Almost a year ago, we realized that we’d reached financial independence.
The realization was almost an afterthought, more whimper than bang. We were so unsure of whether we’d actually reached it that our post about it posed the notion as a question, not a statement. “Are we really FI?”
But the answer was clearly yes, at least in the bare bones sense of the word. Like if we never work again, we wouldn’t starve, but we also wouldn’t ever live large. We noted it, “Huh, cool,” and went about our lives.
And since then, a lot has happened.
We’ve had our most demanding and draining work year ever.
I’ve flown more miles than I ever have in a comparable period, almost all for work.
We’ve saved a bunch of money.
We’ve let work stress us out (often) and frustrate us (sometimes).
I’ve written approximately 85 blog posts, totaling ~136,000 words, and written ~3500 responses to comments.
We’ve hiked 600 miles.
We’ve had some fun times and some stupid fights.
We’ve changed our early retirement plan a few more times.
We’ve met awesome people in real life whom we’d never have met if not for this blog and the PF community.
We’ve seen our local friends far too little.
We’ve gotten even more excited to retire next year, especially after realizing that we’re ahead of schedule.
We’ve neglected maintenance at our home and our rental.
We’ve collapsed into nearly every weekend from exhaustion.
We’ve spent zero time doing this:
Our FI Life
Our goal was never financial independence as its own thing. We were always focused on early retirement. But if you’d asked me a few years ago what life would be like if we ever became financially independent, I would have at least said, “I’ll finally get to catch up on sleep!”
And yet, here we are, almost a year into our FI life, and just as behind on sleep as ever. Just as neglectful of chores, just as easily tempted by convenience food when the alternative is taking the time to cook from scratch. It’s nothing like what I’m guessing many people imagine FI to be like.
Our FI life is still life. Work is still work. Chores are still chores.
Some things are better. It’s easier to laugh off office politics than it was before, though it’s hard to say if that’s because we reached FI or because we know retirement is only a yearish away. We can’t remember the last time we felt anything akin to money stress, which is an incredible privilege. And we feel grateful a lot more of the time.
But becoming financially independent hasn’t changed who we are. It hasn’t changed how we see the world. And it certainly hasn’t (yet) changed how we spend our time. If we’d set FI as the measure of success in our lives, it would be a total bust.
This year has taught us: Financial independence is a good goal, but a bad goalpost.
FI: A Good Goal
I’m a huge believer that setting and pursuing goals is a positive thing in life. Pursuing goals forces us to be more deliberate and mindful about our choices, it forces us to confront our self-defeating habits, and it often teaches us unexpected lessons about life and about ourselves. We’ve long said that, even if we never retire early, the journey of pursuing it will still have been worthwhile. In that sense, setting the goal of reaching financial independence is absolutely a good thing.
And on the financial side, it’s a total no-brainer. Money stress is a leading cause of general anxiety, divorce and even suicide, so pursuing a goal that will in large part free us from that stress is more of a gift than many of us stop to think about. (Seriously, stop and think about it. We’re all so lucky to be in a position to even see FI as a real possibility.)
FI: A Bad Goalpost
It’s one thing to set a goal of reaching FI, but quite another to make FI the thing. That spot that, when you reach it, you will have succeeded. That, when you reach it, your life will be complete.
Because FI all by itself will never provide that. Unless you come into that money all at one time, it’s ultimately just one more dollar that pushes you over the line, and one dollar doesn’t make you a different person leading a different life. Even if you do come into enough money to make you financially independent in one fell swoop, it won’t change who you are.
If we measure our success in life by whether we achieve financial independence, we’re choosing too shallow a measure.
Even if we assume that everyone else who reaches FI is better at it than we are, we still feel confident in saying: FI doesn’t make you healthier, happier, nicer or more generous all by itself. And just as importantly, you don’t need to be FI to be healthier, happier, nicer or more generous — those are all qualities you can pursue no matter what shape your finances are in.
