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The Importance of Pacing Yourself on the Road to Financial Independence

Reaching financial independence is, more than anything, a waiting game.

We can talk all about investment strategies and allocations and conversions and this and that, but that’s mostly a distraction from this basic fact: reaching FI is just twiddling your thumbs while you wait for your money to pile up. Save a bunch, wait for the next paycheck. Save a bunch, wait for the next paycheck. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Especially for those who follow a passive investment strategy like indexing, there’s very little to do once you set your plan in motion, other than fritter around the edges. Optimize a grocery bill here, cut out an entire expense there.

And that kind of stuff feels wonderfully empowering in the early stages of the journey. You’re hacking the heck out of life! You’re breaking free from the Matrix! But eventually, your budget is fully optimized, with all the fat trimmed, and you max out your savings rate.

And sometimes, that empowering journey you embarked on can start to feel discouraging. Maybe you even hit the point of feeling powerless, realizing there’s almost nothing you can do to speed your progress other than watch the seconds tick by. The only thing to do is to wait for this far-off goal to inch closer and closer at what can feel like a snail’s pace, and which can move farther away in an instant at the markets’ whims.

Even if you never hit that point of discouragement, there is no escaping the basic fact: becoming financially independent takes time, often a long time. Several years best case, many years for most. It also requires forces larger than us to cooperate, namely the global economy and the stock markets, which don’t always behave the way we want them to.

Forgoing the things you see those around you buying or doing, living way below your means, bucking societal trends — all of that can take a lot of focus and energy. And trying to keep all of that up — maybe secretly! — for years, while trying to find every possible way to speed the journey, it can get to be too much.

That’s why it’s so critical to pace ourselves on that journey. We may want to sprint all the way to the finish, but no one can sustain a blistering pace for more than a short time, at least without paying some price. We’ve learned this the hard way, and are determined to pace ourselves more healthily in our last full year of work. Here’s how we’re doing that.

Pace Yourself on the Road to Financial Independence // Self Care While Saving, Practicing Detachment, Celebrating Interim Milestones

2016 was one of the toughest years of my life. Work was especially taxing, and I was on the road more than I’d ever been in a prior year, which absolutely played a role in that. But a huge part of what made the year harder than others was that we had gotten more and more focused each year on hitting a higher savings target than we had the prior year, to the point that in 2016, we didn’t want to do anything to slow our progress. That meant we took not a single real vacation in the whole year. We had two long weekend trips together, and I went to FinCon, and that was it. (We also took very few sick days, even when we were sick.)

That might have been enough recharge time for someone else, but as we learned the hard way, it wasn’t enough for us. Not on top of the 60+ hour work weeks, the 70+ hotel nights, 130 flights and round-the-clock phone accessibility.

By the last quarter of the year, I’d hit a point of near-desperation, wondering how on Earth I could possibly make it through one more year, even though we were so close to our target numbers. But as I eventually realized, the problem wasn’t work or our savings rate or anything else, it was that we weren’t pacing ourselves properly. We were trying to maintain a full-out sprint for far longer than we could possibly sustain, and it finally caught up with us.

The good news is that we’ve changed our approach this last year, helped by the fact that we ended last year well ahead of schedule in our investments and mortgage payoff. There’s now less pressure on us to max out our savings capacity, which we are super grateful for. And that has allowed us to set clearer boundaries at work (we’re mostly successful in this mission), to plan real vacations including our two-week trip to Japan last month and to focus on pacing ourselves through this last year so that we can cross our finish line without having pushed ourselves to the point of collapse. Here are some of the ways we’re pacing ourselves.

Track Less Often

There is something that feels amazing from watching your spreadsheets trend in a positive direction. Seeing those numbers grow, the graphs go upward — it’s like a shot of adrenaline, especially when you’re first starting out. And that’s great.

The problem comes if you start thinking of those numbers not as numbers (or as Monopoly money), but as a marker of what you’re worth as a person. That’s putting the determination of your value to the world in the hands of the markets, not your own.

When we first got serious about FI, I was updating the spreadsheets several times a week. It felt so good to see those numbers grow, and to feel the direct impact of our efforts to increase our savings rate. But as that honeymoon period began to wane, tracking that often kept me overly focused on the ups and downs of the market, which are irrelevant in the long term. It made me feel like those numbers defined us, instead of just being numbers. And it gave me the perception that we were barely creeping along, because I was mentally comparing our numbers one day to our numbers from only a day or two before, which felt like no progress at all. It made the journey feel long and slow, which wasn’t true at all, just because of my skewed perspective. Eventually, I started tracking only once or twice a month, and then we could really see the progress, which made a huge difference for us mentally.

