the process

Conquering Impatience on the Road to Financial Independence

Come back this Friday for some analysis on dollar cost averaging — the fun never stops over here. :-) If you want to make sure you never miss any of it, subscribe to follow by email, over in the right sidebar. And now on to today’s topic…

Tell us if any of this sounds familiar:

You learn about financial independence/early retirement through a blog/article/friend, and you get super inspired and excited.

You do a deep dive into your finances, and put together your projections: how much you need to save each year, how much you need to cut back your spending, how long til FI.

You set everything up: lots of automated saving and investing, lots of tracking and updating spreadsheets.

You look for ways to increase your income to speed your progress. You implement said ways.

You wait. Amounts go up. You wait some more. Amounts go up. You wait some more. Market setback — amounts go down. You wait some more. Amounts rebound. You keep waiting.

You start to wonder: Are we there yet???

Sound familiar to anyone else, or just us?

The Truth: FI Is Mostly a Waiting Game

We’d all love it to be otherwise, but getting to big financial goals is mostly a matter of letting time pass. Sure, there are the prerequisites to take care of: changing your mindset about money, maybe getting out of debt first, maybe changing your spending habits, creating your budgets, setting savings goals.

But the bulk of the time we all spend getting to FI is just waiting for the paychecks to roll in, so that eventually we have enough of them and hit our magic number. The higher percentage we save, the faster we get there. But nothing replaces this fact: FI is mostly a waiting game.

And Waiting Is Hard!

I don’t have data to back this up, but I’d make an educated guess that most of us pursuing FI are doers by nature. We’re optimizers, problem solvers, figure-it-out types. We like progress. We don’t especially like twiddling our thumbs.

But waiting is the reality. So rather than sit around feeling impatient all the time, and let that suck the joy out of the journey, we’ve found some strategies that help us pass the time without getting quite so antsy. - Conquering impatience on the road to financial independence. he truth is financial independence is a waiting game. It's easy to get impatient -- we do! Here are some tips for coping.

Impatience is definitely something we deal with on a regular basis. The struggle is real over here. So everything we’re sharing here is stuff we do or have done to keep the hurry-up-and-get-there-already feeling at bay.

Strategies for Conquering Impatience on the Road to FI

Create a realistic timeline — Having only a vague notion of when you can retire early or change careers or __[insert your goal here ]__ creates expectations that are all out of whack. Think of it like a run — if you don’t know if it’s 100m or a marathon when you leave the starting line, you don’t know whether to sprint or to settle into a jogging pace. Not a helpful mindset. If instead you know when you can realistically hit your goal, because you’ve mapped out your expenses and how long it will take to save enough, you can pace yourself accordingly, and create some intermediate mental landmarks to help get you through it.

Chart progress — As we mentioned on Twitter, on Monday we hit a pretty big deal financial milestone. It’s meaningless on its own, but it’s a cool thing to note for ourselves. And it’s milestones like these that help us feel like we’re making progress. We note all of them — getting down to round numbers on the mortgage, getting up to bigger numbers on our savings, adding a digit here, dropping one there. Making graphs can help. Even small things like hitting a new high in any of our accounts month-over-month counts. Noting milestones, even little ones, provides a continual stream of reminders that you’re getting closer.

Avoid temptation altogether — One of the hardest things for me is to constantly see people out living the life that we hope to be living soon. Especially those wandering vanlifers — they trigger some serious wanderlust and envy, which always leads to that familiar Are we there yet??? (I know, serenade me with the world’s smallest violin.) But recognizing that that’s my temptation to get antsy, I’ve decided to avoid it. So we unfollowed a whole bunch of folks on Instagram, and I’ve scaled back on reading vanlife blogs. And it’s helping. Just as you would unsubscribe from marketing emails if you knew they triggered your shopping problem, eliminating some of the stuff that triggers your impatience, whatever that is for you, can be extremely powerful. You can always welcome that stuff back once you’re ready for it again.