Related post: Embodying Our Best Selves Way Before We Reach Early Retirement
Early Retirement: Also Not a Cure-All
We make no secret about how impatient and excited we are to get to early retirement sometime next year. Having more time to ourselves feels infinitely more significant than having a few more dollars saved ever could. (Like for real, can we finally catch up on sleep then?)
But if this year has taught us anything, it’s that none of these milestones are good goalposts. Just as achieving financial independence didn’t solve everything in our lives, neither will early retirement. It’s going to be a big moment, worthy of celebration, but it also won’t be a cure-all.
Work will go away (or at least mostly away), and that’s huge. That will eliminate our predominant source of stress as well as our biggest sleep-deprivation driver. It will free up our time to take care of chores and spend more time outside. But early retirement all by itself won’t do those chores for us. It won’t climb the mountains for us. We will still have to do those things ourselves, and in truth we could do them now if we prioritized them. The lack of early retirement isn’t what’s holding us back, so it’s silly to think the presence of it will fix everything.
The Right Goalposts for Us
When we’re out hiking, we often get onto the subject of whether we are adults or not. We don’t feel much different than we did in our early 20s, and we don’t have kids, which we think would make us feel more “grown up.” But financially, we completely have our act together, and we know what we’re doing. My verdict: we’re adults for sure, just the goofy kind. Mr. ONL’s view: we’re overgrown kids with assets. Becoming financially independent didn’t change how either of us answers this question, and we doubt that retiring early will either. (If anything, it’s going to make us feel more like kids because we won’t even have to go to work anymore.)
Feeling “grown up” isn’t the end state we’re after, but we know that we feel like we’re doing it right when we’re taking care of our health, sleeping enough, spending time with friends and family, and making a positive contribution in the world. Those are the things that align to our purpose, and that don’t depend on any particular financial state to be achievable. Those are the goalposts we’ll keep aiming for.
Everyone gets to define their own goalposts, based on what feels right for them. Looking beyond the goal itself to the marker that lets you know, “I’m doing it right.”
Share Your Thoughts!
What are your goalposts in life, beyond the financial stuff? Any other FI folks hit the milestone and have an experience similar to ours, that it didn’t change much? Or find the opposite to be true, that reaching financial independence made a big positive difference in your life? As always, we’d love to keep the conversation going, so hit us up in the comments!
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Categories: we've learned
At first I thought this was a guest post by Cait with that opening (I skimmed it).
In my experience, kids “grow you up” real quickly.
I think FI can make you happier, but it doesn’t necessarily make everyone happier. From reading their blogs, I’d say that Justin from Root of Good and Joe from Retire by 40 are happier being retired/FI. (Though Justin strikes me as someone who could be happy anywhere.)
In a similar way, I think FI can make you healthier too. It’s just not an automatic switch as you point out.
I understand the overall message though. My wife and I reached a certain milestone last month and when I told her, she said, “Doesn’t feel like it.” If all goes according to plan, there are going to be some days that feel like it in the few years (quitting jobs, eliminating mortgages). I’m not expecting we’ll be fundamentally different people when that happens.
That’s our sense, too, that kids force you to grow up! We absolutely expect to be healthier and happier when we quit work, just because of the absence of work stress. That is not a small thing! But that’s not our vision for life: get rid of work stress. We have much bigger things we want to do, and we’ve realized that FI alone, or even ER, won’t make those things happen for us. We still have to make our goals happen ourselves, regardless of what our bank balance says.
“It’s easier to laugh off office politics than it was before, though it’s hard to say if that’s because we reached FI or because we know retirement is only a yearish away. ” — like anything else in life, office politics only matters if it has a way of impacting you. When it doesn’t, it just looks like mice running around a maze.
There’s something about being out in nature, especially hiking and seeing beautiful vistas, that helps me think more about the meta issues like this in a way that other outdoor physical activities don’t.
Well said. And we’ve realized that office politics really don’t matter anymore in our lives. We’re done getting promoted, and we only have one more (probably small) raise in our future — so we’ve happily withdrawn from that part of work.