The truth is: once you’ve got your automated plan in place, tracking does very little to speed your progress. It might provide some motivation to keep going when things are good, but it might do what it did for me, making the journey feel especially long. (Especially because, in big picture terms, the journey is often short. But it may not feel that way when we’re too close to it.)

If you ever hit those FI doldrums, when you feel like you’re not making much progress, try not keeping track for a little while, and see if it makes you feel better.

Celebrate Interim Milestones

The multi-year journey to FI can feel like a slow trudge if you only focus on the end goal of some magic number. But in truth, we’re all hitting milestones all the time. Big round numbers saved. Percents of a mortgage paid off. Highest ever savings percentage. Maybe blog milestones if we blog. When we were only focused on the big end goal, the journey felt harder than after we began celebrating those milestones like hitting basic financial independence, paying off our house, and marking two years of the blog.

We said a few months out that we’d buy a bottle of Dom Perignon when we paid off the mortgage, and the day we saw that zero balance show up, you can bet we went out and bought that bottle, and loved every sip of it. It was extravagant, sure, but it was also a huge freaking milestone, and a great reason to celebrate. Not everyone believes in treating yourself, and I’d agree if it’s a frequent thing. (No one needs to drink Dom on the regular.) But a once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime milestone? We felt no guilt celebrating that in style, even if “style” meant “drinking champagne in our pajamas on the couch.”

When you’re early in the journey, the milestones might be smaller, but that doesn’t make them any less worth celebrating, though “celebrating” might just be giving yourself a pat on the back or high fiving your partner. But don’t be afraid to give yourself those reminders along the way of the progress you’re making!

Practice Detachment

I’m going to go all Eastern philosophy on you now. Buddhism and other Eastern traditions remind followers often that we do not control everything about our lives, which is fundamentally different from the Western view (fallacy?) that we control our own destinies. We may control a lot about our lives, but we certainly don’t control everything. We don’t control the world economy and its impacts on the job market. We don’t control stock prices and what they do to our portfolio balance. We don’t control whether our city has clean drinking water and how that might impact our health. We don’t control the other drivers on the road and whether they’re looking at their phones instead of driving without distraction. Etc.

And likewise, we don’t control everything about our own path to FI. There’s a lot that can slow us down or speed us up that’s well outside our own spheres of influence, and recognizing that and continually reminding ourselves of it has helped us approach the journey with more patience.

I love the analogy you’ll often hear in yoga classes about learning to surf the wave instead of fighting the current, and that’s what we now aim to do. The markets will go up and down and change how close to or far from our goal we feel. But ultimately all that matters on our journey is what we do, and we focus on doing that thing (in our case, investing twice a month) no matter what.

But we’ve recently focused more on taking it a step further. There’s a funny paradox in FIRE that we focus on being more frugal by not craving things, but then kind of by nature, we do crave for our accounts to grow, and to reach our goals. So we’re less attached to stuff, but perhaps more attached to money and numbers.

Our big shift has been trying to practice more detachment from all of it, reminding ourselves that those numbers don’t define us or our journey, and thinking less about the numbers overall. Focusing more about the big life questions than the money questions. And it’s definitely helping.

Practice Self Care

Our big realization last year was that we needed more time spent not working to be able to sustain our pace. It didn’t have to require spending on flights or hotels, it just had to be time offline. That’s the best way we can take care of ourselves at this point in time.

And we all need some way to take care of ourselves as we pursue these ambitious goals. Whether it’s simply taking a few minutes every day to sit still somewhere and enjoy the quiet, or indulging in a massage every once in a while, or taking a big splurgy trip, it’s up to each of us to figure out what we need to be able to keep going. And then to make sure we actually do that thing, even if it takes time away from a side hustle or slows our progress toward FI slightly.

It’s far better to sacrifice a tiny amount of progress than to burn ourselves out entirely.

What About You?

How are you pacing yourself on your journey? Or do you think you could pace yourself better? Has anyone hit that level of burnout like we did last year? How did you get through it? Has anyone found any great tips for pacing yourself that you can share with us all? Let’s dive into it in the comments!

