The Three-Part Formula for Success That Works for All Major Life Goals Including Early Retirement or Financial Independence!we've learned

The Three-Part Formula to Achieve Any Huge Goal, Even When Advice Doesn’t Fit

One of my favorite things about my commitment to write two posts a week is — unexpectedly — that I frequently find myself scraping for some idea of what to write, often in the wee hours when a post is already overdue, and it’s in those moments of feeling like there’s nothing there that I connect the dots for myself on the simplest truths. Not that those hours of grasping are fun in any way — let’s all remember the oft-misquoted line, “I hate writing, but love having written” — but forcing myself to write on a schedule, and not just when I’m inspired, has absolutely made me a better writer, and it’s made me face up to opinions I’ve held in the past that maybe weren’t especially well formed or informed, because I’m constantly revisiting the same questions. Half-baked ideas or mindless recitations of conventional wisdom fall down quickly under that constant scrutiny.

(Aside: This post is addressed to those who have a solid understanding of financial independence already, but if that’s not you, keep reading! The formula is in here!) 

One of the questions any financial independence enthusiast loves to get is the first one: “How do I get started? What’s the first step?” And I bet almost anyone reading this can give a very detailed answer, loaded with information about the particular wealth-building strategy you follow and perhaps a spiel, too, about all the ways we can each cut out our mindless spending. Which is great! We should all be sharing what we’ve learned with those who might be interested in walking a different path in life, one they opt in to affirmatively, instead of just forgetting to opt out.

I have the incredible privilege not only of writing this blog, but of getting lots of questions from folks from all different life circumstances. That you trust me with your life stories and your intimate financial questions means so much to me. But it also tests me, in the best way possible. I’m forced to confront my ill-conceived notions or half-baked ideas not only in writing posts, but also in answering those questions. And I’ve learned something big over time, as I’ve interacted with more of you:

There is no universal advice that works for everyone. 

As well-intentioned as we are in sharing our FI enthusiasm when people ask, we need to know that whatever particular advice we share will only work for some people, perhaps even a minority. Others might smile and nod, or even ask follow-up questions, but they’re thinking to themselves, “Well that’s nice for you, but it doesn’t work for me.” And if our answer to that is some flippant response like, “You must not want it badly enough,” we’re failing them, and we’re probably craving the validation of being able to prove that our own approach is the right one but just haven’t admitted it to ourselves.

Fortunately, though advice may not be equally applicable, there is a formula we can share that works universally, regardless of what circumstances someone is starting from. And it gives us lots of room to share our own stories — or to write our own if you’re the one just beginning. And that formula is what we’re talking about today!

The Three-Part Formula for Success That Works for All Major Life Goals Including Early Retirement or Financial Independence!

The Failure of Prescriptive Advice, Especially for Early Retirement

If someone came up to me and said, “Hey, I heard you’re retiring early! How should I structure my savings to do what you did?” I could easily jump into an answer like, “Definitely max out your tax-advantaged accounts like 401(k)s or 403(b)s and various IRAs if you’re not over the income limit, and then sock all the rest away in taxable investment accounts so you have enough unrestricted assets to cover your early retirement years.”

“All the rest?” that person could rightly ask. Because I’ve just implied that saving more than $36,000 in a year (the $18,000 per person 401(k) limit times two, assuming a couple) is a given. Which, in a country with a median household income of $56,500 (per the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 report) before taxes is a completely unfair assumption. Even for those who earn much more than that but who aren’t accustomed to aggressive saving, that will sound like a ton of money, and it is. I’ve just given factually accurate but also completely terrible advice.

The Success Formula Begins With Questions, Not Answers

How I should have answered that person instead is with questions, these three in particular:

What is your ultimate goal, and on what timeframe?

Do you have a clear sense of what you need to do to reach it, and do you have the means to make that happen?

Have you found a system that works for you, that will help you be successful and keep you accountable? 

After we know the answers to the three questions, we can follow the formula that works for any goal and any set of life circumstances.

