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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Missing the trees for the FIRE forest

In the Financial Independence world we are chasing such big goals and such big amounts of money we can forget the small things. I've been on this journey for a couple of years, even if the blog only started back in December and I have to say that it's full of big boring plateaus. Long stretches of time where it feels like you're running in place like a Looney Tune, nothing is changing and that great life you are chasing is stupidly far away.

Occasionally I need to remember to stop and take stock of what I have, what I have achieved and remind myself why I'm running down this crazy path and not sticking to the road more traveled.

I kicked off this blog back in December because I had gotten so wrapped up in the chase to Financial Independence that I was forgetting to enjoy my life. I was sitting home alone over the Christmas break listening to some pretty depressing music wondering how I got to this place.

I started this blog as a promise to myself that I would reach my goal, and I would have a good time doing it! After all, how truly terrible would it be to read a blog of a depressed miser who after years of being a grouchy jerk finally declared themselves financially free and that now they could be happy.

Lame. So very lame. Instead of eight and a bit years of solid grouching, I'm trying to build the life I want, on the budget I want, so that by the time I hit 35 I can walk away from my desk and never look back. So that all my little side projects can become my day to day and so when I try and find time to visit my mother I'm looking two days ahead, not two weeks ahead.

So today, I'm going to take a moment to look at all the cool stuff that I have in my life. To reflect on the fact that while achieving Financial Independence is still a long way away, the journey has brought some great things into my life that I've let go past without a blink.

I make a little money from this blog and I've met some cool people

When I made $225 from RateSetter referrals I brushed it off as only three referrals. Going into my 10k bucket it's barely a drop. I barely batted an eyelid until I stopped, took stock and realised that I increased my peer-to-peer lending investments by 2% simply by writing a blog I love. 

That one post made me more than 3 months worth of investment returns, but I am so wrapped up in reaching FIRE that it took me a (very long) moment to remember to celebrate. While it's 2% growth on my P2P investment, I was stuck for a moment on the fact that it's a mere 0.03% of what I need for FIRE.

I've also made a little bit of money from Acorns referrals ($2.50), a smidgen from Google AdSense (almost $4, woah!) and importantly I've met some cool bloggers like Mrs. Picky Pincher, Miss Balance, and Mrs. ETT who I'm loving sharing the journey with.

When I borked my knee, I could pay for it

One of the biggest character tests of my adult life was tearing my ACL. I was playing a practice game of roller derby and I had just said to my team "We need to calm down, someone is going to get hurt if we keep playing this crazy." And then I got hurt... yay me. It took five weeks to diagnose my injury properly (the first two 'specialists' said my ACL was definitely fine and I'd torn a minor stabilising muscle) and those weeks were right at the start of winter.

Between being completely unable to skate, run or walk on loose ground and the disappearing sun I struggled massively with my mental health. A huge amount of my identity was (is?) tied up in being a badass roller derby girl that plays a high speed high contact sport that always gets a big reaction when I tell people about it. 

For those weeks before diagnosis I kept improving my strength and balance and feeling like maybe I was getting somewhere, only to have my knee give out under my doing simple stuff like putting on pants. When I had to email my league and announce I was hanging up my skates for the season I cried so hard I couldn't feel my face.

So when the diagnosis came through and I had a choice between a giant hospital bill, or waiting a few more weeks to crawl through the public health system I threw money at the hospital and got surgery the very next day.

I had a few more weeks of dodgy mental health while I hobbled around on crutches barely able to bend my knee. I cried at work at least once a week for no apparent reason, I struggled to sleep, and I forgot what it felt like to walk without 100% razor-sharp focus on each step. 

The first time I caught the bus home after surgery was in the dark and my phone was flat. I nearly had a panic attack waiting for the bus to arrive, missed my stopped and had tears running down my face as I stumbled home. As someone who has always been confident and self-sufficient I felt small, lost and truly afraid.

Thankfully I got back on my bike after six weeks of rehab and pulled myself back together. My self confidence and happiness took some time to come back, but I got there. I'm still strongly contemplating taking up some kind of martial arts to bring back that confidence that I can walk home alone in the dark.

I am so incredibly grateful that I had my finances in a place where I could toss caution to the wind and take care of my mental health before anything else. I did second guess myself paying for the surgery instead of waiting, but I remembered that this is why I save - so when life throws a curve ball I'm ready for it.

I sleep soundly at night knowing I have safety money in the bank

I still remember last year when I was supposed to be getting all excited for a month long holiday and instead was straight up panicking because I'd messed up my finances and needed to find $8,000 for renovations on my rental property. I scraped it together, paid everything with credit cards at the last possible moment to give myself that extra couple of weeks breathing room before I 'really' needed to pay it. It was the worst financial strife I've ever been in. It's another reason why I kicked off this blog and the reason behind my six-month, $20,000 goal.

