A New Job and a New Milestone

It’s been a while since the last post.  Life has been busy and I’m trying to establish a new “normal” routine.

New Job!

I’m now three weeks into the new job.  It has been exactly as I imagined yet at the same time different from what I expected.  The days absolutely FLY by.  I’m trying really hard to maintain a good work-life balance.  This job could easily consume 60 hours of my life every week, but I’m not willing to give it that much, so I’m trying to focus on the most important things and to be as efficient as possible in the time I do work.  So there’s not a lot of down time during the work day.  I did set an intention to have some sort of lunch break twice a week, whether that be lunch with a friend or taking some time to get away from the desk to go for a run.

What I’ve discovered over the last three weeks is that the new job is even more undefined than I had expected.  Each work day generally starts in a panic with me thinking about all the things our leadership has tasked us to get done that I’m not making any progress on.  Then, by the middle of the day, I realize that most of the other people doing the same job as me (who are also pretty new to the team) don’t really know what they’re doing, either.

There’s probably a handful of things that are keeping me from not losing my mind over the ambiguity of this new job:

  • I started taking meds again for my anxiety.  This is something I’ve never talked about on here, but from 2011-2016 I took an SSRI, then stopped taking it during my pregnancy.  I’ve thought on and off since then about going back on it, but knowing the stress that would be involved with a new job was the biggest factor that finally made me decide to start it again.  I think it has definitely been helpful during this work transition.
  • I’ve been at my company a long time; I’ve made a few of these job transitions, and I’ve always figured out a way to eventually get in a groove and deliver results.  I respect the leadership in my new group and know they have a vested interest in making sure we are all successful.  They know this isn’t an easy job we’ve been tasked with doing.
  • We hit a new $X00,000 household net worth milestone this past week!  It kind of sneaked up on me.  We were close to hitting this number last fall before the markets tanked, but since I’ve been busy lately I hadn’t been paying too much attention to the upward fluctuations in the market.

Celebrating Milestones

This net worth milestone is far from what we would need to be FI.  However, it’s REAL money.  It’s enough that it eases some of my work stress – I know that if things got really terrible, I could leave and we would be okay for a while.

It’s going to be a while before we see another one of these milestones – maybe even a couple years.  So did we do anything big to celebrate?  Sort of.  We went to dinner at a nice restaurant with some friends.  And I ordered exactly what I wanted, without worrying about how much it cost.  I had two glasses of rose wine, a strip steak with Gorgonzola cheese topping, mashed potatoes, and coffee and key lime pie for dessert.  It was DIVINE.  And I felt zero guilt about spending the money.

Do you celebrate net worth or debt payoff milestones?  If so, how do you celebrate?

19 in 2019

I admit it.  I’m one of those people who loves to set goals.

So this time of year is always fun for me.  I like to see how I did over the past year and strategize for the year to come.  I love reading other bloggers’ reviews of their years and what they plan for 2019.

I’ve got a list of 19 goals for 2019 across a variety of categories.  Here are the ones related to personal finance!

Shelter Income in Tax-Advantaged Accounts to Avoid 22% Tax Bracket

It felt really great to max out my 401(k) for the first time in 2018.  But it’s probably not going to happen for 2019, for a few reasons.

  • Now that Mr. FIREdup is freelancing and our household income has gone down, maxing my 401(k) doesn’t leave much extra room for other financial goals.  There are other things I want to accomplish with our money next year.
  • My father-in-law made an interesting comment a few weeks ago that has stuck with me.  He was talking about his required minimum distribution (RMD) and how that money is being taxed at a pretty substantial marginal rate (he also receives a railroad pension).  I think the point he was trying to convey is that if you don’t tap into your tax-advantage accounts until RMD time, you could end up with a pretty significant tax hit when it’s time to take that money out starting at age 70 1/2.  This is not an issue for a lot of FIRE people, but we’re on a really sloooooow FIRE track.  Realistically we’ll probably be working, in some capacity, for another couple decades.  It’s likely that we won’t tap into our tax-advantaged money until 59 1/2 or later.
  • After thinking a bit on my father-in-law’s comment, I decided to run some numbers.  Assuming a 4.5% inflation-adjusted CAGR, even if we didn’t make any more tax-advantaged contributions, we would be close to a lean-FI 4% withdrawal rate in 25 years at a “traditional” age 65 retirement.
  • With our drop in household income and the tax changes for 2018, the tax advantage to contributing to a 401(k) just isn’t as great for us.  I ran some preliminary numbers for 2019, and the new goal is to make just enough 401(k)/IRA contribution to max out the 12% taxable income bracket.  (In other words, we’ll contribute enough to make sure no marginal income is taxed at 22%, the next highest bracket.)  The nice thing about this strategy is that we have IRA space that we can use at tax time to leverage any shortfall we may need to make up.  (In fact, this will probably drive our 2018 IRA contribution amounts.)

