The Hardest Part? Finding Your Balance.

People think the hardest part about getting to financial independence is the investing. How much to put where? IRA or 401k? Roth or Traditional? Fidelity or Vanguard? ETF’s or mutual funds? Large cap or small cap or foreign or technology or . . .

But that stuff isn’t super hard. Financial advisers make it seem really complicated so they can justify their fees but it’s just not that hard. The less time I spend on my investments, the better I do.

And if you don’t get it exactly right, you’ll still be fine. The important thing is to be setting money aside. And investing it in the stock market so it will grow faster than inflation. The rest of it is details.

Here’s the hardest part.

Finding the balance between living for now and living for later that works for you and your partner is super hard.

And there are real consequences if you don’t get this balance right.

Setting aside money for later is hard. It’s especially hard to forgo things you need or want today.

I was a kid who didn’t have what she thought she needed. My Dad tells me my needs never ended–and I don’t think he’s misremembering. So when I started working, I “needed” all the stuff those new paychecks could buy.

The big thing I “needed” was a brand new fancy car. With two loans and payments that would take 1/3 of my take home pay. I’ll pause while you gasp.

It was beautiful, I LOVED that car. But I hated that car payment. That payment put me on the path to financial independence. The one year down payment loan was paid off in five months. The remaining five year loan was paid off in three years.

Once I was in the habit of making extra payments on that car, directing that money to investments wasn’t hard.

And I liked investing and counting my money. A bit too much. I got scroogey.

It affected my friendships. Missed weddings because I couldn’t “afford” the travel.

Prioritizing my job over all else. Like I thought the world would end if I missed a meeting. Seriously, I was an accountant, I wasn’t searching for the cure for cancer.

I was out of balance. I wasn’t happy.

It became abundantly clear to me when a management position opened on my team and no one wanted the job. No one was willing to make the sacrifices. I made my job look so hard that no one wanted to step up and join me.

So I added another duty to our job descriptions. Make our jobs look like they were fun.

Have you heard the phrase “fake it till you make it”? If you’re working to make your job look fun, it becomes fun. I was easier on myself; which in turn made me easier on those around me then they were easier on those around them and so on . . .

Plus we made some changes in how we spent our money. We asked ourselves:

If we died tomorrow, would we be pissed that we didn’t live more for today?

And when the answer was “yes”, we made adjustments.

One of those conversations resulted in buying a boat. Did you know boat stands for Break Out Another Thousand? So it wasn’t a “smart” spending decision but it was a brilliant life decision.

So that was me, I focused too much on tomorrow and not enough on today.

If you’re in the other camp–focusing too much on today, then I have a question for you.

If we live to 100, will we be pissed that we didn’t live more for tomorrow?

If your answer is “yes”, then the time to make adjustments is now.

Figure out what you want your life to look like. Figure out your WHY.

Get out of debt. Debt is a parasite on your quality of life; it steals your dreams.

Stop spending money on crap you don’t care about. Minimize spending on things you don’t care about. Optimize spending on things you do care about.

Make a budget. Or if budgeting isn’t for you, pay yourself first.

Put it all together with Ms. Liz’s 12 steps to a kick a$$ life!

Get started today. Your kids will thank you. Your cool 100 year old self will thank you.

I’m living a life I couldn’t have imagined. This life was built on the choices I made over the last 30 years. Make the choices that will allow you to live your best life.

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Author: Ms. Liz

A CPA, I retired at 51 and I am helping people create their fantastic futures!

4 thoughts on “The Hardest Part? Finding Your Balance.”

  1. Excellent article, detailing one of the key points that I think critics of the FIRE movement miss. Most FI or FIRE folks I read aren’t living like scrooges and looking to “check out” at some point – the are intelligently weighting items to determine if it is a good decision, and acting accordingly. If it makes sense/fits into their lifestyle, they do it. If not, they abstain.

    The balance is a key point, and it is different for each person (which is why many folks are turned off by Mr. Money Mustache’s viewpoint). We are still working through this ourselves, and will probably renegotiate this throughout our lives.

    1. Thanks Mr. 39!

      I think the people who live in the extremes get the most attention. It’s not very exciting watching you or I weigh spending decisions for ourselves. It’s more interesting to hear about someone living without a car or wishing they could punch people in the face!

      And you’re so right, the balance that feels right will shift based on our circumstances. I don’t have to work at frugalizing as much now as I once did because I worked years longer than I could have. But I also don’t have to worry much so those extra years made sense for me.

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