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90 replies »

  1. Great post! I find self care to be very important, and to recognize when my wife needs extra care too. We are not pursuing early retirement but our most important practice is to occasionally take a step back and recognize that we are living the life that we want and the life we’ve chosen, i.e. we are not trapped. And if something is off, we consider what we can do to change that particular aspect. Thanks for these thoughts …–R

    • I love that you guys have that perspective, and that you love the life you’ve created! And you’re right that sometimes we do need extra care, and there’s no shame in admitting that and addressing it!

  2. I really like the idea of not tracking your net worth as often. That way, when you do stop in to check your net worth, the increase is a little more encouraging. I used to track mine weekly as well when I first started my journey to F.I. – I have since cut back to only once per month and I find it to be far less stressful. Also, great point about how we tend to use our net worth as a market for our value as humans. I find this to be true even though I have never admitted it openly – this can be dangerous, especially since the market gyrations can affect net worth so much over the short term. Great article :)

    • Yeah, absolutely. So much more fun to see the bump when you check in on your accounts! I think monthly tracking is ideal — you can still see how you’re doing in a granular enough way to adjust course as needed, but you don’t make it top-of-mind every week or day.

  3. Patience is the most difficult virtue on the FI path. I’ve enjoyed life along the way, had wonderful annual vacations (Norway, Virgin Islands, Alaska, Hawaii, Italy, The Rockies, and on, and on….gotta love those frequent flyer miles!).

    It’s taken us some time (I’ll retire June 2018 at age 55), but we’ve intentionally enjoyed the journey. I also only track our Net Worth once/year, on 12/31).

    Wouldn’t have it any other way. Great post.

    • Oh, amen to that! Impatience is real, and it never goes away. We’ve just found ways to avoid magnifying it that help us in our case. As for how often you track, I’m shocked that you check SO infrequently, especially given that you write a RETIREMENT BLOG! ;-)

  4. Thank you. This was the exact post that I needed to read at this point in my journey to FIRE (March 2024). I’ve been compulsively checking my account balances and updating my beloved spreadsheet…which has been fun these past few months. But I realize that I’ve veered dangerously close to deprivation by failing to spend money on things the family would enjoy while the kids are still living with us at home. Time to book the Spring Break trip…thanks again for the timely reminder.

    • I’m so glad this was helpful and well timed for you! :-D What you’re going through sounds a lot like what Brandon, the Mad Fientist, experienced early in his journey. He spent virtually nothing, felt deprived and got depressed. And it took him a while to connect those dots and make the decision to change his ways. And yeah, given that you have kids on top of all that, it’s so important that you’re not depriving yourselves in ways that miss opportunities with the family! Enjoy that spring break trip!

  5. Really good ideas here. I could have used some of this advice a few years ago. Money tracking was a daily habit. Sometimes multiple times daily! Based on some people’s situations I’ve seen online, I would add: Don’t be miserable at work. It might be worth sticking it out for a few years in a stressful but high-paying job to get to the finish line, but if you hate your job *and* your FI path is still 5 years, 10 years, or longer, that’s madness. Everyone will have to weigh the trade-offs for themselves, but shaving a few years off the timeline isn’t always worth it.

    • Gracias! And I have been guilty of the multiple times per day tracking! But I finally realized that it was only making me focus more on the slowness of the journey instead of taking a step back and thinking, “Whoa! We’re going so fast!” And I agree 100% on not being miserable at work, or at least not for more than a short burst. We’ve made the strategic choice to stick it out, knowing that our mountain town has fewer options than a bigger city would to come anywhere close to matching our incomes, and of course not actually being miserable at work. We fundamentally like what we do and who we work for and with, so it’s more a matter of the pace getting to be a bit much, not a matter of misery.

  6. Haha, normally I’m good about not checking too often, but I may have checked Mint ~3 times this week already. >_>

    It comes in waves for me. I can go quite some time without checking or worrying (at one point meaning a $30 overdraft fee as we bought a couch and I forgot to turn off the next Vanguard auto-investment — oops!), and then there are times, like now, where I just feel impatient. Two years seems ages away. This doesn’t stop us from enjoying the present…but it does make concentrating on work more difficult!

    • Haha, I am not perfect, and occasionally lapse into my old overtracking ways. :-) And I get it, but I think you’re right that tracking feeds that impatience which feeds the feeling that we can’t concentrate at work, which then makes us more impatient. It’s a vicious cycle!

