Don’t get me wrong; I love Jonathan Chevreau’s information. I greatly respect the path he is sharing with us to become “findependent” long before retirement. As an investment advisor at the beginning of my career, I’ve been surrounded by charts and graphs showing how starting investing in your 20’s is the best way to use compounding interest to create a massive nest egg. And how every year that you wait your chances of amassing anything decent wane.
This fills me with dread and regret. Dread and regret! Looking at these charts does more harm than good to me. And I know I’m not alone. We are a very self-involved culture; and when we learn new information we immediately relate it to our own life. How do these graphs relate to me? They tell me, “You screwed up bigtime.”
I’m forty-something and had a very privileged childhood. From private school to boarding school to college I never thought about money or what anything cost. I spent my summers traveling, never had a summer job, and by 21 I had been to every continent except Antarctica and Australia. I felt jaded. All I did was shop and party. I remember saying, “I’ve done it all.” I feared that the rest of my life held nothing but a monotonous rich girl’s Groundhog Day. That was far from the truth.
An inheritance carried me through the rest of my 20’s while I flipped houses and worked on a few half masters degrees. I met my fabulous husband, who was in the same boat mentally at the time. We floated along adding more degrees and certifications to our higher learning (nothing particularly business or money-driven; we studied acupuncture, meditation, yoga, archetypal psychotherapy, art).
We flipped a house in Austin and moved to California and this time we did things differently: we didn’t by another house. Instead we decided to put the money into a business – a yoga studio – how could we go wrong? Famous last words. Knowing nothing about business, taxes, accounting, marketing – we have been under a mountain of debt for a decade now and have learned more lessons the hard way than we ever thought possible.
After that sustained level of suffering I decided to take a tax course to see what all the hoopla was about. Fascinating stuff! I’ve been a tax preparer ever since. I started my own tax business 2 years ago, am still hanging by a thread financially, still with a mountain of debt, but I’m thrilled to go to work in the morning! Retire? I think not. I’ve just now figured it out. The thought that I would only do this for the next 25 years and retire at 65 is a nightmare. I want to be chatting with clients and enjoying the puzzle of tax returns until I can’t lift my body out of bed in the morning.
So I got a late start. And I think a lot of other people are in the same boat. I’m not convinced that it is a generation X experience. I believe there are many people that are “middle-aged” (if we’re still calling it that) who are just getting a late start to living a passionate work life. Maybe they had a job in their past life and they quit that job to follow a dream (with or without adequate savings). And now they are bombarded with age-based charts of how much money they need for this old-timey “retirement” thing and they are filled with dread. Wake up people! You are in a different class, you are the happy income people!
I call it happy income. Income derived from something you are passionate about and that you can see yourself doing until you can’t do anything anymore. Most people have unhappy income. They hate their job, the people they work with; or they’re just bored to tears. You can tell who the unhappy income people are: they are the ones with #TGIF all over their social media, and an “I hate Mondays” sign in their office with the image of Garfield or another cat looking disgruntled. This is not us!
We are the happy income people. We may not have much of a financial portfolio, but we have a “life portfolio” that we are currently enjoying the crap out of. 70 is the new 30 – just ask my mom. She is 78 and spends her days running around like a chicken with her head cut off looking for things to do. She started a career in acting at 55 and, if you know any actors, they have a lot of free time in between auditions. The “retirement” concept of yesteryear is outdated and needs to be put to sleep.
If you are long in the tooth and feel like you’re just starting out financially don’t stress. When you read articles on millennials who are already financially independent, just know that you are in a class of people that has taken a different path. Yes, debt sucks. Yes, watching the bull market and knowing you could have made a bunch of money sucks. Yes, looking at your classmates/former colleagues facebook pics of extravagant vacations and new summer homes sucks. But if you could take a pic of your “sustainable happy income situation” I believe they would look at that pic longingly (in secret of course).
If you’re keeping your head above water and building something that you care about you are in an enviable position. Because happy income is forever.
* This was my first post, but there is more to come re: the less traveled path of happy income. Hopefully each of our unique journeys can help us to tread uncommon financial paths with less worry that we’ve fallen behind. 🙂