Now if Mr. FIREdup ends up going back to a full time job sometime in 2019, I’ll probably revisit the 401(k) contribution.  But for now, I’m dropping it down several percentage points.

Where is that money going instead?…

Total Mortgage Balance of Five Figures 

I’ve posted previously about how much I hate our second mortgage.  The stretch goal for 2019 is to pay that sucker off entirely.  But the more realistic goal is to get the total mortgage balance (1st and 2nd combined) down into the five figures by the end of the year.  This will definitely require extra payments on the second mortgage, but feels really doable!  Also, with the markets being so sketchy lately, and with no longer being able to deduct mortgage interest at tax time, making these extra payments locks in a 7+% rate of return.  And that feels pretty damn good.

Add $2,500 to E-fund 

I’m a bag lady at heart.  Having a solid emergency fund helps me sleep at night.  With economic uncertainty possibly upticking in 2019, plus the the second income in our house being based on freelance work, I want to stash a little extra money in this account next year.

I also get a sabbatical at work next year (yeah!!!) and we’ll probably go on a fun family vacation during that time.  Which means I’ll need to stash some additional money in this fund to pay for whatever we decide to do (if we can’t cash flow the expense).

Create “ICE” Financial Binder

In 2018 we did two financial tasks that I’d been putting off and that aren’t fun to do:  we got individual life insurance policies (not tied to our work) and we got our will/power of attorney/healthcare directive paperwork completed.

As the household CFO, I’ve thought several times this year about how unlikely it is that Mr. FIREdup would know where all our financial accounts are if something were to happen to me.  (A conversation at Cents Positive really brought this back into focus.)  So in 2019, my goal is to put together an in case of emergency financial binder that lists out all our information.  I haven’t determined the details yet but will probably use this resource from Chelsea over at Smart Money Mamas.  This is another one of those really important, but easily overlooked financial tasks.

So that’s it – everything related to our financial goals for 2019!  Do you have goals for the new year?

A Look Back: One Year of Being FIREd Up

Real talk, y’all.

This little blog celebrated its first anniversary on November 3rd.  Two weeks ago.  And it has taken me THIS LONG to write a post about it.  Which says a lot about how the past couple of weeks of my life have gone.

Fittingly, the anniversary landed smack dab on the weekend that I attended Cents Positive.  So I had to get a blog post out first about that.  But the Cents Positive weekend led to some sleep deprivation for our whole family.  Then last weekend my mom visited.  Then this past week we had a sick kid which meant more sleep loss.  All this occurred while I was trying to maximize the actual time I had at work, since I had to take a few hours of PTO to watch the sick little one.  (She’s fine, BTW.  Just the first cold of the season.  But she had a fever and couldn’t go to daycare a couple days this past week.)

Here’s that first post from a year ago, if you’re interested.  Guess what?  The reasons I put in that first post for why I set up this little blog?  They’re still true.  Especially these bits:

  • I want to interact more with this community and continue to learn from what other bloggers have to offer.
  • I don’t want to spend the next 17+ years slaving away in a cubicle, working for someone else, doing something that doesn’t provide fulfillment, when instead I could be spending more time with my daughter and spouse.
  • We probably won’t reach true “financial independence” in the next 5 or 10 years.  But I do know that the less we spend, the more we can save and invest, which does provide FREEDOM and OPTIONS to make different choices about how we work in the future.

It’s interesting how we can plan as much as we want and still, the world has surprises waiting for us.  A few surprising things from this past year that I wrote about on the blog:

A few other posts you might want to check out:

  • My financial freedom manifesto (part 1 and part 2)
  • The post with the most shares as of late
  • The post that seems to bring in the most consistent Google traffic

So, what do I have planned for year 2?  Honestly, there is no big vision.  I would love to post more than I have been lately, but if I can at least post enough to keep the blog from going dormant that will make me happy.

