Hey Ho Folks!
Hope you all are safe and well! Welcome to a longish life update post.
This post is going to be primarily of two parts. First, I would like to do the annual update on my Financial Independence (FI) journey. An update on the journey that started out 6 years ago.
The second part is going to be a personal recalibration/reflection kind of post. This early 30s feels like an important hinge moment in my life. I have had a mini hinge moment (1, 2) in my late 20s. And the undercurrent of this period feels familiar. Only that the pull of the current feels stronger now.
As the tides are rising and the doors turning, I have decided to put this moment down in writing. I am going to deliberately choose “the why” of my life. And my hope is that this “why” will guide the direction of this hinge. The FI journey, the larger life journey, and everything else in between. So the second part, although personally very important, might come off as rambly and really long for you readers. So, if you have got something better to read/watch, I recommend skipping the second part 🙂.
Part 1) 6 Years of Financial Independence
So, time indeed does fly. I have hit my 30s. And it’s been 6 years since we started this FI experiment. A quick update on how I am faring in the journey so far.
For the new readers, if you want to get the context and nitty-gritty of what this is all about you can follow the series here. For the regular readers, I will cut directly to the chase. Here are the portfolio numbers from 6 years of FI journey :
- The cumulative return of my portfolio over the last 6 years has been 62.86%.
- The annualized rate of return has been 8.47% per annum.
You can read here about what I mean by “portfolio”. And with all the market craziness, the average returns are mostly in line with original expectations (If you are panicking about the market, read this post I wrote two years ago).
And now onto the reflections on annual FI specific goals. At the beginning of 2021, I had two specific goals with respect to FI :
- Investigate the potential of real estate investments.
- Maintain a high savings rate.
The first goal is done and I will soon have a post sharing what I learned.
And I am ashamed to admit I have slipped on the second. Just yesterday, I ran numbers on my spending for the last two years. I was very surprised to see how far I have fallen off the bandwagon of living frugally and living with purpose. My mind immediately fell into rationalizing why this is so, but all were very weak excuses. I am going to move that goal again to 2022. And I am going to use this blog as a way to hold myself accountable. More about that in the upcoming posts.
And finally, with respect to my final goal of Financial freedom, I am somewhere just above the halfway mark, ~51% mark. And with about 8.5 years left to Financial Freedom.
But … a big but ……
that end goalpost is shifting, morphing, and changing. The main reason will be outlined in the section. But to set this up, my primary goal of reaching FI was never the money. But it was to have the freedom to pursue the things I want to do with the people I cherish being with.
Since hitting my 30s, I have had the blessing to pause and reflect on what I want to do next in my life. To deliberately decide. Due to decisions taken, the end FI goal post has shifted. I think for the better.
And that is what I will talk about in the next section.
Part 2) Hitting 30s: Implications and the Future
Disclaimer: Again, this might come out as long, introspective, and rambly. So, feel free to skip and skim along. My purpose in sharing this here is that my personal reflection MAY set off a personal reflection of your own.
Centering on the “Why”
My late 20s were about working on myself and putting myself back up together. In my early 30s, I feel I have hit more solid ground now. I am reflecting on what the next stretch of run in my life should look like. The goal now is to develop a mental compass that will guide me in prioritizing, choosing alternate paths, and in general with clarity of thought.
“I learned that if you work hard and creatively, you can have just about anything you want, but not everything you want. Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones.”Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work
And for that, I am specifically deliberating on the “why” of my life. My purpose and my belief system.
I have realized that, so far, I have been caught with the “how” and the “what” of life so far (the FI journey is an example). And that I have been working in reverse and distracting myself with the processes.
Rather, things should start with the “Why”. Everyone’s “Why” of their life is unique. I am listing down mine. Henceforth, these “Why” will be my guidepost. I have categorized the whys of my life into three :
- Meaningful work
- Meaningful relationships
- Adding value to the world
And I will briefly go over each one of them.
The Easy One: Meaningful Work
The first “Why” for my life is to do Meaning work while I am here.
The fact of our modern life is that we are going to spend the majority of our adulthood at work. We all have bills to pay, kids to feed, parents to care for, and various other such reasons. And our job/work gives us security, compensation, status, and conditions to achieve those. There are what is typically known as “hygiene factors”. And most of us heavily skew our where and what to work based only on these “hygiene factors”. And that is a problem.
….if you instantly improve the hygiene factors of your job, you’re not going to suddenly love it. At best, you just won’t hate it anymore. The opposite of job dissatisfaction isn’t job satisfaction, but rather an absence of job dissatisfaction. They’re not the same thing at all.How Will you MEASURE YOUR LIFE? – CLAYTON M CHRISTENSEN
“Hygiene Factors” are essential and a necessity of modern life. But you need to balance that with your personal “motivation factors”: Is this work meaningful to me? Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement? Am I going to learn new things?
And the balance is what will count in the end and make you happy. This is not a philosophical concept, it has actually been proven in multiple studies (If you are interested in this, I highly recommend this book or a shorter summary blog post of the same).
A personally unique healthy combination of “motivation factors” and “hygiene factors” is the definition of Meaningful Work for me.
This first “Why”/”purpose” of my life is the easy one for me.
For some reason, I think I have always had good a mental compass on whether a work is meaningful to me. I might not have acted on it always, but it’s easy for me to intuitively say whether it is meaningful to me or not. Four years ago, I took a 29% pay cut to pick a job that I found meaningful. In retrospect, it was the right decision. I had to rethink my FI strategy. But overall, it kept me happy.
