The “How” & “Why” in FI

This week there was a bunch of interesting topics floating about the blogosphere that really got me to thinking – What are we all trying to accomplish?   Will financial independence really change our worlds and our futures?  What is our purpose?  Ultimately focusing on the “Why” of FI (which we discussed in the RSF Forums this week-my answer below).  Of course, we will all have different answers to these questions, but for each of us, knowing that purpose helps to lead us in the right direction.

Tuesday, Chris from Keep Thrifty posted about his Financial Compass.  How his wife and him found direction for their finances.  Reading his post made me think back to my own compass.  The same compass I have worn around my neck for the past 15 years…

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A little worn down but always on me…I didn’t even take it off for this pic!

At 23, I was a brand new flight attendant and struggling financially …like most 23 year olds tend to do!  Though I have never been in debt (until the 500k in mortgage debt!), the $14.61 I was making didn’t quite cover the bills and I was using precious savings to bridge the gap.  This job was waaaayyyy different from any I had before.  In the first 6 months, I bounced from city to city, hotel to hotel, and paycheck to paycheck.  I LOVED my new job but trying to balance home life and work life was difficult.

One night a man came on the plane and sat in the front row.  We struck up a conversation and he began to tell me about his family – particularly how he was trying to teach his son what was important in life, the values that would matter greatly to his future.  Those conversations with his son led to an idea that he eventually built a family owned business around, resulting in The Life Compass.  Here is an excerpt from his story on their  website:

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As the man was leaving he reached into his briefcase, took something out, placed it in my hand, and wished me the best of luck in my future.  I watched as he walked up the jetway, then looked down to what he had put in my hand. A shiny new Life Compass key chain gleamed up at me.  I loved the gift and the idea so much that I immediately dug through my bag to add it to my key ring.  A few months later, with one of my first paychecks, I went to his website and purchased a pendant.  I have been wearing that pendant ever since.

Though I didn’t choose the points of direction, the symbolism he built them around speak to me greatly.  I use my Life Compass as a moral compass to keep my life balanced and on track.  Here is what each point represents to me:

  •  I have wavered in my faith throughout the years, often preferring the word “spiritual” to “religious”.  Regardless of what word I choose, I know that God is a part of my path.  He is a constant whirring in the background even if He isn’t present in the forefront.  I find purpose in working with others and helping the underdog.  I know that my gift of gab comes not only from my Italian family, but also from the man behind the scenes.  He drives me to be a better person…even if I haven’t found complete peace in blind faith, I know He is there believing in me.
  • My Family is my rock, even though they drive me crazy and even when I try to push them away, I always know I can go home should I need to.  As I spoke in the forums, my Mom is special to everyone who meets her.  She always goes above and beyond for anyone in need.  She is the person who calls just because she hasn’t heard from me in days and misses me.  She showed me how to be a strong woman even when it seems the world is against you.  I am so proud of my Mom and what she has accomplished…even without a college degree (see Knowledge).  **Because I know mom reads this I must say, Hi Mom!**
  • I know that my Friends are the truest form of love.  They exist in my life because they want to be there – not because they have to be.  They call me on my bullshit and support me in some of my silliest decisions…because they know not to try to change my mind.  And when some of those things go wrong, they are still there to help me fix the outcome!  I wasn’t born into them and they weren’t born to me – it is a choice.   Your friends are your chosen family and when you have that choice you cherish it.  Though some friends have come and gone over the years, the true ones remain.
  • Knowledge.  Oh, knowledge.  I pursue you, for sure.  I read a ton of PF blogs, books from fiction to non, magazines…I read a lot.  But there is one hiccup in my pursuit of knowledge that I have struggled with in my life which is not having had a formal education – not because I feel I need one, but because I feel others think you should have one.  That, perhaps because I don’t have a piece of paper to prove how smart I am, others may not take me seriously.  But in the end I have realized that none of that matters.  Those aren’t the people I want to associate myself with anyway!  The point is to always be seeking.  To always be growing.  I think in this respect I have an advantage.  Without that degree, I have had to work harder to prove my worth.  I didn’t have a piece of paper to fall back on to make me entitled to only apply for the best jobs in my field (FYI I know not all educated peeps are like this!).  Instead, I was a scrapper.  I learned on the fly.  I took any job that paid me money and always moved up quickly because I wasn’t afraid to get dirty.  I’ve been a nanny, florist, realtor, teachers assistant, jewelry maker, seamstess, candle seller, bread baker, waitress (a bunch of times), and of course, a Flight Attendant.  As my mom has posted to her FB wall in the education section – we both graduated from The School of Hard Knocks.

