When you first discover the financial independence community and a path that’s different from the mainstream, it might feel like a thunderclap that wakes you from a long sleep. For others, discovering this path was simply putting a name and community to something they’ve identified with for a long time. If you fall in the first category, and FI has given you a new zest for life, you might find yourself searching for a new normal and a place to belong.
At times, some people find the path to FI to be a lonely place, especially if they’ve just gotten started. Getting on the path to FI can spark some serious changes to how you spend your money and your time. In other ways, you might feel wholly isolated from your existing peer group and even some family members.
If that’s you, and you’re feeling isolated and lonely on your path to FI, I hope this article helps you, since we’ve all been there from time to time. Luckily, with a bit of effort, it gets better and you can find your new (FI!) normal soon!
When You Feel Lonely With Your Existing Peers
Feeling completely alone within your existing relationships can be the worst feeling. You’re really excited about this new path you’re on, and you feel you can’t talk about it to anyone you know. You may feel disconnected or distracted at your typical social engagements or you may even feel you’re hiding a big part of your life from those you love.
With your existing friends and family, it’s up to you to decide if you want to disclose your quest for financial independence. It’s important to examine why or why not you’d be comfortable doing so and decide where to go from there.
Likely, you may have a good reason for not wanting to share that you’re shaving 5-10 years off of your retirement date, or, that you no longer find the hamster wheel as appealing as it used to be. If that’s you, there’s no shame in keeping that part of your life to yourself.
You Can’t Change Everyone Simply Because You’ve Changed
Loneliness can sometimes stem from feeling like you have a huge secret you’re hiding, or even a feeling of obligation to share what you’ve learned to change those around you. Is your loneliness stemming from a need to save people from themselves?
Sometimes taking away the need to change other people makes your path to FI feel less isolating. A quick reframe if you don’t want to share some, or all of your financial outlook and process with people, might take the pressure off and help you maintain existing social connections.
Not every friendship is forever, nor is one connection meant to be “everything” and that is okay. Some connections come and go, while others serve a specific purpose. You can reframe your connections as fitting a specific need (like a work relationship) and recognize what your other social needs are and pursue those separately.
When You Feel Lonely Because You Have No True Peers
You may be completely fine with your existing social circles, but feel that you need an outlet of like-minded peers to learn from and engage with.
As you begin to plot a way forward, you’ll need to put feelers out there to build new relationships and it may take some time. Unlike our childhood days of meeting friends on the playground, making friends as an adult, FI or otherwise, takes more effort than saying hello at the monkey bars.
The ChooseFI Facebook Group and connecting with whatever local ChooseFI group is in your area is a great way to foster connections. Of course, the real dividends pay out when you can make connections in person and meet up in real life–so don’t hide behind your keyboard if you’re feeling lonely!
You also might have luck on Meetup.com or signing up to volunteer with a local charity. You’d be surprised that even if new activities and relationships aren’t necessarily “FI” you might find fulfillment and community with fellow knitters, hikers, volunteers, and dog lovers.
Related: How to Start Commuting By Bicycle
If attending an in-person group feels weird to you, try socializing online first–but push yourself after some time to take the plunge.
Making connections doesn’t have to cost money, and even if you don't hit a home-run with a FI meet-up in your area, finding new groups with common interests and taking the connections offline could help. Over time, you may feel the loneliness on the path to FI subsides simply because you’ve been able to fill your life with the right people, even if they aren’t necessarily fellow FI’ers.
When You Feel Lonely With Your Partner Or Spouse
If your significant other isn’t aligned with your choice to work towards FI, or they’re readily ambivalent or dismissive about your FI goals, it can be a lonely place indeed. While we’ve talked on the blog about how to get your spouse on board with FI, the process can still feel a bit lonely.
One helpful tip to bridge the FI gap between you and your partner is to invite them to participate, without judgment. Many of us have made the mistake of diving head first into FI, and expect our partners to catch up instantaneously. We simply take them along for the ride, not realizing we’ve not given them a chance to decide if and how they can contribute to the journey–which can be isolating for both parties.
If you’re feeling adrift, they also may be pulling away because they're afraid that making different financial choices might alienate them from their existing social circles. Exploring and addressing their concerns might be illuminating, and committing to budgeting for activities that aren’t “FI aligned,” but ease their fears might mean everyone’s happy with the result.
Make strides to help them maintain their identity while bridging the gap to a new one. Attend their events, without groaning, and invite them to do the same for yours. If there’s a FI meet-up near you, or you want to start doing “budget nights,” know you may need to reciprocate to level the playing field so nobody feels left out!
There seems to be a misconception that people don’t have to work at developing relationships, but just like everything else, it takes some time and effort to develop and maintain. You may fumble around for a bit to find your tribe, but with some effort, you’ll be rewarded with a new sense of connection, FI or otherwise!