Most of my favorite personal finance blogs are exactly that – personal.  I love reading stories of how other people are navigating the interesting complexities of managing their money.  So in year 2, I imagine most of my blogging will be providing updates on how the FIREdup household is doing that too.

Thanks to everyone who has followed along in year 1.  Can’t wait to see what year 2 has in store!

Financially Empowered Women: My Experience at Cents Positive

This past weekend I attended Cents Positive, a retreat for women who are into money and financial independence (FI).  The event was spearheaded by Tanja, who writes a great FI blog over at Our Next Life and early retired nearly a year ago.

I signed up for a ticket a long time ago but I waffled a bit on going.  I haven’t been away from my daughter overnight yet and wasn’t sure a trip where I would be out of town for 3 nights was the right choice for my first time away.  What we ended up doing is making it a family trip.  (This is where the flexibility of Mr. FIREdup’s freeelancing works out pretty well.)  I sold my ticket for the all day Friday blog event and instead we spent the day doing family stuff, including a trek to Red Rocks.  We were back to the hotel in plenty of time for the Friday night kickoff for the main retreat.

The Retreat

Friday night we had an icebreaker game to get people interacting and meeting each other.  This was pretty key since there were about 85 women at the event.  After the networking game there was food truck dinner and more informal chatting.

Saturday morning was SUPER early for us as my toddler buddy decided to wake up at 4am and not go back to sleep.  I am a very lucky gal, because my exhausted husband took care of this wild little beast all day while I attended the retreat from 9:30 to 6.  There was lots of good stuff on the agenda:  more networking, a presentation from Kara, amazing ignite talks from attendees, a live recording of the Fairer Cents, and a discussion on health insurance.

Sunday was just a morning session and was more unstructured.  We heard from some attendees who are already retired, discussed how to build the community, and then attendees led 10-minutes mini-sessions on various topics.

Was it Worth It?

So was it worth my time?  Absolutely.  I met many incredible, financially empowered women on the FI path, all moving towards the same goal but with totally different journeys along the way.  There were attendees from all these various categories:

  • Low, middle, or high earning
  • Single or partnered
  • With kids, without kids, or wanting kids in the future
  • Sharing money with a partner, or keeping it separate
  • Working for a corporation, the government, a non-profit, as an entrepreneur, on a break from traditional work, or already retired
  • Wanting to retire from a disliked job, shift to a more meaningful career, or continue working in an enjoyable career while still pursuing FI
  • At the beginning of their financial journey, in the long slog towards FI, or nearly at the end

Let’s be honest: retiring at 30 is not practically feasible for most people.  But meeting the ladies at this event reinforced this for me:  FI may not be for everyone but there’s room for a lot of people in this movement.  Don’t let someone tell you that you don’t belong because you don’t fit the stereotype.  

For me, FI represents freedom, independence, a life with more purposeful work and more time with family and friends.   Though I’m not on a fast path to retirement, the worst case scenario is that I “only” retire on time, but with plenty of savings to enjoy my retirement.  And how can that possibly be a bad situation?

Disappointments

My only significant disappointment was that there were many people I didn’t really get to talk to.  It’s difficult to interact with 85 different people when you have such a short window of time.  This was probably exacerbated by the fact that I spent some of my free time with my family instead of the ladies at the retreat.  But all the people I interacted with were very welcoming and easy to talk to and I had some really great conversations.

Takeaways

There were a few more practical takeaways for me, which included:

  • Since I am the household CFO, I need to do a better job of making sure my husband knows where all our assets are and has the account details.
  • I got some fun tips on how to teach kids about money.  And one of the ideas I can probably start in a year or two, which was earlier than I expected.
  • Before I went to this retreat, I didn’t tell anyone in real life about it (other than my husband).  But I’m going to do a better job of subtly sharing my financial literacy with others, especially the women in my life.

Thank yous!

Tanja, you really are a community builder. Thank you for creating this event and bringing together such an impressive group of women!

And THANK YOU to all the ladies I had a chance to meet this weekend.  Keep on being “weird,” because more of our weirdness is needed in the world.

When Unemployment Ends: An Update

It was the end of April when Mr. FIREdup lost his job, and it’s been quite some time since I’ve provided an update.  So how are things going?

