Realizing where I want to be has caused me to dig beyond surface-level issues.
It's been exciting to see how our financial future could look. How the hard work we are undertaking now can end up giving us a ton of options in the future.
We are making changes in our behavior and being more intentional with our spending.
But what exactly are we working towards? Is it because we are tired of struggling? Even if we reach our goals, will life become “easy”?
Cutting Back Now for the Future
I've written about how I think the present and the future are equally important.
The idea is about enjoying life now and increasing our options in the future, at the same time. We don't have to sacrifice one for the other.
This principle is about being more cognitive about what we are doing with our hard-earned money. Instead of having our spending dictate how our future will look, we push towards what we want. In a sense, we are trying to create our destiny as much as we can.
I don't want to downplay the value of doing this. But I also want to be realistic in how this eventual destination will look. I would hate to work hards towards getting somewhere, only to realize it isn't what I thought it would be.
Even with a large amount of money, all of our problems don't magically vanish.
Defining What “Easy” Looks Like
Our culture likes to make an “easy” life look like we don't have to do much thinking. That everything comes to us, and that we don't have to work in any capacity.
But the future I envision for Andrea and I isn't about getting to a spot where we can turn our minds off, where we have a legion of servants at our beck and call.
It becomes about having complete control over how we spend our time.
Being able to wake up on a Monday morning and decide what we want to do that day. Maybe there are things we still have to do, but what we would have is more flexibility in how we spend our time and money.
Not having to work for money means we have more choices. It might mean we still work for money because we find joy in what we are doing. Or it might mean spending more time traveling.
We Will Always Have to Work for What We Want
Reaching the financial destination, we are shooting for doesn't mean we no longer have problems to figure out. It also doesn't mean that we no longer have to work hard to create a thriving marriage and tackle our personal issues.
Money only solves specific problems. Having more time to do what we want means we have more freedom in doing what we want. But it is only part of the equation. It could mean we have more time to make ourselves miserable!
If I want to have a thriving marriage, family, and relationships, we can't just stop pursuing these things when we reach financial independence.
I will still be Chris, and Andrea will be herself. Our kids will be in a different phase of their lives, and some of our priorities will most likely change.
Instead of having to worry about meeting a project deadline for my current job, that will be replaced in figuring out how I will be spending my time. The key is that we still have to be cognitive of what is going on, or we might end up losing what is most important to us.
More Options Equals Different Problems
Each phase of life comes with different and unique problems.
When I have more time to do what I want, that is going to either create new problems or amplify existing ones.
I'm excited to be able to spend more time with Andrea and our family. But that means for us to continue having a thriving marriage, we will have to make sure we are communicating clearly with each other. We have to work on making sure we are on the same page in how we want to spend our time and our money. It isn't that these things don't exist now, but I do think having more time to ourselves will require more work to keep these things where we want them to be.
We might have more time to spend with our kids, but we also have to be cognitive about not violating their boundaries.
And my guess is when we do reach financial independence, I will have to keep a close eye on my anxiety level towards our nest egg. Going through a bear market, even if I “know” I need to wait it out, could end up making these days miserable and stressful.
We also might go into this phase thinking that we want to travel the world, only to realize that it is not what we want to do, which might require changing where we live and how we spend our money.
The phrase “more money equals more problems” has merit. Some problems go away and are replaced by other issues — some of which might be much more difficult to solve.
If we let our guard down and expect things to solve themselves magically, we could end up more miserable than we were before reaching financial independence!
Life is More than Money
The beauty of life is that we can pursue what matters most to us, regardless of where we are in our financial journey.
And getting a better sense of what makes us happy, and how we want to spend our time before we reach financial independence, should hopefully make that transition easier.
But it will never be “easy.” Sure, some things will be easier. But life will still require effort, choices, time management, and prioritization.
The time flexibility when we do reach financial independence will give us options we don't currently have. And this is what drives me to continue on our path.
Instead of trying to define precisely how our future looks, we are working on figuring out what we want the most out of life. Money is not the solution to all of our problems, even though it does open our options.
If we ever get to a spot where we are millionaires, we exchange some of our problems with different issues.
Embracing Life Struggles
Sometimes it can seem like life is about working on solving one problem, only to jump to the next challenge.
No one is born perfect. And sometimes we find ourselves in difficult situations. Part of being an adult is figuring out how to solve your problems.
There is no such thing as a struggle-free life. We can argue that some people might have it harder for several different factors. But even the most privileged people have to work through problems.
Part of the wisdom I've learned over the years is from these struggles. And some of my struggles were caused by my poor decisions. Others are dealing with the hand I've been given.
If it was possible to get to a spot where I could live without any thought, care, or worry, how motivated would I be to improve things? My theory is that I would most likely become lazy. Without the carrot in solving problems, I think that would remove the energy to push things forward — since we already “arrived.”
What do I really want?
I've written about figuring out what we want out of life.
But figuring this out is not easy. Because we all have our unique issues, we are working through.
I'm learning that the most valuable thing to me is creating positive memories with Andrea and my kids. I want to spoil them with laughter, fun, and enjoyment. Taking our girls to Disney World last year was expensive, but the positive memories we created from that experience was worth way more than the money we spent.
And even looking at that trip, I struggled with financial anxiety during the trip, when I thought about the money we were spending and how we were still trying to get debt-free at that point.
Now that we are debt-free, I'm working on learning how to not stress about money so much. Figuring this out will not only benefit us right now, but it also sets me up to handle similar struggles when we reach financial independence.
This idea relates to how I'm working on enjoying nature more. Learning to turn my mind off and enjoy the present will pay me dividends throughout my whole life.
It is easy to get caught up with the idea that money is going to solve all of our problems. Sure, it definitely will make specific things easier and less stressful.
But a big chunk of the problems we have now will most likely transfer to the future unless we work on solving them now.
In my case, I'm seeing a personal counselor help me figure out my toxic thoughts and habits. I'm also seeking a psychologist to see if medical treatment is a good option for me.
I hope that by working on these core issues now, I increase the chances that I am more able to enjoy life, regardless of the phase we are in.
Maybe life will become “easier” as a whole with financial independence. But I'm not going to expect things to be easy. Because what I want will not just happen without effort, grit, and focus.
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.