As said so simply by the great Oprah Winfrey, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” One of the more popular questions when getting to know someone is asking “What’s your passion?” In today’s digital world, people oftentimes boast on social media about chasing their passions. But what if you don’t know what you’re passionate about or what if you feel like you’re too busy to partake in things that excite you? Are you doomed to live a passion-less life?
After years of chasing goals set for me by my parents, teachers, and societal benchmarks, I’m in an interesting place in my life where I’m reevaluating what actually excites me versus what I’m expected to be excited about. For the most part, I know what I’m passionate about--it ranges from social justice issues to dancing the night away to health research--but how do I integrate these interests into my life if they aren’t already part of my daily routine?
I think it’s important for all human beings to identify at least one thing that gives us a sense of a higher purpose and makes us light up. As I continue to do research on and work to improve my relationship with depression, I recognize that feeling connected to something outside of myself that makes me happy is one major key to feeling better, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.
As a result, I’d like to share tips for getting in tune with yourself to figure out your passions, and then from there, how to make time and space for pursuing them in your daily life.
How to find your passion and purpose
Remember what made you excited as a little kid - does the same hold true today?
Over the years, many of us drift away from our childlike self and get bogged down in doing things that may not align with our true selves. I’ve recently been making more time for my inner child by doing things I used to enjoy doing when I was younger: dancing around, playing and listening to music, playing board and video games, reading, and being out in nature.
Can you remember what you used to love doing as a child? If so, write these things down and see if you can make some space in your schedule to incorporate them into your life on a more regular basis.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to have your passion be earth shattering
I think the notion of following your passion is sometimes too hyped up. It doesn’t need to lead to you starting your own business or changing the trajectory of our planet as we know it - your passion could be geeking out over your favorite show, and that’s completely okay! As long as whatever you’re doing isn’t hurting yourself or others, it really shouldn’t matter how “important” or “deep” your passion is - what’s important is that you’re getting in touch with what makes you happy.
Figure out what you don’t like doing
If you’re unsure of what your passion is, you can start by figuring out the opposite - what you don’t like doing. For instance, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to study in college, I knew I didn’t want to pursue math or science, which whittled down my options considerably. Now, this doesn’t have to be a negative activity just because you’ll be focusing on things you don’t enjoy doing. Instead, view it as an opportunity to get to know yourself better and be more in alignment with yourself. Moving forward, this exercise may help you turn down a job that isn’t the right fit for you or pass on an event invitation that may drain you of energy.
What do you love to read and research about?
If you’re still searching for what your passion is, take a step back and reflect on what you love to read about and research when you have free time. For me, I figure if I spend hours upon hours getting lost in health forums and websites that this probably means I’m passionate about health and wellness :)
Your job =/= your passion
I know, I know. There are so many people out there who advise working in a field that you’re passionate about so that the work doesn’t feel like work, but not everyone has the opportunity to directly connect their career to their passion, and that’s okay! Take that pressure off yourself if your job currently doesn’t make your heart skip a beat (in a good way, of course), and see if you can take on new tasks that make you excited to go to work. If not, there are plenty of ways to pursue your interests outside of work, which I’ll touch on in the next point.
Try new things
If you feel like you’re lacking experiences that lift you up and make you feel purposeful, it’s time to try new things. This could mean reading a book at home on a subject you care about, or going out and joining a club centered on your passion. When I find myself struggling to find things to do in this context, I check out Facebook for events and the website Meetup. Start slow with trying new things to give yourself some time and space to reflect on the experience, and remember to have patience with yourself if you’re trying things you’ve never pursued before!
Figuring out and following your passions can definitely be challenging, but it’s worth it in the long run to be mindful of what makes us happier. By reflecting on our true calling and interests, it’s easier to make time for pursuing these interests.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on passion - what is/are your passion(s)? How do you make time for it/them in your life?
Last month, I wrote an article about warning signs of an unbalanced life and how to create more balance, and one facet of the latter is implementing more discipline in your daily life. On the surface, I find that the word “discipline” has a negative connotation, and doesn’t encite much happiness, but stick with me for a moment. I’ve recently been following Dr. Nicole LePera on Instagram, and she talks a lot about how you can introduce healthy doses of discipline into your life through something called reparenting, which is “the process of healing from childhood wounds by intentionally making choices in your own best interest.”
