“What next?” The third stage of personal finance

I earned more money in 2008 than I’ve ever made in my life. Get Rich Slowly isn’t just a personal success — it’s a financial success, as well. Combine this income with an ongoing campaign of frugality — my spending last year was the lowest it’s been since I started tracking it — and my financial position is rosy. My plan to get rich slowly is succeeding.

Financial Security

Yet despite my increased wealth, I am not happy. I love what I do — I love writing every day and interacting with readers — but I do too much of it. I spend about 60 hours each week working on this site. I’m neglecting other parts of my life.

I’ve reached a place of financial security. My income is good. I save and invest. I don’t spend frivolously. Now I find myself in the enviable position of having to decide: Should I decrease my workload, or should I use some of my income to invest in the things that make me happy?

Eight years ago, before I started Get Rich Slowly and while I was still deep in debt, I wrote on my personal blog that my goal was “to live a pastoral lifestyle”. What I meant was that I wanted to live simply, with few obligations. I wanted to work from home, to bike on errands, to squash my obsession with Stuff. I wanted to read Dickens and Proust, to spend time with my friends, to enjoy life with Kris.

This is still my ideal.

The entire reason I paid off my debt, increased savings, quit my job, and built a business was so that I could live this pastoral lifestyle. But I’m not living it. In fact, I’m working harder than I ever have before.

I love this job. It’s a joy and a privilege to do what I do. But I wonder: Am I burning myself out? Am I sacrificing time for money? Maybe there’s some middle ground. Or maybe it’s time to move to a new stage of personal finance.

The Stages of Money

Last month, I had an interesting conversation with three GRS readers: John, Tyler, and Victoria. Via comments and e-mail, we discussed an important question: “What next?” Each of us, in our own way, has mastered the basics of money management. We’re ready to move from personal-finance goals to the next step. Tyler suggested that we’re at the “third stage” of financial maturity.

  • The first stage of personal finance involves learning the basics: understanding compound interest, reducing debt, beginning to save.
  • The second stage is putting the basics into practice: choosing to live frugally, saving in earnest, and pursuing financial goals.
  • The third stage — the “what next?” stage — comes after we’ve mastered the fundamentals. It’s at this point that we begin to ask “why?” Why are we continuing to save? All of our debts are paid, so what’s the point? (There certainly is a point, but what is it?)

The four of us exchanged e-mail about what this third stage looks like, what it means to us. For example, Victoria wrote:

I, too, am beyond the first stages of personal finance. I’m focusing on self-education in entrepreneurship and philanthropy this year. I believe that every individual should have a progressive plan for when they move beyond debt, have maxed out their retirement plans, have all they need and have prioritized wants. “What next?” is a question that should be planned for.

John noted that once the basics become habit, there’s a change in mindset that needs to occur. Just as we had to shift our thinking in order to reduce our debt and to establish the habit of saving, so too must we learn that there are different types of spending:

What we’re doing now is investing. Maybe I’m investing in myself, maybe in other people, or maybe in causes or ideas that I want to help grow, but it is an investment. I am taking value that I have worked hard to build and develop and I am investing it in someone or something else. It’s not wasteful spending — I am expecting a return, not necessarily monetary, but for something positive to come out of it. Spending is more of a gut reaction. You buy something to feel better or to make up for something you are lacking. When you are investing, it is a conscious act done with a purpose. There is thought behind it.

Most of the financial information on the internet — and in magazines and books — is directed toward those in the first two stages. There’s a reason for this. The fundamentals are essential. But there’s more to smart personal finance than just practicing the basics. Where’s the information for those who are ready for the third stage? Are subsequent steps entirely self-directed? Is this where a financial planner comes in? And how many stages are there?

Victoria and Tyler and John wrote a lot more; I wish I had room to share it all. (I’ll be publishing a guest-post from John on this subject during the next month.) Suffice it to say that our conversation — and recent events — have forced me to think about what money actually means to me.

What Next?

The death of my friend Sparky caused a seismic shift in my value system. I’m seeing fault lines I never knew existed. I still believe in the importance of smart personal finance, and I’m as passionate as ever about getting rich slowly. But I’m ready to explore new aspects of this philosophy.

Over the next few months, I hope to begin learning — and sharing — about other stages of personal finance. I’m going to start adding new flavors to the mix. I’m still going to write mostly about the fundamentals — debt reduction and frugality are important — but I want to write more about the Big Picture. I’ll spend time exploring the nature of social capital. I’ll try to discover the answer to the question “What next? What’s the next step after you’ve built a solid foundation?” I’m going to write about those times it makes sense to spend — or to invest — for things that make you happy.

Last summer, one GRS reader submitted a guest article about how his friend had bought a new boat. This friend had wanted the boat for a long time, and he could afford it. He knew it would make him happy. So he bought it.

I didn’t publish the story. I was worried that it would send the wrong message. I believed it might encourage reckless spending. In retrospect, I was wrong.

The boat story is about that “what next?” step I’m seeking. It’s about the third stage of money maturity. It’s an example of what is possible if we learn smart personal finance. It’s an example of the reason we work hard and practice frugality in the first place. It’s an example of the goal.

I’m not going to publish the boat story yet — I’ll save it until after Memorial Day so that it makes sense — but I’m going to publish stories like it. I see now that money is not the goal. The goal is to live a life in which we can do and have the things we want — by making conscious choices. Money is a tool for reaching that goal.

I’m going to have fun learning about the third stage of personal finance — and beyond. As always, I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

142 comments

  1. It seems to me that it is necessary to talk about and teach the first steps towards financial independence.

    When you have finally made enough money to stop worrying about making money – that’s the time to go on towards the third stage of financial maturity. That is the time to make your true dreams come true!
    Your dream is never to make a lot of money – a dream can be something that you can do with the money.
    Go on and fulfill your dreams J.D!

  2. The third stage? That’s an interesting concept because I always wondered what happended after you managed to “master” the art of personal finance. To be honest I just figured it was the time frame where you save enough money until you can retire. I am personally no where near this level since I am still a student. I am curious to find out how your readers define the third stage.

  3. JD, this is great. You’ve spent years showing how to identify bad money habits, learn new ones, and literally change your life. I think many, many people wonder about that dream-like “what then” state.

    You now have the opportunity to model a possible future for all of your readers. How cool is that?

    Excellent. I can’t wait to read.

  4. This is exciting news. I have gotten to the point, as a reader, where I don’t care much for PF stories that are telling me how to do this or that.

    I feel I’m way past that.

    So I welcome more talk about the big stuff in life. Being a philosophy freak myself, I dig chatting about this stuff.

    I, for one, am looking forward to it.

  5. I sounds as if you’re experiencing something common to those who reach any goal … what’s next? Humans are goal driven beings and we have to constantly strive toward something, even if that something is a “pastoral lifestyle” or a “simple life.”

  6. JD, great post. I’m at the “what’s next” stage as well, yet it’s hard to break free from the frugality, even when I know it makes sense for my happiness and well-being. While I like to revisit the fundamentals, as they provide good reminders, I certainly look forward to more of the “what’s next” posts.

  7. I’m so glad to see this post this morning. One of the reasons that GRS is one of only two personal finance blogs I read anymore is because it isn’t entirely focused on the “first stage.” I’m very interested in personal finance and enjoy reading about it, but as you mentioned in the post, most writing about p.f. is focused on getting out of debt and beginning to save. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; a lot of people need that kind of information, as I did at one time. BUT, I, too, have moved beyond that stage. My spending is under control; I’m saving for the future; I have an emergency fund. For me, the “third stage” is the place beyond these things. I am not cash rich (compared with celebrities and Donald Trump), but I have enough. I no longer have an interest in purchasing things simply for the sake of having them. There are some repairs I’d like to have done on my home; there are some causes I believe in and would like to contribute more to, both in terms of time and money. The third stage is about prioritizing these things — those that are important to me — now that I am out of debt and I have some savings intact. I look forward to more articles like this one. Thanks!

  8. JD,

    I think this is great but I think you’re also possibly moving a little hastily. You said,

    “The entire reason I paid off my debt, increased savings, quit my job, and built a business was so that I could live this pastoral lifestyle. But I’m not living it. In fact, I’m working harder than I ever have before. ”

    This may be true, but you just got to the point of being debt free (minus home) and starting to gain wealth. While you may deserve some leeway and should certainly start thinking about these other important issues, you have to continue to build wealth for at least a number of years (and yes, probably work harder than ever).

    If the end goal is to live a pastoral lifestyle, you’re getting there but there will have to, undoubtedly, be some number of years left where this is not the case. You have to gain the wealth required to do that for many years to come.

    It’s the age old balancing act between making money, saving money, spending money on things you enjoy, and spending your time the way you want to.

    Good luck!

  9. J.D, I know you are a fan of Dave Ramsey, as am I. To borrow from his popular saying, you have lived like no one else, and now you should live like no one else! Seriously, I would encourage you to spend some earnings on something that adds joy to your world. I’ve found that the most joy I get from money is when I give some of it away. Perhaps there is a local cause you could support with both money and time–which would also have the benefit of helping you get away from GRS a little more often.

  10. When I get there, I will have to make the difficult decision on whether to buy a motorhome and travel all the time, or buy land and start a rottweiler and pit bull rescue. Unfortunately, the two are incompatible!

