How NOT To Pursue Financial Independence
You wouldn’t think there’s a right or wrong way to pursue financial independence (FI), but I definitely did it wrong.
Hopefully you can learn from my story and not make the same mistakes I did.
While Mr. Frugalwoods and I enjoy/attempt to survive our first few months as parents to our daughter, Babywoods, I have a delightful slate of guest posts from my friends lined up for your reading pleasure. Today, please welcome the fabulous Mad Fientist!
By: The Mad Fientist
It all began back in 2011 when I stumbled on EarlyRetirementExtreme.com (ERE).
Until that point, I had been a good saver but I wasn’t really saving for anything in particular. I just liked the idea of having a big portfolio to manage and I was naturally frugal so saving money was easy for me.
However, when I read ERE and realized that I could save really hard for a few more years and then never have to work again, that changed everything. I instantly ramped up my savings rate to an extreme level and started trying to figure out ways to reach financial independence even sooner.
Around this time, I started my site because I hoped it would be a source of external motivation that would force me to do research, read tax documents, and develop strategies that could help me retire even earlier. I also started the Financial Independence Podcast around the same time, so that I had an excuse to talk to intelligent people like Mr. Money Mustache and the Frugalwoods to find out their strategies for pursuing financial independence.
At this point, things were going great and I was extremely motivated and excited for the future.
Sadly though, things started to go downhill from here.
As I became increasingly obsessed with optimizing my path to financial independence, I started sacrificing my happiness in order to bring my FI date closer.
During this time, my wife and I were living in a small house in rural Vermont (too bad the Frugalwoods weren’t there yet!) and as my focus on FI increased, so did our isolation. When I wasn’t at work, I just wanted to stay in the house and research financial strategies to avoid spending any money.
Like Mrs. Frugalwoods, I also decided to get a free graduate degree around this time so I definitely had plenty to keep me busy in the house, but none of it was particularly enjoyable.
The increasing isolation made me feel worse and the worse I started to feel, the less I wanted to go out so it became an increasingly difficult spiral to escape from.
My poor wife, who is originally from Scotland and was therefore thousands of miles from her friends and family, was stuck in the middle of the woods with someone who didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere so she became unhappier right alongside me.
Although I realized I wasn’t happy, I just figured that I’d be happy once I achieved financial independence so I wasn’t too concerned and didn’t do anything to improve the situation.
When I eventually hit the financial independence number I had been pursuing so intensely, however, I didn’t feel any happier!
In fact, I was even less happy because the happiness I expected to come when I reached my financial independence goal was nowhere to be found.
Looking back, it’s obvious that an extra $1 in my bank account wasn’t going to solve all my problems, but it surprised me back then.
It wasn’t until my wife sat me down and explained how bad everything had gotten that I realized the problem was much bigger than I had thought.
We knew we had to make some drastic changes to get our lives back to normal. The first step we took was to end our self-imposed isolation and move closer to friends and family. We put our house on the market and then eventually moved back to Scotland even before it sold.
Since I had already hit my FI number, I also began spending money more freely and tried to stop putting off my present happiness for the hope of happiness in the future.
After working at it for a while and making some major changes, I’m pleased to say that we emerged from the dark fog we had been living in and we’re now both happier than ever!
What Should You Do Instead?
So it’s obvious my path to FI wasn’t perfect, but there is one thing I did right that I wish I had done more of:
Use the power that money provides to make positive lifestyle changes while on the path to financial independence
I can now see that this is the real magic of pursuing financial independence. If I have one piece of advice, it’s to focus less on the end goal and focus more on using the power you gain along the way to improve your life.
How can you do that?
Stop Doing Things That Make You Unhappy
Humans are awful at predicting what will make us happier, but it’s obvious what makes us unhappier, so use the power your savings provides to remove the things from your life that make you unhappy.
The great thing about this is, you don’t even have to wait until you have a lot of money to start doing this.
Back when I was still years away from FI, I used the power I gained from being on the path to FI to drastically improve my work life.
As a professional software developer, the two normal career paths you can take are to either work your way into a managerial role (e.g. Project Manager) or a higher-level developer role (e.g. Software Architect).
