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How To Stay Motivated For The Long Term

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.

When you first start pursuing Financial Independence it’s obviously very exciting–you’re thinking about all you’ll be able to do when you’re free from financial obligations. But what happens a few years down the road?

Cutting your expenses, saving more than half your income, investing, being as frugal as possible–it can be exhausting.

When pursuing FI, it’s important to find ways to stay motivated. Motivation can come in many forms, so when doing research for this article, I reached out to the Choose FI Facebook community and asked how they stay motivated on the road to FI. I’ve also included a couple of my own suggestions from my FI journey.

Be Realistic

While working toward FI or any type of long-term goal, the temptation can be to restrict yourself as much as possible. But giving up everything for a long-term goal isn’t sustainable. Living like a monk usually leads to burnout–especially if you don’t see results quickly. Shooting for a lofty goal is commendable, but not if it comes at the expense of your overall health.

When I reached out the FI community, Sarah R. said:

I try not to overdo it. I don’t want to burn myself down. I pick a few things to research, implement, or eliminate and put my binder away until next quarter. Then I pick a few more things.

Sarah clearly understands how to look at the road to FI. She’s taken things slowly, making the smart decision to pick a couple of changes to make each quarter.

Find time to enjoy the journey in whatever way you like, such as going to the movies with a friend, taking a yoga class, or indulging in a pastry from your neighborhood bakery. If you really want to reach the finish line, it’s important to progress at a reasonable pace.

Realize that it’ll take time to reach FI, and that means you can’t do everything in one fell swoop. 

This is good advice for all. When starting FI, you don’t want to suddenly change your whole lifestyle. Pick some small, attainable goals to start with, and gradually make some significant changes.

Remember Your “Why Of FI”

In the midst of pursuing FI, it’s easy to lose sight of your goal. You may get frustrated when your savings percentage goes down, or an unexpected emergency causes a bump in the road.

When this happens, it’s important to remind yourself of your “Why of FI“.

When I asked the Choose FI group how they stay focused, I got a number of responses that involved taking a step back and remembering why you’re pursuing FI in the first place.

Stephanie N. said what motivates her is the thought:

Early retirement for my husband + my continuing to work in the travel industry = lots of adventures.

Stephanie’s comment rings true for many folks in the FI community. Remembering what FI will bring you is a great way to stay motivated. When you finally get to the end of the race, early retirement is a possibility, and that means traveling or pursuing something you really, truly love.

Visual–Daily Reminders

Visual reminders are also a great way to remind yourself of how far you’ve come and your “Why of FI”.

Mackenzie M. said:

I keep a four foot white board in my room. With a fill-in thermometer with my goal. I also have my account amounts, and passive yearly income written on the board. I have to look at it every day which helps with keeping determined on the goal.

The whiteboard Mackenzie talks about is just one way to visualize your goal. If you spend most of your time engaging with technology, there are plenty of ways you can track your success from your phone or computer.

Kristen K. offers a couple more suggestions, saying

I have a notebook with monthly goals that I am trying to achieve and check them off as I accomplish them.

I print an amortization schedule and mark off the extra months in order to see how far ahead I am towards paying off my home.

I have a net worth tracker that I update every quarter.

I have the Personal Capital and Mint apps to look at weekly…

I’m a pen and paper guy myself, so I also keep track of my goals and my progress in a notebook. I use this as an excuse to buy fancy multi-colored pens.

Net worth trackers are also a great idea. Kristen mentioned Personal Capital, which is a favorite here on Choose FI. It’s an easy place to see all your assets in one place and it’s a free signup for Personal Capital!

Personal Capital offers investing features, a net worth tracker, and tons more, so you can easily see your progress.

Look At FI As A Lifestyle

FI can seem all-consuming, so why not let it be? Many folks, when pursuing FI, decide to make it a part of their lifestyle. After all, the way we interact with money can affect every aspect of our lives.

Zac C. sums this up well, saying:

To me it’s less about trying to stay motivated and more about realizing that my life is actually better when limiting my spending to be more intentional. It’s a win-win situation rather than feeling like I’m giving stuff up to become FI.

The steps we make towards FI may seem drastic, but they help in the long-run, which is why many of us choose the path to FI in the first place. If you have an attitude like Zac, where you give up a few things now to get something even better, later on, you’ll see that what you’re doing is, in fact, a win-win situation.

Find Your Tribe

One way to make FI part of your lifestyle is to get involved with a group of people who are on the same path. Make some FI friends!

It’s difficult to stay motivated without support, especially when you reach a plateau or have a problem. That’s why you need to find a group of like-minded individuals to share the journey with.

With the internet and social media, this isn’t nearly as hard as it used to be. The ChooseFI Facebook group is packed with supportive people who are also on this FI journey. Also, find a ChooseFI local group to find people in your area who are as committed to your goals as you are.

If possible, find one person to be your accountability partner. Schedule regular check-in sessions to encourage one another and troubleshoot problem areas. Don’t be afraid to provide–and receive –tough love when necessary.

Related: FI Community Groups To Check Out

Celebrate Your Progress

Financial Independence is a huge financial goal, and it’s a long road for many. That’s why it’s important to make small goals along the way.

Sarah S. offered this piece of advice:

Celebrate every win, no matter how small.

That’s perfect advice because there’s almost no way better to stay motivated than to celebrate an important milestone. Whether that milestone is paying off a credit card balance or paying off your student loans, make sure you do something special to celebrate. 

You don’t have to have an extravagant party to celebrate. Get a slightly nicer bottle of wine than you’re used to, go out for dinner, let yourself spend a whole day watching reruns of your favorite show.

Femi A. takes Sarah’s advice and builds on it, saying:

Focus on your own journey. Have a plan–your plan, and stick to it. Celebrate the small wins. Don’t compare, don’t compete, don’t complain.

It’s important to note, as Femi does, that your small wins are much different than someone else’s. Reaching FI isn’t a competition. It’s about creating a life that gives you the freedom to choose how you spend your time and your money.

Let Go Of Mistakes

You will have many wins along the way, but you will also have setbacks. Life happens, and it doesn’t stop happening because you’ve decided to pursue FI.

Instead of beating yourself up when you falter, give yourself a break. If your goal is to save 50% of your income and you’ve only been saving 45%, resist the impulse to criticize. Instead, look at how far you’ve come!

When you’re in the middle of a continuing goal, it’s easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come. Someone who’s trying to save a million dollars in their retirement portfolio, for example, might feel unenthused at having just $100,000. That’s why you need to remember where you started.

It’s important to remember that the most outspoken in a group is often those who feel the most comfortable with their progress. Because of this, it’s easy to think that everyone is doing better than you. It’s not true, it’s just those who are doing the very best are often the only ones telling their story. Focus on your own journey and try to avoid comparing yourself with others.

Every once in a while, take some time to remember the journey you’ve undertaken. Celebrate milestones and record your progress. Reaching a long term goal is less about the goal itself, and more about committing to consistent, incremental improvement.

Letting go of mistakes is critical to long-term success. Use every mistake as a learning experience and consider what you can do better next time.

Final Thoughts

Pursuing FI can be exhausting, but it can also be life-changing and rewarding. When you cut your spending, it can feel like your missing out on the fun things in life. However, there are plenty of ways you can stay motivated, such as finding a FI group for support and noticing every win along the way.

Related Articles:

How To Stay Motivated For The Long Term

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Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.
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