The MapleMoney Show » Financial Literacy

How FI-lexible Are Your Financial Goals? With Diania Merriam

Presented by Willful

Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.

The pursuit of financial independence requires discipline to save aggressively, but if you’re not careful, a frugal lifestyle can lead to self-deprivation. This is why the phrase, “enjoy the journey”, should always extend to your finances.

Diania Merriam is the founder of The EconoMe Conference, an event centered around financial independence, also known as the “Ted Talks” of the FIRE movement. Diania joins me on the show to talk about the importance of building flexibility into your finances.

Diania and I kick off our conversation with her sharing her backstory; she explains how she received a figurative punch in the face regarding the path she was on, and made the decision to do a 180 with her career and her finances.

This involved making multiple changes, including leaving New York and taking a remote job in a lower cost of living area, launching her own business, and taking a 2-month sabbatical to walk 500 miles across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago, but not necessarily in that order.

The first thing Diania did was discover extreme frugality, and she paid off $30k of debt in 11 months. And while she learned to enjoy her new lifestyle, she realized that it wasn’t a level that she could sustain forever.

Diania says that people should pursue financial wellness. It offers protection from the bad stuff life can throw at you and allows you to seize opportunities that come your way. Diania even has her own name for this lifestyle: FI-lexibility.

To embrace FI-lexibility, Diania encourages people to write down their goals and test out the things they want to do before making a huge commitment. After all, not everything will end up feeling the way you thought it would before you started.

This episode of The MapleMoney Show is brought to you by Willful: Online Wills Made Easy. Did you know that 57% of Canadian adults don’t have a will? Willful has made it more affordable, convenient, and easy for Canadians to create a legal will and Power of Attorney documents online from the comfort of home.

In less than 20 minutes and for a fraction of the price of visiting a lawyer, you can gain peace of mind knowing you’ve put a plan in place to protect your children, pets and loved ones in the event of an emergency.

Get started for free at Willful and use promo code MAPLEMONEY to save 15%.

Episode Summary

  • What caused Diania to transform her relationship with money
  • How to eliminate 30K of debt in 11 months
  • Sometimes you have to pursue goals to find out they are wrong for you
  • FI-lexibility: a definition
  • The pursuit of financial independence opens up so many options
  • How Diania negotiated a 2-month work sabbatical
  • Financial wellness doesn’t just protect you from the bad stuff life throws at you
  • Using FI-lexibility to navigate life’s ups and downs
Read transcript

The pursuit of financial independence requires discipline to save aggressively. But, if you’re not careful, a frugal lifestyle can lead to self-deprivation. This is why the phrase “enjoy the journey” should always extend to your finances. Diania Miriam is the founder of the EconoMe Conference, an event centered around financial independence, also known as the TED talks of the FIRE movement. Diania joins me on the show to talk about the importance of building flexibility into your finances.

Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. This episode of the Maple Money Show is brought to you by Willful. Did you know 57 percent of Canadian adults don’t have a will? Willful has made it more affordable, convenient and easy for Canadians to create a legal will and power of attorney documents online from the comfort of home. In less than 20 minutes and for a fraction of the price of visiting a lawyer, you can gain peace of mind knowing you put a plan in place to protect your children, pets and loved ones in the event of an emergency. Get started for free at maplemoney.com/willful and use the promo code Maple Money to save 15 percent. Now, let’s chat with Diania.

Tom: Hi, Diania. Welcome to the Maple Money Show.

Diania: Well, thanks so much for having me, Tom.

Tom: Thanks for being on. You coined an interesting phrase I want to dive into called FIlexibility. To start, though, let’s go back a bit. What was your life and your goals looking like up until this point?