What the man placed in my hand that day was a gift beyond words.  He gave me a symbol to be able to focus my future path on.  The lesson of this story is not to expect gifts from strange men, even though it worked out in my favor 🙂 , but to find what it is that speaks to you in life.  What drives you.  Regardless of where your goals might take you, and even if you get a bit off track, if you always know your true north you will always be able to find your way home.

So what does all this have to do with finances?  On the path to financial independence it is easy to get lost in the details of the process.  Budgets (or non budgets like mine), spreadsheets, savings rates, and side hustles.  It’s enough to make one crazy!  But the process is slow.  Painfully slow.  Paycheck to paycheck slow.  So it is good to keep in mind what you are doing all of this for.  Why are you pushing the envelope of “normal” to retire early and live this extraordinary life?  The question posed on the forum earlier this week  was, “What is your “Why”?”.  Here is mine:

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Yes, I used my dog for shameful bonus points!

I want to be able to travel freely – without guilt.  I have no interest in being a full-time vagabond, but I do want to make the most of what’s left of my time with 10-year-old Bubba.  🙂

My dog is my best friend…yes, she is furry and doesn’t speak, but she has been with me through every point in my life the past 8 years.  Through a marriage then divorce, financial ruin, financial rebirth, road trips, jaunts around the lake, jaunts around the forest, parties, boyfriends and breakups, and many moves.  She has seen me through the tears, the laughter, and all the joy from each and every one of those moments.  Get the point?  Yeah, she’s my Bestie!

I realize that at first glimpse this may seem a bit silly…”She wants to be financially independent to spend time with her dog?”.  That’s weird.  And I’m likely to agree.  But this is about more than that.  If I had kids and a family, it may not seem as weird.  My “WHY” would be to have enough money so I wouldn’t have to work in favor of spending time with them…and who knows what may be down the road.  But, because that is not my current situation, I focus on the things I have that make me happy.  I love to travel.  I love to explore new cities, meet new people, and eat new cuisines…but I hate to leave my girl behind.  So my plan is to work hard now so I can take a bit of time to enjoy this great country with Bubs by my side as we explore North America together.  And, most likely, I will do this before my goal of FI.

Traveling the country won’t last forever.  I have plans to start a business of my own.  Most likely in relation to travel, food, dogs, or counseling…any way I can put them all together for a super awesome encore career?  Like a food truck where the proceeds go to a dog shelter that I own that employs inner city kids to rehabilitate them emotionally and prepare them for their own independence?  I don’t know – but I do know that given time I will figure it out as I have every other step of my journey.  And knowing I have my Life Compass will help to keep me in the right direction throughout my journey.

So what is your “Why”?  What would your compass points look like?  I always love to hear your stories and hopefully one of you can come up with a grand idea for my encore career!

Until next time…

42 thoughts on “The “How” & “Why” in FI

  1. As I mentioned in the forums, for me, FI has never been so much about “why”, but more of a “why not”? I was saving money anyway, so why not implement a big goal for all that cash I was saving? It’s helped give some direction because ever since college graduation, I stopped having any goals because your life isn’t easily graded like your work in a classroom.

    Your plan makes perfect sense to me and it almost makes me want to have a furry friend once I settle down somewhere. I’d obviously prefer to have a partner (or both!)