    I think if you can’t see the third stage, it makes the saving and sacrificing much harder. It can be done any way, but if you don’t remember that money is not the end goal, it’s the tool, you’ll miss out on something.

  11. Great post! I loved reading this. As someone who is in the first stage knowing that you made it to the 3rd stage gives me hope I can be in those same shoes someday!

    I look forward to reading more. 🙂

  12. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this “third stage”.

    As for the 60 hour weeks – I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Yes, you could probably cut down a bit especially if you are neglecting other areas of your life – but there is no “correct” number of hours to work.

  13. I think it’s really important to have a “third stage” goal, even when you’re at the beginning. For example, my partner and I are in our early twenties, yet we already know that we want to live frugally so that we can scrimp and save up for a retirement where we can simply travel. It’s one of the reasons that we’ve decided that, when the time comes, a mortgage will not be an option–we don’t intend on staying in one place for any set amount of time, so why take on that debt? Even though we’re nowhere close to even thinking about home ownership or retirement, it’s nice to have these ideas in mind–not to mention to confidence that we can achieve and live our dream!

  14. I’m looking forward learning from you/with you about this next stage of financial responsibility.

    I think there are ways to apply the basics beyond the necessities. To wit: my husband and I have long been guests at our friends’ beach and lake houses. We decided this year that a medium-term priority for us to is to have a getaway of our own. So, after maxing out our retirement savings (we have no non-mortgage debt), we’re saving $10K/year toward a down payment on a beach house. After five years we’ll have a hefty down payment, and a habit of setting aside enough to cover a mortgage and maintenance.

    We live frugally and within a very strict budget, we give generously to causes we believe in, and we find ourselves where you have found yourself: with some wiggle room.

    Is a beach house a necessity? Absolutely not. But a place that we can get away to as a family is an important “next stage” item for us. It’s about living our lives to the fullest here and now, and spending money in a way that helps us do that.

  15. JD,

    I HIGHLY recommend reading or listening to the book Happier, by Tal Ben Shahar. If you don’t want to buy it I’ll mail you my copy to borrow.

    In part of the book he talks about the “Lasagna principle,” how even though it is his favorite food, too much of it or eating it all the time will quickly lead to burn out. He would actually lose his appetite for it if he consumed too much, even though it used to be one of his favorite foods.

    In another part of his book he discusses the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The author Persig writes about climbing an enormous mountain with Buddhist monks twice his age. His focus as he climbed was solely on reaching the peak of the mountain and “accomplishing” the task. He became exhausted, burnt out, and quit half way up the climb. The monks continued their journey and eventually reached the top. He proposed the difference in their success was his focus was on reaching the top, the monks focus was enjoying the challenge that lay before them, but more importantly enjoying each day and the opportunities it held.

    I know you are working on a book as well, I think a chapter or two on the “Zen of Personal Finance” is sorely needed. Too often we fall to one extreme or the other in pursuing happiness through personal finance. We need to pursue happiness through life based on solid financial principles.

    I think you are on the right path.

  16. Very refreshing post – I read a lot of frugality blogs, articles, etc, but this post is one of the best and most thought-provoking in quite a while…

    That being said, I’m in the 2nd stage and have a ways to go, but reading this definitely makes me look forward to the future and what financial freedom can mean… it’s exciting to see that our minds, free from all the burdens debt and other financial dependence can bring, can open to the exploration of new and exciting ventures in this very short life… I, too, would like the opportunities and freedom to travel, or help those less fortunate, or even start a dog rescue (as Jen says)…

    Those of us in the 1st and 2nd stages will have to remember to stay focused and not ‘jump the gun’ – I would hate to mis-judge my freedom and end up in that bad place that got me reading these blogs in the first place…

    Thanks for the post J.D.

  17. “Money is not the goal. The goal is to live a life in which we can do and have the things we want – by making conscious choices. Money is a tool for reaching that goal.”

    Brilliant! Thank you for writing this blog and sharing your wisdom. You are so appreciated!

  18. It’s refreshing that you are looking beyond save, be frugal, invest. Certainly there is more to life than being frugal and investing. When a person is financially secure, I don’t see anything wrong with spending money on something that might give someone a great experience, but I think moderation is key. Personally, I wouldn’t choose a boat, but I also didn’t grow up around boats. Maybe the person that desires a boat grew up around boats or for some other reason. If my wife and I were to splurge, I think traveling would certainly be in the plans. Maybe that seems like a waste to others, but it makes me happy to learn about other places and cultures plus the great food that I get to try!

    Our current splurge is season tickets to Texas Longhorn football games. Imagine a Texan liking football 🙂 .

    Great post!

  19. That was a great post. Good luck finding the next mountain you want to climb. Keep us informed about what it is. And congrats on having such a great year:) – Todd

  20. Hi JD, great post. I’ve been following your blog for quite some time and learned a lot on saving, budget, and frugality.

    Thanks to you , my wife and I were able put our finances inorder. Your blog has given us the inspiration to reduce our spending, increase our savings. Thanks to you, we just recently achieved our 100K savings milestone.

    We are in our early 30’s and still have a lot to learn. But we ready to explore beyond the basics and start the journey towards the 3rd stage of personal finance.

    Looking forward to learn with you.

  21. JD —

    Great post. First off, you should be congratulated for doing a wonderful, wonderful job. You should try and enjoy a little. Get that life balance. It’s important. But don’t be too hard on yourself. You should pat yourself on the back a little. It’s brutally tough to do what you’ve done. My wife and I started attacking our mounds of debt about 15 months ago and we still have a LONG ways to go. Keep doing what you’re doing and have a little bit of fun along the way. You’ll feel better. Keep it up!

  22. JD, nice to have you back. I want to congratulate you on going beyond the basics of personal finance.

    I can’t wait to see what you have in store. This is one of your best posts. Fresh ideas and new direction make this the best PF blog IMHO.

    Steve M

  23. I really enjoyed this article. In fact I also believe that my husband and I are in the third stage. And to enjoy the third stage we are planning a trip to Europe.
    But it is still important to remember the basics of saving because before I knew the basics, I was always in debt. And it would be easy get back into debt again. So being able to make those big purchases you still need to be smart about them.

  24. Great ideas, JD. I’ve perused your blog before, but I think you’ve just gained another regular reader. This is exactly the kind of stuff I’m looking for.

    My wife and I are debt free other than mortgage and have built up a nice savings. Getting out of debt was “easy” compared to what lies ahead, I believe. It’s both exciting and scary to see the progress of getting to where we want to be.

  25. Hey, this is great!
    I, too, have controlled my spending and developed my saving habits. But now I’m struggling with what comes next — like investing in myself and spending on things that make me happy. I’m looking forward to your next posts about these challenges.
    Good luck!

  26. JD

    What’s next? I will tell you what’s next. Start crossing off items from your ‘Bucket List’. Everybody has this list. Some people have it written down and others unknowingly have it in their minds. You only live once and if you feel comfortable financially, why not start enjoying life!

    Good luck!!

  27. As a boat owner myself, don’t worry I paid cash for it, I am interested in the boat story and look forward to reading it. People sometimes obsess to much about money and forget to enjoy life. Love your life and your family not your money, enjoy yourself now, because you can’t live forever.

  28. When you lose a friend, close in age to yourself, bury him, that’s a huge wake-up call. Not only did you have to face his death, but your own too, because if it could happen to him, it could happen to you, and eventually it will. — you have faced your own mortality now, so you understandably feel the urgency that if you aren’t happy with your life at this moment, then you damn well better make some changes so that you will be. Time is of the essence.

    And so it’s quite normal that you would be doing some heavy soul-searching now and reflecting on your life, and maybe realizing that working 60 hrs. a week isn’t giving you a balance? I read somewhere that we really don’t start living until we’ve faced our own death, and that is so true. I’m excited for you — you have the conscious awareness that will result in changes and will eventually impact how you live out the rest of your life!

  29. Great post!

    It reminds me of an article that I read called something like “how are you spending your life?” Time is the most limited resource we have. We need to constantly evaluate our priorities – work, play, and rest.

  30. When the world’s been good to you, it’s good to give back to the world.

    Like JD, I completed the second stage of personal finance. In fact, I may have been nearly completed with that stage before I ever read a post at GetRichSlowly.Org. But GRS was an inspiration, a motivation, because of a community of people with common goals and common ideals with regards to money. And those common goals and ideals were anything but common in 2005.

    What now? I asked myself that question about 9 months ago. My wife and I are financially set, and we could both continue on with our careers and live comfortably and enjoy life.

    There’s more to that though. Once I saw that money wasn’t going to be a problem for me, I had to find something else to motivate and inspire me. That’s partly why I went back to school, to challenge myself, to put myself back onto unsteady ground. Also, I began to see that, having mastered the 2nd stage, that for me, the third stage was to give back.

    Financial literacy in this country is abysmal. 48% of high school seniors didn’t pass a basic financial skills test in 2008. I’ve been pushing towards getting involved in solutions to our financial literacy problem.

    I’ve opened up a new section in the GRS Forums for Community Involvement. I hope that if you’re looking for “third stage” ideas, you can join us there.

  31. JD — great, great post.

    Money is not the goal; it’s the tool you use to achieve your dreams.

    When people start making their money work for them, instead of working for their money, they’re on their way to their dreams.

