we hope you had a wonderful christmas last week, if you’re into that sort of thing, and that you have a wonderful new year’s celebration later this week! we’re still on vacation, so this is our only post this week. see you next monday!
something you might not know about our next life is that we only use photos on the blog that we’ve taken ourselves. and the vast majority of those were shot with my iphone 5s. including the beauty in today’s header, which i snapped luckily on christmas before the slope got chopped up by powder-hungry skiers. (seriously, if you haven’t seen a pristine slope get devoured by skiers on a powder day the way a dead animal might get devoured by piranhas, you’re missing out on a wonder of the world.) most of the time, we don’t retouch the photos, but once in a while, we’ll fiddle the knobs. like in today’s photo. i was myself a part of the powder frenzy, so wasn’t in the mood to take a bunch of pictures (the secret to getting good ones: shoot a lot), or to wait to get the light just right. it was a rip off the gloves, snap a quick phone photo, pop the gloves back on, swoosh on down that powdery goodness moment. but when i looked at the photos afterward, i thought, wow! that photo would look great in black and white. the contrast on that peak would be perfect in grayscale. seeing the way that peak would stand out if i switched the photo to black and white is one example of choosing to see the best in the situation. i could be annoyed that at least four snowboarders are in the shot, or that someone cut a traverse track right under the rocky part, all of which the photo would look better without. but none of that stuff matters, and those things aren’t what drew my eye. it’s cool if you don’t love the header photo as much as i do, but i was super stoked to get it. i’ve skied that run hundreds of times, looked up at that peak more times than i can count, but it looked more beautiful and rugged in that shot than i’ve ever seen it before. something familiar and almost mundane became much more special to me in that moment. i was practically giddy about slapping it up here on the blog, and i couldn’t even wait that long to post it on instagram.
we’re not really new year’s resolution people, but we have definitely been on a journey to see the best in situations — from appreciating beauty more of the time, to looking on the bright side at work, to enjoying the journey of early retirement instead of always focusing on the end goal. so we’re determined to ride that wave into 2016. embracing gratitude every day. relishing the fresh air in our mountain town. appreciating the small kindnesses that others bestow upon us. paying it all forward. we plan to do more of all of that as we cross into the new year, and beyond.
seeing the best in situations and people has a financial aspect as well. we’re hitting our targets in our fast track early retirement plan, but we’re surrounded by friends and family who are currently on more perilous paths. several friends have just bought more home than they could afford, and some of those have even sunk additional money into renovations before they moved in. other friends are stuck in high spending cycles without realizing it. some can’t talk about money openly in their relationships. a family member has racked up significant credit card debt dealing with health issues, and we’re going to do a bail out loan to help out (post on this to follow in january — promise!). it’s easy to want to help all of them, and it’s even easier to judge. but who are we to judge? we’ve made plenty of bad spending decisions, and lord knows we’ve blown plenty of money during our baller years. we’ve been in debt before (and we’re still in debt if you count our mortgages on our home and rental property, though not for long). we’ve made some bad investment choices. and we’re not savers by nature. a huge part of our financial success comes from earning higher than average incomes, and that’s attributable in large part to luck and privilege. on christmas, we went over to the new home of some of these friends who overspent on both the house and renovations, and it would have been an easy occasion to think to ourselves, whoa, look at that new ____. what must that have cost? but what would that judgment have gotten us? it wouldn’t have helped us or our friends, so instead, we focused on what cool material choices they made, and what a great home it will be for their growing family. what they spend is none of our business, and we’re keeping both our noses and our thoughts out of it. which is not to say that we won’t talk about money when prompted. that night, one of those friends asked if it’s true that you need $5 million to retire, and i promptly rebutted that ridiculousness that the financial services industry loves to quote, and shared our target number, even though we don’t share it here. we’re happy to talk money, but we’re going to let them start that conversation, like our other friends who borrowed our copy of how to retire early and are now aggressively paying off their remaining student loans.
thinking about our own finances, we’re determined to see the best in them, even when the markets don’t cooperate. it’s why we shifted our goals earlier this year to focus more on our inputs (what we can control) and less on the market’s outputs (what we can’t). our savings is almost 100 percent automated, with the exception of year-end bonuses, so we really don’t think we deserve any kind of medal for saving a high percentage of our incomes. we just hide that money from ourselves and make sure it gets allocated into index funds that keep pace with the markets, and give it very little additional thought. and though one of our goals for 2016 is to think about money less, we do want to pause periodically to give ourselves gold stars for sticking to the vision we mapped out and staying on track to retire by the time we’re 38 and 41, in just two short years. it’s why we’re currently on a trip together through new year’s, because we wanted to reward ourselves with a fun experience for working so hard in 2015. we promise we’ll take pictures. ;-)
finally, a subject where it’s not tough at all to see the best: everyone who reads the blog and comments and connects with us on twitter. we don’t tell you all how awesome you are as often as we think it, because then we’d have to change the name of the site to our next blathering post about your awesomeness, but we can’t stop ourselves from saying it from time to time. because we’re sure we wouldn’t have written 100 posts in 10 months without your thoughtful comments and encouragement, and your friendship. so if the views dip down one week, or the comments are a a little quieter on one post, we’re not going to let that bother us either. (blog comments and traffic are just like lifestyle inflation — you don’t see them creeping up, but then you suddenly feel as though you can’t live with anything less than you have now, even though you were perfectly happy with far less not long ago.) we have connected with more of you this year than we could ever imagine, and we’re super duper grateful. now let’s all do great things together in 2016!
what are you resolving or, like us, not resolving to focus on in 2016 and beyond? any new perspectives you’re bringing to your life and finances? or any awesome new year’s plans that you want to share? we love hearing it all!
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