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Last year around this time, I wrote a reflection on our second year pursuing FI. We started our blog as we started our FI journey, and I can’t believe we’ve already hit the three-year milestone!

I like to keep track of how many words we’ve written on the blog. It turns out we’ve been incredibly consistent.

  • Year 1 = 132,000 words
  • Year 2 = 133,000 words
  • Year 3 = 127,000 words 

I only missed 1 weekly post this year, which was after being in the hospital for GI issues earlier this year. I must say that’s a good reason to miss a week. 

If I add up every word we’ve written, we have 393,968 words on this blog. An epic novel is considered one with more than 110,000 words. We have more than 3 times that many! And, our blog has more words than the longest Harry Potter book (book 7), which comes out to 198,227 words. We are 70% of the way to War and Peace that clocks in at 561,304 words.

This definitely gives me the confidence that I could write a book one day.

Even if I never write a book, there are so many reasons I love writing. Besides being creative, it also provides me with the opportunity to chronicle my own journey and mindset shifts.

If you want to get clear on who you are and what you want, write about it. You’ll have to be clear enough for yourself that you can explain it to other people. That level of clarity is life-changing. 

In this post, I will recap our favorite things that happened this year, our favorite posts from the year, and our plans for the next 12 months. 

Year 3 Accomplishments

Here are the things I told you (in our second-anniversary post) we hoped to do in our 3rd year pursuing FI.

  • “By this time next year, I’d love to be a ‘full-time’ entrepreneur.” ✅
  • “Next summer, we’re planning to rent a campervan for an adventure. We’re excited to see if #vanlife (at least for a period of time) is for us.” ✅
  • “Last year we started our minimalist journey… We got rid of 500 items in a month. This wasn’t enough… I expect you are going to hear about minimalism from me over the next year.” ✅
  • “I’d like to dive more deeply into what it means to have an abundance mindset vs. a scarcity mindset.” ✅

Sometimes, it feels like day-to-day progress is slow. I love looking back at these things because it helps me realize just how far we’ve actually come!

Let’s talk about what we actually accomplished in Year 3!

  • I quit my job and became a full-time entrepreneur in January of 2021. This was a full 9 months earlier than “by this time next year.”
  • In the spring, I partnered with a friend to create a 3-session class, sharing everything we’ve learned about overcoming a scarcity mindset. We had more than 35 people enroll in the class, and we’ll be running the class again sometime in 2022. Inspired by the class, I also write a post about how knowing your numbers can empower you to design your life (instead of holding you back).
  • Being home almost 100% of the time during the pandemic made me realize that we still have SO MUCH CRAP. I have consistently been getting rid of things. Based on our donation log, I can tell that I donated almost 300 items already this year. And, I’ve given and thrown away a lot more. 
  • We experimented with #vanlife by renting a campervan for 10 days this summer. We loved it so much that we decided to buy and build out our own. This takes us one step closer to location independence!

My Ten Favorite Posts from Year 3

As I shared above, I love blogging. It allows me to chronicle my journey and mindset shifts. Here are the 10 most notable posts from year 3. 

1. I Quit My Job: Why I’m Taking the Leap to Entrepreneurship Now

I originally planned to stay in my part-time job through the summer or fall of 2021. Overall, the job was great. I worked 3-days/week, had an understanding boss, and felt like I was making an impact. I was able to set clear boundaries that were respected so that I could build my business on the side. 

Unfortunately, these things changed quickly. My amazingly understanding boss left the organization in the spring of 2020. My new boss started pushing me to work more hours and started dropping hints that she “really needed someone to work full-time.”

I made it clear that I didn’t want to work full-time, but the pressure didn’t stop. I felt unappreciated for the service I was willing to provide, so I decided to leave. 

Luckily, I had started my coaching business in April 2020. In the fall, I facilitated the second cohort of my group coaching program. I was starting to see a track record of success and sustainability. Because of this and knowing that F-You money gave us a significant runway to build the business, I decided to quit at the end of 2020

The business has continued to grow at a steady pace. In the first 8 months of 2021, I’ve already generated more income than I did from my traditional employment in 2020!