  32. This will be the first comment I’ve posted. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but I find this post very inspiring and felt the need to express my gratitude. I would say that my husband and I are currently in stage two and, as others before the third stage have mentioned, it will be exciting to hear how you and others are approaching it. But, what I find most promising, is what seems like a commitment to discuss the emotional, social, community and familial aspects of personal finance. These, I think, will help me even more on the road to financial freedom and security. Thank you for approaching personal finance with these aspects in mind. I look forward to reading about them!

  33. Great post JD. It makes sense to have your blog mature as your personal situation changes. The good thing about the web is that your readership (as well as new folks) can and will change along with you.

    It is one thing to get out of debt and establish some level of assets. It is a whole other thing, once you have those assets, to know what to do with them. I work with some pretty wealthy people and it really is funny to see how big of a “problem” having money can be. Obviously it is a good problem to have, but…

    People will be amazed how many “friends” they have once they acquire a lot of money, many of whom want that money in some way. A lot of lines get blurred and it can really cause paranoia in a person.

    I look forward to reading your stage 3 posts. It’s true, you can only talk about saving more and spending less for so long… WE GET IT!! 🙂

  34. This is an excellent post. Kind of a “what does it all mean and where do I go from here” post. While I am pretty young (27), I feel as though my wife and I have a leg up when it comes to debt. Though she has several outstanding school loans, we have two cars that are fully paid for and we have been watching our spending. I got laid off earlier this year and there’s no better time to change your spending habits, then when you lose one of your incomes. All that to say great post.

  35. Re: friend’s boat purchase.

    There’s nothing wrong with spending money on a big ticket item like a ski boat, or a motorcycle, or a sports car (like a Mini!) provided two things:

    1. You have the *cash* to pay for it.

    2. You understand the rate of depreciation and such a purchase.

    I don’t know if a single item that has a motor in it that goes up in value. Cars, boats, trucks, RVs, motorcycles, they all go down in value. You shouldn’t have more than 50% your annual salary tied up in things going down in value. So if you make $40,000 a year, you shouldn’t have two $18,000 cars and a $9000 motorcycle. Yet so many people do, and wonder why they’re in a financial mess.

  36. “Yet despite my increased wealth, I am not happy….The goal is to live a life in which we can do and have the things we want”

    And therein lies the question. What do we want? Fulfillment, purpose, happiness, to make a difference, etc. We all have those intangible desires, and in first and second stage financial maturity, those desires translate into physical and specific needs. But when you get past the physical and specific needs, you move back into the realms of the intangible, and have to make things up, really. What is going to bring you the most fulfillment, happiness, etc.? I’m more of a religious type, so I wholly believe in the values my religion teaches, and want to devote my life and resources to that. But outside of that, one quote that comes to mind is from the commencement address given by Randy Pausch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcYv5x6gZTA), towards the end, in which he says, “Find your passion, and in my experience…that passion will be grounded in people.” I recommend watching the whole speech. I’m a firm believer in improving the human condition. Especially when I’m in a position to do lasting, meaningful things for others that they cannot do for themselves.

    So, J.D., the whole of what you do here on this blog is about helping others, and of course that provides you fulfillment and satisfaction. To me, your choice in life now is whether to continue putting your whole heart and soul into GRS, or find another meaningful way you can contribute to the human condition.

    On a side note, I’ve stopped ragging on Bill Gates in recent years, because he’s doing so many good things with his money. He’s a smart man with a lot of money, and he has the brains to know where his money will have the most lasting impact.

    I realize this all sounds pretty touchy-feely, and I might come across as some kind of religious nut-job. But just think about it for a while. And if I still sound like a religious nut-job, oh well. In the end, these are the values that work for me, and maybe they’ll help you decide what you want and what you don’t want.

    Best of luck. And for the record, I still have debt that I’m paying down, but it was not irresponsible debt. I knew what I was doing, and don’t regret the debt I have. I’ll be a few more years before I have the freedom to make third-stage choices though.

  37. I think this is a good move. I’ve reached the third stage in my life and I increasingly have a hard time finding reading material that speaks to this area of my life. It’s quite easy to find information in the first two stages – in fact the market is flooded with it. Maybe you are on to something here…it might be an area where you can truly stand out.

  38. Great and timely post for me. My parents are in what I’m calling stage 4, living off the years of scrimping and saving. It is really hard to get my mother to change her mind and realize she has more than enough to live the rest of her life in comfort.

    It’s an uphill battle trying to change the mind set and at 90 and 95 I’m glad they’re still here. I just keep reminding her, this is what you saved for!

    For myself, I’m still figuring it all out.

  39. Isn’t this “what’s next” idea at the very center of the philosophy the authors of Your Money or Your Life wrote about? Isn’t it about streamlining (your debt, your stuff, your obligations) so you’re living closer to your values? That’s why I’m on my frugal journey—not so I can work 50+ hours a week and never get to enjoy my life.

    I want to have a garden, AND the time to tend it. I want to develop new relationships, AND have the energy to nurture them. I want to travel the world, but not when I’m too old to do it with ease.

    This is a wonderful post, J.D.; a reminder that life isn’t about how much money is in the bank, but how you use the money you have.

  40. This post reminded me of my dad – at least the beginning of it did. My father worked incredibly hard at three jobs for 30 years, then started a fourth job by purchasing a motorcoach and beginning a charters and tours business, which had been a dream of his for some time. After a couple of years spent getting it off the ground, he retired from his other three jobs and focused on his new business.
    He and my mother built their business from a very small, part time enterprise to a full-time plus gig, adding a second coach to the fleet and several part time drivers in just a few years. His goal had always been to do it long enough to add more security to their retirement and then sell the business to someone who would take good care of it and the customers he’d worked so hard for and grew to love. However, always the perfectionist, he kept finding reasons to delay the retirement: he couldn’t find the right people to buy the business; he was continually booking trips up to a year in advance and didn’t want to let anyone down; he never felt extremely sure of his retirement savings lasting long enough.

    Unfortunately, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last March and, 16 days later, died in the hospital with his family surrounding him. He never had the chance to truly enjoy retirement – he’d put off all those things for ‘later.’ For my dad, ‘later’ never came. I am saddened for my loss, for sure, but am extremely saddened that he and my mom never had the opportunity to really live the retirement they’d always dreamed of together.

    The lesson I take from it is this: protect your future, but don’t put off your happiness. I truly wish we hadn’t learned this the hard way.

  41. I think about “what’s next” all the time…

    So many of us save for retirement and don’t want to spend anything until we retire, etc… but you don’t know if you are going to be around in 30-40 years…

    I am not suggesting wasting money now on the off-chance you may die next year… but I don’t think depriving yourself of pleasure is a good plan either… There is a middle ground and it is different for everyone — the trick is to find yours…

  42. I’m only at stage 2 and will be here for some time. I think we need to put our skills to work for a few years, gaining knowledge and wealth before we’re able to move on to the “what’s next” phase you describe. There is a what’s next transition between stage 1 and 2 as well, many people who fail to move on end up back in debt and having to learn the same lessons again. I think phase 2 is the true education, phase 3 the reward that awaits graduation.

  43. “…with few obligations” would probably be the key. Lots of people have kids going to college and/or parents (or in laws) who may be in declining health that need help. I am not taking issue with J.D.’s post. But I’m wondering if most people see this type of lifestyle (which is obviously the ideal) in their future? Or is more for people without kids and without close ties to family?

    I’m not saying there is a right answer here. It would be interesting to hear what other people have to say. Another interesting debate would be is it worth it to give up the joys of children for a quicker route to financial freedom.

    Again, I am not promoting one over the other. Just food for thought.

  44. The Parable of the Rich Fool

    Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
    -The words of Jesus in Luke 12:13-21

  45. I’m definitely not at the third stage yet, though we’re plugging away at stage two. I think I didn’t really believe that this stage ends, even though it makes sense: if we keep up the habits we’ve been cultivating for a few more years, we’ll be in the “what next” position, too. So I’m eager to see how you and other folks are managing that.

    As to the boat story, I’m put in mind of my husband’s aunt, who owns a boat and brings it out every summer to the state park lake where much of the extended family takes a vacation. She’s been giving all the kids in the family rides on that boat every summer since my husband was a toddler. That boat, and her generous spirit about it, are a source of joy for her and a part of many family memories… definitely a worthwhile investment!

  46. JD,

    I think that in your journey to reach this place in your life, you have probably learned a lot about what you really and truly do want. I think your next step is to pursue that want.

    I too, long for the simple life you have achieved, free from my financial burdens and doing the things I love. I have learned there is much in life that I only thought I wanted. In my soul searching, I found that the one thing I really want is to travel. I want to see the world and all it’s people. I want to experience the places and things I have only read about. Oh, and I want to experience all these things with the person I love most in this world…my husband.

    Good luck JD!

  47. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I’ve been lurking in the forums and on the site for quite a while without posting a comment (although, this is definitely not my first comment), and this site has been a huge help in getting me past the first two financial stages. I’ve been in the third for about a year or so (no debt of any kind), and I’m definitely wondering “what’s next?”.

    This post really hit home with me, and I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next. I’ve been dabbling with my own business for the past two years, but I’m feeling burned-out as well. After reading this, I feel like I’m in the exact same “boat” as you JD 🙂

    Thanks for writing this, and I’m looking forward to the next posts in this series.

  48. This is a fantastic post. We’re in stage 1 ourselves, but we’ve recently started thinking more and more about stage 3. We’re trying to answer the “why” questions with more clarity.

