Appreciating your financial journey

I’ve always been a casual enthusiast of personal finance blogs. I enjoyed reading them but didn’t actively follow many. However, after deciding to start my own blog, I’ve delved deeply into this unique corner of the internet and I have to say it is an intimidating crowd!

I keep coming across new bloggers and people who are pursuing incredible accomplishments. I feel like there are people out there paying off more debt than I have on less income and still retiring early. It’s easy to get caught up in the self-deprecating thoughts:

  • Well I didn’t have my act together enough to max out my 401k at 22 so I’m not as good as them
  • I’ve royally screwed up when it comes to purchasing cars (more than once) so why should anyone listen to me?
  • I took out student loans when I could have avoided it (but at least I paid them off!)
  • I don’t have a full-fledged early retirement plan and didn’t even understand how robust the early retirement community was! The concept was familiar to me, but I hadn’t heard the term FIRE until I started this blog.

Then I have to stop and remind myself that those people are the exception and ultimately it’s not the success story that really matters. What matters is that you’re pursuing the journey at all.

Ultimately it’s not the success story that really matters. What matters is that you’re pursuing the journey at all.

Mr. FC and I have had a pretty bumpy journey getting out of debt and learning about financial freedom. We had zero debt when we graduated college, and then very quickly got ourselves in trouble by racking up nearly $50000 in car debt in one day. It has taken us about four years to climb out of that hole combined with a couple other bumps along the way ($40000 in graduate student loans between the two of us… moving multiple times… a baby).

Life has a way of happening and throwing off our best-laid plans. If you’re always waiting until you reach your goals to find contentment, you’re never going to find it.

I want to be clear that contentment doesn’t mean passivity or apathy

You can still aggressively work toward your goals with passion. Indeed, to meet just about any substantial goal you NEED fire and passion. You have to be willing to do the hard things that normal people don’t want to do, but you don’t have to hate the process.

When I use the word contentment, I don’t mean you need to be content with your financial situation. Rather, I use that term in more of the sense of appreciation.

There is something to be said for appreciating the struggle.

Struggle is the food from which change is made, and the best time to make the most of a struggle is when it’s right in front of your face. – Danny Dreyer

Would retiring early have the same sweetness to it, if you didn’t understand what the daily work grind was like? Would debt-freedom mean as much if you didn’t know what it was like to give your entire paycheck to someone else?

We didn’t fully appreciate how good our situation was when we graduated college completely debt-free. It has taken four years of struggle to cement the desire in me that I want to achieve a debt-free, financially independent life. My belief in that would not be so fervent if we hadn’t had our hard times and experienced the journey we’ve gone through.

Appreciating our struggle is an exercise in gratitude but also an exercise in recognizing the lessons we’re learning.

Because of your struggles, you get it more

Did you know that 70% of wealthy families lose their wealth by the second generation and 90% of wealthy families lose it by the third generation? (Source) That article argues part of the reason it happens is that the heirs don’t appreciate and understand the value of money.

Triumphing after a financial journey is a life-altering process and it forever changes the way you approach your finances. To have the triumph easily handed to you doesn’t have nearly as much meaning.

Even after reading those statistics I still hope that someday I may be able to leave something for my children and that they wouldn’t squander it. We all hope to be the exception 😉 Building wealth for wealth’s sake isn’t even my goal though, I prefer to think about it in terms of financial independence. However, even more than that I hope that I can teach my children about finances and to have values when it comes to money.

My financial journey is helping me to develop my financial values

So, I may not have a headline-grabbing success story yet like other bloggers, but I don’t think that matters. I’m not going to let that deter me from writing. What matters is my journey and the journey is what should matter to you.

Do you feel like you appreciate the financial journey you’ve gone through? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

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7 Comments

  1. I totally get this feeling too. I’m more in the “saving money” camp of FIRE, and the “investing/wealth-building” portion has always intimidated me. It’s so, so easy to feel like you aren’t doing enough when compared to other people. But we each have our different race to run; we need to be okay with the journey that we have, not those that other people have.

  2. I struggle here too! While we avoided many of the personal finance pitfalls, Mr. AR and I have had to pay off a new car, dig out of debt and learn from other money mistakes. But honestly, without some of those challenges, we may not be where we are today 🙂

    1. The challenges are what we learn from! I feel the same way… without them, we wouldn’t be where we are either 🙂

  3. It’s very normal for all of us to feel intimated by other people’s big success story. I admit that I feel that way all the time!

    But when I do, I always remind myself of what Warren Buffett said about the “outer scorecard” vs. the “inner scorecard.”

    I found a good read on this link:

    https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2016/08/the-inner-scorecard/

    At the end, your inner scorecard is more important. Keep your own score of how you think you’re doing. Do what makes you happy for you, and not for pleasing others. So, yes let’s all appreciate our own financial journey and have fun along the way 😉👍

    1. I haven’t heard of the “Inner Scorecard” in that way before, but that’s such a good analogy for this topic! The inner scorecard is really what matters in the end, and it’s ultimately what should drive our actions. Not the influences of others 🙂

  4. I appreciate the acknowledgment of the phase where you may not have a full-fledged FI plan all figured out. We’re there now, figuring it out. I’m sure even the veterans in the blogging world have plans that evolve over time. Here’s to the journey, and to sharing even the messy bits!

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