The view (including my feet) while camping 

DH = Dear Husband


Mr. SSC (Slowly Sipping Coffee) recently wrote the post, “Will your retirement have an ikigai?” Ikigai (pronounced icky-guy) is a Japanese term meaning “the reason to wake up in the morning”, and in his post, Mr. SSC explores the idea of life purpose during retirement. (He and his wife are very close to achieving early financial freedom.)

My decadent summer of ’16

For the past two months, I’ve had the great privilege of test driving financial freedom. I’m a teacher, and for the first time in seven years, I chose to take July and August completely off. No additional qualifications courses (summers ’09, ’10, ’11). No teaching English through July (summer of ’12). No teaching co-op through July and August (summers ’13, ’14, ’15). Next summer? We’ll see.

The summer of ’16 has been the most decadent of my career. For every other summer that I’ve taken off to be home, I was on full-time mommy duty. It was wonderful for me to be able to spend all of those summer months with our 3 daughters, but it wasn’t “decadent” – it was super busy. This summer, we’ve only had our youngest at home, and as a seventeen-year-old, she has not required me to be on full-time mommy duty. Not even close. She has her part-time job and her social life. We’ve enjoyed some great times together over the past two months, but they’ve been more laid-back than “super busy”.

So no job to go to + no course to study + laid-back family life = My trial run at financial freedom.

Increased fitness in retirement forecast

If the summer of ’16 is any indication of what retirement will be like, I’m going to be a very fit retiree. Most weeks involved 6 workouts: 3 early morning bike rides with a neighbour – 30-40 km (18-25 miles), and 3 visits to the gym with DH for cardio kickboxing and weights. The benefits of regular workouts are so worth pursuing! Better sleep. Clearer head. More productive. Happier. What’s not to like?

Writing project #1: Debt-reduction talk at the library

More writing is also in the retirement forecast. As my summer of ’16 began, I had three writing goals. And I’ve met each one. They’ll all take a bit of time to come to fruition, but I’ll share one for this month’s post.

I was very impressed when Brian at Debt Discipline wrote about his talk on debt reduction at the local public library. Brian and his wife paid off $109,000 in credit card debt and then went on to save an emergency fund that saw them through a tough year of unemployment for Brian. “What a gutsy move!” I thought of his initiative to speak at the library. It’s one thing to share your struggles with debt online, and a very different thing to speak about them in a room full of strangers. I admired the combination of humility and confidence that Brian showed, and I had no doubt that his talk had been effective. Who better to motivate than someone who has been through the ups and downs of turning his own finances around?

Then I started to wonder if I could do the same thing. I had spoken at church about our journey out of debt. Why not follow Brian’s lead and speak at a local library?

I’m not much of an initiator, and so it took a real step out of my comfort zone to contact the Ottawa Public Library. When I did, things went remarkably quickly. I’d need to fill in a proposal form. Provide references. Indicate dates of availability. Summarize my topic of presentation. Within days, I was fulfilling a request to provide PowerPoint slides.

“A presentation from a personal point of view,” I was informed early in the process, “is a new approach for the area of financial literacy programs at the Ottawa Public Library.” So this was new territory for the library too – not just for me. There were a few weeks’ worth of back-and-forth emails about detailed edits . . . And then it was a “Yes.” As it stands now, I’ll be speaking at the Main Branch of the Ottawa Public Library (120 Metcalfe St. for any Ottawa readers who might be interested in attending) the evening of Monday November 7 from 6:30-8:00.

This opportunity means a great deal to me for many reasons:

  • From the start, I’ve hoped that my writings about our debt-reduction would encourage others who had the desire to turn their finances around – especially those who, like us, felt powerless or incompetent to make it happen. I know from experience that speaking about personal debt can be very powerful in breaking down walls that keep people isolated in their financial struggles. There can be a huge relief in witnessing someone else being open about a topic you’ve always experienced as oppressively taboo.
  • I feel a “cutting edge” excitement about being the first speaker in this venue to present from “a personal point of view.” An old friend – who has no problem speaking her mind – recently asked me, “What makes you think you have the authority to write about debt-reduction?” I got a chuckle out of the question, but I appreciated it and answered her. “I write as someone who is going through it,” I explained to her. “We have a history of financial mistakes, but we’re learning, and we ARE strengthening our financial reality.” I compared our situation to people in AA who had been sober for 4 years. “People who have never struggled with debt don’t have the same insight into everything that’s involved in dealing with it,” I said. My friend nodded her head. She got it.
  • Even more personally, I feel an “I can do it!” growth in confidence. That may seem a bit premature since the presentation is still 2 months away, but I really have overcome an anxious hurdle just in going through with my proposal of the talk. There will be plenty more anxiety in the coming weeks as I practice, refine, practice, refine . . . Mr. Money Mustache’s latest post deals with his preparation for a recent public speaking event, and it brought home to me the work that still lies ahead. Very different type of event! But the point is, there’s a lot of effort that goes into a good presentation. So here we go!

