A Letter to my Dad

By | April 7, 2016

Dear Dad,

I’ve been officially “retired” for just over six months now and you still occasionally ask me if I have any income, if I plan to ever work as a lawyer again, if I have health insurance. I explain to you my numbers and my charts and that seems to appease you for the minute, but I can sense that you’re worried. And bewildered. I went to law school. I’m supposed to be a lawyer. That’s how these things work.

I’m going to be fine. Please don’t worry about me and my finances because I’m not worried about me and my finances. That previous sentence may possibly be my single greatest achievement in life to date. Except, of course, the time I ate three grilled cheese sandwiches in one sitting. What a glorious day that was.

But money? Money doesn’t even grace the top ten list of my worries. Yes, of course I have a list of my current worries. I find that if I write things down, they take up less space in my brain. Here is an excerpt of one of my least favorite lists – “My Worry List.”

Thriftygal’s Current Worry List

  1. Climate change
  2. Judge Judy retiring
  3. Antibiotics obsolescence
  4. Horse-race politics
  5. Lieutenant Benson drinking too much on Law & Order: SVU
  6. The Golden State Warriors beating the ’95-’96 Bulls win record
  7. The realization that I still haven’t filed my 2015 taxes
  8. The yellow spots on my eyes
  9. Dying alone
  10. The epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. and our apparent inability to address it

In contrast, here is an excerpt of My Worry List when I started working in 2010.

Thriftygal’s 2010 Worry List

  1. My student loans
  2. My law firm realizing I’m a fraud and that they made a mistake hiring me 
  3. My negative net worth
  4. The realization that I hate being a lawyer
  5. Not being able to travel
  6. Work taking away all my free time
  7. Climate change
  8. Horse race politics
  9. The epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. and our apparent inability to address it
  10. Dying alone

Sometime in the past six years, I stopped worrying about money. I don’t remember when it was exactly, but gradually, as various items fell off my Worry List, my ball of anxiety surrounding money got smaller and smaller. I paid off my last student loan. I accumulated my first $100,000. I started investing. I hit my minimum number for retirement. One day I started writing my Worry List and I realized that nothing about my finances made the cut. The most valuable thing money can buy is freedom from worrying about money. Money can’t make you happy, but the lack of money can certainly make you unhappy. Maybe I should bold the second sentence because I bold that first one a lot.

I know my stash certainly helped kill the anxiety money monster inside me, but I think it’s also my attitude. Let’s say I drain all my liquid accounts and all my investment accounts and all my retirement accounts are wiped out by a particularly vicious stroke of rotten luck. Well, that blows.

On the bright side, I still have my legal degree. I still have the ability to work in a coffeeshop. I could go back to various articles and figure out how to be an “affiliate” and make money off clicks. More importantly, I know how to thrive and be happy with what most people would consider a small amount of money. I also have my brain, which I’m quite fond of.

Right. And the odds of me losing my entire nest egg are comfortingly small. In fact, the odds are decent that I won’t ever have to earn money again at all. I didn’t dive into this early retirement blind. I’ve been tracking my expenses for years. I’ve read more investment books than I can count.

dad

Mmm, pie

So, Male Parental Unit, please don’t worry about me. I’ve had an easy life because you’ve had such a hard life. After moving to Australia, I started to understand, to a fraction of a percent, how difficult it was for you to come to the United States from India for college, so far away from everyone you know and love, speaking a different language and trying to make something of yourself. You tell me tales of sleeping on newspapers in your empty apartment, going hungry waiting for the next check from your family, the racism that you encountered, the years as a dishwasher in a restaurant. You worked as a chemical engineer eventually and now you own your home, your cars and live comfortably in retirement, but I wonder how much of your money anxiety remains.

I know that mom doesn’t share the same worry about my working situation. I know because she tells me. Repeatedly. Now that I have all my professional and monetary issues sorted, she really thinks I should try harder on the relationship front and that “dying alone” should rank higher on my Worry List. I’ll get on that.