Savor the stuff that will go away — We all have tough days at work, or sometimes tough weeks, months, maybe even years. It’s easy to take a negative view toward it all, but we’ve started focusing instead on appreciating things for what they are: temporary. Now, instead of getting frustrated when we have a frustrating meeting, it’s much easier to think, “Aww, someday I’ll look back at this nostalgically!” And it’s like a fairy waved her magic wand and made it all better. Seriously. It’s so much easier to be cool with things when you remind yourself that this is a very temporary (and very first world) problem that you’re dealing with at that moment, and instead take on the attitude of gratitude. Taking on this mindset has also made me appreciate certain things more, from the random chats with work friends to the niceness of even pretty basic hotels. Some days it’s a downright love fest, but even on the worst days, taking an attitude of savoring and gratitude makes it all a lot more bearable.

Related post: What We’ll Lose When We Stop Working // The Lament of Aspiring Early Retirees

Be present — Probably the most important strategy, but also the toughest to master, staying present is just generally good life advice. When we get too focused on the future, we remind ourselves that we’re never guaranteed tomorrow. Today truly is the most important day. It’s no good living entirely for the future, just as it’s no good saving all of our money for the future. So if I catch myself getting impatient, I force myself to pay attention to the present moment: What’s something incredible that’s right in front of me that I haven’t noticed? What’s something that I’m squandering by focusing too much on the future? It’s a very grounding — and impatience-banishing — exercise. And if all else fails, a few deep breaths always work wonders. :-)

What works for you?

Now tell us: Are we the only ones who get antsy en route to early retirement or other big financial goals? If you get impatient sometimes too, what have you found to work well to quell that feeling? We’d love to collect other great ideas that we missed! Share it all in the comments. :-)

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106 replies »

  1. Yes…waiting is hard! And right now I’m just playing the get-out-of-debt game…I can’t imagine having to wait even longer for something like FI!! But I think you hit the nail on the head with being present. It’s really easy for me to get consumed with my finances and think about and look at them multiple times per day. But the truth is they don’t require much time. Much of it is automated, I only get paid twice per month, and I only make one debt repayment per month. Do I really want to waste all my time waiting for and thinking about those few moments each month?!?! I’ve got three boys, an amazing wife and friends, nature, coffee, and the NFL draft coming up! So many beautiful moments and people right in front of me today. Wow…look at this, now I’m feeling all motivated and stuff to be present! Looks like your post did its job :)

    • Awwww, favorite comment of the day! Glad the post helped you tap into some present-moment gratitude. :-) I will say it has been transformative to stop looking at the numbers daily or even weekly. Now I have a to do list item for the last day of every month, and that’s when I go in and update the spreadsheets. Of course I log in to the bank site more often than that to pay bills, check balances, etc., but I only let myself update the spreadsheet once a month. And it really does help!

  2. This is a huge challenge for me. Impatient is my middle name! Many a financial plan has been derailed in the past because I couldn’t stay the course. It’s very easy to lose sight of a long term goal when it’s really long term, as in years and years away. One of the the reasons we had such a hard time getting out of debt was because the sheer drudgery of the prospect of never eating in a restaurant, or having a nice weekend somewhere, or (insert goodie here) became so overwhelming I’d throw in the towel. What helped me tremendously was scaling back the timeline. I tend to be an all or nothing person, and long waits for distant goals can really play with my perception of accomplishment. Breaking down the goals into more achievable, shorter term objectives helped a lot. Getting a car loan under $10,000, paying off a small balance, moving a credit card to zero percent, whatever it took to make the climb more doable, that’s what I did. It’s still a struggle in retirement (some things never change). Although we have a zero interest car loan, every single month I contemplate liquidating assets to accelerate paying it off. It makes no financial sense at all, but the prospect of “being in debt” bothers me, so I increase the payments in order to retire the debt ASAP, impatiently counting the months until it’s gone and arguing with myself on a regular basis about the wisdom of continuing to carry the obligation when there’s assets available to pay it off. Patience is a very difficult personal trait to cultivate, and I haven’t had much success in doing so. Not being able to savor the now because you’re so busy fantasizing about the someday is no way to live, and I have to put forth a lot of conscious, focused effort not to waste my todays waiting for better tomorrows.

    • I’m zeroing in on your comments about debt, because I completely get that! I know a very solid argument can be made for not prepaying our mortgage, but I almost don’t even care what the numbers say, I just want the debt gone, and want the freedom that will come from owning our home free and clear. A zero interest car loan for sure has math that makes an even stronger case for not paying it off early, but I say do what helps you breathe easier. That is underrated in financial planning. :-) I believe the same thing about financial habits — pick the ones you can stick with, even if they’re not the perfect choices. You experienced some of that in the years when you were impatiently working to save up, and maybe were putting too much pressure on yourself to follow a plan that wasn’t actually right for you (or maybe I’m projecting). :-) I know I do better on the patience front if I’ve taken time to think about what kind of plan will actually work for my own mindsets and habits, and not pursue a plan that tries to get me to fight my own nature.