For most of us, even those coming from the healthiest and most secure of households, we have old traumas and wounds from our childhood that we may still be affected by today. Obviously, nobody’s parents are perfect, and thereby, the way you were raised may not have been what you needed to feel safe and thrive. As a result, you may act out old dynamics with your parents with others or be triggered by past wounds without even realizing it. While there is a lot that goes into the reparenting process (I’m just getting started on my reparenting journey, so this is all new to me too!), the one facet that I’d like to focus on today is joy.
Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. When I think of the word joy, it does coincide with childlike wonder. It is part of the reparenting process because if you weren’t able to express or cultivate joy in your childhood on a frequent basis, then it would make sense that it would be difficult to come by in adulthood.
Perhaps you weren’t able to convey joy in your household, or maybe your living situation didn’t lend itself to being joyful - either way, if this element was not fostered in your younger years, you might have to look outside yourself to find joy, and that’s a cycle I think is worth breaking. I find this work to be important because, in my humble opinion, if you can generate your own happiness without having to always look externally for it then you will feel empowered and rooted in yourself. This is not to say that being happy over a romantic relationship or a material item is a bad thing, but there should be a balance between externally- and internally-generated joy.
So, that begs the question of what can we do on a daily or regular basis to create joy for ourselves? Well, according to Dr. LePera, there are plenty of options you can choose from:
Maybe you have to squeeze in sick jam session in your car on your way to work, or maybe you have to say no to something to put yourself first, either way, the more mindful we can each be at fostering happiness in our lives the better off we will be as a collective whole (in my opinion :D).
What are some of the ways that you cultivate joy in your life? Do any of the above ideas resonate with you? Feel free to share any other thoughts on this topic as well - I’d love to hear them!
Do you want to be able to spend more time with your kids? How about take that dream trip around the world? Maybe start a new business without having to worry about your financial survival? Or having enough saved up that it wouldn’t be financial crisis if you were without a paycheck for a while?
If any of that resonated with you then you may be an ideal fit for the F.I.R.E or FI movement. F.I.R.E stands for Financially Independent Retire Early or FI for Financial Independence. In essence, it means having enough money saved up to live off your investment returns or building up enough passive income to live off of and being able to make decisions without having to worry about your finances. There are numerous people that are achieving this feat in their 40s, 30s and even 20s!
I know it sounds like insanity to think about retiring at that age because we have always been told that we “must” work until we are at least in our 60s to be able to retire comfortably. The math is “shocking simply” as you can see in that article and for any of you that are numbers minded I’m sure that article will really hit home with you. Having enough money to retire, if you want, much sooner than 65 is a very real reality!
Most of us think we need millions of dollars to retire, which simply isn’t the case, if you live even a remotely optimized life. Think of how much less your life would cost if you didn’t have to spend money on car payments and housing costs alone? If you can get your housing cost and vehicle cost down to almost nothing that would reduce the average budget by 30-50% alone! Check out those links to see how to accomplish that and see a nice summary of Financial Independence here.
If you can save 50% of your take home pay that cuts your “mandatory” working career down to right around 16 years as you can see here. I say “mandatory” because you don’t have to stop working but you can and YOU determine how much, if any, you want to work. Being Financially Independent puts you in the driver’s seat for your life and allows you to live a life you design.
Yet, as my girlfriend is constantly reminding me, not everything is meant to be quantified and analyzed by the numbers and some things just come down to emotions and feelings. So for those of you that just want more time to explore your passions, spend time with kids or simply focus on yourself; I highly encourage you to check out the F.I.R.E. movement. Specifically, this and this podcast by ChooseFI to get a “WHY” and have a reason to make change in your life.
Regardless of whether you “retire” in your 30s or 40s or wait until you are in your 70s or 80s; being more mindful of your finances and your life in general is only going to enhance it from my experience. This is not about living a life of deprivation and saving 100% of your paycheck now to hopefully enjoy retirement down the road. The Financial Independence and the F.I.R.E. movement are about optimizing your life to spend money on the things that matter to you but doing so in the most efficient way possible and not wasting money on the things that don’t really matter to you.
