Operating With An Attitude Of Gratitude On The Path To Financial Independence

As much as we talk about financial independence and investing as much of our money as we possibly can so we can give the big send off to mega (and minor) corporations that are stealing our time, sometimes we forget to be thankful. I do an awful lot of typing into this computer screen about chasing early retirement and I, too, forget to take a step back and be grateful for everything I have TODAY. That includes my health, my family, my friends, my growing nest egg, and last but certainly not least, my mega corporation that makes it all possible. 

Mega Corporation

Wherever you work and whatever you do, isn’t it awesome that you have the luxury of pursuing financial independence? Make no mistake, if you make enough money from your employer (AKA a W-2 job) that you are able to live a decent life AND afford to invest enough money to retire early, you are part of an elite group. And for that, you should be grateful.

As a member of Generation X, I have always worked for mega corporations because I was raised to think, That’s What You Do.  I must say though, mega corporations have treated me well throughout the years. I have always had the luxury of working in a temperature-controlled, clean, safe environment. I have been fairly compensated, had access to generous heath and savings plans, and have been recognized and promoted for my hard work. As if that wasn’t enough, I was also able to attend graduate school and obtain my master’s degree with 100% tuition reimbursement.

Along the way, I also had the pleasure of gaining a massive amount of knowledge about people and the world in which we live. In sum, I can’t complain. My life is good. Really good.

Related: Early Retirement and Quitting your Job

Colleagues

I have worked at quite a few companies during and after college and each time I met an interesting mix of folks, each with their quirks and dreams and regrets. I have had the opportunity of getting to know many people from many different walks of life. This expanded my world view and enhanced my ability to interact and understand other people based on their world view and past experiences. I use this skill set  in nearly every facet of my existence today. And for that, I am grateful.

Over the years, I have laughed, I have cried, and I have enjoyed my colleagues on many levels. After spending 8+ hours each day with people in your office or place of employment, you become part of a team and create bonds, whether you set out to do it or not. It’s obvious that if you’re working for the same employer, you have something in common already, and if you’re working in the same department, you have even more in common.  That stage is set.

When I first started my professional career after college (eons ago), I was single and in that I have my whole life ahead of me phase. You know the one I’m talking about 😉 I was one of about 6 people working in a science lab. All 6 of us had the same job and were similar in age. We had the time of our lives – and we actually got work done, too! I had so much fun working that job that I would call in when I took vacation to see how everyone was doing and to see what I had missed while I was away enjoying the boring beach. I wasn’t the only one who did that. EVERYONE did that. We had so much fun together that we didn’t like to miss a day. It was like a continuation of high school.

When I ultimately said goodbye for a position that was much closer to my home, I took with me true lifelong friends that I have until this day. That job was one of the best time investments I made in my life. It will pay me dividends until I die. In my opinion, there are few things more important in life than true friends. And I mean REAL friends, the kind of friends you can call up at 2 am crying your eyes out needing to talk – not that that ever happened 😉

Similarly, when I started working for my current employer, I was a little bit older but still in that I have my whole life ahead of me phase. I was placed in a group of individuals who were also in that phase and we became friends pretty quickly. Think: happy hours, house parties, and Office parties every week. When I say Office parties, I mean we had parties every Thursday night when a new episode of The Office would air. We had a rotating schedule as to who would host the showing. We made strong bonds during those first few years and some of us still work there today. Unfortunately (or fortunately) time reared its ugly head and took a toll on our youth. We are all mostly married with families now. Our Office parties are firmly planted in the sands of time, but we still carry the bonds we made during that fleeting time in our shared history. It made us better employees. It made us better team players. It made us better people. And for that, I am grateful.

Related: Early Retirement Resistance – When Friends Push Back

Memories

My office mates aren’t this sexy – but I’ll still miss them.

“You’ll miss it when it’s over.” That’s a direct quote from a man who lives next to my mother who is now retired. He is probably somewhere in his late 60s and I often see him reading a book inside the lobby when I go to visit my mother at her apartment building. One day I stopped over to see my mom during my lunch break to grab a bite and shoot the breeze.