  49. JD, I’ll follow you any where my friend. You lead the way, I’ll be happy to follow. You’ve been so influential, when you switch gears and find out what the next step is, I’m sure you’ll still be influential doing that as well.

    Best of luck!

    -Nate

  50. It’s funny this is question I started a blog about to try and answer & learn others opinions on but never got further than the title! I feel like I have been in this 3rd stage, to use the term from the post, for some time and I think similar to being stuck in debt cycle / cashflow negative position now I am stuck in saving spiral (not that I am complaining) but I seem to spend my time working on the best ways to invest this extra cash rather than anything else. I look forward to reading more from you on this topic.

    Cheers

  51. There is nothing wrong a boat, a vacation home, an expensive trip, a fancy car assuming that you have your financial house in order (which for us means no debt except mortgage, maxing out 401k and IRAs and saving on top of that for other goals). I hope that we are doing all this work (work at our careers and work on our peronal finances) so that it pays off in the long AND short term.

    Mr. Sam bought an expensive toy the end of 2008 (we had completed our 2008 saving goals and had saved $50,000) but we had not planned the purchase (i.e. saved up for it) so I took a couple thousand out of our ING emergency account and we paid for the other half out of our pay checks. This purchase was clearly not an emergency and taking money out of the ING e/r account pained me but Mr. Sam worked hard all year (I got a new car, we had saved up for that one) and he deserved to receive a fun toy from our 2008 savings.

  52. Hi JD. Great post!

    I understand about working 60 hours and yet loving what you do.

    I suggest (I run a profitable online business) that you get:

    1. A virtual assistant (www.assistu.com) to upload articles, moderate comments, and filter the email load or what not.

    2. Write a week or 2 worth of articles and then have your assistant upload them with different publish dates (they will come out by the date you want them to).

    This will really help you gain back more hours so you enjoy more time with Kris. Which in essence is really one of your “Third Stages”. 🙂

    Hope that helps.

    Diana
    Loyal Reader

  53. JD – I have been reading GRS for a couple of years now and I have to say that this post has been your best from my point of view. I have sort of been floundering around in the “third stage” here for awhile and honestly never really thought about it as another stage. Talk about bringing some focus and clarity to my financial thinkinig! Can’t wait to read future articles on this next stage…

  54. JD I am very glad to hear about this. I have been on this journey with you for several years now and I feel that I too have moved past the first two stages of personal finance. Recently I have been finding myself asking the “what next?” question a lot.

    As some other readers have noted, the only reason I still read this “personal finance” blog of yours is because you are, like me, beginning to shift to “personal development” or something bigger.

    I’m very glad to hear that 2008 was a great year for you! Here’s to 2009 being even better!

  55. This article is extremely relevant and important. We can get so caught up in the process of achieveing goals then when we actually do we can feel a little lost.

    I personally don’t see any problem in you working harder than ever seeing as you love this job. Although earning money, living frugally and becoming financially free is something we all look forward to if you still have passion for your job then why stop? It makes me think of don’t fix something if it isn’t broken. I think enjoy this time with your blog. Perhaps you could gradually integrate an extra 10 mins every day to working less and achieving other personal goals e.g. spend more time with Kris, read a book by Proust.

    (I’m currently at a point where there’s not much more I can do…I’m researching index-funds as I’m 20 now but I don’t feel comfortable investing until I graduate in 2 years time and have a steady income. I am educating myself until then and continuing my frugal existence. I have taken up reading from a list of 101 books you should read before you die which is incredibly enjoyable and satisfying. I wouldn’t sacrifice this time ever again alone with my book.)

    p.s. I love this blog. I go back over old articles all the time and show it to my friends and family. I think the tone is a lot less condescending which I find a few blogs have. This sense of superiority can get annoying but thankfully I’ve never felt that about your blog.

    I also like the breakdown of your discretionary spending. It helped me break down my expenditures and assess them alongside yours. Thank you for all of your hard work. (I’m already archiving your articles on teaching kids about money eventhough I don’t want kids for 10 years yet – I just feel like they are gems for personal finance and don’t want to forget them!)

  56. Oh dear. I think I’m going to be in stage 2 for a LONG time. I have a little bit of debt left, but am not anywhere near to maxing out my retirement savings (16% with a 4% match, so not terrible, but .. not maxed out).

    Home ownership is but a pipe dream (though I have hopes that the tanking real estate market will continue, frankly). Finally, I’m single and frankly don’t know if kids and college are in my future, though the likelihood is dwindling.

    However! I’m also aware that life is for living NOW. To that end I’m saving cash to pay in full for a trip to Ireland & Scotland this spring. I’d have waited til I was out of debt, but have friends getting married there and made a choice to do it in this order. (My debt is at 3% and I *may* be able to pay it off this year anyway.) I’ll travel for ten days with good friends, and for 8 or 9 days with my mom, and it’s going to be great.

    JD and everyone else out there pushing the 60-hour weeks: see if you can get more balance. Try a one-day-per-week media fast, or a regular volunteer gig, or book a once-per-quarter weekend getaway, or something else that speaks to you. And keep sharing!

  57. Genius. This post reminds me of that website from a few years back that said, “You’ve reached the end of the internet. This is it. Please go play outside in the sunshine and enjoy your life.”

    I’m in that 3rd stage, too … I was out this morning walking w/ my sister in the sunshine and enjoying my life.

  58. This reminds me of the advice I got during a retirement-planning seminar at my work many many years ago – many people plan for the financial part of retirement, but you also need to plan for the Life part too. What do you want to do? What will it take to get to the point that you can do that? What steps can you take now to lead you along the path to get there?

    Great post. Thanks for all your work and insights.

  59. Great news!! I’m excited for you. Just like other people have stated, we strive for “financial maturity”. It’s not about the money, it’s about taking care of our finances so that we can take care of the things that matter, instead of working for someone 60 hours a week, and never getting out of the “rat race”, so we can never truly take care of the things that matter. We only protect and take care of them short term. Getting to “financial maturity” can and will affect generations in our families! And that is important to me! Good luck, and that’s for all the great posts!!

  60. J.D.,

    I applaud your financial successes and thank you for your dedication to this site. A few ideas for “What’s next”
    -As a Portlander, I still would love to see GRS local meetings start popping up. (As mentioned at the library presentation.) I would be happy to spearhead this cause.
    -I think Investing is “What’s next” after getting out of debt & living frugally. Diversification. Asset Allocation. Dollar Cost Averaging. Expense Ratios. Vanguard. Bogleheads.
    -Maybe have monthly challenges? I know there are weight loss challenge websites out there, I think this could be an arena to motivate each other in a similar way.
    -Hire some editors, assistants. Write your book. Retire early?

    Best Regards, Jeff

  61. J.D. – this is *excellent*, my friend.

    2008 was also the same for me. The most income, and the most savings. It feels good. However, I cannot relax until my student loans are paid.

    Though I am still on stage 2. My student loan debt seems insurmountable, at present. However, I have too many examples in my life where people have conquered such debt (present company included, of course)

    This will require persistence, and there are no issues there.

    That said, let me help you with stage 3… you should cash that rain check, and let me take you and Kris out to dinner.

    There – in front of a multitude of witnesses – you have an opportunity to relax, on me. 🙂

    Cheers,

    Aaron Kulbe

  62. Yeah, it’s important to figure out what exactly money is. One friend’s best answer was ‘energy’ – as in the energy to make things happen. My favorite right now is it’s a metaphor for, among other things, how you value yourself.

    And congratulations. Thich Nhat Hanh spends a lot of time on this in his books, and labels the levels dependence, independence, interdependence. As kids (and poorly educated adults), we are dependent on others; once we figure things out, we have to establish our independence; then we realize that life is so much better at the meeting points and move to interdependence.

    A good healthy relationship should be at the level of interdependence. Look at yours with your wife. That then will give you a model to take out into the world. Life needs to be approached at sharing from equality. And there are so many models this can take, from charity to leading by example (this is how life can be lived!) to putting money on auto-pilot and spending your time and energy on learning and with friends. Or many more.

    The important next step is clarity on what you want out of life. Give this transition the attention and time it needs, and be fully aware as you move forward. Just, as a previous poster put it, don’t move forward too fast and jeopardize what you’ve done before. I did that, and it’s messy.

    Good luck!

  63. Precisely. Saving and earning money is NOT the end but the MEANS to an end, and this distinction is lost on a LOT of PF bloggers.

  64. I also earned more money than I ever have. Unfortunately my spending increased. I’m not too upset though as a lot of the increase was due to buying a home.

  65. I think it’s a little extreme to require people to be maxing out their 401(k) before they spend anything on themselves–that would require me to save 28% of my paycheck. Although, to be sure, right now it looks like I’ll have to save two dollars for every one I want to have in retirement.

  66. Here’s to a terrific 2009, JD!

    I am also glad to hear that more of your entries will be about “advanced topics”. I always benefit from reviewing the basics, so I don’t mind those. However, we have been trying to build wealth and make sure our lives stay in line with our values for a while, so more posts along that vein would be welcome.

  67. This is terrific. I feel more and more people are looking at this subject. Like….sure, I’m working hard…..and what for? I think that as I put the “what for” first, the “how much” becomes an easier question to answer.

    Thanks for opening this important door.