I am again at a stage where I am actively and seriously thinking about what is meaningful work for me. And I am using a mixture of “hygiene factors” and “motivation factors” to figure that out. What I am going to lay out in the next section will highly influence the “hygiene factor”.
But as long as I focus on the WHY: Meaningful Work, I think I will be able to figure out the logistics (“How”/”What”) of it.
The Hard One: Meaningful Relationships
The second “Why” for my life is to have Meaningful Relationships.
“Intimate, loving, and enduring relationships with our family and close friends will be among the sources of the deepest joy in our lives.”Clayton M. Christensen, How Will You Measure Your Life?
I think most of us intuitively know this. Relationships are one of the greatest sources of happiness. And those relationships need consistent attention and care. But the tricky thing is this is not very apparent or immediate until it is too late. There is always work to do, bills to pay, and life to figure out. Unlike other things, like your work demands, your family, partner, or friends rarely shout loudly to demand your attention.
But like anything in life, you need to start, nurture, and develop those relationships if they have to be a source of the greatest happiness for you later.
So, this “why” is (was?) a hard one for me. And the one I have decided to deliberately work on in the next stretch of life.
The primary reason for this is that my parent’s divorce in my mid-20s left a seismic impact on me. I think I have never publicly, and for a long time even personally, acknowledged this. This impact was reflected in my ways, but the primary impact was in relationships. After what I saw, I was afraid to be emotionally vulnerable in a bid to protect myself. And that meant closing myself off to personal relationships, or not being emotionally vulnerable when it would have been the right thing to do.
But in my late 20s, I have learned to acknowledge this. This acknowledgment lead to acceptance. The acceptance allowed me to move on. Which finally allowed me to take RESPONSIBILITY and finally work on/with it.
This brings to me the now.
Now on the horizon of my life, I see the clear glimmer of a family of my own.
This means rethinking many things. For example, interestingly enough, whenever I did the final FI goal timeline it was always with a single person in mind. I will have to map out a different practical strategy for how to achieve that. Also, another example I might have to weigh the “hygiene factors” ( see the last section) a little more now for the additional responsibility.
Also, I have decided to actively maintain relationships with friends and family to build a much more nurturing relationship. And to be a little emotionally vulnerable when it needed be.
Again, as long as I remember the MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP as an important “Why” of my life, I think I will figure out the logistics of “How”/”What” of it.
The new one: Add value to the World
The third, a new and I have a feeling an increasingly important one, why of my life is Adding value to the world. Lately, I am looking for something to strive for. Something along with my job and relationships, make me look forward to life. Something where I can use my passion and skills in a way that is useful to the world. Not a end-goal, but a process that I personally enjoy striving for and hopefully could leave a impact on the world by the time I leave.
If you have any gifts, if you have any talents in the world ― when you’re not using them in the service of others, then they are worth nothing. Plant trees under whose shade you do not plan to sit.GAURANGA DAS
In Hindu literature, we have a word for this: Dharma. I have not been able to find a specific English translation for this. Dharma loosely translates as striving to act according to a person’s virtues. So my goal is to do my personal Dharma: to use my natural inclinations (what I internally thrive at) to serve others.
I already have a gut feeling about what this is going to be. But I am still exploring, and I would let this nascent build on its own. I will have a post soon about this.
Also, for various different reasons, I have deliberately decided to keep this separate from the Meaningful work part.
Hopefully, one day these two will converge. Or they may not. That is okay too.
So the last, but one of the most important, WHY of my life is to follow my Dharma. To Add Value to the World in my own way.
Putting it all together: Allocating Resource
How you allocate your resources is where the rubber meets the road. Real strategy—in companies and in our lives—is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about where we spend our resources. As you’re living your life from day to day, how do you make sure you’re heading in the right direction? Watch where your resources flow. If they’re not supporting the strategy you’ve decided upon, then you’re not implementing that strategy at all.Clayton M. Christensen
Everything I have put down in writing above will be a mere lip service if I do not actively allocate my time, energy, and resources to pursue them. And that will be the challenge going forward. Prioritizing, sticking through, and executing them. A challenge that I am looking forward to taking on, hopefully with a clearer sense of clarity. I hope to use this hinge moment in my 30s purposefully with the “Whys” of my life.
If you managed to stick along so far, first of all, thank you! Next, I know this was long and if you were not me who is reading this, then probably it was not very relevant to you. Also, none of these are original thoughts of my own, it’s an amalgamation of what I have been reading over the last few months.
Nevertheless, my goal in sharing this here was :
- Writing things down like this helps to organize my thoughts. And I feel a sense of clarity and clear-headedness once I do this. Especially for big hairy things like this one. Maybe, it inspired one or two of you to also write/journal down.
- If you are feeling a little overwhelmed with priorities and getting lost on “what” and “how” to do things in life, I highly recommend starting with the “Why?” Once you have the core why/cause/purpose solidly figured out. You will be able to attach the rest of the “what” and “how” to this core. And in some cases, maybe you realize something actually does not serve your purpose and might want to drop it altogether. Or reprioritize it.
And that’s a wrap folks! Have any thoughts or comments, drop them below 🙂
P.S : Owing to the personal nature of the blog, I am hesitant and still deliberating whether to post this. But I click the button and here it goes.
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