As I’ve grown older, my body has changed in less than ideal ways, as it does to everyone. I accept my graying hair, slight stomach, and growing wrinkles.
But every day, for years, I always loathed one part of my reflection: my eyes. Ever since turning 25 years old, I’ve felt like I looked to the outside world like I am constantly sleep deprived or hung over. This was true whether I was fully rested or not. I was blessed with this trait by my mom’s side of the family … thanks Mom 🙂
I’ve known for a while that I didn’t have to accept my inherited eyes. My mother took charge of her eyes in her late 30s via cosmetic surgery (called a “blepharoplasty”). The result made her look years younger and more refreshed.
I do not think of myself as a vain person. I don’t put a great emphasis on my looks. I spend $20 on my jeans, buy many clothing from Costco, and I exercise by running and a $10/month gym membership. But my eyes always bothered me, and short of mystery creams, there was little I can do about it. I lacked control.
But no more! One month ago I had blepharoplasty surgery to remove the extra fatty tissue under my eyes. I actually wrote the initial draft of this article while my eyes closed due to icing them during my recovery. Now a month later, I’m basically back to normal. In another month or two, I should begin to see the results.
This procedure cost me $4,000. That’s 800 lattes! How can an aspiring FI blogger toss money out the window like that! Why did I do this surgery?
I think I made the right decision for two reasons. First, my desire for this procedure persisted for many years. If you want anything for that long, it’s probably is a genuine desire, rather than something fleeting. Avoiding action on a true desire can also lead to regret, so it’s sort of a damned if you, or potentially damned if you don’t situation.
Second, as my net worth has grown, I’ve strategically decided to loosen my wallet (slightly). I previously would have never been willing to spend this amount of money for an optional cosmetic procedure. I had a burning fire that drove me everyday towards my FI goal. While this fire still exists in me, it’s been tempered in recent years from the equivalent from a raging brush fire – burning hot but in an unstainable way – to a camp fire that is strong and steady. This transition has allowed me more latitude to fund some of my passions, whether it’s eye surgery, or buying collectible trading cards.
This is actually the second time our family bank account has paid for plastic surgery. My spouse had her breasts enlarged about 3 years ago. Apparently my Mrs. DINK always wanted to have this done, so one day she told me of her plans. This was something about which I never asked or hinted. It was the first time I had even heard about it – by the time she told me, Mrs. DINK had already made the decision to move forward. I was in no position to complain. After all, it’s her body and her money. My only request for her was to wait one month before scheduling the surgery, to make sure it was something she actually wanted. She waited the month and then moved forward. This surgery cost about $8,000.
If there is one lesson I’ve learned from 11 years of marriage it is that you have to accept your spouse for who they are, not who you want them to be. For me, this means accepting that my wife is somewhat impulsive in her personal life. Beyond this surgery, she also decided basically overnight to get her doctorate and to buy a new car. This is just who she is, which is probably a good balance with my tendencies to over plan for virtually everything.
In total our family has spent $12,000 on cosmetic surgery and we’ll likely spend more in the future. Some might point out that this money could have been used on paying off our debt! After all, it is equal to 25 percent of our outstanding student loans. In our view, we purchased something that will bring us satisfaction for many years to come, at a cost that is relatively modest compared to our high annual income.
This is a great example of how personal finance is personal. Everyone’s FI journey is different and while sacrifices need to be made along the way, it doesn’t mean giving everything up! If something is important, it can still be accommodated while striving for becoming FI.
This $12,0000 was some of the best money we ever spent. These changes to our bodies empower us – giving us the personal strength to continue to battle the daily corporate grind.
Avoid Burnout By Doing What Makes You Happy
The journey to becoming FI is not a straight line. Humans are not robots. We’re creatures filled with emotions, wants, and a whole host of contradictions. To achieve what you desire, sometimes you need to break from your game plan to accomplish a side quest that will help calm your mind and keep you motivated. This might be having a beer with friend, going on vacations, or getting plastic surgery. While these things can’t be boiled down into spreadsheets and ROI, they are essential to keeping your fire burning brightly over the many years that it takes to achieve Financial Independence.
Conscious decisions are the root of the FI journey. Knowing what you should do is the easy part of becoming FI. If everyone could act like robots without emotions, becoming FI would be just a mathematical formula. I’ve heard other financial bloggers equate this to becoming physically fit. We all know you should eat less, work out more to become fit. Yet look around you … there aren’t that many skinny people in the good ol’ USA. Why? Because while knowledge is important, but it’s just a start. Will power is arguably the most important thing for becoming healthy, or achieving FI status.
Becoming financially stable enough to have eye surgery was a huge motivator for me. I recently wrote a post about what motivates me to become FI. I knew that it would cost thousands of dollars and previously I never had enough reserves to have my surgery guilt free. It took 11 years of hard work, promotions, graduating from law school, and banking hundreds of thousands of dollars for me to feel comfortable with this decision.
I didn’t actually NEED to do all of this. I could have put my eye surgery on a credit card, or avoided paying off other debt first. But if I had taken this path, I wouldn’t have felt good about my decision. I would have had guilt. The difference for me was getting to a financially safe place that allowed me to make this decision and feel good about it.
As the fruits of the FI journey start blooming, I’ve had many other revelations like this one. For example, I’ve come to be more comfortable with the idea of losing my job. I highly doubt this will ever happen for a variety of reasons, but not fearing losing my job has provided significant benefits on my mental health. Similarly, I pursue my side hustles more now because I feel I’ve made sufficient progress in my work where I don’t need to focus on my career 24/7. All of these changes didn’t occur over night. They took a lot of time and effort.
My point is the results of your financial independence journey come gradually. You don’t go to bed one day a slave to the man, and wake up as a free person. The FI journey is one that slowly provides benefits while opening your eyes to new aspects of the world over time. The FI journey is long, but if you take the time to notice the little changes as they develop, you will be able to better understand the “why” of FI, which will help keep you motivated along your journey.
Congrats on pushing the button on a big want item that has value to you.
I particularly loved this line you wrote: “Conscious decisions are the root of the FI journey”
Brilliant insights, and thanks for being open about it.