Diania: About five years ago I found myself living in New York City and $30,000 in debt. I was kind of approaching my 30th birthday which tends to be a very reflective birthday and I realized that as much as I focused on my career, I had very little to show for it because I was very mindless about my money. I just really wasn’t paying attention. So, I came up with this goal to get out of debt. That’s when I came across the Mr. Money Mustache blog. I’m sure a lot of your listeners are familiar with it. I like to describe it as this refreshing “punch in the face” because it really completely changed my relationship with money and consumerism in general. I just devoured that blog. I read every single article. I ended up getting out of that $30,000 of debt in just 11 months. And from there I started saving about 60 percent of my income. It just opened up a world of possibility for me. It opened up so many options. I ended up moving to Cincinnati from New York City so it definitely lowered my cost of living. I was able to take a couple of months off of work (unpaid) to go to Spain and walk the Camino which is a 500 mile trek across northern Spain. It took me 38 days. I highly recommend it. I bought a house. I adopted a dog. I found myself a Midwestern gentleman and my life just completely changed after I got out of debt. I guess that’s kind of the brief synopsis of my money story.

Tom: When you got a debt, was that while you were still in New York?

Diania: Yeah, exactly. I was living in a cockroach filled apartment in the bowels of Brooklyn that I paid $1,800 a month for the privilege of living in with the slumlord I was paying it to. So yeah, I was in New York and I was making less than six figures at the time I got out of debt. So it was very much about reducing my expenses. I did get a raise maybe three quarters of the way through getting out of that debt so that certainly helped with my timeline. But I did most of it making less than six figures.

Tom: Paying off $30,000 in less than a year in New York without a six figure salary, what sort of percentage are we talking was going to do debt? Was it that 60 percent that you did later with savings?

Diania: I remember because I actually made a video. My friend made a video for me the day I got out of debt—the day I made that last payment. I just watched that video recently where I said I ended up throwing about $3,000 a month at that debt.

Tom: That’s really impressive because there’s a lot of people with that kind of debt level that feel stuck where there’s no way out. So again, especially living in New York, how did you make that work? Did you cut things out? What helped you get that?

Diania: Oh, yes, of course. I think the first step is to just gain a very clear awareness of what you’re wasting money on. For me, it was going out. It was wasting money on going out to dinner every night, partying with my friends. I was buying things with abandon. It was just completely mindless spending. So, I ended up cooking every meal I ate. I split my Internet bill with the people who lived below me. I was making my laundry detergent and face wash. It was real lifestyle changes. At the time, a lot of people couldn’t understand. They perceived it as severe, deprivation, me being so frugal. But to me, it was so much fun. I tapped into this level of creativity and resourcefulness that I didn’t even know I had. I loved going out. I loved hanging out with friends so I ended up making my apartment more fun than a bar. I would host these elaborate dinner parties. I figured out how to feed eight people on $30. Everyone else would bring the booze. I would invent all these games, host clothing exchanges with my friends. I didn’t buy clothing those whole 11 months. I wasn’t that much of a shopper to begin with but everyone cleans out their closet so we just swapped. My friends were so much more fashionable than me so I ended up with all these free clothes from my friends. That’s what I mean about the creativity. I figured out how to get my needs met in a way that felt far from deprivation.

Tom: You did a lot then. But did this all happen at once where you had a real “pivot point” or was this over that year?

Diania: It was a complete 180. As soon as I started reading the Mr. Money Mustache blog, I immediately wanted to change everything right then. There was this extreme sense of urgency. It was like my hair is on fire. I have to get out of this debt. I’m going to slash all this spending. But as soon as I started having so much fun, I was building momentum and just kept on going.

Tom: Yeah, I found momentum huge for me as well. When I was paying off debt, I barely remember how I did it other than putting every available dollar to it as well as doing all the usual frugal tips of trying to cut your heating power. Similar to the lifestyle change, one thing I found on the entrepreneurial side is, it’s amazing how many people just want to watch TV all evening. They never they never find out how you can free up time to start a business. It sounds the same with you. People never seem to realize you don’t to go to a restaurant or out for drinks. Some of these things, especially in the corporate lifestyle scene, people just assume they have to go out for entertainment or watch TV all evening.