Debt-reduction milestone

The summer of ’16 leaves me with no doubt that there will be plenty of “ikigai” in my retirement.

August brought our mortgage down another $2,000. So of our original grand total debt (consumer, business, and mortgage debts) of $257,400, we have paid off $156,600. If you’re good at math, you’ll quickly calculate that we’re on the verge of a very significant milestone. Our 6-figure debt is about to become a 5-figure debt.

That kind of milestone is worthy of celebration, and DH and I have been wondering how to mark it. But that ties into Writing Goal #2. And you’ll have to wait for next month’s post to find out about it : )

Do you ever wonder what the “ikigai” (reason to wake up in the morning) of your retirement will be? Have you ever had a practice run at financial freedom? Your comments are welcome.

Thanks for reading our report for August ’16! Please check out my weekly posts at Fruclassity.



Join the Conversation


  1. Super excited to hear the outcome of your talk at the library. I agreed what MMM had to say about speaking, it’s a lot of upfront work, but once complete it continues to get better and better over time. I’ve just book my fourth speaking event. So glad I was able to spark the interest for you.

    Sounds like a grand summer. Believe it or not I had a little run of FF when I was out of work. I took a few weeks off to regroup after working 21+ years. I will have no issue finding my ikigai when my 9-5 is over. I think I’ll dive into more volunteering work and certainly more time with my wife.

    1. Wonderful that you’ve booked yet another speaking event, Brian! You definitely provided the example for me, so thanks again. Interesting that you found a little taste of FF in unemployment. I know someone who experienced it after heart surgery. It’s a different reality, and most of us recognize the benefits of it – no matter what the context apparently. All the best for your next talk!

  2. Sound like a lovely summer Ruth! And congrats on the speaking gig! I’ve thought about doing something like that in the future, but I’m not sure what my angle would be. I think people love those huge “overcoming’ stories. I’m so jealous of your workouts too. That was one thing that was way easier to do as a freelancer vs full time. But, I just did a test ride to our future new office (in Dec) and it took 10 minutes! It’s 1.7 miles away. The downside? Hills! Huge hills! So I’m watching how to bike commute to work videos to get some tips because I know I’ll sweat! I digress. I think life itself is what gets me out of bed in the morning. What opportunities might present themselves!

    1. My “overcoming” story is not nearly as dramatic as some people’s, but then most people who struggle with debt aren’t in dramatic situations. They’re stuck in deeply ingrained thought patterns and habits. I think you could give an awesome presentation! You’d be funny, and if you added a video component, it could be quite a production. I’m dreading the loss of work-out time once school starts again : ( There’s no way I’ll get in 6 a week. I’ll aim for 3. The cycling to work option sounds great. And I think the hills are a bonus! Better workout. There must be showers at work, right? Just some logistics to figure out and new habits to get into. I hope you go for it.

  3. I hope you’ll record your presentation and offer it as a podcast online. Perfect for those of us who wish we could be there. I do believe you will definitely rock this thing Ruth! 🙂

  4. Sounds like a great summer, Ruth! Love that you were able to fit in all of the physical activity (a good reminder to me that I need to make more time for bike rides).

    Congrats on the speaking gig! I’ve done a few speaking gigs on the topic of self-defense (even went on TV once – yikes). I am an introvert, so doing this is definitely out of my comfort zone, but then I like a challenge. That said, I constantly practiced and refined prior to speaking, as you mention you are working on. When your passionate about your topic, it becomes easy to get up in front of a group and help them learn something new. And your audience will love your story, a story many of them will probably relate to, which may induce change in their financial lives!

    1. Thank you, Amanda. That’s certainly my hope. Interesting what you have to say about public speaking as an introvert. I remember reading in Susan Cain’s book Quiet (a must for all introverts) that when there is passion, an introvert can rise to the challenge. I’m definitely passionate about this topic, so I believe I will be able to rise to the challenge – as you have.

  5. I really like how the idea of purpose is popping up a lot in the PF sphere. It’s so important, a real key to fulfillment in any stage of life. I’m so glad you had a “decadent” summer full of fitness, camping, and writing goals. So excited to hear how the library presentation goes, and what the next writing goal is!

    1. It was a new term for me too until I read about it Mr. SSC’s post : ) I hope you find your ikigai, Jayson! It’s hard to work on financial (or any other) goal without being convinced of the “Why?” behind it. This summer made me more convinced than ever that debt-freedom is worth pursuing : )

  6. That is fantastic. I’m glad you got to enjoy a glimpse at financial freedom. It’s inspiring to see what that might look like. Once I reach it, I plan on a lot of Ikigai. I want to write and run games and spend as much time as I can with my family.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Ben. Your vision for financial freedom sounds great! To “write and run games” – cool! All the best in arriving at your financially free destination : )

    1. Thank you for your comment, Kelly. I don’t think of “ikigai” and “reasonable” as going together. I believe “ikigai” has more to do with the heart than the head – with passion rather than reason. I wish you very well as you keep looking. Blessings to you.

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