I got a call from a friend the other day, who said, “You guys,” (referring to our Shedders community), “are such an inspiration about getting what you want in life. And I remember you saying you felt broke and hopeless at one point; well, I’m feeling broke and hopeless and I wonder if we can have a conversation about how you got from there to where you are now.”
So, my friend, this post is especially for you and for anybody else who has ever felt that the financial future was bleak and uncertain. But – spoiler alert –it’s also for anyone who is interested in what it takes to build enduring relationships.
The story begins one day when I was in my early fifties. It was early morning, and I was sitting outside on our patio, looking dejectedly over an empty swimming pool we couldn’t afford to repair and a garden I didn’t have time to properly tend. My thoughts drifted in gloomy circles, with these common themes: I don’t want to be working this hard forever….we have about 12 cents saved up for retirement….I’ve got no idea what I’d want to retire to anyway….but for sure I don’t want to work this hard forever….etc., etc. You get the drift. Aimless and morose, with a heavy dose of self-pity. It was one of those mornings.
It felt like exactly the wrong time to receive an enthusiastic phone call from an acquaintance, Sue, who invited me to join a small group she was wanting to put together – to research, brainstorm and generally work on finances and retirement. My inner reaction was: I don’t have any finances and I’m never going to be able to retire, so why put myself through the agony of trying to put a good face on things?
However, I couldn’t say that out loud, could I? – and suffering was my middle name anyway, so why not just say yes?
So it was that Rick and I ended up having dinner with Sue and Ken and Kerry and Gordon, to discuss finances, and retirement, and a bold bright future.
Actually, the meeting wasn’t so bad. Although we were all in different situations, we had this in common: we all felt without a handle on our present and future financial position. There was, we agreed, so much we didn’t know about how our future lifestyles could be affected by our finances.
So, over lamb shanks at Ken and Sue’s waterside apartment, began one of the most profitable adventures I’ve ever undertaken.
That was a long time ago, and in the intervening years, the six of us have been on a long and successful journey. On reflection, I have identified seven secrets that we discovered en route, which I will now unveil.
1. We decided to have fun
At our first meeting, Sue suggested that if we were going to spend a lot of time on our finances, researching superannuation and pension funds and balance sheets and other breathtakingly exciting things (that was sarcasm, in case you missed it), we’d better inject some fun along the way. We had decided to meet every three weeks, and Sue proposed that we enliven the conversations with gourmet homemade food and fine wines. After all, this project was in aid of creating some abundance in our lives.
I began to relax a bit. Maybe I could survive this after all.
2. We created a clear focus
We needed a name which reflected what we were up to, so we started off calling ourselves Gold Rush. That lasted for a few months, but it wasn’t quite right. We weren’t so much interested in amassing piles of money – in having gold come rushing in our direction. What we were interested in was financial freedom, with an element of certainty.
The name we eventually chose for ourselves says it all: we became the FLAFFs. Footloose and Fancy Free. Maybe a little naff, but it was enough to shove my resignation over the cliff.
3. We created vision
Vision is different from focus. We were focused on financial freedom and certainty, but to what end? What did we want life to look like?
The moment when I really became engaged in the group’s project, and shifted from being secretly dismal to completely engaged, was at about our third meeting. That was the night we took on the assignment of creating our personal vision. In Technicolor detail, what did we want in our futures?
It was a confronting exercise. I struggled with it for awhile but eventually my imagination got caught up in the thrill of the chase. I pictured a house in the country, big gardens, walks on the beach, lots of time for meandering. Around this time we had begun dreaming with the Shedders about a communal home so I included these potential housemates in my pictures as well.
Sharing this vision with the group wasn’t the embarrassment I’d anticipated. It was exciting and fun and, well, galvanising.
I am warming to this theme and keen to share more of the magic that the FLAFFs created over the years we’ve been in action. So next week I’ll reveal the next of our seven secrets.