If you could create the future you want, how would it look?
At first, this might seem a simple question. But it requires that we have a good understanding of ourselves. We might have a perception of how we would want to spend our time, but this could be based on our past experiences.
Personally, I find this question to be difficult because I’m still learning about myself. My wife, Andrea, is also working through the same things.
Recovering From a Life of Debt
We are so used to paying off credit card debt, that we are just starting to get used to how our lives look post-consumer debt.
I didn’t expect this to be an issue when we were paying off debt. But it seems each phase of life comes with unique problems to solve.
The good news is that even with some large unexpected expenses, it has been easy avoiding going into more debt. And we are now growing our net-worth.
The difficulty has come in loosening up our budget and not feeling guilty about spending money. At least from my end. Our budget allows us margin to spend more money without affecting our savings rate too much, but it still has been a struggle.
It has become about figuring out how to enjoy life NOW and work towards our future. We don’t want to sacrifice the future for the present, or the reverse. Both are equally important and require balancing out your spending and savings.
Our Kids Are Still Young
In ten-years, both of our kids should be in college (most likely). At that time, things will change for Andrea and I. We will have more time on our hands, and our priorities at that stage in life will be different.
We like to think that in 10-15 years it would be great to have the option in either quitting our jobs or reducing our hours. But will we feel the same way at that point as we do now?
Projecting 10 years into the future is hard because there are a ton of unknown variables. How will the market perform? Will our small business continue to grow through those years? Will we encounter some financial pitfalls that slow our progress?
No one knows what will happen in the future.
You Can’t Have Too Much Time
It would be great to know with certainty how we want our future to look. But we are still young. A ton can change in the next few years.
And that’s okay. The more we can grow our nest egg, the more options we will have in the future. We will have the capability of absorbing any financial issues that come up (hopefully). With any luck, within 10-15 years, we will be at a spot where we have many options.
This uncertainty can do one of two things:
- Since we don’t know 100% sure what we are shooting for, we could lose motivation.
- Or we could focus on growing our nest egg because we aren’t sure what we will want to do in later phases of our lives.
We might do some traveling and decide that we don’t want to travel so much. Or we could figure out that we would rather buy a property with land and have more of a “homestead” in a lower cost of living area.
It ultimately becomes about how to increase our net-worth as quickly as possible.
- How can we increase our income and generate more cash flow?
- Where do we store this money?
- Do we want to invest in real estate?
- Should we end up selling our house or stay put?
- Can and should we expand our salon?
Anything we can do in increasing our income, especially more passive income streams, will give us more options earlier.
It becomes less about defining with 100% clarity the destination and just ensuring that we grow our net-worth as much as possible.
Early Phases of Building Wealth
It feels like we have conquered a massive mountain by paying off our consumer debts. But the reality is we are in the early stages of reaching financial independence.
It is going to take at least 10-15 years before financial independence is an option for us. That’s almost as long as we’ve beeing paying off credit card balances!
This idea means that we have time to adjust and tweak our plan. There is not a rush in getting this figured out until we get closer to even having the option to quit our jobs.
In the meantime, we will continue to make great memories with the time we have.
Length of Life
No one knows how long they will live. Death can come at any point.
I would hate to find out that I am about to die, but have been 100% focused on reaching a “destination”. I want to enjoy life now, and if I do pass early, I want to set my family up to do well when I’m not around.
Learning to enjoy the present moment is something I’m trying to work on. I have so many blessings around me. A healthy family, a great house + neighborhood, great food to eat, and being able to do fun things (like vacations, going out to eat, etc.).
Sure, there is a part of me that looks forward to the day when I can do what I want with my time. But the time I have now is still the most valuable thing I have. I don’t want to take it for granted.
What about the possible future excites me, that I can take advantage of now to a lesser degree?
- Making good memories with my family
- Learning to live in the present
- Not stressing about money
- Growing my relationship with Andrea and my girls
- Making and growing close friendships
I see my future as being able to travel more and making more memories. But I can do all of this now. I don’t have to wait to pursue these things before reaching financial independence.
Financial Independence Is Also About Improving Your Life Now
When people talk about financial independence or FIRE, their focus is on the future.
This risks ignoring the present moment, and categorizing the current time where you just have to “work through it until you reach FI”.
This has caused people to continue to be miserable with the idea that it will end when they reach their goal.
But I think the fact that we don’t know how long we will live, and the idea that many of us have families (partners or kids), means that we then have to make huge sacrifices in the present for the future.
There is obviously a balance we need to make. But whether I am FI or not, the most important thing to me is my family. And I already have that now! In fact, my kids are young now, which probably won’t be the case when we do hit FI. That time is not something I can “buy” back, regardless of how much money I have.
In one hand we are motivated in making financial progress on time we’ve lost. But that also means making up progress in the memories we’ve lost too.
FI is About Waking Up
The more we can see what we have, and what we want, the more we can get out of life. Not just in the future, but in our present moment.
This concept is refreshing to me. Because it means I can start enjoying life more now instead of just “later on”.
When my girls were younger, I wasn’t mature enough to realize how quickly these moments would pass. Their cute pudgy cheeks and crawling on the floor everywhere didn’t last very long. Now they are older and more independent, which comes with additional memories that will also fly by.
Each phase in life comes with unique experiences and opportunities.
FI will open us up to different experiences, and hopefully more happy memories. But why not take advantage of what is already at our doorstep?
Becoming a Better Person
Part of my own life journey is to figure out how to be less anxious overall. This not only includes money but just life in general.
My mind quickly goes to the “worst” case scenario, and when I’m feeling highly anxious, I can get hyper-critical. Let’s just say that when this happens, I’m not the best version of myself.
Even if/when I get to FI, if I don’t figure this out, my anxiety problem will follow me to my grave.
I’ve started to take my anxiety more seriously, as it has really messed up my mind. Things get blown out of proportion, and I become miserable and defensive.
My life goal has become figuring out how to re-work my mind. I really want to get to a place where I do the following:
- Learn to not say what first comes to my mind, especially when I’m feeling anxious
- Seeing more of the positive, instead of the negative
- Enjoying the present moment where I don’t have to focus on my todo list
- Not making every task or todo item something that has to be done immediately
- Giving people more of the “benefit of the doubt”
- Becoming a better listener
If I don’t figure out how to do a better job with this list, I fear that in all stages of my life I will be driven by my anxiety. It will always find some reason to be negative, regardless of how good things are. I will be looking for things, activities, feelings, etc. that distract me from this internal battle that is raging inside of me.
Focusing on the Future Ignores What We Can Do Right Now
A reoccurring theme that keeps on popping up in my mind as I write this article is that the path to experiencing happiness is available to us right now.
The problem is figuring out what that is, and what are the habits/thoughts/actions that are getting in our way right now.
Maybe you won’t hate your job so much if you can approach your position differently. Or maybe time at home could become more peaceful and happy if you can iron out your sleep schedule so that you are at the top of your mental state of mind.
My goal is to think about what I can do now to improve my life and the life of my family AND work towards our financial future at the same time. It’s as if we are working towards multiple goals at the same time. Figuring out how to get the most out of life right now and setting up our future to have the most options. I’m not great at this, but I’m motivated to make progress!
Chris is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.