We’ve never declared FI to be a goal, even though we’ll reach it if we hold our course. Not because it isn’t a good goal, it’s just not our real aim, as you expressed. What we really want is to have time and money freed up to pursue what matters most to us. It’s great to hear a similar view from someone who has actually achieved FI!
The thing about FI is that it’s a moveable goalpost, I retired with what I considered to be FI but I’m sure there will be many who would say that the amounts I am talking about do not constitute financial independence. In many ways for me retirement was about risk taking. Was I prepared to risk a much reduced standard of living in order to pursue the activities I love (none of which require much money). For me the answer was yes. What I immediately realized was that I could live on much less than I was used to and that time and freedom are priceless.
I love hearing that — we wonder all the time if what we’re budgeting for ER will feel like “enough,” but I hear so many stories of people spending less than they expected to in FIRE, and it makes me happy. :-) And as for your number being “big enough,” thank goodness that’s for you to decide, and not others!
We’re definitely on the same page as you guys. It’s not about the bank balance, it’s about what we ultimately want to do. And reaching FI this year has been a sobering lesson that WE still have to make those things happen!
If I drew a giant squiggle on top of a squiggle, that would be my set of goals and goalposts. I really appreciate the point about differentiating between what we want to achieve and markers for success. I love that you feel like goofy adults. 98% of my experience as a homeowner is a somewhat out-of-body experience where I have except the real grown ups to swoop in. I tell my mom that all the time. I never remember her dropping the spoon when she was cooking, and I never remember my dad having to call his dad about x, y, or z. I’m sure they did. It’s just different in my memory!
I think many of the people who met me at FinCon would attest to my goofiness. Which has also made me a fundamental mismatch with modern work — I am constantly having to pretend to be a grown-up, which gets exhausting! :-) And we feel the same way as homeowners! Like sometimes we’ll look around at our house and exclaim, “This game of house just keeps going, huh?!” ;-)
We also realized that FI is great if you achieve it, but I think it was Maggie that said, “Rich/Retired you is still you.” If you’re not happy now, you won’t be all sunshine and rainbows when you hit whatever goal you set.
That was our main reason for rebranding it Fully Funded Lifestyle Change, because we wanted more time and freedom and to put ourselves into a situation where you decouple the money from life. Then we can make decisions that make us and our family happier while not having to worry about the financial ramifications (mostly). :)
That’s our big goalpost – decouple money from decisions so we can drive them based on want/happiness/adventure versus “have to.” Live near mountains – let’s do it! Spend a summer in Costa Rica – let’s do it! See a baseball game in every MLB stadium – summer roadtrip!!
I still don’t feel like an adult, but I agree that having kids will change that outlook. Prior to them coming along, I still felt like a goofy adult or big kid, but after kids, it’s harder to maintain that. Some say kids keep you young in spirit with getting to see everything thru new eyes, and that’s kind of true, but the responsibility of caring for another human or two is pretty overwhelming at times. That’s the part that seems like, “ok, it’s not just about me anymore…” :)
I figured I needed to stop using that Maggie quote since I’ve already said it so many times — hahaha. As you well know, I think you guys are thinking about it all the right way. Making decisions for non-financial reasons will be soooo wonderful! And I can definitely see how kids would both keep you young and force you to grow up! Some paradoxes in life are true. :-)
Our thoughts are exactly like yours. Just like the day we turned completely debt-free, our realization that we were financially independent was really no big deal. We’ve worked for that goal for a long time and finally made it. Cool, mission accomplished – now, onto the next mission. It passed without much fanfare.
And I couldn’t possibly agree anymore that FIRE is an excellent goal, but to think that everything “stops” once you reach that goal is definitely not the reality. We think of early retirement simply as the next phase of our lives, not necessarily the culmination of our life. After all, we’re retiring early from full-time work so we can get out there and DO more things, see more of our country. Our YouTube channel is getting popular and we’re excited to see just how far we can take this new venture in the next phase.
We definitely don’t plan to sit idly by feeling happy for ourselves that we reached our goal.