  3. Dude – tell me about it! I used to track our progress every week, and that was driving me crazy – so I had to force myself to do it every month. But, with the new changes coming our way – we kind of feel like we’ve made it to the treeline and can see the peak and its not as steep of a climb the rest of the way. Moving forward I think we are going to try and stop feeling like we are in a race to the top, and instead slow down and enjoy the rest of the journey because the hard part is behind us now.

    • YES, switching from weekly (daily?) tracking to monthly is life-changing, in a good way. I definitely hope you guys can enjoy the rest of the journey. You’ve obviously built a pretty incredible foundation if you can take a big pay cut and barely slow down your timeline. So yeah, savor it!

  4. This is LITERALLY what I needed to hear this week, in terms of how to handle the impatience of saving for a house! We went to an open house this past weekend that I kind of loved, which after the disasters we’ve seen, was entirely unexpected, and I’ve felt antsy ever since that we still have two whole years left before we’re looking to buy. My favourite part of this is to remember that we will 100% look back on this house fondly and with nostalgia someday – thank you for that adjustment!

    • Yay for good timing! I know that feeling — we didn’t buy our first place until we were 32 and 29, so we spent a lot of time *wishing* we could buy. (We’re those rare folks who benefited from the 2008 housing bubble collapse — it actually let us afford a place!) But trusting that you’ll get there not too long in the future, and knowing that you’ll look back at that point and recognize how quickly you actually saved up, helps a ton. :-) Plus, there are for sure other great houses out there. Remember that!

  5. No, I think that must just be you guys having this whole, “Are we there yet?” mentality. :)

    I have been like that ever since I realized Mrs. SSC wasn’t off her rocker and we could actually “pull this off.” It still feels like some sort of scam we’re pulling on the world somehow because who really “retires” in their early 40’s without creating Facebook, Twitter, Minecraft, or something similar?

    For me, our blog is a good way of staying on top of stuff and being accountable, and it has served that purpose well. The biggest thing I’ve gotten from our blog is knowing that short of winning the lottery or some other improbable windfall, our FI date is about as close as we plan on getting it.

    Sure we could go uber frugal, invest a lot more, and hate life in the process, but that doesn’t sound fun either. We’ve actually run analyses to see how much more we would need to move the date up sooner, and it’s pretty substantial. And that’s only to move it up by 6 months or so… Like you pointed out, now it’s just a lot of waiting.

    Realizing that has kept me in check and kept everything else in perspective. Work is good, I focus on the interesting stuff, work on finding new plays, and the like, and don’t get bogged down in office politics. It’s been refreshing, and I already liked my job. :)

    • Hahahaha — I know, we’re totally impatient anomalies. :-) And the scam feeling — YES! Doesn’t it kind of feel like we have to hurry up and retire before the world catches on to us and says, “Wait, no, you can’t actually do that. Try again.” On the math side, it’s pretty much the same here. We could cut out the spending that brings us true joy and do what? Maybe shave a month or two off our timeline? Not worth it. We’re at a good place, and humming along… but we still wish we could get there faster. :-) Oh well, as Mr. FIRE Station just commented, it will all feel fast in hindsight! (He better be right — haha.) I think it’s awesome that you like your job so much and have been able to stay above all the BS stuff — having this plan and being close has certainly helped me subtract myself from the office politics. But sometimes I have to pretend like I care, so it’s not obvious that I’m checking out — that’s a pretty hilarious first world problem to have!

      • On the other side of liking the job so much. When it gets to a point that I don’t like it so much, I’ll have my departure date, known and I can just smile knowing it won’t last forever… :)

  6. ” It’s so much easier to be cool with things when you remind yourself that this is a very temporary (and very first world) problem that you’re dealing with at that moment, and instead take on the attitude of gratitude” Good mindset. I get how hard it is to be patient. With my new full time job, I almost want to fast forward 5 years and be where I hope to be financially then (ahem, without having to actually go through the daily decision making that will ultimately help me be financially successful). But if I did fast forward, I would also be missing out on those slow, delicious moments as well. You take the good with the bad. :)

    • I know that “fast forward 5 years” feeling! But like you, we also don’t want to waste one precious second. I suppose we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have to tackle paradoxes like these on a regular basis. :-)

  7. Excellent topic, and this is definitely something that I’ve struggled with. Like, big time. Especially with those of us who don’t get much satisfaction out of their jobs (like me), this process can seem like it takes forever – even though I am also fully aware of how quickly we are making this happen for ourselves. Still, going through the motions of work day in and day out is still that ever-present drag on our lifestyle.

