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are we rich

Finding Freedom Week 42: The Series Finale

by Phia @ Freedom 101

I know. I’ve been gone for awhile. And I am going to talk about the why, and what comes next for me and my family. Just not quite yet.

This post, I wrote a couple months ago, but due to a number of events that happened over the summer, I chose to take a break from blogging and never published it. Now, it seems only right to wrap up the Finding Freedom series with these thoughts, before I shed some light on what’s happened, and what’s coming next at the Freedom 101 household.

After just over a year of working at designing my best life, and 42 posts delving into that self examination, I’ve decided to conclude the series with one of the insights that I found to be most valuable.

Particularly to me, and my frame of mind.

Let’s start with how this mindset shift started.

Are We Rich?

I’ve long had an aversion to the word rich. I associate it with silver spoons, snotty kids, and pretentious adults. People who consume too much, don’t care much about other people, and generally fail to see the bigger picture in life.

Not to mention, my core nature has always thrown me to the opposite end of the spectrum. Something more akin to a scarcity mindset. Earn more, save more, delay gratification. Make hay while the sun shines because the rainy days will come, kind of thought process.

This is so engrained in my nature, that somedays I even struggle to wear that new white t-shirt, less it lose that brilliant white that only lasts so long.

My inclination is always to save it for later, whether it’s a special bottle of wine, asking someone for help, or money.

In short, YOLO is not my jam.

Because that’s my nature, frugality and Financial Independence were a seamless fit for me. The idea of cutting expenses, increasing savings rates, and ultimately self-reliance, fed all of my inner drivers. My competitive nature, my pursuit of perfection, my love of visible/consistent progress, and a sense of control and ownership over the trajectory of my life.

If I’m being honest – this approach to life has worked really well for me. In most aspects of my life. Certainly not all, but definitely the ones we most frequently associate with success.

And through all of it, I always saw myself as being in pursuit of something. In the acquisition phase of life.

At least I thought that until at one point in this past year I was forced to ask Mike – “wait a minute, are we rich?”.

Mike looked at me like I suddenly had a second head. “Um, of course we are. Look at our life.” came his reply.

He graciously left the “Duh” off the end of his sentence. But it was implied.

Immediate identity crisis.

I have always thought I would be rich one day. When I was a kid, I would regularly turn architect/interior designer, and map out my very own McMansion.

Complete with a massive tree fort style play park in the back yard. My priorities in child hood were clear.

In hindsight – maybe my architecting ways were a clue I should have followed a different career path. I distinctly remember taking a series of Personality Tests in my late 20’s that cumulated in the assumption that I should have been an architect, engineer, or accountant.

Whoops – I really got that one wrong.

But back to the are we rich thing.

As much as I thought I would one day be rich, I just never saw myself as crossing that threshold. I saw myself as someone who was on their way to being rich. But still in the hardworking, relatable regular person kind of way. I guess that’s what happens when you build wealth slowly over time.

Exactly which penny is it that pushes you from the regular person yard line, into the “I’m rich” end zone?

I very much missed the arrival of said penny.

Let me be perfectly clear though.

We aren’t rich in the we have money to throw around willy nilly, private jet, buy a lambo kind of rich that we all associate with excessive North American living. Not even in the lets fly first class kind of way (although I’m secretly hoping for that one day when we are travelling sans kiddos).

But more in the, I never worry about money anymore. And my family is not wanting for anything (within reason) kind of way.

Like rich compared to a significant percentage of North American people, and certainly the vast majority of the rest of the world.

Ironically, I think if most (North American) people saw all aspects of how we live, how we manage our money and spending, and what we own, they would classify us as “upper middle class”, or something to that effect. And up until very recently, I would have too. But now, I think I was wrong.

Two things made me come to this sudden, and long overdue, realization of our real wealth.

1 – My association of RICH as a nasty word

Awhile back, I read an awesome post written over at One Frugal Girl, titled When Rich Feels Like A Dirty Word. It planted a seed that stuck with me.

First off – Jewels is a phenomenal writer, and a veteran blogger in the Personal Finance space. Amazingly, I only discovered her last summer when she authored a piece about going through a very similar experience to my health scare. Her words resonated with me immediately.

This piece was no exception, and it lingered in the back of my mind.

I absolutely equate the word “rich” to all sorts of nasty inferences and connotations. Even as I’m writing this, the thought of calling myself rich out loud, to other people, has me making a cringey face at my laptop screen.

But after reading her piece, I kept thinking, “man……I guess I’m rich too”. Quickly followed by near immediate dismissal. “No, no, we’re just a middle class family that’s a little bit outside social conformity.”