Our goal posts are pretty straightforward. We’d love to earn 1/3rd of our living expenses doing things that we enjoy doing (videography). That’s it. Then, it’ll be 1/2. Then, maybe more than that, or we’ll switch things up and start filming internationally…or?
There’s a ton out there, and I’m sure more goal posts that we haven’t even discovered yet.
*Kinda like my fantasy football team, who can’t seem to find a goal post (or anything near it) to save their lives!* :)
Haha — sorry about your fantasy team. ;-) Agree all the way — FI is just another marker that we’re on the right track, but it could also lead us down the WRONG path if we don’t decide affirmatively what is important to us and actually pursue those things! We’ve got some new adventures up our sleeves, too, which we’ll be sharing more about in the coming year! :-)
Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.
Just like anything else in life. If only I graduate high school/college, get a job, get a pet, get married my life will be better. The change fairy doesn’t come down and sprinkle magic amazeballs dust whenever you hit a big milestone. I had to learn that lesson the hard way. “Life will be better when I get my new job!” Nope. I had to make the effort to change my life for the better.
Once again, a fantastic post! I’m glad we met in the last year :)
Ha — I know you are on the same wavelength on growing up. (Because we were SUPER mature during those FinCon keynotes — hahahaha.) And I’m sooooo glad we met, too! :-)
I both agree and disagree. I feel the problem is more when you take the passive wishful thinking approach to the goal. “If I only reached FIRE, then my life will be magically better, therefore I’ll start saving and investing a boat load of money.”. Just like any other “if, then” goal, it doesn’t work.
But, if you’re actively working towards said goal with very specific plans, it’s a very different psychological mindset….I think it can be a lot more effective. E.G. “I’m going to strive for FIRE because then I can spend more time with my family, take work in non-profits, and go out in nature on a Wednesday afternoon just because I want to”….that’s better.
For many years, my approach to FIRE was the first choice, but it’s certainly evolved because life generally isn’t static.
While I think saving is better than not saving, I wouldn’t recommend my original strategy.
Definitely agree that working toward a goal is a positive, and that mindset is important. But we’re definitely realizing that lack of time is rarely the problem — it’s usually a question of priorities. So you could probably do a lot of the stuff you want to do in ER even while working if you prioritize it. (“You” being anyone, not YOU.) ;-) Like we can blame work all we want for our messy house or our lack of climbing outings, but it’s really that we’ve spent our time on other things.
This is a really good point about differentiating between goals and goalposts. I’m still a long way from the FI, but my last “goal” was paying off my student loans. While I felt more free after paying off the student loans, it wasn’t really a great “goal” to have. I was still the same person, still doing the same things post-student loans. But as a goalpost, that’s a better way to look at it. It’s just another sign we pass on the road as we continue through life.
Thanks, FP! Congrats on paying off your loans — that’s still huge, even if it doesn’t make you a different person. You’re certainly a lighter, freer person without those loans! But I love how you put it — it was another signpost you passed on a journey to bigger and better things. :-)
“It’s easier to laugh off office politics than it was before, though it’s hard to say if that’s because we reached FI or because we know retirement is only a yearish away. ”
I agree. FI gives me the freedom from anxiety to not worry about what happens to my job or other financial impacts. But its not the end. I don’t want to live with only water, food, and sleep. So obviously I need more money then just FI. I want to enjoy things, which means I have to have goals to actually get up and do them. Ultimately life is a series of goals, of which FI is just one. The journey is the goal post. Enjoying the journey is the ultimate point.
We’re 100% on the same page! We’re in the FI but not quite able to retire at the standard of living we’re aiming for, so we keep working… but thank goodness for being able to laugh off that office stuff! :-)
As I have gotten older, the kid in me has not gone away – in fact Mrs. PIE would argue I am worse than ever. Our kids keep us real in that respect although they help with grey hairs also. Like a good old investment plan, balance is good.
