Getting Naked – Expenses and Income Reveal

In FI Bloglandia style, I have decided to start listing some of my numbers.  I had been putting off a review.  I read a lot of blogs.  Lots of blogger’s compose end of the year recaps and I studied their numbers.  Frankly, I  just put my end of the year recap off.  I wanted to let the dust settle until after our big move.  My goal is to snapshot major expense categories, savings, and income.  Eventually I may be brave enough to bare it all including net worth…but it doesn’t feel right to get totally naked yet.  The goal is threefold.  Staying on target, monitoring monthly progress and chronicling the hiccups and the bumpy path to Leanfire.  Chronicling progress is better (and much more honest!) when immersed in total reality.

I have to reiterate….”I’m such a work in progress”.   I spent a lot of money last year but it was a lot less than the previous year.  The portfolio increased by more than a third.  I maxed out the 403b, HSA and Roth accounts for the first time and grew the balance on my Vanguard taxable account.  My savings rate hovered between 25-50% percent most months when taking into account the pre-tax, emergency savings, and post-tax retirement investing.  Last month, I achieved a savings rate of 80%.  Progress indeed.  Progress is good, sweet and delicious.  A gray brooding day became a bright one when I finished crunching numbers.

I’m kinda going out on a limb here in a couple of ways.  I use Personal Capital to keep track of my finances.  When it comes to Excel spreadsheets, I am a novice.  I’m a healthcare provider and an artsy fartsy creative so I have not been required to learn much about spreadsheets.

I am a huge fan of on line calculators including Mad Fientist’s Countdown to FI,  Nerdwallet and Bankrate.  I don’t particularly enjoy math but I do enjoy numbers.  Looking at these calculators and other blogger’s monthly budgets, cashflows and monthly snapshots, captivates me.  I love seeing what people value and how they manage things so nicely.  I love peeking at their savings rates and net worths.  The reports are so pretty and presented attractively with color coding,  graphs, charts and the like.   Mine will not be “pretty”.  I’m up for learning those skills, though, so maybe in the future, you will see some good, steady progress in that regard.  So, these are the basics.

Income

I’ve elected to put all of my regular W-2 Income into maxing out my 457 plan, a regular contribution to my HSA, and a small amount in 403(b) with each bi-weekly pay period.  Pre-tax, pre-tax, pre-tax contributions.  I make a little over $135K per year so I need to reduce my Federal and State Taxes in 2018 especially in light of a house sale on 12/28/2017 and changes in taxation.  Because of the house sale, my mortgage interest as a sizable deduction is going away…just as tax reform made it less appealing.   I am hyper focused on taxes because I have mostly zero’s coming in the way of deductions for 2018. It makes sense for me to max out my 403(b), 457, and HSA.  I’m all in, first targeting the 457, then the 403(b) with regular monthly deductions in the HSA.  It means four months without an income but instead saving, investing, buying Vanguard Institutional Shares in the HSA, the 403(b) and the 457.  I’m “living” off of selling some of the stuff I’ve acquired, the tax refund I’ve gotten, and some of the house proceeds.

I don’t like wage slavery.   I HATE politics and kissing ass.  I hate mind numbing meetings.  Hospital bureaucracy can make for some mind numbing meetings.  Somedays, I’m ready to jump off the building.  That is why I’m maxing the 457 first.  Just in case I get the most irrational urge to say “Screw it, I ain’t takin’ this anymore”.  At the very least, I will have maxed out a 457, the first year they’ve offered it.   In addition, I will have maxed the 403(b) again.  This, the first year I have been able to max out over $48K in pre-retirement vehicles.  Yay, me!

Pre-retirement Savings

I’m a single lady of 53 so this breaks down to pre-tax contributions of:

HSA $3450

403(b) $18,500 plus catch up contribution $6,000 = $24,500

457 $18,500 plus catch up contribution $6,000 = $24,500

My total pre-tax contributions planned for 2018 thus equal the grand total of $52,450.

$135,000-52,450 = $82,550 smackeroos left.

Taxes

I’ve estimated my taxes to be $13,165.50 (federal) and $4400 (state).  I never really know if I’m doing this right and Uncle Sam scares the bejesus out of me.  But dutifully, I consult Google and try to estimate my tax.  This is what I got for 2018.  I got a nice tax refund this year and although not ideal because it could have been invested, it was better than previous unpleasant tax surprises.  I’ve come to terms with preferring to give than receive next year.  After tax estimates, this leaves me a nice tidy sum of $64,984 as disposable income.

After my Roth contribution and taxable automated contributions, I’ll have  approximately $52,484 left.  My monthly living expenses equal just under that now.  Some items that I expect to go down significantly are the following categories:

Expenses

Medical/Dental.  I had huge childhood fillings that had to be replaced with porcelain crowns.  It’s been an expensive year for my mouth.  In January, I shelled out another $1000 toward this endeavor.  All my teeth are in tip top condition now and my dentist assures me that, catastrophe notwithstanding, I’ll die with all of my teeth.  Weirdly, this is very important to me.

Shelter.  I sold my too big, too expensive American Dream House.  I also traded a big fat mortgage payment for $750/mo including utilities by cohabiting with my sweetheart, Jay.  Cozy living has many advantages.

Grocery/Food/Restaurants.  This was $684 on average per month last year.  Yes, this could be better but I’m gluten free out of necessity.  We like to cook.  We do allow for nice evening meals since we rarely eat out.  We are trying to incorporate more eggs, more beans, and two meals a day instead of three because of our growing interest in intermittent fasting.  No promises here, but I see this going down a little bit.

Travel/Uber/Vacation/Rental Cars $262/month all said and done.  We spent a lot on rental cars because we moved ourselves, renting moving vans for a few weeks.  It was occasional agony in the allocation of donation vs. keep vs. storage.  The week long rentals made this move easier.  We also took a vacation to Florida, with the hospital reimbursing some of the trip.  Progress, not perfection.   I’ve already paid for 2018 FinCon Ticket.  The hotel will be a big expense but I’m planning for it.  I’ll probably rent another car…not sure of all the expenses involved here yet.  I plan to upgrade my ticket to include meals, coffee, etc.

We will have a storage unit at $70/month but this will go away soon (fingers crossed).  Going from 2300+sf to 701 sf was really hard but we made huge improvements and progress in “rightsizing”.  I am hoping by June, this storage facility will be no more as we deal with the final decisions about things we don’t even miss or see on a daily basis.

Recreation/Art/Hobbies.  This is a huge expense for me but now that I’ve branded myself the “Art Harlot”, I’m taming this monstrous category.  $250 a month is crazy talk.

Automotive.  About $200 and change per month.  This was an expensive year for the baby Bimmer.  I have a first year model of BMW i128i.  I’ll drive it till the wheels fall off.  It has relatively low mileage.  I replaced the rag top last year (ouch, just north of $2K).  My baby got new shoes and new brakes this year.  I get her oil changed every 7500 miles although BMW says I can wait longer.   I was raised better than that….lol.  It feels weird doing the oil change every 7500 miles!  It was drilled into my head as a young driver…every 3K.

Fuel.  About $70/month.  Work is about 4 1/2 miles from home but commuting in Atlanta is a bloodsport.  I used to live just over 8 miles away and it took over an hour to get home most days.  There are lots of minutes spent in baby Bimmer.  Otherwise, I’ve learned to combine my trips.  We’ll make slight improvements here since I’ve moved closer to work.

Car Insurance/Life/Renter’s/Umbrella $180 –  I still keep a life policy because it’s relatively cheap.  Renter’s insurance is a must for the storage and the condo.  I’m over insured on life, I know….I’ll be attacking this in the next year but suffice it to say, I want my sweetheart to have nothing to worry about.  I see women die all the time at my age.  I can’t even tell you how real death at 50 is to me as it plays out at my workplace.  Money can’t replace me but it can give him the rest of his life off the dreadmill and end his wage slavery once and for all.

Papafox via pixabay

Entertainment (Netflix,Amazon).  I’ve finally let cable go, we bought an antennae, have a Firestick and two subscriptions.  It’s plenty and, along with YouTube, even feels like too much at times.  THIS was a hard battle to cut the cord….my sweetheart loves his sports.  He had a very hard time with this.  I spent months arguing my position.  He saw the light.

Mabel Amber via Pixabay

Clothing/Shoes $72.  I bought a few very expensive pairs of shoes this year.  I’m on my feet for 10 hours/day four days a week.  It was either the expensive shoes or pay for foot massages a lot.  I now have the most expensive, but nicest collection of the ugliest nursing shoes ever.  I cannot wear the same shoes day after day or my plantar fasciitis makes my life unpleasant as hell.

photocredit AllanW via pixabay

Home Improvement.  I’m embarassed at this amount so I’m going to keep the figure to myself.  This last year, I spent a lot of moolah on this.  Between outfitting the 701 sf condo so it would fit two people and too many things  and getting the too big too expensive American Dream house ready to sell. well….this was a ridiculous line item.  This expense will go down because all I have left to do is 3 DIY closets.   After throwing most of my wardrobe out….the walk in closet should actually feel quite spacious.  I did the pantry/laundry room myself and now have a closet turned office and tool closet left.  Ikea, I love you.

In Summary

So, after looking at this, I also see improvements after I end life on the dreadmill.  No more expensive shoes….my feet will no longer be killing me unless I finally realize my dream of hiking the Camino de Santiago.  Less fuel for the car and less automotive maintenance are in the offing too!   Once the closets are done and I’ve flexed my DIY muscle to the max, these home improvement costs will be done.  And the storage unit will go away as an expense as I’ll have room for the backpacks and camping gear in the closets :).

