Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Yikes! Yabba Dabba Dooo.

Normally, you don’t get a window into how other people may see you, but last week I did. It was pretty confronting, to be honest. It actually stopped me blogging, while I mulled over it.

I’ve known Fred and Wilma pretty much all my life. They’re old friends of the family and, now that I’ve changed the way I drive home each night, I drop in on them occasionally.

Anyway, I was visiting Fred and Wilma after work one night last week and having a cuppa and a chat. We were talking about their family and mine and just generally catching up on what’s been going on.

We’d been talking about money matters a few minutes before. Fred and I share a similar interest, so I told them about a financial goal I’d achieved. Then the conversation moved on, as it does. Coincidentally, Wilma had talked with my sister a day before and she shared a story about a win that my sister had. Kate’s a Thermomix consultant and she did a demo at a gorgeous Bed And Breakfast place in the country – and ended up being able to stay there that night for nothing. She had a lovely time.

“Looks like being a good week for the Jones girls,” I said. “We’ve both had wins.”

“Yes, but yours are only ever about money,” replied Wilma.

Wait… what?!?


This has been reverberating around my head ever since she sad it. At the time I made some sort of verbal come-back, but it was pretty feeble, as she’d well and truly caught me on the back foot.

I’m still not sure exactly what she meant by it, though I have a sneaking suspicion that me still being single, 22 years after I left my husband, might have a bit to do with it. I don’t think it can be the boys – no one’s in jail, on drugs or living on the street. All of them have either finished University or are well on the way to.

I’ve held down a full-time job for the last 15/16 years – I’m never quite sure how long I’ve been at the school – and I’m pretty sure I’m good at what I do. After all, I’m changing lives… one English or Theatre Studies lesson at a time.

It’s a weird thought to think that just when I’m closer than ever to reaching my goal of early(ish) retirement and I’m stepping back from a six-figure wage, I’m being called on for being too mercenary.

The thing is… I don’t think I measure my life’s success simply by how big my net worth is. Sure, it’s a part of it, because I’ve worked too hard and planned too much for it not to be. But I’m investing and planning so that all the intangibles in my life will be easier – things like the freedom to spend my time how I choose; the ability to help anyone I feel like; the choice to share things like theatre tickets and other fun things with the people I care about and the ability to go traveling any time I want.

Ok, so maybe that first and last ones on the list might appear a bit selfish, but so be it! I bought a beautiful house three years ago when I did the whole geoarbitrage gamble, but part of the decision to buy this place was that the layout of the space meant that when the boys want to move back for any reason, we won’t be living cheek to jowl with each other. Part of my job as a parent is to provide a roof over their heads and I feel glad that I can provide it if they need it, even though they’re all adults now.

Doesn’t mean I still don’t love my house. Doesn’t mean I still don’t think it’s beautiful. But it’s an example of the way I make decisions – there’s often a long-term plan behind the spending/life decisions I make.

It’s an interesting question though – money is behind a lot of the decisions, obligations and freedoms we have in life. It’s obviously important. We in the Personal Finance and FI/RE blogging communities write about it all the time.

But Wilma’s perception of me rocked me back on my heels a bit. It makes me wonder. Is she alone in her view of how I view success, or do others feel the same?

Of course, short of asking everyone I know, I’ll never get the answer to that curly question! But it was interesting to have that little window into how someone else perceives me.

I guess it does you good to get the wind knocked out of your sails every once in a while, to stop you getting complacent.

I’ll still drop in every now and then to see Fred and Wilma, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fred and I have our little financial chats in private from now on…


  1. flirby

    Wilma’s comment says more about her than it does about you. Perhaps financial independence and success is a touchy subject for her, so she focuses on this part of your conversations with her.

    I don’t know you in real life (but I’m sure we would get along like a house on fire, if I did). I “know” you firstly from SS and then your blogs and twitter, so it’s kind of a one way conversation that we have and despite SS & FIRE writing being financially focused, I don’t think you define your success in terms of money.

    I think you share very eloquently how a sound financial footing is a means to an end and you have given me much “food for thought” with your writing and comments.

    I also think I would dropping in on Fred & Wilma, a little less often …

  2. Aussie HIFIRE

    It’s interesting the different ways that people think about these things. To me money is a tool for getting the things that I want for myself and my family, whether that be a paid off house, travel, eating out, or the mundane stuff like paying the bills and putting food on the table.

    Lots of others seem to think of money differently though, either as a goal in and of itself or as some sort of necessary evil that they have to wrestle with in order to live their lives. I would suggest that your friend might be in the latter camp and doesn’t see it the same way as you do, ie providing you with freedom to do what you want.