    Being a lifelong vagabond just doesn’t appeal to me at all. A single year (or less) of continuous travel does appeal for some very specific financial reasons – why should I pay a mortgage or expensive rent on a place I’m not using while I want to cut out this time of my life to explore other places? But that’s very much a short term life experience. That’s not my intended permanent life. Though my opinion on what my ideal life looks like is certainly allowed to evolve.

    At this moment – in my ideal life – I have a home base somewhere living with purpose as part of a community and travel is something that I would occasionally do for fun. I don’t want travel to start feeling like my normal because then it’s no longer a treat or something to look forward to. I certainly don’t rule out additional life periods of long term travel in the future, but I believe it would be hard to maintain lifelong connections in “real life” if i’m constantly on the go, so it just doesn’t seem like something I should strive towards at this time..

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    1. How about a furry partner? 😉

      I like your “why not” reason. I suppose that is part of my initial reasoning as well – I have always been a natural born saver but needed an end goal to motivate me to work harder. As for the traveling part, you are so right in that once it becomes the norm it can lose its luster. Maybe one big trip a year and a little work in between? My Nana is 93 and I often wonder what my life will look like at that age. Most likely I won’t be scooting around in a VW bus up and down the California coast…but I guess you never know! 🙂

      For now, the few months travelling about and visiting all the people I have met over the years is excitement enough. I keep a list of states and the friends that live in them on my phone so I can eventually plane my route…I’m hoping after FinCon I will have a few more states to add to my list!

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  2. Chris @ KeepThrifty

    So cool to hear more about the Life Compass! It sounds like it’s really been a huge impact in your life and it definitely embodies the things I’d like my moral compass (and my kids’) to contain.

    More power to you in your Why – that’s a lucky pup and you’ve got some great travels ahead of you!

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    1. Thank you and thank you for the inspiration. It has been such a constant in my life that I take it for granted that some people don’t have direction in their lives. It doesn’t help with everything, there are still choices and mistakes a plenty, but it helps to know where the reset button is. If I am really in a jam I go back to the points in life that really matter.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. 🙂

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    1. Hi Linda!

      It took a long time and many mistakes to get to the point where I feel ok with things…but I am not totally there either…I don’t thing anyone ever is! But that is ok with me – all the twists and turns are a necessary part of life and one that I actually look forward to. The good thing is, if I get off course, I always know the direction to take me home…even if it takes me a while to choose that route. 🙂

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  3. I always enjoy stories of the random kindness of strangers. Two ships passing in the night and one of them, through such a simple act, can alter the course of the another.

    As to my why, it is my latest blog post. Spoilers: I want to be able to create something.

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    1. How did I miss that! I popped over to comment. Love the dolphin story. 🙂 But seriously, that Liberty Mutual commercial that shows everyone paying it forward is my favorite…I can totally cry watching it (and I have!). One of my bucket list goals is “to make a difference in someone’s life”. I have no idea what that means or even if I will ever truly know if I’ve made an impact – but I am going to try my damnedest at every given opportunity. 🙂

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  4. ChooseBetterLife

    Such a powerful story. I love the idea of jewelry that has a special meaning, whether a souvenir from a memorable trip or a compass to guide you through life, it’s literallly close to our hearts and our heads.
    I was excited to read that you were a florist-that sounds like an amazing job and I’ve always dreamed about becoming one someday.

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    1. Yes!! Every piece of jewelery I wear is symbolic of something…and I never take them off! I wear a butterfly ring that reminds me of my truest self, my great grandmothers wedding band from 1924 (she was one of my first great loves), and silver earrings from the camino I walked with my mom in 2012. 🙂

      As for being a florist, it was a brief summer stint but I learned a lot! Specifically that I HATE de-thorning roses! But it was cool to make bouquets and see people pick them up for their loved ones. And, of course, it was one of my better smelling jobs when compared to changing diapers as a nanny! 😉

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  5. I think wanting to reach FI so you can travel spend more time with your dog is just as valid as someone who wants to reach FI to spend time with their family! To me, no goal is “weird” – FI is all about reaching a point where you can decide what to do without needing to worry about how to pay for it. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is to travel with your dog around the country, start your own business, spend time with kids, or something else. 🙂

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    1. Aww – thanks for the support! 🙂 Our choices ARE our own which is such a blessing in and of itself. I believe that happy people are infectious so everyone should do what makes them smile. Seeing my Bubs head out the window through the side view mirror really makes me smile!

