I attended a meetup last weekend for the local ChooseFI group I belong to. It was actually more of a presentation. The group tries to do several throughout the year, balancing educational with social. Yesterday’s presentation was about the recent tax changes.
Since I’m in the midst of doing taxes for all of my family members, I figured it would be worth it to attend and see if I could glean a few pointers from the discussion.
Also, I’m trying to make myself attend more of these events to be more social because a discussion on taxes is clearly a social excursion.
But given that I work from home, I can sometimes go a whole week without ever leaving the house. I’m a homebody and don’t see the need to go out just to go out.
Some people think that’s weird. But I know it’s just the way I’m most comfortable.
Since making the conscious effort to co-mingle with the human race, I’ve found this local chapter of Choose FI to be a great place to interact with others. We’re all interested in money topics, and I don’t even need to say anything if I don’t want to. I can just sit back and listen.
I’ve met many group members who know a lot and are more than happy to share their knowledge. This is helpful since this whole FI (Financial Independence) concept is still relatively new to me.
But a funny thing happened as the meeting was commencing and we were going around the table doing introductions.
Truth Be Told
As a conversation icebreaker, we were asked to go around the room and tell why we are “choosing FI.” As each person told their personal and unique reason “why,” it finally came to be my turn.
And I knew I could either replicate the types of things others were saying, essentially making something up. Or I could be upfront and lay it all out there on the table.
So deciding to throw caution to the wind, I explained what I was doing there and how I got to be a part of the group.
It’s not to choose financial independence, build wealth, or work remotely from an island. Although that would be cool to do someday.
The real reason I’ve become involved with the personal finance community is because:
I’m in debt.
Or really, my entire family is in debt. But yes, I fully admit I was involved in the overall accumulation of it. And that debt is currently the bane of my existence.
Others in my household are not quite as concerned with it. They believe having debt is the “American way”. But I’m learning there are better ways to live my life.
And I, for one, am planning to get there.
No Woman Is an Island
So with 13 sets of eyes turning to look at me (which is a socially anxious person’s absolute nightmare), I began my explanation, which turned out to be quite the diatribe.
To start, while I don’t quite feel “old,” I am one of the older participants in the group.
Ah, millennials — Y’all sure have your sh*t together, pardon my speech. If I could only go twenty years back in time, my finances would indeed look very different. Granted, I wouldn’t change anything else during that timeframe (except maybe a few hairstyles)
But the other “younger folk” in the meeting — they are just kickin’ butt and taking names! They’re preparing for retirement, creating a nest egg for the future, and creating savings accounts for their children to get a kick start once they are older, adopting a minimalist lifestyle, being as frugal as they need to be, and making wise money decisions.
And here I am, yearning for the chance to be in their shoes. To do everything differently, get a second chance at being a financially-savvy human.
I received encouraging smiles and nods as I proceeded with my rant. But I had a feeling they were internally wondering, “Who let this crazy lady into our meeting?” Until one of them finally interrupted, giving me the grace to catch my breath.
She said, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes, and you’re doing all you can to make things better now.”
So why beat yourself up?
Indeed. Because lamenting the past contributes absolutely nothing to your future.
Maybe I just wanted to justify prior decisions. To show everyone, I now know better and want to be where they are. To explain the respect I have for them — for being so smart with their money at such a young age.
The Princesses of Serendip
Coincidentally, I read a very timely article on this topic a few days later. It was written by a personal finance blogger who I respect highly, plus I had the great pleasure to meet last year at FinCon.
Her article is directed toward middle-aged women who are trying to reinvent themselves. That it’s never too late to make positive changes, no matter how old you are, and instead of focusing on all the years missed, you should focus on the opportunities you can nurture going forward.
This resonated with me because I often feel overwhelmed with all of the improvements I’d like to make. But when you look at everything in smaller manageable pieces, perhaps little mini-goals, it makes the overall change seem more achievable.
And while the work involved might be intimidating, you need to do hard things. Because if you float through life without challenging yourself, there’s no way you’ll ever grow as a person.
This brings me back to the topic at hand, as indicated in this post’s title.
Why can’t I be financially independent?
Why can’t I pay off the debt, boost my savings, and start creating wealth? Is it too late for that? Well, it depends on how far I’d like to take it.
What type of life I’d like to have in retirement if I can retire. Not to mention what other curve balls life might throw at me. Because in the words of Julie Chen-Moonves, you need to “Expect the unexpected.”
But also, in the words of country singer Wynonna Judd, “Why not me?”
The debt payoff journey has already started. As long as I can keep that going, we’ll eventually get there. So why can’t I become like the others on a mission to become financially independent?
Why not me?
A clean slate. To start investing, picking up the pieces of my paused retirement plan, and running with it.
I am exploring the possibilities of where I’d like my life to take me. Or really, where I plan to take it.
Because this middle-aged late-starter is in control of this ship.