. It eats up a huge percentage of my time, energy, and mental focus. The shell that remains is stretched so thin over other responsibilities. Most days, there is very little left of me to devote towards real interests and dreams.
What are we working towards? What are the specific goals? How will our life be different in 2022? I cannot give you a specific answer. Yes, we want to take our family on a once-in-a-lifetime road trip to start the new phase of our lives. After that? We will have the opportunity to enjoy a more meaningful existence. There will be at least one rental property to manage. I will need to do some part-time work to cover our living expenses. There will likely be a garden to help sustain our frugal living. The overall goal is to have flexibility. We will learn, grow, be an engaged family, help others, and pursue our true desires. These ideals will likely materialize in different forms and activities that will change over the years. However, I know in my heart, without a doubt, that the freedom to design such an authentic life is definitely worth some extra effort over the next five years.
Next up on Creating My Kaleidoscope, I will be posting a list of goals we’ve set for ourselves for 2017 (so we can achieve financial semi-independence in 2022) and some ideas on goals to set for yourself too.
Have a nice weekend everyone!