The boring middle… I’ve come across this phrase several times in the past two years while perusing various personal finance sites. It refers to the period of time between setting a long-term goal, such as financial independence or retirement, and achieving that goal. From my own experience, it’s an apt term to describe the slog.
Ideally, I would’ve decided to retire early and then won a lottery jackpot a few weeks later. Goal set – goal met! Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!
That has not been my reality. It’s been 15 or so years since I set the goal of early retirement… and I’m still working towards it. I’m still in the boring middle! That lottery win hasn’t happened yet, despite my best efforts, so I’m stuck with relying on my paycheques and investment income to build my portfolio. Even after a decade and a half, I still don’t have enough of a cash cushion to amicably part ways with my employer.
Now, that’s not to say that your experience is going to mirror mine. Some people are able to start a successful business and get there much faster. Check out Yo QuieroDinero‘s story of a lady who was able to quit her corporate job in under 10 years and is now living my dream life of travel funded by passive income. She also owns the food blog, Delish D’lites. Here’s the story of a man who was able to get it done in 5 years. The internet offers many, many, many such stories.
I’m not an entrepreneur nor have I had any wildly successful business ideas. I’ve dabbled in rental properties, but my real love is dividend income & capital gains. They’re truly the most passive income out there. In my humble opinion, the only drawback is the amount of time that it’s taken me to build a decent 5-figure income stream from these sources. For me, the boring middle is going to be around for a very long time.
Truth be told, I’ve never wavered in my desire for early retirement. Staying motivated hasn’t been a problem. My career has been very rewarding in some aspects, but I don’t love it enough to extend it further than absolutely necessary. It’s not my passion. Unlike Garden Answer, I’m not making a decent living doing what I love. By the way, if you’re an amateur gardener, I’d suggest watching her videos. The flower pictures on this blog are from my yard & others I’ve worked in. I used to be scared to try new things. Now, I’ve got the confidence to tackle larger projects!
So how have I stayed focused during the boring middle?
Firstly, I have many interim goals. Pre-pandemic, most of those revolved around travel. I managed to visit Europe three times in 5 years. For a person whose family did mostly road trips when I was growing up, it’s almost embarrassing to admit that I have no idea how many times I’ve been on a plane. I’ve managed to visit 6 different countries so far. Once the airlines are fully staffed and running with their pre-pandemic efficiency, I’ll be back in the air and visiting more new places. Until then, I’ll be doing roadtrips in my own country and seeing all those homegrown places that are still on my want-to-visit list.
Secondly, automation does a lot of the work for me. I have automatic transfers in place to move my money around each time I get paid. It’s not up to me to remember to send money to my investment portfolio. There’s never any temptation to spend that money on something else, just this once. The result is that I can go about my day-to-day life without having to worry about whether I’m moving closer to or further from my goal of early retirement. I don’t have to focus on the boring middle because automation is doing 97% of the money-moving work for me. Once a month, I buy more units in my chosen ETFs and then I’m done.
Thirdly, I enjoy the present. It’s summertime! And that means I get to indulge in my amateur gardening skills. Yay! I spend late winter and early spring planning out what I want to buy and where I want to plant things. After the long weekend in May, I get shovels & trowels into the dirt. I’ve decided that I’m only going to put perennials in the ground. All of my annuals will go into containers. This choice makes things way easier on my lower back and knees, neither of which are getting any younger.
Time with family and friends helps me in the boring middle. I realize that focusing solely on money and retirement isn’t healthy. I need to have good, solid relationships with others too. Spending time with my family friends creates and nourishes the truly important bonds in one’s life. As I’ve said before, you cannot have a relationship with money. So while I’m in the boring middle, I don’t have to have a life that’s boring. I’m building relationships. I’m reading, cooking, baking, traveling, gardening, etc… There’s a lot of life to be lived outside of financial goals. I don’t want to miss any of it.
Day By Day
Set your goals and make a plan. The boring middle lasts as long as it lasts. Maybe you’ll figure out a way to shorten it. If so, good for you! If not, that’s okay too. Don’t spend your life wishing it away. Focus on your priorities. Live below your means. Drink enough water. Be present when you’re with family and friends. Build strong relationships with people who are worthy of your time and energy. Invest your money consistently. Time will do the rest.