This guest post from Shara G. is first installment of the “reader stories” feature at Money Boss. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how an MB reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all stages of financial freedom. In this case, Shara is stuck in the vast gap between agency and security — and she doesn't know what she should do.
My best friend jokes that I've been planning for retirement since junior high because…I have been. I haven't been aggressively pursuing Financial Independence since I was a pre-teen, but I knew I wanted to set myself up in high school for a good college that would lead to a good job and a good life and a good retirement.
As such I set myself a succession of goals:
- In high school, my goal was to rank as highly as I could.
- In college, I had dual goals of good grades and internships.
- I had a goal to find a good man to share my life and have kids.
- And so on.
Each goal has led to another goal in a logical succession, some academic, some personal, some professional. Finances were there and in control and a means to achieve my goals or occasional small goals in themselves in pursuit of the future.
The problem is: I'm out of goals.
Perhaps my goals were too modest. Or perhaps I'm just much better at achieving them than I thought. But I got a good stable job I enjoy, had a child, supported my husband through his MSEE, had another baby, got my MSEE, got promoted, and had another baby. My youngest is now two and my head has come up out of the fog of life with an infant to focus on a new goal.
My first thought was Financial Independence, so I ran my numbers. I'm 34 and my husband is 36. Making no changes to our admittedly relatively generous budget we will be FI in about ten years. (There's no way I could convince my husband to make many lifestyle changes to make that time much shorter.) We like our jobs and our home, so there's no goal of new jobs or a new house or any feeling we need to accelerate retirement.
I'm up for a promotion at work which would be a new title but the same work so I don't really care either way. (It's just nice to be recognized.) Neither of us are terribly enthusiastic about a Ph.D., though we have a standing agreement that if a good project falls into my husband's lap he's free to pursue it.
We've considered having another baby as I really want four, but I finally decided that pregnancy was too physically demanding for me to really go through with that. There are places I'd like to see, but I'm a homebody (and traveling with a toddler isn't terribly appealing). I have goals for organizing, fitness, etcetera — but no philosophy around which I structure my days to make those daily decisions and weigh against “Will this bring me closer to my goal?”
J.D.'s note: If she hasn't already, I'd encourage Shara to work through my personal mission statement exercise — or something similar. This may help her find focus.
In the here and now, I'm focusing on how I can consciously create memories for my children. But I feel adrift, like a sailboat with no wind.
I've done a number of mental exercises:
- Do I want to work fewer hours?
- Would another job interest me?
- Is there a cause I'd like to volunteer for?
But everything would be change for the sake of change. I like my life. I've gotten where I have wanted to go; I just got here a lot faster than I expected.
There may be no answer, or I may need to drift for a few years while I focus on my family and just leave bigger dreams alone until they come to me. But I feel like in the meantime I'm not properly tethered and I don't like that sensation.
Long-time readers remember that reader stories were a weekly feature when I ran Get Rich Slowly, and I've been eager to add them to Money Boss. This column may be irregular at first but will increase in frequency as I get more submissions. If you want to share your story, please drop a line.
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.