Ingredient 1: Big Vision

The big vision is where many of us start. What would we rather be doing with our time than working? That’s a fun question to daydream about. And while not everyone has a clear idea of what they want to retire to, most of us share the vision that not working every day would be a whole lot more fun than working.

That big vision is what gives each of us our “why,” which is an essential ingredient in the formula. It helps keep us moving forward when we get discouraged, because we badly want to reach that preferable end state. Last year, when I was in the depths of work despair and didn’t think I’d make it to the end of this year if I was still working, it was the focus on the end goal — eyes on the prize — that kept me going. (And then, thank goodness, work got much better this year. In part thanks to the Year of No.)

But the big vision all on its own isn’t enough to ensure our success.

Ingredient 2: Roadmap to Get There

If we have a destination in mind but no map, we’re bound to get lost. That’s why a roadmap — a detailed plan — is the next essential ingredient in the formula. For someone pursuing financial independence, that roadmap might include a year-by-year or even month-by-month savings target, taking into account income, expenses and any circumstances that might change along the way (raises, rent increases, mortgage payoff, etc.). For a totally different goal like making a career change, it might include researching the best education programs, enrolling and finishing studies, pursuing externships, networking and going on informational interviews.

What matters is that the roadmap is suited to your circumstances — a map with driving directions on the interstate isn’t helpful if you’re planning to walk on surface streets and paths. Our plan of saving well over the 401(k) limits each year works great for us, but isn’t the right map for everyone.

But even with a big vision and a roadmap in place, we don’t have all the ingredients we need to reach those monster goals.

Ingredient 3: System That Works for You

The final and equally crucial ingredient in the formula to reach any huge goal is a system that works for you. For years I thought I sucked at money because I could not get budgets to work for me. I made the fundamental attribution error about myself. Fortunately, the problem wasn’t actually that I couldn’t save or lacked the character necessary to do so, it was that I hadn’t found the right system that would help me be successful. It was only when I discovered paying myself first and net worth tracking, through the simple act of having my paycheck split so that a small portion went straight into savings instead of all of it going to checking, and by creating a simple Excel spreadsheet, that I realized I could actually be good at this financial stuff.

Which makes total sense, because essentially all of my successes in life have been a result of building systems that keep me accountable, for I am deeply lazy if left to my worst impulses. It’s why I got the loudest alarm clock I could find while in high school and put it on the other side of the room (and later upgraded in college to a boombox with an alarm on it and blasted myself out of bed), and it’s why I am such a big fan of apps that track exercise and nutrition and motivate me to keep the numbers in the preferred zones, so that I don’t sit on my butt all day eating Cheetos. It’s why I force myself to blog twice a week, no matter what, so I don’t accidentally quit.

I’ve learned that, to make money work optimally for me, I need to hide it from myself, and then I can do great. I’m also fine using credit cards to max out my points and then paying the bill at the end of the month, but that wasn’t always true. While I was paying off my student and credit card debt, I was insistent that we use only debit cards, so I’d know at all times how much we had. That was the system I needed then, and I don’t need it anymore. Some people are okay with credit cards, while others find them disastrous. Some are budget rockstars and thrive with them, while others need to trick themselves as we do. And the systems that work for each of us may change over time. We’re still figuring out how we’ll manage our cash flow in retirement, for example, because that’s totally different than now, while we’re still getting regular paychecks.

The best system is the system that works for you, the one you’ll use. Not what works for someone else, or what the conventional wisdom says is best. And if you pair that system to stay accountable with a vision of where you’re headed and a roadmap to get there? You’re unstoppable!

Applying the Formula

Instead of attempting to replicate what someone else has done to reach a similar goal, what each of us should do instead is learn what we can from what they did, and then decide which pieces of each ingredient in the formula — big vision, roadmap, systems — do or don’t fit our own needs and circumstances.

