Crawling Out of the Black Pit

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry.

Why? Because I feel like I have failed you.  I’ve been on auto writing of random thoughts for the last few months because I’ve haven’t had my heart into writing.  So for every crappy post you have read on this blog I offer my regrets.  If you are still reading this blog…you are better person than I am.

So what’s up?  I’ve been blue. 🙁 Not depressed, but rather a bit overly stressed at work and feeling sorry for myself.  Nothing overly serious, but never the less it was real.  It affects you in a bunch of subtle ways, but most of all I get seriously non-productive when I get this way (or if you prefer lazy).

Yet yesterday something wonderful happened…I got happy again.  Not your basic laugh track happy, but rather spotlight brilliance happy and I’m sorry for blinding you with my silly grin all day.  Nothing in particular turned the tide, but rather just the day to day of living life and things just got better.  Perhaps it was getting more a few more minutes of sunlight today, or perhaps it was I stopped stressing about things I can’t change or perhaps it was the fact I remembered to feel hope that the world can get better.  I don’t know, but I’m grateful it did happen.

I think what honestly happened was the let down after paying off the mortgage.  What?!?  You see I’ve been living and breathing that goal for the last three years so when it was finally done and I had no more interim goals until retirement which is like seven years away…I felt empty.  I think over the holidays that excitement kept it tolerable, but in the cold dark of February with nothing to look forward to the let down hit.

You see the reality is once you pay off your mortgage…nothing changes.  You still go to work, you still have the rest of your bills, and the rest of your life.  Yes you have more numbers in your bank account at the end of the month, but that is it.  Sorry if you had thought it would be more interesting that that, but in reality not much changes.

Granted there are some upsides to it, like I handle the unexpected expense effortlessly now.  Or the fact, I could quit my job tomorrow and pay the bills with a minimum wage job.  There is potential there for things, but I’m not using any of it right now…so things are well sort of boring.  Hence the let down, since I was focusing a bit too much on the potential, rather than the actual change (which was nothing).

So where do we go from here?  I don’t know, but something will change.  What?  I don’t know, but I welcome any ideas you have.  What would you do if you paid off your mortgage? How would you change your life?

24 thoughts on “Crawling Out of the Black Pit”

  1. When I paid off my mortgage in 1998, I was still working full-time. I already knew that one biweekly paycheck would be able to pay for all of my monthly expenses, so it was nice being able to save/invest large parts of each one in the booming market of the late 1990s.

    This was also a key step toward my being able to switch to working part-time in 2001, 3 years later, because working at about half-pay presented no problem to covering my much smaller (overall) bills. And that would lead to my eventual early retirement in 2008.

    So Tim, look at paying off your mortgage as a big step toward retiring early.

  2. Re sunshine: Have you had your vitamin D level checked? Also there are a lot of books on positive psychology out lately (vs negative/depression/anxiety/etc) — really interesting.

  3. Maybe you need some shorter term goals to work towards? Not necessarily a financial one?

    The reason I want to pay off my mortgage in 5 years is so that I can better afford to be a single parent. Basically getting rid of my mortgage will help me to start a new chapter of my life.

  4. I’ve felt the same way since my wife and I paid off our mortgage 2 years ago. While I realize it is a huge step toward early retirement, it doesn’t make a big difference in day-to-day life. Getting motivated to keep saving toward retirement is a bit tough after the mortgage is gone.

  5. February will do that to all of us prone to SAD. I recommend that you get excited about investing all of that money and watching it grow. If possible take a percentage of it and put it into a winter escape account and watch that grow while you plan a fabulous getaway for next February – think Bora Bora or Grand Cayman or our personal favorite Turks and Caicos. Then the rest would continue to grow but you would know you have escape money and a plan.

  6. Not having direct experience with paying off the mortgage, I’m going to equate it with losing large amounts of weight.