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  6. What a cool story, and a cool pendant! You feel about your dog like I feel about my cat. He has been the one constant the last (almost) 16 years and it’s hard to believe he may soon not be here. 😦 I read somewhere that human are ridiculously bad about knowing what they want that will make them happy. I’ve tried to imagine my future life, but I don’t know if it’s real. I do, however, have 5 values I stick to, like your compass. Even if I don’t know exactly what I want, I have those things to keep me grounded.

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    1. I know – it is the worst feeling to know they are getting older and there is nothing to stop time. 😦 Sometimes I think I am grateful I didn’t have kids because I don’t know if I could bare the pain of watching them grow older!

      I think what you said is true…that’s why girls go for the bad boys! 😉 Good thing for you that you have those 5 values figured out. I think it often takes a lifetime to realize what makes us thrive. I commented to TJ about my 93 year old grandma…I wonder where I will be in 55 years!

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  7. I really enjoyed reading your posts like always!!! I encourage you to keep pressing in to the Lord as it sounds like He is constantly in your life and pursuing you. Sounds like He has something really special set up in your life!!!

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  8. I love this post and the whole concept . . . in fact, the “points on a compass” model is something I’ve been doing for about 20 years, though I never thought about it in quite those terms – but I am now 🙂

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    1. Ohhhh…so curious what your points are. Don’t worry, you don’t have to make them public, but I am guessing if they have worked for 20 years they must be pretty good!! 😉

      Nice to see you here – thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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  9. FI for me has been about avoidance not a destination. I want to avoid the fear and problems my parents experienced by never having money. I tend to live the rest of my life the same way I’d like to do so in retirement, so retirement is not really my destination, it’s a continuation of my journey. Life is about the journey imho.

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    1. Absolutely – I couldn’t agree more. Life’s a journey, not a destination (you can read that with Steven Tyler’s singing voice if you like 😜). I think the date for FI helps to keep people focused on their next phase of life. Getting through the work muck now so they can do the things they want to do later. Of course, getting through the muck is all a part of that journey….

      I am a long distance hiker and when you hike long distance many focus on that end point. What they will do when they get there. What they will eat or the lust they have for a long hot shower. All of those things push them through the journey when blisters, shin splints, and bed bugs try to eat away (literally) your morale. But I have seen that destination focus work against them. Running through the days or not living in the moment. Many of those people don’t make it to the end. And the ones that do make It often site a bit of disappointment. They realize they have been waiting for this moment and built it up so much that it kind of falls flat. The same goes for FI. I have heard many people talk ant that moment – realizing they hit that magic number they have been waiting for and feeling nothing. Like all that build up and hard work for all those years would lead to some big firework moment. Then the day comes and there is no big ticker tape parade. We certainly have to remember the journey is as great as the destination, if not better. That is where the accomplishment lies.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. You got my wheels turning for a new post. 🙂

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  10. Great post! Thanks for sharing the story of your compass and your Why!

    My Why is FI and my family. I want to see my husband be able to quit his current 9-5 and pursue other dreams/interests. Honestly, even though we spend a ton of time together, I want more time with him and my kids (though my kids are teens and I bet they would say they get ample time with me). 🙂

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  11. I enjoyed your post! We all have our own goals, and we have to figure out our own ways of accomplishing them. I don’t believe there is any shame in not holding a higher-education degree. It’s better to work hard and constantly be learning (and to avoid college debt!). Our goals right now include spending plenty of time with our kids and each other, finding work that we enjoy more than teaching and counseling in public schools, and being able to mostly retire by around age 50. Travel is a huge part of our present and future plans as well!

