Living More in the Present: A Success Story

Living More in the Present: A Success Story

As I stepped away from the blog this summer, my focus was on enjoying the moment more. Sometimes being so involved in this community of awesome optimizers and hustlers becomes a whirlwind of motion. It’s good and it triggers important change, but sometimes it’s hard to really focus on the progress we’ve already made and enjoy what we have now.

Living More in the Present this Summer

This summer, I stepped back from pumping out posts on optimizing your finances or seeking entrepreneurship. I only calculated my expenses at the end of each month for the monthly plan updates and only checked my accounts a few other times each month. I stopped actively following all my favorite blogs (though would often binge because I can’t stay away for too long!). In short, I stepped back from the current hustle and started living more in the present. The break was tremendous and I learned a great deal. Here are a few things I learned:

  1. We’re on the Moving Sidewalk – I’m (Rockstar Finance) famous for saying the path to Financial Independence is like a sprint followed by a rest on a moving sidewalk. When I originally penned that post, I assumed I was still a few years away from enjoying that moving sidewalk. In reality, we’ve done our version of sprinting for the past 2 years since starting this blog. We’ve hustled, cut costs, set up savings, and attacked our mortgage. We got tired. In reality, because we’ve done all that, we’re already enjoying that moving sidewalk when we take a break from actively caring. Our mortgage keeps going down and our investments keep going up. It’s brilliant!
  2. We’re Incredibly Lucky – Our situation is already fantastic. We really have a great set-up. I get to be home with the kids all day every day. I don’t have to force myself to sit up at a desk job when my chronic health issues kick in (a full post on this coming later). Mr. T has incredible flexibility and lots of vacation time. We are incredibly privileged.
  3. We’ve Already Learned So Much – We still love the idea of being self-employed and having total autonomy over our own schedules and we haven’t made much significant headway there, but we have learned a whole lot already. We’ve learned all sorts of random skills along the way and learned what we enjoy and what we don’t enjoy. I feel like this whole thing has been like going to college in entrepreneurship and we’re getting closer and closer to graduation.
  4. I Need to Spend More Money Now – We’re not that close to financial independence, but we’re on that moving sidewalk. My kids, however, get older every single day. I have so much I still want to do with them. Now is the time. If you’re on the email list, you already know we’re venturing to Europe with the kids next summer. We’re going to take them on a 3-week trip through the UK, Norway, and Iceland. I’m SO EXCITED. We spent this summer letting the kids pick castles in Wales they want to explore, museums they want to check out in Oslo, and reading histories and guidebooks together. Most people have to wait until financial independence to do this kind of thing, but we can do it now. Mr. T has the flexibility and vacation time. I’m a freelancer so can choose to take a month off whenever I choose. These are the kinds of experiences I plan to focus on in the next 9 years before Penny graduates.
  5. Maybe We Have Happiness All Wrong – We always think our lives would be so much better elsewhere or doing something else. We get frustrated and immediately declare something drastic: “We’re retiring early.” Now, if you’re as far away from that possibility as we are, long-term planning for it isn’t a bad idea (at this rate, we’ll retire long before 65 just plugging along as we currently are), but focusing all efforts towards it misses the point. Maybe changing just one thing in your life can make all the difference. What would being 20% happier do for you?
  6. I’m Not Going Away – For now, I have enough passion and stuff to say that I am resuming my previous Monday/Wednesday posting (with an occasional Friday image by Mr. T or guest post). I love this space. I love all of you. I truly, truly do. I have a plan for another website based on my survey, but I decided I don’t want to do that one alone, so it may not get up and running for awhile. So, I’ll start sharing some info from that awesome survey here as well.
  7. I’m Always Prepared to Mix Things Up – When I get in a funk, I reserve the right to mix up everything. A step away this summer was exactly what I needed. Sometimes we need to get out of the water to see how truly beautiful the lake is.

Have you learned lessons in living more in the present lately? I’d love to hear yours!


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  1. Welcome back, Maggie!

    It sounds like you are super refreshed from taking some time off this summer. While I did continue to blog and do a little side hustling during my maternity leave, I also tried to take time to savor snuggles with my last babies. Now isn’t perfect, but we’re never going to have this time again.

    This is such a good point: “Maybe changing just one thing in your life can make all the difference. What would being 20% happier do for you?” I’m trying to make a pretty significant change to increase our happiness right now . . . even if it changes the timeline for our other plans a little bit.

    Looking forward to reading posts from you again 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Awww. You’re so sweet. And the summer off was very refreshing. Helped me refocus and reprioritize. A change is always good. 🙂

  2. Good for you! I recently had someone ask me if I had a FI date. You know, at one point I might have sat down and done some serious calculations but then, you know, life. It happens. It’s happening now. Hopefully it will be happening moments from now. We can plan, but we can’t predict everything and meanwhile time and precious moments will go by. It’s about finding the balance in the too. Life isn’t wrapped up in neat little packages.

    • MaggieBanks

      Agreed! I mean, it would be fabulous to be FI tomorrow, but we’re not close and we don’t want to look back and realize we missed out on doing all the things with our kids we wished we could have done. Better to do that and have no regrets there. Mr. T and I can figure out the early retirement thing as we go. But these kids are getting old. my 9-year-old is nearly a tween!

  3. Yea welcome back! This is exactly why we don’t have a hard set FI date. We want to be flexible and be adoptable to changes in our lives. Interesting to see that you’re continuing with the Mon/Wed posting schedule. I haven’t had a set posting schedule, maybe I need to look into that.

    • MaggieBanks

      Well, for now. It’s good to have a set plan for me. Otherwise I won’t ever get around to it. 🙂 In January, I may move to something closer to once a week, but that’s TBD depending on life, etc. 🙂

  4. Chris @ Keep Thrifty

    Welcome back Maggie. It’s awesome to hear your perspective after the break. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in what you’re saying here. In the world of PF, there’s a lot of pressure to push for that future state, but we have to find joy in our current circumstances and enjoy the journey.

    I’m pretty sure if I can’t find happiness before financial independence, I’m going to really struggle finding it after.

    • MaggieBanks

      Excellent point. And the kids are a big reason for us. I’m afraid if we focus on the future too much, we’ll regret missing the now with our children.

  5. David

    I think it’s great that you were able to get some perspective and insight, and it sounds like it was really helpful. I always struggle to live in the present, but it’s really important.

    • MaggieBanks

      Taking breaks is always helpful to refocus. Life is wonderful when you step back to take a look?

  6. Kim from Philadelphia

    Maggie, you have great perspective- that’s what it’s all about! Money is a vehicle for financial security. Aquiring It should not be the sole, driving purpose in life! Life is to be savored and enjoyed! We can’t live in a financial vacuum
    Long term!

    We visited your beautiful state this Summer. Wow, such beauty! Plus your fellow Alaskans were such cool
    people !

  7. Kim from Philadelphia

    I wish we had more time in Ankorage, or else I would have loved to!

  8. The moving sidewalk is a great image. I may use that (with appropriate credit, of course). I completely agree that too many of us delay living as if the future is somehow going to be magically more satisfying than the present. It just doesn’t work that way. Living, loving, enjoying is always done in the present tense. It took me many more years to learn that than it took you, but fortunately, it is never too late.

    Welcome back Maggie. We’ve missed your unique voice.

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks! It’s always a tough line – we get so obsessed with whatever is in front of us – so it’s always tough balancing today’s happiness and tomorrow’s happiness to try to lessen regret. We’re all doing the best we can. 🙂

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