Don’t be scared away of F.I.R.E. because you don’t think this is possible for you or it’s some marketing gimmick. Take some time to explore what really makes you happy and I think you will be pleasantly surprised how little that cost when we stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Utilize the aspects of FI that you like but don’t feel like you have to follow some specific path or all is lost. Try to get a little bit better every day and keep the F.I.R.E spreading!
Have you started on the FI journey? Sound off below!
The timing of writing about balance couldn’t be better for me (that’s quite the selfish statement for an article that’s meant to serve you, the reader, huh?) - I’m coming off one of the longer health flares I’ve been in that occurred due to being out of balance in most aspects of my life.
Upon looking up inspirational quotes for finding balance to share with you all, the first one jumped right out at me: “The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’ve lost it.” (Said by our good old friend anonymous.) A lot of times the advice and counsel given about balancing our lives is centered on creating balance, but what about being more in tune with signs that things are starting to come off the rails?
Before I go on, I’d like to note that I recognize that not everyone has the ability to easily create balance in their lives. Let me expand! I am a single female who lives with her parents, and although taking care of myself is sometimes a full-time job, I am really only responsible for myself and my wellbeing. So, if you find that some of this advice is only scratching the surface or doesn’t fully relate to your situation, please take it with a grain of salt (and maybe some Himalayan pink salt at that ;)).
Your health and wellness has taken a turn for the worse and you’re not sure why.
For those of you who don’t have chronic illnesses like myself, you may not experience a health crisis when things are becoming unbalanced, but perhaps you find yourself more anxious or depressed, you feel tired and may have trouble sleeping, you’re getting sick more often, or have a slew of other health symptoms.
While I’m certainly not a doctor, and nor am I advocating that all illnesses are a result of not being balanced and feeling stressed, please make time to listen to your body and mind during these periods - they’re trying to tell you something. Perhaps you haven’t been making time to exercise and it’s negatively affecting your mental health. Or, maybe you’re putting all your focus into work and not making enough time for play, which has definitely heightened my depression in the past.
Main takeaway here? A health issue is usually a sign that something external to you is going on that needs your attention, whether it be making more time for rest, movement, social activities, etc.
You are having trouble cultivating happiness in your daily life.
Happiness is something that has and probably always will be a popular cultural topic to discuss, but I don’t want this point to fall victim to the cute-sy advice we often hear of taking ourselves on a shopping spree or pursuing some external means to find happiness. Over the years, I have gone from being in states of elation to the darkest throes of depression and everywhere in between, and I am finding that right now, I am at my happiest when I make time to do the things I love outside of my everyday responsibilities, and to me, that’s my balance.
My version of balanced means incorporating movement into my daily life (read: dancing, running, yoga, etc.), doing one detox method for my health a day, meditating, spending time with friends, and making time to pursue other interests that set my soul on fire. When I make a concerted effort to follow this “formula”, which requires keeping balance at the forefront of my decisions, I am happier for it.
Happiness is different on a person-by-person basis too, so perhaps the first step you need to take is to write a list of things that make you happy, no matter how simple or weird you may think they are.
You’re engrossed with one facet of your life and you’re making excuses as to why that’s okay. When I wrote this point I had graduate school at the forefront of my mind. Sure, there were moments where I needed to bunker down and dedicate hours upon hours on end to my studies, but during my first semester I thought I had to be this way all the time. The excuses I made mainly centered around needing to get good grades and wanting to make sure my lesson plan was “perfect,” but I didn’t realize until later semesters that the world wasn’t going to end if I didn’t fully read every last word of a research article before class *gasp* (don’t tell my professors ;)).
Instead of being mindful about taking time to relax in a healthy manner, I would end up going to the other end of the spectrum and over do it in the partying department to compensate for my feeling bogged down by my work. Thankfully, balance came easier as semesters progressed, but the excuses I made were justification enough to try to happily exist in this unbalanced world I had created.
So, if you find yourself not feeling well, unhappy, and making excuses as to why you can’t make time to create a more holistic life, perhaps these action items and tips will provide some insight.
You don’t know what balance looks like to you
Action Item: Write down what makes you feel centered, happy, and healthy, and incorporate these things into your life more often.
