# 2. Finding My "Why" for Financial Independence
Updated: Jan 22
I am trying to force myself to work backwards. This morning, I read MMM’s blog post from April 11, 2011, and it really resonated with me. It is titled “Getting Started #2 – The Higher Cause”. Link is https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/04/11/getting-started-2-the-higher-cause/.
What I got from this article is that I really needed to determine what makes me happy and healthier. Based on the article, I created the following top 13 list:
My Top 13 Activities That Make Me Happy
And Are Good For My Long-Term Happiness And Health
Cooking for family
Trying something new with my wife (travel or restaurant)
Outdoor activity with kids
Watching new movies
Walking while listening to podcasts
Listening to informational podcasts
Reading or listening to a new book
Running 3 times a week
Lifting weights 3 times a week
Preparing this list led me to the ultimate question – How can I do more of the activities from the list above? The short answer is TIME. One epiphany I had is that I can already financially afford to do all the things on the list, but I cannot do them on a regular basis with my current full-time job, especially when I am on call 24/7. I will go into more detail in a future post about my current job and career path.
I am going to take what I have called the Seven-Year Time Challenge (or "The Sytch"). I want to gain financial independence, but I always want my destination to be gaining the time to do what makes me happy. If I determine down the road that financial independence is not required for me to reach my final destination, I will make that change in my plan.
Going into this challenge, I have broken it down into the following steps:
Step one: Figure out what currently makes me happy and is good for my long-term health (COMPLETED!)
Step two: Find out how much money we will need in retirement to have the option to quit our jobs and get more “time” to do what makes us happy.
My initial thoughts with step two: Once our debts are paid off in 7 years (besides mortgage), I believe we can live comfortably on $4,000 to $5,000 per month. Hopefully, $2,000 per month will come from our rental property(s), so we will need the rest to come from other avenues (at this point, I am thinking of our brokerage account).
I would still like to get at least some sort of earned income though, so we can still invest yearly into our Roth IRAs* until around 50 years old. My wife is planning to start her own bridal shop also, so that could be the income we would need to fund our Roth IRAs. A lot of people may not consider this necessary, but I like the feeling of having a huge safety net available later at 59.5 years old.
Step three: Figure out ways to save/invest more money and actually do them.
My initial thoughts with step three: We could probably save around $1,000 per month alone on food costs. We could also probably save $80 per month by cutting subscriptions. I will delve into many other possible avenues to save money.
Step four: Figure out ways to make more money.
My initial thoughts with step four: My wife and I could become more active with finding renters in our vacant property. I could also put in more hours at work or declutter and sell stuff. Just like with ways to save money, I will explore other ways to make money.
Step five: Start being more aggressive with paying off student loans.
Step six: While doing all of the above things, start focusing more time on doing activities on the above top 13 list that do not cost any money.
This is a very important step I cannot overlook. It is intertwined with all my other steps. I am going to make a conscious effort to methodically work in time for these activities. This will also force me to appreciate things more in real time.
Step seven: Prepare a personal binder for my wife and I that has all our financial information (such as accounts, subscriptions, and passwords) in case one of us passes away.
Step eight: Once we reach our retirement number, actually retire from the 9 to 5 job if I still desire to do so.
My initial thoughts with step eight: I understand my above list could change over time. But, if most things on my list continue to stay the same and not require a lot of money, I plan to stop working in the traditional sense. This step really worries me because of the desire to always want more.
If we are accomplishing all the above steps, it will be very easy to extend the finish line. Meaning, it will be easy to think, “Well, if I work just one more year, then I can retire with $6,000 per month instead of $5,000 per month.” I want to be fully aware that this could occur and try my best to avoid it if I still do not want to work my 9 to 5 job.
It is alarming to me how powerful just starting this journey has already been. Taking a deep look into my current "why I get out of bed" purpose in life and whether I am doing the things to achieve that purpose is eye-opening. And for complete transparency, I am NOT doing the things on a regular basis to work towards achieving my "why" in life. I plan to change this and deliberately make life choices that align with my "why".
With all this being said, I will leave you with one succinct sentence on what I have determined my current "why" in life to be - I want the time to do the things that make me happy and are good for my long-term happiness and health whenever I wish.
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*An IRA (individual retirement account) is a personal, tax-deferred account the IRS created to give investors an easy way to save for retirement. A "Roth" IRA offers tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals in retirement. There are income eligibility limitations. https://investor.vanguard.com/accounts-plans/iras