A visualized future

frozen berries
frozen berries


I remember hearing a motivational speaker talk at a college leadership conference back in the day.  He was talking about the power of visualization and had us do a silly exercise where we keep our feet in place and twist as far around as possible from our torso, marking the farthest spot with our eyes.  Then he really tried to pump us up, telling us about how flexible the human spine is, etc.  After that, we tried again, and almost everyone twisted much further than before… wow!.. Mind blown

Excusing the sometimes sheistiness of motivational speakers, I do think the guy was on to something.  Visualizing a specific outcome often brings that outcome more within reach.  And with regards to retirement and financial independence, visualizing what life might look like when you no longer need to work and/or worry about money seems like a fun and useful exercise as well.

previously wrote about self-control and the marshmallow experiment, how kids that exhibited better self-control ended up being happier, healthier, and more successful later in life.  I also came across a NY Times article this morning that said people who save are also likely to lead healthier lives.  Part of the explanation was that people who save are usually people who can visualize and plan for the future, which is why they tend to take care of themselves as well.

Along the same lines, I think visualizing a financially independent life can help motivate and instruct my actions today.  Thinking about the future helps me become a better / more effective planner.  With that in mind, I wanted to share a visualization exercise I did before I started this blog that helped me better understand some of my life goals and reasons for saving.

blue thistle
blue thistle

A visualized future

This exercise could be considered a nice parallel exercise to the life priorities quiz I posted earlier this year.  In this example, I considered two scenarios:

  1. If I made exactly the same amount of money as I do today, but didn’t have to work for the next 5 years, what would I do?
  2. If I made twice as much money as I spend today, and never had to work again, what would I do?

Question 1 helps prioritize current spending and activities, and question 2 helps me visualize long-term life goals.  Here are some of my answers:

  1. If I made exactly the same amount of money as I do today, but didn’t have to work for the next 5 years, what would I do?
    • Continue saving same percentage
    • More long-trail hiking, such as the PCT
    • More low-cost travel like road trips, national parks, camping
    • Read a lot
    • More time with kids
    • Exercise more… maybe join more intramural leagues
    • Eat healthier…. more time to cook for self, shop, prepare food
    • Work on house
    • Visit friends and family a lot… help out with projects, be more involved, etc.
    • Host more fun events like a family friendly Octoberfest party, sports-watching, just generally more get-togethers and socialization
    • Active community involvement
    • Participate in the caring economy… find a way to give back, to help people, my community, friends, and family, maybe even start a non-profit or join a board
  2. If I made twice as much money as I spend today, and never had to work again, what would I do?
    • Same as above, but also:
    • Give more to really effective international charities (continue to give back to local economy in time and money as well)
    • World travel, semi-frugal backpack style
    • Maybe live abroad with kids for a few years
    • Ideal house in ideal location (close to outdoors, pretty, energy-efficient, walking / biking distance to amenities, not too big, but well-organized, etc.)

Looking at the lists, what stands out to me is that I’m mostly time poor.  Most of the things I would do differently with my life are a result of increased time, not increased money.  There are a few things like international travel, and maybe the perfect house, that would require more money, but the vast majority of activities / goals are achievable under my current financial circumstances.

In conclusion

If you didn’t already figure it out, I like these little planning exercises.  I mean, let’s face it, this is almost like lottery day-dreaming, so it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise that it’s fun 

I’m a planner by nature, but I think there is real value in continually reminding myself that the sacrifices I’m making today will pay for valuable experiences the future.  Visualization helps with that and also helps me craft better plans as well.

What about you, any exciting plans / goals for the future?  What would you do with 5 years of PTO or an infinite amount of PTO at double your current spending level?

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