    12 years ago, I lost 55 lbs (that I ended up putting back on). Before I lost the weight, I would think about how much better my life would be after I got thin. I imagined I’d be happier, wear nicer clothes, have less stress, be better with money, be a better conversationalist, have more friends, overall, just be a more dynamic, personable and successful human being.

    Guess what? None of that happened. Yes, I got rid of a bunch of fat, but I was still same person, but now I didn’t have anything to look forward to. I was thin, and life wasn’t any different.

    It may be time to look into yourself for a while instead of looking for external motivators, there is nothing wrong with pausing for a while to re-assess what you want to work towards, as long as you start moving again. You are a hard worker and very driven, sometimes it can be hard to just “be”.

  7. I sometimes get down about day-to-day life, too. Having a project is motivating, but once you accomplish something, or when the next goal is a long way off, there’s a lot of day-to-day life to get through.

    So I asked myself: what kind of life do I want to have, what do I want to experience, what will make the intervening months and years meaningful? I ended up joining a fledgling political party and a public education advocacy group. Doing something that’s meaningful to me with impressive people (and meeting new people all the time) has helped reduce monotony and restlessness.

  8. This is the guidance that I am looking for. We will pay off our mortgage by June at the latest. I am wondering where to go from there. You are in a similar financial situation as we are just a few months ahead on the trip.
    We do plan to blow a few months salary on home repairs, a TV, and a new bedroom set. But from there it’s back to the grind stone with planned budgeting for purchases, full 401k, Roth (if we qualify) and other savings. However, the road past the mortgage is so unchartered. Where to put the money, what allocation, how much, etc. The calculators are so varied.

  9. Hey there mate,
    I’ve been reading lol… but that’s because I enjoy popping in to read. We have the cash to pay our mortgage in full which we will do in April. I really don’t know what to expect after that. It’s interesting to read what you say because it’s likely true. Yes we have more options especially since we are in our 30’s but in reality, the mortgage is just paid. We go on living and working like everyone else. There is more to life than money and I enjoy my job. Wake up in the morning mate and just be happy, be happy that life is better than others who could only dream to have a mortgage paid. Why? Somewhere, there is someone else worse off than you and would trade you in a heartbeat. Live life, do what you want, smile, have fun, explore, network. You only live once.. enjoy it! Cheers and keep on writing.. I’ll be here to read! Mr.CBB

  10. Your description of the debt payoff blues sounds similar to what I experienced when I paid off my student loans. All my focus was spent on paying off my loans by getting a second job and making sacrifices. When it was paid off, I didn’t know how to handle my extra time or focus and I was feeling a little blue. That focus eventually went into investing in real estate and early retirement.

    If I were in your shoes, I might look for a new goal to work towards or a new activity to keep your mind focused. Right now I’m five years behind you as all of my extra cash is put towards paying off my mortgage which at that point I will be able to retire.

    After reading other comments, I agree with Sheryl that it is time to look within oneself instead of looking for external motivators. I’m going to follow her advice as I imagined life would be different after I pay off my mortgage.

  11. We paid off our mortgage 5 years ago. Since then, we’ve been stashing extra monies into our retirement savings accounts. Our networth has grown a lot since then although it’s really boring just waiting for the networth to grow. But yes, nothing really changed otherwise. The people who have the decipline to pay off their mortgage early are the same people who know how to save. We are all savers – we need to save for a goal. Without a mortgage, the only thing that can measure as a goal is your networth.

  12. We paid off our mortgage 2 years ago. We initially lost target and did not know what to do next. Then we decided to borrow 50K in an investment account to buy dividend stocks and set the goal to pay-off this debt in one year. It gave us two benefits: re-gain focus to be debt free; tax deductible for the interest of this debt.

  13. January in Canada tends to get everyone down. Go to work in the dark then go home from work in the dark.

    You need a new challenge. A honey do list or investigating a new investment opportunity or planning a great get-a-way or helping the less fortunate….

    We all have ups and downs in our moods but as long as we recognize and can communicate with those who care about us when the downs are hanging around for too long we will all be ok.

