Attending a business retreat in the spring during which I was largely disconnected from social media and email was the BEST thing I could have done for myself (and it was at the perfect time for where I was personally and professionally). Any later and I’d be far down the path of doing something potentially expensive and time consuming.
At this retreat, there were folks who were financially independent and were no closer to figuring out who they wanted to be when they grow up than I imagine they were before they reached FI. If they can’t figure it out being financially independent for months or years already, the chances of me figuring it out when I hit FIRE are also slim. I don’t want to hit some financial goal without a plan, a future, goals, or value to bring to the world. I also don’t want loads and loads of free time because I’ll go nuts.
Why work long hours in this relentless pursuit of financial independence/early retirement when FIRE doesn’t describe what I want?!
I’m not getting any younger over here, so I’m selling valuable time in which I have great health, a great relationship, and good knees to pursue FIRE. I’d rather these knees feel the pain of hiking than the discomfort of sitting for too long at a desk; I seek better balance between work and life because I work.
(Note that I’m looking to work with one six-figure blogger looking to grow to seven figures in a different kind of arrangement than hourly consulting work. Contact me if that’s you!)
Working toward FIRE is also an expensive proposition.
Sell my 30s and 40s for some financial goal and then BAM! A life-threatening illness wipes out my good health. Would someone hire me at 50 with health problems? What’s the point of having a bunch of money if you can’t enjoy it?
To be honest, I can’t even think that far ahead. I plan for a couple of years and no more. I’m not guaranteed anything beyond today, so why bother with five-year plans?
Know we’ve taken some steps to protect ourselves by securing insurance products of all sorts, so I’m not being completely reckless.
And we have a fully-funded emergency account and a solvent business. I’m not making hundreds of thousands each year, but I make enough to pay our expenses and then some.
What kinds of goals would I establish instead of FIRE?
First, I can’t focus solely on our own financial goals — seems selfish. I have valuable skills to offer the world and I didn’t fully appreciate that. I lacked confidence and ambition. I want to reach more people with my mission. Plus, our business is a conduit for other businesses. When we work together, we grow together.
Second, I want to improve my relationships. I’m so caught up in the financial stuff that personal stuff goes by the wayside.
Third, I want to improve my health and fitness. I go hard for awhile and then quit. Wash, rinse, repeat. Forming good habits is a good idea. Just do the same thing each day. Reduces decision fatigue. I’m starting today by trying to eliminate this chronic insomnia I’ve experienced for the last several months.
Fourth, I’m ready to travel and connect with other cultures. I want to reconnect with history and travel and culture and archaeology.
What gives with all this discontent?
The year after graduating from college was amazing. I had a job I loved, great work-life balance, and lots of paid time off. I had the ability to take off a month to do a field school and return refreshed with a better perspective of the world. I was running and kickboxing, things I love to do. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it was just right for me. I may not have been financially independent, but I was happy and fulfilling my reason for being.
We may not have reached the point we can live off dividends and sip mojitos on Caribbean beaches and I’m OK with that. I’m 99.9% sure that I if I were sitting on a beach in the Caribbean, I’d wonder what I was supposed to do next with my life to fulfill my reason for being.
FIRE alone isn’t the answer because it lacks purpose. I think I’ve been making it out to be more than just the financial security blanket that it is.
I don’t know that FIRE makes sense, but I don’t have another goal or another framework for thinking about life and money to replace it with and that’s a scary place to be in because I run the risk of being aimless once again like I was a few years ago when we weren’t doing anything with our lives, when the debt was piled up, when we were directionless.
It’s one thing to imagine what FIRE could be like. It’s another to be in a community full of FI people and see where and when they struggle with bigger questions of life, like purpose and meaning, when the struggle to earn a living is gone — the “earning a living” provides a purpose and meaning and I don’t want to lose that. It’s time to focus on that fully-funded lifestyle change.