Neither of these options were appealing to me, however, because writing code was what I liked best about my job but both of those roles would decrease the amount of coding I was responsible for doing.
Climbing the corporate ladder is what everyone does though so before I got on the FI path, I figured that’s what I needed to do too. I used to volunteer for lots of random, boring tasks in order to impress my bosses in hopes they would give me a promotion.
Once FI became my goal, I realized I was already making good money and would be able to reach financial independence in a few short years anyway so why bother getting promoted to a less-fun job?
This was a huge mindset shift and allowed me to greatly increase the quality of my work life because from then on, I only did things that were completely necessary or that I enjoyed doing and I became happier as a result.
Around this time, I also stopped worrying about what everyone else thought of me. Since I wasn’t gunning for a promotion and wasn’t concerned about getting fired, I just did my best and tried to be helpful but I didn’t kiss anybody’s ass or worry about stepping on anyone’s toes.
Surprisingly, this actually resulted in increased respect from my bosses and colleagues because I was able to speak honestly and give my opinions on things when everyone else was too scared to speak up.
Take More Risks
When you have enough saved up that you could survive without a job for a while, you can start taking even more risks in your career.
I’ve had three jobs since college and in each of them, I tried to negotiate bigger raises than the standard 2-3% they offered every year. But, anytime I presented my boss with reasons why I deserved to earn more, I would get lots of excuses about how times were tight and how my salary was competitive, etc. I would sometimes eke out an extra percent or two during these negotiations, but it was usually barely worth the hassle.
Want to know what happened when I handed in my resignation at my first job? I was offered a 20%+ raise and given the ability to work remotely!
Guess what happened when I left my second job: I was offered over 50% more than I was previously earning and I was able to telecommute again!
When I told my current employer I was moving to Scotland, I was again asked to stay on remotely. Now I do the same job I used to do in the office, but I have total freedom because I’m on a completely separate continent!
All the things I hated about my job (commuting, endless meetings, being trapped from 9 to 5, having to ask for permission to run errands, etc.) are now gone but the things I enjoy (e.g. programming, getting a paycheck, etc.) still remain. Ironically, even though I’m now able to quit, there’s no rush to quit anymore because I actually like my job!
If only I had gotten into this state years earlier, I would have been much happier and wouldn’t have been in such a big rush to hit my FI number.
The lesson here is that the power of quitting is much greater than you probably imagine (assuming you’re good at your job!) so you should utilize it often on your journey to financial independence. It could not only help you reach your financial goals sooner but it could also increase your happiness during the journey itself.
If you still have a few years until FI and aren’t happy with your current job, use your secure financial position to either find a better job or negotiate improved conditions at your current one!
Make More Demands
Since I’ve hit my FI target already and am enjoying my current work situation, I have no desire to go out and look for another job at this stage. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped using the power that my FI savings provides me.
Last year, my wife and I wanted to travel through Southeast Asia for a few months, but I didn’t have enough vacation time to cover the entire trip. Rather than delay our trip until after FI (like I would have done early in my journey), I just told my bosses that I was taking a few months of unpaid leave to travel! They didn’t like that I was gone for a few months but since I didn’t give them any other options, they accepted it and we had a great time traveling around Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia.
Having my FI savings in the bank gave me the power and confidence to make such a ridiculous request. You should think about all the ways you could make your job and life better and then just ask for it! The worst they can do is say no so there’s no harm in trying.
Don’t put off happiness until after FI.
As I learned, a number in your bank account isn’t going to make you happy; it’s the lifestyle that the money allows you to live that determines your happiness.
Use the power that your high net worth gives you and start making meaningful changes while you’re still on the path to FI so that by the time you reach your target, life will be so good that you may not even notice that you’ve crossed the finish line :).
What strategies do you use to ensure happiness while working towards a huge goal?
Never Miss A Story
Sign up to get new Frugalwoods stories in your email inbox.
I have to fight this instinct most of the time. I can get so laser focused on a goal that I forget to spend time doing things that I would enjoy much more in the short term. Luckily (albeit sometimes frustratingly to the goal-monster inside of me), Mr PoP does not operate that way at all. “Goals are great, but I’m not going to stop living the way I want to in order to reach them” is more his MO. And so he balances me out. It’s a good mix, really.
