I originally wrote this post in the spring of 2019, almost two years ago! At the time, I was only 4 months into my part-time job. At the time, I felt like I was starting to get into a routine. Now, I’m several months into being a full-time entrepreneur, and the feeling is similar.
Just a few years ago, I hated feeling like I was in a routine. I was too busy, extremely exhausted, and the routine always looked the same.
Here was the routine I hated:
- Get up and prepare to go to work
- Go to work for 8-10 hours with a 45-minute commute each way
- Come home and decide I’m too tired to make dinner (and order take-out)
- Recover from work by watching TV or doing some other mindless activity
- Go to bed
- Get up and do it all over again
Today, I feel much more positive about getting into a routine. Routine now means that I’m getting into a groove so I can work less, focus more time on self-care, get enough sleep, etc.
Routine feels good. It allows me to start asking, “What’s next?”
I want to be intentional about how I use my extra time. Sure, some of the extra time can go to watching a bit more TV or playing video games (it’s a fun thing we can do together). But, I don’t want to waste (too much) time. I want to spend my time intentionally on things that add value and joy to my life.
After a few months, I’m getting into the groove of being a full-time entrepreneur. I’ve figured out when I get my best work done. I’m learning to set better boundaries and limits (mostly with myself). It’s easy to focus a lot of time on my work because I enjoy it. But, I’m also learning the right balance between work, fun, and relaxation.
Now feels like a great time to reset and look back on the bucket list we created two years ago.
I’m interested to see:
- What we accomplished
- What we deprioritized
- What we still want to do
- What new things we want to add to the lists
Over the last two years, I’ve seen that having a clear vision of what I want is incredibly important. It allows me to organize my day-to-day life to take small actions toward my bigger goals.
I used to shy away from creating big goals for myself. Before I learned about financial independence, there were many things I wanted to do that I didn’t believe were actually possible.
After learning about FI, I realized that I had so many more options than I thought. In fact, the possibilities are much bigger and broader than I could have ever imagined.
Through the pursuit of financial freedom, I can envision my ideal life, and I can make it happen. The sky’s 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 even 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.
You don’t need to be fully financially independent to start pursuing the things on your bucket list. With some degree of financial freedom already (being debt-free, having F-You Money, being Coast FI), you have the opportunity to pursue bigger items on a bucket list.
Some of the things we have the opportunity to do now are bigger than I could have possibly imagined before starting our journey to FI.
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. That incomplete process meant that I spent way too much time focusing on work-related goals. It’s incredibly important to have a broad set of goals that include things in our life besides work.
1. Pulls Us Out of the Work Grind
Creating a bucket list helps to pull us out of the day-to-day grind. I can allow us to 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. Pulls 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. Having a bucket list is a reminder that the true reason to pursue FI isn’t 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. Makes Our Lives More Memorable
Bucket lists can actually make our lives more memorable. They can provide a framework to remember the peak experienced in our lives.
For example, one goal I have is to become a much better photographer. On my bucket list, I made the goal very specific.
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 our goals are specific, we can create a concrete plan to achieve them. Breaking the steps into a concrete plan helps us to believe we can actually accomplish the goal.
When I wrote this post in 2019, one of my goals was the create a successful blog with over 25,000 monthly readers. When I first started blogging, this goal seemed unattainable.
However, I mapped out the steps, which included:
- Writing high-quality content on a weekly basis
- Learning more about SEO
- Engaging on social media
- Starting a newsletter
After creating a list of steps, it was easier to get to work. We’ve now actually had a number of months where we’ve met this goal and we continue to see the reach of our content increase over time.
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.
Whenever I think about going after the wrong goal, I think of this 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. She started to “game the system” 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?
When we originally created this list, we spent time brainstorming together.
This time, we spent some time reviewing the list to:
- See what we had already accomplished
- Decide what we still wanted to do
- Add new things to the list
We’ve seen our bucket list evolve over time as we learn more about ourselves and what we want. I expect you’ll see yours evolve over time as well.
We broke our bucket list down into 4 categories:
- Where we want to visit/travel
- What we want to learn
- What we want to do/accomplish
- Financial goals that will enable freedom over time
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.
New things added to the list are in bold and italics.
Where We Want to Visit/Travel
Technically, I am now a location-independent entrepreneur. Now, the business just needs to generate enough income to cover our expenses and save a little. This would allow Corey to quit his job and join me as a location-independent entrepreneur also.
Before we become fully location independent, we’ll likely be able to travel for 1-2 weeks at a time. Once we reach location independence, we want to travel for months at a time.
With the COVID-19 pandemic happening over the last year, we, unfortunately, did not get to do many of our travel-related goals. In fact, we had to cancel our trip to Jamaica in March of 2020. We were hoping to go to Italy or Iceland in 2021. Instead, we’re planning to do a campervan adventure this summer instead, so that we can stay in New England.