  68. Great article. I hope to make it to the third stage some day. This year is the year I focus on debt so hopefully I can make it to stage 2. When I reach that third stage in life I hope to accomplish my dream of being a ceo.

  69. I love it, love it, love it.

    I look forward to these articles. My dh and I talk all of the time about our goals not just our financial ones. We are making great strides in getting our financial house in order and trying to simplify our lives so that we can spend more time on what’s important to us…our kids, our families, hobbies and travel.

  70. Great post! This is something that drives me nuts with PF blogs. They can’t see the forest for the trees! Learning the basics is definitely important, but that’s only the how, not the why.

    I’ve always managed my finances in light of the big picture. When contemplating choices I ask whether something will move me towards or away from the life I want to live. Sometimes I may not make the ‘best’ financial decision, but I do try to make the choices that will make me happiest, not in the present, but in the long term looking back kind of way.

  71. Wow. . . I knew I liked this website.

    But it never even occurred to me. I’ve been working at similar goals for some time now and finally reaching the end of step 2, as you describe. I can see the ‘what now’ stage from where I am but not quite there. I thought that you just kept spending within your means. I now I can see there may be more…

  72. Thanks for the post J.D.

    I wish you both well in your endeavors.

    I have been following your blog for a while, and just recently have been posting. I am about 6-8 months out on completing my emergency fund, and will begin pondering the “next steps questions.”

    ….and, yes, please try and reduce your time. Enjoy yourself. I am sure this blog has been a blessing to all of us, I am rooting for you and your future “pastoral” lifestyle.

    “Luck favors the prepared” ~Edna from the incredibles

  73. I think this is a slippery slope – it would not be too hard to start buying all sorts of stuff and then you’re no longer living simply, are you?

    So what is the goal of all this discussion? Is it to live a more simple, sustainable life? Or is it to find a way to truly afford the good life (in contrast to many of us who want the good life now even though we can’t really afford it?

    So, I’m very disappointed by this new direction. I understand the feeling of wanting more out of life. I agree that life is not all about fiscal responsibility. But the boat story really bums me out. That is a shift towards the dark side. We may be able to afford that stuff but what about our responsibility towards other humans on the planet who are barely staying alive. And what about our responsibility to the planet itself? Is this boat worth the environmental destruction it brings with it? What kind of world do we want to leave for our children?

    Also, who’s to say you can really afford that boat. So you’ve got some money saved up. Is that going to be enough? Can you survive for one year without income? Given today’s climate it’s not unrealistic to be out of work for that long. And now, who’s to say that even one year’s expenses is adequate savings. Maybe we need two years worth of money saved up. Who knows when this recession will end. What’s to keep it from getting even worse?

    And surviving a two year job loss is not our only problem. Hardly!

    Do you have kids you want to go to college? Will college even be enough for them? Many will need Masters degrees and Phds. How’s that going to be paid for?

    Do you have kids? Are they girls? Do you want them to have a nice wedding? Have you seen how outrageously expensive even a simple wedding is? Where’s the money for that going to come from?

    And let us not forget the big monster: retirement. So you plan on retiring at 60 or so? And how long do you expect to live? How are you going to sustain yourself for 25 years without income? How-bout 30 years?! Oh, that’s what your investments are for, you say? And you have some real estate also? Maybe you do but I sure hope the market doesn’t crash just when you’re about to cash in. Surely, the market will continue to rise now won’t it.

    So do you still think you can afford that boat?

  74. Hahaha!

    Wasn’t that my post on your site last year? ‘What’s Your Why?’

    https://www.getrichslowly.org/whats-your-why-the-importance-of-finding-meaning-in-your-life/

    Glad awareness of money as a means to an end is growing. Money is a lot of things, but it is not a final goal. It is a way of keeping track of how you’re doing, it is a way of seeing how you value yourself, it is energy that bends the world to your will. But it is not your will, it is not your goal (or shouldn’t be), and it is not real. Take $50 to the middle of the Sahara, and try to buy a glass of water if you doubt that – it is a social agreement, and if people disagree, watch what happens. Really, just watch if Asia stops buying our Treasuries…

  75. JD,

    Good luck on your continued journey, and this third stage of personal finance. I think it is a bit overwhelming sometimes to have so many choices, and getting out of debt and getting good financial habits really does open up a whole new slew of possibilities for us. I think you just need to do a bit of soul searching to know what the right path is for you.

  76. JD — a very thought-provoking post. I was particularly struck by the second-last paragraph:

    “I see now that money is not the goal. The goal is to live a life in which we can do and have the things we want – by making conscious choices. Money is a tool for reaching that goal.”

    I absolutely agree with the first and last parts — money per se should not be our goal, but is to be used as a tool to achieve our goals. Our attitude towards money is more important than learning about debt snowballs and the magic of compound interest (not that these are unimportant). We should be the master of our money, not the other way around.

    However, should our life’s goal simply be to do and have the things we want? On the surface, this seems somewhat self-indulgent. I am not suggesting that we can’t indulge ourselves every so often. But shouldn’t we also consider the welfare of others — our spouse/significant other, family, friends, those less fortunate? Shouldn’t we be willing to make some sacrifices and help each other out, especially in these tough times?

    As President Obama said in his inaugural address, “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

    What can we do when we get to the third stage? Give something back.

    Just a thought …

    JS

  77. I’ll be curious to see if you end up wanting the pastoral lifestyle once you have it. I think that certain aspects of the pastoral lifestyle are great for everyone all the time, such as simplifying one’s life and not being controlled by or addicted to stuff. I also think it’s good to retreat from working 60 hours a week indefinitely if this doesn’t make you happy. Other than those things, I never want to “retire” or have a pastoral life. I always want to be engaged with my community, using my skills and talents to make the world a better place, engaging in philanthropy, working toward social justice, using the education I was lucky to receive, and of course, taking time to spend with friends, travel the world, etc. I know this isn’t what you were talking about, but I always get sad when people are eagerly awaiting retirement. It often means that they never found paid employment that was their passion and an extension of their values and self identity.

  78. JD! DON’T SCARE ME LIKE THAT!!

    I was so worried that the next words out of your mouth (fingers?) were going to be that you were giving up GRS.

    This is a great post. Someone once asked me the same question, what I would do when I had enough. And I honestly… don’t know. Money is seriously a hobby for me. I’m obsessed and one day I won’t need to be. I still have the memories of living on 12 thousand dollars a year so fresh in my mind and I will one day be able to move on and find some form of balance in my life.

    I’m looking at finding the book that was mentioned in the comments the other day, the Seven Stages of Money Maturity. You might find value in yourself at this point and *nudge* a review would be nice 🙂

    Either way, I’m glad to know that you’re not abandoning us. Thank you for letting us in on your soul searching and balance seeking financial journey.

  79. Congratulations on your success!

    If you are burning yourself out, then you definitely should take a step back. Balance in all things.

    However, much like you I am at a new stage of financial maturity. I have paid off my debts, I have a fully funded emergency fund, and I have more money in my retirement funds than I have ever had before.

    You should definitely take the next step! You’re now writing the middle ground – paid off debt, saved – what now? I look forward to this middle piece, and wonder what the “last stretch” of retirement will look like!

  80. John Steed, it’s funny that you say that giving back should be part of the plan.

    I’ve been thinking about where may 3rd stage might start and what it may consist of and the first things I thought of were more philanthropy. Give to the Museum and the Opera, help my high school alma mater reach its endowment goals, give give give… I could get to a place where I could GIVE 10-20% of my income away without hurting my own financial goals, I’ll know I’m in stage 3.

    and THEN I’ll start saving for the place in Palm Springs 😉

  81. Nice post.

    It is great to see when you discover that money is simply a tool.

    Money itself doesn’t matter. The freedom of choices it provides is what matters. That is tough to understand when you are first starting out, but it becomes clearer the more successful you become.

    I also find it interesting that you are not as happy as you envisioned. I went through that myself.

    We tell ourselves that “if only” or “when I” story over and over, but the reality is surprisingly different.

    When I get older, I will have more opportunities. When I get a raise I will be happier, If only I made more money, etc.

    When I had $100 to my name in college I daydreamed how amazing it would be if I had $100,000 in my checking account after I got out.

    Then it happened years later. It wasn’t as “spectacular” as I had imagined.

    The dream house in the nice neighborhood…same thing. Not as great as I thought.

    Brand new luxury vehicle…disappointing actually.

    We go through what you are now going through because we envision things differently than reality serves up.

    I now sometimes go backwards. I look more fondly of the $100 net worth college days, the beat up cheap car, the cramped apartment. The memories were about experiences, not money or things or work.

    When I graduated college, I bought a convertible sports car. I borrowed the money and could barely afford it. Best purchase ever. The memories and the freedom and experiences of that time are priceless, and that freedom will never again exist for me

    JD. You have certainly proved to yourself that you have become successful, and will continue with that success.

    If there is something you want, or something you have been waiting for…stop waiting.

    Life is too short for “someday” Make it “today”

    Trust Me!

  82. First off congratulations on your success.

    I have been pretty lucky. I’m only 24, and have maximized my Roth IRA contributions for a while now, to a point where if I keep contributing the maximum, I will have mid seven figures with decent returns at age 65.

    However, I never really consider myself retiring because I enjoy what I do, and wouldn’t know what to do with a million dollars if I had it. This article makes me think a little more. Thanks.

  83. @ Frank #76 jeesch, man, calm down! JD’s not even the one who wants a boat!