If you’ve been reading along, you know the lightbulb went on a few years back.  It illuminated just about every single thing in my life.   Another re-invention occurred, ushering some rather dramatic change.  Since then, I’ve been pulling out the stops to become an efficient optimizing human trying to live a life more intentionally.  This means spending more intentionally too.  This while not forgetting that I could also interject some joy into the journey as well.  Again, I am aiming for progress.  I’ve made some big strides and I have a ways to go.  Stacking some Benjamins in the taxable account so I can Leanfire this year is my goal.  What that Leanfire looks like is still a little foggy.  It may involve PT work or a sabbatical.  I’m still not sure.  The point for me is that I will have the freedom to choose.

So, whew…my head just swam thru numbers and I did some math…and it was decidedly NOT depressing.  The state of the finances is good.  I feel blessed.  I feel rich.  I’ve never been in such a solid saving position before and I am just hanging on, keeping my head screwed on straight.  I am glad I could bare a little bit of financial skin for you and still feel like I protected my modesty a bit.  Thanks so much for reading :).  Thanks for your comments and all your supportive and interesting thoughts, too.

Here a Choice, There a Choice, Everywhere a Choice…Now Decide Already!

Photo Credit: Patrick via Flickr “Decisions, Decisions”

We have more options than ever.  Autonomy.  Choice.  Freedom.  These concepts go together like cornbread and greens, peas and carrots, and bees and honey.  By the virtue of being born in a Western industrialized nation, we have choice upon choice upon choice.  Every decision we make is because we have a choice.  No choice.  No decisions.  Life can be fraught with the sometimes angst-ridden reality of making the wrong choice.  Career change or stick it out for the pension?  Geo-arbitrage and save big bucks or stay put and stay near aging parents?  Sometimes, it’s relatively an easy choice….Duke’s, Hellman’s or Kraft mayonnaise? Hunts or Heinz Ketchup? Jelly or Jam on your biscuit?  Not so fraught with danger or angst but even grocery shopping can give us pause.  That is what the advertising folks hope for anyway.  They want us to pause and wonder…and make a choice for this one or that one.

Photo Credit: Julie Soyoung Shin via Flickr

Kraft has 11 freakin’ varieties of mayo.  Heinz may not have 57 varieties of ketchup but they do have over 20.  Smuckers has 16 kinds of jams and preserves.  Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, people.  These are just condiments.  Just three different condiments. Three different companies.  Multiple ad campaigns with the simple purpose of having you choose this one or that one.  Doesn’t this plethora of choice liberate you?  Now, let’s expand this idea just a little bit.  What if the choice is about the vehicle you drive?  Or a House Plan?   401K – index funds or target date funds?  Will it be a truck, an SUV or a sedan?  Foreign or Domestic?  Craftsman, Farmhouse, Bungalow, Greek Revival or Mid-Century Modern?

Something resonated deeply within me when I was first introduced to the “Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz a few years back.  Too much choice leads to decline in overall life satisfaction.  That’s what I think.  Too much choice eats away at time, our most valuable resource.  It causes us to spend too much money, too much energy, and it negatively impacts our happiness and life satisfaction.  Barry Schwartz thinks so too.  He has done a shit ton of research on choice.  He wrote the book, “Paradox Of Choice”.  The book is about how all this freedom is not so helpful.  Decision fatigue is real.  Turns out that more can truly be less.  There seems to be a “magical level”  or a  “sweet spot” of choice that no one can really quantify but too much is bad.  Too little?  This is also bad.

In the Western industrialized world, we are swimming in choices.  Decisions have to be made all the time about almost everything.  Sometimes, we have to make them quickly. As innocuous as it may seem at times, grocery shopping can be a case in point.  I’m going to use my experience as an Aldi customer as an example.

Photo Credit: Justin Vickers “Milk and Dairy” via Flickr

One of the first things I noticed when I went into an Aldi to shop the first time, was that there were very limited choices in product.  There were two options when it came to purchasing butter – one was grass fed and in a gold wrapper.  It was expensive.  The other was just regular butter in a clear wrapper.  It was inexpensive.  The product selection took up about 2 square feet as opposed to half the dairy case.  It was really kind of weird, to be honest.  I didn’t like it when I went to Aldi the first time.  Middle ground and middle choices was what was missing. What was the deal here, exactly?  I could buy high or I could buy low.  I couldn’t play it safe in the middle of the pack.  I did notice that I was in and out in record time and spent a lot less money.  But, truthfully, it took me a while to go back.  It was just one of the quirks that Aldi is known for and I wasn’t up for all that quirkiness then.

Later, when I got serious about decreasing my food budget, I gave Aldi another try.  Then another.  I was absolutely zipping thru the store and my food receipts showed a real decrease in spending.   I didn’t get bogged down with choices because well, choice was not really presented as an option.  Unless, there was a compelling reason, I bought less expensive items and left the pricey ones on the shelf.  There was only one kind of garlic salt, one kind of pure vanilla extract and one kind of ground cinnamon.  The spice selection was about 6 feet long and 3 feet high…this made shopping easy and quick.  Tea bags – quart size or cup size.  That was all the choice I had.  There was a total of one brand.  By limiting the choices, amongst other things, Aldi also made their prices more affordable.  I was home putting away my groceries by the time I would have made it to the check out and paid at other stores.  And I was saving a lot of money.

Photo Credit: She Xx “Analysis Paralysis” via Flickr

Sometime in the last couple of years, I heard Barry Schwartz on a podcast talking about how too much information and choice can have a negative effect on decision making.  Too many choices cause analysis paralysis.  If you listen to his TED talk from 2005, he talks about Vanguard and the number of funds that are offered in employer sponsored 401K’s correlating to participation rates.  The more funds offered, the less participants; the less funds offered, the more participants.  There seemed to be a direct correlation.

Schwartz spoke of Americans having more autonomy and freedom and choice than of any other time in history.   He constructs a compelling argument that we are none the better for it.  The more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision.  This completely decimates the belief that more choice, more freedom, and more autonomy makes us happier.  Schwartz believes the decision making inherent in the myriad and complicated choices we face daily may be responsible for a whole lot of anxiety.  He also posits that depression and self doubt are frequently experienced when we feel disappointed in our choice.  We may experience regret at making the choice.  We may think (who knows how accurately?) that if we’d make a different choice, then we’d be happier.   We think we might have had a better outcome.  We regret.  Then we ruminate.  Even if it was a good decision with a good outcome, we may wonder if the other decision would have made us happier or been better in some way.  So, we are never really “satisfied”.  This decreases our satisfaction in the “good” outcome.  Now, the outcome is no longer “good enough”.

When is “good” really “good enough”?  Is there a magical number of choices?  How do we reel them in, making them manageable?  How do we actually capture the right amount of choice to help us feel free?  Does choice really lead to autonomy?  Do we need to limit choice?  Is choice just further distraction in this already very distracting world?  This drives the question of how good we are at predicting our future happiness based on our choices now.  There’s a lot of research that says what we choose now is a total crap shoot.  We are not good predictors of what will make our future selves happy.  Try as we might, we all are just swinging for the fences…perhaps.

We’ve all heard the cliche that ignorance is bliss.  We are not an ignorant lot, so we scoff a little at that.  Maybe in some instances, it is; in some instances, it is not.  I’m sure we all have anecdotal stories illustrating why this is or isn’t true.  I think it’s a mixed bag.  I think when it comes to knowing that Heinz has over 20 varieties of ketchup, it probably is.  I’m that person who would stand there for a couple of minutes trying to decipher the label of the “no sugar added” and the “organic” one.  I believe it’s about balance.  I think that finding the true balance is about recognizing when we need more info.  Needing more information leads us to look for additional choices.  Not needing more information is the point when we need to just stop.  Just.stop.the.madness.and.decide.  And then let it go.  Just, let it go.

When is good enough really good enough?  When have we struck the balance of being able to live with the possible regret that further deliberation will bring?  When we should stop deliberating and pull the damn trigger?  This endless buffet of choices, in everything, is exhausting.  I am learning to slowly close down the buffet and live a la carte.  Living a la carte means I’ll pick and choose where I’ll add in choice.  This will keep me from wasting my precious time and energy when it will not add a lot to the conversation or bring value.  The real value to me is time.  My energy and money are secondary to value.  I’ve always identified myself as a “valuist”.  I’m not extreme frugal and I’m not extremely extravagant either.  I pick and choose.  I’m lucky I live in a place that gives me the buffet and the a la carte menu at the same time so I can pick and choose what choice to let in.

Have you had an issue that you are wrangling with — too many choices?  making up your mind then changing it yet again.  Do you think having all the choice we have is good for us?  Good for you?  Thanks for reading 🙂

Thru All the Cracks, I See the Light in You

 

Photo Credit: Adam Smok/Flickr

The journey to leanfire can be daunting.  And long.  And full of opportunities to get off course.   Many of us start the journey with debt – hundreds, thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The journey doesn’t have built in “hydration stations”, pep rallies and cheerleaders on the sidelines or swag to keep up the encouragement like a marathon race.   Sometimes, the only encouragement available is what you are able to summon up for yourself intrinsically.  There may be the steady progress of credit card or student loan balances shrinking.  There may an occasional “snowflake” (the Dave Ramsey kind) that helps you make a large payment or even close out a debt entirely.  Regardless the amount of debt, big or small, once we get to the concept of Financial Independence …. we’re already half assed tired.  Weary even.  From the struggle, we may already be pretty exhausted.   There’s the exhilaration, of course, of finally, stumbling onto the right path, but after the initial excitement, then we realize the work starts.  Welcome to the longish road.

