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ruminations on being debt-free in your 30's
Old 09-21-2011, 02:40 PM   #1
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ruminations on being debt-free in your 30's

My boyfriend asked me a question the other day that's been bouncing around in my head ever since. "You have freedom most people don't - what are you going to do with it?"

He's trapped by a house and debt and can think of a dozen dreams to chase after if he wasn't so weighed down. I have no debt, a substantial emergency fund, a month-to-month lease, and I live well below my means. But I don't really know what to do with the freedom I've created. I've been thinking long-term: early retirement in 20 or 30 years. But part of me doesn't want to live the boring, conventional path. Part of me would love to dive into a wild and adventurous life, something with a little less certainty. I don't want my life to be consumed by making money, but a more fun, less reliable income seems to come at the price of devoting many more hours to working. I haven't been a risk-taker at all when it comes to income.

The boyfriend suggests looking into interesting jobs I'm not qualified for. I think about finding ways to have a house without having a mortgage - but I don't want to tie myself to any one place yet. I want to live somewhere outside Virginia at some point in my life - but Northern Virginia is definitely where the jobs are right now.

There's this pull of opposites - and in order to get higher (life experience) returns I will need to expose myself to higher risks. Somehow that sounds familiar...

What's your take? How are other young LBYM folks finding balance?
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Old 09-21-2011, 03:19 PM   #2
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I had the same issues - need for excitement vs. need for security.

Work takes up a big chunk of time but there are evenings and weekends in which to try all the weird and wonderful things that are out there.

I found the answer and have had the best of both worlds for 25 years. I started taking Polynesian dance classes and eventually became a professional dancer and dance teacher. I've travelled to exotic places to perform (Hawaii, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, not to mention parts of the US and Canada). I've danced for royalty and for biker gangs (who, btw, are better tippers). I even did a movie (Are We Done Yet?).

I consider my hobby to be my real life and work is just there to support my interests.

Before making any drastic changes to your life which could impact you for decades to come, try to find your passions during your free time. It is well worth the experience.
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Old 09-21-2011, 05:20 PM   #3
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All the way through my 20s, I wasn't tied down either. My wife and I just saved money and progressed in our career. Didn't really think about anything philosophical outside of that.

We're in our early 30s and still not tied down except we have 2 kids. However, my wife can stay home with a kid, we send another kid to somewhat expensive preschool, have comfortable emergency/retirement fund, and decent college savings. I see my friends working long hrs, stressed out, and both spouse working to be able to afford a mortgage and nanny for 2 kids. It's a busy and stressful life.

I can't help in terms of finding and pursuing something you're passitionate about but, if you decide to start a family, not being tied down helps A LOT. It's hard enough raising kids, having that freedom will lessen the stress level.
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Old 09-21-2011, 07:15 PM   #4
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I found balance by having children that we took on exotic vacations after living overseas.
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Old 09-21-2011, 09:08 PM   #5
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There's this pull of opposites - and in order to get higher (life experience) returns I will need to expose myself to higher risks. Somehow that sounds familiar...
I applaud your desire to enrich your life with excitement and incredible memories, but 2 comments on that:

1) Who says the 2 camps must be mutually exclusive?
Just like there are many in this society who think they must spend money to 'have a good time' (and are thus imprisoned to working till they drop dead at 80 to pay for their lifestyle), who says that having a steady (and perhaps financially rewarding career) must be devoid of a life full of excitement?

Must you have a career that is ONLY directly involved in some outrageous activity every day, all the time? Remember that just as infrequent enjoyment of ice cream makes it taste better, and eating ice cream for every meal would makes us sick of it after 3 days, perhaps you would still grow bored at any 'ideal job' you could think of, after working at it for a few months. Wouldn't it be better to spice up your free time with various pursuits while furthering your financial goals so that (not too far down the road) you will truly be able to do nearly anything you want?

Imagine your 'dream job'...now imagine that dream job at age 60, because you didn't earn nearly anything close to enough to retire then. Now imagine having to deal with that job at age 60/65, when you'd rather be doing anything BUT _______, and being forced to continue it purely on an economic basis, rather than on a choice basis. Or imagine living life on the edge with little financial assets, then needing expensive medical care, or losing your job and not having a source of income for 6/12/24/36 or even more months! Imagine being forced to move in with relatives and friends, and not being able to do anything because you have no money.