You’re breaking promises to yourself surrounding balance
Action Item: Work on developing a compassionate practice of self-discipline by holding yourself accountable to doing at least one thing a day that creates more balance in your life.
The ability to remain consistent is a struggle
Action Item: Balance is a moving target, and sometimes we aren’t going to be able to do everything we need to do on a daily or weekly basis to remain balanced. Some things that have worked for me is creating a daily checklist and weekly calendar to keep myself consistent, and, you may even want to create a reward system for yourself too :)
Overall, I think a main component of better understanding balance is to get in touch with who we are as unique individuals. Another component is understanding when we don’t feel balanced and not like ourselves, so that we can prevent feeling burnt out or unfulfilled in our lives and instead find fulfilment and happiness.
How do you know when you’re feeling unbalanced? What do you do to get yourself back on track? Let me know in the comments below!
I’ve always had a few things that make me anxious. I do not like small enclosed spaces or packed crowds where you are touching everyone around you. But that is about it. We all may have some things that make us anxious and that is normal. However, times of change or transition can send the anxiety spiraling through the roof.
For the past seven months, I’ve been having these seemingly random moments of high anxiety that even begin to feel like panic attacks. They begin with racing thoughts, then my heart feels like it is about to jump out of my chest, and things just spiral from there. I would have constant thoughts of feeling trapped or thinking something bad is going to happen to me. This happened while driving in downtown Chicago, driving underground in Chicago, sleeping in New York, and a few other places. I had no idea what was going on because this had never happened before. These moments were happening in places and situations that had never made me anxious and even in the situations where I would normally feel anxious, I did not have racing thoughts and the physiological changes. This scared me. And made me even more worried and anxious about when or if this was going to happen again.
I needed to better understand where this energy was coming from and why it was affecting me now. I began to listen to different podcast about anxiety, learn more about what I was experiencing, consulted my counselor friends, and talked to a counselor personally a few times. All of this resulted in me understanding the anxiety that may come when you are making boss moves. It is almost as if the energy from removing myself from my comfort zone was manifesting itself as anxiety. See, the past year of my life has been a year of change and amazing opportunities with a lot on my plate. I’ve basically taken everything that I have been used to and turned life upside down for growth and truly doing the things I am passionate about.
When you’re making changes to grow and better yourself, change can be confusing, change can feel threatening, change can cause worry, change can make you feel as if you are not in control, and change can feel uncomfortable. One of the podcasts I listened to talked about how we somewhat get a “high” from doing things we are used to and comfortable with, so when change is happening in our lives, our brains are being rewired which can lead to discomfort and anxiety. So while making boss moves and doing amazing things in our lives is great, change is still change. But just because anxiety may be present, that does not mean something bad is going to happen, it may mean something amazing is going on and you are going in the right direction.
Continue in the right direction. Keep going. But tend to your mental health when needed. Ask questions, learn, and talk to someone. Besides these things, I took a couple of other steps to balance the anxiety with the boss changes I was making. I started to incorporate more mindfulness into my life. I needed time to relax, unwind, and let my brain breathe. One of the most helpful things I did was create an “anxiety card” that I keep on me. Doing this was honestly something I completely made up, but in the moment, I need reminders because when the thoughts start racing, it is hard to think rationally and logically. On the card, I wrote the most helpful things for me to remember if I feel anxious. Some of the things included are:
Be where you are, not where the anxiety wants to take you. Be present.
Be patient. Don’t be in a hurry to change your thoughts because they will pass.
Trust yourself. Trust the anxiety won’t hurt you.
Surrender and let go of needing certainty.
“I am having a worried thought. This is anxiety and that’s okay.”
“Anxiety is not dangerous, it’s just uncomfortable. I am fine.”
Helpful Tip: One of my favorite mental health podcasts is “Cleaning Up The Mental Mess with Dr. Caroline Leaf.” Episodes 73, 79, and 80 are ones I have listened to about anxiety.
Are the boss moves you’re making affecting your mental health? If so, how will you seek help to continue in the right direction? Are there helpful things you could write down to help you in the moment?