Mrs. PoP, nice to hear from you again! You guys making it to San Diego for FinCon this year? It’s been way too long (and I still haven’t met Mr. PoP yet)!
No plans for San Diego at the moment – but we’ll definitely be in Omaha in April for the BRK Annual Meeting with the 1500s if you’re up for it! Whatever happened to your FL trip that I thought was supposed to happen in 2015? Did you not make it far enough south?
Sadly we won’t be making it back to the States until May but hopefully the 1500s can talk you guys into traveling out to San Diego!
We did visit Florida but not for as long as we had planned so we just visited my family while we were there. I’ll let you know if we plan a longer trip down there at some point though!
Yes, this hits home with me as well, I can read my current situation in MadFientist’s “Dark times”. I need to talk to my wife to assess her level of happiness. The good news is, we’re already discussing plans to change things and move closer to her family in about a year.
This is very good advice, in fact the best advice I have read along so far, at the moment I am a bit obsessed with saving/optimizing in order to go on retirement a few years earlier (too old for really extreme early retirement), my mother has always lived very frugal and managed to save a lot, she is now almost 80 and suffering from alzheimer dementia, still living at home with help from social services and me, it makes me feel so bitter at times to see other elderly people that are fit and cycling around and having a great time and to see how my mum deteriorates every month, I wish she had not been so frugal and had spent more money on herself on things that would have made her happy at a time she could have enjoyed it,
so I must be careful and find the right balance and not become too obsessed with piling up money.
Great post, thank you! There is really a difference between miserly living and living a rich life with little money.
Very sorry to hear about your mother but glad her experiences have at least helped you find a better balance.
As the Frugalwoods show, you can really save a lot of money and still live a great life at the same time so it’s not worth going overboard like I did just to hit FI a little bit earlier.
Bless you for keeping your Mother at home. It is difficult but rewarding. In your comment you say “still living at home with help from social services and me” – I know that me should be capitalized and underlined.
Oh my god, this post spoke volumes to me! Since starting on my FI journey, I did the EXACT same thing with my career. A few months back I walked into my boss and told her I really don’t like being a project manager, which is the side stuff in my job that everyone takes on to get promoted. I told her I wanted to focus all of my energy on doing microbiological and biochemical work, because that is what truly makes me happy. And, like you, I make a pretty good salary doing the job I actually like, so why bother taking on additional responsibility to get a job I wouldn’t like?! Mission accomplished. That meeting was the FIRST time I felt the power that FI will afford me. Also like you, I’m not so sure I will rush to quit my job when I reach my goals. I do actually like it. I really am striving for the OPTION to quit. That will make all the difference.
Mrs. Mad Money Monster
Great stuff, M^4! I bet your boss thinks more highly of you now and respects you for turning down the promotion so that you can focus on the more important work.
It’s amazing how having the option to quit improves your attitude to your job so I bet you’ll like it even more when you hit FI!
What an important piece you’ve written! We really do not want to sacrifice everything we value for an FI finish line, so we’ve been striving to increase our “financial flexibility” instead. It’s the same as the concept of gaining and flexing your power that you’re describing. We also believe that certain FI endeavors, like generosity, volunteering, and time with friends, shouldn’t be delayed, but enjoyed all along the way. Great post!
We are currently pursuing financial independence, but we do stop to live a little along the way. Our kids are only young once, and I’m not going to spend their entire childhoods counting every penny we make. Our financial independence journey relies on making a lot more money than we need so I can afford a fun life for my family while also saving a large percentage of our incomes.
All about finding that balance. When focused on paying off our debt we still had to work in some free or low cost fun things to do, if we didn’t the goal became more of a chore and would have been more difficult to complete.
That is really great advice. My husband and I talked about FI earlier, but have decided age 55 will be ok for us because we want to balance happiness now with the future. This has allowed me to work for myself and have flexible hours etc. I think for us, it is the best of both world!
What’s up MadFIentist?! 🙂
I love how you told your employer “hey, check it, I’m bumming around SE Asia for a few months. No need to pay me, and I’ll see you when I get back, k?” #thingsFIpeoplesay
FIRE is just as much a mindset and philosophy as it is a financial plan. Having the cash in the bank opens up so many doors!