    I think the most important element to keeping yourself on the straight and narrow is to NOT focus on the end goal, but on incremental steps along the way (aka: Chart Progress). This will give us more easily-achievable goals throughout this process and will keep us shooting for near-term, rather than always and ever-evading longer term, goals.

    So instead of waiting until you hit the $1m mark before claiming success, try the first $50k. Then another $50k or maybe $25k. And celebrate (without spending much money, of course). The fact is every goal we achieve, even in pursuit of a much larger and more future ambition, is another milestone. We should be proud of the things we put our minds to and accomplish. Keep it simple. Keep it achievable.

    Another wonderful post, ONL!

    • Haha — I know you’re as impatient as I am! But today YOU are the object of everyone’s envy, with your excellent Airstream move-in news. :-) And YES, so totally agree on charting the progress and celebrating even the small milestones. I will celebrate pretty much any milestone (round number? celebrate!), even if “celebrating” just means that we high five about it, or I tweet about it. It doesn’t have to mean “Take a cruise to Cabo.” But the steady stream of little milestones is a constant reminder of how quickly we’re actually moving toward our goal, just like you guys are. And that helps… now if we can just find a way to speed up time a little… ;-)

  8. Excellent list! I especially like the re-framing of problems and work-related stress as temporary. It’s difficult for me to appreciate the stuff that will go away, but that’s great advice.

    Being present is also great advice, and that’s a major initiative in my life this year – I think it’s the key to contentment in stressful times, but also possibly the best guard we have against the experience that time is moving too fast.

    • Thanks, Kudy! Yeah, seriously, shifting to recognizing that work stuff will all go away has been hugely powerful for us. It’s amazing watching Mr. ONL talk to people who used to really stress him out, and now it all just rolls off, or makes him laugh to himself.

  9. Waiting is always hard! But I think building a good life around fulfilling purposes along the way is the ticket to keeping us content.

    • You guys seem to be crushing it in terms of living intentionally and with purpose. I totally agree that that makes the present day a lot more meaningful and fulfilling, and can help pull some of that focus back from always looking toward the future.

  10. I think having things to be passionate about in the present is key. If you delay gratification on everything, you’re doomed. Of course you’re so close to that goal that it might be manageable to go hardcore frugal for a while, but I doubt you will. :)

    • Such a great point, TJ! OMG, how boring would that be, having nothing in your present that sparks your passions? So important to cultivate that stuff in the present, and not just put it off until the future. (And, haha — ask me about hardcore frugal when I’m in Vegas next weekend.) ;-)

  11. Yes, the waiting is hard. The “doer” in me wants to speed things up by drawing in more income, which means putting out much more effort. The “thinker” in me wants to kick back and enjoy the view along the way. Tie-break goes to the “balancer” in me, who notices I’m still behind on vacation and sleep (after nine-plus months of sabbatical!), and it’s back to lolling in sunshine on the couch or on the front yard.

    I concur on “be present”. I just posted my own experience with unplanned maintenance for my car, which shows I’ve learned this.

    • Thank goodness for that balancer within you! And ugh — if you’re still behind on sleep 9 months in, that makes me think we’re going to need to budget a year for nothing but laziness. We have so many years of sleep debt to sleep off! But enjoy that lolling in the sunshine! :-)

  12. What amazing timing. Watching Steve move into his airstream and the Frugalwoods moving into their gorgeous homestead in Vermont… and me thinking: “Welp, in 10 years, I can do whatever I want.” I’m trying to be better and more excited about the present. And this week has been mostly successful in that camp. Things are good. Our time will come. And our path will inevitably change multiple times along the way and turn out immensely better than anticipated… so life is good. Thanks for the timeliness. I needed a reminder today as I was pining for my own airstream/homestead. :)

