We have been planning this vacation for over a year now and much like my aim towards financial independence (FI), I find myself enjoying the anticipation and the journey more so than the actual destination when the time has now arisen to reap the rewards from all our hard work.
Yesterday, my friend Kit brought to my attention that Mr. & Mrs. 1500 from the blog 1500days.com have achieved their goal of reaching "the double comma club" or in short, millionaire net worth status way before the anticipated 1500 days expected. Prior to that she also brought to my attention that FI Fighter, another blogger I follow intimately, was about to "make the jump" to early retirement until he decided to continue his journey a little longer in September. What each of these two achievements have in common is that each person has worked extremely hard to reach these goals, and plenty of readers including myself have enjoyed following them on their respective journeys as they got closer and closer to securing them. However, while I'm excited and happy that each has respectively attained their objectives, I can't help but feel as a reader a sense of emptiness. It's as if it begs the questions, "So what now? What's next?" Do they now "live happily ever after"? Unfortunately life is very different from a Disney fairy tale ending.
In the case of 1500, he promises to continue his journey with a new aim to permanently be part of the double comma club, recognizing that his millionaire membership may be only temporary since a majority of his net worth is tightly correlated to the performance of the stock market. With FI Fighter, well, he shares with his readers why he has decided to postpone early retirement for the new opportunity that has presented itself to him and how he hopes that it will solidify his plan for a nicer retirement. Both has promised to continue to share their journeys with us until they hit their next milestone.
As for me, I too have set personal milestones for myself. Along the way, this included going to a good university, getting a Masters degree, reaching a six-figure salary income, getting married, having children (now two) and achieving early FI. I have accomplished all except the last part. And even with early FI, I have already achieved my initial goal of having 25 times my annual expenses in net worth. Heck some say that the numbers by itself should be enough for me to claim early retirement. However when 1/3 of it is tied to home equity and another 1/2 is tied to retirement accounts, it makes me wary to take any leap of faith for early FI now. Rather, I have set new goals for myself of getting enough annual passive income in my after-tax accounts before I decide whether to make the jump.
I'd be lying if I don't say, part of me worry that I never will "make the jump". Another part of me is even more worried that I don't feel a great sense of happiness nor excitement each time I achieve these personal milestones. Before you worry, I'm not clinically depressed. It's more like apathy. I'm content, not exhilarated. I think part of it is because i'm conditioned to not really want or need anything to be happy.
Rather, if I were to think more about what makes me really happy, I realize that I find many small moments of joy when I'm playing with my son, swimming with my daughter at the local YMCA or hiking snow cap mountains with my closest friends. I guess what I've learned is that the milestones we are all expected to achieve, including financial ones aren't the ones that really make me happy. Rather they are stop and view points in my journey that keep me progressing on the right trail to help me secure the things that really do make me happy. While I lament that the anticipation of our trip will be over, I'm focused on enjoying the present moments with my friends and family while we bum around the beach, splash around the pool, and drink cocktails while sharing memories and stories with each other. I'm going to enjoy the journey.