Diania: Totally. I think habits can become comforting even if they don’t serve you. When you get stuck in habits, sometimes it’s hard to think creatively—is there another way? Even now, my frugal activities have become such habits that I don’t even think about them anymore. I actually prefer cooking than going out to eat. When I go out to eat now, a lot of times I sit there knowing I could have made something better than this. Maybe not in New York so much. But definitely in Cincinnati, I’ve noticed that when I go out to eat here, I’d rather be eating at home. I could have made something so much better.

Tom: Yeah, yeah, I agree. And like you said with habits, those become your new habits. And Covid aside, I find it just more comfortable to stay at home for your meals. Sure, get out when you can but it doesn’t have to be an expensive outing all the time.

Diania: Totally.

Tom: Another thing I found interesting in your back story is some goals you had set out. When did you set these and just explain what they were?

Diania: I assume you’re talking about FIlexibility which is a concept we’re going to get into. One of the reasons I think you should consider it is because maybe you don’t know what you actually want. Imagine having this ambitious plan to reach financial independence as quickly as possible. You get there, but then have this rude awakening because what you thought you wanted to do with all the time you now have, isn’t what you actually want? One of my initial goals, especially very early in my career when I was in high school and college, I used to tell people (very obnoxiously) that I wanted to be the highest paid female CEO. It’s so embarrassing to admit that now. I think it definitely highlights my naive thoughts around success and achievement. But as I climbed the corporate ladder and saw what was at the top of that, I didn’t want to be the female CEO. I didn’t even really want to manage anyone. Really, my motivations for that goal was that I wanted money and status. I never even once considered the CEO of what? The work I was doing didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I had this accolade—that I’m the highest paid female CEO. The work I was doing, the contribution I was making to the world was completely irrelevant. And I think that shows how immature that goal is. But I think you have to kind of pursue those goals in order to highlight how wrong for you they might be.

Tom: That is interesting that you had a goal but it kind of wasn’t in that you didn’t have the steps up to that. It sounds motivating on the surface but if you look at the lack of steps to that, it would almost be something that would make you unmotivated because now you feel lost towards hitting that goal.

Diania: I think when we come up with the goals of what we think we want, a lot of the times we have an assumption of how reaching those goals are going to make us feel. We almost fantasize in our minds how great it would be to do X, Y or Z. And I think sometimes, when you actually do those things, it doesn’t feel the way you think it would feel. Or you realize other aspects of it that you didn’t anticipate when you came up with that goal. That’s where this concept of FIlexibility is coming from. One of the reasons why I came up with it is really recognizing that maybe I don’t know what I want. And maybe I need to use the time to explore what I think I may want before I go all-in on something.

Tom: Can you define what FIlexibility is and then let’s dig into that from there?

Diania: Sure. I can read to you how the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it. And obviously that’s not true. But I’ve taken liberties since my last name is Merriam.

Tom: Fair enough.

Diania: FIlexibility is defined as a “mindset of elasticity” amid the obstacles and opportunities that present themselves on the path to financial independence. It is also defined as a concept that I made up to make myself feel better about not being financially independent.

Tom: To me, this sounds similar to the term, slowFI which I also haven’t really looked into?

Diania: Yes, I definitely think it is related to slowFI. It’s because it’s about really valuing the journey over the destination. One of the things that I like about this concept is it’s recognizing that pursuing financial independence is about so much more than actually reaching financial independence. So if reaching FI (financial independence) is about opening up options, FIlexibility is about seeing the options you have now while you’re on the way to even more options.

Tom: I like this idea. Obviously, flexibility is a big part of the word, but is it sort of giving yourself permission then to make these changes because a lot of times on FIRE blogs and podcasts, there can be some pretty hard set rules. You’ve got to stop spending everything and put it all into the retirement. You’ve got to save that 60 to 80 percent. Is this breaking that wall down a little bit maybe in giving you that flexibility?