    As one laboring in the salt mine of Stage One and trying mightily to get my DH to labor with me, I expect in the archive I could find something about the relationship end of personal finance.

    But in between pondering your new direction and continuing to produce this site, perhaps you could revisit the topic of teamwork in personal finance. Few of us 30+ are without at least one other person intimately involved with our finances. And boy, when you’re not both pulling in the same direction, it can seem like a waste of time to try. 🙁

  84. Thought-provoking post. I look forward to seeing you go in this direction with some of your future posts and your life research. Although I am not at Stage 3, since I am currently unemployed, I have been there in the past and hope to be there again, so these posts will be of interest to me. But, as strange as it sounds, I am also interested in seeing where your research takes you.

  85. Nice post and interesting perspective. I have neer been in the position of having debt that I had to dig out of. I started my 20s with financial knowledge (I was a finance major and I had parents who passed along knowledge of saving money) so I am slightly different than you in my perspective. I do believe there is a middle ground. You should continue to enjoy doing what you love but perhaps on a lesser scale – more guest posts, less posting – whatever it takes. Continue to save money at a rate that is appropriate so when you do retire you have an equivalent amount to what you are living on now. And then spend the rest to enjoy life. None of us know which day will be our last. So there is no point to save every penny you earn. Play the odds regarding saving the correct amount and enjoy the leftovers to live nicely.

  86. JD,
    This is a fantastic post and I’m really excited about the new direction of your future articles!

    My husband and I are definitely in stage 2. We paid off our last loan in January and are set to have our emergency fund filled by July.

    The “what’s next” question never bothered us though… we have huge goals for the future. haha! It’s definitely a strong push to make the right financial decisions right now!

    We want a big house with lots of room for guests to visit, a vegetable garden where I can grow lots of fresh ingredients for my cooking, horses and fresh country air, and airplanes with the room to fly them (my husband is a pilot… he wants a “fun plane” for aerobatics and a “family plane” with several seats, room for luggage, and good air conditioning so we can take family trips).

    We have a LOT to save for, so living more simply right now isn’t that hard for us.

  87. I think people in general overestimate the benefit they will receive by being out of debt. In fact, getting out of debt is not a destination, but the very first step in a lifetime financial journey. I hear people call Dave Ramsey screaming “Debt Freedom”, as if their lives are now all set. It leaves me scratching my head every single time.

    Also, I think it’s important to have a plan before you make one step towards any financial goal. Otherwise there is danger that once you get of of debt, save a little cash, and get your feet off the ground, you won’t know what to do, so you will do something, but later realize it wasn’t what you really wanted. Been there, done that.

    Also, a pastoral life does not seem particularly financially demanding to me. I’m guessing this wouldn’t cost more than a couple hundred dollars per month (food, utilities, some modest entertainment, and not whole lot else).

  88. Frank #76 – I certainly hope that peace comes to you.

    I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis (an autoimmune disorder) last year, and have been working towards healing since that time.

    I am (at least I believe) a bright, single mother, who worked her way from a receptionist to a Systems Engineer with a pretty decent salary….all because I was worried about money and how to provide for my kiddo, and how much “stuff” I was going to amass.

    Now, I am just thinking about my next days, months, and years. Although I believe that I will live a long life, I don’t worry so much anymore. Worry is what has exacerbated my condition.

    Frank, I do believe that it was out of order for you to try and place that much worry on JD like that. JD, getrichslowly contributors, and this site rock…and they should do anything they set their minds to. JD has done very well so far.

    It sounds like you feel like the weight of the world is on you now..

    This is a time to get back to the basics of life. Do what you have to do…get out of debt, save for emergencies, save for the future (you can do all of this), but most importantly, enjoy your life, and your family just as it is today.

    You never know when it will be your last.

  89. Yeh….
    That’s you are JD……..
    I love to read ur blog but in reality i am an avid reader of that 3rd stage………..

    It will be a lot of fun to read articles on that 3rd stage from you…….

    Best Luck for your Journey to 3rd stage JD………..

  90. Articles like this both make me want to focus harder on digging out of debt, but also depress me that after months of effort I’m not that far along.

  91. The what next for us lead us down a path to start a family. 3 kids later we have an amazing life, 2 very successful well paying (PT) careers that contribute greatly to society, and quality family time like I never imagined. We have the mortgage to pay off still, but in due time. We can’t justify working like dogs and being away from the kids, just to pay off the mortgage before they go off to college. We’d miss life. With the help of so many ideas from personal finance books/sites we can have it all. We invest in our kids and create memories with them and provide life’s lessons on this journey that teaches them what is important in life. Our free time is spent coaching little league, weekend frugal get aways, sporting events, athletics for the kids, and get togethers with other families the value the family the way we do.

  92. I wondered if this would happen after your friend’s death. Usually death helps us get things in better perspective.

    Each day might be OUR last.

    So, what you begin to deal with are issues like “what’s important in life”, helping others, making sure you have settled those “heart issues” that make you uneasy. This wanders into the philosophical and spiritual areas that this blog isn’t about.

    I think that you should work harder for a few more years, however, before you feel like you’ve arrived. Aren’t you only 40 or so? (or even late 30’s?) While working harder may not be necessary, “success” doesn’t come without a lot of hard work to most people. (usually more than 5-8 of years)

    But I’ve noticed that my sister feels the same way. She started taking vacations, and not just by herself. She said, “Vacations aren’t much fun by yourself”, so she took us ALL on a 10 day tour of Egypt. (my family and her family). She also did something similar for several people to Israel a few years ago. She gives a lot to people in need.

    Others have encouraged you to find a charity you can support. I’d encourage a soup kitchen or something like that.

    You really have to establish your dreams/goals and decide if you are going to “go for it”. My husband, all of his life, has wanted to go on a dig. This year, I’ve decided that we should go for it and see about his going to Israel on a dig. Why? Because it’s time. It will never be easy to come up with the extra money for it, but I believe we can handle it if we are careful.

  93. I guess I’m looking at things a bit differently. We’ve been out of debt completely for about 10 years now. We paid our last mortgage payment in 1999 and at that point were completely debt-free. We continue to drive our old cars that we’ve had for a very long time now; we’ve stayed out of debt. I don’t think in terms of “well now I’m out of debt so may as well spend money and have a good time”, it’s more like “why bother buying stuff that might make me happy for a day or two, but ultimately make me feel empty?”.

    So now the default condition for me is to just put off buying things. I’ve been looking at netbooks, but all of the current models have some sort of flaw, so I’m going to continue putting off a netbook purchase. Those iPhones look pretty cool, but they’ll have a better one next year and besides, I don’t want that big monthly bill. See where I’m going here? I’m at the point where I wonder why I would bother to buy anything. It’s like procrastination, but in a good way. I’ve learned to be content with the stuff I already have, I suppose.

    In the meantime we keep saving knowing that our savings at least offer us some freedom from fear of job loss during these tough economic times.

    Maybe “stage 3” as you call it is the stage where we learn to start giving? To charitable organizations. To people in need. That seems like a higher purpose than buying.

  94. JD I have been reading your blog for a very long time and I am so grateful for your daily posts, your guest bloggers’ posts and the continuity you have created in our lives.

    So I was a bit alarmed to read this, this morning: “Yet despite my increased wealth, I am not happy. I love what I do – I love writing every day and interacting with readers – but I do too much of it. I spend about 60 hours each week working on this site. I’m neglecting other parts of my life. “

    I pinged on that, and thought about it all day. JD, where in your current life do your personal values misalign with the life that you have created for yourself?

    I am not talking about good vs bad misalignment, this is not a judgment. I am simply reading that you are not getting something that you crave, out of the life that you now built yourself. What is that missing piece?

    Maybe it’s time to think about this, and continue with inviting occasional guest bloggers into your blog – a few days a week only, not all the time! – while you ponder this.

    I wish you all the best, and thank you again for your encouraging words and your presence, as I make way in my own financial journey.

    Kindly, CWall.

  95. JD,

    At the risk of sounding like a fanatic, the wisest, richest man of his time, King Solomon, didn’t find happiness in money, power, or women. (the book of Ecclesiastes– the Bible)

    Your problem is a basic one of all mankind–to find the purpose of life.

  96. JD –

    “The death of my friend Sparky caused a seismic shift in my value system. I’m seeing fault lines I never knew existed.”

    Oh how this resonates with me!! Not only in personal finance but in life relationships as well. I lost my Mother just over a month ago and it is amazing when an emotional upheaval like this occurs, how you begin to see life in a different light and your lifes journey takes a different course – a path that never occurred to you.

    I am excited to learn from you about the “third stage” of personal finance. And my sympathies on the loss of your dear friend.

    Ancora Impardo –

    Valerie

  97. Thanks so much for this post, JD. I too have just lost a close friend at 41 and it has made me truly reassess my life. I look forward to seeing where this journey takes you!

  98. This is a brave and honest post, which is what brought you to this point of course J.D.

    But just to play Devil’s Advocate, is there not a danger than you’ll leave your readers behind?

    Few of us are in this position (alas!) It may be hard to relate to you.

    Really interested to see how you get on.

  99. Check out “Just Enough” by Howard Stevenson. There’s a whole section on incorporating wealth into larger life goals. I’m reading it for a class on life-planning and it strikes me that you’d enjoy it.

