hot air balloon blue skyThere are times in life when I begin to feel like I’m in the grind… again. When there’s too much of a standard routine day after day, I start to feel restless.

Now is one of those times.  

I’ve been back at work for 4 months now. I’ve been posting regularly on this blog for about 7 months. I feel like I’m hitting my stride.  

In some ways, hitting my stride feels great. I’m getting into a great routine, feel more comfortable at work, have time to focus on self-care, and the blog. I’m getting enough sleep. I’m living the dream.  

At the same time, I’m wondering what’s next.

In the past, when I’ve gotten into routines, I’ve felt like there wasn’t anything I could do about it because all I was trying to do was to cope with a busy life with no end to the busyness in sight.

Now that I have a much more balanced life, I’m finding myself wondering what’s next. How do I want to be spending my time? What do I want to use my extra energy to work toward?

I want to be more intentional with my free time, so I don’t waste it watching TV (I do watch much less than I used to), playing games on my phone, or scrolling through social media.

In order to do that, I need a vision for what I’d rather be doing than those things.  I want to have a set of big (and small) goals that I’m working toward, so the small actions I take daily are organized toward a bigger goal.  

So what am I going to do?

I’ve decided to create a financial independence bucket list.

I’ve previously shied away from creating any sort of bucket list. Before pursuing financial independence, there were many things I wanted to do in my life that I didn’t believe were actually possible, given that I thought the only option in life was to work a full-time job for 40 years.  

After being introduced to financial independence, I’ve realized that the options available in life are so much broader than I ever thought possible. Through the pursuit of financial freedom, I can envision my ideal life, and I can make it happen. I can make small shifts along the journey, and once I reach FI, the sky is the limit.

The Financial Independence (FI) Bucket List

Many people create goals for their lives. Sometimes people create a 5- or 10-year plan. Sometimes people create an ever bigger list of life goals, often called either a “bucket list” or a “life list”

Interestingly, the origin of the phrase “bucket list” means all of the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” All of the things you want to do before you die.

While this is somewhat morbid, I would like to think about my list in terms of what I want to do with my life. However, I’m not too worried about the term. While you might want to call yours something else, I’m just fine with calling it a bucket list.  

For those who are pursuing financial independence or have some degree of financial freedom already (paid off debt, have an emergency fund, have F-you money), the opportunities that one could pursue on a bucket list are much bigger and broader than what I could have imagined before starting our journey to FI.  

Because financial freedom will be such an important part of enabling the things on my bucket list to happen, I will also include the financial goals that will enable us to reach these goals in my FI bucket list.  

Benefits of Creating a Bucket List

There are many benefits to creating a bucket list or a list of long-term life goals. Before pursuing FI, the main goals I had in life were career goals; now I look at life in a much more holistic way.

1. Pull Us Out of the 9-to-5 Grind

Creating a bucket list helps to pull us out of the day-to-day grind so that we can listen to our inner wisdom and what we really want out of life. What kinds of experiences we want in our lives, what we want to accomplish, what we want to learn, and how we want to contribute are all important questions to consider.

2. Pull Us Out of the FI Grind

In addition to pulling us out of the grind of our careers, it can also pull us out of the grind of our financial independence journey. We believe that having a bucket list will help us to more consistently remember that the true reason to pursue FI isn’t about the numbers. It’s about living a fulfilling and purposeful life. Yes, the numbers enable that, but it shouldn’t be our main focus.

3. Make Our Lives More Memorable

Bucket lists can actually make our lives more memorable. They can provide a framework to remember “peak” experienced in our lives. For example, one goal I have in life is to become a much better photographer.  On my bucket list, I’m made the goal very specific.

waterfall water flowing

The long exposure makes the water in this photo look like it is flowing.

I’d like to learn how to use filters so that I can take long-exposure photos during the day (if you are not a photographer, this likely means nothing to you… sorry!). Since I have this on my bucket list, I am much more likely to remember the first time I capture the movement of a waterfall in a still shot. If this wasn’t on my bucket list, I likely wouldn’t remember it at all.  

4. Specific Goals make them easier to Accomplish

Psychologists tell us that people who have specific goals are more likely to accomplish them. When we are specific about our goals, we can create a concrete plan to achieve them. Once we break down the steps, we start to believe that we can actually accomplish them.  

For example, one of my specific goals is to create a successful blog with over 25,000 monthly readers. When I first started blogging, this seemed unimaginable. Once I mapped out the steps (write a weekly high-quality post, optimize SEO, engage on social media, start a newsletter) and got to work, I began to see engagement from the community increase. This is a goal that now seems within reach.  

Avoiding “Check the Box” mentality

While there are many benefits, the main drawback of creating a bucket list is that it can lead to a “check the box” mentality. As with any type of goal, if the goal is wrong or if you become too focused on achieving the goal (and not the spirit of the goal), you are in danger of seeking to only check the box.

I recently read an article by Angela at Tread Lightly Retire Early about tracking no-spend days. For a time, no-spend days helped her keep her expenses in check. After a while, she began to see the loopholes. If she already spent money on a day, there was little incentive to not continue spending money on that day, so that she wouldn’t need to spend money on future days. It’s easy for any of us to fall into a “check the box” mentality if we get too focused on the goals. This isn’t a reason to not have goals. It is a reason to ensure we have the right goals that are focused on us living a fulfilling life.  

What’s on our FI Bucket List?

We spent an afternoon together brainstorming our FI bucket list, and here’s what we came up with.  

