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Introspective Post - What Should I Do With My Life

August 23rd, 2014 at 08:48 am

I've been reading "What Should I Do With My Life? by Po Bronson. It definitely begs the question. I still don't know the answer, (the way the book also doesn't know, yet humanly explores the question through personal stories). After nearly 30 years of working, I'm closer to an answer to 'what can I devote my life to?', but no clear X marks the spot. I definitely know (based on the jobs I've had) how I DON'T want to spend the rest of my working hours here on earth.

I've done a lot self-analysis in the past (skill tests, interest surveys, aptitude assessments, What Color is My Parachute? etc.) but eventually gave up when I had such a spread of interests and skills that I didn't seem to fit in one category for a career--I'm both creative/intuitive and analytical/administrative, organized and chaotic, I like to work alone and collaborate. This book made me go back over some of my old journals --how I gave up trying to fit somewhere career-wise and just kept working at jobs that I don't love (because I've got bills to pay) and tried to do the creative stuff after work hours and on weekends.

Several years ago I came to the plan to save as much money as possible so I no longer have to work at jobs I don't love. That's been my way of coping (saving, talking about saving, BLOGGING about saving, dreaming of a life of more meaningful work, not so dependent on a wage-earner's paycheck treadmill) But as I've said many times, I'm currently suffering the worst job burnout. I try to do my creative stuff after work as a way of coping AND work my savings plan, but my current work life seems to suck my energy dry. Not to mention the family responsibilities.

The truth is, if I can hold out for another 5 years or so for civil service retirement, there's HOPE. All is not lost!! But in the meantime...how do I take care of myself?? It seems like a constant struggle to take good care of myself while enduring the struggle of job burnout. I try. And I'll keep trying, but it's a constant struggle.

With my savings plan, it looks like I won't have as much money as I'd hoped by retirement eligibility (it's difficult to do this without spouse or family support). But at the moment, 5 more years is about all I can take at this current job. If only I'd started this savings journey at 21!!!!

So back to my one joyous hope - SAVING!! I've determined that I need to step it up in paying off the mortgage for the house, because that will give me more options over the next few years. It's one of my main goals, but my irrational tendency to try to meet all my goals at ONCE (retirement, non-retirement savings,paying off the mortgage, family health care, house care and automobile upkeep) makes for SLOW progress. I was ok with that for a while, but I've got to step it up. Here's the plan now:
1. Lower retirement savings allotment for one year (I'm afraid to do this because of budget creep, afraid I'll have difficulty going back up to the original savings amount)
2. Lower non-retirement savings allotment for 1 year
3. Put that extra money toward the $40,000 mortgage.

Since I still have some work to do on the other accounts, I'll begin in November.

Long blog, but this book had me THINKING, because I'm so tired of it all. I'm working my savings plan, so I can do something different, with more joy and more meaning. Thanks for the continued inspiration, saving advice friends. What would I do without you?? Happy saving!

5 Responses to “Introspective Post - What Should I Do With My Life”

  1. rob62521 Says:

    Saving is the key and you are smart to unlock that piece of knowledge!

  2. MonkeyMama Says:

    My husband really struggles with the same thing, and I worry about our younger son who is a similar personality. I wish we had it more figured out and could give him better guidance as he approaches adulthood. I think my husband has many ideas of jobs he would enjoy and be good at, BUT those jobs just don't fit in the bigger picture for him. I don't know that he will ever figure it out. But I will say his practical/saving side has made it easier to work out. I don't know that he will ever get much personal satisfaction from "work".

    Good luck on your new plan!

  3. PatientSaver Says:

    I see many similarities between what you say and my own situation. But there are some differences as well. I have found nearly all of my jobs had very interesting and satisfying aspects to them, although every job has its share of headaches. Being single, I have worked all my life, not taking time off to raise kids or anything like that. So I've wanted out for a very long time, and I've been diligently saving for years.

    I have known people like you who are still searching for a meaningful career well past young adulthood. I don't know your work history, but if you still aren't sure what to do, I would not waste my time or energy thinking about it. No offense, but if you haven't figured it out by now, you probably never will. There are millions of people like you who don't get particular satisfaction from their day jobs but who pursue hobbies or interests in their free time that they enjoy. This is life for all but a relatively lucky few who shoot photos in Africa for Nat'l Geographic or something like that. Finding satisfaction in work doesn't have to be glamorous, it just has to include some things you like to do.

    I myself am amazed at how many people I see at the bank who slog in to work, day in and day out, most of them doing mindlessly boring jobs that they've done for 25 years. A lot of long-timers there, but they make it work, I think, partly because of some very close-knit personal relationships. And I think most people do it because they have families to support, and they know they can't simply up and leave.

    Not having children, I have left a few well-paying jobs where, quite simply, the shine wore off the apple after a few years and I was "bored." It was worthwhile to me at those times in my life (in my 20s or 30s) to seek a new challenge. I would never do that now as I'm "on the home stretch"....5 years away from retiring from f/t work, if I have my way. (I would like to continue on working p/t for another few years beyond that.

    Hopefully you have a solid financial savings plan in place. I would focus on that, and make sure you know what your monthly, annual and 5-year plan savings goals are, and that you hit your targets each time. If you don't have such plans, take all that time you spend thinking about satisfying career paths and instead use it to crunch your numbers on any retirement planning calculator you can find. MSN Money and T. Rowe Price have some good ones. I would use many, not just one. They're all a little different.

    I feel for you becus you and I are in the same position. One piece of advice: if you're serious about paying off your mortgage, that HAS to be the priority. I see you have savings accts of some sort set up for your grandkids. Maybe it's for Christmas gifts, but maybe you should consider toning it down so you can divert more of your hard-earned money toward paying off that mortgage. Of course you love them, but you HAVE to take care of yourself first. I mean, you asked that question in your post above: How do I take care of myself? The answer is, make yourself a priority before spending money on the kids or grand-kids. Becus harsh as this sounds, they're not ever going to pay you back that money, and they also may not be in a position to lend you a helping hand should you need it in retirement. YOU are responsible for YOU.

    Good luck!

  4. Dividing the Dime Says:

    Thanks for your responses, all of you. Yes, saving is the plan! It's the only plan I got. And to stay healthy at the same time. I think I long gave up hope for a working career that will inspire me, but I still THINK about it. I'm 'suspicious' that there's more to my life than this. My jobs have not been horrible and all of them have come with great people AND the money and benefits to take care of my household, so I stayed the course, stayed employed, and I'm grateful. Yet I'm still 'suspicious' that there's more. That there's somewhere where I don't always feel like a square peg in a round hole. My hope is that once I get off the paycheck treadmill, I'll have the space to experiment and move closer to 'it' -- whatever 'it' might be. In the meantime, I'll work the heck out of my financial goals. Thanks again for the encouragement!!

  5. snafu Says:

    I guess I'm too focussed and practical. I'm alarmed that a 2014 goal to write a Will and Advance Care Directive remains a blank on your sidebar. While I understand your desire to pay off the mortgage, where do you see yourself and DH living as a retirees? Since you plan to work on accounts in November, I suggest written definitions and goals for Savings Bonds, Freedom & Wealth accounts.

    An old aphorism states 'Pay Yourself First.' If paying down that mortgage is a high priority, assign the stated sum from each and every pay, directly to the mortgage principal before allocating earnings anywhere else. Your journey is more interesting than most,it's important to have something enjoyable each and every day.

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