2018 was the year that we started working toward financial independence. We have come to the conclusion that we do not want to work for other people ,and I do not want to work in a job that I don’t like till retirement age (see more on that in career section below). I have been reading books on money and investing all year, and listening to too much Dave Ramsey. But it is paying off ! We eliminated much of our consumer debt, car payments and started budgeting to the max. Its all baby steps, and this year we are off to a good start, and next year will be even better. I have been reading a lot about the FIRE movement (Financial Independence Retire Early). To be clear, I do not want to retire in the traditional sense as in not work and spend my time watching tv or playing golf or what ever that dream may be, but not have to rely on an employer and work for myself in a way that is fulfilling and I can do on my terms. And not have to constantly run in the rat race. I had an entire section written out detailing what we did, but it felt a bit too personal to post on the ol interwebs where everyone can see. Instead I made a quick summary about it below, and maybe eventually I will make a post about how we did it.
The biggest take lessons I have learned;
- No more debt, I am not using credit cards for anything, you end up paying way more that you ever planned
- No more car payments, not worth it, you lose so much money
- Budget and track everything
- Debt is slavery, and work toward our goals of being debt free and FI
I have learned to so much about myself this year. I have learned that I have fiercely protect my self care time. I am an introvert after all and I live in a house with 3 other people, 2 of which are small children. It is not always easy to get the time and space I need , but I have disciplined myself to do so One the biggest improvements I made was consistently showing up for myself. My goal was to always get up an hour before work and either exercise, or work on my blog, read or learn something new. I was haphazard about it, I would set my phone alarm and leave it next to my bed, but I had a bad habit of hitting snooze repeatedly and just barely making it out of bed in time for work. But it was easy to swipe the wrong way and turn off the snooze entirely. This happened twice, and I was nearly late for work, the first time I just blew it off as an accident, but the second time I decided to make a change. I took my phone out of the bedroom entirely and dug out my old school alarm clock and put it on the dresser across the room, when the alarm went off in the morning I was forced to get out of bed to turn it off. This worked very well, I set the alarm to give me an hour before I had to get ready for work and this also took my phone out of the room entirely. Secondly this helped me get to bed earlier because I would not sit in bed with my phone and mindlessly consume before bed, this was a bad habit that was costing me sleep. This one small step helped me get more sleep, more exercise and gave me more time to work on my blog and my reading and writing.
I read a book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0 in the spring. I had read good things about it, so I picked it up and read it, but it did not resonate with me at first. It seemed like it had good intentions, but its target audience was worker bees in the corporate world. I breezed though it, and I don’t think I even finished it and put it back on the shelf. A few months went by and I was having a conversation with my coach and she recommended reading it. So I picked it up again, and paid attention, and followed through with the exercises. It has made a big change in my life, I took notes all over the book and followed through with many of the exercises. As an INFJ I am not that good at identifying my own emotions, I am good at identifying others emotions and picking up on subtle things that others do. But what the book taught me, was to think more about what I am feeling, and identify it. Everything that happens to you goes though your emotional brain before your rational brain. In other words you FEEL EVERYTHING. And your rational thought is always clouded with emotions. But for me I think I learned to numb myself, or just not pay attention to all the little things that my body was doing. I have also learned over my career that you do not want to have conversations when you are heated, you never write emotionally charged emails, it just never ends well. I learned to bypass my emotions, and they really only came out when they would boil over. I started paying attention to all the little things that I was doing and identifying what emotions I was feeling. More importantly I learned that all the emotions you are experiencing are telling you something ! There is a handy chart in the book with over 100 different emotions in it. This really helped me identify what I was feeling. I have gone though life not really identifying my emotions, and not knowing what they were in real time. They are telling me something, and teaching me !