  100. may the Lord’s truth be revealed as you continue to seek. thank you for you honesty & humility in your company. some of the financial tips have been helpful, but your ability to be honest about what you know & what you seek is the real attraction in your writing.

  101. J.D. read pages 261 to 263 in The Adventure of Self-Discovery. These few pages can be read for free on Google Books. It might shine some light on the dynamics you’re talking about. Here’s an excerpt;

    “A failure to achieve a specific goal from which satisfaction was expected perpetuates the self-deceptive belief that happiness depends on external factors. In this case, the individual typically presumes that success would have made a difference. When the goal is achieve, it typically does not bring the psychological results that was expected. However, this is not usually interpreted as an indication that the strategy linking happiness to success has failed. It is attributed to the fact that the goal was not sufficiently ambitious or that a wrong choice of the goal was made. The resulting frustration will then generate new plans or more ambitious ones of the same nature.“

  102. when I read this post I thought, oh, something must be done — you shouldn’t have to work 60 hours a week!! A number of sites that I admire take the weekend off — and GRS is certainly rich enough in stored content, forums, etc, that even we dedicated readers could probably handle not having a new post every day…

    Another thought: in my mind, “Getting Rich Slowly” means more than being rich in monetary wealth, it also means getting rich in time — so one part of the third stage is to explore how we manage time, which is just as difficult as managing money… lots of room for new posts that help to combine money management and time management…

  103. @Jeremy Day
    🙂

    Well, since writing this piece, I’ve been discussing with Kris about adopting my existing metaphor/framework of “building a house” to incorporate the “third stage”. This is “living in and maintaining the house”. It means you can’t give up the habits you developed before, but there are other things you do to enjoy the experience.

    And I’ve also talked with my agent about using this as the basis for a book proposal. We’re exploring it.

    Look for a series of posts on this subject in March. I’m going to map out what the stages are and how they relate to each other. It’s going to be “thinking out loud”, but it should be fun.

  104. Welcome to the first stage of investing!

    JD,
    As your friend John pointed out, you have made the transition to an Investor. IMO you are making a sigificant transition, instead of continuing on to the “next phase” of personal finance. Just as you have described a personal finance lifecycle, there’s an Investment lifecycle (accumulation, consolidation, “retirement” […I hate that word…], and gifting). The good news is that you have a solid foundation of clear goals and values to provide both the “what” and the “why” as you begin investing. Some of your readers have commented how strange and confusing the Investment world is… I hope you can provide a bridge between the two worlds.

  105. “The goal is to live a life in which we can do and have the things we want – by making conscious choices. Money is a tool for reaching that goal.”

    Dear Friend, you need to understand everything about get ritch slowly,:P happyness comes from meditation, as as you grow older you may or may not learn things that is possible to realice with meditation, there is one other way to get this gods knowlage ;), and alot earlier if you want, with meditation!!!, everything you have typed on your webplace I already know, and im not to old, pleas write a story about meditation and realisation of eveything, i believe there is the connection you and everybody else are searching of, if you dont fint this message that ok, some people never find themself to, there is only one clear view of the world, and thats when you clear all thoughts and after time answers will come how you to take care of yourself and be happy. When you meditated alot and increase all chakras you know what im talking about. there is something more behind everything meditation connectes everything about money 🙂 and living into a CLEAR concious life that only meditation can make better. The world will get enlightened, some say as early as 2012, who knows, good changes are always welcome, right?

  106. What a deep and profound piece. As someone who’s still working on the second stage of personal finance, I’ve been working hard to get myself in a situation to ask ‘what’s next?’ Good to know that others are facing the same existential quandaries.

    As for the question of the third stage, I think there are many different ‘third stages’, depending on the particular people. While there are few paths to get out of debt or start investing, there are hundreds of destinations to which people wish to journey. Some people want to travel the world, some people want to take on their dream jobs, others desire the opportunity to rest and relax, and still others want to spread their wealth to the less fortunate. Each of these ‘third stages’ are equally valid, and each requires different considerations and planning, which is why there are hundreds of books on how to get out of debt or start investing, and few on ‘what next?’

    Best wishes on finding your own brand of ‘what’s next’, and I anticipate a number of good posts as you find your way through this new territory.

  107. I strongly agree with the idea that the third stage should not be toys. It should be Giving Back. Giving at least 10% to those in greater need; substantially sharing our discretionary resources, financial and/or otherwise (and FYI, I’m an atheist). Your Money or Your Life talks about this well, if I recall.

    I’m not saying there should never be toys. The 4th stage can be toys.

  108. Excellent article! I think this message gets lost in most personal finance blogs in the midst of savings, getting out of debt and making more money… In the end, money is just a tool to help live life…

  109. Yet again you have adequately expressed in eloquent words some of the things I’ve been saying, and have said before at Master Your Card. While I believe the basics of finance are important, I don’t believe that money itself is ever the goal. The goal is always how that money can improve our lives and well-being, and it’s about having satisfying and fulfilling relationships with those around us.

    Unfortunately, we often get tangled up in our beliefs that we must live frugal and not spend on anything for the rest of our lives. What’s the point of that? Yes, we need to be responsible – pay bills on time, keep an emergency fund, tap out retirement accounts, etc. – but if you’re doing that already and still have funds left over, you’ve reached the “What next” stage and you have to figure out what your dream is.

    I’m almost there. I’m so close I can taste it. I want to travel, and I want to do it before I’m too old to properly enjoy it. I want to write beautiful stories about the places I visit. That’s my “why.” That’s why I work as hard as I do to stay ahead of the game. Maybe that’s not a worthy goal to someone else, but it is to me. It’s what I want to do. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why they call it PERSONAL finance.

    Great post, J.D.! I look forward to the new direction as you learn what your next steps are.

  110. I’ve noticed too that most books and blogs are directed to people who are in debt, but never really go into detail about what to do after you’re out of debt and have begun accumulating wealth.

  111. I’ve noticed that a lot of personal finance bloggers focus on the debt elimination. Maybe it’s because it’s where they’ve been or what they feel that their readers need. I haven’t been able to write about it very much, and I’m particularly happy about it in retrospect.

    I got well into the 2nd stage when I realized that, doing what I was doing, I wouldn’t get to the third stage for a long time… too long than I was willing to spend. Also, I felt that economic factors in the United States might push me from the later 2nd stage to the early 2nd stage.

    I’m sure that’s what a lot of new retirees are feeling right now. Will they get to that third stage with the way their investments have gone? I doesn’t seem like it will for some time.

  112. Congratulations! I envy you. We were moving swiftly towards this third stage before I lost my job last year, and now we’re running through our savings like water. I feel like no matter how much we sacrifice and save, something always comes along to tear us back down to square one.

    @Frank, if you’re a regular reader, you’d know that JD and Kris aren’t worried about saving for their kids’ weddings. Neutering took care of it. :p

  113. I am way behind on my feed reading and just came across this.

    First, congrats. Quite the accomplishment.

    Second, I completely agree. Too often we focus on the process and the frugality. It reminds me of the 93 year old man that froze to death in his own home recently — while leaving $500k to the local hospital.

  114. First, thank you for being so open and honest about some monumental life questions you have started asking yourself.

    I think you’re saying that Money isn’t everything. I agree. Money can’t buy happiness.

    But Stuff can’t buy happiness either.

    Once we have our own house in order, I think it’s time to start looking outward.

    Maybe it’s time to have kids. Or start funding your favorite charities. Micro-lending is really cool in how it not only helps people but also makes connections between them. See kiva.org

    Giving like this will be much more fulfilling than just amassing more Stuff.

  115. JD,

    Thanks for the great post and welcome to the rest of your life.

    I’m in the same boat I’ve nailed the basics and have put in place 95% of my plans. Yet there’s one problem, I might just complete redo my plan to retire at 45. Perhaps I just semi-retire instead at 40. I’m no longer sure, but it should be fun figuring it all out.

    Best of luck,
    Tim

  116. I would submit that we have it backwards; the third stage should be the first stage. Stages 1 & 2 are about learning the what the tools are and then making a plan. The third stage is about why we do this. I believe we should start there. And the “why” can and does change; people marry, divorce, have children, suffer great losses and great joy. All these things affect that third stage. How we do things (our values) often stay the same but why we do things (our purpose) can and does change through life’s journey. An example; if one was an honest accountant and they chuck it all to be a winemaker, they will likely be an honest winemaker. Also, the why informs the how. If all I want to do is pile up money with no purpose, I may not be concerned about how I pile it up.

    Thank you for your feed. This is great stuff and I think warrants serious consideration.

  117. Excellent post! The third stage is what I like to call Leaving a Legacy. What will your legacy in life be? Will it be that you were a penny pincher and never helped anyone? Or will it be that you were a highly organized person are were able to help others through your success? Getting to a point where you can start worrying about society as a whole instead of your own little world is so important! Bill Gates with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Warren Buffett with his huge personal donations are both great examples.

    So, the third stage is giving. Giving of yourself and your time. Making this world a better place.

  118. The first two stages make sense to me, and I’ve pretty much passed through them. However, in my case at least, there’s a third and fourth stage.

    The third stage does involve going beyond the basics, but requires that I remain actively engaged with them lest I lapse somehow or get too comfortably in a rut. Though I’m past the basics, I’m still trying to build wealth and get to a point where my assets and net worth will sustain me. There is a bit of the “what now?” in all of this, but the question is also “how do I keep it going and enjoy life more fully as long as I have to work for an income?”