Here’s what’s still on our list:
- Travel to 100 countries
- Travel across Europe by Train
- Travel across the US in a campervan – visiting National Parks
- Italy – Rome, Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre
- 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
- 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
- Ride in a hot air balloon
- Go on a Safari – somewhere in Africa (we have been on a Moose Safari In Maine)
- Stay in an overwater bungalow
- Portugal and the Azores
- Norway or Sweden – See the Northern Lights
What We Want to Learn
There are so many things that we’ve learned over the last two years. Some, we planned for and some we didn’t!
Here are just a few:
- I learned to set better boundaries and created a set of positive (pandemic-friendly) habits to support my quality of life.
- Corey learned to play disc golf.
- We learned to groom our dog ourselves!
- I learned about minimalism and have decluttered hundreds (if not thousands) of items from our house.
Here’s what’s still on our list:
- The basics of 10 languages, so that I can navigate, say basic greetings, and order food wherever we travel (Jess)
- Photography (Jess) – Long exposure astrophotography (i.e. photography of the night sky) and long-exposure day-time photography using filters for waterfalls
- Woodworking (Corey)
- Continue learning about minimalism (Jess)
- Learn to sail proficiently (Jess)
What We Want to Do/Accomplish
Over the last 2 years, we’ve accomplished a lot of the things we’ve set out to do.
- I’ve read all 9 of the Outlander books, and I’m now just waiting for book 10 to come out.
- We had a goal of playing one Pandemic Legacy game. With the literal pandemic and spending so much time at home over the past year, we’ve played all 3 full pandemic legacy games!
- Corey set a goal to run a half-marathon in 2019 and achieved his goal.
- We’ve started to cultivate friendships with friends all over the world through this blog. We’re excited to have friends and guides wherever we go.
Here’s what we still want to do:
- Complete a 100k bike ride
- Create a family tree – Genealogy (Corey)
- Write a book (Jess)
- Alleviate Pain, so I can walk 3+ miles at a time (Jess)
- Take 3-6 months completely off of work
- Complete a pro-tier professional disc golf tournament (Corey)
- Live in a campervan (for a period of time while keeping a home base)
Financial Goals to Enable Freedom
Over the last two years, we’ve achieved a number of our financial goals.
- We have built an online business that will eventually enable us to become location-independent. ?
- We have built a successful blog that continues to grow in influence and reach.
- We kept our savings rate above 50% for the last two years, even though we’ve continued to make intentional decisions to improve our lives thinking it would slow down our path to FI.
Partially as a result of COVID, we deprioritized owning a rental property. We realized that the property market was volatile. Instead, we did a cash-out refinance and put all of the money we’d been saving for a rental property into the stock market will help us to achieve our financial goals on a similar timeline.
Here’s what we still want to do:
- Keep our savings rate above 50% for at least 2021 and 2022 or until Corey decides to quit his job.
- Reach Financial Independence (eventually).
- Start a Donor Advised Fund and give to causes we care about.
- Make enough money to cover our expenses and 20% savings in the business so that Corey can quit his job.
- Create new income streams – on-demand offerings or products for passive income (in addition to the live coaching I do)
How to Create Your Own Bucket List
Creating the bucket list and envisioning what we want out of life is the fun part. Here’s what we did to create ours.
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. 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.
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 are 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 across the US in a campervan visiting national parks and other beautiful sites along the way. (This will not likely be a one-and-done thing, but we will get started with our 10-day campervan adventure in June).
- Travel to Jamaica, Italy, and Iceland (as long as the pandemic allows)
- Learn enough of the language of everywhere we travel that I can do things like navigate and order food.
- Learning how to use filters for long-exposure photography during the day.
- Become more minimalist
- Learn how to sail proficiently
- Learn to alleviate pain, so I can walk 3+ miles at a time.
What things are we already doing/planning to accomplish these things?
- Campervan trip across the US: We are experimenting this summer by renting a campervan for an adventure in New England.
- International travel: We’ve accumulated a lot of miles and points that will allow us to travel to many of these places cheaply. Since we canceled the Jamaica trip, we can easily reschedule the same itinerary when things are safe. I’ve already done quite a bit of research on Italy and Iceland travel.
- Language learning: Typically about months before a trip, I start to learn the local language through Duolingo. This worked for me to learn enough French when we visited France and Switzerland in 2017.
- Long Exposure Photography: I have a photography course through Udemy and there’s a ton of information available on the internet. When we travel to Vermont in April of this year, I will have the opportunity to practice both of these.
- Minimalism: I’m slowly and steadily decluttering my house. I plan to read more books on minimalism.
- Learn to sail: I took a sailing class a few years ago, and I’m planning to get a membership at a local sailing club this summer. This will allow me to take classes and become “yellow rated” so that I can take people out in the boat with me.
- Alleviating Pain: I’m making a lot of strides in alleviating my chronic foot pain. I am going to continue those strategies. If those strategies stall, I am committed to finding new strategies to help. I would like to eventually be able to walk or hike without needing to worry about the distance.
What’s on your bucket list?