About me, Finances, Goal setting, Midlife gap year, Personal development

The Journey So Far: Reflections & revelations

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So, 3 weeks into blogging now…. And I’m really enjoying it! I’m grateful to all who stop by (that’s you!) and those who take a peruse around. It’s starting to look like a blog now and not a few ‘articles’ that may fizzle out any moment. I’ve had my first non-promotive-type subscribers and comments. So, a good start from the unknown.

It’s an interesting journey to see what type of posts I’ll tend toward or whether I’ll try to stay broad. I thought I’d be doing the ‘journalling’ type post mostly, but it turns out my self-reflection is in so much flux, it’d be a bit cruel to subject you guys to it, haha!

But now seems timely. 🙂 Well, I had my second life coach session last night. I spoke about my desire to narrow down my options for Life 1.2 (i.e. what to do in my midlife ‘gap year’) and what seemed to come out was a strong desire for self-expression and health/wellbeing. In our discussions, it actually became less about me and more about what society makes us. Interesting.

However, personally, the blog has been a fantastic way to double down on my thinking around taking time out and around financial independence (FI). Blogging might even be the more social/open person’s ‘morning pages‘! (If you don’t know the concept of morning pages, it’s worth looking it up. The only problem is I’m not a morning person.)

Five personal mini-revelations

Here are 5 of my personal mini-revelations since starting my blog:

1) My savings rate is lower than my earlier calculations (by genuinely/conveniently forgetting some aspects, like childcare vouchers which means my income is higher than my ‘take home pay’).

Learning point: ‘Back of envelope’ calculations are fine but may be prone to shortcut biases (that work in my favour)! I was almost thinking that I saved more than I spent at one point (cos we’d paid off the mortgage). 😊

2) I’m actually financially pretty safe from 57-67 years based on: work pension, pension lump sum (hadn’t taken that into account for daily living!) and downsizing (most likely time we’d do that)

Learning point: Again, a case of sit down and really face myself, not letting the ‘unknowns’ (e.g. inflation) be an excuse. I was going to invest in a SIPP next – I was doing all the research. Definitely not the best idea (as I wouldn’t be able to access it until 57). I don’t need the original capital to persist, I can save say £20k specifically for 10 years’ worth of 2k pa holidays. Obvious now, but FIers are so caught up in withdrawal rates. For now, using my ISA allowance gives me more flexibility. More on my process here.

3) My (UK) state pension is in a healthier state than I thought given I started full-time employment at 27 years of age

Learning point: Getting all the info available to you is empowering. Things may change, but hopefully (and this is my opinion) we’re pretty much guaranteed that anything that’s already been promised to us will remain even if things change going forward (and they will). Otherwise, there would be pandemonium. On the other hand, those who retire very early will have their state pension affected. More on my process here.

4) Of my possibilities for Life 1.2., writing is looking very likely to figure in some way, with other ideas paling into the background somewhat

Learning point: Critical reflection + this blog + logic has led me in this direction. The logic being that it’s not too far apart from what I do in work (compared with say, painting). It’s opened up the next stage of questions, which has its own discomforts, but progress is often less comfortable than we hope for! See here for my original set of Life 1.2 possibilities.

5) I could possibly take a year out and still FI in 7 years-ish! (Possibly even earlier if I managed to save in ‘Life 1.3’.)

Learning point: Okay, (wow) this one hasn’t sunk in yet! The anxious side of me is still unsure how comfortable I’d be living on my savings and investments and seeing my capital consistently going south while I’m still capable of paid work and have a family. I’m also in denial about being relatively close to 50 – I’ve only just accepted using the term ‘midlife’ in my tagline!!! (Er, maybe a blog post for another time.)

And did I need a blog to work these things out?

Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing, right? I have asked myself: Might I have come up with these insights regardless of keeping a blog? Possibly, but on reflection, only if I was “obviously” within sight if FI (e.g. 2-3 years away); that’s the fire (!) I’d need up my butt to get me to do these things in a concrete, real way! Not in a loosely estimated or lazy way. So, nope, I don’t think I’d have reached these ‘mini-revelations’ without starting this blog… Maybe if you’re into numbers and pride yourself on organising your financial affairs in an obsessively detailed way, then you would have known these things already. I’m clearly not of that ilk! Important to note is that most of these developments came from action, not just reflection.

I guess the take-home message might be to use the tools that work best with your way of thinking. FI is much more than just the numbers. FI is a means to an end… But freedom to what end?

What to do in Life 1.2 (practice Life 2)?

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Is that a door? A window? Plato’s cave? Or just a beautiful view?

In my humble opinion, there’s so much subconscious stuff going on, bubbling away. I find acknowledging that scary sometimes, but we must listen to it. Why are we drawn to FI? But really, why? The only over-thinking in my book is when you only go around in circles. The rest is fresh material!

In usual conditions, we implicitly know to use the tools available to us to listen to our inner voice. I read something once: Don’t take it by the scruff of its neck, and shout ‘tell me!’ Instead, approach your subconscious like a scared child. That’s one of the most understated tools I’ve ever taken that is so helpful! Listen, watch, broach slowly and gently, invitingly even.

“But what does that even mean?” says the systematising thinker! I guess here’s an example: I am trying to notice what I get most excited about in everyday life. When I was talking to my life coach yesterday, I came alive when I was discussing abstract ideas…. So I guess ‘my book’ could be in this vein? Yet my thinking (conscious) brain may shout down my ear: “Do something useful, not abstract, dammit!” Coach said, “The year out is for you”.

And what next?

Sadly, I haven’t engaged much with my August goals as yet! With a week or so to go, this is fast coming into focus. This kind of accountability is one of the great things about blogging even if no one is reading it. 😊 It’s the kind of ‘soft’ deadline that works with my personality, that’s for sure. I do wonder if writing the blog is sometimes a bit of a distraction from working on the ‘hard’ stuff, but we did go abroad last week on a great-yet-tiring long weekend away, so at least I have this weekend to “get back on track”. It’s the investment I need to put in.

Or am I kidding myself?! Action speaks louder than words, so they say. 😉

Thanks for reading.

How’s your journey going? I find it helpful reading others’ stories toward financial freedom and what they may do after it – Does anything I have written chime with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my very personal process and also your thoughts on yours!

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*Critical reflection – in both senses of the term, one being testing and challenging your own reflective thoughts, which is healthy, and the other meaning self-critical, obviously less healthy but honest. Have you caught yourself deriding your critical voice, then telling yourself to go easy? Then you know what I mean!

2 thoughts on “The Journey So Far: Reflections & revelations”

    1. Hi Meg, thank you for the lovely comment. 🙂 Yes, I’ve been very fortunate in some ways, but also (mostly) consistently ploughing in the savings fund! For now, I’m focused on taking a year out of work, but yes, I might not be too far away from FI, which is both exciting and daunting to consider.

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