For the first time in a long while, I do not feel anxious about where I am financially or fearful of the future. There were several financial milestones that I hit recently which have helped:
I am now debt-free, having paid off my share of the mortgage this month. Knowing that I no longer have a large monthly required payment is incredibly freeing.
With the recent rise in markets, I joined the two comma club in net worth (including real estate). It feels like an accomplishment, though like others have shared in financial forums I feel far from rich.
Since I front-loaded my savings, I am closing out my guilt-free spending months as we reach the end of the year.
The more impactful changes that have occurred in the least few months have less to do with financials but a change in life perspective.
I was previously suffering from long-term burnout and viewing financial independence as a vehicle to "get out" of my life, and yet at the same time did not have the energy or mindset to think about crafting and designing the life I wanted. After taking a few weeks off to focus specifically on my health, I was surprised at how effective it was at giving me a 'reset' and change in perspective.
Somewhat involuntarily, stressful work experiences from even years ago crept up to mind and I was able to revisit them with the benefit of distance and time. Taking the time to process these events was uncomfortable, healing, and gave me the opportunity to reframe a constructive narrative to takeaway from them.
I re-established foundations for physical health. This included not just consistently exercising, but allowing myself to commit to and pursue fitness goals and try hard at it.
Listening to interviews of professional rock climbers still going strong at it in their 70s made me realize a couple of things: first, life is vibrantly long if one prioritizes their health, and second, I connected with the fire and passion to do something bigger and better....and felt that connection more with my professional career and work rather than my hobbies. Realizing this reinvigorated visions and dreams of what I'd like to accomplish in my career.
Thinking about my parents in a similar manner as how one might think of precious time with children before going off to college, I realized that I may only have a few more golden years available where both my parents are in relatively good physical and mental health. I'd like to take advantage of this time and my financial position to help create memories and experiences together as a family.
Finally, I've been experimenting over the last month with deliberate lifestyle creep, and thinking about what I find valuable and not.
Paying for Services (highly valuable): I have truly enjoyed paying for services -- some that I previously would never have considered. I now pay for a regular monthly deep cleaning of the house, annual car detailing, hair salon color and cut treatments, dog grooming, and more.
Delivery/Take-Out: I still prefer to pick up my food rather than pay for delivery services, especially since I have several local options available in walking distance.
Cooking vs. Eating Out: Outside of special/social occassions, I'd like to limit dining out a bit more or find ways to stretch it through a combination of fast-casual rather than blowing a large amount on a single meal. I really enjoy cooking as a process and believe that my meals tend to be healthier and a better time and money value than eating out.
Weekend Coffee: We usually brew a large pot of coffee each morning during the week, and are starting a tradition of taking a walk to the local coffee shop on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I really enjoy this weekend ritual and look forward to continuing it.
Paying more for airline tickets: This year, I am experimenting with a slight upgrade in airline comfort by paying for Economy Plus seating with United Airlines. It's not quite first/business class, but I am hoping that the extra legroom can offer more breathing room and rest. I still cringe at the thought of spending thousands for a single flight ticket to get business class, so I consider this to be a "baby step" towards comfort.
I'm looking forward to organizing my finances next month, closing out the year, and setting new goals for 2024. Front-loading my savings and investments in previous years has been quite nice, but one downfall was feeling like I was "racing" towards a savings goal. For 2024, especially now being debt-free without a mortgage, I may still frontload but take a 'smoother' glide path that is less aggressive.