Unqualified For FI

A Financial Hot Mess

I should be the last person to tell anyone about Financial Independence (FI). Take someone with a shopping addiction, sprinkle a learning disability in math on top, and you’ve got yourself a financial hot mess. But, that was the old me. Well, technically it’s the new me too since shopping addictions and learning disabilities never really go away. However, the financial hot mess part is no longer a given. I am getting ahead of myself though. Let’s start from the beginning.

From Desperation to Discovery

In the summer of 2013 I was feeling restless regarding my financial situation. Strike that; I was feeling desperate. After years of education and training to earn a doctorate in psychology, I had finally been released into the world to fulfill my calling and make a living. However, my job was not bringing in much money and the student loan debt was ballooning. I felt like a caged animal, pacing and panting, feeling anger towards myself because I was the one who took on all the debt.

Looking for a way to escape my perceived financial imprisonment, I stumbled upon an article that shifted my perspective on money. The author told me to punch myself in the face…and I liked it. It was written by none other than Mr. Money Mustache (MMM). Those in the Financial Independence community are already well acquainted with Pete’s blog. If you are new, I recommend checking it out.

Over the course of a week after discovering MMM I read every article. In between reading, I stepped outside, rubbed my bloodshot eyes and stared incredulously at the brand new car in the driveway that I had purchased only a few weeks earlier. Face. Punch. 

A Time For Action

Motivated by MMM’s words, I sprang into action looking for a new job. Within a couple of months I started a position which would not only qualify for Public Loan Service Forgiveness for my student debt, but also exceeded my previous employment in every aspect including pay. What’s more, this change in circumstances allowed my husband to accept an offer for his dream job.

What is not lost on me is that what I once believed was one of the worst decisions I had ever made (taking on student debt), brought me to one of the best opportunities in my life. Had I not been in so much debt and deeply uncomfortable with the situation I doubt my eyes would have been opened otherwise to the concepts, philosophy and community that encompasses FI. 

There Is Still A Problem

This would be the end of the story except for one vital detail. Despite my enthusiasm and complete immersion in FI, I was not gaining any real traction. It should come as no surprise that a shopping addiction can really put a hamper on the whole, “save money, get out of debt, be financially independent” thing. My experience was not one of seeing the light and setting it all right in one fell swoop.

I set goals and intentions around spending and saving, only to sabotage the progress. A small trickle of spending here, a big binge of spending there. I don’t know who was more perplexed, me or my husband, who I had recruited to FI with a PowerPoint presentation. It was an awesome PowerPoint presentation. 

How could I, who my husband often stated was, “The most disciplined person” he knew, not manage to stick to a simple budget? We had made progress in our financial life, however, it was undeniable that something was woefully off in my spending behavior.  It was not until early 2019 that I finally admitted that I had a problem. 

Limitations

The acknowledgement of my shopping addiction allowed me to do something different. A big shift came when I read a book for work on binge eating and I realized I could apply many of the concepts to shopping. I started to see an improvement in my behaviors and with that became even more encouraged that I could overcome my limitations.

It is evident how a shopping addiction and learning disability in math are significant hurdles to achieving FI. While perhaps not as blatant as my obstacles, you probably also hold limiting beliefs about who you supposedly are and thus, your reduced capability to achieve FI. The truth is, none of us begin our journey from the same starting point. Be it the impact of systemic racism, family of origin, being born into a particular generation, or any other set back, there are as many barriers to FI as there are people. 

But Don’t Stop There!

Limitations are only part of your story, and not even the most important part! None of us are defined by limitations. You have many strengths that become fortified each time they are flexed in counterbalance to your weak points.

I want you to pause right now and identify three of your strengths. Maybe you are intelligent, passionate, giving, or hard working. I’m serious. Stop right now and do this.

Now, at the end of each day for the next week, reflect on how you exhibited or called upon those strengths as well as any other strengths that came up. For example, you had an argument with you partner, but you are a loving person. So, you were able to tap into this strength to resolve the conflict. It might surprise you how many of your positive qualities show up when you need them most.

From The Mess A Blog Is Born

As for myself, I truly am a disciplined person. Now I know how to harness it in a way that is graceful and effective, rather than the brute force I used to try and exert against my vice. I came to realize that maybe I am more qualified to speak about FI than I gave myself credit for. I believe even those of us who struggle with financial sobriety can achieve FI. 

I decided to start this blog as a way to share my approach and to explore the intersection between shopping addiction and FI. I want to add my voice to the FI conversation and provide a unique perspective on two topics that seemingly should not be mentioned in the same sentence. Whether you are here because of a shopping addiction, an interest in FI, both, or none of the above, I hope you find this website to be a thought provoking source of inspiration and motivation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.