    • I must have had some telepathy going when writing this! :-) Reading those posts this morning definitely gave me some major pangs. We’re sooooo close, but it still flexes my envy muscle when others are at that end point already (I know neither the FWs nor Steve & Courtney are actually retiring now, and technically we’re already in our “retirement home,” so we could also look at it that we hit that goal first… but you know what I mean!). But at the same time, I’m enjoying a delicious, free breakfast at a nice hotel that I’m not paying for, remembering the beautiful sunrise I had the privilege of seeing from the sky today — so I have zero to complain about! I think the lesson here is: there’s always something to be jealous of, if you choose to be jealous. Or you can choose to enjoy your own journey. The latter is harder to do, of course, but is clearly the recipe for happiness. So glad that you’re doing well this week on staying present. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would look at your life in AK and be jealous — so it’s all about perspective. :-)

      • Oh Alaska is AMAZING, but February-April is our yucky period – coldish, dirty, and trash and dogpoop everywhere. I get restless during these months. Then May hits and we’re off and RUNNING: traveling, fishing, biking, playing and life becomes amazing! Trying to focus on the hustle before May.

      • Here we call the period between full winter and full summer “mud season.” And it always seems to me that the name is a metaphor for more than just the condition of the ground after the snow melts. :-) So yeah, I get it — good luck with the hustle!

      • That makes it sound to me like you’re drifting on sea ice, and then after “breakup,” you’re all drifting on lone icebergs, like sad polar bears in a Leonardo DiCaprio documentary. :-D

      • Totally! It makes this season so much more depressing. I’ve been trying to fully formulate what a blog post entitled simply “Breakup” would be. I’ll have to look up sad polar bears for inspiration…

      • Sorry to post off topic here but I love your play on words “Northern Expenditure” and then your user name as “Maggie” ….. well done :)

        I can only imagine what winter trapped inside is like , hours of charting and calculating and going crazy with FIRE impatience lol

  13. Waiting is hard but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying life now. If you want to travel around the world when reaching FI, you can certainly start traveling here and there while waiting to achieve FI. If we just keep waiting and waiting, once we get to FI, you might not end up wanting to do anything, as you’re probably more comfortable with what you’ve been doing for the last 10 or 15 years.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more! No guarantee that future time is ever going to come, so we can’t live just for the future. If you want to travel, travel now. If you want to [INSERT DREAM HERE], at least get started!

  14. It might be easy for me to say, since we hit our FIRE Escape date last week, but you have to remember that time feels short when you look back. While waiting for a goal can seem very long – once the goal is reached, it doesn’t seem like it took all that long. Keep in mind that you are working 20 to 25 years for 40 to 45 years of independent living!

    • I’m positive you’re right. It’s been like that for us for every other once-future goal in our lives, so I have no doubt you’re right about FIRE! But it’s also the only thing I’ve ever known in life that makes it feel like time is slowing down instead of speeding up. :-)

  15. Sounds VERY familiar. The fun / sexy part is when you first discover financial independence and the next 6 to 12 months of figuring it all out and setting up a plan. Now that everything is mostly in autopilot mode, I have to get my fill by reading other peoples’ stories and live vicariously through them. If I get excited about 30 other people’s achievements, it make me feel like it’s moving faster :)

    • Yeah, I should have put that in there! I do think reading other people’s tales helps us cool our jets, because we see the collective progress our community is making, and the big milestones that others are achieving. Good call!

  16. You are not the only one wondering this! It most definitel is a journey… Or as you put it, a waiting game. Completely agree that it takes patience while being present.

  17. So I was going to sneak in and catch up on some blog reading this afternoon. This was the first post I pulled up and it reminds me that I’m on vacation, so I’m just going to mozy back over and do just that. Talk to y’all next week.

  18. We’re the tortoise and the hare, hubby and me. I’m the go-getter, charge-ahead, get-it-done one. He’s the prudent, gather-all-the-information type (fortunate for me) …

    … who holds me back and refuses to agree to change things until the best reliable information is in.

    Over the years, this has slowly taught me (and it happened again today!) the value of curbing my impatience, because you usually don’t know what’s around the corner.

    What helps with this is living in the moment, as you say: my determination to count my blessings and enjoy what I have, which is enjoyable, cost-free, and HUGE: health, a wonderful husband, a beautiful environment, a habit of eating frugally and therefore healthfully, and on and on.