Diania: Yeah. It’s funny to me that you have a perception that FIRE has rules, because I know that a lot of people talk about how they are approaching this pursuit of FIRE, but I don’t read that as them stating rules. I just read that as them stating their way. I think you have to make up your own rules. For me, reaching FIRE as quickly as possible is not really my M.O. I think the pursuit itself opens up so many options. I think I would make very different decisions if I were trying to get there as fast as possible. For example, I took two months off of work, unpaid to go walk the Camino. If my goal were to reach by as quickly as possible, I wouldn’t have given up two months of income. If my goal were to reach it as fast as possible, I wouldn’t have moved from New York City to Cincinnati because that probably affected my career growth with my employer because I’m not in the office. I would have taken a step back by moving elsewhere. Maybe not so much anymore because everyone’s working remote but I was definitely at a disadvantage for a number of years by working remote. Also, starting my own business. One thing we didn’t talk about is I launched the EconoMe Conference which is like the TED talks of the FIRE movement. I’m pretty public about this—my first year I took a $40,000 loss and who knows if I’ll recoup that. I’m very confident that this year I will break even and recoup that investment. But even if I don’t, it’s totally worth it to me. The way I see it, I’m not going to have any kids. If I were to have a kid, it would cost me a hell of a lot more than $40,000. I just think the way you perceive these “rules” affects the way that you approach FIRE. If you’re making yourself miserable on the path to reach financial independence, I just think you’re doing it wrong because the whole point of pursuing FIRE is to open up options. It’s about rethinking your assumptions around happiness and prosperity. I just think we’re almost missing the point if we’re making ourselves miserable along the way.

Tom: Yeah, I like this a lot more because you’re giving yourself that freedom. That freedom like taking those two months off. When you took the two months off, where were you at financially at that point? Did you have some money saved up to help cover that two months? What did that look like?

Diania: I had gotten out of debt and I think I had about $10,000 in cash in the bank when I went. But I also negotiated with my employer so I knew I had a job when I got back. And, I had fully funded all my retirement vehicles before I left too. I had enough cash to do it. It probably cost me about $6,000 over two months.

Tom: It also seems like your employer has been very flexible with you as well, being able to work remote and take the two months off. Do you have any advice for people whose employer may not be quite so flexible?

Diania: Well, I think I’m very fortunate in that I have a lot of leverage because I’ve made my employer a lot of money. At the time I asked, I had worked there for about five years. They were very happy with me. I was one of their top performers from a sales perspective so it was really worth it to them to grant me these privileges. The way I pitched the sabbatical to take the Camino was, “If I were to have a baby right now, I’d be taking three months off of work. I don’t want to birth a child. I want to birth a world adventure. And I’m only asking for two months. This is a really good deal. I’m going to come back a better person…” And it totally worked. It was a very unconventional ask.

They had never approved a sabbatical before so it was out of left field for them. But I guess I’m just fairly convincing.

Tom: I think we’re getting more and more into a spot where people can feel a little more comfortable about pioneering this within the company they’re in. Obviously, it wasn’t that long ago that most companies didn’t think their employees could work from home. And a lot of people have done a 180 on that. Again, beyond Covid, though, I’ve talked to people and they’ve said that’s probably a new normal for employment.

Diania: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Tom: So something like this makes sense. Another thing I thought would be an interesting option for someone that wants to free up some time under this idea of flexibility is maybe working four days a week if your employer will allow that instead of that full time Monday to Friday job.

Diania: Exactly. My employer now, they’re really not monitoring how much time people are spending at work. It’s all down to what you are producing. You can work whatever hours you want to work. It’s really all just comes down to how much you’re contributing to what your responsibilities are. That’s one of the reasons why I really love my employer. They’ve been very generous with me—with raises, giving me the time off, and allowing me the flexibility to work from home. I think I’ve been very fortunate in that right but I do think if you work for an employer where it is kind of an unconventional ask, if you can prove your value it’s worth it because what’s the alternative for them? They’re going to let me go over a two month break? Yet, if I were to have a kid, I would be able to stay. How does that make any sense? If you can appeal to their logic and really prove your value and understand what kind of leverage you have, it could work out.

Tom: If someone’s listening to this, why should they follow this path of FIlexibility? Maybe they’re already pursuing FIRE under more traditional means. Why should they relook at some of their goals like you did and make changes?