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  12. Go Finance Yourself

    I completely understand wanting to spend as much time as possible with an aging pup. We have a boxer who will be 10 next year. My wife and I got him just after we were married. We don’t remember a life together without him. We know we don’t have a lot of time left with him so we spoil him any chance we get.

    My why for achieving FI is so I never have to work out of necessity again. I do love what I do now, but it carries a lot of stress, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. The stress and pressures of work are sometimes difficult not to bring home. Achieving FI will allow me to cut back and spend more quality time with my family.

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    1. Awww – I love boxers. That’s awesome you guys have a fur baby that has been there for all your firsts as a married couple. 🙂 Spoil him as often as you can! My dogs greatest joy is food and treats. Being I don’t eat meat she has taken to following my BF and his kids around for scraps. She’s definitely getting a bit more portly but I don’t mind. She was a rescue that was brought back and then adopted (by me) again. It boggles my mind anyone could give such a sweet girl up not once but twice!

      I understand the stress part…it is hard not to bring some things home. The fact that you love what you do is definitely helpful. Though my job is not stressful, being away from home can add a lot of strain to my relationships. It is hard to miss holidays or special occasions but over time it gets easier and now with seniority it happens less. Having an end in mind (whether it be an FI number or date) helps to calm some of the storm knowing there is a life preserver ahead. More time with your family will be worth it in the end! 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!!

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  13. The dog! I, too, have dogs in my life who are family. We’ve been together for 11.5 years and 10.2 years at this point. I’ve raised them to be travelers. Neither has been on a plane, but that’s because my older dog is a bigger guy, and I can’t stand the thought of him as “cargo.”

    The compass is very interesting. I want to think about what my own four points would be. There’s so much more I want to pack in there. Which one holds “social justice?” Maybe knowledge? Is that where “wisdom” lives, too? Or “peace?” Definitely going to think about this one for a while. And, man, I’ve got to get back in the forums.

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    1. Oh man – my girl is 65 lbs of lovin so I get it! I wouldn’t cargo her either, being in the industry I have heard all the horror stories plus my airline doesn’t do pet cargo. They do, however, let them onboard and as I type this I have a 7 month old Great Dane emotional assist animal, Moose, keeping an eye on my every move. He is so cute!!!

      I love Peace as a point because it talks about a calming effect on so many levels – emotional, physical, mental. We could really use that right now. In fact, I used to wear a second pendant with this one…a sterling silver peace sign the exact same size and they matched up perfectly. I LOVED it and wore it for years but a few years ago I passed it on to someone who needed it more than me. I have been looking but haven’t been able to find a replacement since. I know when I need it most I will find it again. 🙂

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  14. My why – is simply to have the freedom and the flexibility to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I want time to paddle in mylittlebluekayak – also known as my happy place.

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    1. That sounds awesome!! Everyone needs a happy place. My theory is the more happy people we have the less anger in the world which equals more peace for everyone. Keep on keepin on, Lake Girl!! 🙂

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    1. OMG – this is amazing! I hadn’t heard they take pets but will be sure to pass the information on. Unfortunately, Bubba is a big larger than their 20lb max. 😦 Maybe she needs to go on a diet! Thanks for stopping by and the suggestions. It will definitely come in handy for a few of my friends that are afraid to fly!

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      1. payingforprivateschool

        Thanks for the response – I rarely get responses to my comments. This is pretty exciting (or a sign that I need to get out of the house) 🙂

        I am sure you will figure something out! Perhaps Uber by Bubba (an human driving companion).
        Peace,

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha – Love that idea!! And I have found that responding to comments is the best way to make friends. 😉 Are you on the Rockstar Finance forums?? If not, you have to head over there! Although it certainly won’t get you out of the house. Lots of awesome people talking life and money. Pop over when you get the chance!

        http://forums.rockstarfinance.com/

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  15. I love your love for Bubba and for other animals. I totally get it. I missed Groovy Cat during our 10-night road trip. And we had a new sitter, whom he hid from the first few days. I wish I knew of a good a safe way of traveling with cats. But I’d rather him be safe and lonely than not safe.

