I’ve been reading a lot lately about how, in order to set achievable goals, you need to understand the “why” behind them. Which really hits close to home for me. I’ve had the goal of getting out of debt for a long time now. But that was as far as the goal went, to be debt free. I never figured out why I wanted to be debt free. So I’d have more money? Security?
I love the idea of reaching Financial Independence. But, for someone like me, starting from zero in their mid-thirties, FI is a long ways off. How long? Thirteen to fifteen years at my current earning/spending rate. And that assumes a market return of 6-8%. I’ve always heard the market averages about 8%, but that’s over the long-term, and I’m not sure a time span of less than twenty years really qualifies as “long-term”. So, if I don’t change my spending or earnings, I’ll reach FI sometime in my fifties. Don’t get me wrong, fifties isn’t old. Most people don’t even think about retiring until they’re in their sixties. Many people can’t even think about retiring at all. But, if I’m in my fifties, then Bryan will be in his seventies. How much of his golden years am I willing to spend stuck in the daily grind?
And then there’s this little detail: I hate my job. So change jobs, right? Well, as I really started examining my past work history, looking for a clue as to what kind of job would make me happy, I’ve come to a realization: I’ve hated every job I’ve ever had. True, some of my jobs have been at truly horrific companies. But, at a certain point, you have to start looking for the common denominator. What do all the jobs I’ve hated had in common? Me.
It isn’t that I’m lazy, or ungrateful, or not a team player. I enjoy feeling like I’ve accomplished something, and overall have a good work ethic. It’s just, at some point in almost every job, I start to have issues with how the organization is being managed. Sometimes I feel like my contributions are being overlooked, or that my work isn’t valued enough. Eventually, I start to hate everything about the company, and loathe coming in every day.
I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandpa owned a little grocery store. My grandma drifted between being a stay at home mom, and dabbling in her own little side hustles. My mom ran a home day care for many years. My dad built up his little business over the years until it eventually became his full-time job, with a small staff. Something my dad has said many times about owning a business has always stood out to me: “If I’m going to have to follow someone’s stupid rules, they’re gonna be my stupid rules!” His point really resonates with me; One of my biggest issues with most companies has been the way things are managed. If you run your own business, you manage it the way you want. If you aren’t making the money you think you should, well, that’s on you.
The more times I calculated how soon I could pay off my car loan, the more I began to realize how much money would be freed up in my budget once I was debt free. How much does my current lifestyle cost (sans car payment)? Well, accounting for just my fixed expenses and weekly spending, under $13,000. True, that doesn’t account for vacation money, or any unplanned expenses, or taxes. But taxes would be minimal on that amount. And everything else could be worked around.
The idea that I could live a similar lifestyle once I’m debt free on only $15,000-20,000 per year has really opened up a world of opportunities for me. What does that look like? A less stressful job somewhere else? Freelancing? A combination of self employment and part-time work? Would my life be better with more flexibility? Would I be happier?
I could continue on my current path to FI, doing the same thing, or something similar, for the next 15-20 years. Or, I could embrace a life of less, and experience freedom sooner. Slowly but surely, freedom is becoming my “why”. Once my car payment is gone, a whole world of opportunity will be opened up to me. There’s still a lot of unknowns, and a lot of things I need to figure out. But maybe in 2016, I’ll be ready to take a leap of faith, and try something different with my life. Maybe I’ll figure out how to “follow my own stupid rules”.
I’ve never been more motivated to be debt free!
– Cindy W.