There’s so much detailed info out there, so much of it incredibly inspiring, that it’s easy to want to take exactly the steps someone else took. But that may not ultimately help us if our destination is different from theirs, if we’re traveling there by different means, or if we respond better to different systems. Instead of applying their advice, apply the formula.

Your Turn!

Do you use something akin to this formula to work toward your big life goals? Or on the flipside, anyone focused on only one or two of the ingredients instead of all three and found that success was harder to achieve? Or even felt like a failure because you didn’t reach your goal? (The problem likely isn’t you — it’s that your formula needs that last ingredient!) Any other tricks you’ve found for answering questions about FI without giving advice that may end up being totally out of line with what that person needs to hear? This is sticky stuff — let’s discuss it all in the comments!

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60 replies »

  1. Goal, Plan, System… got it!

    I think the problem is that many people don’t have the right plan or know if their system is working for them. I think a constant feedback loop between the two, which in your case seems to be the net worth spreadsheet, is very helpful.

    • YES. Great addition. That accountability is totally necessary. I think in my mind that was built into the system or road map, but I think it’s worth stating more explicitly. Thanks!

  2. Yes! When I first found out about FI I was so intimidated. We still had some student loans and a car loan and everyone was talking about maxing out 401ks and IRAs. I thought there was no way I could ever do that.

    But I took the first step and imagined a FI future, which was extremely motivating. This got me to get my spending back in check, and now we are definitely on the uber frugal/lean FIRE side. This year we are on pace to max out all of our pre-tax accounts which is awesome. Recognizing that we needed to chart out own path was key, and I was shocked how quickly everything came together (looking back that is…during the start it feels like increasing our savings would take forever).

    • I guarantee we started in the same place, feeling like just maxing a 401(k) was impossible, so totally feel you! And woot for maxing this year! You’ve come soooooo far! :-D

      • Thanks, it is incredible! And we have 457s on top of 401ks and IRAs, so that’s a big savings leap from just contributing 6% of our salary to get our company match. Thanks for helping to keep us focused on the end goal.

  3. I use a ‘think big, work small’ approach very similar to this. Another, potentially, helpful question to ask is – why are you here, where you currently are? Not to place blame or highlight regrettable decisions or the like, but to understand historical thought processes and behaviors. Understanding where one is and why, can help better determine what the roadmap and system needs to include to get to the big vision.

    • “think big, work small” – That is a great saying. I apply it regularly but struggled to find a good descriptor for it.

    • I definitely think any means we can employ to know ourselves and our tendencies are a good thing! Like if you know that traditional budgets have always been hard for you, don’t keep trying them and expecting different results — find another system. Where I don’t think looking back is super helpful is in blaming ourselves for past mistakes. So much more fruitful to focus on how we will right them and not repeat them instead of beating ourselves up about them. ;-)

  4. I agree with with your observation Ms. ONL.

    I’ve noticed the same pattern from couples who’ve achieved some big dreams – they define their why so that it was REAL, they had a clear idea of where they were and came up with a plan (many cases using a budget, but not always), and having an automated system so by default their money was going towards it.

    • I am sure there are people who don’t NEED automation, but man it helps so much! Just taking that decision fatigue out of it and removing the question. I’m not surprised you find that to be a big part of couples’ success!

  5. I think one of the most important parts of goal setting and goal work has to do with one of your questions about failure. Allowing yourself to fail and then figuring out how to reroute is really essential to me. I never wanted to make any missteps and that slowed us down so much. In fact, it still is in some ways when it comes to our 403bs, for example. I do agree that these seem to be the three big ingredients!

    • Your point is like in my radical moderation post — we hear so many examples of people achieving these HUGE goals that it feels like if our goals aren’t equally huge, we’re failing. Or if we set them and fail to reach them, we’re failing. This is madness. And it holds a lot of us back, including you as you said. And what matters is what direction we’re headed, not whether we hit some arbitrary numbers.