Using the skills I learned working in HR (training, development, and adult learning), I help people design lives they truly love along the way to FI. If you are interested in learning more about my coaching, I’d encourage you to check it out and sign-up for the waitlist

2. Actively Choose to Design Your Life

I talk about lifestyle design all the time, but earlier this year, I realized that I’d never actually written a foundational post on lifestyle design. Lifestyle design has had a tremendous impact on me and so many others, so I knew I needed to! 

Here’s how I define it. Lifestyle design is an iterative process where you:

  • Figure out who you are and what you want
  • Craft your own definition of success
  • Brainstorm a variety of ideas to build a fulfilling life, and
  • Experiment to see what you actually want to pursue. 

It’s a continuous process, a virtual cycle. You learn from the experimentation. Then, you use that to inform what you truly want, adapt your definition of success, and brainstorm new and bigger ideas. Then, you experiment with those new ideas and continue the cycle.

Here’s a graphic that will help explain this more. 

lifestyle design cycle

By working through a lifestyle design process, my goals have gotten bigger and bigger. First, I thought I could maybe someday semi-retire because of a side hustle. Then, after getting started and experimenting, I realized that I could take it full-time. Now, my vision is to generate enough income that Corey could quit his job and do it by working only 8 months/year. Then, I could take summers off if I want to!

I’m excited to see how my dreams and lifestyle design will continue to evolve. 

3. 6 Strategies to Conquer Your Self-Limiting Beliefs

Over the last couple of years, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in working through limiting beliefs. Why? Because I’ve needed to work through so many of them myself.

Anytime we dream big, work toward our goals, and step out of our comfort zones, limiting beliefs pop up. It’s only natural. Our “lizard brain” wants to keep us safe from unknown things that could harm us. But, the reality is that most of the things that we’re scared of won’t actually harm us!

Knowing this doesn’t actually allow us to set aside our limiting beliefs though. Some of these beliefs are deep-rooted and require us to use different strategies to get them out into the open and work through them. 

Here are just a few examples of limiting beliefs I’ve had this year include:

  • “Why would anyone pay to take a class I’m running? Why do I think I have anything valuable to say?”
  • “If I miss a week of writing, it will become a slippery slope. So, I should push through and write the post this week, even though I was just in the hospital.”
  • “Focusing so much on my health and wellness is selfish.”
  • “You shouldn’t spend money on things that will improve your life. You don’t deserve it.”

Do any of these sound like your own inner dialogue? 

If so, I’d encourage you to check out the post I wrote about the six strategies that I use to work through my limiting beliefs

4. Financial Metrics to Help You Design Your Life Today

When I first learned about financial independence, all of the resources, tools, and calculators were focused on achieving financial independence as quickly as possible. That was the goal, right?

Why would anyone ever look at their numbers and consider slowing down their path? 

As I dove into learning more about shedding my scarcity mindset (and building an abundance mindset) over the past year, I knew I needed the numbers to support it.

I knew there were different stages of financial freedom:

  • F-You Money
  • Coast FI
  • Semi-Retirement (or what some might call Barista FI)
  • Full Financial Independence

So, I decided to create a resource that would help us understand the stage we were in. Then, we could use that to determine the choices that we could make TODAY. 

Since we’ve already reached Coast FI, the metric that was most motivating for us was Expected Investment Balance at Retirement Age (if we stopped investing today). This number told us how much we’d have invested if we decided to coast (i.e. only cover our expenses) now until the age of 60-65.

It was amazing to realize that even if we stopped invested any money now and only covered our actual costs until the age of 60, we’d end up with 25-50% more than what we’d actually need to have a comfortable traditional retirement. 

Knowing this gives us the confidence to take more risks and consider new options earlier. 

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5. Our Next 5 Year Plans and Tips to Create Yours

In fact, working through these numbers inspired us to create a 5-year plan. Previously, where we wanted to be financially felt so far away. So, even considering having Corey leave his lucrative job felt out of the question.

Part of the reason why I’ve felt so comfortable making shifts is that I knew I had a safety net (i.e. Corey’s high salary). Taking a pay cut or becoming an entrepreneur would not jeopardize our traditional retirement. The worst that could happen was that it would reduce our savings rate and increase our FI timeline by a few years. 