For the past few years, I have been working what most people would consider a good job. It is stable, provides decent health care, a work life balance, and a retirement plan. It pays enough to keep the roof over my head and food on the table. I have had jobs in the past that paid much more, however they were much more stressful and seriously lacked in the work life balance department. More money did not make me happier, I am not motivated by material things anymore, or maybe I never was, early in my working career I thought if I had more money I would be happier. But the trade off was more work, more stress, just to buy shiny things. I fell into the trap of thinking I could spend my way to happiness. For some people, actually many of the people I used to work with in the corporate world were motivated by bigger a bonus and the ability to buy new boats or 4 wheelers every few years. The extra money came with stress, and me faking who I really was in order to earn a few more dollars on my check and impress my overlords. Back to my current job, while on paper and to the observer it looks like a good gig, but to me, it is just life on endless repeat. I learned just about everything there is to learn in the first year or so on the job, and from here on out it just repeats it self every day, every month , every quarter and every year. I drive the same way to work, to the same job sites, perform the same tasks, solve the same problems over and over again. It feels like mowing a lawn, you can only mow the same lawn so many different ways before it becomes completely absurd. It lacks intellectual stimulation, there are few new skills to be learned, and the system is designed this way. My employer designed the job to keep people in it till they retire, no place to promote to, no cross training, no new skills to learn so if an opportunity does come up, I do not have the training to move on to something else. For some people this is just fine, they find a comfort zone and stay in it for the next 20-30 years and then retire. But I cannot live the same life on repeat for the 20-30 years till I am “free to retire”.
A lot of people would tell me just to suck it up, or deal with it. Its just what you do. Most of the people who told me this were unhappy with their own jobs and had the mentality that work is something you do, and you don’t like it. But why should I spend 40-60 hours a week doing something I don’t like, do not find stimulation and at the end of the day leaves you so tired and this feelings of emptiness and that the life is being sucked out of me so slowly that I don’t even notice? Its akin to the classic analogy of the frog in the pot of water. If you toss a frog into hot water, it jumps out right away, but if you put it in cold water and slowly heat it up, it will stay there till it dies, not even knowing how it died. I think the people in my life who told me this did not have bad intentions, but maybe they did not know any other way to make money. They went to a job, worked for someone else or a company, made just enough money to make ends meet, and had to keep at it day in and day out for years on end. Its just part of life I was told. Play it safe, do not take risks, it is a safe way to live your life, but at the same time it leads down the road of mediocrity. And where does that put you ?
This leads me to my goals for 2019. I have made the decision that I will never work for another employer or company again. I have worked enough jobs to know that wherever I go, what ever company I work for it will be the same, I will have a boss to tell me what to do, I will have to conform to the company rules, otherwise mold myself to fit into their box. Most bosses do not like people who speak out, go against what they say or call out their bullshit. Many of them rule with fear, fear that someone else will do a better job than they. But there are a few who are good mentors, very few I might add. I have had a few good ones over the years , but once again they try to mold me into what they see as the ideal employee. The problem is, I am not mold-able, adaptable, yes, but not mold-able, you are not going to change who I am, and I can only fake it for so long. The bigger picture behind this blog is that I wanted to experiment with it for a while and see if it is really what I want to do. The first part of the experiment was to see if I could do it for a year, and see if I enjoyed it. Its still up , and I am still working on it. So far so good, now its time to move on to the next part. You will see some changes coming in the next few months. I will be offering coaching and mentoring services, and continue to write blog post. A redesign of the site and a new look.
I am ready to move on from this phase of my life. I have an un-fulfilling job that I spend more time at than at home. It takes more than it gives. But I am not the kind of person to sit around and complain and not do anything about it. If I complain, that means I am already doing something about it. A lot of the people I work with consistently complain about their lives and situation, but when I ask what they are doing about it, I get blank looks. They are enabling themselves to complain and do nothing about it. They are settled into their comfort zones and do nothing to leave. Even if their comfort zone is an unideal situation . There are other tables to sit at in life. One table might serve crappy week old doughnuts, the next has fresh doughnuts and the next has health food. Which do you want to sit at ? Sure the fresh doughnut table sounds good, but if you sit there for too long, your waistline will expand , and maybe so slowly you wont even notice. Might be good for the short run, but in the long run you are going to end up in a bad place. Everyone has some sort of excuse, but you cannot lean on it forever. I refuse to settle down and live in mediocrity.