  6. Yes! Sometimes it’s overwhelming for me because it will take us at least 15 years to get to FIRE and it’s hard to plan that far ahead because so many things might change in that time frame. We decided to make a two-step plan and focus on paying off our mortgage first and we have a clear plan to make that happen and systems to make it work.

    • I love that! Breaking your goals into smaller chunks makes total sense, and given where the markets are right now, it’s probably not such a bad idea of focus on mortgage payoff first. Sending you good vibes to make that happen! :-)

  7. It’s easy to dream big, but too often I think our dreams fail because of negative self-talk or not making a roadmap. You have to make a plan to reach your goal and then *actually do it.* I’m lazy by default, like many humans, so it’s not an easy thing to do.

    • Amen, sister! Us lazy folks can achieve big things if we give ourselves goals and systems! ;-)

  8. I love the observation about the prescriptive advice. My own prescriptive advice wouldn’t be anywhere near as ambitious (excuse me while I laugh hysterically at the thought of maxing out my 401(k)…), but I’m trying to be mindful that even my less-ambitious advice might not be all that friendly or accessible to someone just starting out.

    I’m more than a bit head-in-the-sand when it comes to the roadmap because frankly I’m afraid to run those numbers and see *just* how many years it’s actually going to take to save up the right amount of money based on where I currently am. And I realize that that’s making this harder, but I’m still avoiding it. So for now I’m focusing on tweaking the systems because that’s at least something I can actually DO. At some point that won’t be feasible since I’ll have reached peak systems and will have to focus on other things, but eh, it’s looking like my stretch goals for this year are going to end up being too ambitious so there’s still work to do there before I focus on the harder things. All part of the journey, I guess!

    • You are so right that everything is relative. I’m sure there are PLENTY of people who find what you’re saving completely unrealistic for them.

      As for your absent road map, the good news is that you don’t have to have all three pieces all at once. Save now, improve your systems, form good habits — you’ll know when you’re ready to formula your solid plan. As long as you’re continuing to save in the meantime, no harm done!

  9. Step 3 is the key. That’s the execution phase and most important. You can plan all day, but you won’t get there if you can’t execute. Everyone’s situation is different so what works for me might not work for you. You just have to figure out how to do it and keep improving the process.
    Step 1 and 2 are important too, but they are way easier than step 3.

    • I definitely think the third step is key, but without any one of the pieces, the likelihood of success decreases. If you don’t know where you’re headed or how to get there, having a way to get there isn’t all that helpful. ;-)

    • That’s great! Bring the FIRE wisdom out into the mainstream. I actually wanted to comment on that article to provide a counter point to the negative comments, but then I’d have to create an account. I’m too lazy for that.

      • Ok, that didn’t feel right. I got off my lazy butt and went through their signup process to create an account and leave a comment.

      • Haha. Don’t put yourself through commenting over there — you’ll get some flaming if you do, and life’s too short. ;-) (But I appreciate the thought!)

    • Thanks for noticing, Steve! Fortunately, they are syndicating content I’ve already written and posted here, so it’s not a whole new set of writing — just some edits to make it more MarketWatch-appropriate. ;-)

  10. I’m with you – I definitely do best when I “hide” money from myself. Why cash budgets don’t work for me – if the cash is in my wallet, it already doesn’t exist to me, so it gets spent like water. Instead, if I give myself a hard budget for a month (like when I was weaning myself off buying lunch), I end up saving a lot more. It’s definitely important to figure out what works best for you, not just what is touted as best financial advice.

    • High fives to all the money hiders. ;-) We are exactly the same way with cash, so those “envelope budget” plans? Yeah, horrible for us! So glad you found a system that’s working well for you!