I was panicking at Mr. FIRE that I had screwed my finances and it was going to ruin my holiday and I didn't want to lean on him because that's not a great relationship and he said to me "Oh my dear, we have food on the table and a roof over our heads. Everything will be okay.

Firstly, I know things are bad when he calls me 'My Dear'. That's when I'm really stressing and need to be taken care of. Secondly we have food on the table and a roof over our heads. There are so many people in the world that struggle with these things, and I panicked because I couldn't invest for a few weeks.

Now I have enough safety money in the bank that I could lose my job tomorrow and live 3 months without touching my investments. If I had to break open the investment piggy bank I could live almost two years without finding another job.

I don't want to break open the piggy bank, but whenever I stress about money I take a breath, take a step back and think of how secure I am. And how lucky I am to be in this position.

I own a house!

This is the biggie - I own a house! In a time when millennials are whinging giving up on the 'dream' of home ownership, I bought my little two bedroom home without years of painful saving. Thanks to having brilliant financially savvy parents who spoke openly about their investing attempts (and failures) I had it in my mind from a very young age that saving was good. Plus I was terrible at holding my drinks, so in a time when all my friends were burning their money on getting blackout drunk I was snoozing at home watching bad TV and playing free web games. 

The end result was that in last 2014 when I realised that as much as I loved my mother I couldn't live with her anymore, I checked my accounts to see if I could afford a house. Lo and behold I had more than enough for a deposit, and enough income for a mortgage. Within six months of deciding to move out of home, I owned a property. While it may not have been the wisest financial move, I spent $60k less than my budget, brought my partner with me (he pays rent, woo!) and saved my sanity. 

Bonus is that I accidentally bought in the perfect place to sell my car and ride everywhere. Completely accidental, absolutely amazing!

The takeaway thought

I am still more than eight years from my Early Retirement goal date. According to the Mad FIentist lab I'm only six years away, but according to my own maths it's more like ten. I keep getting caught up not seeing the beautiful trees and being overwhelmed by the humongous forest I have yet to grow. 

Financial Independence is a long-term goal and getting wrapped up in the short-term could easily lead me to get distracted by shiny things and stray off course. But there is no point in forging blindly ahead with my eyes fixed on my shoes and missing everything happening around me.


  1. Nice article. Really shows the importance of keeping things in perspective :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by. It's amazing how easily perspective is skewed when making big ten year plans

  2. A very honest post LadyFIRE and a subject that I'm sure most of us are familiar with when things don't go to plan in our lives. But you hit the nail on the head. Being financially secure, whether at the FI stage or not, has such a huge impact on how long lasting the effects can be.

    You're absolutely right about your own FI goal. Having just enough to declare yourself financially free isn't actually enough. You've got to have sufficient funds to have a buffer should the brown stuff hit the fan and unexpectedly require spending far more than you budgeted for. That could take you straight back to being un-FI again.

    Thanks for the insightful post. I certainly identified with what you said even though I've never roller derby'ed in my life.

    1. Glad it rang a note with you - hopefully a positive one :)

  3. How did you get your partner to pay you rent? My girlfriend wants to move in to my apartment and I'd like her to pay rent, but I think it's a little awkward to suggest that. Sorry my English is a little rusty.

    1. I was initially planning on having a housemate - while I was househunting Mr. FIRE awkwardly said 'why don't I move in with you'

      There was never any fanfare, it just sort of happened. I mentioned I was going to charge about $150 a week, it was cheaper than his current rent and he sort of asked and I sort of agreed. All very casually as if we'd planned it.

      I don't think your girlfriend should be moving in without paying rent. If you lived in a rental it would make sense for her to pay half the rent. If you're paying a mortgage she should contribute to that. Anyone living in a house should be contributing to it financially.

    2. Sorry, I realise that I didn't actually answer the question.

      It's a hard conversation, but I think you need to have it before talking about moving in. Make it clear that to rent your apartment would cost xxx per week and that she should be contributing to that.

      Otherwise it'll hang over the relationship and drive a wedge between you.

  4. I don't pay any rent or mortgage, I bought this apartment paying at sight after 3 years of extreme saving.

    Indeed, it would be a lot easier (and logical) to ask her to help me pay a rent or mortgage, but that's not the case.

    I think I won't ask her to pay me rent, but she'll definitely help me paying condominium fees, energy bill, internet bill, netflix, housing taxes, repairs etc... that will already make a difference in my budget.

    Thanks for the reply :-)

    1. Glad you've hit a conclusion :) Anyone sharing your home should definitely be sharing the costs of the house.

      I'd still consider whether there should be a contribution towards the 'mortgage' - you've put in three years of hard work to save, whereas she is getting free housing.

      That sounds a little mercenary, so it would definitely come down to where your relationship is - if you've only been together for a few months, she's getting 'free' rent. If it's been longer, well now you're life partners and should share each others successes :)

      It really depends on all your circumstances (which I don't know) so as long as you've thought it through and you're happy to with your decision, enjoy! And enjoy starting life together


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