Stop Being Miserable – Financial Independence Options
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How do you make it though the every day burden of going to work and doing the motions? Is one of the most common questions I’ve seen on the Reddit Financial Independence community. I still have moments where I question that too, but it’s gotten a lot easier after making it through the first year of seeking FIRE. The first year required a lot of focus and learning. I didn’t know an index fund from a mutual fund, but eventually I caught on to it all (or at least more than the average investor). Eventually, my financial life went on autopilot, and I had time to start searching for answers to that question. Consider the path to financial independence options, and recreating someone else’s journey likely isn’t the best path for you. So now, in light of the Equifax breach:
After Freezing Your Credit Make Sure you also haven’t Frozen your Life
What is the point of reaching financial independence if you don’t take time to enjoy the simple path? Sometimes pursuing FIRE (un)intentionally puts your current life on hold. You sacrifice today to save oodles of money for tomorrow. But you need to find your lifestyle balance and not cut costs too dramatically. Your path is unique, and copying someone else’s journey will not lead to happiness for you. Yes, increasing your savings rate helps move your FI date closer, but you don’t want to spend your life counting down days. That’s just wishing your life away!
I will caveat, there are times when you need to not spend to protect your future self – like when you are paying off debt. (And I will never advocate for crazy shopping sprees or mindless spending.) But mindful spending helps to provide balance.
The recent Equifax debacle has the topic of freezing credit on many people’s minds. And while I’d love to see our social security card system revamped to be more secure, that probably won’t happen soon. But other’s have written on freezing their credit, so that’s not our focus here. I want to talk about:
Not freezing your present day in sacrifice for the future!
Evaluating your spending is valuable regardless of if you are seeking FIRE. Consumerism runs rampant, the Today Show featured an $8,000 doll house you can purchase for you child for Christmas last week! That’s more than we paid for one of our cars! Ugh, who buys that stuff? And the dolls were terrifying.
Wherever you stand on your path to FI, it’s good to occasionally evaluate your spending and adjust. But those cuts often get too drastic. What is the point of reaching financial independence if you don’t take time to enjoy the simple path?
Finding Happiness While in the Saving or Debt Repayment Stage
The question that I constantly see running through the FI community (from the people not yet FI) is how to I suffer through the every day to reach FI? What magic do you implement that helps to prevent misery and office space monotony?
Our household is constantly cycling through those thoughts, and have cut unnecessary expenses to reduce our required nest egg for FIRE by almost $400,000. However, we are still about three years shy of our FI savings target. Queue the dreary music.
Right now I want you to pause. Take a deep breath. Center yourself.
How often do you take ten seconds and actually pause throughout the day? I know I’m constantly writing to do lists, multitasking, on social media, and running around like a chicken with my head cut off.
I write about living more simply, but recognize how challenging this is to practice. Life is distracting.
You may be wondering: How to make it through the misery?
Before doing anything drastic, pause, and do that deep breathing thing weirdos are always recommending. Then take out a pen and write down your answers to these questions (or just think about it, but writing will seriously help!):
- What is so miserable about your current situation?
- What do you enjoy about your job?
- What can you control?
- Can you make a small change at work to improve your stress/annoyance levels?
- Would a new job help alleviate this burden?
- Do you have any vacation time saved up?
- When was your last vacation where you ignored work?
If you haven’t taken any time off work in the recent past (and actually ignored that smart phone buzzing with emails), then take a week of vacation. For some of you that may require international travel (I required that our honeymoon involved us going international so work couldn’t reach us, thus we went to the exotic locale of British Columbia, Canada).
I actually most recommend taking a week off and staying home. Plan ahead, think about how you would spend your average day on the RE side of FIRE. Write out a list, but leave time for relaxing (since that’s part of the RE plan) (I said I like lists, right?!). Then spend those five days glorious vacation days and live like you are retired. If you have kids, leave them in daycare or school and take those hours for you. Then reflect on the week:
- How did that feel?
- Were you surprised by anything?
- What have you learned this week that you can incorporate into your everyday life?
- Did you remember any passions or projects that would be worth pursuing?
- Is there a job that fits your interests better than what you have now?
- What can you change about your current job to alleviate the misery?
You may be surprised by how much of that you can carry through your every day life. Take this time and write down those answers before going back to work. I know I quickly got swooped up in the stress of the office after taking my staycation in July.
Options that Saving Creates
Saving money helps to create options for building a life that present and future you will enjoy. If you are miserable every day, chances are a better path exists. Even though the FIRE blogger community loves this one:
Continue the grind and work until you are fully financially independent –
All chose this path to FI, this is the popular option. And a safe option. Also note that all these people are making additional money in “retirement,” which is great. When I first discovered FI I assumed I would be one of those hardcore RE people, but after taking a few staycations I realized that I will always be hustling in some respect. Maybe I won’t be paid, but I will at least be regularly contributing in a way that *could* come with financial compensation.
There are financial independence options other than the typical path of working until the 4% rule can be employed.
Part time at current job –
Recognize that you will likely earn money again, and exit the workforce before your savings allow for the 4% Rule. This is a riskier option, and the FIRE community doesn’t enjoy taking giant risks. But this may be the option for you, since after the burnout wears off you will likely find a new job that will pay the bills, but not enough to really save much. Heck, you may develop a hustle that pays the bills quite well.
- Slowly Sipping Coffee (at least one member of the family doesn’t stress too much about the cFIREsim results)
- FIERY Millennial
Opt for a Mini-Retirement or Sabbatical. If you increase your cash savings so you aren’t drawing down on retirement savings this may be just what you need to rediscover your passions and find a more fulfilling job.
Racing to the finish line isn’t the only option, and others have charted out different paths! You may be due for some time for reflection again if you are constantly miserable on your path to FIRE. Personal finance is personal, so what worked for someone else isn’t necessarily the best path for you! Consider your financial independence options.
Have you tried out a mini-retirement? Switched over to a hustle instead of a typical W2? Should I add any others to the lists above? Please let me know and comment!