  11. I totally agree with this. It works with any big goal. My husband thinks I’m crazy when I tell him, “I want to do X, and here’s the plan!” He thinks I’m overtaxing myself, but for me it’s actually the most satisfying way of making sure that I actually do the things in life that are really important to me. If it’s important to me, then it’s “plan worthy”. Writing is one of those things for me, too. I was working on a novel for a few years, but I didn’t end up with a finished first draft until I committed to a two chapters per month plan. It was sort of an arbitrary standard, but it felt like the right pacing for me and the project. And from that point on it was so neat to watch it all come together! Now I’m following the plan for finishing the revisions. :)

    • Hi Rachael! (Got and loved your email! Just slow to respond!) ;-) I love that you’re a plan-maker by nature, and I completely agree that if something is truly important to you, it’s worth planning for. And that’s SO AWESOME that you made a plan and finished your novel draft! Sending you good vibes as you perfect the final manuscript!!

  12. Oh wow, I LOVE this idea! I’ve had something similar bouncing around in my head for a while, but I love how you’ve laid out such a great framework for creating a plan. Your point of ‘no universal advice’ is particularly important, I think!

    I have two suggested additions:

    First (courtesy of Wanderer):
    Forgive yourself for ALL of your previous money mishaps. Whatever place you’re starting from, you should not beat yourself up for anything bad/silly/unfortunate/etc. you in the past.

    (and I have a corollary: give yourself FULL credit for any wins you’ve already accomplished — do you already have some retirement savings? Awesome! Have you tried budgeting in the past and made it work? Woo hoo!)

    This lets you start at zero or at zero, maybe even a bit ahead of zero, but definitely NOT behind the 8-ball. :)

    Be ready to be flexible! You mention that the systems one uses will probably change over time, but the goals can change as well! You’ve covered this a good bit in other posts, but it probably belongs here as well.

    Thanks SO much for this one. I’m about to embark upon the task of evangelizing FI to some family & friends and this is just what I was looking for! :)

    • So glad you enjoyed it, Jason! And I love those additions! Absolutely YES to absolving the money guilt. We’ve ALL made some bad decisions along the way, and we can’t focus on that. We have to focus on what lies ahead. And flexibility is always key. That’s part of what I like about the three parts. If you have to toss the road map because something big changes, the big vision still keeps you pointed in the right direction until you can make a new map.

      P.S. Good luck evangelizing! Let us know how it goes!!

  13. Sorry in advance for the long comment… I think I love writing as much as Mrs. ONL does. Big Vision: We officially got on the FIRE train in 2007. I was 36. I’d recently got a promotion and my wife had just returned to work part-time once our youngest of three started preschool. I created a spreadsheet of our net worth listing all our accounts, home equity, debt, etc. and we challenged ourselves that year by maxing out my 401K. Road Map: Using this net worth starting point, I estimated future raises, promotions, wife’s salary as part-time evolved back into full-time, etc. and projected our savings and earnings growth going forward to a magic number. I figured at least by striving toward a goal, if I didn’t make my goal of early retirement at 56, I might still make it earlier than most at 58 or even 60. I’ve faithfully kept that spreadsheet up to date ever since… replacing projections with actual numbers and constantly challenging us to save any increase we got year to year. What started as a single tab in Excel has become a monster… so many tabs… so many calculations… a source of so much pleasure for me over the years. In 2013, at 42, I was downsized from the company I’d been at my entire career. Attitude is everything… I approached it as an opportunity. And I was right… after a summer off with my family mid-career, I was hired into a new job that paid me considerably more than I was making at my old job. Another downsize a few years later and another bump in salary now has our Road Map putting us at 50 – 52 as doable. I can’t recommend a Road Map strongly enough. Wish I had started it sooner. Now 11 years in, it is so cool to look back and see how far we’ve come… to see if our projections were accurate… and how unforeseen good/bad changes in our lives have changed our route. Our Road Map makes it very clear that we’re on the right path and it sustains us in our journey. System: Besides being faithful to our Road Map and paying ourselves first directly out of our paychecks into 401K and 403b, we really don’t utilize additional tricks like direct deposits into separate savings accounts to pay ourselves first for Roth IRA contributions, 529 plans, etc. We don’t really have a monthly budget… at least not one that puts a cap on food, clothing, entertainment, etc. Between 1999 – 2006 when we began our family and downsized to my sadly anemic salary, we had just enough to pay for basic needs. So by the time we jumped on the FIRE train in 2007, it had become part of who we are to question if something is a NEED or a WANT. If we really need something, we buy it. We’re very savvy buyers… we often buy used, but if we need to buy new, we find the best deals. If it is a want, it comes naturally to us to weigh the cost against how much time we’d have to work to earn that amount… and question if it would truly add to our happiness. If we want something, it’s usually not time sensitive. It may take a little time as we hunt to find a great deal…I love the hunt… and sometimes, we end up not buying it altogether because what started as really wanting something, ends up fading away to not really wanting it at all. When much of your spending is basically on needs, your month to month expenses are pretty consistent… and low. That said… while a very low COL may work for my wife and I, as parents of 3 boys in High School, we’ve found that they’re the one part of our lives where we’ve felt pressure from society to spend more than we may feel comfortable with. They’re involved in everything… and everything has added costs and fees these days. Serenity prayer.. accept it or go crazy trying to control what you cannot control. We’re raising our boys with no sense of entitlement… and they truly do embrace simplicity as much as we do. Time is flying though, and I’ve grown to realize how precious these last few years of raising our boys are and have learned to accept these expenses… they buy us/them memories and experiences… and in the end, what better “stuff” is there to spend your money on. I don’t want to look back years from now and regret that I held too tight to every dollar so much so that I missed out on opportunities I can never get back. To the younger folks out there who have just started your FIRE journey… do whatever works for you… but I encourage you to do it. While the end game of early retirement may be everything and more than we hoped it would be… the journey has been equally as gratifying… were immensely richer in happiness, contentment, gratefulness, and finding joy in simplicity.