    We just started living the retirement dream. I think we’ll be defining what it looks like as we go along. I feel a change coming on but I’m not quite sure what it is (aside from relocating, which is a given at this point).

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    1. Poor Groovy Cat! I tried to get a dog walker for Bubba and every time they walked in she would freak and pee on the floor. She NEVER has had an accident before but having a stranger enter the house was terrifying. I couldn’t let that keep happening so I had to stop using them.

      I can’t wait to see what you guys do in the next year!! 🙂 Great things I am sure!!

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  16. “But there is one hiccup in my pursuit of knowledge that I have struggled with in my life which is not having had a formal education – not because I feel I need one, but because I feel others think you should have one.”

    This quote from your post reminds me of something that I like to say often: “We need to seek out our inner ‘musts’, and not pursue society’s ‘shoulds’.

    Education comes in many forms. I have a B.S., but now that I’m 43, I’m not so much a fan of a standard classroom, and would rather learn by doing something in the world, and experimenting and making mistakes. There is a movement toward unschooling. That doesn’t mean ‘unlearning’ though.

    I don’t think kids are meant to sit in a classroom for 8 hours learning about biology and math, while they are drugged for ADHD. They are meant to be outdoors, run around, get creative, explore, wonder, look, smell, touch and measure real nature.

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    1. “We need to seek out our inner ‘musts’, and not pursue society’s ‘shoulds’” – love this!! And it’s so true. Society is a fucked up place to base your life standards on. I realize that kids do what feels good…as adults we should do what feels right. But right is different to each person…and morals seem to be lacking in society overall. As an adult, being in a classroom didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t thrive there. Lucky for me, I was able to stop and reevaluate my needs. As a child, not so much. As you mentioned, young kids should be out exploring – touching and feeling the life all around them and I think some schools do a better job at this than others. I am sure at some age the restrictions are necessary to prepare them for the real world of responsibility but why at 2 – 6 years old is that a necessity? Then again, I don’t have kids so what the heck does it matter what I think! The good news is, we are all different. We all think differently, react differently, and have different goals and dreams. After all, isn’t that what makes the world go around? What creates this society that some stand firmly in but others push against? Like everything else, you need to be able to take the good and leave the bad. I think that is an ongoing process for sure!!

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  17. This was so beautiful to read. I too often feel self conscious about my “Why for FI” because it’s so whimsical most people who know me superficially might think it’s a joke. But the essence, to do what sets your soul on FIRE and live a fulfilling life…that’s what truly matters. And I love that you plan to incorporate this before you FI(re). Life is meant to be planned for like you have forever and lived in like you only have today.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words! 🙂

      “Life is meant to be planned for like you have forever and lived in like you only have today.” I couldn’t say it better myself….

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  18. Hey, Miss M. The life compass is a great concept. It never hurts to have a tool that keeps you on the right path. Mrs. G and I are still trying to figure things out. In a nutshell, we want to do good and experiment. Just how we’ll do that isn’t exactly clear. Meh. We’re in our mid-50s and were still trying to figure out our “why.” Damn this retirement thing is hard. Have a wonderful New Year’s, Miss M. We love your site and we love your mind.

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    1. Mid 50’s and retired is the equivalent of 18 and newly graduated. You shouldn’t have to choose what you want to do when you have just accomplished something huge!! How many kids choose the wrong major in college because they didn’t take time to get to know themselves and what they want before jumping into school again? Same goes for you… You just accomplished a huge graduation of sorts. Take your time to enjoy it. I have no doubt that whatever you choose to do will have a great impact on all around you. 🙂

      Happy New Year (and new life) to you as well!!

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  19. Well done on your progress so far. I have just started my FI career (so to speak) very recently and I am looking forward to seeing the benefits of my hard work pay off. It hasn’t even been a year yet for me but I can start to see the benefits of this lifestyle already. I hope 2017 is a bumper year for you and God Bless.
    BHL

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