Why this focus?
I recently heard a piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs: when one starts a business, it should be done with the sole goal of solving a problem. When I thought about starting this blog, I took a similar approach : I thought about what population to reach and what problem to solve. It will come to no surprise to the nurse readers that my primary desire was to help others – specifically nurses and single parents– to share and trade ideas, and to find inspiration. I want to learn from you – and build a community to support each other in the journey to FI.
As most things charitable, there is some selfishness buried deep inside this goal. So here is the story: as a single mom, I often feel that I need to create community, bringing together friends and family members to support me in ways that a partner might. Although I appreciate the women’s voices in this community (see my post on my favorite podcasts), I also recognize that personal finance is a traditionally male pursuit. Adding another voice, representing the nursing profession and single parents, is an important contribution because we are the caregivers to many in our communities. Caregiving is something I experience innately – it’s been with me since I was a child. Helping someone feel better due to an action I was able to provide has always made me feel fulfilled and proud. It is easy for me to see that, once I reach FI, I will continue “working“ to ease others’ journey in this world.
In the past, my caregiving role has occasionally had the opposite effect – it has been detrimental. Sometimes I care for someone who, instead of improving by my actions, requires a different kind of assistance that I am not able to provide. I end up feeling worse for having offered my assistance, as I was ultimately not able to help. I can think of several patients I have reassured that ‘everything will be OK’ based on my understanding of the situation, only to have given false comfort. Such an outcome can cause great suffering for patient’s and their family – which is, of course, the thing we wish most to avoid. Other times, my desire to be flexible and helpful in difficult situations makes it difficult to “set a limit”. The perception of having weak boundaries has made it difficult for me to be strong and able to stand up for myself and others.
So what does this have to do with financial independence, you might ask? The link is in that we can learn to believe that we don’t “deserve to be taken care of”. We can un-intentionally put others’ needs before our own (all you single parents out there!!) and so it becomes difficult to reconcile the idea of caring for another while also helping ourselves. I believe that we can devote energy to assist another, but not to such an extent that we have no energy left for ourselves. This example especially holds true when we think of our responsibilities to our families, and as a single mom my thoughts often go to my children. But I still have no shortage of people in my life who need caretaking, such as other family members, so they are second in line for my time. Third in line are my friends, who play an important role in my life that sometimes they compete with my second-line priorities. Fourth in line are those less emotionally close but an essential part of my community : my coworkers, my patients, my children’s teachers, my neighbors. With all of these forces pulling at me, I could easily make myself the fifth- or sixth-in-line.
Some situations are more helped by financial assistance then time or energy. So financial independence requires of us caregivers a strong will to say “no” to others in order to say “yes” to ourselves. This is something I am not always very good at – it can make me uncomfortable and anxious. Having the FI community here to help me identify my goals and frequently refocus my attention on what I ultimately want to attain provides a built-in support system. The ability to help once I reach FI may be more powerful than what I can offer financially at this time during my wealth accumulation phase. The limited time and energy I have to devote to all of my “line of people” in causes limits my time to work a side hustle or learn more about FIRE topics which can assist me at arriving more quickly at my goal.
Ultimately, I will always be a caregiver and helping others will be a consistent part of my life, but with financial independence I can do even more good later by being parsimonious with my time and energy now.