  7. It’s interesting to see people taking a “don’t over-track your money” approach, but I can really see how it’s beneficial. Of course, this only works if you’ve already gotten a handle on your money and finances.

    • Totally right. This all assumes that you already know what you spend, have dealt with debt, etc. But after all of that is taken care of, there’s no reason to be tracking constantly.

  8. I glance at my net worth whenever I login to Mint on my computer, but for the most part everything is set it and forget it. I update my spreadsheet at the first of the month, every month, and I look forward to seeing the change in my numbers. Ok, fine, I look forward to it going up every month. Guilty!

    There was a guy on the FI subreddit who created a timeline. If the entire FI journey was a year, what day would you be at? It’s a fun way to celebrate seemingly innocuous days. “Hey, today we hit Easter in our journey! Woo!”

    • That calendar idea is really cool! I never like going on reddit (haha) but I might have to check that out! And you are not alone in wanting your numbers to go up! Hope your move is going well!!

  9. This is exactly what I needed today (especially with the market going down yesterday). Impatience is a problem of mine and the journey towards FIRE is no exception. I hate wishing time (and youth) away for some big goal in the future, but it’s hard not to become 100% focused on the freedom that I so desperately crave right now.

    Being an accountant, it’s my job to track everything so this has easily carried over to my personal finances. But everything is optimized so I think that will end soon. That time could be better spent reading or writing instead. I’ll just let Mint take care of it for me, rather than use Excel. A little distance will be good :)

    • So glad it was well timed for you! :-) And you know you’re not alone in getting impatient! That has been a struggle of ours for a long time, as it has for lots of the other commenters today! But I think your plan to track less often is a good one. :-)

  10. I love the perspective here. Sometimes I worry when I see so many people pursuing FIRE. It’s very easy to step over the line from frugal or smart spending to a life of deprivation. Deprivation won’t get you to the end of the FIRE path, it will just make you unhappy. It’s kind of like the diet fads. Most of them are destined to fail. Simply put are brains are not wired to shut everything off and just go without. You have to instead find your underlying values and find a better way to fulfill them for less. Afterall life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. I remind myself of that when the going gets tough.

    • Amen to all of that! It’s sooooo easy to cross that deprivation line. Like the Mad Fientist has talked about plenty, he actually got depressed while saving because he wouldn’t let himself spend a thing. But he got happier when he relaxed and paced himself and let himself spend a little. An important lesson for all of us!

  11. This conversation sounds familiar! It is exactly how you described, at least for me. A slow crawl. I do check my accounts really often to keep me motivated, but yes, at the same time it makes me feel sad and frustrated, so I need to constantly keep things in perspective. I’m glad you are taking better care of yourself this year. I can’t imagine having a stressful job AND working long hours and spending so much time on planes. I’d lose my mind. My job is stressful, but at least it’s only 8ish hours and no one is bugging me when I leave the office. Thank god!!!! I do know people I work with who take A LOT of work home.

    • Haha, yeah, it’s what we talked about! And yeah, taking work “home” (though we’re usually working at home!) is absolutely something we won’t miss!

  12. Agree completely to not let the focus on FIRE make you forget to enjoy your current life. We are within 1-3 yrs of FIRE but time seems to have slowed down near the finish line and it’s easy to get frustrated. So we started volunteering one day (3hrs) a week at the local animal shelter (which is part of our plan for post-FIRE life). It has completely rejuvenated us, and is an activity we can do together that doesn’t set back our timeline financially, like taking more trips would. It is a great way to get our minds off the spreadsheets, plus the natural high from giving back….priceless.

    • I love your solution to the perceived slowdown! What a perfect way to give back, enjoy time with the doggies and have quality time together! And free, to boot. :-)

  13. I often find myself endlessly recalculating number based on any number of small changes and optimizations. Rarely do these changes make even one month of difference in reaching my FI date yet I feel that I need to always be thinking about something FI related or something will go wrong. It’s an easy trap to fall into and detachment is definitely needed to keep from burning out.

    • I definitely get that feeling, and understand how all-consuming FI can be (or feels like it should be). So it’s great you recognize that those frequent tweaks don’t make a big difference, and that you can in fact free yourself from thinking about it so much.