Tip: you never know when your parents will be gone forever. Never miss an opportunity to spend a little time with them.

As I was leaving the building I let out a sigh as I told the man reading his book that I had to head back to work for the afternoon. He chuckled and said I was lucky, and then he proceeded to tell me how I’ll miss it when it’s gone. Wow, did that ever make me think! I’ll miss it when it’s gone? Really?

I guess that can be true of most things. If you work until traditional retirement age and retire from something instead of to something, you WILL miss it when it’s gone – at least that’s what is touted in the FIRE community these days. I certainly plan on retiring TO something, but despite that I still continued to question what he had said to me. I started an internal dialogue with myself. Is my job really so bad? Do I actually enjoy it? The answers are no and yes, respectively. I know I am fortunate to have worked for mega corporations that have paid me well and given me attractive benefits to boot. I also know that I do, mostly, enjoy my job. I always say that if I have to work (and I currently do), I generally enjoy what I do and where I do it. And for that, I am grateful.

I have noticed throughout my life that I am often sad when things end, not when they begin. My daughter’s first day of kindergarten – no big deal. Her last day of pre-school – I was a mess. Even though I feel like I will be retiring to something and not from something, I still wonder if I will succumb to missing IT when it’s over. If history is any predictor, and it obviously is, my guess is that I will be a blubbering mess when I hang up my lab coat for the last time. Time will tell.

Related: A Frugal Year of Living Changed our Future

Things I Have Learned

Reflection is a powerful tool. After spending this weekend in a state of gratitude for all I have and all I have learned and all the people who have touched my life along the way, I have come to appreciate The Journey. I am happy to have found this personal finance community. Every single person I have interacted with and who has read this blog is a part of this community and is making my journey to financial independence worth every step.

If you operate from a position of gratitude, you might find your life is pretty damn awesome as it is right now. Besides, isn’t Getting There supposed to be half the fun anyway. What do you think? How has your past affected who you are today? Do you value the time you spend working a “job” and the people you meet along the way just as much as you value the End Goal?

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Lisa is the creator and resident writer at Mad Money Monster. She's a mother, scientist, and financial guru on a mission to save Generation X from working until they die!

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24 comments… add one
  • Graham @ Reverse The Crush Apr 2, 2017, 11:48 am

    Fantastic post! It’s so true that you are fortunate to be in a position to build wealth. You definitely have to appreciate the process of reaching financial independence. I also agree that reflection is a very powerful tool. Thanks for sharing the positive vibes! It’s a great reminder for everyone chasing FI.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 3, 2017, 10:49 am

      Thanks for commenting! I do think we all forget how fortunate we are to even have the option of chasing financial independence. There are so many people who struggle just to put food on the table and pay the rent. Gratitude is a powerful thing.

  • @Guyon_FIRE Mar 23, 2017, 10:12 am

    Wonderful post. I sometimes forget to stop and smell the roses. We should all be grateful for our current situation.

    You bring an interesting view point. Many in the FIRE community do benefit from above average jobs. These jobs allow us to live AND save/invest like crazy. Basicslly, we have it better than a large majority of the world.

    Not sure I will ‘miss my job’ when I leave. Like you, and most of our community, I will be retiring TO something in a few years. Hopefully by the age of 30.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 23, 2017, 4:12 pm

      It’s so true! And, it’s nice to stop and be thankful every once in a while, rather than wishing our lives away to get to the next chapter. Thanks for your comment!

  • Cody @ Dollar Habits Mar 22, 2017, 2:29 pm

    I read this the day you published it, but I am just now making my way back to comment. Thank you for the great reminder. It is so easy to focus on the destination that we forget to enjoy the journey (myself included), especially when it comes to pursuing financial independence.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 22, 2017, 8:54 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I (obviously) completely agree. Getting there is definitely half the fun.