Having reached FI ( not exactly sure when that was, but we feel very fortunate to be there), we also recognized we enjoy the simple life which fits nicely with our approach to fill out our investment portfolio by saving even more than before. This way, we ensure we can weather the ever changing landscape (…..hello ACA Health care increases! ) that awaits us when we pull the plug.
It does feel at times the goalposts do move ( practical things like healthcare). Yet we are the same team on the field and perhaps just need to coach ourselves a bit more, gather input from the many sources like your fine blog and do a few more planning drills – like we need MORE planning…..help, aargh!
Like my younger days playing soccer, I hit the goalpost too many times. In ice hockey, it was Gretzky that said ” you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. So true.
Adults who never grow up are my favorite people. :-) Agree 100% on continuing to adapt as the goalposts move — and love the idea of planning drills. Though at a certain point we need to stop planning and actually DO. Look forward to that happening for both of us next year! :-)
I could easily calculate an FI point based just upon Mr. AR’s pension, since we knew the amounts, and I did (many times). We started dreaming of far off places where pension alone would provide sufficient funds for us to survive, but the downside was always so extreme it just wasn’t worth it to us to follow through. Selling everything we owned to move to a foreign country, or live off the grid somewhere or permanently travel in an RV were all possibilities that just felt too restrictive. It’s not that we wouldn’t do any of those things (or that we still might not), it’s that we didn’t want to be that limited. Ultimately we decided to stay in the United States (thank you, ACA), purchase a stick built home in our home state, and RV occasionally but not as our permanent housing. It took longer, and clearly it was a more costly process, but in the end it’s what worked best for us. We have options; we can borrow against the house, or reverse mortgage it, or sell it outright if we need to. There’s nothing stopping us from spending time in another country or RV’ing or buying land and finally building that family compound, but we don’t have to do any of that, and that’s the true value of waiting and having choices. I’m glad we didn’t drop everything the moment we could afford to do so, but I certainly understand the compunction to do so!
It’s interesting to consider this. FIRE is really an iterative process, isn’t it? We are also technically at a point where we are technically FI, but I’m just not ready to “RE”. For one, we don’t have our finances aligned quite right, for another, ACA and two kids who will be ready for college soon. For the other, earning money in a job does still has meaning and satisfaction for me. I just don’t want my job anymore! It’s demanding and stressful (law firm lawyer job) and it’s fully of long term projects and client relationships to manage and deadlines to meet. I’m taking the approach of “fully funded lifestyle change” — hopefully next spring I will go back to school for my next career–a step down in prestige for sure, but a step up in usefulness, versatility, and job prospects (I hope), as a second degree BSN nurse. That’s the current plan at any rate.
I like how you described it — an iterative process. And I don’t blame you for wanting out of your current job, though I can see why you stay a bit longer with two kids on the verge of college! I do think client work of every sort has an added level of stress that’s especially pervasive, because you have your own company’s stress plus your clients’ stress. I’m excited for you to take that leap to your next career! It will be so wonderful to know that you’re helping people every day as a nurse. :-)
Yes, client work! On one hand when I get good results for them it feels great, but on the other hand, it is demoralizing when you don’t deliver good results. With many clients there are many opportunities to feel demoralized! And as a lawyer, even when you are delivering good results, so much of it is about perception (since clients often don’t understand my work), people can blame the lawyer even if it is not our fault. I actually got fired by a client in the last year even after I delivered several good results for them and we were well positioned to help them in the future. Never did figure that one out. Anyways, client work is not just about keeping your own boss happy, it’s about keeping many bosses happy! Extra stress for sure. Anyways, I always appreciate your interesting and thoughtful posts. It’s amazing how much of a mental process there is around FIRE! Never a shortage of things to think about.