Training for the half/Photo Credit: BucketBabe

It can be a slow and arduous process.  Big wins are sporadic, usually surprising, and often the result of much planning and hard work…the opposite of quick….and we can feel alone out there.  There are few big wins — windfalls like winning the PowerBall or MegaMillions or being bequeathed a large inheritance by a long lost relative don’t feature large in these stories of financial independence.  Generally, the big wins are the result of good choice after good choice, on time payment after on time payment with a little extra principal tacked on.  That is why our FI community is so important.  The FI community is comprised of an amazing bunch of people who never fail to help you celebrate a small win or answer the simplest question and help you up when you stumble on your path to drink from the cup of Financial Independence.

When first striking down this path before we meet one or two of the people we eventually call our tribe, we often start the journey feeling alone.  If lucky, we have a partner or spouse that, with minimal persuasion, jumps on our bandwagon to one degree or another and brings along extra ammo in our fight to slay the debt dragon.  Initially, the idea of attaining financial independence, or even attaining a positive net worth seems so out of reach.  At least that is what it felt like for me.  I saw people with 50% savings rates and immediately wondered, how is that even possible?  These people have freakin’ super powers?  WTF am I missing?

Photo Credit: Valentina Di Nunzio/Flickr

I heard stories of people traveling the world, living in Air BnB’s on the daily, on less than it would cost to live day to day in a major US city.  I saw stories about people who were maxing their 401K’s or 403b’s, their Roth IRA’s and still had money that they were sticking in Taxable Accounts at Vanguard,.  They were travel hacking and spending the summer in Europe.  I saw people who were laid off and didn’t panic – they just quietly opened their Personal Capital Account, did a little math and decided that they would just “retire”.  I saw  retired people make more money after they were unceremoniously dumped by their employers.  Little did I know that these people would inspire me so much and help me understand not only that it was possible but that I could do it, too.  Can I tell you how uplifting it was to find a kindred soul and a kind voice out in the interwebs telling me that I could do it too?

When first learning of FIRE, some of us take it as a challenge and focus with laser like intensity — we work, scheme, run numbers, and research the possibilities.  It seems that we’ve actually set ourselves on fire to achieve FIRE.  Some of us slowly creep around the campfire, warming ourselves up to the idea of FIRE, then seeing a small success, we build from there, slowly and steadily, turning it into a full fledged fire of our own .  Slowly FIRE engulfs the mountain of debt, the one that obscured all the beautiful and green leafy paths leading out of wilderness.  These “stick a toe in” types and these “jump in with two feet” types, although possibly so very different in their characters and dreams, easily become part of the tribe because we are all seeking the path to FI.  The Holy Grail of Financial Independence is our quest.

Photo Credit: Ditte Kunkel/Flickr

In all of us, there may be a time of shame, regret and sadness that we haven’t discovered FIRE sooner.  A shroud of negative emotions must get heaved off so the excitement of this new concept – Freedom and Financial Independence –can begin to shine brightly through and transform our dreams and future plans.

In my daily meditation, I heard a story that I’ll recount for you.

In the mid 50’s, a Monastery was to be relocated to make room for a new highway.  The Monks arranged for a crane to come to move the 10′ tall clay Buddha to its new location.  When the crane tried to lift the statue, it was much heavier than expected and it began to crack.  Wanting to protect the priceless shrine, the Monks lowered it back down and decided to wait until the next day to bring in more powerful equipment.  To add insult to injury, the rain came in, so the Monks covered the statue with tarps to keep the moisture away.  In the dark of night, the head Monk took his flashlight and went out to make sure the Buddha was still covered.  When the light of the flashlight shone into the crack of the clay.  He saw a glimmer.  A reflection of something underneath the shroud of clay.  He immediately started to carefully chisel away shards of clay, to find that the glimmer grew brighter.  Hours later when the all of clay had been removed, he was in the presence of a 10′ tall Buddha that was made of solid gold. 

The Golden Buddha represents our “why”, our so called “purpose”.  It is representative as such because it is here with us all the time – inside of us and sometimes hidden until we have the right circumstances and courage to dig deeper and uncover it.   The golden Buddha is the last little pyramid on top of Maslow’s Hierarchy…the one frequently labeled “Self Actualization”.  Those things that shroud our purpose – worry, insecurity, depression, frustration, sadness, addiction, shame, weakness, fear – they are not part of the “why” at all.  They are the shards of clay that we slowly peel and heave from ourselves.  These FI people are seriously the fa-shizzle.  The bee’s knees.  The jam.  I am most struck by their self awareness.  These people know what they want and they know what they don’t want.  They are on a path, a quest, for financial independence.  This puts them in the enviable position of fleshing out their “why”.  They don’t wait to have all the money they need either to begin to explore the light.  They think about what life will be like when FI is achieved.  Numerous blog posts have been written about the quest lately and nudging us to take the quest on before we lean or fat fire.  FI can be its own poverty when all you have is money.

Photo Credit: Nuno Fonseca/Flickr

FI people seem to have a secret power.  Not only did they stop drinking the kool-aid, they got off the dreadmill, stopped the consumerism, and defined what is truly of value.  They don’t let Super Bowl commercials define it and they don’t let their co-workers define it.  They are evolved.  They are giving and generous in many ways.   They share each other’s tweets and blog posts and high five each other when they accomplish little or big things.  They encourage.  They don’t judge.  They know that everyone is different and has their own path.  They are quite aware that no two paths are alike.  There’s lots of advice and counseling to be found in this community and it is given freely in the spirit of community.  Just look at all the free advice around FI and all the tools given freely in the pursuit of it!  It’s truly amazing.  I cannot believe my good fortune to have widened my circle to include this community.  I am no longer trudging along on a treadmill.  Everything from the ChooseFI Vault, to RockStarFinance Directory, to Mad Fientist’s Laboratory – the list goes on and on for anyone with an interest in Financial Independence – my tribe shares it all.  Amazingly, some of them even share their net worth each and every day…with the entire world.  Talk about courage and awesomeness.

The sense of community here, amongst our tribe, is mega inspiring.  I’ve been pursuing FIRE for over a year on my own.  Many of us got a start with Dave Ramsey or Mr. Money Mustache, or Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme.  Perhaps, you just saw a blog post last week and you are new to the rabbit hole and have just started to find Mr. and Mrs. Groovy, The Frugalwoods, Liz at Chief Mom Officer, Paula Pant at Afford Anything, J. Money, RockStar Finance, Mrs. BITA and Miss Mazuma, The Our Next Life couple, Choose FI podcasts, or Fritz at The Retirement Manifesto.  There are so many inspiring educating voices out there.  I can’t begin to list everyone who has impacted my future.  Just prepare to have your mind blown.  When you’re new, all I can tell you is hold on….life’s about to get very interesting and if you decide to join the tribe, your life will change.

Me and my fella, Jay

My sweetheart, Jay, was my first kindred.   I became more active as I devoured blogs and podcasts.  I started a blog.  I have reached out to those who write blogs that make me think.  I have asked questions when I have been confused about a concept (Mega Back Door Roth is a tough one).   I have tweeted and Facebooked.  All of these things are out of character for me…as least the character I believed I was.  You see, with my tribe, I can be real and I can change and grow.  I can evolve in my thoughts and make different decisions as my knowledge grows with total acceptance.  Until my FI discovery, I had drank the kool-aid of buy too much house and filled it with nice things, work, work, work, pay off the credit cards if you can, but otherwise don’t worry too much because you have another paycheck coming in two week…spend that tax refund on something fun – you earned it…buy clothes from Loft…even though the same things with the tags still on them are available at Goodwill.  LOL.

My introverted self found the tribe I needed when I was on the verge of exhaustion from the dreadmill.  They help me question things.  They help me find my purpose.  They make me think and laugh.  They mentor me.  My emerging and fledgling financial knowledge grows daily.  My path to FI is all about getting off the dreadmill, stopping my own wage slavery and owning all of my time.  We may all have different “why’s” but we all strive for FI here.  I have really enjoyed meeting and greeting my blogging friends and I can’t wait to meet more of them in person.  Yep, that’s right.  We are people of action.  We make plans to meet in person at inspiring events such as Camp FI, FinCon (OMG – I cannot wait), and Choose FI meetups.  It is inspiring to be a part of this community of giving and supporting.   Even better, I found a tribe and now share the purpose of spreading this wonderful news.  YOU too, can get off the dreadmill.  You too can claim your true destiny.

Namaste, dear readers.  The light in me bows to the light in you.  Thanks for joining me on my journey and thanks for letting me accompany you on yours.

Dodging the Bullet – Part 2 – The Time I Almost Married the FFB

Photo Credit:  Rachel Souza via Flickr

This is a continued post – Part 2 of The Time I Almost Married the Financially Fubar Boy (FFB).  Read Part 1 here. 

Going to the Chapel – Interrupted

So, last we left off – I was engaged!  The grand announcement of my engagement to FFB hit Instagram.  It hit Facebook.  It hit the insulated little world we lived in a small college town in Georgia.  We began to make plans.  With each of us divorces under our belt, and many divorces in our family histories,  premarital counseling seemed the obvious next step to makes sure everything had a green light.  He had just ended his 20 year marriage one month before he popped the question again!  It felt rushed and left me feeling a little strange.  I was really surprised at the actual act of him on bended knee asking the question when it happened so quickly.  And the ring.  OMG.  That ring.  THE.DIAMOND.WAS.SO.BIG.  I had never seen anything like it except on the hands of celebrities.

It seemed straight out of a fairy tale.  Let there be no mistake.  I knew I was no princess, I knew this was no fairy tale, and I knew, by this time, that he was financially FUBAR and that my fiance was no Prince Charming.  I knew that we were a couple with struggles and secrets and failed marriages between us but we loved each other.

So, it was prudent that we make sure our heads were screwed on straight before we started planning any nuptials and we went to see Counselor Joe.  We made the initial appointment for pre-marital counseling AND I convinced him to sign up for a series called Financial Peace University at my church – a nine week evening course that would “teach you how to take control of your money” per Dave Ramsey.  Both of these events started within a week or two of each other.   It was exciting that things were moving forward and that we had taken some healthy steps toward our upcoming marriage.  He was alternately excited and anxious.  I think we both were.  I could tell money issues weighed on his mind and that was a new development; the secrecy certainly weighed on mine.

