Last week, I got a letter from my past self. I wrote it the previous year, on August 5th, 2018.
This time last year, I had lived in my new town a mere month. I had no idea what the future would hold, nor what the school year would be like for the boys, nor how working remotely would work out for Mr. ThreeYear.
But I hoped and I wished. Here’s what I wrote:
Dear Future Me, What a surprise to get my second letter from the past today! This time last year, I had just come back to New Hampshire from South Carolina. I hoped to have spent my entire trip South there this year. It feels almost unbelievable that we’ve actually moved to North Carolina, that we actually live full time in the South now. We reached our goal a full year earlier. We’ve reached so many of our goals. We paid off our debt. My blog has continued to grow. I am a freelance writer. We have an exciting Disney trip coming up next month. We’ve improved our grocery spending.
In some ways, it feels hard to think about next year at this time. When so many goals and plans have come true, where do we go next? I know I’d like to find a way to make money that doesn’t rob my focus on my family. Is that writing full-time? I hope I’ve figured it out by next year, that I’ve taken my time and figured out the right path.
This article, written over a year ago now, is timely. I’ve been looking for jobs for next year. Looking for jobs isn’t fun. It’s an exercise in humility, effort, and rejection required to be undertaken daily. One of the reasons I blog is to remind myself of lessons I’ve learned that I can easily forget as time goes on. I wish that I could learn a lesson once and internalize it forever. Alas, these life lessons are to be learned over and over again.
As educators, wrote an article I recently read, we must teach our students the relationship between effort and achievement. That is to say, there is a direct correlation between the effort we expend on a particular endeavor and the likelihood that we’ll have success in said endeavor.
This may sound like a basic concept, but, like so many basic concepts, once you take a minute to unpack it, it has profound implications.
The more effort I put into something, the more likely I am to have good results.
Many times, I water that advice down in my head. I pretend there’s not a direct correlation between my level of effort and my achievements: “I’ll just run three times this week instead of four. I’ll skip the mid-range run.” Every time I skip a mid-range 6-mile run, my longer 10-12 mile run is super painful and I’m slower. Over an entire training period, that means I’ll run (even) slower on race day.
“I’m tired, so I’ll wake up at 6am instead of 5am. I can still write a blog post.” That’s when I publish 2 posts per week, not three. Over time, I notice my page views slipping and readership going down.
“I’ll just wing it in class, instead of preparing a lesson plan for the week. I can prep before class each day.” My classes are not as good, I’m scrambling for activities to fill the time, and over time, my students don’t make as much progress learning English.
The truth is, consistent, daily effort pays off. It pays off in life, and it pays off (literally) when you’re working towards financial independence.
Making More Money
In the past two and a half years, I have expended a great deal of effort towards my new career–ESOL Teacher. When I started teaching in September of 2015, I knew very little about teaching English. I worked very hard to network with other teachers, observe their lessons, ask questions, and take copious notes. I started a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and many nights and weekends were spent reading, on our online classroom, or in class, an hour and a half away. Continue reading “Effort, Achievement, and FI”
May is here! Flowers are blooming like crazy at our house, and temps are slowly creeping up into the uncomfortably warm. Which I’ll take! I feel like I spent eight years never getting quite warm enough in New Hampshire. Now, I’m spending my afternoons playing tennis in the sunshine. Life is good (yes, I’m going back to work at some point!).
As I’ve looked back over pictures that I wanted to add to this post, I was amazed at how much went on this month. Mr. ThreeYear went to visit his family in Chile, my niece was born!!, we spent a week at the beach with friends, and we had so many other fun adventures. April has definitely been chock full of fun. And our spending has matched!
This was a great month for net worth, because it’s the month Mr. ThreeYear’s stock “gift” comes in. We call it a “gift” but it’s really part of his overall compensation package. It varies pretty significantly from year to year, but this year it was pretty good (and the second largest ever). He works for an ESOP company, meaning the company is owned 100% by its employees, and so they receive a chunk of stock each year, commensurate with a predetermined percentage of their salaries.
Each year, in December, an independent company comes in, audits the stock, and sets the price for the year. So the stock price, and therefore the entire value of Mr. ThreeYear’s stock portfolio, is dependent on the auditors. They base the price on the market, competitors’ stock prices, debt held by the company (which is not much), and more. The stock price has been growing steadily over the years, but that doesn’t mean it always will. Nevertheless, it’s now become a significant chunk of our net worth. We won’t be able to access it until Mr. ThreeYear leaves the company or retires, and even then it’s distributed over five years. So even though it’s a big part of our net worth, we have to be careful not to rely on it too much since we’ll be limited in the way we access it in retirement.
