Happy 2018, readers. I hope you’re having a beautiful start to the new year.
This time of the year is magical for me. I enjoyed sharing extra special moments with families and friends, combined with delicious, comfort food (for weeks in a row). I also loved the holiday decors both at home and while being out and about. These moments can really be savored all year long. Sleeping until 9 a.m. has been typical for my family and I this past week as our bodies recovered from all the festivities.
Finishing the Old and Starting the New
As of yesterday, we’ve taken care most of our financial matters for year 2017, with the exception of paying property taxes and filing for tax return. We made purchases in my i401k account, rebalanced our investment portfolio, updated our financial accounts and made a projected budget for this year. So far, the two biggest, one-time expenses we’re looking at are money going toward paying for two international trips. Other than the usual recurring basic expenses, we also have several home renovation projects we want to accomplish.
December 2017 Non-W2 Incomes Report
I recently went through a pretty dark period in my life. Back in late 2016, when my husband brought up the topic of early retirement for both of us, I suddenly found myself going down the rabbit hole of fearing there’s “not enough”.
By that point, he and I have reached a consensus that we’d be in a great financial position to retire (for both of us) within the next year or two. That was our agreed terms, so I thought (I soon learned that was really the terms I put on our relationship). There was a certain financial number I (and only I) wanted us to reach. That was the number I was comfortable with. I don’t know why I was so stickle about that particular number. Maybe I like the sound of it. Maybe I like the roundness of that certain number. Maybe I like having extra built-in cushions in our finances before having both of us retired from our jobs. Whatever the reason(s) might be, I was adamant about reaching that magic and comforting number.
In the fields of economics and psychology, one living with the fears of “not enough” is said to be living with a scarcity mentality (or mindset). If you google “scarcity mentality” and read some of what’s been written, you’d quickly gather that living life with a scarcity mentality can be limiting and debilitating.
For me, I tie much of my sense of security to money. I don’t need to have a lot of money. However, when we’re talking about early retirement, I’d have liked to have reached a certain amount of money before I can feel safe. Both my husband and I had very good compensation benefits. Those benefits were a big part of my family’s safety net. In this blog, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the awesomeness of reaching financial independence and early retirement (see here and here). What I left out was my fear of giving up all the great benefits that came with W-2 employment (see here). The thought of having to let go of all that safety net seemed scary, overwhelming and wasteful. And I cringed at the thought of all that we’d lose when we leave our employment.
Naturally, feelings and thoughts of scarcity started creeping into my head and I found myself in a big mess. Consequently, the quality of my marriage and family life suffered. My mental and emotional health had also suffered.
Shedding Some Light into this New Mental State Experience
My family and I recently visited Washington D.C. One day, my daughter and I had an engaging conversation on money, exchange and delayed gratification. And I’ve decided to share that conversation here in hope that you and your children might benefit.
The conversation occurred as the three of us were walking along the National Mall, while passing by the carousel. My soon-to-be-3-years-old toddler loves carousels and Ferris wheels. As anticipated, Ruby asked me if she could ride the carousel. I fell conflicted. On the one hand, I wanted her to join the other kids in the carousel area and have an even greater time during our visit. On the other hand, we were pressed for time as we had already made plans with other family members for dinner and a nighttime bus tour.
I didn’t want to just respond to Ruby with a plain “no”. The three of us were having a great day, and I wasn’t going to let that moment ruin the beautiful memory. I had to quickly come up with a strategy to distract her, and give her enough reasoning to move along (both physically and emotionally). All meanwhile, conveying my words and wishes in a manner that she’d understand.
Moreover, I didn’t want to do a quick fix. I have learned that Ruby’s memory is pretty good nowadays. There were times in the past when I didn’t do a good job explaining to my daughter why she was denied of something, and she’d cry on and off for 30 plus minutes until her feelings got resolved. I wasn’t going to let something similar happen right there then.
Below detailed how the conversation went (in Mandarin):
Wishlist and Bucket List
Do you recall when you first started having a wishlist or bucket list? I didn’t have one until I was in my mid-20s. Before then, I didn’t desire much. I was simply happy just having the essentials or necessities. I understood my financial situation as a student. My mindset at the time was that my situation was temporary and wanted to focus my attention on doing well in my studies. I looked forward to the day when I finished school, secured a satisfying career and then start living the life of my dream.
What was the first item that made it to my wishlist? It was a Marc by Marc Jacobs crossbody bag. I saw that bag on a fashion magazine that I subscribed to at the time.
Around my 25th birthday, my husband and I visited Saks Fifth Avenue. When I saw that bag sitting on the shelf, I hesitated and started having second thoughts. The price tag was $249. It was a VERY expensive bag. My most expensive bag prior to that one costed me less than $30. My husband and I walked in circles around the store as I had a very hard time deciding if I wanted us to spend that kind of money. It was just a [beautiful] crossbody bag…After perhaps 45 minutes later, my then boyfriend was paying for the bag at the cashier register. And that was my first designer bag. From there, I went on to purchase couple Michael Kors bags.
Deciding on the Now or Later
I love free honest money. I was 10 years-old when I found my first $20 bill on a grassy field. That was shortly after my family and I have immigrated to the U.S. With my parents’ combined income being less than $2,000 a month at the time (providing for a family of 4), you can imagine what that $20 bill meant to me. To say I was super excited would be an understatement.
Are All Free Honest Money Equal?
However, not all free honest money has always been equal for me. I don’t ever recall having picked up a penny off the ground. For some reason, picking pennies just never seemed worth it to me.
As for my husband, while he wouldn’t waste calories to pick up one penny, he’d spend the calories to pick up two plus pennies. And he’d get very excited about this kind of free honest money. Just a few months ago, we even joked that if one million people on earth would be willing to share a penny with us once a year, we’d have $10,000 of free honest money. This is a large sum of money! Even pennies add up to being worth something.
For years, I teased him about this money habit of his. I didn’t appreciate the value of a penny back in the days when I was growing up in a low-income family. At our current financial standing, the value of a penny is worth even less to me. I didn’t understand why my husband bothers to pick up pennies. For a long time, I never asked him.
A Transformative and Significant Moment