Is not knowing where your next meal will come from living life on the edge enough for you?

You can either pay your dues now (working a less idealistic career and saving up the cash to have true freedom later), or pay your dues later by virtually guaranteeing yourself a life of fiscal slavery for the rest of your days with virtually no freedom because you take the 'freer'/lower paying career path now.

2) Remember that having a mental image of a fun activity can very rarely be extrapolated into an equally-fun career.

Think having a surfing school on the CA or HI coast would be kick-ass? Might not be so much fun when you have unseasonably cold weather driving away your clients, your one part-time assistant flakes out because of a drug habit, and your bank is calling 4 times a day because you're 3 months behind making a payment on your line of credit.

Love baking cupcakes, and think all those contestants on the cooking competitions have a pie-in-the-sky career? Find out how fun it is when you become married to your store and must go in 7 days a week at 4am to start baking for 12 hours, whether you feel like it or not.

When you do something as a job, you suddenly have to approach it from a completely different perspective (legal/liability, profit-driven, customer retention, etc.) than when you experience it as a consumer.

Oh, and just a temporary 3 month gig at something would be better than being a business owner? Try competing with others for a job who have 5-20 years experience at (insert any industry), and who could run miles around you in terms of competency and contacts in the industry.

There are lots of factors to consider, as well as many ways to experience the thrill of 'living on the edge'. Try some creative thinking to get that thrill while at the same time bringing you closer to FIRE and being truly free.

Personally, I update my balance sheets every quarter, and update my investment portfolios every week. They help me see how I am doing in relation to my goal. Also, I do plenty to keep my life exciting (dancing with friends, hiking/cycling/kayaking with an outdoor group, thinking of projects to work on around the house). I somewhat enjoy what it is I do, so I suppose I lucked out there to a certain degree.
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Old 09-21-2011, 11:08 PM   #6
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But part of me doesn't want to live the boring, conventional path. Part of me would love to dive into a wild and adventurous life, something with a little less certainty.
I'm thinking ... --- I'm seeing you on a hiking trip in Iraq, with Nuiloa (being careful to stay away from the Iran border, of course).
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Old 09-22-2011, 12:12 PM   #7
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You're in a tough dilemma that I'm sure everyone of us shares. Sacrifice for the future, or live for now...

The FIRE future that we all foresee may never come. We may die young. It's important to take some time to enjoy yourself NOW while still being responsible about your finances.

If you have an ideal career in mind, and you aren't anywhere near it, then I suggest working extra hard to begin transitioning into that career while maintaining your current job. Some careers may be fun, but won't be steady income or good income (especially if you're self employed), so you'll end up being stressed out about money more often, and you'll end up working a lot more just in case next month isn't as lucrative. But if it's something you LOVE to do, then you won't mind working hard.

Every time I've taken a huge leap in life, I look back and say, "Wow, why didn't I do that sooner?" If your gut is telling you to do something different with your life, then you need to listen to it. It's usually right.
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Old 09-22-2011, 12:33 PM   #8
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All the way through my 20s, I wasn't tied down either. My wife and I just saved money and progressed in our career. Didn't really think about anything philosophical outside of that.

We're in our early 30s and still not tied down except we have 2 kids. However, my wife can stay home with a kid, we send another kid to somewhat expensive preschool, have comfortable emergency/retirement fund, and decent college savings. I see my friends working long hrs, stressed out, and both spouse working to be able to afford a mortgage and nanny for 2 kids. It's a busy and stressful life.

I can't help in terms of finding and pursuing something you're passitionate about but, if you decide to start a family, not being tied down helps A LOT. It's hard enough raising kids, having that freedom will lessen the stress level.
+1. We were mortgage and debt-free by the time DH and I were 31 and 29, respectively. We had kids in our late '30's and after the second one, I chose to stay at home because I didn't HAVE to work. It's definitely nice to have the option of staying home while the kids are little rather than having to work full-time in order to pay for the nanny .
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Old 09-22-2011, 01:17 PM   #9
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I’m not interested in having children, so I’m keeping my freedom for the long term. I haven’t been motivated toward career advancement yet either.