That first week at FPU, they talked of soul crushing consumer debt, accountability partners, and getting honest.  There were homework assignments.  The instruction, to my recollection, was that you were to list every debt and then get totally honest about these with your accountability partner.  He asked me to be his.  It took him two weeks to write it down but he did it.

Photo Credit: Sybil Star/Debt-Counsellors.co.uk

He nervously scheduled an evening time to talk about his financial state of affairs.  I was excited to finally get a glimpse into what I had been excluded from for so long.  I could tell it was big…he was SO nervous!  I strongly believed this confession was going to very good for the soul.  Finally, no more secrets, we could reach our dreams – we were unstoppable if we were on the same team.  I had an idea there was debt, but I was committed.  We’d see this thru together.  I mean, honestly, how could anyone NOT prosper on a combined income of a minimum of $35,000.00 per month (not to mention the quarterly and annual bonuses)?   Not to say it wasn’t an eye opener for me, though.  FFB revealed that he was in substantial debt and, by my quick calculations, even in the best of circumstances, this would take a few years to pay off.  He had not one single asset other than his monthly, quarterly, annual trust fund checks – not even an emergency savings account.  He had future obligations and liabilities unfolding from the divorce, however, so his financial wings had surely been clipped well into the future.  BUT, finally, we were talking about the money.  Sweet Baby Jesus – finally, money became part of the dialogue!

The Real Work Begins

With the accountability meeting over with, I now knew all the details of FFB’s  finances along with the priorities that had helped him amass such debt.  With Financial Peace University (FPU) underway, I was still committed.  He had taken the first steps and seemed committed as well.  The first big challenge, accountability, and getting financially naked, was over.  The second step for him was to put $1000.00 in an emergency fund (EF) and avoid touching it except for emergencies.  He was also supposed to quit using the credit cards.

He began to rationalize.  He said he had to use credit cards but that he’d use his sparingly.  He would not introduce budgets or spending limits to his grown children.  He wouldn’t consider giving them an allowance or requiring them to learn how to budget.  He believed that the divorce had rocked their world and he couldn’t keep rocking it.   He didn’t want to be the dad his grown children couldn’t count on for whatever they “needed”.

He put $1000.00 cash in his safe when the trust fund check arrived. Unfortunately, this made it very accessible.  FFB’s EF lasted less than 10 days.  He cut up NO credit cards, not even the gas cards, when we all contributed the pieces of plastic to the pile that symbolized the step on the path to freedom from the debt treadmill.  I knew there was a disconnect.  But, I kept hoping and continued diligently down my separate financial path forward.

Financial Peace University was life changing for me – it altered my path forevermore in some fundamental ways.  I took what I needed there and although I didn’t agree with everything, I left what was not useful at the meetings.  While initially, it seemed as if it were going to be life changing for FFB, too, he clearly had issues with the FPU process.  He argued a bit with the FPU leaders.  The lightbulb came on and then it flickered.  At times, he seemed finally aware of what life could be but, try as he might, he could not stick to the plan and his altered plan was so unlike my plan that there began to be less common ground between us.  Limitless possibilities with our combined incomes began to seem…well, quite limited.  One common thread remained, however.  We cared for each other deeply.   One possible solution revealed itself – we’d have to keep our money separate and financially not merge – at least for now.  His resolve melted away while I stayed the course as the weeks continued to wear on.  We were on different paths.

He asked me for a pre-nup…

Then….the best thing in the world happened.  He asked me for a pre-nup.  It happened at the end of pre-marital counseling at the very last session as we said goodbye.  The conversation went something like this.

CounselorSo, you guys are welcome to come back anytime and my door is always open!  When is the big date, anyway?

FFBOh, I don’t know,….I guess when we get the pre-nuptial agreement details worked out and the agreement finalized.

Me:  (look of total shock as I absorb those words and the casual nature of them just about knocking me over with a feather)  Um, yeah, we still have a lot to talk about.  Thanks!

I don’t know about you but casually mentioning the need for a pre-nup as you are shaking hands with the counselor, saying your goodbyes at the end of six weeks of meetings AND a full two months after announcing your engagement to the whole damned world ranks up there with the stupidest way to ask for a pre-nup from your beloved.  Like.  EVER.  I still think so.  Asking for a pre-nup was not necessarily the problem but “the how” was very much a problem and it made the whole thing feel like I was Alice and down the rabbit hole I went.  My head was spinning.

It led me down a dark path for a few weeks.  I was upset – truly I didn’t want to marry someone that I didn’t trust and who didn’t trust me and that’s exactly the thought that kept coming up – again and again.  “Pre-nup” for me at that time was a “divorce agreement” in my mind – the way it was casually mentioned AFTER 3 years together was a bombshell.  There was no gentle conversation – just the bomb dropped…casually without explanation or invitation to discuss the issue.  My opinion on pre-nups has softened in recent years, because, to be frank – who but us were perfect candidates for a pre-nup?   But in that moment, it all began to fall apart for me.  He and I were farther than ever from being able to take the next step into marriage.  Things were shaky amid dropping “bombs” about pre-nups, reckless spending and the lack of discipline required to curb it.

I asked him to move out of my home.  I needed time.  I needed time to process the need for a pre-nup and my feelings about how that changed things and what that meant in regard to our trust in one another.  I needed to be alone.  He moved back into his own home.  Two months into the separation, after countless heart to hearts, I finally heeded his repeated request.  Please consult an attorney to explore the idea of a pre-nup.

I thought about it long and hard.   I didn’t want to give up on us without weighing all the options and exploring the ways it could work.  I went to a fancy Atlanta lawyer to get advice.  She was a pre-nup expert.  I explained our journey in detail.  FFB’s attorney sent us a first draft to review.  I’ll never forget her words, “I know what you want and what you were expecting…but there is absolutely no Dave Ramsey in any of this”, referring to the pre-nup draft offered by FBB.  She was right, in it was nothing that we’d discussed or had learned over the last few months together sitting at the table of FPU.  The draft contained no hope for the solution of the financial chasm that had deepened over the last months.

Getting Off the Treadmill

Comparing our assets and liabilities, it was clear who had more liquid assets and who had more assets via future income.  Things were very lopsided.  He had a high lifetime income assured and an equally high spending rate that he was unwilling to change.   I had some savings, a decent start at retirement funds, and a strong work ethic.  I was capable of making income far exceeding my monthly expenses for many years to come.  I could make the money gap widen each year by saving more money and earning higher income.  He had a monthly trust fund check, lifestyle inflation that was unchecked and, when the markets were up, a good quarterly and annual bonus. 

Although beautiful and glittery on the outside, his daily existence was like a looped film – every month it looked exactly the same.  It was a treadmill.  He owned his time but he was still living paycheck to paycheck and he was one paycheck away from disaster.  It made me sad, honestly.  I didn’t want a shared reality that resembled a looped film or treadmill.  I wanted off the treadmill. 

Earlier, for a short while, during the beginning glow of FPU, we had discussed in detail, what a financial life together could look like moving forward.  We discussed full financial partnership in this marriage.  For it to work, equality and shared vision were necessary.  We had to be able to talk freely about money, building in weekly and monthly budget meetings, and talking about our dream futures.  I thought we could make part of those conversation the structure for the pre-nup.  I felt that if we built Dave Ramsey’s concepts into a legal document, then we would at least have an emergency savings, some legal teeth to make sure we stayed true to the path, a way to provide for his future obligations, and I’d have a retirement to fall back on when I decided to stop working after his debt was paid off.  We could travel and enjoy life together.  We’d both be FIRE and that meant we had built a life without secrets and financial surprises.  After the pre-nup bomb and the subsequent couple of rounds of negotiation, it was clear that we were in very different places.

Financial freedom was not financial independence and never again would I mistake the two.

Friends, you know how this ends.  On our final meeting, my expensive fancy Atlanta lawyer said, “You know, you don’t have to marry him…just keep him as your boyfriend?”  I decided that she was almost right.  Playing the part of a princess was hard work…too hard.  And I had to give it up to claim my reality to have financial freedom with him. That’s when I had the epiphany.  I had tasted financial freedom with him.  I had never experience financial independence.  I had a good job with good pay, free time, and a FFB who loved to spend money and was generous with his gifts.  But now a monumental lesson was learned.  Financial freedom was not financial independence and never again would I mistake the two.  So, the eventual events gave way to a new and better reality.

Within six weeks, I ended my relationship with FBB, I lost my fantastic job (hospital policy changed and they needed to replace me with an MD and was given 3 month’s notice), I closed down my side hustle antiques business, had a huge estate sale downsizing 80% of what I owned, and I put my too big, too expensive Country Dream house up for sale.  Seven months later, the transition and re-invention was complete and I was right sized into a small apartment, back in the city of Atlanta, saving, maxing out a Roth, and doing a lot of those grown up things Dave Ramsey taught me about in FPU.

Since that time, I discovered FIRE and I haven’t looked back.  I am thankful and grateful for the lessons learned when I experienced life as a Princess for a short while.  It really made a difference in so many ways.  Marrying for financial freedom is the same as marrying for money and that would have been a gilded prison.  I tasted freedom but I yearned for independence.  Experiencing that time gave me the assurance that I’m on the right and true path for myself.  Clarity came and spurred me to action.