Working through the numbers was a turning point for us.

It helped us realize that we could make even bigger shifts over the next few years. And this meant, considering when Corey would leave his lucrative job and join me in the business. And, after working through the numbers, we realized we’d be more than fine if he did!

We started discussing what the next 5 years could look like for us. Would Corey leave his job in 1, 2, or 3 more years? What could we do in the meantime to live an adventurous life? 

whiteboard planning
Actual photo of our whiteboard!

Through discussion, we came up with a few scenarios that took both of our desires into account. We came to the realization that Corey technically doesn’t need his high-paying job anymore. So, the conversation became about how much longer he wanted to stay. Since he actually enjoys his work, we’re leaning toward him staying for 2-3 more years. We don’t need the money, so this is purely a desire for him at this point.

We also wanted to incorporate more travel and adventure into our lives while Corey is still working. We started to discuss potentially building out a van after Corey leaves work (if we ended up enjoying our #vanlife experiment). We also started planning to compile a big chunk of Corey’s vacation for 2022, so we could take a 1-month campervan trip. 

I’d encourage you to check out our full 5-year plans (although some things have already shifted). We also include tips to create your own 5-year plan as well. 

6. What We Learned From Our Van Life Experiment

Over the summer, we took a 10-day campervan trip around Maine and New Hampshire. While we knew this was going to be a fun vacation, it was also an experiment. We wanted to see if spending time traveling in a campervan was for us. 

  • Would we enjoy it?
  • Would there be enough space? Or would we feel cramped?
  • If we decided to build out our own van, what would we want? 
campervan

I’m happy to say that we enjoyed traveling in a van even more than we expected! It allowed us to travel at a slow pace, take breaks when we needed to, and have a feeling of home wherever we were. 

Based on this, we decided owning a campervan would be in our future.

The main question we still needed to answer was… when? Did we want to rent another van for our 1-month adventure in 2022 or did we want our own by then? 

7. We Bought a Camper Van! What To Do Before You Make a Huge Purchase

It took us about a month to answer that question. In fact, there were so many questions that we needed to answer before we could say with confidence that NOW was the right time for us. 

Some of these questions included:

  • How much would it actually cost?
  • That’s a lot of money. Could we really spend this much money on something like this? 
  • How would this impact our 5-Year Plans and FI timeline? 
  • Was the trade-off worth it?
  • Did we want to try to build it out ourselves or hire someone to do it (even though it would be a lot more expensive)?

We worked through all these questions (thoroughly) and decided to move forward! In mid-August, we ordered a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cargo van from the factory with all the features that we wanted. It’ll go into production in November. We’ll receive it in December.

Then, we’ll start the conversion with a van builder in January.  It will take 10-12 weeks to build out, so we should have it by April 2022!

As people who’ve been such diligent savers over the past decade, it was very hard to make a decision to spend $120,000+ on something that was purely a want. If you struggle with this too, I’d encourage you to check out the post to learn more about our thought process.

8. Lead with Your Life, a Slow FI Interview with Michelle Jackson from Michelle is Money Hungry

Over the last year, we’ve continued to amplify the stories of people who are designing their lives along the way to FI in our Slow FI Interview Series. In fact, we now have 35 interviews in the series, and there are still more stories to be told!

One of my favorite Slow FI Interviews this year was with Michelle Jackson who runs the blog and Podcast Michelle is Money Hungry.

I love Michelle’s story because she is incredibly creative and courageous. Many people think they need to achieve financial freedom before they can design their lives. Michelle took the opposite approach. She decided to lead with her life.

She decided what she wanted her life to look like and used her creativity to figure out how to generate the income needed to sustain it. 

In 2014, Michelle quit a job that was negatively impacting her physical and mental health. And, she did it while she was still paying off debt. She took immediate steps to reduce her expenses (while maintaining her quality of life) and built up 9 different income streams. 

After 7 years as an entrepreneur, Michelle has it figured it (from my perspective at least). She currently works about 10 months each year, and she only works 4 days/week (Monday-Thursday). 