Haha, I need you to write all of my work emails from now on!
That’s why I left work. No more work emails 🙂
love the hashtag.. haha.
I definitely concur with the post. As cliche as it is, its good to enjoy the ride and not only think about the destination.
Such a truth that humans are “awful at predicting on what will make us happier.” We are horrible at that. Enjoy the now while preparing for the future.
Keep up the good posts!
I used to be that way. As a social worker I do not make even half the salary of most people in the online FI community. Plus, I’m single. I knew I had very little chance of reaching FI unless I lived a really depraved lifestyle. So I tried it. Ironically it was realizing that even with that lifestyle I would probably still not reach FI that freed me. If I’m going to be working for the long haul then I want to actually enjoy life while I do. I’m still Frugal, but I let myself ext 3 times a day if I get hungry, and do things that increase my health, even if they cost money. I’m so much happier since removing FI as a goal.
Miranda, I agree. so many people in the FI community are highly paid software developers, in real estate or finance or other highly compensated positions. We, who work for state jobs, as social workers or other type of service don’t make nearly as much money as those in those jobs and tightening the belt to save for ER can feel like deprivation.
I could tell my state job I was going to quit and even though I am a valued employee, they would still say “see ya” if I said I was quitting.
State salaries only get a raise when the General Assembly decrees such and you only get what they decree (usually 2%) and not one penny more. In addition, you don’t get raise increments based on merit but simply on length of service. SO you could be a go-getter who produces like mad but working for less than 5 years and you would get less of a raise than someone half-asleep and coasting to retirement after 25 years of work.
This is one reason I am pursuing independent skills education such as web design; I want to work for myself after I leave this job.
Thank you for your comment, I am in the same boat. I am always looking for ways to be frugal within my lifestyle, but complete deprivation isn’t one. I like to go to a concert once or twice a year, or see a movie with a friend, or buy dinner out for my mom and dad instead of making them pick up the tab. I’m not doing this all the time, these are once or twice a year events so they become even more special.
And If I handed in my resignation from my job, they’d be like “SEE YA! Don’t let the door hit you!” I would love to do what makes me happy, but sometimes you just gotta do what pays the bills and be happy with that. I would love to be in a position where a job needed me so badly like this author’s job did, but I don’t think that’s a reality for a lot of people. I think a lot of people in the FI community are very privileged, and it’s a combination of that and opportunity that affords them this goal.
I will say that I love my job, and I’m blessed to see the positive impact it has on an almost daily basis. I’d rather do something I love for less money than toil away at a job I dislike for years to bulk up my savings.
Such a great point you make here. Life is short, and balance is critical. Congrats on achieving your FI goal!
Nice! I think my husband and I are starting to feel like we need to make some changes too! We are a couple years from FI, but I particularly have little job satisfaction – I trade time for money living in a city whose weather I abhor. We’ve been talking the last month or so about maybe making some changes sooner – it isn’t like either of us just want to never work again when we hit FI – we just want to be free to do work that inspires us and we are passionate about. Its hard to give up cushy jobs though – so we will slog on for a little while longer raking in nice paychecks – but I know suspect that we pursue a new lifestyle before we FI. It may be scary, but change can be good!
Big changes are definitely scary and difficult but the best things in my life have always been preceded by scary or difficult decisions so I say go for it (especially since you don’t plan to stop working right after you hit FI)!
I am definitely in that spot where I feel like I am trading money for time and nothing more. I keep thinking that while we are only a few years away from FI, maybe we have saved enough to let ourselves make a lifestyle change sooner than later – it isn’t like either of us really want to ‘retire’ in a few years, we just want to pursue lower paying jobs that we can be passionate about without worrying about our long-term financial situation
Wow – This is a fantastic article. I think you really summed things up nicely and hit the nail on the head when it comes to living a balanced lifestyle and still come out ahead of the game with money. I am new to this, reading frugal blogs, trying to keep an understanding open mind to a new way of approaching living and saving. But I find most if not all to be overly drastic or obsessive in the opposite direction of spending and missing a key point with being able to still enjoy life. I could be very immature right now in this area. I think the key here may be the IDEA of what happiness is for each individual and it is all about our own opinion. I think when savings and spending are more in line with our Values and goals we create, develop and follow each day in our life happiness can be more fore filling. My wife and I are at that point in our lives that we are identifying all these areas we are spending way to much on that add no value to us reaching our savings goals or increasing our long term happiness. The spending short term in the moment was great but looking back it did not create memories or provide lasting happiness, only regretted behavior. This blind spending is not allowing us to reach our long term savings goals to become financially free and independence. Thanks for this contribution!
