Financial Independence or Bust

I was doing pretty well posting fairly regularly–at least once a month or more. Then September happened and I guess I got pretty somber because my husband said that the post I was working on was depressing, first-world problem-ish and a bit self-pitying. So I tabled the post for some reflection and, unfortunately, as a consequence, I dawdled. And, alas, no September post. (Crap. I will never make money off this thing at this pace.)

In any case, I must really, really want to talk about the underlying theme of that defunct post because instead of talking about making granola or foraging purslane–which is what I fully intended so write about now–I am coming back to the prior post.

Okay– I know you are now just dying to know what the post was about, right? In short it involved the ennui I am experiencing as I await financial independence due to self-imposed financial constraints and the lack of a clear exit date. It definitely had a woe-is-me flavor and I will grant that my husband had a point. Perhaps I didn’t have to go on and on about being bored and deprived of the entertainment and goods that money could buy. And he was right. (It’s okay. He won’t read this so he won’t know I admitted this.) At least, he’s right in so far that if I am bored, it is my fault. There are plenty of free or low cost things I can do to make my life outside of work fuller. I took it like a big girl and decided to learn from his critique– which I may or may not have resented at the time.

But I still think that a lighter version of that previous post contains a valid point of view. (So really, I was right, too). I mean, it seems disingenuous to limit discussion of the road to financial independence to the thrill of paying off the debt, the rush of actually paying it all off, and the beauty of saying the heck with working for other people and being able to live a full life off of your prudent investments. After all, there is real life between the moment you pay off your debt and when you can flip off your boss and quit. It’s actually a pretty wide chasm. If we do it right, this real-life, in-between period will last longer than all the others.

And doing it right–at least for our purposes–means living substantially below our means, which is less than 25% of our adjusted gross income.  I live with a snarky, little good angel on my shoulder that tells me that of course I can wait several more months for a haircut and that I already had a latte this week, and that even I can totally make that at home ….  Really, she’s kind of a little bitch, though I totally can make that at home.  And she makes me feel itchy and guilty at the same time.   I have bought into it, though– the paying off debt, setting aside an emergency fund, reducing our spending and putting every last extra dollar in investments.  Because we didn’t pay off our debt so that we could retire when we are finally eligible for social security (that’s 67 for us, by the way). We did it so we could retire–or at least get really fun jobs without having to worry about our income–far, far before that time.

It has taken me a period of adjustment from the excitement and accomplishment of annihilating the last debt standing to the hum-drum routine of day to day life where the final goal may be yet ten years or more in the future. It is kind of like a road-trip and I feel like the kid in the back seat that keeps asking if we are there yet.  And we are definitely not there yet.  But in between the last time I tried to write about this and this time, I have decided there are two solutions. One is to continue to set investment goals and to continue to celebrate them.  A little bit of cake goes a long way.  Second, I need to go find some free, fun things to do. If I am truly good at this whole financial independence or bust thing, I will do it with style and I will even write a post about my free or low-cost solutions.

Regardless of where each of us are in this life, we all struggle with finding a balance between need and want, not enough and too much, and happiness and sadness. I would love to hear of your own financial goals and the various feelings they have evoked in you.

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