Michelle has also been a vocal advocate of the Slow FI approach. She believes that it’s much more attainable, realistic, and socially equitable, particularly for people of color. 

9. Take a Sabbatical to Test Your Future Plans, a Slow FI interview with Mel from Modest Millionaires

This was a particularly fun Slow FI interview! Mel is my blogging BFF. My blog and business are where they are today because of the friendship and accountability we’ve shared. We’ve had lunch weekly for almost two years now. 

Because of this, I got to be a sounding board as she was making her decision to take a year-long sabbatical. After walking through the full thought process, I knew that I needed to feature Mel in a Slow FI Interview.

I’m a big fan of experimentation. I don’t actually think that you need to make a decision to do something and go all in right away. In most cases, it’s actually better to experiment and test the waters. This helps you to know if it’s actually what you want, answers important questions and builds your confidence to take the next steps. 

If you have an opportunity to take a sabbatical before quitting your job, I’d absolutely recommend it.

Since Mel works for the Canadian government, she had the opportunity to take a one-year leave. Taking a sabbatical allowed her to test out whether she liked the new pace of life and gave her more time to build her business. 

Over the year, I’ve seen her build her confidence that she doesn’t need (or want) to go back to full-time work. And, she’s started to figure out what her ideal schedule looks like and how she wants to balance her business with being a mom (during a pandemic). 

10. Making Money with Calligraphy, a Passion Hustle Interview with Marie Coleman-Johns of Maiden September and Winenance

This year I started a new type of interview series! I wanted to interview people who have found work that they truly love!

I truly believe that people can make money doing almost anything. They could do calligraphy, train dogs, create their own apps, coach, create online courses, etc. I even know someone who started a business shipping dog poop to someone you are mad at. I’m not even joking.

I was so excited to interview Marie because she’s figured out how to monetize her passion and creativity with calligraphy. While it’s something she’s currently doing on the side, I could definitely see it become a “full-time” thing whenever she decides to transition into a Coast FI lifestyle (or even sooner!). 

I’ve only done one of these interviews so far, but I expect that I’ll do more of them in year 4 of the blog.

Looking Ahead to Year 4

We have so many things to be excited about over the next 12 months. If this past year is any indication though, it’s that we’ll likely end up doing things different (and likely better) than our current plans!

Here’s what I do know:

  • We will continue to write weekly to share what we’re learning with you.
  • We will continue to amplify the stories of people who are designing their lives along the way to FI and exploring work that they truly love through our Slow FI and Passion Hustle Interview series. 
  • We will continue to build up our business in a way that helps us reach our long-term goals of being location-independent. And, we’ll do it in a way that brings us joy, enables balance and helps us build our ideal life. 

Here are the things I’d love to see happen in the next year! 

Next Summer (2022), we are hoping to take a 1-month trip around the Maritime Canadian Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island). We’ll make this happen as long as two things fall into place. First, Corey will need to negotiate the ability to take 1-month of his vacation time all at once. We believe this will be possible, but he still needs to broach the conversation with his boss. Second, the border between the US and Canada will need to be open to tourists. Hopefully, this will be the case! 

Besides writing and working with clients in my coaching programs, I will be exploring new ways to make an impact on the FI community. Particularly, I will be exploring more options for online courses, workshops, and potentially an audio series (like a podcast but time-bound). 

With all the GI and mobility issues I’ve experienced, I’m expecting to focus a lot more on my health over the next year. I started working with a nutritionist this year and learning how to “eat for health.” The only other times I’ve focused on food was because I wanted to lose weight. Focusing on food that makes me feel good and gives me energy has been a really enriching experience. I expect this new realm of intentionality will remain a focus for me over the next year.

I’d also like to dive more deeply into burnout prevention and recovery. It seems like this is a significant issue within our community. Most people don’t address it until it’s gotten critical. I want to learn the best strategies to help people recover from burnout. And, I also want to share the strategies that can help prevent burnout in the first place. I’m excited to share with you what I learn along the way. 

cheers raise a glass celebrate

Here’s to year 4 and another 130,000 more words! I can’t wait to see what they bring!

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