…is like a garden of roses: it feels good, affords opportunities and is not without its problems.

Don’t be alarmed, please; I have not gone completely off the rails three months after we paid off our large debt in record time. I am not going to go as far as telling you that I miss the debt. But over the last couple of months I have been coasting, feeling like a bit like gravity has weakened and there isn’t much left to hold me focused.

I get up in the morning, brush my teeth and…start being busy rather than be the usual productive, focused self I got to know during the last three four years. Two of my BIG goals have fallen – we are finished paying off the debt and I am going to hear whether I’ve got a full professorship at the university I am now within ten days or so. And I am using ‘fallen’ because the professorship is not a done deal – not getting it will mean considerable upheaval to our lives.

To snap out of this spell of being busy not productive, consuming not producing and waiting rather than doing, I decided to do two things tonight: first to tell you about the things I really enjoy about being debt free and second, share the need for re-focusing.

Thinking about it, there are three things I really love about being debt free and these are that beauty is back in my life, I have freedom and that we can build wealth.

Beauty
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Beauty – be it in buying a bunch of flowers, looking at art or taking to the hills – was something I didn’t have when we were in debt, or later when we were paying it aggressively: our money just didn’t stretch far enough for that.

Not having consumer debt means that we can have the small luxuries that make life colourful and full of beauty and excitement.

Freedom

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Lausanne marathon route

Don’t know about you, but I found that when I had debt my life choices were rather limited. Since we have rid ourselves of our consumer debt there are many more opportunities, for instance:

  • I have always travelled rather a lot for work; now either John and our son can join me once the work is done or we can travel more for pleasure.
  • When we were paying off the debt I did races but these were mainly in the UK. Now I am thinking about doing some sweet runs in South Africa, like the Comrades Marathon (reminder: no I am not mad).
  • Walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, and generally achieving the five life ambitions I’ve been harbouring for some time, stopped being a dream; I’m moving to a plan.

But the main freedom that not having consumer debt gave me is the possibility to give up my job is I get really vexed by it – we’ll not only survive, we may thrive.

Building wealth

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Strictly speaking, paying off debt is building wealth as well. Psychologically, however, it makes a big difference whether your ‘negatives’ are getting smaller or your ‘positives’ are getting larger. It is a bit like the difference between climbing out of a whole and climbing a peak.

We have started building an investment fund. For the time being this is in Nutmeg ISAs: not very imaginative, I know, but Nutmeg ISAs are projected to give much better interest than ‘vanilla’ ISAs with a bank and these are tax free.

It is very satisfying to see how the fund is growing – both because we put money in regularly and because of interest. Hopefully, by March 2014 this fund will be large enough to get us into the ‘big deals’.

At the same time, as I already mentioned, my focus has been shot since we’ve paid off the debt. It seems that with me avoiding pain is a stronger motivator than anticipating pleasure and fulfilment and

I find paying off debt much easier than building up savings and investments.

It seems the time for working out some clear, short and medium term goals has come. But I’ll tell you more about that on Thursday.