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3 Ingredients for a Good Life


The following article is by Kristi Muse, our staff writer. She is a great freelance writer, blogger, police officer’s wife, and stay at home mom of two.

3 Ingredients for a Good Life

As I was sitting at my computer, trying to think of something to write worth reading, I kept staring down at a fortune from a fortune cookie that I have taped to my laptop. Rarely do cookie fortunes resonate so deeply that I feel the need to hold onto them indefinitely, but this one just clicked with me.

It says, “There are three ingredients in the good life: learning, earning, and yearning.” It spoke to everything that I believe is important in life, which is why I decided to hang onto to it for motivation. When I’m feeling stressed out with my work, my fortune helps me to put things in perspective and refocus my goals.

If you want to live a good life, never stop learning, earning, or yearning. These three elements are what shape our character and guide our life choices. Without a balance of the three, you’ll lead a decent life, but not the best life you could lead.

These three factors, learning, earning, and yearning, are key to living a good life, both as we strive for early retirement and financial independence and once we reach it.


If you want to have a good life, never stop learning. Unfortunately, too many of us set our books down after college and don’t pick them up again. Between the stresses of work and family it can be hard to find time to read a book, take a class, or go about learning anything new. I know I don’t get enough time to read all of the books that I would like to read. Try not to sell yourself short in the prime of your life. Make time and set aside money so that you can actively pursue learning more about your interests and hobbies.

On the same token, you’re never old enough that you have to stop learning. Don’t listen to the old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Retirement is the perfect opportunity to learn more about a new skill or subject. Take Nola Ochs, for example. Not hampered by her age, she received her master’s degree at 98 years old.

Use your new free time to pursue the things that matter to you, the things that you kept setting aside over the course of your working life. You can finally take a master art class, learn how to sail a boat, or take up Tai Chi. The earlier you retire the longer you will have to pursue learning in retirement.


Earning is an important element of a healthy and happy lifestyle. It’s important to earn and save enough for retirement that you don’t have to worry about your quality of life downgrading once you retire, but you want to make sure that you’re not overworking yourself to the point of being miserable.

Another option is, like Joe, to build a life you don’t have to retire from. Once it’s financially possible, consider working part time instead of waiting for traditional retirement. More and more retired people are going back to work part time during retirement, and it has amazing benefits overall for their life during retirement.

People who choose to continue earning a paycheck during retirement are physically healthier and mentally better off than people who call it quits and just survive off of a pension check every month. According to a report done by Carol Graham of the Brookings Institution, “Voluntary part-time workers have more life satisfaction and less stress and are more satisfied with their jobs than full-time workers.”

Part-time work gives the retiree the satisfaction of a paycheck, a purpose to their daily life, and reason to get out of bed in the morning. Having the ability to choose flexible or part time work hours, “can enhance well-being—which is linked to better health and higher productivity—and also reduce unemployment and pension burdens.”


Can you be happy without ambition? Retirement is the main ambition of working people. So what happens when you achieve what you worked so hard for? You need to make sure that you’ll have something to continue to look forward to once you reach your financial and retirement goals.

Yearning, that soul deep ache to accomplish something, is the driving force that keeps many of us going. Depression is a very real possibility if you spend your whole life yearning for retirement but have no ambition or goals past that end line.

Joe recently posted about contentment being the enemy of progress. Contentment and ambition are not mutually exclusive. You can be happy without ambition and still yearn for more. Whether it’s yearning to travel to a new country, learn a new skill, or spend more time with family, always have something that you can focus on.

Find balance in both life and retirement

Remember that life isn’t only about preparing for retirement, and life doesn’t end at retirement. Don’t be miserable now to enjoy your life later, but don’t enjoy life so much now that you aren’t prepared for retirement. To have a good life, don’t ever stop learning, earning, or yearning, now or in your retirement years. These elements are just as important to a good life after our core working years as they are during them.

Image credit: by jovike

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Tyler November 2, 2015, 5:51 am

    “Don’t be miserable now to enjoy your life later, but don’t enjoy life so much now that you aren’t prepared for retirement” – That right there is the best quote ever and a goal for many of us to reach. Thank you Kristi for this great post.
    I have actually been setting money aside to take some additional learning myself such as becoming a real estate agent, as well as a writing class to help me start blogging, and some online business classes. Yes learning is really important it is why I read every single day in order to “learn” something.
    I also am striving to “earn” by having multiple streams of income and so far I have had some success with it. And “yearning” well I have many goals and early retirement is one of them and when I get there I have goals to reach in retirement already such as living in a foreign country.

