Finding focus for the New Year 2019

I am a workaholic.

There, I said it.

I graduated from university in 1992. It was difficult finding a full time job initially so I worked casual, weekend or locum shifts wherever I could. This series of jobs led me to a full time job with an employer that I have remained loyal to ever since. 2019 will mark my 26th year with my current employer.

In that time my role has grown with the company’s growth and I have had many opportunities. With it, has come many responsibilities and challenges, all of which have contributed to making me the person I am today.

I am therefore very grateful to be continuously employed in some capacity for 26 years. But my job is a very stressful one – with long hours. And I am feeling the mental toll more and more.

So how will 2019 be any different?

I sit in my local library writing this post on my mini break between Christmas & New Year. This is my first ever holiday during this period in my whole 26 year career. I have always worked this time period including the public holidays, letting others take this time off to be with their children & family. The only reason I took this time off now was to spend some time with my little niece and family who have come to visit from overseas.

This time off has been a revelation. I never had time before to reflect on the year that has gone by or the year ahead. Sure, the lead up to Christmas has been stressful as usual but right now, I have the time to think which is such a novelty.

But I do feel guilty, knowing that work is really busy this time of year with many staff away. (And I have dropped into work to do stuff that I wasn’t able to complete before my holidays began – told you I was a workaholic!)

Don’t get me wrong – of course I’ve had holidays in the last 26 years. But they are often spent travelling. And when I say travelling, I tend to pack lots of activities and places to visit in the one trip. These holidays were about discovering new destinations, food and culture, sometimes reconnecting with family and friends. They were not about reflecting on my life or asking questions about the future. Although I did do some soul searching after my recent trip away – you can read it here, if you like.

2018 has shown me that mostly I have been drifting through life. I guess that’s what working long hours does to you. You just survive every day going through the same motions and repeat the next day. Then feeling entirely exhausted on the weekends, trying to recover. Which does not lead to any productivity including household chores. Which then compounds the feeling that things are going out of control.

I just want 2019 to be different. Deciding to sort out my finances in 2018 has led me to this path, believe it or not! (You can read about that here) Chasing Financial Independence (FI) with the possibility of Retiring Earlier (RE) has forced me to look at my life in a new way. And knowing why I want to retire or what I will retire to is now very important to me.

I no longer want to drift through life – I want to live my life with intention and purpose.

But where do I start?

By doing Montana Money Adventure’s Live With Intention series. I HIGHLY recommend this series. It is a series of 10 emails with short 5-10 minute videos and worksheets, guiding you step by step on how to start living with intention. But it comes with a warning – it makes you think! And sometimes it is uncomfortable 🙂 But it is rewarding, I promise you, so stick with it!

The most valuable exercise (to me) involves writing down 3 categories – Be, Have, Do ie what do you want to be? what do you want to have? what do you want to do? This was challenging and revealing once I started writing things down in each category. For me, it boils down to four areas – forming deeper relationships, being more productive, learning new skills and improving my physical, mental and financial health.

Wow, that’s a lot of areas to focus on! Fear not, as the series take you through each step of thinking about your ideal day, week, year; what your superpower is – something you do or a skill that comes easily to you or that you do really well; and so on.

Towards the end of the process, I gained the clarity to move forward. I must admit that I took a while to do this as I needed TIME (ah, that word again!) to digest & ruminate on the various topics.

The conclusion?

My first and most important priority in 2019 is to simply carve some time out of my busy schedule to THINK and then to act with intention. To this end, I have scheduled an hour every week just for reflection.

Sure, there are projects (such as writing this blog) to which I will absolutely want to devote time and energy. But for me, without the mental clarity that comes from reflection and taking back control of my time, I will not be very productive.

This will also hopefully decrease the stress in my life which is my second priority. Or at the very least, helps me to cope with the stress.

I want to recommit to exercising daily again – just starting to run or walk regularly & be outdoors more will improve my mental and physical health. And reduce my stress.

Writing helps me to clarify my thoughts. So I want to start journaling daily, just for 10 to 15 minutes every night, reflecting on my day. This will help me to develop a daily writing habit (which will be useful for writing a blog!) 

I will most likely travel this year, reconnecting with old friends and family overseas.

But what are my financial goals, you ask?

They are very boring! Once you have systems in place, it is a matter of staying the course and soldiering on. And reassessing every now and then. I already do a monthly check up at the end of each month when I look at my savings rate and net worth figures – a sort of financial reflection, I suppose.

I will focus this year more on reducing recurring bills such as utility bills and my gardener fees. Already made a start to reducing my electricity bill thanks to installing a solar system so will concentrate on water and gas.

Continue to build my emergency fund. I must admit I raided it to pay up front for the solar system installed in November. The state government rebate has yet to land in my bank account. My goal for 2019 is to save six months of expenses and LEAVE IT BE!!!! ie NO raiding this year.

I am also aiming to save 1% more per month towards my investment fund. Which I have set up to automatically be transferred from my weekly wages to a separate online high interest savings account.

Final conclusion

I will not bother with making grand New Year resolutions. Mine never last beyond January anyway so instead, I will focus on making small changes in all aspects of my life. Starting with carving out time for reflection each week.

Hopefully, these small changes will contribute to the bigger goal of a healthier me – mentally, physically & financially.

I will be intentional in all my activities and projects – asking myself if it serves my higher goal of contributing to my mental, physical & financial health.

How about you? What will you focus on in 2019?

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019!

I can breathe now.