2018 was my best year for travel. Why? Well, I went on a couple of awesome international trips and took five FREE domestic trips. I get asked quite often how I did it, so I’ll share my go-to things to save on travel and plan my travels.
Travel Hacking (Southwest Companion Pass)
Travis wrote all about this in his blog post “Let’s Talk: Travel for FREE using Travel Hacking” (link below). Travel hacking is basically finding the deals and rewards you want for traveling. Not everyone wants the same things. Some people want free flights, some people want free hotel nights, or some people want cash back for spending. What do you want for your travels? Knowing what you want for your travels will help you determine how you want to get the perks and rewards. Rewards most often come from hotel rewards, airline rewards, and credit card rewards. Me personally, I’ve been all about the credit card travel rewards.
Travis’ Blog Post: https://www.letstalkblog.co/blog/lets-talk-travel-for-free-using-travel-hacking
Now I’ve seen a question floating around lately that asks “what is the best credit card for miles?” Honestly, the answer to that depends on you. Do you have a particular airline you like to fly? Do you want something for miles/points and hotels? Sometimes it’s not even about a particular card, it may be about who is offering the best entry points/miles at that time. The Points Guy (also mentioned in Travis’ article) is my go-to online source to compare credit card travel rewards deals.
2018 was my best year for travel because I racked up a ton of points through Southwest and got the Southwest Companion Pass. A co-worker initially told me about it because he had not paid for flights in years. When I initially wanted to get travel rewards from a credit card, I wondered “how on earth do people spend enough to get these points?” I am a pretty frugal person, so spending a lot is not my thing. The entry point deals are key! So with Southwest, once you earn 110K points within 1 calendar year, you will get the Southwest Companion Pass. With the pass, one person can travel with you for free the rest of the year in which you earned the pass and for the entire following year. You do have to purchase your flight in whatever way you want to, but your companion is completely free! I like Southwest because they have several cards. I opened 2 in order to get my 110K points. My co-worker continues the cycle by cancelling the cards when the pass is about to expire and then start all over again the next year. I like the pass because I not only accrued points, but I can always bring someone with me. And even if my points run out, my companion and I can just split the cost of the 1 flight. 50% off! I’ve also got into the habit of putting all of my spending on my cards and then pay them off every month. Hey, a few extra points can’t hurt. However, you must be very disciplined to manage your spending on your cards and paying them off. Travis’ article debunks some of the myths about credit cards and things to be mindful of. Also, here’s the link to The Points Guy article that helped me with getting the pass https://thepointsguy.com/guide/earn-southwest-companion-pass-new-year/.
The Device Matters
You see lots of articles that talk about what day and time to book travel. Now when it comes to time and day, I do not book travel during busy times, such as in the evening when most people are maybe home. While I think this does matter, I’ve found that the device I use definitely makes a difference. When I am making travel plans, I always leave out one device. The one device I leave out will be the device I actually book my plans on. Travel sites definitely track your behavior. If they see you keep searching something, they will raise the price. I can think of three instances where someone contacted me about a price change in their travel plans and when I told them to try from a different device, they noticed a difference. Now this is not a 100% guarantee, but I have seen a difference more often than not. While some may say that you can just clear your search history, I personally do not fully trust that method. I always leave one device that I do not search anything at all from.
Take the time to research
It is totally ok to ask people for their recommendations, but you also have to do on your own research. When people ask how did I find this and that, my answer is always “Google.” From activities, to hotels, to cool neighborhoods, to restaurants, I will spend a few hours finding the answers to any question I have. I will also go to Instagram and search the hashtag for whatever city I’m traveling to. That way, I can see where other people are going as far as cool sites to see and things to do.
What are your not so secret travel secrets?
It’s finally spring time: the weather is getting warmer, people are emerging from their hibernations, and nature is coming to life. Another element of this time of year that is usually on people’s minds is spring cleaning, where we open up all the windows, get some fresh air in the house, and make our abodes as sterile as possible. But what often gets lost in the shuffle is doing this same purging process for our mental health as well.
As someone who lives with seasonal depression, wintertime often leaves me feeling like an apathetic blob at the end of it. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way either: According to Psychology Today, seasonal affective disorder (SAD (As an aside, I will never get over that the acronym for seasonal affective disorder is SAD. We already know we’re sad.)) roughly affects 10 million Americans, and an additional 10-20 percent may have mild SAD.