  • Claudia @ Two Cup House Mar 14, 2017, 7:25 pm

    At the start of the journey, it was a rush to get to the end. But podcasts and posts like this continue to remind me to enjoy the journey. It has been a blast. Truly. Debt is not awesome, but I couldn’t imagine a better group to celebrate the journey with. We are so grateful, so grateful to live where we do and have the opportunities we have. 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 14, 2017, 7:33 pm

      I certainly second that notion! This community is wonderful and I’m so happy I accidentally found it a few years ago. I paid off my car today during the snow storm and I couldn’t wait to post it on Twitter! Why? Because this community Gets It! Now we’re attacking our mortgage. We’re right behind you guys 🙂

  • Felicity (@FelicityFFF) Mar 14, 2017, 11:16 am

    We’re grateful every day. 😀

    I’m not sure if I value my time working *as much* as I will my end goal, but I’ve made amazing friendships that I’ll keep for years and decades to come.

    For a while I was really unhappy with my job, and kind of leaning towards just “toughing it out” until we could retire early. Then the sane part of me said that was crazy and led me to switching jobs! It’s so awesome to not hate work. O.o

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 14, 2017, 3:04 pm

      I’m so glad you were able to switch jobs and find something you enjoy. When your mindset is of gratitude you can certainly have fun on the journey to that end goal. Case in point – I’m sitting here right now responding to your comment as a snowstorm dumps a foot of snow on our doorstep. I’m watching our dogs jump around in the white stuff and the trees blow in the wind – I couldn’t feel more grateful for such a wonderful life! Thanks for sharing your thoughts today!

  • Ty Mar 14, 2017, 9:57 am

    It’s good to get this reminder frequently. Whenever I feel sorry for myself I think back to the manual labor jobs I held growing and and suddenly I’m grateful for my cushy office job.

    also, I’ve got a hunch that the man in the lobby is right. I don’t want to admit it, but the 9-5 is such a huge part of my life that I don’t know how I’d not miss it (in some way).

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 14, 2017, 10:09 am

      It’s so true! It has been such a huge cornerstone of my adult life that I’m sure I will also miss it. I’ll miss the daily stuff and interactions with co-workers…not artificial deadlines or anything like that 😉

  • Miss Mazuma Mar 14, 2017, 8:38 am

    You’ll miss it when it’s over.” This man sounds like he has some stories to tell! But it’s so true. We get wrapped up in the mundane day to day we forget to look at the bright side. To be grateful for what we have not envious of what we want. I love my job and can’t imagine not doing it ever again…but that doesn’t mean I love to go everyday! I just look forward to the day when I get to choose to go to work. That makes a huge difference in attitude. Then again, I am lucky to be able to eventually make that choice and I know that I will miss it when it’s over. So I do cherish more moments now than I did years ago especially knowing there is an end date… don’t think they will let me fly into my 80’s!

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 14, 2017, 9:07 am

      I bet he certainly does have some good stories to tell! I’ve noticed that the more and more I inch closer to my financial goals, the less and less stress I feel and the more I actually DO enjoy my job. That being said, I’m certain I would find enjoyment in other activities, post my current employer. It’s just a nice attitude to have each day 🙂

  • Tori Mar 13, 2017, 8:40 pm

    What a great post! I cannot agree more!

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 13, 2017, 8:59 pm

      Thanks!

  • FullTimeFinance Mar 13, 2017, 7:59 pm

    Great point, it’s so easy to forget what you have and be forever in search of greener pastures. But when you really think about it how good do you have it. You have food, heat, shelter, time to relax, and choices. Through history a lot of people haven’t been able to say that.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 13, 2017, 8:10 pm

      Exactly! It really is humbling to think how fortunate we truly are. Being able to pursue FIRE is a luxury that I’m thankful for every day.

  • Kate Mar 13, 2017, 3:08 pm

    I love this! Gratitude is a great thing to have.

    Sometimes we become so focused on what we don’t have that we forget just how much we do have and what really matters in life.

  • Bridget King Mar 13, 2017, 12:28 pm

    Great article!

  • BHS Mar 13, 2017, 10:25 am

    Always a great read. What I love about your articles versus a number of others that I follow, is that you talk directly to me. It’s a good voice when you write. And it’s all relate-able. Excellent work, MMM! Love it!

    • Logan Mar 13, 2017, 2:36 pm

      I agree. I love the unique quality of this site!

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