I’m still on my own treadmill.  I am a wage slave now.  I still yearn to step off the work treadmill and I want to own 100% of my time and do things that I love and enjoy.  I want to volunteer, create cool stuff, and explore all the things that I simply can’t do due to work constraints on my time.  Meeting my needs and paring down my wants has been much easier though because of having had everything I could want for materially for a few years.  Things are, after all, just things.  They really have very little to do with true happiness and security.   The treadmill of debt was just another treadmill.  I’ve had enough of those.  Recognizing the the distinction between financial freedom and financial independence led to me beginning to realize my dreams.  I’ll always be grateful for FFB and my time as a princess for that.  Onward and upward, we go…next stop:  Leanfire.

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

First Photo Credit:  Runaway Bride, Rachel Souza via Flickr

B’s Gotta Die. On Plotting a Murder.

I have a very loud and very obnoxiously perfectionistic, mostly negative inner critic.  And she’s a total B.  I call her B publicly because its nicer than Bitch.  But between you and me, I do not refrain when I have finally had enough and call her exactly what she is.  She, although very close to me, is the furthest thing from warm and fuzzy, she’s a cold and unforgiving heifer and sometimes I think she has it in for me, too.  On the regular, she kicks me when I’m down and tries to make me think I’m not good enough.  She says it in all kinds of ways.  On the reg, she starts conversations with really negative BS that I’d never tolerate from anyone else.  She tells me that I don’t save enough and harasses me endlessly when I buy something that otherwise brings me joy even though my savings rate is now quite high (around 80%).  She tells me my net worth isn’t good enough even though it’s much higher than it was three years ago.  She harangues me about my allocation, positions and risk tolerance.  She likes to remind me A LOT of what other people accomplish and exactly how I much I lack in comparison.  Yeah, she’s pretty much a joy thief.  I’m plotting her murder.

I’m plotting her murder.  I want that B to shut up once and for all…

It has been a rather daunting task, trying like hell to make up for lost time.  B has been with me every step of the way, bitching and moaning, even though she knows the mountains that I’ve climbed and the crazy roads traveled to get here.  She knows that I had just about zero financial literacy even just 10 years ago and only since then have slowly begun to extricate my brain from my bum.  Instead of saying “Hell, yeah! Way to go, gorgeous!”  She says….”Meh…just ‘cuz you have a few dollars, it doesn’t really mean you know what you’re doing, dingbat”.   She’s seen the slow but steady accumulation of knowledge and the choice to learn about something that truth be told, initially, bored me stiff.  Financial literacy made me highly (and secretly) anxious so I would just fib to myself and others and say that I really just wasn’t interested in the subject.  She’s seen me persevere and devour blogs and podcasts, sometimes listening to them over again 2-3x in order to gain a little financial gumption.  She’s seen the forward progress.

Photo Credit: April Rose via Flickr

But she won’t shut it.  Ever.  Even today, she was telling me that I couldn’t do it…that this leanfire dream…was just silly.  “To stop working at your prime earning years…just WTF is wrong with you”, she asked.  So, that made me wonder for a few minutes…just what the eff is wrong with you, BucketBabe?  Have you lost your ever lovin’ mind?  Slowly, I began to ruminate.  I love that word.  It’s a word but the word conjures up exactly what it means.  All of this while I was attempting to meditate and stretch myself into the general direction of some sort of yoga pose…cat/cow pose anyone?….I couldn’t really connect with my breath and my present.  I went down the road of the stupidest financial mistakes I’ve ever made and kept letting B berate me and invade my zen thoughts.  She reminded me of all the time wasted not saving the moolah.  She reminded me of not saving early enough to take advantage of all that sexy compounding.  She had to remind me of not maxing my 403(b) when I had access to doing so at the age of 30.  Finally, I told that B to shut her mouth and quit talking.

ru·mi·nate
verb
  1. 1.
    think deeply about something.
    “we sat ruminating on the nature of existence”
    synonyms: think about, contemplateconsider, meditate on, muse on, mull over, ponder on/over, deliberate about/on, chew on, puzzle over;

    formalcogitate about
    “we ruminated on the nature of existence”
  2. 2.
    (of a ruminant) chew the cud.
    synonyms: think about, contemplateconsider, meditate on, muse on, mull over, ponder on/over, deliberate about/on, chew on, puzzle over;

    formalcogitate about
    “we ruminated on the nature of existence”

    Sometimes ruminating is good and sometimes it can go into the unhealthy zone.  I’m guilty of both.  Today it was good and I was finally able to get B to heel, be quiet and chill for a minute.  I’m sure I’m not done ruminating today or tomorrow and some of it will be the same negative shoulda, coulda, woulda BS but today I was able to recognize the very unhelpful disdain of my chief critic and tell her to stop.  I set it aside.  I unpacked a little bit of it and decided that it was okay to leanfire with “just enough”.  As a matter of fact, “just enough” was plenty.  And when it came right down to my happiness and contentment and the joyful deliberate journey that I’m striving for, it was going to work out just fine because I am still strategizing and I have the power.  I am still figuring out the hows and the whats…I listen intently to drawdown strategies by my friend, Fritz at The Retirement Manifesto.  He was featured on a podcast on ChooseFI on this and hit it out of the park.  He has given me a little food for thought and I’m trying to figure out how this will all get done but I will figure it out.

    The bottom line here is…I’ve made a lot of money mistakes.  Many of us have.  Its how we learn.  Most of us, from the financial confessions I have read, admit to a mistake or two or more.  I LOVE these stories.  They resonate with me the most because they have very real struggle and very real courage at their heart and they involve my money heroines like Miss Mazuma.   The fall of her empire was pretty epic blog reading.

    Luck has saved me from some really bad shizzle and I had the good fortune to be born here in the US and I picked a pretty decent career.  I’ve learned to limit my expenses and taken steps to permanently limit them.  I am adaptable, flexible and amenable to changes needed for my plan.  I’m working on Plan B and Plan C in case A doesn’t come off without a hitch.  I’ve come to FI theory and the tribe late – it’s true that I’ll never be a 35 year old early retiree.  But I will be an early 50’s one.  And this is just enough.  I needed to struggle and wriggle like a worm on a hook all those years because this has made all the achievements so far so much better.  I can appreciate them ever so much more now since early life  was so damn chaotic.  Now, I know…the past really does inform the present.  And the rumination of past mistakes doesn’t belong here in my perfectly imperfect present.

    I know I am not alone out here.  I see people’s comments about how the road to FI is long and takes so much time.  I read that they feel down or like they are treading water.  They have trouble staying motivated.  They fall off the wagon and make a splurgey (Yes, I am aware that is not a real word) purchase and begin kicking themselves relentlessly.  They wonder why the hell they needed not one, but two or three useless degrees which caused a mountain of debt.  I know people sometimes ruminate and wish that things had been different.  Believe me, I know.  But I want you to know that you have control over the B inside you that makes you feel less than, not good enough, not wealthy enough, too much in debt, too old to do this, too….whatever.  You can grab that B by the throat and plan her murder.  I’d love to help you with that.  So, we’ll  commune here and take solace in the fact that we are absolutely not alone in our moments of angst.  We can talk of how we finally made that B shut up this time.  With work, we can make her shut up everyday.  And with a little more work, maybe we can make her shut up before she gets a word out of her mouth on any given day.

    How’s it going, dear readers?  January and February with its cold, unforgiving temps and lack of sunlight can dampen the enthusiasm a bit.  How do you motivate yourself?  How do you tell that inner critic to STFU?

The Time I Almost Married the Financially FUBAR Boy (FFB)

“$500K per year is just really not enough”

Yes, my dear readers, it’s absolutely true.  Financially FUBAR Boy (FFB) had an income of $500,000.00 smackeroos per year and he lived paycheck to paycheck and he was in debt.  He was unable to live within his means.  This included mortgage debt, credit card debt, my $40,000.00 engagement ring debt, grown children’s car debt, auto mechanic debt, you name it, if it was legal debt, he had it.    No, illegal habits that I was ever aware of lurked in the shadows.  Here’s how I dodged a bullet …

She was Virtuous

First, let me set the stage.  Around my 40th birthday, I went and lived in Guatemala for a few months to work on my Spanish skills.  I fell in love with the Lago de Atitlan region of Guatemala and subsequently traveled there 5 times over the next decade – even taking FFB with me to celebrate my 50th birthday.   On my first visit there in 2004, I formulated a plan.   I was going to geo arbitrage myself into a little casita in Guatemala, living there during the six month dry season and returning to the USA for purely mercenary reasons.  My plan was to only work locum tenums for six month stints in the various ER’s around the country as a traveling NP to fund my perpetual semi-retirement.

I had settled into a nice meditation practice, going to boot camp 3x a week, running regularly, and working a pleasant day shift position in the local ER with a supportive group of docs.  I was writing regularly in my women’s circle and generally having a fantabulous time as single BucketBabe.  I had completed the reinvention (it seems as though each decade brought one and each one slightly better than before – you can see the backstory for the crazy life/decade breakdown) and this decade was off to a marvelous start.

I met Financially FUBAR Boy (FFB) after the crash late in 2009.  The stock market had not yet recovered.  My country American Dream house was under the underwater mark but, otherwise, I had little debt, recession proof employment prospects, one car payment and a lifestyle that was not particularly inflated.  FBB introduced himself into my life at a good time as I had been divorced about four years and was dating, working, saving a bit, reveling in getting my groove back – livin’ the dream, baby. FFB was separated, but still married, he explained but was postponing the divorce proceedings until the last kiddo graduated from high school in a year.

He wined and dined me.  I traded up from Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chuck to drinking $500.00 champagne (which, in all honesty, to my palate tasted a whole lot like $40.00 champagne).  I ate at ritzy restaurants with checks that ran into $500-600 range.  I gallivanted to new places, had a boatload of new experiences and upgraded most of my tastes.  It was grand.  All of the sudden after a lot of financial struggles in my 20’s and 30’s, I was living the life.  My dreams of Guatemala and semi retirement got pushed to the back burner.