    Hang in there!

    • We have some financial odd couple habits too, so can relate! :-) We definitely find that it helps if we share the same end goal vision — that helps ease some of the disagreements. And what a wonderful set of blessings! How great that you have all of those things and appreciate them!

  19. This is SO HARD for me. No matter what I try, my brain doesn’t get that waiting for FI is not waiting for the rest of my life to start (the rest of my life is already here!). The only things that get me to remain “present” are exercise and social interaction. This is definitely something I’d like to handle on before I fritter my youth away.

  20. Oh the waiting!!! I feel the same way.
    I admit up being a bit obsessed with spreadsheets and scenarios which may reduce the time.
    I have smaller milestones (which I ‘fill’ in excel cells – the closest I will get to the colouring in craze) and lists of things to do which are free. I also have a list of goals completed and dates which reminds me how long these bit chunky goals like buying a house takes.
    But the most effective strategy is to be present with my family and friends and be content with what I have. My situation in the future may be different, but my values will be the same.

    • Oh I know all about those spreadsheets and scenarios. I think at last count we had six scenarios mapped out… it could easily be 10 or 12 by this time next year! And I love that you keep track of key dates — we do that, too! Paid off $100K of our mortgage on X date, etc. Always worth celebrating that stuff!

  21. I practice living in the present because even when I get to that ideal time (vacation, for example), I want to be able to live in the present. If I haven’t been practicing being present it is even difficult being present during that ideal time.

    • So awesome that you do that. And a really important point — if you spend your time ignoring the present, that’s what you train your mind to do!

  22. Since I started my morning ritual, it’s helped me focus on the present and how much I enjoy each day now. Having a better attitude each morning has carried through other areas of life, too. We’re heading in a new direction, but we’re not racing any longer. I’m having too much fun with the journey nowadays! :) But it would be great to be hiking right now, too. Ha! ;)

  23. When we were paying off our debt it seemed like it was taking forever. I would look at our excel spreadsheet and projected payoff date and tweak the numbers trying to see how we could shave months off it, if we increase our repayments I probably did this at least once a week.

    Looking back now, it doesn’t seem that bad, but I’d certainly NOT want to go through the waiting again. :)

    • I totally admire you guys for sticking to your debt payoff plan over a long period, and not throwing up your hands! And yeah, I’m sure when we get past this, it won’t seem long in hindsight — but I bet we also won’t want to relive it! :-)

  24. So when I was a kid I had this big illustrated chapter book full of old-timey fairy tales and fables, and one of the stories was about this boy with a silver ball and a silver thread. Hang on, it’s 2016; I’m going to google this. Ok, yup, found it:

    Anyway, this little boy is given a magical ball with a golden thread sticking out of it, and is told that whenever he pulls on the thread, it will fast-forward him through time. So he starts doing it whenever he’s bored or impatient, first just a little at a time, but eventually more and more, to the point that he’s constantly yanking on the thread, and then suddenly he’s an old man and he realizes that his life is nearly over and he hasn’t even lived most of it. Even as a nine-year-old, this story really freaked me out, and I’ve remembered it ever since then. It certainly doesn’t prevent me from getting impatient, but it has always served as sort of a reference point or reality check, to remind me that once time is gone, you can’t get it back, and there are better ways to spend your life than wishing it away.

    The End.

    PS: Whoa, a very different photo choice today! (I like it; it’s just different!)

    • Ooh.. that’s a good lesson for kids! I think I’ve actually always been a “don’t rush the future” type. Like I remember when I was 10, about to turn 11, I was really upset about getting older. I felt even then that childhood was where it’s at, and I was bummed to have to get older. So it’s an interesting shift to now be so focused on the future. And it’s not at all about wanting to be older or squander these years, but just being so eager to get to the vastly different lifestyle. But thank you for that grounding lesson. And yeah, thought it was time to show that we also set foot in cities re: the photo. :-)

  25. I need this. It’s so true. The journey is the adventure. Coming up with a plan is the easy-ish part. Seeing that plan through. Day in and day out for years. That’s the hard part. We just finished up our major goal of being mortgage free. Now turning to early retirement makes me realize that paying it off was only a small moment and going through the years of the plan. That was the part I should have enjoyed more. I was so focused on the end goal that I would ignore the here and now. Thank you for this. Such a great post!

