Come back this Friday for some analysis on dollar cost averaging — the fun never stops over here. :-) If you want to make sure you never miss any of it, subscribe to follow by email, over in the right sidebar. And now on to today’s topic…
Tell us if any of this sounds familiar:
You learn about financial independence/early retirement through a blog/article/friend, and you get super inspired and excited.
You do a deep dive into your finances, and put together your projections: how much you need to save each year, how much you need to cut back your spending, how long til FI.
You set everything up: lots of automated saving and investing, lots of tracking and updating spreadsheets.
You look for ways to increase your income to speed your progress. You implement said ways.
You wait. Amounts go up. You wait some more. Amounts go up. You wait some more. Market setback — amounts go down. You wait some more. Amounts rebound. You keep waiting.
You start to wonder: Are we there yet???
Sound familiar to anyone else, or just us?
The Truth: FI Is Mostly a Waiting Game
We’d all love it to be otherwise, but getting to big financial goals is mostly a matter of letting time pass. Sure, there are the prerequisites to take care of: changing your mindset about money, maybe getting out of debt first, maybe changing your spending habits, creating your budgets, setting savings goals.
But the bulk of the time we all spend getting to FI is just waiting for the paychecks to roll in, so that eventually we have enough of them and hit our magic number. The higher percentage we save, the faster we get there. But nothing replaces this fact: FI is mostly a waiting game.
And Waiting Is Hard!
I don’t have data to back this up, but I’d make an educated guess that most of us pursuing FI are doers by nature. We’re optimizers, problem solvers, figure-it-out types. We like progress. We don’t especially like twiddling our thumbs.
But waiting is the reality. So rather than sit around feeling impatient all the time, and let that suck the joy out of the journey, we’ve found some strategies that help us pass the time without getting quite so antsy.
Impatience is definitely something we deal with on a regular basis. The struggle is real over here. So everything we’re sharing here is stuff we do or have done to keep the hurry-up-and-get-there-already feeling at bay.
Strategies for Conquering Impatience on the Road to FI
Create a realistic timeline — Having only a vague notion of when you can retire early or change careers or __[insert your goal here ]__ creates expectations that are all out of whack. Think of it like a run — if you don’t know if it’s 100m or a marathon when you leave the starting line, you don’t know whether to sprint or to settle into a jogging pace. Not a helpful mindset. If instead you know when you can realistically hit your goal, because you’ve mapped out your expenses and how long it will take to save enough, you can pace yourself accordingly, and create some intermediate mental landmarks to help get you through it.
Chart progress — As we mentioned on Twitter, on Monday we hit a pretty big deal financial milestone. It’s meaningless on its own, but it’s a cool thing to note for ourselves. And it’s milestones like these that help us feel like we’re making progress. We note all of them — getting down to round numbers on the mortgage, getting up to bigger numbers on our savings, adding a digit here, dropping one there. Making graphs can help. Even small things like hitting a new high in any of our accounts month-over-month counts. Noting milestones, even little ones, provides a continual stream of reminders that you’re getting closer.
Avoid temptation altogether — One of the hardest things for me is to constantly see people out living the life that we hope to be living soon. Especially those wandering vanlifers — they trigger some serious wanderlust and envy, which always leads to that familiar Are we there yet??? (I know, serenade me with the world’s smallest violin.) But recognizing that that’s my temptation to get antsy, I’ve decided to avoid it. So we unfollowed a whole bunch of folks on Instagram, and I’ve scaled back on reading vanlife blogs. And it’s helping. Just as you would unsubscribe from marketing emails if you knew they triggered your shopping problem, eliminating some of the stuff that triggers your impatience, whatever that is for you, can be extremely powerful. You can always welcome that stuff back once you’re ready for it again.
Savor the stuff that will go away — We all have tough days at work, or sometimes tough weeks, months, maybe even years. It’s easy to take a negative view toward it all, but we’ve started focusing instead on appreciating things for what they are: temporary. Now, instead of getting frustrated when we have a frustrating meeting, it’s much easier to think, “Aww, someday I’ll look back at this nostalgically!” And it’s like a fairy waved her magic wand and made it all better. Seriously. It’s so much easier to be cool with things when you remind yourself that this is a very temporary (and very first world) problem that you’re dealing with at that moment, and instead take on the attitude of gratitude. Taking on this mindset has also made me appreciate certain things more, from the random chats with work friends to the niceness of even pretty basic hotels. Some days it’s a downright love fest, but even on the worst days, taking an attitude of savoring and gratitude makes it all a lot more bearable.
Be present — Probably the most important strategy, but also the toughest to master, staying present is just generally good life advice. When we get too focused on the future, we remind ourselves that we’re never guaranteed tomorrow. Today truly is the most important day. It’s no good living entirely for the future, just as it’s no good saving all of our money for the future. So if I catch myself getting impatient, I force myself to pay attention to the present moment: What’s something incredible that’s right in front of me that I haven’t noticed? What’s something that I’m squandering by focusing too much on the future? It’s a very grounding — and impatience-banishing — exercise. And if all else fails, a few deep breaths always work wonders. :-)
What works for you?
Now tell us: Are we the only ones who get antsy en route to early retirement or other big financial goals? If you get impatient sometimes too, what have you found to work well to quell that feeling? We’d love to collect other great ideas that we missed! Share it all in the comments. :-)
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Categories: the process