You’re speaking my language all the way. :-) Our client work is different from what you do, but it’s the same in the sense of clients not really understanding what we do (if they did, they wouldn’t need to hire us!) and often making judgments about quality based on perception instead of actual work. I will be happy to move on to the next thing next year! And thanks so much for your sweet compliment — made my day. :-)
Your thinking matches where we are exactly! We know we could be retired already if we moved to a cheaper country (maybe even moved to a cheaper place in the U.S.!), sold our house and went full-time RV or did something else similarly extreme. But, like you two, we think those options would be too restrictive. We want to have a home base in a place we love (and where we love happens to be $$$), and that means working a bit longer. Oh well… we’ll be there soon! :-)
I agree that FI isn’t a goal in and of itself, it’s a benchmark of the ability to negotiate harder and stay true to your priorities because you can afford to walk away. A few years ago, we were close enough that we could both work part time and we decided that I wouldn’t work any more overnight or holiday shifts.
It made such a huge difference in my happiness and my health to have more consistent sleep and more time with family. It doesn’t mean that I don’t work as hard, it’s just on terms that are more in line with my values. I’m probably also much nicer to be around when I am at work these days :)
Oh, I can only imagine how much nicer I’ll be once we’re working less! Hahaha. (But seriously though.) ;-) I admire greatly that you scaled back your work once you were able to — can’t wait to do that on our end!
The key thought I take away: you need to make things a priority and do them.
This is true like you say for chores, climbing mountains and being happy.
To me having the FI goal does not change that, nor will reaching the goal. That is why to me the most important thing is to set the habit now, to do the things we like now.
So true. We’re realizing slowly that time is rarely the barrier — we can do anything if we prioritize it. So it’s about, as you said, setting the habits now, not expecting things to change just because of the balance in the bank.
Exactly! Life goes on after FI. There won’t be a lot of changes unless you make them happen. My goal was to become a stay-at-home-dad and I had a great time for 4 years. Now that our kid started school, I’ll need some new goals. We all need some challenges in life.
Other long term goals – take a year off to travel around the world. Build a compound in a tropical location. Help my parents deal with aging. Lots of stuff to do…
Ooh, that tropical compound sounds wonderful! Just make sure you build it somewhere where it won’t be underwater in a few years when sea levels rise. ;-) Our dream is to build something in a temperate rainforest, like in the redwoods. Maybe one day…
But I love how you said it: there won’t be a lot of changes unless you make them happen, and not being FI often isn’t a barrier to those changes.
Once we are FI we wish to work on the things that actually matters to us. My work is not that interesting and I would certainly not stay if it wasn’t for the FI.
Once we reach FI, we want to volunteer, exercise even more that we already do, and work on little projects that might (or might not) generate income :)
We’re hoping to do that as well after we pull the plug on the big careers next year!
I love everyone’s thoughts here. As someone who is very far from FI, it resonates a lot. I try and live according to my values, no matter what my financial status is. Over the past year, I’ve come to realize I don’t always like being a workaholic, so I’ve been trying to scale back on work and managing my stress levels around it. I say “yes” to friends more often instead of choosing work. I try and unplug on the weekends more than I used to. It’s all about figuring out what makes you happy and prioritizing around that.
I agree with everyone who has said it’s an iterative process all-around. Every time I’ve hit a savings milestone, I haven’t felt any different. I don’t think anything will magically change once I pay off my student loan debt. I learned those lessons the hard way after moving and hoping my life would improve. It doesn’t! It’s up to you to make the changes.
Hi Erin! :-) I love knowing that you’ve been focusing on scaling back your work and prioritizing spending more time with friends. It’s ALL a process, right? ;-) And while I don’t think anything magically changes when you hit big savings milestones, I DO think you’ll feel different and better once your loans are gone. Debt is a whole different thing, and I felt much lighter once my loans and credit cards were paid off. (And we’ll soon have the mortgage paid off — we’ll let you know how that feels!) But I do agree 100% that we still have to make the changes we want to see — they never happen just because we reached some milestone.
I kind of didn’t get the goal/goal post thing at first, but your posts are always intriguing, so I thought I’d read. And now I get it.
I think my blog title, Peace Out and In, is me wanting to not always wish for the future, as I often do, or wish something were different, as I often do, but to try to be happy now.
