Thursday, 3 December 2009

Realistic Expectations

By Notes From The Frugal Trenches
I blogged today on my personal blog about friends making poor financial choices and basically purchasing big ticket items (cars, house) without adequate finances. This made me really think about what are realistic expectations for life? I've blogged before on this site that life for me is a journey, I began downshifting, getting rid of debt and living a frugal life with such idealism; I was going to be able to sew, knit, crochet, grow my own fruits & veggies, become a master chef & expert baker all with the stroke of a wand. Oh how I came crashing down! I did however learn through trial & error, hard work, determination and realistic expectations that baby steps do lead somewhere and while I may not be able to knit a sweater just yet, I'm pretty good at knitting dish & wash cloths!
Taking realistic expectations a step further, I've begun to wonder about what my expectations are about my life in general? What do I expect to own? How do I expect to live? What is a realistic expectation of where I want to be physically and financially five, ten, twenty, thirty years from now.
You often read that people want to be able to retire at 55, own their home and a cottage, be able to enjoy a couple of holidays/vacations a year, eat out a few times a week etc. Many financial books I've read suggest that people have $1 million + before they retire. I have to say my own expectations are nowhere near as grand! I don't mind (and hopefully I'm physically able!) working until I'm 65, I'd prefer to work part time for more years than full time for less, I would like to own a home with a little bit of land, adopt, volunteer, live simply & frugally and give to others. Am I realistic that I will need money in order to accomplish most of these things? Absolutely! But I also know that money does not necessarily buy quality of life, it does not make you enjoy the life you are living each and every day! A friend recently read a study on happiness and finances and she said that the research showed that once someone had an emergency fund (savings of approximately $25,000) and an income that they could pay mortgage, utilities, food and enjoy one "average type" holiday per year, then their happiness factor did not increase even if they had 4 or 5x that in savings or disposable income! Just hearing this confirmed what I expected - that realistic expectations, a purpose driven life, an understanding of who you are, challenging what success means to you, living a simple life and helping others really does give you all you need to enjoy life, to have fulfillment and to contribute in a positive way.
I'd love to hear from you, how do you keep your expectations about what you can accomplish in your daily life realistic? And for the big things in life, where is it you want to be in 20 or 30 years and is that realistic?


Kelle said...

Okay our life expectations, Hummmm. We've learned to live well below our income, thus saving enough to pay off all debt, including our morgage on Nov.17,2009, YEAH! We'd dreamed my Dh(we're a one income family)would retiring early, say age 55+ and that may still come into play. Realistically he will still need to continue working( possibly only part time)for a few more years to rebuild a healthy nestegg, to have enough $$ for utlities, feed for the animals, medical emergencies, upkeep of equipment and home, etc....

It can be reality if you are willing to make the sacrifices and rid yourselves of all the wiles of industrialization.

BTW, although we've lived a frugal/ homesteading lifestlye for 22+ yrs, we're still learning. I'm just now taking sewing classes and my neighbor is going to teach me knitting.

Blessings from,
The Never Done Farm

This Thrifted Life said...

While I've been living more frugally for a few years now, we only started seriously downshifting a year or so ago. My expectations are definitely a work in progress, and I think they will be for a long time. Like that article stated, a healthy emergency fund and a paid-off home would make me feel nicely secure, and we'll achieve that by living well within our means. Now that we have our own home, we can supplement our budget by growing more of our own food, doing our on work on our property, etc.

I think what gets me the most is that our expectations so often focus on (only* money, and we forget that we should include the rest of our lives in that! We should have healthy expectations for friendships, giving, quality of life, personal fulfillment, etc. While money may be our means to an end most of the time, it cannot be the only way me weasure our lives and our freedom. How unfun that would be!

Diana said...

This is so timely for me.

Like you, I had some pretty grandious ideas of how my life was going to look when we left the big city of San Diego 7 years ago for little upstate NY....and the crash from that height was a hard one.

But now, older, a little wiser, and with a better sense of humor (especially about myself), what I want most for my life is a balanced, purpose driven life.

We're a 1.25 income family, and I think retirement by 55 may be real for us given some investment choices we've made...there's more we could do, and I hope to. But for me, retirement is only appealing because I don't love my work. I do love homeschooling my daughter, the service projects we work on together, and my home based life. My daughter will grow and need me less and less, but I would like to do more of what I'm doing...if I can wrap it into a more social activity...maybe get others involved in some of our giving projects, since I'm a social person and do feel rather isolated at home so much.

Thank you for this post, so thought provoking, reminding me that I need more clarity still.

GooseBreeder said...

In 30 years..alive will be good!We all need far less than we think we do.As long as we can eat,keep a roof over our heads and pay the bills what more do we need?
Life should be full of satisfation, joy and abundance which bear no relation to $$'s.That's if you want to live the good life!

Chookie said...

I'm the last person to admit that my DAILY expectations are realistic; that's why I use Flylady!

I don't have goals, either, except of a very short term (bake cake today). But my future lies in what I want to BE rather than what I want to DO.

AJ said...

As a person who tends to dream high and fall hard, it's taken some time to admit that we learn best by trial and error, and that we learn bit by bit. Multiple times a day I repeat to myself "baby steps, baby steps...."

Probably the best way of keeping myself from feeling that my baby steps are too small is to think of where I was one year ago, and two years ago, and so on. Looking back, I can see how little I knew and how much I learned, and it keeps me pushing forward.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

I'm 20 living in the city and going to school for another year, but dreaming of living in my childhood farm house in 10 years. Growing our own food, raising chickens, ducks, pigs a horse and probably a donkey or sheep in the pasture in front. Pickling, cooking, renovating and building.. My boyfriend has dreams of wind energy. With so much work needing to be done to the house, the price of feed, and building matarials, along with the low wages in my home town, we often wonder how practical our dream is.