After pursuing FI for a couple of years, I find myself in a place where I may not actually reach FI any earlier than the traditional age, 65. Life has led me down a road where my savings rate isn't quite what it used to be. But, I'm okay with it! And, I've found so many benefits of choosing FI along the way.
If I had to do it again knowing that I'd never actually retire early, I'd still be on the path that I'm on. And, I believe that anyone should choose FI, even if they can't retire early. Here's why…
I believe many who start the path to early retirement may have been on a path that didn't even lead to traditional retirement. It's so easy to get caught up in life and spend all that hard-earned money without even thinking, but we've only really got about 40 or so years in our careers.
Once marriage and kids come along, it may or may not be as easy to save money and plan for the future. For me, I was decent at saving, but it didn't have a purpose. It usually went to buying a new car or filling up my apartment with stuff I'd later replace.
Pursuing FI makes us more aware of our finances. In tracking what it would take to retire early, it makes us aware of what it would at least take to retire traditionally. I've found that even though I may or may not retire any earlier than 65, I know that my path at least will let me retire at 65.
Sure, I'd much rather be out earlier! But, every step I take towards FI is a step I might not have taken at all, if I hadn't found FI.
Related: How To Calculate Your Savings Rate
Freedom Of Career
In pursuing FI, it's only natural to strive for living on the lowest budget possible. I found that once I knew I could live on this lower budget, it opened up more doors for me as far as work. I was offered a lower paying job about two years into our marriage.
After a lot of talking and considering with my wife, she encouraged me to go for it and it's been great. While I may not retire as early, I'm okay with it because I've found work where I'm fulfilling a purpose and doing something great with my life.
If you're pursuing FI, don't get too narrow of a vision and stay stuck in a job you hate! If you know what you can live on, and have a good nest egg started, feel free to take a more meaningful job. Don't be reckless and ruin your chances of traditional retirement. But, why work for 10 years in a job you hate so you can retire early when you can work 20-30 years in a job you love?
Find A Passion Project
My wife hated her job even more than I did. Not only was the job terrible, but she also spent three hours a day on the Seoul subway system during rush hour.
It really wasn't a good time for her. But, now knowing what we can live on, it's given her freedom to fail at a side-hustle that she's been wanting to do! She went to school for art but never got to pursue it after graduating because she got pulled into the rat race.
Once we were at a place where she could quit, she did. Then, she started an Etsy shop with her spare time! She still works part-time to help with our monthly expenses, but her passion is in her art. It may or may not produce enough income to support us, but it doesn't matter. She has that freedom because it's above and beyond what we need to do.
If you've got a passion project or something you want to pursue, do it! Do it in your spare time after work. If your spouse is working, talk to them about living on one income so you can pursue it. It may take off and end up supporting you both. Or, maybe it won't, but you'll learn a ton from it in the process that will maybe help for your next side-hustle.
Your savings rate might suffer a bit, but isn't it all about pursuing happiness anyway?
We set a rule in our house. We don't buy it unless we love it. Especially when we're shopping for clothing or things for the house. We question each other, “Do you love it?” If the answer isn't “yes”, then we don't buy it. Sometimes we even hold that we both need to love it. If I buy a pair of shoes that she turns her nose at, is it really money well spent?
Just being aware of your budget, you'll spend more intentionally. You'll probably find more value in certain areas, like buying experiences rather than stuff. You might find you enjoy having friends over for dinner is actually more fun than going out to eat. Or you find that a new shirt quickly becomes an old shirt and that you'd rather save that money.
Intentional Spending makes you aware of the opportunity cost in your budget.
There's nothing like a common dream to bring two people together. If your spouse isn't on board yet, slow down and figure that out first. Because when you share that dream and work together towards the goal, you're unstoppable.
That first budget may be frustrating. The second and third ones might only be slightly better. But, if you can find a dream and a goal to strive for, it will continually get easier and easier.
Take some time to dream together with your spouse. Why are you pursuing FI? What will you do once you reach FI? What are some ways that you can enjoy the journey together while still reaching your FI goals? Once you reach FI, you'll have a lot more time with your spouse. So, take time now to build that relationship so you can enjoy all that time together!
What if you could never retire?
Joshua Sheets of Radical Personal Finance asks two great questions. What would you be doing if you knew you could never retire? And, what would you be doing if you reached financial independence today? Somewhere between those two questions is a great place to be. You may or may not get there as early as your calculations are showing. So, make sure you're enjoying the ride.
- Is It Ever Too Late To Start My FI Journey
- Starting Late But Retiring Rich: The Story Of Stephen And Becky