  14. Great tips here. Especially tracking less and detaching more. Even with markets going up, we saw our progress (we track assets as a multiple of our annual spending) stall due to increased medical costs associated with my wife’s auto-immune condition and higher food costs associated with trying to change our diet. At the same time, I took effectively a pay-cut when we got no raises the past few years as our reimbursements have been cut and at the same time our health insurance costs were going up. We hated seeing the lack of progress and it truly effected our happiness and satisfaction with things, even though we were continuing to build assets as well as improving in many ways that will benefit us in the long run.

    • You remind me that I need to email you to follow-up on Mrs. EE’s health situation, but the SSCs told me that you guys got things figured out, which I’m glad about on so many levels. And I think a lot of people can relate to what you’re describing in terms of it feeling like moving backwards in your take-home pay, and that is super hard to swallow after you grow accustomed to making fast progress!

  15. This is just the reminder to be patient that I needed today. Some days I am ready to just be there already and regretting going part time since it makes the finish line farther, and other times when I put in the 50+hour week I remember how much life I am missing by doing that. When I get really impatient it helps to see how far we have come in the last 3 years as plotted on a wall chart in out bedroom and being comforted that we will get there at some point. That and remembering that not spending much money is not the same thing as staying home all the time-I can have adventures I’m excited to talk about in Monday morning staff meetings if I put my mind to creating them.

    • I’m so glad this spoke to you! :-) And I LOVE that you’ve been using the YMOYL wall chart to SEE your progress! So I think it’s just a matter of trusting yourself not to get too focused on that chart, and when you are getting frustrated, to take a step back and look at that big picture to remind yourself how far you’ve come!

  16. I think this is generally a good approach for any sort of long-term project, be it early retirement, writing a novel, a lasting diet change or pretty much anything else than takes years. At the beginning one has lots of energy and enthusiasm, and absolutely can and should make the most of it! It’s like a new relationship. Exciting! Fun! The best thing ever! I want to spend all day thinking about it! However, this is going to run eventually and then one needs to find a sustainable pace to settle into for the remaining 99 % of the project, and this is where most of the magic happens and most progress is made. It’s not sexy, but it is oh so important!

    • You are 100% right. I know not everyone likes the marathon vs. sprint analogy, but it’s apt in this case. Anything that you can’t do all in one concerted burst requires a more measured approach.

  17. Great post. My husband and I have only started investing this last year after spending the 3 previous years getting out of debt. I found your post really helpful because I am using the same intensity and speed to save for FIRE that I did with debt repayment. Obviously this is not realistic. Our debt repayment goal was 3 years and we finished in 2.5. But our FIRE goal will probably take 15 to 20 years. I had found myself looking at our charts and updating our net worth too often. I am starting to detach and its putting things into perspective. Great post.

    • It’s so awesome that you guys attacked your debt with such intensity and focus! But yeah, you’re right — you need to pace yourself more on the FI goal or you will hit a wall or get burned out. Which would be a shame because you’ve already proven you can do incredible financial things! So keep that detachment and you’ll be in great shape. :-)

  18. I so needed this. We were so close with paying off our mortgage, while still contributing to our retirement and I had been making myself crazy. We ended up moving to a better house for us, but it sets us back a little. I know I don’t have it in me to work like that powerhouse I was being. It’s not healthy and I know I was sacrificing health and relationships over it. It’s just when you get so close you think you can sprint. Thanks for the reminder! Glad to know I am not alone.

    • You are definitely not alone! We can relate to all of what you’re describing, and if you look at the comments here, so can lots of others! I’m glad that you guys found a home that’s better for you, though I’m sure it’s hard to swallow the perceived setback of that. But better to be in the place that’s right for you than to be “done” but in a less desirable situation, right? ;-)

  19. I resemble this post! In 2014, I hit flat out job burnout and decided I needed to make a drastic change within the next couple of years but I hadn’t quite figured out that I could flat out retire. I re-did the way I approached my business (I’m in a sales position) and cut out all referral sources who wasted my time and didn’t value what I did. It was a risk, but I was comfortable financially and I decided no commission check was worth not being treated well. In 2015, I fell upon MMM’s blog while I was searching for a way to teach my kiddo about money. The lightbulb went off, I made a few changes to my investments and then, a short year later, I hit my early retirement number (I was close anyway). I have my own approach to my investment portfolio which is slightly different than other FIRE folks, but the big components are the same. Crazy part is, that in 2015 and 2016 I had my 2 best years ever. I crushed it in 2015 but then in 2016, it was even more. Somehow, giving myself a light at the end of the tunnel and changing my approach drastically gave me all sorts of new energy to finish strong and created more space for me to focus on working with the people that value me. And it was all totally unexpected and I feel very much had to do with me being emotionally detached from the results and giving less $%^ks. It sounds quite similar to you establishing better boundaries at work. In those two years, I even took vacations where I didn’t work more than 60-90 minutes for the week or so that I took off! You can do it. 9.25 months left. Stay detached!