    Stage Four for me is more fully the “What next?” stage as described above. For me, this will happen (I hope) when I retire, after I’ve built the wealth needed for financial independence. The basics will still be important, but it will be in the context of living off of what I hope to have.

    In any case, I agree that once the basics are covered, it’s good to develop a bit more fun into the budget. But as far as actually building wealth goes, that’ll take a couple of decades or so.

  119. I agree. It’s all about finding the right balance. Knowing when to and when not to spend, knowing when to work and when to socialize etc. Look forward to reading more on this.

  120. JD, this is a great post and I’m really interested in following what you and other GRS readers have to say! I think you got it spot on that the three high-level steps you’ve highlighted sets a great framework to live a meaningful life.

    Keep up the great work!

  121. There is a dearth of 3rd stage information on the internet so you would be helping a great many of us by focusing on 3rd stage issues!

    I’ve been looking for 3 types of 3rd stage articles:
    1. “My Story” or “Our Story”. I devoured 2nd stage stories on how people got through the 2nd stage, the problems they overcame, how they overcame the problems, what to expect, how they wish they had done things differently, etc. I had simply never fathomed a different way of life so I needed some examples.

    The 3rd stage stories I find are not detailed. They simply say, “I’m happier now. I now volunteer 5 hours a week.” Ooh. What are some of the problems you’ve encountered? How did you slip back into Stage 2? How did you getting back out of Stage 2 this time differ than the first time? What are you doing to ensure no more slip-ups? How do you spend your time differently? What are your extracurriculars now? How do you give more (time/money)? How has your budget changed? How has your cashflow changed? Are you less worried now? Or have your worries just shifted? How has your emotional well-being changed? How would you have approached your first years at Stage 3 differently? What are problem areas to be prepared for (aside from the common problem of slipping back into your old spending habits)? A very important one: What is your definition of 3rd stage? (Mine is being debt free including the house with a year’s living expenses saved and 2 newer cars. Stage 3 for me is not being independently wealthy). What are your 3rd stage goals? What motivates you now? I’m having trouble with this one. I don’t want a negative motivation such as: “If I spend too much money, I’ll end up back where I started.” There has to be a positive way.

    2. 3rd stage self-talk. My Stage 1 self-talk was “Wow. I really can do this. It IS possible.” My Stage 2 self-talk (I was worried about not having enough retirement savings because I had waited so long to start saving) is “Okay. If I buy this Apple product, I will have to raid the money I would normally put in retirement, which will mean I’m not only paying $300 out of pocket, but $300 plus the amount I now have to pay Uncle Sam plus $300 that my company won’t match (My company matches dollar for dollar up to $900 a year. Then nothing.) Do I really want to spend $650 (or whatever the amount is)?” or “Buying this item will delay my getting-out-of-debt date by X number of days. Is it worth it?” Sometimes it was worth it, most of the times not. I desperately need different self-talk strategies to stay in control and to stay on target.

    3. How does your perspective change? My Stage 1 perspective change was realizing my debt ways was not the only way to live. My Stage 2 perspective change was just being aware of how my small actions affect my money and my happiness. I felt more in control. For example, getting rid of the clutter put money in my pocket from its sale and from me thinking in the store “Will this be clutter or will I love it?” Having less clutter made me feel less stressed and claustrophobic and much happier.

    There is so much more I want to learn about Stage 3! You have a great website. thanks for your hard work!

  122. I guess my blog could be construed as a 3rd/4th stage blog and people are right: There are not as many of those blogs, at least compared to the credit card/debt/index investing/coupon clipping blogs 🙂

    It is somewhat difficult to order the stages the way I think you want to do. For instance, if you are in debt, there is only one way out: work. Once you are out of debt, you have more than one way out. To pick one path though, my path, I would say stage 3 is decoupling yourself from your job. You say you work 60 hours a week. Is it possible that if you worked less, your blog would not be as remunerative? Decoupling from the job means financial independence, so the next step is supporting yourself entirely from passive income.
    It also means that you do not identify yourself with your job and that can be a tough transition. It means that you have to find out who you are … rather than what you do from 9-5.

    Being FI means that you are not in debt to your stomach so to speak, that is, you would not need to work to live. The 4th stage is decoupling yourself from money. You can do that by either having a lot of money in which case you have to battle the when is enough enough monster or you can find ways to live that does not require money in the same way that most people are used to. Stage 3 and 4 can be pursued simultaneously.

    I think there are stages beyond this. I will think about it.

  123. I never bought anything for which I didn’t have money for. I managed to save 50% of my pay check for quite some time before losing interest in savings. Since I am not much of a risk-taker, I never invested in stocks other than my 401(k) to match my company fully. My car is paid off, I am in my late 20’s and I live in a rental apartment. I don’t have a specifically named emergency fund, but my healthy cash reserve that I have should be enough for surviving at least 3 years in the current scenario. For the past few months, I have been greatly debating why I should save any more, even 10% or 20%. Numbers in the bank don’t bring me any more happiness. So I have gone all out to spend 10-15% of my income on things that I currently think I enjoy. I guess I am in the third stage as you say. One strong debate I currently have is, if i don’t spend money on things I enjoy now, later I might not have the age to enjoy even though I accumulate money. All the blogs out there say about the first two stages and I am really really interested in knowing about the third stage. Looking forward to your posts JD…

  124. JD I lost my mother about a month ago. I’m out of debt and about ready to start investing in IRA again. I’m inheriting money … enough that I’ll be at the third stage very, very soon. After all the scrapping I’ve been doing over the past several years, I’ll be at a place financially I’ve never been before. It’s a little scary. I know what to do with $10K-$15K of it. The rest, I have no idea …

  125. I look forward to hearing more about the “next stage” as that’s where I am at right now. On a side note, something I’ve been looking into is putting our emergency fund into a conservative mutual fund. I did some searching on your site, but didn’t find anything addressing this. Have you considered this? Is this a bad idea for any reason? We still plan to have a few thousand dollars in our regular savings account for immediate emergencies, but most things we thought of that would require using this money would allow a few days to get at it. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  126. when I was in the lowest of my life, I was asking ‘whats next?’ when things are all settled, I ask, ‘which next ?’ This slight difference way of asking may completely put one into a totally different paradigm, good luck finding your nexts.

  127. Regarding step 3 I feel like I am just trying to get back to the path I was on when young. When young I was an unconscious “frugal” person. I was fully involved in my work and hobbies and consequently spent very little but had a very full life. But stuff happens. Over a space of 6 years 9/11 happened, I had a medical situation, had a child. Lost my job, got a new one. Had a great boss who died. Had a second kid, another job. I felt I did not have the energy for my original hobbies, so basically web surfing and shopping substituted for those passions. I’ve come full circle, weaned myself off most of the bad habits, as of this week paid off the debt. I am like a baby having to relearn the good habits I originally had that I had forgotten. But once those habits are automatized, it gives one the freedom to move onto something else. And I’m looking forward to whatever that may be, because with life, once something is resolved, the next question is, what’s next?

  128. I’ve often wondered what I would do if suddenly tomorrow I had my six month emergency savings in the bank, a comfortable retirement savings started and all that. The only thing that really appeals to me, I confess is that I would really love to switch to an “easier” lifestyle and spend my days drawing, taking photographs (something I haven’t had time for in years, really) and just relax and live how I want to live.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way so in the meantime I’ll just work and save and get there slowly but surely.

  129. I am not sure where you are heading with your “What Next?” article. It seems you are looking for meaning in your existence. At least that is the impression I got when I started reading your article. However, later on, you qualify it and talk about “What next after you have mastered the basics of personal finance?”

    I have always looked at mastering personal finance as means to achieving my goals. It seems for you it became your ‘end’ as well.

  130. JD – I’ve been following your blog for the past week, and I’m thrilled to have found it. Considering personal finance consulting myself and would enjoy talking with you, as I believe you’re in Portland. I too am at Stage 3, despite my current unemployment…ever thought of hiring someone to help reduce your 60 hour work week?

  131. Over the past year or so I have felt something shift within me as I began to understand that there is a stage beyond acquisition of money and a lifestyle of frugality. It all has to have a purpose. I picked up “The Seven Stages of Money Maturity” by George Kinder to help find answers. I thought that there was something wrong with me for feeling this way. Then I realized that my feelings were all about changing philosophies about life and money. I recently published an article on the internet about this very thing: developing a sustainable philosophy about money. I am so glad I am not alone.

  132. I love this post! I am not at the third stage yet. I am preparing for it in seven years. My goals are to pay off my rental and retire from the military at 45 years old. Once I am there, I can take a sabbatical and travel and/or work PT (for health benefits).

  133. Great Post!

    For me I think the third stage will be dropping down my hours at my day job (or if I’m lucky, my hours in my self employed life) to spend more time focussing on what I call my “life’s work” – the projects I do because they make a difference and I find joy and pleasure in doing them. For me that’s the ultimate goal. I am a hard worker by nature and would go crazy without a project .. but I’d like to spend less time earning a living and more time on my projects.

  134. I have read your column for quite some time now. My partner and I are still in the second (and sometimes we slip back to the first) stage of pf. It’s all about learning. Continually. I look forward to seeing what stage 3 holds for us…and I’m going to enjoy being motivated by what stage 3 holds for you.

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