Healthy Habits for Financial Independence and my Future
Reaching FIRE isn’t very helpful if I am not overall a healthy person. As I’ve previously described I’ve struggled with being obese for my entire life. Habits made while young are tough to break, but excuses demand a face-punch. Throughout 2017 I have been working to develop more healthy habits.
Mr. Kiwi has been an awesome example of keeping up healthy habits. He lost 60 pounds in 2013 and dropped another 30 pounds slowly since then. He’s now been at his healthy weight and maintaining it all year. He cannot control his chronic pain, but benefits from keeping his weight in check and controlling the aspects of his health that he can.
The Goals for 2017
I started the year with professional, personal, and financial goals.
Professionally, I’m hoping to find either a way to make my current job more sustainable. I’m looking for other jobs within my organization, since I’m still 7 months away from having any vesting in my 401k match and 2 year 7 months away from being fully vested. The benefits and pay are great, but the job is not the correct match for me.
I’m definitely working through developing healthy habits at work. Finding a new job within my organization seems very difficult with the current climate, so recently, I’ve been focused on improving my current position.
Financially, we plan to max out all of our tax advantaged accounts and grow our emergency fund. We both have access to a 401k, 457, and IRAs. Financial habits are the easiest healthy habits to develop for me.
Also, because our savings rate is so high, we typically do not have a very large emergency fund. This year I hope to increase it from 1.5 months of living expenses to 3 months. Since we own a home and our cars are getting a little older, having that extra money sitting in a savings account will help my peace of mind. I’m hoping we can sell one of our cars to make that a reality. But going down to a one car household brings up childhood memories for both of us of the real struggle that can come with living in a one car home. We remember our mom’s driving our dad’s to work so they wouldn’t be stranded in the house all day or they could get to work themselves. Now, we would be choosing this life out of luxury, not necessity.
The final financial goal is to hold onto cash so we can front load our 457 accounts next year. Our workplace allows you to contribute 90% of each paycheck to retirement accounts. Hopefully, we’ll have a couple months worth of expenses in cash that we can live off of until those are maxed out ($18,000 each).
I was initially frustrated that it never seemed like we would have any post tax savings. I’ve now realized that our 457s can be though of that way, they just have the added bonus of actually being pre-tax. Thirty days after we leave our employer we gain access to the money in those accounts. While they may not be technically as good as an HSA, they feel like the ultimate tool for our financial independence.
There is always so much room for personal growth. Learning from other’s who have achieved financial independence, retiring early isn’t worthwhile if you don’t have personal healthy habits developed.
This year I set the goal to get my health in order. I tried to donate blood in January and was not allowed to since my blood pressure was so high! This was a real wake-up call for me, I was so frustrated with myself for not taking ownership for my own health. We plan on having kids someday, I definitely want to get my epigenetics in check, and have a healthy blood pressure to reduce my risk for having a high risk pregnancy. I could complain and make excuses about how most of my family is obese (and trust me I have), or I could actually make some lifestyle changes and better myself.
I do almost all of the grocery shopping and the key to reaching a healthy weight is definitely diet. We’ve stopped eating meat and dairy at home, which helped me lose the first 20 pounds super quick without even having to watch my portions. In place of the meat we’ve added more lentils and beans into our diet. We mostly eat vegetables, especially this summer with the garden working hard to pump up our frugality. If you are looking to lose weight easily, I highly recommend this route! We still eat meat/dairy sometimes when we aren’t at home (i.e. at our nephew’s birthday party), but since we make all of our lunches and eat most of our meals at home this was an easy way to ensure success.
The weight loss slowed after those first 20 pounds, so then I needed to get more serious. I’m now using my fitness pal to track my calories and keep my portion sizes reasonable. This has worked incredibly. Since January 1, I have now lost 41 pounds and I have so much more energy.
People are starting to notice, but the introvert in me doesn’t know how to feel about that.
The first three weeks of counting every calorie and keeping my portions small were TOUGH! My stomach had to shrink, since I was clearly eating way more than someone my height and with my activity level should. Now, eating a reasonable amount is easy, and tracking has become natural. I even tracked while in Colorado.
My current eating routine:
- Cucumber and coffee with almond milk for breakfast
- Salad with fruit or leftovers for lunch
- Clementine or mango as a snack at 3:30
- Dinner is normally a dahl, salad, or fajita style veggies/beans
I stick to 1200-1400 calories per day, and don’t always make the healthy choice. Sometimes I’ll eat chocolate or a bagel in place of the salad, but I log those calories! Eating the right foods and portions has become more natural over time, and hopefully this can be the lifestyle change I’m aiming for. Luckily I have a super supportive partner (who is still eating his 2800 calories/day).
Another healthy habit I have been focused on is working out. I have been practicing lots of yoga. I’m also going on weekly walks to catch up with friends, road biking, and using our exercise bike. I’ve gone on two runs in August, and hopefully I’ll do a few more this fall, but running isn’t my favorite pastime.
I feel physically stronger, and in October I’m signed up for a yoga/meditation/5k, so I need to keep training so I don’t embarrass myself.
Knowing that I had a few intense hikes ahead of be before Colorado helped me to train harder and up my game. I’ve never been big on paying for races/events, but it does seem like Colorado and this 5k have helped to keep me focused, so I may need to add some more events to my calendar this winter to keep me moving.
Mindfulness and Happiness
I’ve also been working on simplifying my life, saying no to people/activities, and practicing mindfulness. I’ve been happier at work since I’m doing more of what I love in the evening. I’m a better partner, friend and daughter when I’m truly happy.
Spending time outside gardening in quiet (or listening to a podcast) has helped to reconnect me with nature. I also use the free “calm” meditation app to quiet my mind a few times a week. I’m listening to my body on when I’m tired and when I should wake up, and I’m stressing less about keeping our house super clean at all times.
FOMO and keeping up with the Joneses is guiding me less and less as I seek my happiness.
Bringing it all back together
Yesterday at the eye doctor my blood pressure was 121/84, so I’m almost back to a healthy blood pressure! It’s nice to have measured targets, like our FI number! They keep me motivated and moving forward.
The thing about healthy habits is that they can quickly slide back to less healthy habits. I plan to keep losing weight, working out, and optimizing my life to reach FI quickly, healthfully and happily. Thanks for joining me on the journey.
What healthy habits have you been developing? Let me know in the comments!