    • I don’t think I realized just how FAST your timeline is, but of course you didn’t start from zero. Still — so awesome! And that’s incredible to hear that you were so successful at setting clearer boundaries in your last two full years of work. I have made definite progress, and now I’m actually feeling lots of nostalgia and almost wanting to work more, to wring every drop out of this experience! ;-)

      • I was on the FIRE track and didn’t know since I wasn’t as clever as you are. :) I had always been a saver, spend money on experiences and not stuff (except *cough* ski gear), don’t drive fancy cars, buy much much less house than you can afford, train. I would read “you need $5-$10 million in assets to retire” and question the silly math and wonder how the &^%k am I going to spend $5-$10 million before I die? But I never connected the darn dots until 2.5 years ago. Crazy right? Really my timeline has been 22 years because I’ve been working for 22 years straight with just normal working woman vacations in there. It will have been 22 years since I graduated college to hit FIRE. And frankly had I been clever like you, I would have hit FIRE 10 years ago. I have a few thousand mistakes I’ve made.

      • Haha. ;-) And you can always come commiserate over here if you feel bad about your ski gear purchases. Even if we can’t help you justify them, we can reassure you that you’re not the only one! :-D And yeah, that $5-10mil rec on retirement is crazy, and scares a ton of people off from even saving at all, because it feels so impossible! And as for those mistakes, we’ve all made them. And we’re really not far ahead of you by much at all. Mr. ONL will be 41 when we pull the plug, with 20 years of work under his belt!

  20. I am guilty of checking my balances way too often. I still find it exciting though, because I only started tracking everything about 7 months ago. I have 45 months to go to get to my FIRE date. I have no doubt the frequent checking will get old.

    I track loads of intermediate milestones, and I find that that really helps maintain the illusion of continuous forward progress. Other than the usual arbitrary round numbers I play the calendar game Gwen described above. I also track NW in terms of arbitrary luxury consumer goods (now we’re worth more than this fancy watch, now we’re worth more than that car etc). Another fun game is “My current NW is enough to pay for blah in perpetuity” where blah could be say daycare for your kids, or your monthly grocery bill and blah slowly grows over time until it covers your entire budget.

    • I think your approach should just be to pay attention to how it feels when you check your balance, because I certainly don’t want to quell your excitement! But if checking things starts to make you feel anxious or impatient, then you know it’s time to dial it back. :-) I love your fun game ideas, too! Anything we can do to create more milestones to celebrate (probably not all with Dom) ;-) is great!

  21. The Dreamers like goals too. We hope to have the home paid off this year and then re-assess our goals for the coming years, mainly because of a surprise due in about 5 days!! Good luck on your journey to financial freedom this year! the Dreamers

  22. Our journey has been rather long compared to many– spanning 30 years- but still grateful to be retired in mid -fifties rather than work another 10 plus years. We made mistakes (mostly mine) -along the way that resulted in set backs- . One thing neither of us regrets or considers a mistake, even though it did set us back, was we did a sort of trial run when we had accumulated about 300K and we were debt free except for our house. We were 38 years old and my husbands older brother had just died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack- it dawned on us that we might not make it to Financial Independence and we decided to see what it would be like to not work every day–so we sold our home and almost all our possessions and rode our bicycles from Ohio to New Orleans with a good friend and then we moved out west to Arizona for the winter and explored that part of the country then on to CA and on to Austin Texas the next year – we took turns working for a few months in AZ and Texas in temporary jobs to offset some of our expenses and then eventually returned to Ohio and resumed full time work.

    • Oh, you are still totally winning the same by retiring in your 50s, so don’t let the freakish youngsters in the FI blog space convince you that you’re late. How many people in real life do you know who are doing what you’re doing???