  • Vic @ Dad Is Cheap October 29, 2015, 10:17 pm

    It’s definitely a tough balance saving for retirement and enjoying today. My wife and I max out our Roth IRAs and contribute to our 401ks as much as possible. I think it’s all about being content with your current situation and not always keeping up with the Joneses.

    I do my best to keep my mind fresh and learn as much as possible. Trying to limit the TV and video games!

  • DivGuy October 28, 2015, 1:47 pm

    I put the yearning part aside for a couple years and I’m now ready to make that change for good! Actually, I didn’t quite realise I was doing that until I took time to read a book (The Why Cafe) that totally changed my perspective on life.
    Actually, I don’t think “retirement” in its traditional meaning should exist.


    • Mike Drak October 29, 2015, 3:03 am

      DivGuy, I totally agree with you on saying that “traditional retirement” no longer works based on what is happening today. We need a new word that reflects current reality.

  • Kristi October 28, 2015, 11:21 am

    Freebird, your comment reminds me of the Old Twilight Zone episode where the man who wants nothing but time to read his books ends up as the last surviving man on Earth, but he has no glasses. Without a way to focus our time on our interests, what good will aspirations be? I think it’s fantastic that you see where your retirement plans are out of balance, and you’re actively trying to fix it.

    • freebird October 29, 2015, 9:12 am

      Kristi, thanks, I remember that episode well, Burgess Meredith at his best (well, maybe except as the evil Penguin). Sadly many people who are now living paycheck to paycheck are very gradually shattering their glasses. But my message was aimed at those who think that sprinting towards the finish line in a mad dash to early retirement is a good idea– trust me it’s not. I advise to stay in balance your whole life, and be sure to spend enough money (and play time) to not cut yourself off from the world before work time drops away. This reminds me, I still need to see “Cocoon”.

      An off-topic comment: I’m surprised someone from your generation remembers old classics that predate even me. One of the sad things I see these days is how inter-generational experiences have diminished. It used to be ‘family time’ included enjoying the same media, like broadcast television, books, and magazines, and it just seems so different today. My whole career was in computer technology, during which time I never questioned that my work could only improve society, but now I wonder whether the fragmentation it produced is a good thing.

    • Rick October 29, 2015, 2:02 pm

      Wow, what a great reference! I’ve always loved to read and I actually saw that episode when I was a little kid and it has always stayed with me (I even occasionally reference it in conversations but I don’t think I do it justice as people don’t seem to be impacted as I was when I saw it)! Great article by the way! 🙂

  • freebird October 28, 2015, 7:27 am

    For me I found the magic three are interests, time, and money. When I was a young student I found everything interesting and I had all the time in the world, but money was tight. Later in mid-career money became plenty but time was short. Now as I transition into retirement, both time and money are fine, but I lost interest. As you say the key is balance, like when baking cookies, too much of one ingredient and too little of another doesn’t taste very good. I see this on the retirement planning front, it seems as if it’s all focused on financial preparation when managing time and interests are just as important. Right now I’m delaying retirement, spending time to attempt to cultivate some interests, and I’m finding it to be surprisingly hard at my age!

    • Stockbeard October 28, 2015, 8:14 am

      Freebird, I can totally relate to that. I tend to think the three keys to my life balance were personal time, family time, and work time. And one of my goals is to make the “work time” go away so that the extra time gets into the two other buckets, which are way more important to me.

      You can easily see how this completely connects to your trinity of time, money, and interest!

  • Mike Drak October 28, 2015, 5:46 am

    To be honest I really do not like the word retirement and how it is used these days. We need to change our way of thinking that the world of retirement will magically solve all our problems. If you are not happy prior to retirement odds are that you will not be happy during retirement trust me on this. I believe it is important to design an interesting life for yourself after you leave your primary carer to keep you engaged/happy for hopefully the long period that follows. For me continuing to work is a big part of it, it keeps me engaged, gives me a reason to get out of bed and I am learning so many new things that I know I will never have a chance to get bored. Who knew life could be so sweet? The key is to set a good pace no more 24/7 for this guy, find ways to help others, and get paid for it. Any money that I now make is invested in adventures for the family because at the end of the day memories are the only thing you are really left with.

    • Kristi October 28, 2015, 11:16 am

      I agree with you on this, Mike. The word retirement has definitely started changing in its meaning.

  • Michael @ Financially Alert October 28, 2015, 12:47 am

    Kristi, that was some fortune cookie! I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Finding the balance of these three elements of: learning, earning, and yearning are key to long lasting happiness. My favorite is learning simply because it is the root of my yearning and desire to earn more. 🙂

    • Kristi October 28, 2015, 11:14 am

      Learning is my favorite as well =] I try to find balance, but I would honestly become a career student if I could.

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