Thankfully, once spring rolls around and I start getting more sunlight and spend more time outside I feel rejuvenated and can unshackle myself from the hold seasonal depression can have on me. Of course, it takes a little bit more than some sunlight and grounding myself in nature to feel better, so I’ve put together a short list of things that have helped me in the past and that I plan to do this spring to do some personal “spring cleaning.”
Analyze Your Hibernation Period
I think that taking time to hibernate isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but then again, I am an extroverted introvert (or are we just calling it an ambivert at this point?), so I need alone time to recharge. It becomes a problem when hibernation turns into isolation though, which is definitely an effect of seasonal depression for me.
This past winter was a doozy for me, so I retreated even more so than usual and I wasn’t very social. To make this experience beneficial, I plan on analyzing what truly led to me “going into my shell” to prevent it from happening again, or at least be more aware of the warning signs for next time. Now, if it was a healthy hibernation (e.g., taking alone time for self-care) you can reflect on that experience as well and give yourself a pat on the back for putting yourself first.
Reflect Back On Your New Year’s Resolutions
Did the wintertime derail you from achieving your New Year’s Resolutions or goals for 2019? If so, that’s completely okay. To be honest, I don’t even really remember mine, so obviously, I haven’t been doing much to achieve them! If you’re in the same boat as me, just treat today as the new starting point for your resolutions and goals and take things one day at a time.
You might even realize that you can get rid of one or some of your goals that no longer suit you, which is aok. It also may be helpful to take some time to meditate, journal, or reflect however else you prefer to get to the root of what your goals are for the remainder of the year. Most importantly, make sure that you don’t beat yourself up for not adhering to your initial timeline because that’s just a waste of your time :)
What Do You Want This Season To Bring You?
I’m a big believer of reaching out to the universe (feel free to swap out universe with whatever religious figure(s) you’d like) to ask it for what I’d like to see manifested in my life. Part of that process involves tapping into my inner energy through meditation, reflection, and writing, which makes this point is somewhat similar to the resolution one, but for this element of “spring cleaning” I’m asking you to take things a step further by listening to your inner needs and wants that may go beyond a surface-level goal (e.g., learn to love myself unconditionally). I’m talking about things that will feed your soul and help you “level up” as a human being, and something like don’t eat an entire jar of sunflower butter in one sitting (I know, I have a problem).
For this piece, you’ll need to really tap into self-care and self-love, while making sure to be patient. Sometimes it may take me a number of days or weeks to fully grasp what I actually need from the universe to transition into a new “season” of life, and it usually only happens when I feel centered, which can be difficult to do following the wintertime.
Do You Need To See A Therapist?
I’m definitely biased when it comes to this point, but I do think that most, if not all, people can benefit from seeing a therapist (read: a *good* therapist) if they have access to one. As I noted up above, wintertime brings with it depression and isolation: a recipe for negativity and irrational thoughts. Sometimes, we need help from an objective party to sort through what’s going on in our heads and tap into the logical mind (shout out to my therapist for helping me develop this skill).
You can also seek out support groups or self help books if the thought of going to a therapist is intimidating or just doesn’t vibe with you. Regardless, making sure that we take care of our mental state after a difficult winter is crucial to ensuring our happiness and health moving into springtime.
Identify A False Belief About Yourself And Work On Overcoming It
The comparison to spring cleaning with this point is that I’m suggesting you pick one false belief you have about yourself and throw it out into the “trash” and out of your head. We can carry untrue ideas about ourselves around for years, if not decades, and they can wreak havoc on our lives if never addressed. There’s a difference between being your worst critic versus being constructive towards yourself to spur growth, and taking the time to reduce instances of the former will do great things for your happiness.
Maybe you continually tell yourself you’re a horrible student, sibling, partner, etc. Perhaps you struggle with thinking you have to be perfect at everything or else the world will end. Or you may want to stop being negative about a physical feature. Regardless of your belief or how much it affects your existence, any time we work on shedding thoughts that don’t serve us we’re making forward progress.