Dad, thank you for working so hard so that your children could have an easier life.  I owe my success to you and I’m so lucky to have such a good father. I started this blog as a way to keep my anxiety in check and I hope that it assuages yours as well.

Love,
Thriftygal (your youngest (and favorite) daughter)

29 thoughts on “A Letter to my Dad

  1. Papadad

    Was going to post the same thing – that dads are dads and no matter what they will always find something SOMETHING of their kids to worry about. You are blessed thrifty gal – one hell of a father and role model to you and to others.

    PS. Don’t worry about dying alone. You’ll find what you’re looking for when you least expect it and where you least expect it. That all part of the magic !!!

    Life is good !

    Reply
  2. BobJ

    I would ask him what his “worry list” is for his perspective. But I think you have done an awesome job of getting your life into focus.

    Reply
  3. kngsks

    Tennis is a cheap sports relatively. but it depends on where you play (public courts, so you only need a racquet and tennis balls). I hope you avoid to die alone. lol

    Reply
  4. mikefixac

    What a sweet sweet letter to your Dad. And what a hero your father is. I would think especially in the Indian culture, “Enough” is not part of it, especially with someone so young and accomplished as you.

    WTH, I don’t know much about monetizing a blog, but after finding you via MMM, I’d monetize it. I think you have a lot of room for growth, I love your original take on life, so why not use it as a vehicle to make even more money?

    Your comment about money freeing you from having to worry about money is spot on. You’re an inspiration to me, and your dad more so. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Gerard

    Your dad is a mensch. I wonder if your overall ball of worry is smaller now than in 2010, or just invested elsewhere. I suddenly want a grilled cheese sandwich.

    Reply
  6. Rob

    This is just beautiful. Just. Beautiful. I’ve never responded to your blogs before, though maybe I should have since I’ve been following it for quite some time now. Keep inspiring us! Male Parental Unit got me laughing!

    Reply
  7. ambertreeleaves

    exellent post and list! Very interesting to see how people and their worries change over time.
    Would you say that most change is due to being FI?

    Reply
  8. Cindy

    Love this. Awesome. I need your help in investing. I’m a young widow and want nothing more than setting aside my financial anxiety.

    Reply
  9. Lagniappegal

    I think this is my favorite of all your posts to date. You grew up in a caring family and that is a gift. Your father will worry – I think they get an extra few entries on the worry list when they become parents, but it is less and less in their control over time (like climate change) so it stays on the list.

    Reply
  10. Ahmed E

    “So, Male Parental Unit” .. LOL.. My dad is actually staying with me right now.. I asked him to come from Jordan to Seattle to babysit his only grandchild while I was away for 3 weeks for work which he loves to do.. But as a Palestinian growing up in a refugee camp because of 1948 war and going to Kuwait in the 70s to work and having to start from scratch again in 1991 because of the first Gulf War.. being worried about our jobs and income is built-in.. My dad tells me to go to sleep when he see that I’m still up past 11 PM because I have work the next day! But after reading this I’m not going to be bothered as much with good worry.. And I’m glad he’s in my life …

    Reply
  11. Rudi

    YOU, and your posts, just get better and better–glad you aren’t worried about not having friends or skills. Summer in Seattle is wonderful–try it!

    Reply
  12. AnnW

    You can also write a book, or get a gig writing a monthly column for a magazine. I would work on that part right now. Did you read the Mr Money Mustache article in the New Yorker, or WSJ or wherever it was? He said he makes $400K a year from his blog. Something to aspire to. When are you going to be in NYC?

    Reply
  13. Chanda Auntie

    One of the best articles so far from you, though I enjoy reading all. Your Dad and Mom must be so proud of you👌👌and I am too —

    Reply
  14. banyanbat

    A touching later to your dad. But I guess he will ignore your worry list (which actually suggests that you almost have no worries) and continue to worry for you.

    Reply
  15. Jan

    I love your blog… You’re so humorous about a very serious subject. I’m grateful to have found you, thank YOU!