Items in green = things we want to accomplish in the next 2-3 years.

Items in orange = things we want to get started on in the next 2-3 years.

Where We Want to Visit/Travel

We have a goal of becoming location independent so that we can travel frequently. Before we reach location independence we’ll very likely only be able to travel 1-2 weeks at a time. After reaching location independence, we want to travel from 4 weeks and possibly up to 8-12 months.

We’ve included both big goals (like travel to 100 countries), countries we want to visit, and a few travel specific activities.

  • Travel to 100 countries
  • Travel across Europe by Train
  • Travel across the US in an RV – visiting National Parks (8 months +)
  • Italy – Rome, Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre
    • Gondola in Venice
  • Iceland
  • Central America – trip to see all the countries from Guatemala to Panama (or Costa Rica since we’ve already been to Panama)
  • Amsterdam/Brussels for Tulip season
  • UK – England, Scotland, Ireland
  • Peru – Macchu Picchu
  • Jamaica
  • Egypt – Pyramids
  • Greece – Island Hopping
  • Australia – see a Kangaroo in the wild
  • China – See a Panda in the wild
  • Senegal – visit friends of ours who live there
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Go on a Safari – somewhere in Africa
  • Stay in an overwater bungalow

What We Want to Learn

  • The basics of 10 languages, so that I can navigate, say basic greetings, and order food wherever we travel (Jess)
  • Fluency in Spanish, Proficiency in 1-2 other languages (Jess)
  • Photography
    • How to use filters, so I can take long exposure during the day
    • Portrait Photography
  • Woodworking – make own furniture (Corey)
  • Archery (Corey)
  • Ballroom dance (maybe if my foot gets better enough)

What We Want to Do/Accomplish

  • Complete a 100k bike ride
  • Volunteer for a political campaign (Jess)
  • Read all of the Outlander Books (Jess) 
  • Play a full Pandemic Legacy game
  • Create a family tree – Geneology (Corey)
  • Run a half marathon (Corey)
  • Take a vacation with our best friends
  • Make friends all over the world through our blog AND visit them

Financial Goals to Enable Freedom

  • Own a rental property
  • Have a successful online business that enables us to become location independent
  • Create a successful blog with over 25,000 monthly readers
  • Keep our savings rate above 50%
  • Reach Financial Independence
  • Become millionaires
  • Start a Donor Advised Fund and give to causes we care about

How to Create Your Own Bucket List

Actually creating the bucket list and envisioning what we wanted out of life was the fun part. Here’s what we did to create ours.  

Brainstorm

Write down anything you can think of that you would want to do, see, or accomplish in your lifetime. Make sure you are thinking about things YOU really want.  What are you passionate about? What brings you joy? How do you want to contribute?

Don’t put anything on your list that you’d do because other people would think it was cool (i.e. for the ‘gram). A question to ask yourself as you are thinking through this is: If you weren’t allowed to talk about or share the experience in any way after it was complete, would you still want to do it?  

Brainstorm with Categories

Determine if there are particular categories that you want on your list. For us, it was:

  • Where we want to visit/travel
  • What we want to learn
  • What we want to do/accomplish
  • Financial goals that will enable our freedom

You might have different categories. Maybe you are a foodie, and you want to have a specific section about foods to try. Maybe you want to create a bucket list for experiences in your local area. Maybe you have a list of ways you want to help make the world better.  

I might add additional sections to my bucket list at a later date because a bucket list does not need to be set in stone.

I’m struggling to create a list of how I’d want to make the world better and have decided that I don’t need to include it at this point.

Until about a year ago, I’ve focused the vast majority of my time and career on ways to make the world better and got extremely burned out which lead to mental health issues. Right now, I know I need to have a season where I’m focused on my own happiness and well-being. Right now, I’m keeping my social influence focused on my non-profit day job. We will see where this goes over time.   

Prioritize and Plan

Choose a handful of things from the list that you want to accomplish within the next 2-3 years. Make sure that you choose the right number of things that is realistic but also exciting.  

Once you narrow in on the few bucket list items you want to accomplish in the next few years, you can begin to create your plan of action. You can determine what steps you’ll need to take and the timelines for completing them.

What We’re Putting Into Action Now

The great thing about envisioning big life goals is that you begin to think about how to achieve them.  

In the next 2-3 years, we want to:

  • Travel to Italy, Iceland, and Jamaica
  • Learn about filters and portrait photography
  • Jess will learn the basics of Italian and Icelandic for the trips to Italy and Iceland
  • Corey will run a half marathon (October 2019)
  • Jess will make progress on the Outlander books (I will plan to read 2 more since they are ~900 pages each)
  • Play a full Pandemic Legacy Game
  • Buy a rental property
  • Keep our savings rate above 50%
  • Work on building up our blog and other online businesses

What things are we already doing/planning to accomplish these things?

  • Travel: I applied for a Hyatt Credit Card to help cover the costs of lodging where we want to stay in Jamaica
  • Fitness: Corey recently ran a 5K and is signed up for both a 10K and half-marathon
  • Photography: I already have a photography course through Udemy where I can learn about filters and portrait photography
  • Books: I will get on the library waitlist for the next two Outlander books (after I finish #5)
  • Rental Property: We are planning a day trip within the next couple of weeks to the city where we hope to invest to learn more about the different neighborhoods
  • Online Business: Continue to post weekly on this blog, launch the Slowing Down to FI Interview Series, and consider career coaching
  • Savings Rate: We’re projecting a 55% savings rate for this year

What’s on your bucket list?  

 

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