In a way, aspiring to financial independence is all about comfort.
Forgetting what the jam-packed commute feels like. Never having to deal with workplace politics again. Leaving all the money worries behind and spending the rest of your days in a state of pure bliss and relaxation.
Ain’t gonna miss this part of the day
If that doesn’t sound absolutely grand, I don’t know what does. That is, until you consider all the thorny patches on the road to this state of hedonistic nirvana.
The most obvious one is spending less than others. In a society where the majority of people are programmed to spend at least as much (if not more) than they make, putting a lid on your spending isn’t easy.
There are good reasons for it, too. Humans are social animals. Ever since we emerged as a species, social acceptance played a key role in our survival.
Just imagine getting kicked out of the cave for being “different”. That certainly didn’t increase anyone’s chances of making it through the night – and keeping their genes in the pool.
As a result, thousands of years down the road we are now coming off the assembly line with a default setting that causes us to mimic the behaviour of our “pack” to avoid a disastrous outcome.
It takes a lot of hard work and painful introspection to re-program the way our brains are designed to work. And the further up the food chain you are, the starker the comparison.
Some people just can’t bear to rock the iPhone 6 like I have been for the past five years. For others, flying commercial is an absolute deathblow to social ambitions (unless you can claim it’s all about climate change).
No matter how obnoxiously wealthy you may be, there’s always someone with a bigger yacht – or a prettier private island… tough life! And if you do manage to get your own psyche under control, you’ve then got to get your significant other on board too.
For many people, it’s a task akin to having to stare down Federer’s serve at love – forty, what with the ball boys, audience and umpire all squarely in his corner.
Making More Money
There is an alternative of course. Find some middle ground in terms of spending and focus on increasing your earnings instead.
But dig one level deeper and you’ll find that it’s not so straightforward either.
You can only work so many extra hours before you start sacrificing your sleep, health, and time wiht your family. Higher paid jobs come at the expense of incremental stress or straight-up physical injury.
When you do manage to squirrel some money away, you begin to agonize over the best way of putting it to work.
The stock market is never going back up again!
Index funds are a scam.
I’m telling you, this time it’s different… it’s the DEBT SUPERCYCLE that only happens once every 500 years.
My wife said she’ll kill me if I hold anything but cash.
In other words:
Even the most sanguine, balanced person will waver when faced with a barrage of information like that. I mean, it all sounds way out but what if?
Argh, life just doesn’t get any easier….
The Biggest Lie Of Them All
Having navigated the years of angst and emotional pressure, you’ve finally arrived.
The stash is there, ready to support you and your family into eternity. You’ve waved your cubicle goodbye, secretly enjoying the wistful looks your colleagues have given you on the way out.
Keys in the ignition, pedal to the metal, bring on the good life.
And then, after the initial honeymoon period, you suddenly realize that nothing has changed. Or rather, everything has changed but you haven’t.
You are struggling to overcome the mental barrier of switching from saving to spending.
The stock market still keeps you up at night… will the 4% rule really hold up? And if it doesn’t, does that mean you’ll have to go BACK to the cubicle?
Was leaving work a good decision in the first place? Why do the days feel so empty and devoid of purpose?
Chris Mamula from Can I Retire Yet? wrote this excellent post on what early retirement really feels like. And unlike the rose-tinted version we all paint in our minds just before drifting off to sleep, his is an unabashedly realistic one.
It’s totally worth a read – because there’s a very high likelihood you’ll experience many of the same issues Chris has. You better be prepared to work through them, line by line, if you want to finish off your FIRE journey on a high note.
The biggest financial independence lie we keep telling ourselves is that it will somehow make us happy. It won’t. You know what will? Operating outside of our comfort zone.
Best thing about it? You don’t even have to wait until financial independence to be happy.
In his most recent Sunday Best post, the Physician on FIRE has a very poignant piece on a colleague of his who passed away shortly after retiring early from medicine.
For those of you who view FIRE as an escape from the uncomfortable life, it’s a stark reminder that life is for living today, not in the distant future.
Imagine you only had ten more years to live. How about five? What about one?
No one knows how they would react in that situation, but something tells me the vast majority of us would immediately start doing things that are right for us.
Putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how unconventional the path may be. Having the tough conversations with your family. Leaving a job you hate behind for a more rewarding one.
Most importantly – ignoring what everyone else has to say along the way.
Facing our own mortality can be an incredibly powerful way of crystallizing a lifestyle we’ve been dreaming of… so why wait? Giddy up, strap yourself in and start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Chances are, you will soon find out that your journey is even more enjoyable than the destination itself.