    • Congrats on having such a tremendous journey! What I love in the part about your road map is how many twists and turns your journey has taken — so often having a map means tossing the map you thought you’d use and adapting to a new map! As long as you have the big vision still in place (think of it like your compass), you’ll still know where you’re heading. ;-) And I couldn’t agree more that the journey itself is super gratifying, and that life is too short to hang on tight to every dollar. Kudos to you guys!

  14. Seek not to know the answer, but understand the question! Nice post. I do have a question. Is there a scenario where one of you would postpone punching out at this late stage in your roadmap? If the portfolio got cut in half in October, would that change anything? Unexpected serious health issue? The Prevost of your RV dreams comes available and you simply need another 6 months to knock that off the bucket list? I know you’ve written about many of these things before & mitigation plans. But while you’ve been very successful at the Success Formula, is there a point where you would blink? I’ve had the benefit of seeing the cycle many times and not only have an idea of what I would do, but have the history of what exactly I did. Black Monday in 1987 was a non-event for me since I had just started working and saving … but I sure did notice the massive depression on my coworkers that were further down the path and had a lot more skin in the game. A 22% drop in a single day has a way of getting your attention. Yours (& mine) is a personal journey & you guys have built flexibility into many facets of your plan … but your path has been a short one in the big scheme of things. What if anything would make you guys blink? You obviously have a very strong community of like minded FIRE friends. Do you also test your plans with people a generation ahead? A huge influence for me was a high school buddy’s dad, who not only showed a way toward saving & funding a long and adventurous retirement, but as important provided great advice toward a long and high earning career with purpose and challenge.

    • “Prevost of our dreams” made me snort laugh. Haha. I can’t imagine driving one of those monsters! Or toting around granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in a CAR. ;-)

      It’s a good question, and, now that we’re only about a month out from giving notice, it would take something BIG to make us blink. Like maybe losing 50% of our portfolio overnight. But honestly, I think what would change isn’t whether we’d quit full-time work, but how hard we’d hustle at something different in the lean years. We have our cash cushion set already, the house is paid off… we can live darn cheap and not sell any shares for three years if push comes to shove, which is longer than most recessions last. I don’t say anything to be flippant about your question, but just to say we’ve mentally prepared ourselves for that, especially as we’ve watched the markets continue to climb this year when the PE ratios tell us a correction is coming, likely to be followed by slow growth. It’s in those moments that we’re happy that we’ve probably oversaved by many people’s projections, we’ve built very conservative growth into our models, and we’ve set that cash cushion aside.