Diania: We talked about this a little bit before, but this attitude in the FIRE community that says if you’re not financially independent you should be constantly optimizing to reach it faster. I don’t know that that is sustainable for most people. When I think about the 11 months that where my hair was on fire and there was a sense of urgency—that really carried me to get out of debt. I don’t think that’s going to carry me seven more years that I have left until financial independence. I just don’t think that level of energy is sustainable. Again, I think it’s about recognizing you’re prioritizing the journey. This idea stems from me seeing my mindset around money continually evolve. At first, my mindset was to get out of debt—right now! And now I know I’m going to reach FI. But whether it happens at 40 (which is what I’m on track for now) or it happens at 45, if I’m enjoying the journey, then why is it such a rush? I have a 60 percent savings rate. Do I really need it to be 70 or 75? I just think there’s diminishing returns after a certain point to just continually being more and more aggressive about it. I think my focus has moved away from optimizing and increasing my income and decreasing my expenses and much more towards how I want to be spending my time and what my contribution to the world is—what is enjoyable for me? What is my relationship to work? It’s almost like I freed up this space to ask bigger questions and I’m enjoying the process. I could just put my head down and, again, try to get there faster. But if I get there faster, I just don’t understand what I’m running towards. I feel like I’m building that destination while I’m on the journey if that makes sense? and I’m enjoying that process. So I think the reason to consider this mindset is that our brain has this funny way of just making us feel like crap about anything. Think about this… Every month I calculate my savings rate. One month my savings rate was 45 percent rather than 60 percent. And I felt terrible about it. I was beating myself up about it. I didn’t hit my goal, blah, blah, blah. That is ridiculous. A 45 percent savings rate is really good. I should be celebrating that. And yet I’m holding myself to this standard of 60 percent because that’s typically what I do. You can shoot for the moon and land among the stars and still be pretty happy about that. I almost think that this mindset just makes the process more enjoyable and reminds you that you’re doing okay. If you’re out of debt and saving a good rate of your income, you’re doing okay. Let’s not beat ourselves up about it. There’s no race here. I also think another reason you might want to embrace this mindset is because life is a roller coaster. There are ups and downs. When we think about financial wellness and the safety net we build for ourselves with our emergency funds and our high savings rates, that’s awesome. We have the confidence that we are prepared for the bad stuff that life throws at us. That’s the beauty of financial security. But I think one thing we don’t consider enough is the ability to seize opportunities as they present themselves. Life is throwing you good things just as much as it’s throwing bad things at you. And so to be able to have that safety net, to seize those opportunities, I think is another reason to give you the flexibility. For example, I bought this house almost three years ago. At the time, I wasn’t seriously looking to buy something. I thought maybe I wanted a multi-family where I could live in one unit and have another unit pay for most of the mortgage. That was my initial idea. So I was just kind of casually looking. I never thought that I would buy a single family home. And when I found this house—first of all, it would make a perfect rental. I had a friend that was going to take the second bedroom and cover most of the mortgage. It was just such a cute house. It was so cheap at $150,000. Unbelievable. Everything in it is brand new. It was like a flipped house. I didn’t plan on it, but I had the down payment. I had the 20 percent so I just thought I’d go for it. And I’m so happy I did. That was an opportunity that presented itself. Same thing with my business. Doing the EconoMe Conference—that started as an idea of something I would do in early retirement. That was an idea of that, if I didn’t have to work for money, what would I want to do with my time? I’d want to create this incredible event that would bring people together. I just got so excited about it, I couldn’t wait. And I was able to self-fund it. Yes, I took a $40,000 loss, but I self-funded that. I didn’t have to tap into any of my investments. I didn’t have to take out any loans. I don’t have any other investors. It is self-funded and self-run and I’m so proud of it. I’m also so glad that I didn’t wait until I was retired because having my full-time income really allowed me to take a lot more risks on the conference that I wouldn’t have taken if I didn’t have an income. I think I would have said, “You know what? Ticket sales don’t cover the cost of this thing. I’m going to pull the plug and not do it.” And that would have been a shame because it was one of the best weekends of my life. So, yeah, I use FIlexibility to navigate the ups and downs and seize the opportunities as well as navigate the challenges that life throws at you.