Unemployment and Job Searching

Mr. FIREdup was able to get unemployment benefits for a while.  During this time, he was applying for jobs every week.  Unfortunately, most of the applications disappeared into the ether, with no follow up at all.  He did spend some time talking with a potential employer about a job that was very similar to the one he left in April.  However, neither he nor I had a good gut feeling about the job.  I don’t think it would have been bad, but I don’t think it would have been great, either.  The joy of living below our means is that we aren’t in a financial situation where he has to take a job just to pay the bills.   

Another Option?

The hubby has been talking to one of his old bosses since this spring about the possibility of going to work for him again.  His old boss runs his own small company and has kept his business going through both good times and lean times.  He was interested in hiring my husband again, but just couldn’t quite justify the cost without the long-term business to support it.  So he had a proposition for Mr. FIREdup to do some long-term freelancing.

This freelancing option was being considered at the same time as the full-time job mentioned previously.  We decided that we were in a good enough place financially that we could handle the fluctuations in his income if he chose to freelance.  He has a great working relationship with his old boss and felt like he could learn and grow more from that work than from the full-time job that he was being considered for.

Freelancing Begins

Mr. FIREdup is now several weeks into his freelancing gig.  The weekly pay varies depending on the projects going on that week.  Most weeks have been a small amount, but he is now working on a couple projects that will pay more (but also require more work output, of course).   The nice thing is that Mr. FIREdup can work mostly flexible hours and can usually work from home.  I’m not a night owl, but my husband can often get a lot of productive work done late in the evening when the creative genius strikes.

Family Time

The benefit of Mr. FIREdup working a flexible job is that he has time to pick up some extra household work during the week, such as grocery shopping, laundry, mowing the lawn, etc.  This means it’s a lot easier for us to do fun family things on the weekend.  Mr.  FIREdup also has the time to make dinner early most nights of the week and have it ready in time to soothe our hangry toddler.

A side benefit is that it’s a lot easier for us to go out of town or plan events that require time off.  I’ve been at my job for a while, so I have plenty of PTO.  Mr. FIREdup didn’t have that luxury before.  Now, we only have to consult with one employer to plan time away, rather than two.  (He can always work while we travel if necessary, too.)  As an example:  I took a few hours of PTO this past Friday and the two of us shared a margarita and chatted on a quick afternoon date before running errands and picking up our daughter a little early from daycare.

…But Still Not Enough Time

The thing I’ve been working on is balancing my expectation regarding household needs against Mr. FIREdup’s work obligations.  I am learning to be more realistic about the number of household chores he can take on.  It’s easy for me to forget that even though he’s not working a traditional job outside the house, his freelancing work is still real work and some weeks it’s nearly a full-time obligation, depending on what project he is completing.  While we have more free time as a family overall, there are still some pesky household to-do’s that will continue waiting to get crossed off that to-do list.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Future?

We don’t know what the future holds for this freelancing gig.  It could disappear as soon as the spring if the client doesn’t continue to have the funding to pay for the work.  Mr. FIREdup does continue to keep an eye on full-time jobs as well.  It’s a little scary but also a little exciting to daydream about what he might be doing in the next chapter.

Gratitude

While our saving for FI has slowed down some, it hasn’t slowed down nearly as much as I expected.  Mostly I have my well-paying corporate job to thank for that, but it’s also the result of the accumulation of good financial decisions over the years.  Honestly, some days I feel like I’m getting away with something, because we don’t have two adults in our household that are frantically working 50+ hour weeks while trying to care for a child and have some semblance of a personal life.  That vision of “success” has become so ingrained in our societal expectations that it feels almost like there is something wrong if we’re not adhering to it.

Financial Freedom = Flexibility for Lifestyle Design

This pause in the rat race of having two full-time working adults in our household continues to make me think about financial freedom and the trade-off between time and money.

Though I’m a proponent of FIRE, I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll both fully “retire” anytime soon.  I think it’s much more likely that our future holds a mix of work like what we are doing now – freelance/full-time, part-time/full-time, or possibly even part-time/part-time or freelance/part-time?  That would be amazing!

What mix of work works best for your (or your family’s) situation?  What kind of time vs. money trade-offs do you make currently?

Not Always Either/Or. Sometimes It’s Both.

There’s an awful lot of divisiveness on the Internet on a range of topics these days.

And taking a controversial stand on something online often leads to more attention, thus perpetuating the echo chamber.