Starting fresh with spring doesn’t have to just mean cleaning your house and getting rid of clothes, you can also get those cobwebs out of your head and work on your mental health. Doing even one or two things from my list will be helpful, as you’ll “clean out” some negative space in your head and free it up for more neutral or positive thoughts.
I know this list isn’t exhaustive though, so I’d love to hear from you all! What are some tips you have on doing “spring cleaning” for your mental health?
Most of us grow up with the dream of becoming a millionaire someday. We hope we will save plenty of money to enjoy our “Golden Years” in whatever fashion that may be. Yet deep down, many of us don’t actually believe we will ever be millionaires. That, or we simply do not have any type of plan to reach this goal.
However, what if I told you that one fairly simple decision could get you more than 3/4ths of the way there? How much easier do you think retirement would be with an extra $750,000 or more in the bank? Would that be worth driving a little older and maybe not as nice of a vehicle? That’s a personal decision for each of us and maybe you don’t believe me, but hopefully this example will help illustrate my point. I found this information and tons of other great financial tips on the fantastic podcast ChooseFI (Choose Financial Independence) and this content originally appeared on the blog Richmond Savers.
A fairly normal working career, at least according to society, is from age 22 to 67, so I will go ahead and present two different scenarios of car ownership over that time period. However, after listening to a few episodes of ChooseFI and checking out some other resources like Mr. Money Mustache’s article on the Simple Math behind retirement, I think you will quickly change that timeframe. I could go down the rabbit hole of financial independence, but that is a topic for another article, so today we are solely focusing on lowering the cost of car ownership.
Person A: Has a car payment of $300 a month for 5 years and then drives that same car for another 10 years with NO payments. Person A repeats this process 2 more times. As a result, Person A has 15 years of car payments but 30 years of NO CAR PAYMENTS.
Person B: Has a car payment of $300 a month for 45 years from age 22 to 67
Miracle of Compound Interest
Albert Einstein said that compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world and what separates the rich from the poor. By simply not having to make a car payment for 30 years and then saving that $300 a month, you would accumulate the nice sum of $108,000. However, that is nothing when looking at the effect compound interest has. Take a look at this chart to really see the difference one decision on car ownership can have on your life.
Person A (left column) has had their $108,000 in savings now turned into nearly $750,000 based on the power of compounding at an 8% annual rate of return, roughly the stock market historical average. Person B has $0 in their investment account after spending $300 a month for 45 years! I know some of you are thinking I’m crazy. I just want to reiterate that if you pay $300 a year for a car and then make NO payments for 10 years and repeat this process 2 more times you will have close to a million dollars if you invest the money you aren’t spending on a car payment!
Maybe you don’t think you can buy a vehicle for $300 a month or drive a vehicle for 15 years or a number of other issues. I would urge you not to get caught up in the details and instead grasp the overall concepts. Maybe you only save $200 a month for 7 years instead of 10 or maybe you save $400. Either way you are undoubtedly in a far superior financial position in 45 years if you buy modest vehicles and do not have a car payment for the entire 45 years. Look at this other chart to further grasp the yearly savings you can achieve by buying lower cost vehicles.
This chart compares a new car costing $30,000, a 5-year-old car costing $15,000 and a 10-year-old car costing $5,000. (This information is from ChooseFI and is a bit dated, but the overall concepts are still accurate in my opinion)
You save roughly $3,000 a year having a $15,000 vehicle and $5,000 a year having a $5,000 vehicle, as opposed to a $30,000 vehicle. $3,000 a year in savings compounded at 8% over 45 years is over $1,250,000 and $5,000 a year in savings is over $2 million! Do you still think you can’t become a millionaire? I hope this information will cause you to not only evaluate your vehicle payment but also your current savings amount in general and the power of compound interest.
So who wants to be a millionaire? (Said in my best Regis Philbin voice)
I came across a simple instruction a while back and the concept attracted me – paraphrasing here: Make a list of things you love to do, keep the list close to you and do the items listed often. I must add, this is meant to be a list of life’s simplest things that make you happy (yes, going to Hawaii for a month would make most everyone happy – but, this list needs to include things you can do regularly and without breaking the bank). Sometimes, you read something intriguing and you just do what you’re told, so I went straight to making my list:
Things I love to do:
All pretty simple things. All pretty easy to get up and do when time allows.