      And I LOVE that you took that time in your 30s for a grand adventure! What an incredible experience to have had, and those memories will stay with you. :-)

  23. OMG – SO much waiting… It’s like Maggie said at one point, “it’s like a sprint followed by a long sit on a moving sidewalk.” You can’t hurry it up, and you cut so much and optimize so much in the beginning the progress is amazing and everything rocks and then you sit down on the moving sidewalk and wait… and wait… :)

    With us being within 1-3 years now, seriously our timeline and FFLC approach changes so often that maybe it could be next year, maybe it could be 2019, maybe we’ll wait until 2020 and both call it quits then, who knows. It’s been awesome that we are able to keep up investments even with Prof SSC losing a significant chunk of income and yep, we could’ve hit that number this year easily had she not left megacorp, but life has been so much better since she did.

    At least the waiting has gotten easier. It’s much better having a good work life balance going on while waiting than having to grind out the last year or so in a situation you can’t stand.

    As far as checking balances and that stuff, I don’t. I get updates from Prof SSC, occasionally, and occasionally I’ll log into our bank account with our e-fund and surprise myself at those numbers. I honestly couldn’t tell you how to even log in to our Vanguard account, lol. Or Personal Capital, or Mint. We have it written down in a sheet in the safe in case one or both of us die, but yeah, I’m not that worried about tracking that stuff or staying on top of it and trust it’s doing what it’s supposed to.

    It also helps when you marry an excellent CFO. :)

    • LOL — It’s easy not to track too often if you don’t have the account passwords! ;-) Here’s to Prof SSC and her wonderful CFO skills for keeping you out of the weeds on your FFLC funds!

  24. My feelings continue to evolve, but for the moment I’m at peace with our plan. We each work about 1/3 – 1/2 of a full time position and we take frequent trips to explore and visit friends and family. We don’t have a particular number of years left to go or a target retirement date because so much depends on the market at this point. Our income has dropped drastically, so a good or bad day in NY can dwarf our paychecks.

    We’ll reevaluate our plan when our numbers reach our goal or if there are big changes at work, but right now we’re resting for a while.

    • I think you guys have a pretty sweet gig worked out, and we’ve long said that if we could work less than half time, we’d be fine working forever. That’s not really an option in our fields, but I think you guys are being smart to sit tight for a while!

  25. I like the, ‘track less often’ recommendation. With Personal Capital its really easy just to pull your phone out and get the daily update, At first i thought that was fun, but then i started to realize it may not be a good thing. I love the convenience of checking in on my checking accounts but i don’t always look or wait for everything else to update before i close it down. Such a thing as too much information. I’m on a more quarterly review schedule for myself. Used to be monthly.

    • That’s awesome that you’ve been able to make your reviews less and less frequent! I am starting to think of it in “too much information” terms, and reframing the tracking recommendation as using a “low information diet” in our financial lives. :-)

  26. Great to read your evolution. Our evolution is similar. We realised that there is only so much you can sacrifice with hurting yourself. Hence, we have now an updated approach. It even means FI is no longer the main item in the plan. It is only an enabler.

    As for our progress, i update the numbers once per month. That is more than enough. I would do every quarter If it would not make ugly charts… I like to see the occasional dip to remind me that the result is not only determined by our actions: you can do everything right and still go backwards. Gotta love it!

    The celebration is an attention point for us. I like the idea of Dom bottle. What year was it?

    • That’s so interesting to think of FI as an enabler and not the end goal by itself! And I agree on quarterly tracking — it magnifies the ups and downs oddly, and doesn’t let us compare year-over-year progress as well. But I still think the less tracking, the better! And thank you for asking about the Dom — 2002, I believe. ;-)

  27. One of my favorite coworkers asked me today if I had fun plans for the weekend, too, and not just business growing. Thankfully, I do. With my girlfriend out of state, it is very easy to just plow all my energy into working as much as I can so that I can afford to visit her often and focus on developing my business and skills. But, a woman needs laughter, too.

    I was doing my taxes and saw that last year was my highest earnings year ever, but I also felt more broke than ever. Which is just wrong. My debt is only slightly reduced from this time last year, but my business has grown.

    I need to work out how to keep on my journey without overdoing it.