Is this getting worse?  Why is it so challenging to see the commonality rather than the differences?

The older I get, the more I realize it is possible to acknowledge two seemingly disparate thoughts at the same time.

Here’s a few examples, specifically related to personal finance:

  • While many people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps (or achieve FIRE), not everyone is fortunate enough to be in a situation to move up the socioeconomic ladder (or to retire early).
  • It’s possible to feel empathy for someone who is drowning in debt while at the same time celebrating the hard work and discipline that goes into paying it off.
  • It makes more logical sense to invest in the market rather than pay off a 4% mortgage, but there is a tremendous peace of mind for some people in being mortgage-free.
  • Some people are willing to work 80 hours a week to make more money and get to FI sooner, whereas others recognize that time is a finite resource and choose a slower route.
  • Pretty much everyone agrees an emergency fund is a great idea, but some feel better with a big pile of cash sitting in the bank.  Others might hate to lose out on market returns and choose a smaller e-fund with the option to leverage credit, home equity, or investments in time of need.
  • Work on that side hustle.  Turn it into a business if you want.  Or, spend your time working hard at your 9-to-5 if that’s where you’ll have the biggest payoff.
  • Common canon in the personal finance community says you should buy a used car but sometimes a new car might be the right choice.  (Side note: My first new car lasted me 13 years.  My second one is going strong at almost 5 years and I hope it lasts at least as long as my first one.)
  • Despite much evidence to the contrary, it’s not actually forbidden to have cable, if that’s your thing.
  • The 4% rule works for some while others might feel better with a 3% withdrawal rate.  Guess what?  I bet this depends on your risk tolerance…
  • Just because you haven’t been discriminated against when it comes to pay or promotions, that doesn’t mean that others haven’t.

The bottom line is that personal finance is personal.  It’s great to educate others, and to share your own experiences.  That’s what I love about this community.  But there’s not ONE TRUE WAY to go about being successful at this personal finance thing.

What personal finance canon have you seen that I didn’t include above?

Is Family Support a Part of Your FIRE Plans?

Last week I listened to Sylvia’s story on the FIRE Drill Podcast.  Sylvia is a lawyer who has already hit her financial independence number, but is working for a few more years so that she has the flexibility to provide financial support to family members after she retires.

I’ve seen plenty of discussion in the personal finance world about parents providing economic aid to their grown children. But the opposite scenario – wanting to help parents or siblings – is not something I’ve seen covered much in the FIRE community.  Is Sylvia somewhat unique, or are there others who want to have the flexibility to do the same?

This episode hit home for me.  I do not worry about my husband’s parents’ financial situation; his dad is living comfortably on a railroad retirement pension, and I believe his mom’s husband will have a pension when he retires in the next couple of years as well.  But my family is a different story.

My Family Story

I grew up in a rural area.  My dad was a farmer and my mom stayed at home.  When I was ten my mom, a nurse, went back to work part-time.  There aren’t a lot of job opportunities in the immediate area.  She could have chosen to commute an hour to a larger city where she could work 12-hour shifts and earn more money.  But it was important to her to have the flexibility to be close to home for our after-school activities.

At some point my mom went back to work full time, while my dad continued to farm.  In addition to farming, my dad also took on side jobs, including selling seed and appraising and selling real estate.  My parents always worked hard, but the hard work did not result in lucrative financial gains.

Twelve years ago, my dad died unexpectedly.  He had life insurance and his affairs were kept in good order.  But there was still a financial impact.  My mom sold off some of the farm equipment, but there were loans against the farm from the lean years that needed to be paid down.

I am thankful that my mom had been working for many years by this point so she didn’t have to worry about finding a job.  But despite being at the same employer for coming up on 30 years, she still does not get paid a high wage.  Though she manages her money well, there just isn’t a lot of it to go around.  And maintaining a home and farm occasionally requires significant outlays of cash.

My Philosophy on Family Support

Honestly, I do worry about my mom’s financial situation.  So when I have an opportunity to help in small ways, I do so.  My brother and I both went to college, then moved to large cities and got jobs that pay substantially more than any jobs in the area where we grew up.  So we have the luxury of being able to pay for things that are a small burden to us but a much larger burden for her.  For example, we bought her a new washer and dryer two years ago for Christmas.