After about 3 months of dating, we were pretty much living together and inseparable.  Except for my working hours.  But good stuff happened and kept happening.  I got a great job offer and soon I was working very little and making bank for the few hours it cost me each week.  Easily, hands down, it was the dreamiest dream job an NP could want for.   It matched my dream life and my dream existence.   Financially FUBAR Boy (FFB) was in the money and had been for “some years” and was not the least bit shy about spending it.  On me.  On my friends.  On my daughter.  On pretty much anyone with a pulse.  On anything that caught his eye.  Season tickets for major league baseball, season tickets for college football, memberships here and there.  Whatever.   It was a consuming free for all.

Because of my new job, I was pretty much a lady of leisure.  I had to work but not a whole lot.  And my boyfriend, well, he was impressive – his tastes, his generosity and his commitment to me – he appeared as the total package and was impressive.  LIFE LESSON HERE….all that glitters is not gold.  Really.  Write that down.  It’s freakin’ true.

LIFE LESSON ….. all that glitters is not gold.  Really.  Write that down.

I still remember the oohs and ahhs and the “really…wow!” and  “so, how did you manage that?” comments that inevitably followed when people asked him what he did and he answered, “Oh, I’m retired”.  They were really wowed when he said he had been retired at the young age of 48 as soon as “his investments” began to dwarf his income.  I acquired financial freedom due to coupling up with him.  I now had few time constraints.  I dabbled in antiques and continued my creative pursuits – reselling, restyling, recycling and creating.  I painted more seriously.  I marketed and taught classes on how to upcycle furniture using chalk paint.  I made and sold my own chalk paint.  I hustled.  I upped the game and I opened a store as a side hustle.  I was not a good lady of leisure.  I cannot NOT work.  It started eating at me pretty early on.  I worked and he shopped.  The pattern continued throughout the relationship.

FFB paid for everything with plastic – he had a wallet full of gas cards, Amex, Visa, MC, and store cards.  FFB even shared his plastic with me, although I had my own and rarely used it.  Soon I was an authorized user and had all the little pockets in my wallet full of his plastic stuff…hinting at how we would eventually be joined at the hip financially.  He used his plastic – on the reg, friends.  Almost daily, there were delivered packages at the door from Amazon containing anything and everything –  fine bottles of wine, aged scotches, caviar and creme fraiche, filet mignon, ahi tuna, and fresh groceries on the daily.  There was no budget whatsoever and dinner was a gourmet adventure every day.

I didn’t ask questions..I was not looking a gift horse in the mouth.  Plus, (please don’t judge) I was unsure if I really wanted to know the details. There was a certain amount of taboo regarding financial details, a certain secretiveness.  Something wasn’t right, but I wasn’t sure quite what.   I had not ever led much of a charmed life and all of the sudden I had charm to spare and, at first, I really liked it.  It was an amazingly awesome time.  Especially when he decided to gift me with a nice tidy sum of $2000 monthly for living expenses…since he was practically living with me, he reasoned.  It seemed generous.  It was generous.  I actually tried to turn it down, saying we could split expenses but he spent the better part of an evening arguing why I should take it.  So, I did.

I wish I could say I put the extra money to excellent use, but mostly, I didn’t.  I did get completely out of debt except for the mortgage and I did make extra payments on the mortgage.  However, my spending increased with lifestyle inflation quickly mimicking his to the degree I was able.  I was having a ball.

He wanted to marry me.  He wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and travel and do all the wonderful things that he couldn’t do in his failed marriage. He sat me down to explain how all these dreams could come true.  If I stuck with him thru the divorce proceedings…thru the estrangement of his grown children…thru the mudslinging that would eventually ensue with the bitter divorce that would follow, then we would be golden.  He also assured me that I didn’t have to worry about retirement.  There would be plenty of money.  I didn’t put any money away except for basic emergency savings.

First, he explained about his family.  They were rich, you see.  There was a trust fund.  The trust fund was nearing $40 million dollars…something about the stock splitting like a zillion times and his grandfather setting up a trust.  FFB got a check for about $25K a month, a quarterly bonus and an annual bonus.  But, unfortunately, the trust fund was going thru some hard times, he owed taxes, he explained that he had actually cut back on the spending.  With the stock market crash and his bonuses getting smaller the last two years, he’d had to remortgage his house.  It was all going to be fine, of course.  His mother was still alive, although in poor health and OLD and when she passed, he was going to come into a large inheritance there as well.  She was well off, too.  The checks would continue thru his lifetime then pass to his sons.  There was no inheritance or trust set aside for spouses but the divorce would be amicable.  He planned to offer her a million dollars.  He was sure she’d take it.

Little did I know at the time, that FFB did not have a good grasp of the situation with his wife.  He may have thought he did, but he didn’t.  It was just one way he had firmly planted his head like an ostrich in the sand.  He also didn’t have a good grasp of his finances and the trust and that he couldn’t just remove a cool million dollars.  He was lonely.  He was separated.  He was isolated partly because of his lifestyle, I think.  No one could really relate.  I know now that he was unsettled and scared.  He knew, I think, in his heart it was not really going to be easy.   Essentially, looking back, his generosity to me was formed out of his fear that I would leave him all alone to face the battle.

A couple of years passed while the divorce proceedings rambled on – negotiatons here, mediation there – they all failed and war was declared.  Legal bills started to mount.  I finally started seeing a few cracks in the relationship and in him.  His secretive nature started getting to me.  Primarily, he was keeping secrets about money – he just never really wanted to talk about it.  I noticed that he lived for the first of the month and check arrival time at which time he behaved as if he were a kid in the candy store.  There was the beginning of the month shopping spree and the quarterly shopping spree.  The purchases were at a fever pitch at the first of the month and end of the quarter.

We talked of marriage and it was our plan when the divorce was finalized, to get engaged.  It was a foregone conclusion that we would marry, it was just a matter of time and, of course, letting the legal proceedings wind their way thru the courts.  I knew that his relationship with money was unhealthy and it seemed weird that he could be so open yet so secretive about it all at the same time.  I had an inner voice that kept telling me that this was something that needed to be addressed – certainly before marriage.  The divorce finally completed in the fall of 2014, he asked me to marry him and placed a 4 carat rock on my left ring finger in order to seal the deal as soon as the ink was dry.

Thanks for hanging in there, dear readers….part 2 is coming soon.  And it was an awakening.

 

 

Art Porn – My Needs, Wants and the very Fuzzy Distinction

You can live without your wants but not without your needs.  Well, at least the basic ones – water, food and shelter.  By their very definition, needs are vital things.  As I began to easily provide for my own basic needs, my needs morphed into the “food for the soul” kind.  These, in reality, are wants and but also, in some sense, needs – they keep life enjoyable, fun, and inspiring.  The two can be very hard to differentiate especially as you progress on the FIRE journey and begin to develop the parts of yourself, figuring out your “why” as you begin heading into the great unknown called “early retirement”.

As I began to easily provide for my own basic needs, my needs morphed into the ‘food for the soul’ kind.

As I pull inward and evaluate my needs, mentally preparing for the coming unstructured days (and decreased income with stricter expense guidelines), I am trying valiantly to tell apart needs from desires.   The line gets super fuzzy at times.  I don’t know about you but my desires are great at masquerading as needs.  A.Lot.  And that can be dangerous AF when you’ve got the Amazon 5% cash back Visa information stored in your computer.  Click it in a fit of spontaneity and you will own it in the blink of an eye.

In creating a secure leanfire path for myself – it’s imperative to distinguish  “I need” from “ I want”.  This is a crucial step because although I’m not a huge consumer of material goods in many other ways, I am a huge consumer of trying and learning new things and experiences.   Endeavoring to hone my artistic and creative skills, has required attending classes and buying the art supplies to engage in those classes.  And I like to dabble in lots and lots of things.  Meet one of my gallery walls…

Most of the items here are of my own in creation in some way – upcycling, thrifting, painting, distressing, gold leafing…most of these things I’ve put some of my own flair on.  Pottery classes, textiles, painting techniques, drawings, illustrations…I jump in with two feet, wholly committed and ready to explore and spend more money, apparently.  It’s the place in my cashflow, with holes in it and obviously the place I lack the most discipline.

True confession – I just tallied up the total on what I spent in art classes, power tools and supplies for the last year and it exceeds 2500 bucks, y’all.  $2500.00.  That’s a lot of dinero.

In an effort to figure out the “must haves” for a happy existence, I realize how undisciplined I have allowed myself to be on my creative journey.  I am spending in excess of $200 a month on a lot of stuff to make art as I have for years.  I’m earning a nice wage and I keep my expenses low otherwise so this has allowed a bit of extra “spendiness” to creep into my lifestyle.  I am often confounded because my needs and wants co-mingle easily in the interest of pursuing art and discernment between the two takes discipline as well as insight.

I’ve decided I need to overhaul things a bit and try and reign in what I will now refer to as my “Creativity Run Amok” expense line item.   In an effort to help me refocus and double down on my efforts to better define just exactly what it is that I wish to accomplish, I am looking at strategies to help put the brakes on the expense of creating.  Going forth, calculating how much money is actually needed on a monthly basis for this part of myself that I consider a soul enriching necessity, is challenging.  My artistic interests shift, change, and evolve constantly.  This is as it should be, really.   Creating art is a an intuitive thing, elusive in discovering the muse and can be quite fluid.  The artistic meanderings, the stretching of my imagination, and the dynamic of moving forward in my creative life offers many challenges to my current skillset, my imagination, and the status quo of what I’ve already mastered.  I enjoy adding lots of exploration to the artistic journey.  But, in general, this has meant spending a shit ton of money, to be quite frank.