    • I’m thrilled for you that you’ve grown your business and that you had your highest earnings last year. But I’m also glad that you recognize that you might be pushing yourself too hard. I can say from my experience that that has generally not worked out well for me, and while you certainly could be different, I’m glad to hear that you’re taking some time to have some fun this weekend! I’d recommend going that more often. :-D

  28. I wont elaborate much on what you shared or the comments above but will focus on one point. The act of Mindfulness , I am glad you highlighted this and the Buddhist teachings. This one simple word is what I try to recenter to any time I feel I am straying out of bounds in any one area in my life. It appears you have this well in grasp to succeed

  29. This is exactly why I’ve been preaching that we need to save for the future and enjoy the present moment. Finding the right balance that works for you is so important.

  30. I’ve also struggled with the desire to speed time and jump to the end, which is really not healthy. It’s important to enjoy today and the journey. Milestone celebration is a great way to calm that desire to jump to ‘end’. And I’m with you on the NW monitoring. I’ve found no more than once a month. I’m actually considering going quarterly. It’s kind of silly to get upset or euphoric when you have a large change primarily driven by market volatility, which could quickly reverse either direction.

    • Wow, that’s amazing that you’re considering going to quarterly tracking! I don’t think we could go quite that far, but monthly is far better for us than weekly or daily! ;-)

  31. Such a great post !!! This article is such a great reminder. I got too excited about Financial Independence few years back. (I still have few years to get to FI). It was fun initially but got boring after a while. After being too frugal, I felt I was depriving myself. My wife and my son even complained that we are not having any fun any more. After I read The Mad Fientist, “How NOT to pursue Financial Independece”, I woke up. I could relate to that. Now, I have made some changes. I try to balance my life and have patience along the way….while enjoying the journey.
    Thank for the article… such a good reminder….

    • Thanks, Sonny! As I was reading the start of your comment, I thought: I should find him that Mad Fientist post on the same thing. But you already know it! ;-) So glad you’re on a better path that’s more sustainable for you guys!

  32. Really great post. It can be such a grind at times, and it’s so important to try and find the fire (no pun intended) that you first felt when you started the journey. Every day is special, and I’ve heard from many that the destination can be underwhelming if you don’t take time to create a healthy, balanced life along the journey. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks! I think hanging onto that fire exactly is hard, but maybe finding new fire as you go along? I know that’s what I strive for. ;-) And you need space to relax and think to feel that excitement, as we’ve learned the hard way!

  33. I had a similar feeling when I first started budgeting and tracking everything. I am young so I am still far away from full FI but I was so focused on getting there that I budgeted and tracked down to the dollar. I often denied myself little things, like buying my favorite popcorn at the grocery store in favor of saving $1.00. After a while I realized the happiness I got from the popcorn outweighed the work that dollar would do for me. Focus is important but perspective even more so.

    • I suspect we have all had those experiences, so at least you are not alone in denying yourself the popcorn. ;-) But thank goodness for your sake you figured it out quickly and found a better balance that will get you through the years of saving. ;-)

  34. Great post. Where this will really matter is in the next market decline. It’s a lot of fun to see the line go up like it has for the last several years. However as your investments increase,large market movements will dwarf your weekly and monthly contributions. Back in 2008, it was heart wrenching to watch my net worth in free-falll although I was pumping nearly 50% of my income into the market. Fortunately I have not had to weather such a downturn post-retirement, but it will happen eventually.

    • We are totally with you on this. Everyone is an expert when the markets are rosy, but one of these days, we’re going to see some heartbreak and devastation. We’re huge proponents of building in modest long-term expectations into any early retirement plan, and to pad budgets so that you can cut way back on spending if need be (we do both of these).

  35. what a great post! This is just what I need to read as I have recently set a goal to retire in five years and feeling like I can maintain a really tight budget to do that. I like your advice about not ‘overtracking’ and to still take holidays. really enjoying reading your experiences!

    • Thanks, Jan! We definitely burned ourselves out last year by saving too much too fast and not allowing ourselves time to decompress. So make sure to pace yourself and sprinkle in lots of self care along the way! ;-)

  36. I hear ya. We are moving to a better living situation for our family. Yeah, a better place to live! But. It costs more (but not too much). Whomp whomp.:) Sustainability is key.

  37. Love this! Self-care is so important on this journey in order to stay laser focused on the end goal. Even though maxing out my savings rate helped me get to my goal earlier, it also made me feel sometimes that I couldnt live so frugally forever. I needed to budget for the ‘special treats and trips’ once in a while.

    I also did a crazy year of intense work with lots of travelling, that got to me really fast. I dont recommend anyone to travel frequently for work as it really drains you mentally and physically.

    Thanks for sharing.