wow I love this post! So many good lessons to be learned here. I think FI has become sort of a competition, but it does’t have to be that way. No two people are going to live their life the same way. When I recently almost doubled my income, my first inclination was to just save save save and live like hermit until I can (hopefully) retire early-I’m a little older. But in the meantime I could see the writing on the wall that I would be allowing myself NO fun, not wants ever…wait…I don’t want to live that way. It wasn’t until my financial coach gave me permission that I could see that it was ok to spend…as long as it aligned with myself and my values. No two situations will ever look the same. Great post!
As I was reading this article, I was asking to myself are these our friends who also lived in VT on a large piece of land, he had constant work struggles, unhappiness, the wife was Scottish, and they too eventually sold their farm and moved to Scotland where he works remotely? However, the people I know have a child, I don’t believe have reached FI, and SE Asia would have been their New Zealand trip. Ha! What similarities! The Scottish wives would have been friends I bet! With that said, what a great article. So many times I think I’ll just relax more in ER, I’ll be happier in ER because I’m not so busy and being pulled in all directions, I’ll finally clean and organize my house in ER, etc. But that life needs to be right now! How true!
Haha, that’s crazy we have a doppelgänger couple out there somewhere in the world.
It’s possible our wives were actually friends because that’s happened before. A reader of my blog got in touch and said that his wife was Scottish and it turned out she went to the same school as my wife (she was just two years younger)!
…aaaaand here is that reader :))) It’s amazing how small the world is!
When you feel like you should do/ask/say something, you should just do it. Amazing things can happen 🙂 Although I sometimes open my mouth when I souldn’t and I get in trouble 🙂
Haha, nice of you to stop by! I was hoping you’d see that comment 🙂
We’re so pumped about our trip out to Stuttgart to see you guys! Not long now!
Looking forward to show you our city and spend some quality time with you! The pálinka bottles are ready!
I had this exact conversation with Mrs. SSC last night. Mainly, that if she is currently unhappy and unsatisfied with work, we are in a position that she can leave it for something to be happier. I suggested the rainbow umbrella book, and making lists of what makes her unhappy, and what she feels happiest doing. Since she wants to feel like she’s doing something to help people and make the world better, I suggested defining that, so we could start figuring out what jobs or opportunities are out there outside the box of academia, and oil and gas.
Having enough money saved that things would be fine if we both were out of work, is amazingly freeing. I like my work now, and am not trying at all to get moved into managerial roles, because I like the role I’m in, and the work I do. Since she doesn’t, then we’re working on how to get her happy before we hit our 100% FI number, because no one is guaranteed any amount of time here on earth, so why spend it being unhappy if you have the freedom to change it.
Absolutely! Sounds like a great plan so hope your wife finds something she enjoys! Keep me posted.
Great article. This is something that my wife and I defined at the beginning of our journey. What are we willing to forego or sacrifice to reach FI quicker? There were even thoughts of getting part time jobs to bring in more income but we already had great jobs with good salaries so why sacrifice more of our time and weekends to get there quicker if our journey is already a pleasant one? So we decided that we won’t sacrifice today’s happiness for tomorrow. We are mindful about our spending and only buy things and experiences that add value to our quality of life and happiness. Surprisingly enough, or not, as we become happier we’re spending less.
Yeah, I’ve found that it’s the unhappy people that spend the most, since they tend to use spending as an escape or a source of temporary pleasure.
If you’re making progress to FI and enjoying the journey already, no need to change anything because you’ll get there eventually and you’ll be happy doing it!
This is so, so true! My husband adopted this attitude about work years ago and got the same results you did — more respect from higher-ups, more concessions to keep him (because he did a great job.) When he later went into business for himself, he kept that attitude in dealing with customers and they respected him and rewarded him for it too. Now he has sold the business and retired early, but we still try to keep that balance between being frugal and doing what makes us truly happy.
