One of my favorite posts ever on this blog was my birthday post last year. I know the post didn’t help any federal employees achieve financial independence. Nor did it help anyone max out their TSP. However, it was a fun post to write and I got so many positive comments from my readers that I wanted to do it again this year.
Another year healthier
Last year I wrote how working towards financial independence made me healthier. When I decided that I was more than my paycheck, I finally felt like I could say “no” to some toxic projects/teams. And this made a huge difference in my life. I became much happier and I lost a lot of weight that I had gained during this difficult work period.
I continued these health wins for another year– I still love my job and my job continues to give me energy for my life rather than robbing me of my time. Since I have the “work piece” in place, I have been continuing to work on my physical and mental health.
While I bragged about the “scale victories” I achieved in my 36th year, my 37th year was all about non-scale victories. This past year I have:
- continued to avoid diet soda
- incorporated intermittent fasting into my life and dabbled with longer fasts
- quit alcohol
- developed a meditation practice
- flossed every day
- remembered to put on sunscreen before leaving the house (between the equinoxes)
- started working with a personal trainer
I think I could write entire posts about how each of these have changed my life completed (I won’t write them though. TL;DR- once you have a good work and finance situation you can focus on self improvement in major ways.)
About the pandemic
This last section seems pretty pollyannaish for living in a pandemic. I spent about half of my 37th year in quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic. At times it has been a big mental struggle to balance work and family. But when I am able to take a step back, we honestly have it pretty good. Mrs. Gov and I both still have jobs (a little appreciated benefit of government work). We’re both able to work from home and have some flexibility in our schedules and Mrs. Gov was able to take some pandemic leave.
We’ve had some rough days and rough weeks. But upon reflection, I am still very much happy with my life; pandemic or not.
Another year wealthier
I previously wrote that I felt like we weren’t making any progress towards financial independence. My dial gauges never seemed to move on my infographics.
We always save about 50% of our income and yet financial independence seems far away. While I feel like we’re not making progress, we are. This is easier to see when I compare where I was one year ago. In the past year our net worth increased by 23% and we’re very close to crossing a major milestone.
It’s weird times. We have record unemployment, food banks are struggling to keep up with demand, and yet the stock market is rolling. If you’re lucky enough to have a job during the pandemic, you’re likely just as wealthy if not more so than you were at the start of the pandemic.
Perhaps stocks will tank in this next year as companies miss profit targets. (Or perhaps they won’t). However, we’re incredibly lucky to be a two income household with a large margin of safety. And since we’re a few years off from FI (and longer away from a possible early retirement) we have plenty of time to allow the stock market to recover again.
I can’t take all the credit for it though
Most of the wealth I’ve accumulated this past year is from investment gains on money I saved many years ago. In a recent post, I wrote how we could have saved an extra $1,000-$1,500 a month during the pandemic but spent it anyway. If we would have saved that money, we’d probably have $6,000-$10,000 of extra wealth. However, my net worth has increased by about 20x that amount during the pandemic. Crazy… right??
Compound interest is a hell of a drug. That’s why I’m so tired of personal finance takes that suggest that if you’re not wealthy it’s because you’re not frugal. Giving up your latte might help if you had a time machine and went back 20 years and invested it; but it’s not going to help you tomorrow. Building wealth takes a long time (and yes, being frugal). However, once you’ve built wealth, frugality isn’t really as important.
Another year wiser
I thought it’d be fun to do a healthy/wealthy/wise theme for this past year. I’m definitely healthier and wealthier. I guess I’m wiser too. Here is what I’ve learned about myself this past year:
- I love my job. At one point I talked with Darcy of WeWantGuac.com about hiring her to update my LinkedIn profile. She has amazing marketing skills and has helped a lot of people find new jobs during the pandemic. But then I realized I actually love my job. A lot. And I’d rather have happiness than money.
- I spent a lot of time reflecting about my own role in systematic racism. I don’t think I can add anything profound on this topic after I’ve read so many great articles in the past few months. But I know I need to do better.
- I am getting better at letting go. I already wrote about my meditation practice earlier in this post. But it’s been such a big part of my growth this past year that I felt like I needed to talk about it again. When I was in school (which was a major part of my life since I have a PhD) I was always anxious. I would get what I called “Sunday Night Blues” where I’d be really anxious and depressed about the upcoming week. In fact, I spent much of my life worrying. I’ve grown a lot in the past few years. And now I’m much better at living in the present. I have a long ways to go before I’m a Buddhist monk, but I’m the calmest I can ever remember being.
Every year I get older, I feel like I’m a little bit happier than I was before. I also feel more comfortable with my life as I age. If I had to use a word to describe aging I think it might be self-acceptance. I’m looking forward to how comfortable I’ll be with myself when I’ll be 50 and am excited to see how my perspectives on aging will change as I continue to grow.