This week, I took up knitting, which done right, is not the most expensive craft although it easily could be, considering the price of specialty yarn (supersoft, organic, grass fed, virgin, baby alpaca…j/k…surely there is no such a thing but just plain alpaca is uber expensive as yarns go) .  I’ve been growing and expanding my artistic side with my encaustic painting as well.  This is definitely not an inexpensive creative outlet.  The supplies are pricey, other than the blow torch (which is the sexiest and most fun part).  I love to play with fire and FIRE!

I’m an art harlot.

Beeswax, however, is used as the paint.  It is expensive along with the oil paints and pigments needed to mix and melt compared to acrylics and watercolors.  One can easily get caught up in YouTube classes and tutorials and easily compile a list of 100 new art items that are “needed” in order to fully evolve in the art lessons of the day.  The basic process, although now learned, has opened the floodgates of possibility with each step I take forward.  If you take an actual “in person” class, your mind will be really blown with the expense of the class alone.

It has become clear that I will have to put myself on a “Creativity Run Amok” budget and I think that Leo’s Babauta’s, The Power of Less, advice on focus is invaluable here.  One thing at a time – focus on one thing at a time!  I have so many competing interests and intensely want to evolve my artistic skills with such enthusiasm that I plainly disregard costs putting my savings rate in jeopardy.

I’ve gone overboard and have to get it together, leanfire people!  Somehow, in my quest to become a more accomplished artist, I shifted the “want” to a “need” and while I acknowledge the line is blurry, I think it’s obvious I can do better.  Being in a job I don’t love, trudging along for 4 days a week, makes the the other 3 days absolute heaven on earth.  Especially, heaven-like when I treat them as “anything (any purchase) in the name of artistic expression” days.  But, clearly it is an area that risks breaking the bank.

Of course, it is important to remember that needs and wants will evolve throughout retirement in all its wonderful stages.   At some point, watercolors and their portability may be more attractive than lugging around pounds of beeswax, wood panels, pigments and blowtorches.  This challenges me to explore the different phases of early to later retirement and try to predict how they may impact my spending.  Travel, especially the luxurious “slow” no time limit kind, may take the top place of my current passion when there is no need to return.  I think I pack so much into those three days off each week because of the dreaded return to work.  When that no longer looms over my head, maybe I’ll be more relaxed and that will translate into less harried forays into different areas.  I’ll have time to spend mastering one specific thing.  I can see my travel desires having a definite impact of the creative expression of the week.

As I look at leanfire, living on less than 40K is the goal.  It’s what I want to do.  I am almost aghast that I would ever need more than that….(yeah, I know, stuff happens and I plan on some years that may require more than that but that is my intention presently.)   Once I dumped the too expensive, too big American Dream house what became very apparent was that I didn’t need to make that much money to satisfy my needs.  It’s better to recognize that I need to act less impulsively when it comes to scratching my creative itch and formulate the focus in the faces of my now fully realized weakness.

I would surmise that this is a problem common to most creatives.

I am weak woman and in the thrall of oil pastels, yummy soft yarns made from alpaca, and antique lace to add to the collages made of all the cast off jewelry.  I’m an art harlot.  I would surmise that this is a problem common to most creatives.  I’m a person who likes to make beautiful things and that, my dear readers, is hurting my bottom line.  Babauta reminds me to focus and get good at one thing at a time.  I’m in the process of revisiting the ideas in the book.  Hopefully, the review of the book will remind me to shift my spending to consuming what I already have and gain expertise here rather than working on the million facets making up the entirety of the encaustic medium.

This deep seated need to be creative and try new things all the damn time is the one vexing thing that I’ve encountered as I try and visualize leanfire and early “retirement”.  I am brainstorming solutions and pursuing excellence with a focus and redefining direction of my leanfire budget.  Anyone out there with the one expensive pastime/hobby/passion that they have trouble controlling?  I’m totally up for suggestions….Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

On The Importance of Being “Unimportant”

It struck me that the decision to NOT climb the ladder and being unimportant was really important to my personal success.  Here’s what I mean and why.

My goal was to become a Nurse Practitioner.  I worked 8 years as an RN and began a 3 year program while I worked to get my Masters so I could make more money and so I could gain a level of autonomy impossible working for the hospital as a nurse.  I wanted, in all honesty, to do a lot of what many physicians do all day every day but not have the huge liability and student loan load that came with that.  I loved emergency medicine and, as an RN in that field, I had more autonomy than most RN’s did but less than “mid level providers” (read: Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants) so I set my compass back to school, graduated, took my boards and I became one.

That was the only rung on the ladder I cared about.  I climbed one rung.  And it was enough.  I always considered myself a clinician and never had my eyes fixed on hospital administration or climbing the ladder within health care systems.  I fixed people and was less concerned with systems.  I performed urgent care procedures and non emergent health care in the emergency setting.  I didn’t want to manage people or have “direct reports”.  I didn’t want to manage budgets (mine was challenging enough! Thank you very much :)).  I didn’t want to attend meetings on quality assurance, talent acquisition, or formulating policy and procedures such as how often vital signs be taken on med-surg patients.  I didn’t want to try and come up with ways to market, increase visits (who does in the ER?), track re-admissions (people who bounce back and are are re-admitted to the hospital within 24 hours) ,  contemplate the work-life balance idea of the week, or browbeat nurses about clocking into their shift too early or getting too much overtime.  I just wanted to fix people in their time of need.  I wanted to educate them, help them get the care they needed and hopefully make their lives better during a difficult time.

Because I climbed one rung and one rung only, I never took my work home with me.  I didn’t have to set alarms or calendar events for telephone conferences or travel to meet with other people and organizations and convince why it was a good idea to merge with this hospital or buy another outpatient facility.  I didn’t have to fundraise.  I didn’t have to do much but show up and do my best to heal people and stay up to date with my continuing education.

I loved assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients.  I worked with some awesome physicians (mostly) who respected me and treated me like an equal and a teammate (mostly) and I relied on them for their expertise far above mine in many areas of emergency medicine.  They relied on me to do the time intensive and least appealing tasks (pelvic exams, suturing lacerations, lots of things that make most people squirm, diagnosing and prescribing for the run of the mill, bread and butter, least exciting things like sinus infections and skin infections).   And I was happy to do it for a very long time.

Eventually, I was wowed by a job offer for an even better job and I learned a lot in another field (Internal Medicine ).  It was spectacular – being able to change directions like that.  Unlike physicians, and because I was a Family Nurse Practitioner (seeing patients from newborn to geriatrics), I was able to work in many different fields as long as I found a position that was within my scope of practice and that scope was pretty vast and non-limiting.  All it took was a practice or group that believed I was a good fit and trainable.

Of course, the blog title, is not entirely correct.  I did do important work and I loved it (mostly).  Patients thanked me, brought me flowers, wrote me thank you notes and drew me pictures with crayons and I made a lot of difference to many.  I strived to treat all my patients as if they were my family.  They could tell.  I was important to them at a specific time and sometimes, just a moment, over the course of their lives.  Still, in the scheme of things, I was not important to the employer or even, the industry, overall.  I didn’t run the hospital.  I didn’t keep track of numbers.  The business of health care did not rely on me except in that I provided services for a fee and for which some entity was billed for my time.  My employer realized the accounts receivable and the profit, if there was some and, most of the time, I assume there was.  And that’s the point.  I didn’t have to know that and as long as I did my job well, safely, efficiently, and with a good attitude, I stayed employed and the physician group I worked for was happy to have me.

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to walk away when the workday is finished.  It’s a wonderful thing to be unimportant as an employee but important to a patient.  I work in oncology now and I am reminded daily of my importance to the nurses I work alongside and to the patients.  Many of my patients are dying – some slowly, some quickly, unfortunately all too frequently – in the prime of their lives.  I feel honored to be someone they count on.  They bring joy to me because their fighting spirits are absolutely amazing and remind me to be grateful during every workday.   But my employer?  They could get any number of applicants to fill my position  – and fill it they would, quickly and efficiently, not a single skip in their step.  That’s actually a pretty happy realization.  I don’t have to extricate myself from anything to leave my position.  I will stay in touch with certain patients and nurses I’ve become friendly with but other than that?  Nada, nothing, just a wave and a “so long”.  No projects to hand off, no team to brief about budgets, no ongoing anything really.

I love being “unimportant” to my employer and I love being important to patients and my colleagues.  Being unimportant gives me freedom.  Walking away will be easy logistically.  I’m very glad I climbed one rung of the ladder and that is all.  It’s made my life easier.  It’s made my life richer.  It’s brought me joy and freedom after work is done for the day.  And it’s been a nice living – more than comfortable although not luxurious.  Just enough to make me supremely grateful.

As I plan to leave my position this year I am grateful that the only thing I have to be really concerned about is giving a simple notice of resignation and when that will actually happen.  Being a cog in a wheel and not the wheel is the absolute best.  I am so happy I didn’t climb that ladder.  I was important enough – it gave me the wings I had hoped for, the financial freedom I needed and it gave me the graceful, non-dramatic, easy exit I dream of.

How “important” are you to your employer?  How does it affect your FIRE journey?  How does it affect your happiness?  Thanks for reading 🙂

Backstory

As I said, I took the front seat on the struggle bus.  It was comfortable and the view was good so I claimed it for several years.

Once I got the educational and career choices on track, the horrendous boyfriend and husband choices and poor money choices set me back financially for years.   The path was long and it was not always forward.  It zigged and zagged, revealing personal lessons too valuable to skip over.  Living was chaos and chaos was living for a lot of years.