  15. I for one very much appreciate your very regular posting schedule and marvel at how you can come up with such great things.

    I think figuring out systems to get you to do what needs to be done even if you don’t especially feel like it is an essential life skill. I can sit (uninspired) at the keyboard all day but not actually finish anything and am really no better off than if I did other things all day. I’d say experimenting with systems until I found successful ones plus sometimes accepting that imperfect and done is better than striving for perfect and not finishing has been key for me.

    • Thanks so much, Marie! I really appreciate that compliment! :-D And amen to “imperfect and done” being better than perfect and unfinished! That’s why I really think the best system is the one you’ll use, whether or not it’s fully “optimized.”

  16. Off topic but… I like how you referred to FI followers as “enthusiasts”. We need a standard term; I variously refer to people as followers, disciples, FI’sters etc but it’s exhausting finding new adjectives. Lets all just agree on a term for this group!

    • I’m good with that term! I don’t like how all the other terms make us sound like sheep, which we are not. ;-) Plus enthusiasts sounds fun, which it is!

  17. Spot on… Too often, people focus i the money aspects of the journey.
    I did it for a while and w&s not getting happier. Now that my big vision is out there on my blog, I find it so much easier to make money spending decision. Money is the tool towards the goal, not the goal.

    The same principle kinda applies in my job as well. we have the big vision where we want to go, we are now finding a system that works while in scale up and drafting a roadmap (that will last about a week or 2, then anew exciting thing pops up and we need to reevaluate)

    • Oh my gosh, I love this — getting richer, but not getting happier. I might need to write about this! ;-) (I will give you credit!) And absolutely agree that money should not be the goal in and of itself.

  18. Being self-employed I sit down every month and carefully write out the envelope and
    check to my brokerage firm to deposit. This act has turned into it’s own ritual that I can’t wait to
    do along with watching the numbers grow…

    • That’s so awesome that you’ve created a ritual around saving! And do you *ever* feel tempted to spend that money elsewhere, or is the fun of it completely self-reinforcing at this point?

  19. “I hate writing, but love having written”

    Haha, that’s my first time hearing that! And it’s how I feel about exercise.

  20. I love the approach of asking questions before sharing advice. I have been actively working on eliminating ‘should’ from my vocabulary which is a lot more difficult than I imagined. It turns out that I LOVE giving advice to folks both in person and in blog form, whoops! I have the best intentions but to your point, one size fits all advice is not helpful and also comes across a bit preachy. Great thought-provoking post!

    • Thanks, my friend! :-) And dude, you are NOT alone in always wanting to give advice. We’ve learned this great secret, after all, and OF COURSE we want to share it. ;-)

  21. Nice simple 3 part approach and compartmentalizing how we tackle a project is invaluable. For myself picking small manageable wins one at a time helped create the snowball. This started with things like reducing consumption, decreasing “stuff” and developing my allergy to debt. The next step was doing something that allows us to see the big picture and make it obvious where we stood, yes net worth. You used excel sheets, I became addicted to MINT. Once that framework is in place it is just a matter of optimize optimize optimize after that.

    • Was your “why” always to get outside more? I think that’s such a big part of the motivation that’s often left out. We’re told to save just because it’s a good idea, but that can feel less than totally motivating!

  22. I love this! In so many things in life, our first response should be a clarifying question, or two. What does FI even mean for you? Folks who give advice based on what they personally do without considering that a single person trying this on their own will naturally have different needs and capabilities.

  23. This is a wonderfully timeless post! I’d be enthusiastic about seeing some of your earlier posts resurrected from the archives, found this one by accident.