Part of my happiness now is planning for future FIRE, and as long as I feel excited for it and not like I’ll only be happy when I get there, it’s a good thing. So I think I “get” the goal/goal post thing, now. –Jaye
Haha — Yeah, not the clearest title. :-) I completely admire that you’re so focused on enjoying the present! It’s hard to do, and it’s something I continue to struggle with — I’m so future-oriented by nature. Focusing on happiness now will definitely help on your FIRE journey… and ensure it’s not a let down when you get there!
Love this quote, “even if we never retire early, the journey of pursuing it will still have been worthwhile. In that sense, setting the goal of reaching financial independence is absolutely a good thing.” So true with any goal. That’s why I try to set all my goals really high. The journey to get there is the fun part! Great read!
That’s a great approach to take! Even if you fall short, you’re still far ahead of where you would have been without the lofty goal! :-)
Your posts are always so good! I can only now appreciate the idea that little changes unless I make the changes. I cut back to part time two years ago with grand ideas that I would finally be able to do things I “never had time for” like exercise and seeing my countertops under half finished projects. I find myself volunteering, spending more time with family and reading and still can’t see my countertops . It was hard to admit how much didn’t change just because we made some financial goals so I could spend less time at the office but it did free me to accept myself as I am now and enjoy the journey instead of waiting till the full FIRE destination.
Thanks so much, Marie! You made my day. :-) And wow, you perfectly illustrate this point! What we do or don’t do is seldom a question of time, it’s just a question of priorities. And you’ve rightly filled your time with things that are truly important… but I can understand being bummed you can’t see your countertops! I think I still harbor this fantasy that we’ll have a spotless house when we’re retired, and I’m 99% sure that’s not true. ;-) So glad you’ve accepted yourself and what’s important to you — and congrats for restructuring your life and time to prioritize less time at the office!
Wow, it’s just so amazing how similar my wife and I are to the two of you. The key difference? We have a 2 year old daughter. But we are currently experiencing all the same events and emotions you described in this article.
Your writing is so true. FI is just one small goal in the grander scheme of much larger goals. It is far from the ultimate goal.
When I think of my really long term life goals, I like to use the following picture in this article:
When I was initially choosing my career, I purposely chose a profession that skewed heavily toward “That which I’m good at” and “That which I can be paid for” instead of the other two pieces. I really wanted to be a teacher, but at age 17 I recognized the terrible pay. Now, I’m all about using the FI goal as a springboard for truly pursuing where I feel I can hit all 4 circles at once and experience my Ikigai.
I love how you put it: FI is far from the ultimate goal. My take on your words: It’s more like a bridge to an alternate path, not the path itself. It’s great you’re thinking about purpose/ikagai in your ER years — we’re completely in the same boat!
While reaching or being FI is not a goal of ours, having enough money in our later years, is super important. Social security only goes so far (I hear that from my parents and in-laws) and by the time we roll around to that age, who knows what it will be.
I do love to hear about your guys’ journey though! :) Happy weekend to you!
Oh gosh, and who even knows what Social Security will look like when we all get there! (We’re not banking on getting anything, and will view anything we do get as gravy.) It’s totally great that you guys are focusing on preparing yourself well for those years! :-)
I love this post. It’s exactly the mental exercise that I’ve been going through since becoming FI a year ago.
I’ve officially decoupled wages with living expenses by putting earning into the same investment account where I generate passive income. Once a month I transfer our “budget” amount into our main checking account to use. It’s wierd. Now, the only reason why I mentally track the Fridays I get paid is because the following Monday is non-recycling day for trash.
I now think alot about purpose and meaning of what I do and why I exist, which eventually leads to the question of how I can contribute. I think this is what Maslow described as self-actualization.
While I’m about 5-7 years older than you and with kids, I still think I’m a kid, and my wife would certainly attest to this. But with these thoughts, I’m starting to think I’m finally growing up. Perhaps FI is the crossing line to become mature? who knows.
Keep up with the great posts!
I’m so curious to know how we’ll view days of the week once we quit, like your garbage day analogy! We want to keep track of days just so we don’t accidentally go out skiing on the crowded weekend days, haha.