Christmas is over.

After two solid days of baking and 288 Christmas mince tarts / pies plus 100 gingerbread cookies later … After an epic lunch of seafood, turkey and a ham that was in the oven for 14 hours (!) …

Baking is therapeutic for me (cooking, not so much). I pound the pastry and roll out little rounds again and again then methodically fill in the fragrant fruit mince heavy with brandy. While my hands are busy, my mind is free to roam and reflect …

… to reflect on how baking and finance is very similar. Once you have the right ingredients, and you follow a recipe that is right for you, a good result will naturally follow!

… to reflect on the year that will end soon.

… to reflect on the year ahead.

What I am most proud of in 2018 is ….

I took action.

Just that, I took action.

The year began with retirement anxiety and the fear of growing old.

I was scared of retirement and its implications. I was worried I would not have enough money in retirement. Or indeed, what I would do in retirement. I was fearful of growing old.

Yet, this fear and anxiety propelled me to DO SOMETHING  about my finances. 

Which led me to discover FIRE and the awesome FIRE community.

So, what actions did I take in 2018?

1) Pay off my mortgage

  • the satisfaction and mental relief experienced is priceless when I finally closed my loan account
  • the whole house belongs to me now

2) Retirement account

  • consolidated my superannuation accounts to one only
  • moved my account to a superannuation fund with lower management fees
  • invested it in the low cost index fund option
  • set up salary sacrifice with employer – I choose to contribute pre tax dollars together with my employer’s compulsory contribution to superannuation
  • should be on track to max this out ($25000) by end of financial year 2019

3) Savings accounts

  • opened 3 online high interest savings accounts
  • account one – emergency fund
  • account two – travel fund
  • account three – investment fund
  • set up automated direct debit from wages every week into these 3 savings accounts

4) Track my spending

  • using TrackMySpend, a free app from ASIC
  • identified my top spending categories
  • looking at ways to actively reduce spending as a result

5) Assess my net worth

  • looked at my assets versus my liabilities
  • understood what my financial position was at any given time

6) Invest in the share market

  • started learning about investments
  • reactivated my brokerage account
  • invested in low cost index funds
  • invested in several quality top ASX 200 companies
  • slowly building a diversified portfolio

7) Install solar panels

  • took advantage of the Victorian state government’s solar rebate scheme
  • back of the envelope calculation indicates system should pay for itself after 3 years
  • looking forward to receiving electricity bills from now on

8) Start a blog

  • as a result of researching side hustles, I decide to start a blog partly to be accountable on my FIRE journey and partly to share my struggles and wins along the way with the wider community

But who knew that looking into my finances would trigger so much self analysis and reflection?

Or I should say, more accurately, that going down the rabbit hole of financial independence (FI) has triggered a lot of self analysis & reflection. This, of all the things I achieved in 2018, has been the most surprising and unexpected consequence.

It has forced me to re evaluate my dreams and re define my values, my goals, my purpose.

Money, after all is  a tool.

A tool that enables you to pursue your dreams.

A tool to enable your dreams to come true.

It is not an end in itself.

For me, the pursuit of money has never been appealing.  Subconsciously, I always thought it vulgar to pursue money and riches. Upon reflection, I think it is the obvious display of wealth that repulses me.

However, the pursuit of financial independence is incredibly appealing. And exciting. 

Most of all, I want to reclaim my TIME, a finite resource. I can always earn more money by working harder, longer or pursuing side hustles, working a part time job. But time? I will never get back time once it’s gone.

Being financially independent will enable me to spend less time at work and instead, pursue my dreams of slow travelling; spending time with my niece who lives in another country; taking care of my elderly parents. I will be able to live a life with a lot less stress.

What did I learn in 2018?

In 2018, I learned about FIRE concepts and principles; and that the FIRE community is a big robust supportive community.

I learned about what type of investor I am – what my risk tolerance is; essentially, it boils down to this – I want my money to grow faster than inflation but that  I can still sleep at night.

My habits can change – with the right motivation & focus, I can develop new habits that serve the bigger picture. I never imagined I could give up takeaway coffee. Now my daily routine includes making myself a cup of coffee from my moka coffee pot. Not only do I save money, I am less stressed in the morning driving around looking for a carpark to get my coffee.

I learned that I can pick up new skills – starting a blog has been one steep learning curve. Now, growing it and maintaining it will be 2019’s challenge – bring it on!!! Navigating social media and Pinterest, SEO?? will be … a lot of fun?! I am looking forward to connecting with a lot more people – for an introvert, that brings heart palpitations.

I found that writing was therapeutic for me, that putting my thoughts into words was soothing. Besides crystallising my vague thought bubbles and the endless neurotic meanderings of my mind.

So what will I look forward to in 2019?

I want to embrace a simpler life, a life with less stress.

A life where I will have more time to spend intentionally with people and activities I value.

I am conflicted right now with the best way of setting goals or even if setting goals is a good idea. My history in keeping goals alive has been abysmal so I am exploring new ideas.

I am riding out 2018 on a high, just starting with a broad and quite frankly, vague goal of sorting out my finances. Who knows what 2019 will bring if I knuckle down and set concrete goals? Like my baking, I want to make sure I have the right ingredients to live my best life.

Guess you will have to stay tuned …

Incidentally, I will be most grateful if you could take 2 minutes to subscribe to my emails – I will not spam you, I promise! I don’t have any freebies to give away at the moment but you will be the first to get it when I do! Thank you very much for your support.




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