  14. My financial successes happened over a long period of time,so I had time to adjust to changes along the way.
    In the end it was no big deal anymore.
    Its not like winning the lotto where it all hits you at once and you have to adjust to it after it happens.

  15. Hi there,

    Do not despair, it happens to all of us. Some do have courage to weather the storm, some dont.

    Not only you have better numbers in your bank account but you have a place to live. If everything will go down tomorrow you have a roof above your head.

    Otherwise you are absolutely right there will be no change, particularly if you have a good paying and stable job. You were not stressed about potential sleeping in a street, but high expectation that something will change.

    Congrats on being mortgage free!

  16. While we aren’t technically mortgage free, with payments of $275 monthly we may as well be… with a balance owing of about 50k on our home, I would rather have funds invested in things like Bell Canada which yields 5% than worry about paying off a small mortgage at a 2.4% rate. If rates start to climb, we will kill the mortgage then…

    I know all about the doldrums Tim… try working outside everday in Winter in Canada at a job you loathe… the only thing that keeps me sane is that I am in a position to quit work for good very soon at 41 years old.

  17. I kind of noticed you made a lot of spelling mistakes lately. 😛
    Well, I do know how you feel, I’ve felt sort of the same blah-ness in the last few months. I associate it with a trapped feeling but I think it has more to do with work boredom and lack of energy due to that – something I can control and re-focus anyway. It’s more important that I do the best job that I can since that will pay off for me personally (if only through personal satisfaction). It’s odd but the lack of energy carried over into home life too. Ugh. I also decided to enjoy the journey a lot more and not think so much about destinations. Bumping up the wants and making a plan for how to get them and thinking less about just covering the needs inspires me.
    Maybe you were going through a period of consolidation and rest before the next upward climb? That’s a good thing IMO. Maybe what you should have done was to stop writing for a little bit until you got re-energized? (Although ISTJ’s will tend to want to write every day in a routine way.)

  18. Go on a vacation and spend some of the money you have already saved. It seems you may be lacking in vitamin “D”. I visit weekly and find it hard to swallow this post because I’m not sure you realize how lucky you and your family are.
    You may be down in the dumps because you have fulfilled your goal, so create some more goals that you can realistically do before retirement.

  19. So you’ve finally paid off your mortgage, eh? Well congratulations! We paid off our mortgage years ago as well but that didn’t stop the drive to build on our investments, to plan for our kids’ future education expenses (never mind, eventually perhaps also our grand kids), to save for a comfortable retirement, to put away some money for possible long care health expenses, etc. See my point? Paying off debts is good but you can’t predict what the economy or the future will hold. That all said, I never planned to retire early. I’d quickly get too bored. If nothing else, I’d switch careers or travel or find other interests to keep challenging me. Time to set up some new long term goals, me-thinks.

  20. Congrats on paying off your mortgage. Per your topics, do you think you should look at property rentals in order to create additional income streams so that you can retire even earlier?

    I find with 20 years until I will be mortgage free, that it is important to have goals, and to live for today and tomorrow, as you never know these days what can happen. That being said, I do try to be realistic with goals.

    If I could retire early, I would like to write sci fi fantasy books, and go back to school to get a degree in languages. That is how I would spend my time. This would be for when I would be travelling to have an understanding of the languages of the countries that I would travel to.

  21. Congratulations on being mortgage-free.

    I hear you — Like when I paid off my debt ($60K), I felt lost. What was my next goal?

    I started accumulating money, but even that is a goal that I miss once in a while. Those numbers are just so vague, it sucks a little bit of the fun out.

  22. I say that unless you’re seriously in love with your current job – quit and try some other work and maybe discover something else you like. If I was as financially independent as you I’d be more open to risk in changing careers/jobs.

  23. Thanks everyone for all the ideas. I’m still sorting out what to do about it all.

    I like the idea of having a non-money related goal or project to keep me going so I’ll look into that a bit more.

    I’ve also been playing with the idea of doing a career shift, but still deciding what interest me the most.

    Take care,

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