“Stay in your own lane.” I repeat this quote to myself often these days, as a reminder to keep my proverbial head down and focus on my own life, rather than rubbernecking somebody else’s. While a lot has changed in the two years since I first published this post, the veracity of living your own life remains the same.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
About three years ago, I was talking to a friend about training for a half marathon. “I would really love to finally run a sub-two (13.1 miles in under 2 hours),” I told him, “like [our other running friends.] But I’m just so slow!” “You have to run your own race,” he told me.
Those words have stuck with me, probably because I struggle mightily with comparisons. I know, intellectually, that comparing yourself to others is the root of poor self-esteem. We all start at different places in life, and that if we compare one part of our life with someone else’s, we should compare every part of our life. I know this. And yet…Continue reading “How to Run Your Own Race”
The authors contend that goal-setting makes it difficult to deal with randomness and change, something we definitely noticed last year. After all, a mid-year move to North Carolina wasn’t on our yearly goal sheet! We realized that said move was way more important than words on a piece of paper and adjusted accordingly.
We all need a little help in life. When it comes to staying on track with our goals, friends and partners can make a huge difference in your success rate.
For example, I’m currently training for a half marathon. A college friend reached out to me to see if I wanted to sign up with her. We live about 40 minutes apart, so we can’t train together, but we text each other our stats.
On Saturday, I needed to run 8 miles. I’d arranged with another neighborhood friend to run early Saturday morning. The night before, Friday night, a friend had a get-together. If I had to run those eight miles by myself, with no one to support me or keep me on track, I’m sure I would have stayed way too late at the get-together and would have found a reason not to get up the next morning.
This is the end, my only friend… (cue The Doors music). We have reached the last few days of the year. You know why I love this time of year? Let me be honest:
presents. I love getting them, and I love giving them.
year-end bonus. Mr. ThreeYear gets his bonus in December so we have this whole chunk of extra money burning a hole in our pockets (okay, not really-it usually goes to worthy financial goals. But we still splurge a little with it).
Christmas music. It’s cozy and it reminds me of happy Christmases of yore (another totally holiday-appropriate word, yore is).
Family. I get to hang out with my extended family during the holidays.
New beginnings! The end of the year is the time when I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals, which gives me a happy, productive feeling, and then I have the excitement of creating a new goal sheet for the coming year.
While I gave you an update midyear , let’s see how I ended the year with these goals.
Last year, I published a guide for setting great goals in 2018. I thought it was worth revising for 2019. I’m excitedly setting goals for the coming year, and I have some great ideas brewing. This is the first year I’m goal setting for the blog, too! Enjoy your weekend, and if the mood strikes, put some goals to paper for 2019.
One thing is clear to me as we ride out the end of this year: if you set great goals for 2019, it will make a huge difference in what you’re able to accomplish next year. The world we live in today is practically designed to distract us from keeping our eyes on our most important goals and work (for example, as I’m typing this, I’m trying to ignore the loud cartoon my kids are watching across the room). So focus is key. And great goals help you keep your focus, all year long.
But how do you figure out the best goals to set for the upcoming year? Maybe you have fifteen burning desires that you’d love to achieve, but you don’t know how to prioritize them. Or maybe life is motoring along just fine, and you know you’d probably like to improve something, but you’re not sure what.
I found myself asking those exact same questions several years ago, and here’s what I’ve figured out really works when it’s time to goal set for the upcoming year.
1. Get Crystal Clear on your Values
It’s hard to prioritize your goals if you haven’t defined your values. What are your values, though? Values are what you judge to be the most important things in your life–the things that deep down, you care about the most. Given that definition, it seems like it would be easy to figure out your values. But it’s not always.
Sometimes, you want to value something that you actually don’t care about that much. For example, when I was in my 20s, I lived in Santiago, and Mr. ThreeYear and I were figuring out where we should go next. I was offered the opportunity to become part of an MBA program where I’d complete half in Chile and half at a great school in Texas. But I declined, ostensibly because I wanted to get into a top-10 MBA school, like Wharton. In the end, though, we moved back to the US and I didn’t go to an MBA school at all. To the shock of almost everyone in my family, I became a stay-at-home mom for seven-and-a-half years. It turns out that what I thought were my values–getting an MBA and climbing the corporate ladder–weren’t really my values at all. I really valued family, which was the real reason I didn’t stay in Chile to start an MBA, because I missed my family back in the US and wanted to go home. And I really valued motherhood, and making sure my children had a secure start in life.
One of the best ways I’ve found to figure out your real values is the “What do I want?” exercise. It’s fairly simple. You take out a sheet of paper, and at the top, write, “What do I want?” Now, all you do is list the things you want. They can be as small and insignificant, or as large and pie-in-the-sky as you want. Anything that comes to mind goes on the list.