One thing that I have learned though is that although your birth circumstances are beyond your control, you can climb out of just about anything if you have some luck, a basic first couple of years where most needs are met, and being blessed with a modicum of gumption.  Especially here in the USA.

gump·tion

noun

informal
  1. shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness.
    “she had the gumption to put her foot down and head Dan off from those crazy schemes”
    synonyms: initiativeresourcefulnessenterpriseingenuityimagination

My mother, a southern sharecropper’s daughter, 14 years old when she met and married my 24 year old father, a recent immigrant to this country from El Salvador in 1963, simply did not have a very good foundation for which to start a family.  They met, both broken and emotional wrecks, in San Francisco during a time of world and personal change and turmoil.  Both of them came from a long line of broken, too.  Escaping into marriage, seemed like the obvious choice for both of them, apparently.  It was not the most auspicious start for having three babies in three years.

We moved a LOT.  Fourteen schools (attending one for 3 whole days), three different states later, we moved to rural north Georgia at the end of 8th grade.  This gave me an acceptance of change and also the ability to let shit go fairly easily.  Nothing was permanent, which for me, was my hope and anxiety all rolled into one.  The roller coaster ride of life mimicked my financial journey as well.

I didn’t have a true savings account until I was in my 30’s.  I joined the US Naval Reserves in the Nurse Corps for the 18K bonus so I could buy my first house at 33, I got a Masters Degree in Nursing so I could provide a good income and begin to build a positive net worth on the eve of my 40th birthday.  It all worked and eventually the financial chaos abated in my mid 40’s.  I began to build a financial framework.  I made mistakes –borrowing from my 403(b), buying too big, too expensive American Dream homes, cars, clothes, vacations because I wanted to “look” successful.  After “right sizing” my home, gently nudging my only child from the nest, and putting together the lessons learned from some of the most inspirational words I’d read from FIRE blogs, things started clicking into place.  Now, I’m looking at leanfiring this year at age 53.

I finally feel “settled”.  And I am so grateful.  I am grateful to have been born in this country and at this time.  I’m so grateful that my parents, as unprepared and sometimes, as cuckoo for cocoa puffs as they were, gave me a stable and loving first couple of years.  I’m so grateful that I had my only child early at 23, when being poor was what everyone was in their 20’s.  I’m so grateful that I picked a marketable career path in health care.  I’m grateful that I  found the FIRE community on line.  I’m grateful I found a man who accepts my FIRE journey and value driven mentality and has joined in the fun of being “valuist” with a decidedly frugal bent.

My first financial success came with the Financial Peace University series held at my church on several evenings about 8 years ago.  Going through the first baby steps in less than a year, all of my debt (except my mortgage and student loans) were paid off, an emergency savings account was building.  I began increasing my pre-tax retirement contributions and setting up a Roth IRA and a Vanguard Taxable Account.  My saving strategies were haphazard but I was saving and lo and behold, those savings started to build and grow.  Slowly, I began to love my life and began to gain respect for it which meant I began to respect all the things that life was made of – money being a big one.  My credit score began climbing into the 700’s – a victory because it was anything but earlier in life.  Now, it’s much higher still.

When I discovered Personal Capital last year, I checked my net worth daily.  I was OBSESSED.  Because my financial life was liberated and I was not living paycheck to paycheck anymore, I saw success regularly and consistently.  I began to churn with credit cards, collecting points for the day I could use them.  I began to see results in all aspects of my life.  Seeing daylight everyday, I found that the only thing holding me back was wage slavery and my job being the obstacle to owning all of my time.  Finally the realization that I didn’t have to buy shit, throwing off the consumerist mentality and realizing that I didn’t have to trudge to work every day until age 65, liberated my soul.  To be clear here, controlling spending and saving like a badass are the keys to money accumulation.  It wasn’t easy to begin with but damn, it’s so much easier now.  Every day it gets easier still.

Living with less and discovering what really held value for me was a huge turning point.  I didn’t need all the things I thought I needed.  I picked up frugal tips, life hacks, and savings tricks from all the blogs and the podcasts, and I became much more happy with less.  I didn’t miss these things that I was trying to impress people with at all.  That’s when I realized that less is more.  Really.  It wasn’t just an old tired cliche.  I was living it.  My life was my proof.

So, here it is.  My condensed backstory, bullet point version is as follows:

  • Girl with dysfunctional life grows up and begets more dysfunction (insert broken marriages, unwed pregnancy, financial chaos and debt).  First office job (+/-$5K/yr)
  • Girl works hard at office job(s) full time (income +/- 22K/yr) with toddler in tow (child support? LOL) while taking 15-20 hours of college credit at night, applying for every scholarship under the sun.  Still living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Girl graduates from college 10 years after beginning first course (income +/- 36K/yr).  Still living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Girl buys first too expensive, too big house, joins Navy, goes back to school while working full time and gets master’s degree 10 years later (income +/- 60K/yr, student loan debt +/-35K @2.75%).  Still living paycheck to paycheck pretty much.
  • Girl discovers Guatemala and, in her mind, geographic arbitrage becomes a possibility.  Girl learns to solo travel and love it.  Girl dreams of a semi-retirement in this beautiful third world country. (80K in 403(b)-20K loan, paycheck to paycheck, treading water at +/- 80K/yr).
  • Girl digs out of debt, trades up on too expensive, too big house, begins saving more, continues career progression (income +/- 133K/yr, student loan debt +/-$12K, +/- 150K 403(b)).  Girl starts thinking more earnestly about geographic arbitrage or at least some slow travel .
  • Girl sells too expensive, too big house, “right-sizes” into 700 sf condo, pays boyfriend rent, saving more (income +/- 135K/yr, student loan debt 0, maxing out 403(b), 457, HSA, Roth IRA and monthly taxable account deposit).  Girl plans to leanfire and make slow travel a part of it…somehow.   The details are hazy but full time traditional work will stop by the end of the summer.

I’ll be honest, the bullet point version makes things look so smooth, but it never feels like that.  I am still trying to figure out what leanfire life will look like.  Anyone else care to share their progression?  Thanks for reading 🙂

 

Shame, Money, Life and BHAG’s

BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal.  I heard that term on ChooseFI podcast today and immediately loved it as it reminded me of my Big Hairy Georgia Bulldogs – sadly not the National Champs (boo!) but did they ever give me some thrills this year.  Gooooo DAWGS!

This got me thinking that I need to add a section to my blog.  BHAG’s – Big Hairy Audacious Goals.  Love it.  Writing the BHAG’s down, will hold me more accountable and make for forward progress faster:)  Now that my career is winding down in health care, I can start living my best life and own my precious time, soon claiming back 40 hours a week!   I am looking forward to developing this concept a bit and talking about my BHAG’s from time to time.

My first BHAG is the monumentally hard task of trying not to leanfire too quickly.  Basically, I am counting paychecks now.  As with every job, there’s a part that not’s really my jam and some of it crosses over to the intolerable at times.  A rather large part.  I have to be self disciplined and not throw the baby out with the bathwater on one of those days.  You know the kind of day I’m talking about…the crappiest kind.  Currently, I’m in a strong position, able to fully fund 457, 403(b), HSA, Roth and also put some dollars in my Vanguard taxable account. I have to make it until 5/18/18 until both my 457 and 403(b) are fully funded with the catch ups.  Waiting longer will make the cushion much cushier.

My second BHAG is to work on the side hustles.  HARD.  My Etsy store (too long ignored), my encaustic art (not enough time), and blogging (new and intimidating AF).   I really want to get better at this blogging thing!  I think the BHAG here would be to put myself on a schedule so I can post on a Mon/Wed/Fri or T/Th/Sun timeframe.  I tend to find things to do instead of make myself sit and write which is cool if I’m spending the time on the other side hustles but sometimes, its just a little more insidious than the lack of time.

I’ll be honest here and name my nemesis – it’s fear.  I’m fearful of being judged and fearful that I will be shunned by some of the people that I lovingly now think of as my tribe, although we have never actually met.  It has to do with appearing as an idiot and also with presenting my backstory which involves some shame.

shame
noun
  1. 1.
    a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
    “she was hot with shame”
    synonyms: humiliationmortificationchagrinignominyembarrassmentindignitydiscomfort

It’s been a ride, let me tell you.  I’ve made more than a few missteps.  I was on survival mode and treading water through the first part of my life.  Subsequently, I was emotionally FUBAR for some of it as well.  There was lots of negative self talk and a negative self image and a total lack of self love.  I found personal success difficult to grasp although academically and professionally, I excelled.  Only late in the last decade did I have a positive net worth and some self love.  You can read more about my backstory – it’s coming – in drips and drabs!  Let me just admit that it’s just really really really hard to be so vulnerable about my front seat ride on the struggle bus.

Shame is a terrible feeling.  It can be paralyzing in fact.  It took a very long time for me to make the decision to start this blog because I knew I’d have to face some shame.  So, how does this fit into LeanFire?  It has affected my finances.  GREATLY.  Shame affected just about everything.  It’s made me entirely who I am…being  encumbered with the resulting perfectionism and then more shame at failing at not being perfect.  It was a huge repeating cycle and I had a hard time getting out of it.  Instead of succeeding in small ways with finances, I’d blow it then throw my hands up saying, I was no good at this.  Suffice it to say,  I sucked at money because the perfectionism kept me locked in unsuccessful patterns and unrealistic expectations with money.  These erroneous messages, at their crux, were part and parcel of an always crazy, often painful, and mostly dysfunctional youth. A lot of incorrect and damaging messaging about life, money, relationships and a lack of messaging about these dogged me for a long time.

So, my dear readers, sometimes I really am reluctant to hit that publish button because….well, you know.  Shame is powerful.  But I am more powerful being visible and sharing my flaws as honestly as I can than hiding behind perfectionism.  It’s such an illusion.  My imperfect little life is now one that I am very grateful for.   I’ve survived and that is a huge victory.  I also created a self that could really survive and thrive.  Now I will share it with you – the shame and all the glorious victories too.  Hope you stay tuned in…