Tom: I like this idea because too often the retire early part of FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), is where I think people look at as a finish they have to get across as quick as possible and they’re not enjoying their life throughout. The other side of it is, even in a traditional career, if you’re working to 65 years old, it’s still the same advice about making sure you actually enjoy your time during that journey and not just put everything off until after. There’s this switch that’s going to happen when you retire.

Diania: If you read anything about happiness, it is largely not due to your circumstances. If you are miserable before you reach financial independence and retire, you are likely to be miserable after it, too. It’s not going to solve all your problems. I think that’s another key part. If people think they’re going to be happy if they reach that goal, I think they’re in for a rude awakening.

Tom: If someone’s working on their finances right now, paying off their debt and maybe saving for some form of retirement but they also have this bucket list of items, what’s your advice to them to make this mindset switch? What can they do without totally getting off the path of improving their finances? How can they work some of this bucket list of items into their life now and not wait until they’re retired?

Diania: I would really encourage people to try things in small ways to start testing those assumptions. So here’s an example from one of the things on my list. I used to think that I wanted to sing. Even when I was a kid, I used to have this image in my head of me on a stage singing and everyone loves it. I’m looking out into the crowd—I could see it. I could see the vision in my head. And even when I was on the Camino, I would sing a lot when I was walking because it was a good way to pass the time. It was very cathartic. Some people would say it was more wailing than singing, but I wanted to sing. I could have waited until I reached financial independence and went to school for singing and really went all-in on that. But what I ended up doing is, a school of rock opened at the end of my block. It was literally five seconds from my house. And it was almost like the universe said, “Oh, you want to sing? Here you go… Go sing.” When people think of School of Rock, it’s a franchise. It’s a music school. A lot of people think it’s for kids but they have an adult program so I joined the adult program. I had to sing every day. I had a singing coach. I was in a band. We were preparing for a show. It was a one-hit-wonder show. I ended up singing seven songs in front of 100 people. It took me four months of training to be able to do that. And I’m so proud of myself that I did it. Then I said, “Okay, that did not feel like I thought it was going to feel in my head.” But I’m so glad I tried because I wouldn’t want to be at the end of my life saying, “I could have been a singer.” I tried to be a singer. I also tried standup comedy. I also was in a brass band. I tried all of these things because I’m musically inclined but they didn’t make me feel the way that I wanted to feel. It’s just information. It’s just it’s almost like you’re trying to solve this puzzle of what to do with your time. And when you try things in little ways (because you don’t want to make too much of an investment until you’re sure) I think you start to just get pushed closer to whatever your thing is. It could be many things. I don’t think it’s just one thing. I think it could be many things. Say you want to go back to school to study something or have a career change. Why not find an online program where you can do some kind of course versus going for a full degree. Do a course and make sure that subject matter can hold your interest for more than a couple of days. Try it out in a small way versus going all-in. That’s my first tip—just try stuff. Experiment. Don’t wait until FI to figure out what you want. I also think you should consider a mini retirement or sabbatical because you can start checking off some things on your list in that time and it’s just collecting more information. Even when I got back from the Camino, I thought I was going to do the Appalachian Trail. That’s what I thought my next thing would be. And then I read all these books about it and talked to people about the Appalachian Trail and realized, “Nope, that’s not for me. That’s not what I want to do.” I think you can really discover a lot about yourself through these mini retirements or sabbaticals. I think you should constantly innovate for self-discovery. In my process of doing the standup, doing the singing, doing the brass band, there is something about performance that appeals to me. And maybe the specific types of performance I tried didn’t make me feel the way I wanted to feel but getting up on the EconoMe stage felt amazing. I took a job as a podcast host for Optimal Finance Daily. It’s a daily show where I would serenade you with the sweet sounds of personal finance knowledge every day of the week. It’s me basically performing these blog posts. These bloggers wrote these songs and I get to perform the covers. It’s kind of voice acting so there is a performance element to it. There’s a performance element to economy. And I felt like that’s what I needed to learn about myself through that process of those other things. I wanted to perform in some way and I just didn’t find the right medium. I think that continuously innovating for self-discovery is really important. I also really encourage people to write down your goals. First of all, it’s really fun to look back on the goals that you once had because, number one, you’re either going to realize that they don’t appeal to you anymore based on what you learned about yourself, or you have the satisfaction of checking that off saying, “Oh, I did that thing and it feels really gratifying,” or it can help you think about the thing you want to tackle next saying, “I forgot about that dream I had five years ago. That’s actually still relevant for me. I want to put that on my list for this year.” There’s a lot of power that comes from writing down your goals or your dreams in the moment that you have that “aha” moment about them. I almost think it harnesses their power even if you can’t act on it right away. I highly recommend writing these things down. And finally, give yourself the FIlexibility to change your mind. This is your one life. Just like there are no rules to FIRE, there are no rules on how you need to live and achieve your goals. It is completely up to you. So as much as we’re talking about this subject, it’s your life. Take what you find is helpful and throw away the rest because there’s no grade at the end of this experiment—this test of life. You give yourself your own grade. I think the attitude of FIlexibility is a little bit more forgiving than maybe your perceptions, Tom, of FIRE.