And I think your point about FI being what finally grew you up is SUPER interesting. It will be fascinating to see how we evolve on this, but I could see us getting to ER and simultaneously being MORE childish in some of the fun stuff we do and being more grown-up in being able to dedicate a lot more of our time to making a different in the world.
Really like this post. Although my wife and I are not yet FI we can see the future pretty clearly. We are approaching several key financial milestones in the next couple of years. But, like you described, a lot of this will simply not change much in our daily routine. Our milestones with our child has a much more meaningful impact to our lives in terms of daily routine. Example, she no longer goes to daycare after school and gets dropped off directly after school some days. Some small impact financially, but a huge impact in the routine of life. Slowly working towards financial goals can tend to lend itself towards feeling a little underwhelmed when that goal is reached. And besides, looking at numbers on a spreadsheet isn’t always super exciting. Its not like winning the lottery where overnight your financial situation has completely changed. The slow and steady savings approach means it didn’t happen over night. It often takes me to look back on the spreadsheet to realize how far we have come and the potential impact to our lives this can and will one day have. But in the mean time, i’m doing the same routine and same job I was doing when my net worth was $ versus now my net worth is $$$$$.
Haha — the funny thing is I still love looking at the numbers on the spreadsheet. That has never gotten old! ;-) But unfortunately, hitting those numbers we’ve been eyeing for a long time hasn’t changed our actual reality much if at all. But to your point, I can totally see how your daughter has made a much bigger impact in your actual life — because she’s an actual part of your life, unlike money, which is important but is still in some sense imaginary. :-)
You make some excellent points. I don’t expect that reaching FI is going to be life changing for me (I do have higher expectations of early retirement though). I did find that starting on the FIRE path, and making a FIRE plan were life changing. Once I did that, I was happier. Every day felt easier. I felt lighter.
I feel like I know where my life is heading and I am excited by the direction and the way things are shaping up. I enjoy knowing that I have made time for me, for us, as a family, to eventually do more and be more and see more. Having the goal has made me a better person, a happier person, and that has made a big difference to my life.
We can relate to so much of this! Getting on the FIRE path has been a huge positive for us, no question. It has given us direction and motivation that have been totally worthwhile even if we never reach the “end goal” (in quotes because getting to early retirement will be just the beginning!). Interesting to know that your experience has been almost identical!
Being free of financial stress is incredible, but it does not make life. It’s true. You must still climb the mountain and do the chores. Money can not be the end all of your desires because it is inadequate to that task. I’m really glad you know that.
Thanks. :-) We do know that now, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of it even if you knew it at one time previously!
To me, FI means a lot (though it’s not at the top of the list of how I measure success in my life). No one in my family has been able to achieve it and our family struggles with money even though my parents made a six figure income for the majority of their lives.
If I’m ever going to achieve financial independence, I can actually picture myself already. I think I would break down in tears. Every step that I took, every coffee I avoided, every lunch that I brought to work. It means that it’s all worked out and I can finally give back financially to my family who I think could really make use of it.
Wow, what a powerful story! Your context is different from ours (both of our dads retired early!), so I can see why the achievement would feel so much more special and important to you! And it sounds like you’ve sacrificed more than we feel like we have, which makes a difference too.
We reached FI 3 years ago after many years of planning, saving and investing. Reaching FI provided us with alternate life choices but ultimately it did not change us, the way we are motivated, the desire to achieve great things etc.
It took a while to figure out our new direction but once we did…our life just got a whole lot better!
That’s so wonderful to hear that you figured out your new direction and are enjoying life much more now as a result! We absolutely wonder how that transition will be for us — we do not assume it will be seamless or will make us magically different. :-)
My goal since 22 was to get the hell out of corporate America ASAP! lol
After FI, I’ve mostly been trying to figure out what is the ideal time to spend a day for maximum happiness. I
I think your comment got cut off, Sam! And we’re pretty similar to you — we’ve been looking for that early exit from way too early in our careers. ;-)
Very rightly explained.