    Reply
  16. Brad

    Love this. Envious and happy for you at the same time. My worry list is pretty similar to your 2010 list but I’ve been able to tick off 1, 3 and 10 in the past 2 years. Now the hard part is dragging myself to a soul-sucking (but well-paying job) so I can sock away as much money as I can before they realize I’m a fraud. Hopefully only a few more years… Sometimes I wonder if I’ll make it.

    Reply
  17. Ellen

    I’m retired. Did that at 53 and I’m 56 now. Not being nearly as quick a learner as ThrifyGal, I leaned on a high savings rate and more time for compounding. In retirement, I’ve noticed a few things about money worries getting projected around.
    (1) If I refer to my status as semi-retired, some friends and family seem more comfortable. Perhaps this is me projecting my own comfort level — that keeping open the option of returning to work-like activities in the future makes this state feel slightly less risky. But, I think friends and family trudging off to work daily feel a bit validated if I waffle a bit about future work. Do they feel squirmy if I signal my complete financial independence, so I waffle about it? Not sure, but that seems true. I’ve been on the receiving end of suggestions about part-time money-making gigs which I choose to interpret as their care for my well-being rather than overflowing money angst.
    (2) I spend lots of time with a group of volunteers building houses for habitat in my closest city. This is a close, smallish group of committed men and women with some serious skills — some have been building houses as part of a volunteer work team for 20 years. Within the group, one retired in his 40s, about 1/2 retired in their 50s; the rest early 60s. Interestingly, most had careers that focused on or touched engineering. These are really good planners with high energy. Hmmm. I feel no need for waffle words with them. And, the general worry level about money in the group is vanishingly small.

    Reply
  18. VagabondMD

    Dads will be dads!

    At the age of 50, I am starting to make moves toward giving up my medical practice gig, and my father (84, retired at 82) is having a really hard time with it. While I do expect to be engaged in a money earning venture when I retire from practice, I am not yet sure what it will be.

    My father cannot understand why I would give up the steady and relatively large income from the job that required 11 years of school and training AFTER college to get. Well, I hate doing it, and I have the financial wherewithal to stop.

    Reply
  19. Jenerra

    I can’t wait for the day that I can write this same letter to my parents. My husband and I have just recently woken up from our life and are getting on track to financial independence, hoping to reach our worry-free point in 10 years or less. My parents know about our plans but I’m not sure how much they believe it’s possible or that we will stay on the path. That’s not on my worry list though but now I’m wondering what is – I like the idea of tracking that from year to year, I think I’ll go make my 2016 list now.

    Reply
  20. Sheila

    This is now one of my favorite letters. This is a good reminder on how hard our parents worked so we can have a good life. Thank you Mom and Dad.

    Reply
  21. M

    This is a good one! I’m a dad to a very talented daughter that has invested long years as a student and have plans for early retirement so I can guess your dad’s feeling.
    In my opinion it is not only about reaching FI but more what you choose to do after retired.

    Reply
  22. Abhi

    Hello Thriftygal, It is so heart warming to read this post. I could relate to it a lot as I have been through similar situations.

    I discovered your blog through MMM and it touched a very deep nerve – the desire to be free from financial worries.

    I am really happy for you and all the things you have achieved up till now.

    And since you love traveling, you have to come & visit San Diego 🙂

    Also, I would love for you to add these things to the learning to cook items – Kanda Pohe. I absolutely absolutely (yes twice is required & justified) love thecha.

    Abhi.

    Reply
  23. kngsks

    I recommend you to read a book “the sixth extinction by richard leakey”.

    Thank you so much for showing your warmth.

    Reply
  24. Laszlo

    Just a few thoughts:
    1. Try to eat more.
    2. You are a person who is keenly interested in epistemology — how we come to know or learn something. If you maintain this awareness, and balance it with the onslaught of emotions as when you are talking about your time in corporate law, your writing will be crisp and will delight the readers.
    3. The bigger picture is, you have figured out how to make money work for you, now you need to figure out how to make life work for you. This may be a better topic for this blog.

    Reply

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