I have a confession to make.
In terms of money management, I’ve come really far. In 2008, I had a six-figure debt and was living paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t have enough savings to pay my bills for a month if I lost my job.
Now, I have enough to last a year (or two) without a paycheck. Back in 2008, my network was probably in the negative. Now, it’s positively positive.
It took a lot of sacrifice, grit and discipline to get where I am today.
But I think I lost something along the way.
I think I have lost the courage to live life the way I want.
too much grit can be a bad thing
I’ve felt that something was “off” about my approach to personal finance for years now. But I couldn’t put my finger on the problem. When your balance sheet is healthy, what is there to complain about? Yet, my soul was uneasy.
Something about the way I was living was making me uncomfortable. Sad, even. Angry, sometimes.
But I couldn’t put my feelings into words until I came across an article written by Jessica of The Fioneer on my Twitter feed one day: 5 Warning Signs it’s Time to get a New Job
The article’s title makes it sound like one of those listicles that content portals churn out, but her essay was far deeper and more reflective than that. One sentence in the article arrested my attention almost immediately:
Am I trading my health, my happiness, or my peace for a high paying job just to reach FI faster?
And that’s when I realised that’s what I’ve been doing the last few years: I’ve been trading my health, happiness and peace to save as much money as I can.
Like Jessica, I have grit. That grit got me through some of the most difficult times of my life. It has enabled me to pay down a six-figure debt, put myself through a diploma while working full-time, moved to Australia alone and with only A$10,000 - my life savings then.
But that grit is also a double-edged sword. It has made me sacrifice things I should not sacrifice - my well-being. My health. My sanity. My self-respect.
That meant I was putting money first and myself last when it matters.
Suffer first, enjoy later?
I felt the downsides of this approach keenly when, one by one, my friends and colleagues died around me. In the span of a few years, a number ex-colleagues had died of cancer and heart attacks. One former colleague’s case was particularly haunting to me - he had a stroke. At the age of 33.
I was told that he found his job taxing and anxiety-provoking. Yet, there he was, back again at the desk after his stroke.
And I had this haunting thought:
What if I worked myself to the ground to save all this money … only to die without enjoying a minute of freedom that I had hoped to buy from the cash?
Because that’s why I embarked on my journey in the first place. That’s why I worked my ass off to pay off my humongous debts - to one day live the life I want.
However, there’s always a voice in my head that is saying, “Not yet. Just a little longer. Just a liiiiitttle longer.”
I think I need to start telling the voice to shut the f*** up.
I’ve always believed that in order to live the life I want one day, I need to put aside “foolish things” work hard, knuckled down, so that I can enjoy the fruits of my labour later.
I’m starting to think this is a flawed approach. Because, as Jessica said:
As the Fioneers, we believe the journey should be as remarkable as the destination and that we can build lives of happiness and meaning along the path to FI.
Why can’t “one day” be “today”?
I’ve been so focused on the end result that I’ve ignored how I’m living life in the present.
And a personal finance journey that ignores your health and well-being in the present is not worth it.