    • How amazing would that be, if we just had to formulate the plan and then — poof! — be done?! :-) It’s so awesome that you guys crushed your mortgage — major high five! And I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of ignoring the journey to focus on the destination — but as long as we realize the mistake when we’re young enough to change the habit, no harm done. :-) Live and learn, right?

  26. Being patient is probably my biggest weakness. Part of the comfort in my own journey is knowing anything actionable is a long way away, likely 10 years away. I still feel like I’m finding big ways to optimize, but I hope that passes soon. Like Ron Popeil said, I want to Set it And Forget It! I feel like I’m close. I have a few things I’m waiting for and working on over the next few months, then I’m ready to think about other stuff. Warmer weather will certainly help! Less screen time for me!

    • I still think you’ll get there in less than 10 years, but I think your strategy is completely sound: set it, forget it, turn off screen, go outside. And now we’ve talked about Ron Popeil, which definitely was not on my to do list for today. :-)

  27. For many people that are starting from scratch you’re typically looking at a 5-7 year plan minimum. In this day and age there’s very few people that plan that far ahead let alone can delay gratification that long. Although the FI junkies are a different breed of course. So it’s definitely a waiting game with that kind of time frame for the low end of reaching FI but the great thing about it is that it frees you up for other opportunities. One of the biggest is looking for other options to boost your income or hobbies you can take up. That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly rerunning my numbers even though I know the end date hasn’t changed much but the more of your life you have automated the more you can focus on ways to improve your life or the FI journey. But looking at charts/graphs is always a favorite past time of mine!

    • Sigh… Five to seven years shouldn’t be an impossible timeline for most people. :-( But of course you’re right! We’re still waiting to find out what this “free time” you speak of actually is. ;-) But maybe one day soon after we quit working we’ll finally find out!

  28. Impatience is my middle name… As soon as I discovered the FI concept, I wanted it. And I wanted it NOW! According to the plan, it will be in 2029. How to deal with that? good question…

    1- have a realistic plan and share it with the wife. It is now a common goal we can work to and it provides guidance to some decisions we need to make. charting the progress is part of that.

    2- enjoy the now. For me, that is one part of discovering FI. It is about Freedom. So, I try to get as much freedom as I can get now, within the plan of course (a little splurge is acceptable of course).

    Unlike you, I do not need to unsubscribe from people that have reached FI already. For me, it helps to visualize the goal. Often, they also have good insights in enjoying the now. Technically, some of them are even on a stricter budget than we.

    • I actually can’t believe that you guys are comfortable with such a long timeline… When you must know that if you cut your spending a little more you could save a lot faster. But I also admire exactly that. I think it’s super impressive that you’re willing to be patient, and don’t seem to be in a huge hurry to get to FIRE. Keep enjoying the now!

      • Cutting our spending now means living a life we do not want to live. We could save 4K by not taking a ski holiday, save 1,5K on cleaning services, 0,5K on digital television, ell the house and buy an even smaller one… To us, that is not worth shaving off 2 or 3 years of our FIRE date. We believe strong that living now is a very high priority. Life is a random walk, there could be less tomorrow than you think. (Rereading this, it sounds dramatic and pessimistic)

      • I think it’s fantastic that you decided all of that so deliberately. You’ve carved out the life you’re excited to live, not just in the future, but NOW. That’s the very definition of being present.

  29. I love coming to this blog. I had a horrible day yesterday. Still trying to figure out why it was so bad, but it was just one of those days where there were too many people needing too many things from me, and I just wanted them all to go away! I really needed the reminders to be present. Also, that the work will end! I’m trying to figure out how to reach the zen-like state mr. onl has reached on the people who stress him out. I will have multiple opportunities today to practice it!

    The one place I am actually getting better about living in the present is with my kids. They are growing so fast (I have a daughter who is almost 7. Say what?!?) When they aren’t driving me totally up the wall, I try to remember to savor their joy and their passions.

    Thanks ONL. I needed this blog today. :)

    • Awwww, thanks! You totally made our day. :-) How did today go? Was this post helpful in dealing with that stress? I still don’t quite know how Mr. ONL is doing it since Zenlike is maybe not his natural state. I completely admire him for figuring it out though! But it’s awesome to know that you’re being more present with your kids. Sure does seem like that time flies by!