Quote:
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I see my friends working long hrs, stressed out, and both spouse working to be able to afford a mortgage and nanny for 2 kids. It's a busy and stressful life.

This is a big part of what I want to avoid in life. I’m surrounded by people who have put so much of themselves into their work/kids that they don’t have much left over for themselves, and they don’t seem to find it fulfilling. It’s just “what you do”. I’m doing work I enjoy and I make decent money at it, but it’s not particularly glamorous – basically just admin work, but I’m good at it.


@MooreBonds – I agree that they’re not mutually exclusive, but only having 15 days off a year does cut into the possibilities. Part of the reason I have a less idealistic job now is because I’m all too capable of seeing the downside to all those fantastic possibilities, so I haven’t pursued them, but it’s a decision I question from time to time. So I update my balance sheets every month and try to keep my life exciting with a number of hobbies…but sometimes I wonder if I’m limiting myself too much by taking the secure path.



Thanks for your perspectives - please keep them coming!
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:18 PM   #10
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Early in my 20's I really just wanted to be a career guy, live in a big city, party, live it up and see what happened. I'm 29 now and have had a drastic shift. I have a ton of debt (thanks to grad school and buying a house last year), but I don't regret it one bit. My career opportunities literally quadrupled thanks to grad school. I am working a job today I'd have to wait another 10 years to get had I not gone to grad school. Plus it's rewarding and I have met some great co-worker's and friends through work.

I bought a house because I just realized my days of going out were over. Not for any reason other than the fact that I just don't want to anymore. I have close friends, and a girlfriend I plan to propose to early next year and have found a lot of stability that I think I was searching for in my early 20's. I'm happy.

Along the way I've had some fun times, late nights, adventures, travels, and met interesting people along the way. But it's time for a change personally. And I think ultimately it's a good one. I guess what I am trying to get it as that while I am career focused, and am getting ready to get married (to someone who has children of her own), and have a mortgage, I don't feel burdened at all. I am right where I am supposed to be, and I don't really feel I am giving up anything in terms of adventures. In fact, I think I'm gaining more.
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Old 09-29-2011, 08:38 AM   #11
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We're in our 40's and just stumbled on ER after working for 20-25 years. It definitely started with getting debt free (including our home), marrying off our daughter after college.

We did have a booster shot of opportunity in 2007 that pushed us into the ability to just recently take the leap. We plan to live strictly off the interest of our savings until further notice & hope it works that way.

Hope you find what we've found...
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Old 09-29-2011, 08:59 AM   #12
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I "played by the rules" for most of my adult life. We had no debt except our house by age 30 and owned our house outright in our late 40's. I was able to retire at 57 (earlier than I used to expect). Loving a life with more adventure, more options and welcoming/accepting uncertainty only felt comfortable much later in life.

However, a great career is what made that all possible, specifically the high paying job at the end of a 35 year career - ironic. While you can work off and on throughout life as needed, only a select few have the skills to expect a high paying job on an exception basis - most of us have to build to that by sticking with a career for a while. I never would have had that last high paying job had I not stuck with it for longer.

Finding the balance between future security and current gratification is one of life's great questions we all face, there is no right answer, the answers are unique to each individual. YMMV indeed...
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Old 09-29-2011, 12:51 PM   #13
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My boyfriend asked me a question the other day that's been bouncing around in my head ever since. "You have freedom most people don't - what are you going to do with it?"

He's trapped by a house and debt and can think of a dozen dreams to chase after if he wasn't so weighed down. I have no debt, a substantial emergency fund, a month-to-month lease, and I live well below my means. But I don't really know what to do with the freedom I've created....
I can think of young people who haven''t let a house and debt stop them from pursuing their dreams, and also young people who have financial flexibility such as yours but find other reasons they cannot pursue their dreams. It's not just having or not having debt that affects what we do.
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Old 09-29-2011, 02:02 PM   #14
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Everything comes with a price, and you have to balance your wants and needs...with a dose of reality. Like others have said, it's possible to have a career/job and use the off time to pursue the fun things you enjoy.
If I were you, I'd re-read MooreBonds reply - that response really hit the nail on the head.
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Old 09-29-2011, 02:41 PM   #15
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2) Remember that having a mental image of a fun activity can very rarely be extrapolated into an equally-fun career.

