To live a more simple life is more about appreciating what we have rather than the pursuit of accumulating wealth.
Because I have always been a driven person, always chasing the next goal, achievement, or thing, it was not until continually doing these things and living in the resulting chaos got the better of me did I question what I was doing.
To live a more simple life is not something that comes naturally to me. In fact, I have always been the very best at making life overwhelmingly chaotic.
Although I have taken many steps to live a more simple life, I remain living with the repercussions of decisions I made some years ago. For example, I am now paying off a significant amount of debt that I accumulated as a result of purchasing a very expensive office in which to run my law practice.
Despite my career as a divorce lawyer being very successful, and generating a respectable amount of revenue, the financial overwhelm my choices have caused me made my life and law practice unnecessarily frenetic. I was unable to catch up and allow the foundation of my thriving law practice to take hold because of the amount of debt I was carrying.
As one wise person said to me “you ran before you walked.” I sure wish I had come across Mr. Money Moustache's website much earlier in my adulthood (even though I really hate moustaches, this guy has some very wise advice).
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I spent my young adulthood gaining the credentials to become a lawyer. I wanted to be financially successful. I wanted a rewarding career. I also loved the idea of the prestige of being a lawyer.
I graduated from university with significant student loan debt. After I had got my first law job, I was able to cover my necessities like food, clothing, and rent. I could also squeak in my student loan payments.
Within the first year of school and getting called to the bar I got my first raise. I also bought my first home. That home was subject to a very substantial mortgage.
I was pretty excited about my new income level. The more senior lawyers I worked with assured me that, the more I earned, the more, I would spend. They told me that this was simply the way it was. Like much of what they informed me, I took what they said at face value. I then made what they told me a true story. I quickly started spending to fill up my income.
I was on my path of “success,” after all, and very pleased. I began to spend what I earned and then some, always assuming my income would continue to go up.
I bought better clothes on my credit card and my first cell phone.
My lifestyle of being a successful professional commenced.
As my income increased, I continually upgraded everything in my life including my computer and phone and then my home. My vacations were increasingly higher end as I moved from camping to staying in hostels, to staying at five-star resorts. My vacations were increasingly lavish and increasingly shorter in duration.
Always a bicycling commuter, I bought my first car on loan after my daughter was born.
I purchased and consumed.
I had a baby. I got married. We bought stuff for our home. We ate at great restaurants, went on ski trips, ultimately paid for my daughter to go to private school, and worked to pay for ever-increasing expenses.
I then invested in a building with another lawyer in which to run our respective law practices. I did that without a partnership agreement and refinanced our home to make the substantial investment. The relationship with that other lawyer quickly soured and I had to litigate to get my money out. I ended up with a fraction of my original investment and a much higher mortgage on our home.
Evidently not learning from my last mistake, I then purchased a strata office in which to create a small law firm. I did this by increasing the mortgage on our home yet again. The cost of making the improvements on the office went way, and I mean way, over what I expected. I used lines of credit, lease agreements to put up walls, and leases to buy furniture. As a result of all that debt accumulation came years of excruciating financial and law practice management stress.
I woke up each and every morning with my heart hammering in my chest, wondering what my bank balance would say as more often than not it had a negative balance.
Although my little law firm was doing well regarding revenue and my personal law practice was soaring, my team and I spent an inordinate amount of time scrambling to make ends meet.
Because of the significant debt, we simply had no foundation. We were continuously busy scrambling to make sure no cheques bounced (and despite our best efforts, failed at this), trying to keep up with paying the property taxes and strata fees (failed at this too), and scrambling to pay my staff (yep, not always successful either).
I was constantly stressed and living in a total state of overwhelm. By 2012 I was diagnosed with severe depression and adrenal gland burnout (from years of chronic stress). I gained weight and stopped exercising. Although I had given up drinking alcohol in 2008, other addictions began to creep into my life.
It all came crashing down in mid-2015 in ways worse than I could have imagined.
The message was clear. I had to live a more simple life. Or else.
Because I had no choice, I started to live a more simple life.
I moved out of my very expensive office and moved into a less costly one. I am chipping away at my now massive mortgage, a mortgage that is more than double than what our home cost in the first place 16 years ago.
Since I have started to live a more simple life, I am paying down the debt I have accumulated ever so slowly. I have some savings, albeit small but growing. I do a forgiveness practice meditation every day. I do a very short gratitude practice each morning. I have even taken a stab at drafting a personal manifesto. My draft personal manifesto has virtually nothing to do with wealth and everything to do with relationships, contributing and being a good person.
The irony is not lost on me, that if I had not been so aggressive about being prosperous, I would be much farther ahead in my finances, business, health, and relationships.
Having said that, I remain imperfect. Despite my financial struggles and the fact that I should focus solely on financial repair, I still buy the odd thing that is not only expensive but unnecessary. Like my new FitBit. I still have difficulty juggling my various accounts because I have not yet fully consolidated all my personal and business accounts, payables, and receivables appropriately.
To live a more simple life is a journey and that journey is a process. Like I said, none of it comes naturally to this particular lawyer anyways.
Val has created this website to share with her colleagues. She is not suggesting, by any means, that she is the best divorce lawyer out there. She is, however, suggesting that she is the best divorce lawyer that she herself can be. Feel free to share anything you find useful.