So, why am I telling you this? Why was the article I read telling me to do this?
So that we each have a list to visit when we’re feeling down, in a slump or when we finally have a few extra minutes to fill. So we can use this list as a gut check to make sure we’re filling our empty minutes with things we love. You’ll notice – ‘perusing social media’ didn’t make the cut… and, honestly, it wouldn’t make my list if my list went thru 100. So now, I’m intentional about not filling my free minutes with things that aren’t on my list. Too often, we have a few minutes so we flip through our phones and before we know it 15 minutes have passed and we’re not feeling refreshed at all. Rewind and fill those 15 minutes with something from our lists - #1. Play with Huck and Sage, for example - and feel fulfilled, and so happy.
When I’m feeling drained, like I can’t clean up another meal mess – we eat outside where cleanup is easier and much faster. Tally on the ol’ happy list and added bonus, our 3 year old thinks it’s really cool.
On our busiest weekends, I wake up a little earlier than normal and make a cup of coffee and sit outside and drink it. I’m freaking wild guys, W-I-L-D! Your items don’t have to be as crazy as early morning, pre-kid-wake-up coffee – they just have to be things you love. Partaking in simple pleasures fill us up!
This article wasn’t earth-shattering… Do things we love, huh? And, often? Hmm.
Genius? No. Awesome reminder? YES!
When was the last time you asked yourself, ‘what makes me happy?’ Ask now. Make your list. And then, try to do at least one thing off of your list daily. Don’t let the hustle of life keep you doing things repeatedly that don’t bring you joy.
Make your happy list, do your happy dance.
What's on your happy list?
I made the mistake a few weeks ago of asking my brother if he believes in what I’m doing. He didn’t say no but he didn’t say yes. A bit of that I attribute to my lack of clarity in explaining what I want to do to him because for some reason I find him incredibly intimidating but that’s an issue for a therapist. Instead, he said – and I’m paraphrasing – that he’s afraid I’ll never be happy. He didn’t know it but I just about started crying right there in his office. One, I was upset that one of my best friends didn’t scream that he believed in me and two, I was worried he might be right.
What is happy?
Well, a quick Google search will tell you that happy is a “feeling showing pleasure or contentment.” Happiness? It’s “state of being happy.” Since he said those words to me, I’ve been in a prolonged state of reflection, asking myself, “Rachel, are you happy?”
Well, in short, the answer is yes. When I answer this question, I think back to 2015 when I was unhappy and down right depressed. I remember those feelings like they were yesterday. A state of apathy, irritation, sadness and (somehow?) anger all rolled into one. Then, I think to where I am now. I am grateful that I am able to get upset with myself when I feel a ball dropping. It means I care about the balls. *That’s what she said.* (Yikes! What a sentence.)
Four years ago, I could not have told those negative voices in my head that they’ll pass in time. Today, I can. I also look back at what I’ve accomplished. I have a great day job. I side-hustle (not like a pro but I’m trying). I teach. I do a radio show. I run a YP blog (with some great writers). I am now an LLC. I will have my MBA in 6 damn weeks and I just finished a certification course to become a Professional Workshop Facilitator.
Now, don’t read the previous paragraph and think I’m bragging on myself. That’s not it at all. I worry that I grind so much, if I don’t take a moment and look up, my brother’s concerns will be valid and I’ll never be happy. I’ll never see the big picture of where I’m heading. And if I’m completely honest, I don’t always know what that picture is. I have an idea, of course. I see myself being a TED speaker and dropping Rachel-isms on people while getting cash money, and revitalizing my hometown with the cash I make. However, I also know that I may never get there.
Here’s what I know for sure (thanks, Oprah):
Four years ago, I did not care if I was happy or if I reached happiness. Today, I do. Today, I know what I enjoy and what makes me feel content. If something or someone doesn’t make feel that way, I throw the activity or person a mental funeral with a quickness. Today, I know I mess up (a lot, y’all); however, today, I pick myself back up and try again. Today, I know I am working towards something. Today, I know that I’m on the road to happy and/or happiness and for now, that’s enough for me.