That’s awesome, Cindi! I imagine he was as surprised as I was when he started getting more respect and more concessions. I definitely didn’t expect it but it’s been great!
This is the most thought-provoking and practical FI article I have read in a long time!
Within the last year, I came to a similar conclusion that focusing on living is more important than focusing on saving. Curiously, the changes I have subsequently implemented (changing jobs, minimal-izing, riding my bike more) haven’t really had a noticeable monetary cost–despite making me much happier. I think the key is being in the driver’s seat for your life, rather than just hanging on for dear life 🙂
Absolutely, Eric! As the Frugalwoods show, it’s possible to greatly improve your life while even lowering your costs but as you said, you need to be actively steering your life in the right direction and not just hoping it finds the best path.
This is an excellent post MadFientist! I hate to admit it, but I find this is a tough thing for me as well. I really try to honestly weigh the freedom and happiness now vs. freedom and happiness later options to help us enjoy the now, but sometimes that’s hard to do without guilt for giving up time toward the FI date. But happiness now is what’s important. Especially with a family. My kids will be much older and much different in just a few years and I don’t want to miss enjoying that now working so hard for an eventual freedom and happiness. Thank you for spelling it out so honestly!
This is great! Reaching financial independence is a great goal to have (it’s my goal), but we sometimes forget to also enjoy our time now. We are trying to reach FI, but we’re trying to do it without having to sacrifice our happiness. Not because we’re smarted than other people, but because we have read a lot about how people let the ultimate goal guide their every move without thinking of their happiness at the moment. We don’t want to make that same mistake. I’m glad you wrote this and I’m glad you’re willing to share your experience so that others don’t get so focused on reaching financial independence that they forget to live their lives now.
Thanks for the post. I just read your free Ivy league Masters Degree post. I never thought of that and I do recall that our lecturers did mention that they study for free or at a discounted rate in college. Something to think about especially because I want to go to grad school soon. I found the Frugalwoods towards the end of 2015 and initially my idea was to cut everything out besides rent, utilities, car payment and maybe food just so I can reach FI by 2018 when I turn 30. I then realized that I’d miss the chance to live a full life if I continued on that path. Now I’m happy with the baby steps I’m taking to get used to saving consistently before taking the next leap on my frugal journey. I have postponed FI for a few more years but I’ll be happier for it.
Taking baby steps and sticking with it is a much better idea than jumping in the deep end and then giving up completely. I’m sure you’ll find, like a lot of us here, that your life gets better the less you spend but you won’t experience that if just cut everything out cold turkey.
Good luck with your grad degree (and definitely get it for free, if you can)!
What are you doing over here in this Frugal part of the Woods…..that’s the best I got on a Wednesday morning after the holidays.
On the job part and my situation I certainly go back and forth on this, while the next logical steps in my career path will pay more, they will also take away some of the time I enjoy in my current position. In the end for me it’s all about flexibility, but it’s very difficult to tell which opportunity will give me that. And while the pay may be higher for a new role, I highly doubt it will be FI changing money. I do love reading the resignation letter part of your journey, gives me a little hope in my scenario:)
Hope everything is going great with you and the wife. Hope to see you guys in San Diego.
Haha, I needed to get out of the lab and get some of that fresh, forest air 🙂
Things are going well, thanks. Hope you’re doing well too! Look forward to hanging out again in San Diego in the fall (we’ll be there)!
Love this advice. I am so one-track usually (“optimize, optimize, optimize”) that it is hard to look outside of that.
Nodding my head. Tail end of 2015 and the budget going forward in 2016 for us is definitely a reevaluation of saving every possible dollar versus improving quality of life in a few key areas.
Awesome to hear that your current job allowed the flexibility for the trip. We unfortunately don’t have that option, yet, but this article is motivation for us & I’m glad you expressed the error of seeking FI in the beginning. I tend to fall into the category of counting pennies and miss the world go by sometimes.
This is an interesting post.
The part of it where you don’t want to make yourself miserable is important. With a husband and two kids, they make sure I don’t go overboard.
