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This week there was a bunch of interesting topics floating around 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 he 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…
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:
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 speaks 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”. God is not a word I use often and maybe that will change in the future but for now, I prefer to focus on a different word that starts with G. Good. I find purpose in working with others, cheering ad helping the underdog as best I can. Using my own story to help inspire others despite the vulnerability that comes with sharing. Using lessons I have learned to make better choices in the future and lead others by example. Even if I haven’t found peace in blind faith, I know that doing Good in the world can often lead to others doing the same. We need more Good.
- 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. 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 degree to fall back on, to make me feel entitled to only apply for the best jobs in my field (I know not all educated people 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, seamstress, candle seller, bread baker, a 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 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 nonbudgets 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. 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:
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 at every point for 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… anyway 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…