Moving on brain. Moving on.

2 – Here’s where it really hit home.

Over the past months, Mike and I have had many conversations about our upcoming goals, and the direction we want our family to take. A long standing habit that we both really enjoy, but recently one that’s taken on a new level of introspection about what we value, and what we want to model to our kids.

What do we want? Where are we headed? What’s next on our hit list?

For the first time since we started doing this – we struggled. We have become accustomed to these goals being financially based. Aimed around furthering our goals of Financial Independence, material acquisitions, or experiences that come with a price tag that requires some forethought and planning.

Next investment move – nothing on our radar. At one time we thought we wanted to acquire a bunch of rentals, but do we really?? Why?? To what end?? We are pretty happy with where we are at.

Next big travel idea – we had nothing. Even pre-covid, we had decided that we are more than content with our usual haunts, trips to see family, and generally want to shift our focus to more local experiences with our kids.

Next big acquisition? We’ve toyed with the prospect of a boat. But neither of us can quite get there. It’s costly, and we’ve done the math a million ways. No matter how we slice it, right now, we wouldn’t get the use out of it to justify the initial or ongoing costs.

Renovations? Beyond our planned backyard reno – neither of us feels a pressing desire to make any major changes to our house.

The only thing we could really come up with was to continue a sustained effort of investing in our health and wellbeing, family time, and doing the best job we can to raise happy, well-adjusted, grateful kids.

So basically – maintain the path. Continue to learn and explore new hobbies, skills, and experiences with our kids. Value our family time above all else.

Frankly, none of which involves major financial implications (or a high savings rate. Which is foreign territory for us.)

Eventually we just looked at each other and realized – we’re good.

That was a weird moment. And it was also the moment that prompted my “are we rich” question to Mike.

Which he unequivocally answered. And followed up with pointing out that we are living our ideal lifestyle.

We’ve analyzed, critiqued, clutter cleared our house, schedule and minds. Optimized our sleep, fitness and nutrition (although that’s a lifelong commitment).

To steal a quote Mike used to say to me all the time as a joke…..but is now ironically completely appropriate.

“We have arrived.”

We are rich.

Absolutely and most definitely. The kind of rich where growth of our net worth doesn’t really matter anymore. The only rich that really matters. We’ve fully taken control and ownership of our most valuable currency. The one that’s been in the tag line of this blog since it’s inception.

We truly get to choose how we spend our time, and the financial aspect was only important in the context of establishing the means to support those choices. Financial independence wasn’t the goal. Turns out it never was. It’s ONE pillar in the structure of our lives that supports Freedom.

Ironically, it took my brain and mindset LONGER to get here than it took the numbers on our balance sheet.

I needed to shift my scarcity mindset, the one that was so firmly rooted in my personality and cemented by my pursuit of Financial Independence, to one of abundance. Admittedly, I still naturally revert to a scarcity thought process, and it’s going to take a lot of active work for me to view our lives and our choices through this new lens. But I’ve come to see, it’s a perspective worth working at.

I’ve long wondered how to best answer the question of how much is enough. For us, I officially have the answer.

This is more than enough.

At this point, anything else is just gravy.

Is a scarcity mindset holding you back from truly enjoying the life you’ve built? Would you benefit from shifting to an abundance perspective? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Chrissy @ Eat Sleep Breathe FI October 6, 2020 - 9:25 pm

Welcome back, friend. You’ve been missed. I’m happy to see you back on the blog—I always look forward to your posts!

You and Mike have once again shown how very mindful you’ve been in your post-FF journey. It’s easy to default to striving for more and more. Very few people stop to think if that’s really what they want.

Thanks for sharing your thought process. It always gives me ideas to keep growing and learning. I hope you and the family are well. ❤️

Phia @ Freedom 101 October 13, 2020 - 11:45 am

Thanks Chrissy! For me, this mindset shift has truly been a game changer in how I experience Financial Freedom. Without it, I always felt this pressure to be doing “more”. Whether that came from feeling like I had to account for how I was using my time, or a pressure to return to the work force and be “productive”.

Now I feel like I can truly step back and enjoy the life we’ve built, focus on the small moments, and find satisfaction, a sense of achievement, and contentment that isn’t associated to monetary gains or the acquisition of things that represent the traditional version of wealth or success.

While I’ve long believed that a rich life was not a representation of monetary wealth per se, but freedom of choice, it has taken me much longer than I thought it would to actually LIVE like that, and approach my spending habits/life decisions in the same manner.


Tell us your thoughts?

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