  30. I think you can tell by the number of comments that you’re so *not* alone! We’re doing all the right things – realistic goal, charting progress, saving hard. I still read the campervan travel blogs because it gives me inspiration, so live the dream vicariously. My wife, however, hates to read them as it reminds her we still have 103 weeks to go (yes, we are counting!). Winters are worse for us, when it’s harder to get out and about. But now we’re in to Spring and so can live for the moment, with lots of little weekend ‘mini-holidays’ away in our campervan, plus a longer trip to Germany to plan and look forward to.

    I’ve found having lots of little milestones on the way to FIRE has helped – as each one is ticked off we feel a little closer. Our next major milestone is paying off our mortgage ‘by the end of the summer’ – keeping it loose in case any unexpected financial hits come our way.

    But reading your post and all the comments from like-minded people really helps. So all – keep sharing thoughts and ideas!


    • I think we figured that others could relate to our impatience. ;-) But thanks for the validation! And do you find that counting the weeks helps or hurts on the impatience front? I feel like counting something as small as weeks would make me more impatient, not less (we just count months)… but maybe it helps you guys! It’s super awesome that you guys have lots of little adventures helped — that completely gets us through it all, too. And YES, track those small milestones. They’re all important, and worth celebrating!

  31. Some great advice here (and wish I had known some of these a few months ago)! I am often antsy about our FI goal but within the past week few I started to do some of these things. After hitting post vacation blues in March I set a FI date that I would love to hit. It may be a stretch but having this number in my head has help A LOT. An actual target and not just some vague timeline. I am also working on being present and reading two books to help me with this piece of things as you are right, we have to live for the now and not for the future. Afterall, just reaching FI will not in itself create happiness, we need to be happy in our current lives as well.
    I think I do need to start avoiding temptation though for the life I am seeking. I would love to travel around the country in an Airstream but constantly looking at Airstreams for sale or blogs of people who live on the road is not helping me, it is actually making things worse. Thanks for this tidbit!

    • Congrats on setting a timeline! And your point is HUGE that reaching FI will itself not make us happy, nor will it fundamentally change who we are. We have to find happiness NOW and within ourselves.

  32. Oh this sounds too familiar. We’ve only recently begun our voyage towards financial freedom and we’re still in the paying off debt phase even. But we keep looking at boats with which we could sail the world, and then feeling bummed that we’re not there yet. Very mature.

    Patience is not my stongest asset. To put it mildly :)

    So thanks for the tips! They are much appreciated.

  33. I will keep it short and sweet

    Yes to kicking my own ass for looking at VanLife and TinyHome instagram accounts
    Yes to kicking my own ass for checking my index funds every week
    Yes to kicking my own ass for reading the journals of FIRE’d peeps on MMM forums

    Let’s go to a big traverse in the Eastern Sierras to avoid all temptation!!
    (another great post you two)

    • We can all use some kicks in the ass from time to time. :-) Glad this stuff clicked for you. A big Eastern Sierra traverse sounds fantastic… and like something that could prevent us from ever going back to work! And we kinda gotta get those paychecks a *little* longer. ;-)

  34. You’re not alone. I think impatience about growing a nest egg large enough to fire your boss, is something we’re all impatient about. For me, I have a long way to go because I started over from zero a few years ago. But that’s ok. I figure I’m better off than the masses, who blow all their money every payday and don’t think about saving.

    • Haha — so true. I know we’re all at least a little impatient. :-) And yeah, you’re for sure better off than people who haven’t been exposed to FIRE ideas, or haven’t done the math on this stuff!

  35. I believe that the key, is as you stated, to be present. Enjoy your life each day because ultimately you never know what life has in store for you. Financial independence is a great long term goal but the important thing is to enjoy your life along the way and not make the mistake of allowing the present to become a burden.

  36. I love what you preach about early retirement, but I’m honestly scared to think about it! I do all the right things – max out my Roth IRA and pay as much as we can to our 401ks, but I haven’t exactly calculated how much we need to make to retire. I just started getting good with money recently, so I’d like to give myself a little bit of time before I delve into that!

    • There is absolutely no rush in figuring this stuff out. As long as you’re making sure you can retire at *some* point, you’re ahead of 99% of Americans. :-) If you start feeling the itch to retire early, you’ll know it, and then you can reprioritize your investing to focus on taxable investments that are more easily accessible before you hit your 60s. :-)