You Gotta Figure Out Your Why

My WHY is up top.  I wanted to be playing in the desert in January . . . . and February, March, April, November and December.

I live in the Colorado mountains 30 minutes away from world class skiing.  It’s an amazing place to make a life if you can make a living and we made a great living and life there.  But here’s the thing about living 30 minutes away from world class skiing:


And this winter has been brutal.  I enjoy watching winter from our driveway-cam while sipping cocktails in the desert.

My WHY is not complicated and I didn’t go through a fancy exercise to figure it out.  But I didn’t figure it out until I was 45.  I wish I had gone through a fancy exercise to figure it out in my 30’s.  I would have made some different choices and I would have gotten here sooner.

When we bought our desert home seven years ago, we didn’t have a definite timeline for spending winters here. The Phoenix metro housing market was in the tank, we knew we would want to be here eventually and the timing seemed right to buy.  We didn’t think we could lose money so we took the plunge.  I still can’t believe we did it because Mr. Ms. Liz and I usually suffer from analysis paralysis.

I couldn’t figure out how to make my job location independent.  I had already pushed it as much as I felt comfortable by spending two weeks at a time here and working about quarter to half time.  But it was really hard.  When I was spending time in my vacation home, well I wanted to be on vacation.  And I couldn’t support my staff and teammates as they deserved to be supported from 700 miles away.

I needed to be financially independent to make this work.  I saved like a crazy lady (Mr. was already saving like a crazy man).  And six years later, we figured out we had enough to retire and I pulled the plug.  Mr. hasn’t quite retired yet but has a project based position that gives him a lot of flexibility.

I would not have gotten here without a clear picture of my WHY.

Do you know your WHY?

If you don’t know your WHY, you need to figure it out ASAP.  Without your WHY, you’ll be chasing the next shiny object instead of chasing your dreams.  Because, let’s face it, you have to live differently if you’re going to retire early or buy a vacation home or take time off to travel the world or (insert your dream here). . . and it is damn hard to live differently.

It’s too easy to see people you work with or live near spending money on stuff or trips you’d enjoy too and not feel a bit jealous unless your WHY is so amazing and so front and center that it eclipses the jealousy.  Your WHY keeps your eyes on the prize.

J.D. Roth over at has a fantastic write up of exercises to find your WHY.

I crafted my personal mission statement when I retired because I needed a new WHY.  It took an hour.  One of the best hours I’ve spent–here’s a write up of my process.

Once you have your WHY, what can you do to remind yourself every day of your WHY?  I used my screensaver.  How about a picture in your wallet, closet or on your fridge?  Lipstick on your mirror?  A momento in your car (a seashell in your cupholder would be a great one my best pal needs to use that one 🙂 .

Once you have your why and it is front and center in your life, think about how you’re going to get there.

You can set goals:  My How to Achieve Your Financial Goals article can help.

Or you can focus on what actions you will take.  Here’s a fantastic article by Paula at  I just read this yesterday but alternative #3 makes a lot of sense to me–focusing on daily actions I will take (or not take) may be easier than focusing on a goal that can seem waaaayy too distant in my future.

Then filter your spending decisions through your WHY–you have to spend money but you have more control than you think over how much you spend.  Looking for inspiration?  my Make Room For Your Dreams article can help.

You deserve to reach your dreams but the only person who can get you there is YOU.  What can you do today to get started?

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Author: Ms. Liz

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

6 thoughts on “You Gotta Figure Out Your Why”

  1. Our why is that we have always loved to travel and we travel in an economical and adventurous way. We have found that we are more comfortable in 2 star hotel or guest houses as that allows us to truly experience the people and cultures we are visiting. I don’t just want to see stuff I want to experience these places and meet locals. With that said, when we first got hitched we chose to live on one income and save the other. The goal was to retire at 45 (mission accomplished). We also played in real estate investing and it played out well for us. We were very focused on the end game! Retiring does not mean you might never head back to work. I did as I wanted to keep my head in the game. I love what I do and I get plenty of play time!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Mel! It’s impressive that you guys figured out your why so early–I suspect you were one of very few people setting your sights on such an early retirement. Bravo to you for making it happen! Thanks for the reminder that our why’s should be flexible–you achieved early retirement and decided to return to work as a choice, rather than a necessity.

  2. Hallelujah! You guys are an inspiration! The why I have come up with for myself at this point is “I don’t want to HAVE to work”. My why may change if my situation changes but that is what I am focusing on for now. It helps to have a clear why and let that why influence my daily decisions and mindset. Maybe I’ll be moving back to Arizona to play with you soon!

  3. That’s a great why Heather, work as a choice will give you all sorts of options! Thanks for stopping by, I look forward to playing in CO or AZ

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