When you do something as a job, you suddenly have to approach it from a completely different perspective (legal/liability, profit-driven, customer retention, etc.) than when you experience it as a consumer.
Amen to that! When I was in my mid-20s, I went on vacation to Club Med in Guadeloupe. I loved it so much that I asked about a job. They gave me a return ticket, and I went home, quit the job where I'd just been promoted, sold my brand new car and told my fiance that I was going to be away for a few months. He had asked me to wait for him while he went away to school but was upset that I was taking off. I responded that I said I would wait for him, but I didn't say where!

Anyhow, from the outside, working at a "fun" job looked like heaven. In reality it was the hardest job I've ever done: I was constantly "on", couldn't have a bad day, and was on call 24/7. From Guadeloupe, I did a few months in Mexico, then Tahiti and then Haiti. Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing experience, but it sure wasn't like the brochure.

From all that I learned that a) nothing is ever as good as it looks from the outside; b) security is a nice thing to have but c) it shouldn't stop you from having fun and doing things you are passionate about.

You have nothing but time to find out what thrills you and if you can make a life out of it, then it's a bonus. Don't just quit in order to try to find that elusive "something out there". Find it first, then make your decision.
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Old 09-29-2011, 03:04 PM   #16
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fireandearth,
We paid off our house while still in our 30s and enjoy lots of adventurous stuff in our 40s (see mototaxi junket thread) but will always struggle in that "save for later, spend on fun now" tug of war. I think we try to balance it by having relatively stress-free, normal work-week kind of jobs that aren't hugely compensated money-wise, but are in terms of life balance and comparative freedom.

And there is nothing quite like the feeling that you can walk away from a job, if it does get to sucking, because you don't have to tote that mortgage note.

I don't really believe there is a perfect job out there for me, at least, that would replace the way more awesome stuff I want to do in my off hours.
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Old 10-03-2011, 08:36 AM   #17
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I like your style, Sarah. I've chosen lower paying, lower stress jobs too. Many of my friends just don't get it, but when they're working nights and weekends I'm off having fun.
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Old 10-17-2011, 07:54 AM   #18
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What's your take? How are other young LBYM folks finding balance?
You are right not to (want to) buy a house as long as you are young and anticipate moving multiple times. I did not buy a house until I was pretty certain I was not going to be moving for at least 5 years. But certainly don't think of going into debt for a house someday - in particular a short 15-year mortgages at today's outstanding rates - as a bad thing. You're always paying a mortgage (if you don't outright own), the only issue is whether it is your mortgage or someone else's.

I think you should tilt the balance in favor of being career-minded about where you live, and minimize cost of living, and then find a way to have fun wherever your career takes you. I'd like to think I've been able to "have fun" just about anywhere I chose to live. It's easier to have fun if you're living in a place that maximizes your career opportunities and minimizes cost-of-living.

True LBYM is a way of life. I can't imagine it taking second fiddle to anything else. I just value my time and freedom too much.
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Old 10-17-2011, 08:06 AM   #19
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I started to volunteer and help out at local charities. I mainly started with our local recycling programs but I'll often help out at other places if needed.

I like the idea of working towards a bigger, greater goal, rather than just doing it for the money.
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Old 10-17-2011, 08:16 AM   #20
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Paying off my mortgage when I turned 35 in 1998 was a big step towards enjoying my life more. The big thing was my expenses went down a lot so I was able to pay my monthly bills with only one biweekly paycheck. Because of that, I was able to safely switch to working part-time in 2001 so I could resurrect an old hobby and start diong some volunteer work and still meet my monthly expenses and have some money left over (just not as much as before).

By 2008, my ER plans were falling into place and my desire to do more of my volunteer work and other midday activities, so I was able to ER. But it was becoming debt-free in 1998 which gave me a big boost in that direction.
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