When you start this exercise, your first few wants will probably be fairly trivial and perhaps materialistic.
Hi there! It’s Wednesday and time for another installment of Your Three Year Experiment, featuring people who are sharing their own three year experiments–their plans, goals, and dreams for the next three years.
Today’s post is from Claudia from Two Cup House. Claudia is a personal finance blogger, SEO consultant, and trainer who moved into a tiny house with her husband Garrett in order to get closer to financial independence.
Claudia and her husband paid off six figures in debt in just a few years by downsizing to a tiny house and starting their own business. Now, they’re pursuing FI, but not RE (that’s financial independence, but not retiring early). Read on to find out:
how they were able to pay off $200,000 in a short time
how they’ll balance building their business with travel
the one place in their budget they’re not frugal
If you’d like to be featured in the series, send me a note! My contact info is on the Start Here page.
What’s your background? Early years, education, married, kids, jobs?
We grew up in different parts of Pennsylvania and have spent most of our lives here. Unsurprisingly, we’re Penn State grads.
My husband, Garrett, and I live in a 500 sq ft house in Lancaster County, PA. We don’t have kids (and don’t plan to have kids).
Today, we’re self-employed. We run our own marketing consulting and training business.
How did you come to the realization that something needed to change in your life?
At the end of 2014, we heard a radio program about personal finance. People were talking about getting out of debt, which was unusual to us. After hearing enough episodes, we sat down to take a look at our own debt and found we had more than $200,000 in debt (including a mortgage), which made us both feel quite uneasy.
What will that change look like?
Deciding to downsize and sell our home was the first big step. I found a full-time job. And, we started a side hustle. All of this happened within the first four months of 2015. Once we put a plan in place, we wanted to make all the big changes as fast as possible.
Now, we’re pursuing some level of financial independence. We seek to invest enough to have dividends to cover our basic expenses, so we invest half of our income toward the goal.
How are you employing a three-year experiment to make it happen (i.e., what’s your three-year plan)?
Since we’re doing well with our finances, we decided we don’t have to rush to the finish line. Balancing work and life is the focus this year.
The first year of our three-year plan will be 2019. We will begin traveling the US and invest half of our income. And, we’re launching a new project that will help us grow our business.
The second year of our three-year plan is to bring in a partner of sorts to help us grow your new project (and subsequently our business). Scaling this new project requires more help than we have today, a necessary step to maintaining work-life balance. We’re planning to travel more of the US and then also take a trip to Europe for a few months.
The third year of our three-year plan is to improve our second-year efforts by looking at the data, figuring out what works so we can continue doing more of that, and eliminating what doesn’t work to make us more efficient. We’ll be traveling around our favorite parts of the US and abroad to find a small plot of land we can call “home” in the future.
What have been some challenges you’ve run into?
With respect to our personal finances, we have a tendency to push the “easy” button when it comes to dinner, so we’re not always the most frugal.
What have you found easier than expected?
Living in a small house makes life a lot easier. We don’t spend as much time cleaning or maintaining a home as we used to. We find we’re happier than we were in the big house.
Do you think you’ll reach your goals in three years? Longer? Shorter?
I think it’s going to take us more time than we expect to grow our business, but since we’re on the slow road to financial independence, we’re not all that concerned if it takes another year to get there.
However, I think we’ll find our next patch of grass sooner rather than later. We’ve wanted to relocate for several years and have already identified a few places we like.
What are you looking forward to once you’ve reached your goal(s)?
Having the ability to take our business on the road with us is the goal, so I’m looking forward to the start of our travels 2019. Achieving financial independence will just be the icing on the cake.
Hi there! Today is the second in my new series, Your Three Year Experiment, featuring people who are sharing their own three year experiments–their plans, goals, and dreams for the next three years.
Today’s post is from Trevor, a freelance writer who writes on behalf on Porsche Atlanta Perimeter. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, spending time with his family, jamming on his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable. In this interview, he’ll share:
the surprising tipping point to him finally getting sober
his three-year plan to create a massive savings fund for himself
how’s he able to make a living as a freelancer
If you’d like to be featured in the series, send me a note! My contact info is on the Start Here page.
What’s your background? Early years, education, married, kids, jobs?
I was the “good kid” in high school and even maintained that in my early days of community college. This was before addiction took hold. In my early 20s, I started partying hard. It felt like I became the “cool kid” I always wanted to be. I’d never say no to a night of drinking, and everyone knew it. They’d all call me whenever they wanted to go out, and I wasn’t one to disappoint. I’d close out any bar on any night of the week.