    In general though I try not to initiate conversations with friends or social acquaintances about money because it can very easily become an awkward conversation. People don’t seem to want to think about their financial situation much, because ignorance is bliss to a large extent. Until it isn’t of course.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Everybody’s writing such terrific last sentences to their comments on this post!
      Yours speaks volumes…

  3. Bev

    Presumably they don’t read this blog. Not sure what she meant either, but don’t think you should worry. You’ve worked hard for what you’ve got and no-one should take that away from you. And life (unfortunately) IS about money, or most of it.

  4. freddy smidlap

    people only see money wins if that’s the subject you write about mostly. those wins lead to a lot of other life wins without that uncertainty to worry about. i really don’t know how people see me. maybe they think i’m just a wine guzzling bon vivant and that’s ok with me.

    • FrogdancerJones

      And yet another great last sentence!
      This post just keeps on giving.

  5. Pia

    My best girl pal dances around the topic and is cagey when I try to bring up finances. When I try to ask why the topic is such taboo, she says that people use their knowledge of other people’s money as weapons. Information can be harmful.

    My husband thinks all I worry about is money. He falls into the money is a necessary evil camp.

    I think the key here is just to remember that success is measured in multitude of ways, and if she cannot see why yours is measured in the way it is, then she’s not on the same wavelength, that’s really all there is to it.

  6. Cheryl

    Kids, dogs, home, books, gardening, friends and family, teaching, hobbies, travel, finances, retirement are all things I think of as interests of yours. I found the chickens entertaining too. I don’t know why she would think your wins are only about money. Maybe she should read your blog but really I think it is more about her feelings about finances. Fail to plan, plan to fail.

    • FrogdancerJones

      After this post, I’m not going to be giving her the link to the blog any time soon!!!!

  7. Girt

    As is with most interpersonal dramas, this is probably more about what’s going on with her rather than you. You can only guess at the personal insecurities or failures she may feel. Compassion is usually the best option and you should give her a leave pass I think.

    We can all see that your money objectives are moral not mercenary, as are the methods you use to get your money ….. it is part of what makes you so awesome that your success in achieving FI has helped so many along the way.

    I was just thinking the other day about whether it is wrong to want to be wealthy when I read this great post .

    That said, there aren’t many friends or family in real life I can speak with enthusiastically with about money decisions. Whilst I think it’s great fun and interesting, that doesn’t seem to be a shared view.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yes, I only have 3 friends who I talk about money matters with. Two at work, one retired.
      It’s a rare thing.

  8. Blogless Sandy

    What an odd, and slightly hurtful comment to make. I would say it’s pretty far off the mark too. I know the financial goal you’re referring to and you should be bloody proud given where you started from (and she should be congratulating you). But to say that all your wins are only ever about money is laughable. Most of your wins are “life” wins and are about so many things other than money. I think Wilma’s comment says much more about her than it does about you.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Thanks. It’s good to have a friend IRL that I can talk to about anything. Even… (shock, horror!) money.

  9. Cate

    “O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as others see us!
    It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
    An’ foolish notion.”

    But…How others see us is shaped by their own mindset and life experiences though. Perhaps Wilma has always had the luxury of having a fiscally savvy “Fred” in her life? If she has never experienced the scary reality of being the sole provider for herself and her dependants, nor the equally sobering responsibility of fully providing for her future self, it would be easy to both smug and snippy. Maybe blithe ignorance is at the root of her thoughtless remark.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Very true. Fred and Wilma have been around for as long as I can remember – hence me calling them ‘Fred and Wilma'(they’ve been together forever!) – and while I wouldn’t say they’ve always lived on Easy Street, Fred has always kept the wolf from the door.
      Oh, to be blithely ignorant!

  10. gofi

    “Wilma’s perception of me rocked me back on my heels” — I’ve had a similar experience with my college roommate. I think my views on jobs and salaries, and making compromises made him uneasy. We started speaking less.

    I’m all for pursuing ones passion. But one has to be realistic.

    I now restrain myself from talking about finance. But I’m always wandering what people do, how they live, and so on 🙂

    • FrogdancerJones

      It’s a shame that more people don’t share snippets of their financial lives and how they organise themselves. It’d prompt more people to try new strategies and get their heads around financial concepts for sure.

  11. Chris

    Bit late, but what the hell… is it possible finances are dominating your conversations with Wilma and Fred? I’m guilty of the same thing: encouraging people to optimise their superannuation, spruiking the benefits of investing, talking about earning more vs spending less, etc. I think after a while it gets tiring to listen to, even if it’s something I consider important and I’m passionate about.

    I sometimes get sick of people talking about how awesome their charity work is because they raised $72,000 for Cystic Fibrosis research without even breaking a sweat. There’s probably a special place in hell for me for thinking this. Yes, it probably says a lot about me… but remember, I’m half the conversation here.

    It can be hard to hear home truths about ourselves. But as another financial blogger once beautifully wrote, when it happens use it as an opportunity. Lean in a little and see what we can learn.

    • FrogdancerJones

      True. I think I’ll save the $$ stuff for when Fred and I are on our own and enjoy the general chitchat with Wilma.

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