Tom: I like what you mentioned about writing down your goals, too, because that can actually be a motivator towards your finances as well. Even if it’s not a money goal where it’s going to pay off this debt or that debt, it’s a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing. You want to have that 60 percent savings so you can do these things on your list. I like that even when they’re not financial goals at all, just having a goal of any kind in your life kind of reminds you of why you’re doing everything.

Diania: Yes, and as you start to smash those goals, I think it gives you permission to dream bigger. For example, I found some worksheet I did for a mastermind group in my mid-20s. And my goal at the time—this was well before I found Mr. Money Mustache and really taking getting out of debt seriously. All I wanted was to make $80,000 a year in salary and have $10,000 in savings. To me, that was such an ambitious goal. It was way outside my comfort zone. I didn’t know how I could possibly do it. It felt like I couldn’t possibly achieve that. I look back on that and say, “Honey, you’re thinking too small.” And just how far I’ve come since I had that goal is just really—I feel a sense of pride for that. Sometimes it feels weird to admit you’re proud of yourself, but it’s a great feeling.

Tom: This has been great. Thanks for motivating everybody listening. I think this is a good way to look at the FIRE movement and your finances in general by just keeping your lifestyle in play with all of this at the same time. Can you let people know where they can find you online?

Diania: If you go to www.economeconference.com – and economy is spelled with an “me” at the end and not an “my.” As you see from my name, I like misspelled words. That’s kind of part of my brand. So it’s economeconference.com. You can sign up for my newsletter list there. That’s the best way to keep in touch with me. I’m also on social media if you just search for economy conference. As well, if you go there on YouTube, you can actually see all the videos from last year’s conference as far as the speeches. We had some amazing speakers last year so feel free to check that out.

Tom: Great, we’ll link to all of that in the show notes. Thanks for being on the show.

Diania: Awesome. Thanks so much.

Thanks, Diania, for sharing your story and for showing us that it’s okay to take the winding path on our journey to financial independence. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/128. Are you new to the Maple Money Show? If so, I want to thank you for listening. In case you weren’t aware, you can watch videos from many of our top episodes over on our YouTube channel. If you’re interested, head over to maplemoney.com/youtube. Make sure to like the video and hit the subscribe button. I look forward to seeing you back here next week when I have Robb Engen back on the show to update us on his journey from hobby to size hustle to self-employed. See you next week.

I think that when we come up with the goals of what we think we want, a lot of the times we have an assumption of how reaching those goals is going to make us feel...sometimes when you actually do those things, it doesn’t feel the way you think it would feel.Click to Tweet

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