There has never been an expectation that we provide things for my mom.  And my mom is not the kind of person who would ever take advantage of us for financial gain, either.  But she has always been a great mom, and a role model for hard work and sacrifice.  Why wouldn’t we share our financial abundance when it makes sense to do so?

While providing family support is not an explicit part of our FI journey, having extra money to help my mom whenever it’s needed is definitely a consideration in our long-term financial decision making.

Caveats

I do think there are some rules to abide by when it comes to sharing your financial resources with family, whether it is a child or a parent or another family member:

  • Take care of yourself first.  Sylvia referred to this as the airplane method: you can’t help someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.  Make sure your own financial house is in order before you offer to help family.
  • Only provide money or resources willingly, not out of forced obligation.  My mom would never have an expectation that we “give” her things, but others may have a different family dynamic.  Providing money without creating a cycle of dependence can be tricky.
  • Be cautious in loaning money.  I have never loaned money, but if I were in that situation, I would treat it as a gift so as not to create resentment should the money not be paid back.
  • Consider non-monetary gifts.  Sylvia mentioned that she shares frequent flier miles with her family.  I think this is a great idea!  My mom said Hawaii is the one place she really wants to visit, so in the next few years we are planning to do a trip there – and I plan for us to pay for most, if not all, of the trip on her behalf.

I’m really curious to get feedback from others on this topic.  Do you have family support as part of your FIRE plan?  If so, how do you plan to do so?  

Liebster Awards!

What is a Liebster Award, you may ask?  It is a way to recognize and discover new bloggers.  I want to give a shout out to Sarah at Ditching Your Desk for nominating FIREDup for a Liebster Award recently!  From one new blogger to another, it means a lot to know there are others out there who are on a similar journey.

To get to know the Leibster nominees a little more, Ditching Your Desk put together a list of questions for us to answer…

Why did you start your blog? 

I’ve gotten more interested in the FIRE/personal finance community in the past couple of years and wanted a way to get more involved in it.  Also, I love finance and writing, so it made sense to finally have a space of my own where I could share my family’s journey.  It also keeps me accountable to my goals.

What gets you up in the morning?

Coffee!! 🙂  Seriously though, in addition to the thought of breakfast and coffee (I’m always thinking about food), I get excited to spend time with my daughter and husband (and my pug dog).

Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day would involve most (or all) of the following:  a good night’s sleep, coffee, delicious food, quality time with my family (and friends), outdoor time/exercise, and some time to read.  Bonus points if the day involves an adventure, whether locally (like a visit to the zoo) or on a vacation.  If the evening involved a date with my husband and a glass of wine or a cocktail, that’d be pretty great, too.

What have you found to be the best thing about starting a blog?

The personal finance community in general is very positive and welcoming.  I feel like a bigger part of it now that I have my own blog.  It has also been a great way to get more writing under my belt, which is something I enjoy doing.

What have you found to be the worst thing?

Despite the fact that I created the blog as a creative outlet and not a business venture, I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time on it.  That kind of takes the fun out of it.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I am late to being a mom and for many years actually didn’t think motherhood was in my life plan.  In fact, I was a little scared that I would be one of those moms you read about on the Internet who says she hates being a parent.

I’ve actually found the opposite to be true.  I am so crazy about my daughter!  I was pretty satisfied with my pre-kid life.  But now that I’ve experienced being a mom, I can’t imagine not having her in my life.

Where is the best place you’ve visited?

In the summer of 2013 I went on an epic trip with my best friend, who at the time was in the Air Force and stationed in Germany.  I flew to Germany to meet up with her, then we traveled to Istanbul, Turkey and a few different cities in Italy.  It was fantastic!

Where do you dream of traveling?

It might be easier to list where I don’t want to travel!  I imagine there are more places I’d like to see than I’ll ever get a chance to visit in my lifetime.  Australia/New Zealand, an African safari, Thailand, and Bora Bora are just a few fun ideas.  There are also many amazing places within the United States to explore.  I would like to visit some of the best National Parks when my daughter is a little older.

What is your favorite book?

I enjoy reading.  I don’t have a specific favorite book, but I’ve read some good ones this year, including The Bear and the Nightingale, What Alice Forgot, Heartburn, and At Home in the World.  They are all very different books but I enjoyed each of them.

What do you want to be in your next life (figuratively speaking)?

