When a harvest occurs, it’s usually the end result of actions that have gone before. A farmer plants his crops and reaps the harvest, a gardener plants her seeds and has a glut of tomatoes, and a student studies diligently and scores well in the end-of-year exams.
Six years ago I had a paid-off house and $10 in the bank. Today I have the option to never work again if I feel like it. I’m a cautious soul though and that’s why I dropped back to part-time work this year. I only have myself to depend upon because I’m unlikeable and have no man to lean on, (LOL) so I want to play it safe.
But by combining the long-term strategies of frugality and being a Valuist with shorter-term strategies such as working a second job, investing and taking advantage of an opportunity when it came along, I now have financial independence.
This state of affairs didn’t come out of nowhere. I read hundreds, if not thousands of blog posts, gradually picking up ideas and concepts about esoteric things like investing… the 4% Rule… index funds vs individual shares… geoarbitrage… the concept that spreadsheets are fun, (though the jury’s still out on this one, by the way!)
These things didn’t come naturally to me. I’m scared, quite literally, when I see a lot of numbers. But like drops of water falling steadily onto a rock, over time the new concepts gradually made an impression and I began to put things into action.
When I began to walk along the road leading to financial independence, I had a very hazy idea that I’d like to be able to have a dignified retirement where I’d never have to ask my kids for money. My grandfather lived until his early nineties and by the time he was in his late eighties he’d run out of money. The Age Pension wasn’t enough to pay for all his needs, so Mum and Dad had to step in and give financial help every now and then.
In contrast my father’s mother was comfortably cared for up until the time she died at 96. She didn’t lead a flashy lifestyle, but every need and a huge percentage of her wants was catered for by the work she and my other grandfather put into their savings and investments.
Their portfolio was put together over decades of slow and careful work. My grandpa went out and earned the money – both by his ‘day job’ running a shop and by his ‘side hustle’ of performing on the Tivoli Circuit as a rope spinner, juggler and hypnotist. (Interesting man!) My grandma stayed at home to raise the family, but at the same time, she also ran a boarding house for international students and was FRUGAL. (To be honest… nowadays we’d definitely call her cheap.)
Their comfortable and secure retirement was the result of thousands of small decisions taken over decades, with each small step leading inexorably towards the harvest.
As a young woman, particularly after I spawned the ugly and smelly beings that I affectionately call my family, I observed and learned from these stories, even though I wasn’t fully conscious of it. When I began to learn about financial independence, FIRE and everything in between, I didn’t know exactly how I’d get to my hazy goal.
I decided that I wanted to be financially secure (whatever that was!!) by the time I reached Pension Age. AND – stretch target – to not need the pension at all!!! I was around 50 years old. Pension age in Australia is 67. I’d paid off my house and I had a secure job. The table that Mr Money Mustache had on his Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement showed me that I could do it, especially now that the kids were growing up and gradually becoming independent.
I set off, determined to work until I was 67 and retire on a very secure combination of superannuation, shares and no debt.
In gardening, it’s not enough to throw some seed on the ground, walk away and come back a few months later and expect a bountiful harvest. There are hundreds of little actions that the gardener has to perform, such as weeding, watering, thinning out the seedlings and protecting them from frost and pests. The same is true of reaching the goal of financial independence.
It’s a game for the patient.
The good news is that patience can be learned.
Ask me how I know!
There’s a quiet satisfaction when you walk to your garden beds and see the seedlings steadily growing. It’s akin to the feeling when you see your mortgage heading down, further every month. The feeling you get around your heart as you deposit money from every pay and you see your FU Fund or Emergency account growing bigger.
You know that each little action, no matter how small and ineffectual it may seem on its own, is a little step closer to your goal.
And the closer you get to your goal, the sharper and more defined it becomes. Life is a funny thing. Sometimes shortcuts appear that you would probably never have noticed if you weren’t steadily working on achieving something.
Achieving the goal? Now that’s more than a quiet satisfaction! Bringing in the harvest is a sweet and precious thing. Look towards it and keep stepping to it.
After all, the time will pass anyway. You may as well enjoy living with a bountiful harvest, instead of a head full of empty wishes and dreams.
Patience! It’s a virtue I am learning …
Love the comparison to gardening – my winter harvest hasn’t been that great – due to me not knowing how to plant from seeds versus seedlings – lesson learned
Trust me – every year you’ll get better and better.
I like gardening for food because I’m always running different little experiments ie “I wonder how this plant will go if I put it here?” or “If I put some bean plants here will they shelter the worm farms in the middle of the summer?”
It keeps things interesting.
Frogdancer, have I mentioned how much I love your writing?!? I am at a crossroads and reading your posts have a way of settling me into deeper thinking and journaling. Thank you from a fellow teacher and late bloomer to the FI mindset.
What a lovely thing to say. Thank you, glad my posts are a help. 🙂
I love this post. It’s really important on the journey to FI to remember that it’s the small steps that eventually lead us there, and that just because we aren’t regularly seeing monumental progress, each decision we make is always bringing us closer to our goals.
I think that’s the hardest thing about it!
The big moves are thrilling, but in the scheme of things they’re few and far between.
It’s important to start being thrilled by the mundane little steps – or at least be mildly excited by them!
Love the analogy between gardening and the FI journey. I have never had a green thumb, but luckily I was at least good with money, and while it seemed that in the beginning there was very little money in the accounts, now that we’re nearing 50, the numbers have really sprouted! Agree 100% that taking a part-time job is an excellent way to pad the foundation. We’re still working on our businesses, even more so now that we don’t have to be on a specific schedule and can just pick things that are of interest — it keeps the mind nimble, and it lets compounding do its magic for longer.
I gave the second job the flick when I bought The Best House in Melbourne and moved here, because I knew that if the geoarbitrage gamble paid off, I’d be ok. Time to give someone else the opportunity! Thermomix was brilliant for me though – I paid off my house heaps faster and it also paid for my wonderful 9 week holiday in the UK and Europe.