Updated: Sep 16
In July 2021 I achieved my Financial Independence "FI" goals. As you can imagine, I was over-the-moon excited, coupled with a dose of disbelief. It honestly felt very surreal.
(If you are interested in reading more about my experiences, emotions and lessons learned after achieving FI, check out my book One Year After F.I.R.E. on Amazon).
Once things had settled a bit, I was inevitably hit with "now what?!" thoughts.
To really understand my dilemma, imagine you've been focused on a goal for 20 years, where every decision and move you made was colored in some way by that goal. The journey to achieving the goal is filled with ups and downs, but because you are working towards something you really want, the challenges you encounter motivate and spur you on. Once you finally reach your goal however, there is a bit of a letdown, a feeling of deflation.
By the way, I recently discovered this feeling is a psychological phenomenon called "post goal depression" or "post achievement depression." I'd never heard of it and I don't know if that is what I felt after achieving my 20-year goal, but I definitely felt some kind of letdown!
After months of reflection, it finally hit me: Financial Independence, a goal I had pursued for 20 years, is really only a destination.
The feelings of deflation and uncertainty were based on the fact that even though I had arrived at my intended destination, my financial life (and life in general!) did not come to an end. There were still financial decisions and choices to make and financial stress and anxiety to manage. I realized that the true challenge and journey that I should have embarked on was one of achieving Financial Wellness.
In retrospect it makes sense. Financial wellness goes beyond how much money you have or having enough in a retirement account. It's a more holistic approach that recognizes the emotional aspects of money and the importance of achieving a balanced and sustainable financial life.
My switch to a mindset of financial wellness has resulted in two very meaningful realizations:
Financial Goals Are More Sustainable When Aligned With Your Purpose and Values
One of the things I did get right during my pursuit of financial independence was setting financial goals that aligned with my values and life aspirations. My reason and "why" for pursuing FI was to have enough passive income so that I could gain control over my time, and I knew I wanted to spend that time with my young daughter and growing my business The FI Woman.
These goals went beyond accumulating wealth, and were powerful enough to keep me going when challenges popped up. Since shifting to a mindset of Financial Wellness, focusing on my purpose and values continue to help guide me and point me to my true North.
How You Can Apply This: Take the time to discover your purpose and the values that truly matter to you. This requires thinking deeply and looking beyond the "expectations" most of us try to live up to because we think it's what we "should" do.
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Embracing a Holistic Approach to Finances and Incorporating Other Goals Leads To A Richer Life
While pursuing FI, my main focus was reaching my FI number. I didn't put my life on hold per se, though there are stories of people who go to such extremes in the pursuit of FI, but I did prioritize reaching my FI number above most things.
With a financial wellness mindset, I have learned to approach my finances with a more balanced, holistic attitude. For example, I reworked my budget to include a lot more fun activities with my daughter, and experiences such as unplanned travel to visit my parents "just because." I spent part of my budget on tennis lessons because I love the sport and because it could enhance my health and well-being. I could have done these things while pursuing FI, but my focus on reaching my FI number made such expenses "impractical" in my mind.
How You Can Apply This: Think about your overall well-being and how your finances can support what you truly want. Set financial goals that enable you to do the things that are important to you, such as saving for meaningful experiences, contributing to important causes, and prioritizing health and well-being.
In conclusion, I value my 20-year FI journey and all the lessons it taught me. I wouldn't trade the experience for any other, but I hope I can inspire others to adopt a more holistic approach by sharing how shifting my mindset to financial wellness is helping me build a richer life beyond my FI goals/destination.