I’ve worked long enough in cubicle land to say it would probably not involve staring at beige walls all day while hunched over a computer.  Writer?  Teacher or professor?  Librarian?  Financial planner?  Personal trainer? Yoga guru?  Entrepreneur?  Who knows.  But in my next life I’d also like to be a wife and mom and daughter and friend.

Who is your favorite musician or band?

The Avett Brothers!

A Few Suggestions…

Go check out Ditching Your Desk if you’re looking for new blogs to follow!

A few other newer blogs I suggest checking out as well:

Lean Fire ATL – LeanfireATL is a GenX early 50’s chick’s blog about the journey to FIRE through spending, saving and investing.

Women Who MoneyWomen who Money is a collaborative blog created to provide trustworthy personal finance information for women.

Birds of a FIREOlivia is a 25 year old FIRE blogger living in New York City.

Financial Pilgrimage – A St. Louis family who is on a journey to pay off nearly $200,000 in debt since 2011.

Readers – any suggestions of other new blogs everyone should check out?

Don’t Wish it Away

This time last year I was on maternity leave with my newborn.  I am so happy I took the full twelve weeks off to be at home with my baby, but I’d be lying if I said the time was pure joyful bliss.  Adjusting to a tiny human who needs constant care and attention was not easy for me.  I would ask my friend Google:  “When do babies get easier?”  Sometimes I found myself wishing the time to move a little faster, to jump ahead to a time where this parenting thing got easier.

Then I went back to work.  Time began moving rapidly.  My daughter started rolling over.  I thought, “This is fun! I like this stage.”  Then she began sitting up.  That was fun, too.  She started eating solid foods and sitting in her high chair with us at mealtime.  The first time she crawled was so exciting.  Now she is a toddler and working on walking and talking and so many other awesome things.

That “hurry it up” mentality from the newborn days?  It diminishes more and more with each passing month.  Each developmental stage is passing so quickly and my husband and I are trying to truly experience and enjoy each moment while we are in it.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

What does this have to do with Financial Independence?

It’s easy to have a “hurry it up” mentality about financial independence, too.  For many (including us), it’s a goal that is several years away – if not a decade or more.  Sometimes it’s a struggle for me not to wish away today, anticipating some “magical” future time when we will reach our financial freedom goal.

But each of us only gets one life to live, and we don’t know how long it will last, or what detours our path will take.  The thing I’m working on is how to enjoy TODAY, while still making conscious financial decisions that benefit our tomorrow, too.

How do you enjoy the present when FIRE is such a long-term goal?

Are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the quiz to find out!

I’m currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.  Many of the principles in her book can translate to the world of personal finance.  Today I’m writing specifically about her Four Tendencies framework.

The idea behind this framework (which is also the subject of her latest book) is that we all face two sets of expectations:  outer and inner.  Outer expectations are those placed on us by others, such as family, friends, bosses, and society in general.  An example would be a due date for a big work project.  Inner expectations are those we place on ourselves, such as setting a New Year’s resolution.

How she describes the framework in her own words:

Depending on a person’s response to outer and inner expectations, that person falls into one of four distinct types:

Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations

Questioners question all expectations; they meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect they respond only to inner expectations

Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

If you want to know your tendency, she has a quick quiz you can take on her site.

I am an Upholder with Questioner tendencies.  If I commit to something, I don’t have problems sticking to it.  Most of the time I’m a rule follower, but sometimes I question external expectations if they don’t make sense.

Some observations on this framework and it’s intersection with personal financial habits:

  • FIRE folks are impressively goal oriented; I would guess that most do not have a hard time meeting inner expectations, or if they do, they have figured this out about themselves and created hacks to make themselves accountable.
  • I envision the most hardy FIRE people – the Mustachians – as Questioners.  They challenge societal expectations.  You don’t have to work until you’re 65 (or even 55!)!  Of course you can save 70% of your income!  (or maybe they are Rebels?)
  • According to Gretchen’s survey results, Obliger is the most frequent tendency.  External accountability helps obligers meet goals.  Just as an obliger might benefit from hiring a personal trainer to form an exercise habit or joining Weight Watchers to lose weight, an obliger seems like a good candidate to work with a financial planner who will help keep him/her accountable to financial goals.  Alternatively, sharing goals publicly (such as on a blog) or with a trusted friend could also serve as a way to provide accountability.  Or perhaps the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge might create the sense of community that would inspire an obliger?

What is your tendency?  How does it impact your financial habits?

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