The job part is interesting too. I’ve experienced many issues – first, the whole promotion vs. job you enjoy. I am a process engineer. I like process engineering. I’ve been promoted in the past to management. I am actually good at that too, and enjoyed it – particularly training younger engineers on processing, experimentation, development, presenting and analyzing results, etc.
My experiences the last few years have been dismal. We’ve laid people off and I don’t manage anymore. In fact, I don’t process anymore. I don’t get to do very much technical work at all – it’s all project management. I’m fairly good at this, but I don’t much like it (there aren’t technical jobs left – at least, not many). On the flip side, I’m not getting raises either.
It’s a conundrum, and one exacerbated by the fact that I’m a 40-something female in tech. I never would have thought to experience the “glass ceiling”, or even worse, but it’s happened.
OTOH, some savvy folks here have used your techniques. Raises are non-existent for most. But recently a very key employee quit. They said “name your price”, and he left anyway. One of his coworkers knew this was going to happen, so we went out and got a job offer. And waited until just after the other guy left, in order to get a big raise.
That’s great and all, but it’s harder to do in a small town. What those other 2 guys had going for them is the ability to move – the first guy left the state and the job offer the 2nd guy had was also out of state. There aren’t as many jobs in town. (I still am looking, but prospects aren’t great.)
I guess then I’ve turned my job into something more flexible. If I can’t *love* what I am doing (because that job doesn’t exist here anymore), I might as well take advantage of flexibility.
Boy we can relate! I don’t feel like we made ourselves miserable while saving for FI, but we did think that once we hit our goal it would be like a magic veil that lifted and all of our problems would go away. Nope. We’re still in the honeymoon phase with our early retirement, in which we are currently traveling the country by camper with our kids…but many stressful things have followed us into this next phase of our lives that we didn’t expect. You would think that once you retire it all just melts away, but it’s not exactly the same when you retire at 40 without the built in medical insurance and pension. We’re making it through, and we’re finding it’s the little things…like spending a Wednesday mountain biking instead of going to work and school that make it worth it. But like anything else, you gotta keep working at it, FI isn’t a magic pill. It’s the thing that gives you the freedom to choose what you want to do, instead of being stuck in a dead end job, too high mortgage, etc.
Exactly! FI gives you the freedom to do whatever you want but you still have to figure out the best things to do and then actually do them!
Glad you’re getting it all figured out and congrats on retiring!
The right approach or mindset makes all the difference. Early on I realized the biggest benefit to high savings and reaching FI is the freedom that goes along with it. Being too results oriented or focusing too hard on the finish line easy to miss the fun parts along the way.
Even at the beginning of the process it’s been liberating to see how money becomes less and less limiting in my life. It was great to hear a perspective from someone further along than I, thank you!
You are talking about the power of F-You money here and I have to intervene an put a maaaaassive exclamation mark on that!
We live in Germany. I worked full time as a contractor for a company for years. I had a more-or-less fiyed income and negotiated my salaries just like any other employee. I worked 9-5 just like any other employee. I also couldn’t really go on holiday without making sure that the dates are ok with the company.
This was just over a year ago: I said to my wife: f*ck that. Instead of about 230 working days (normal in Germany), in 2015 I want to only work at most half that much for this company. I want to spend the rest of the time with faily and my hobbies/projects.
We had enough savings and investments and one of my side gigs (a website) started generating serious income so that there was no chance of starvation. So end of 2014 I went to my “boss” and told him (ok, I was slightly politer) what my plans are for 2015 and added one more thing: my new hourly rate = old hourly rate x 2. I also explained (also in a polite way) that I am no longer dependant on a salary and my projects are paying for my bills. He scrached his head, didnt’like the idea of a 100% payrise that much but didn’t say much. Then In January 2015 we started work, but he seemed to have forgotten our conversation so I reminded him of it. In an interesting but civilised discussion I agreed that I work until the end of February full time on the old terms and train other people. That’s what we did.
Fast forward to today, a year later: we’ve reched our FI number, I no longer work for this company much, but here and there I help them out with a couple of hours a month and keep a good relationship with them. Not because I have to. My side gig is paying for all our expenses and income more than doubled in a year (mostly passive).
If I wouldn’t have used the power of F-You money, I would definitely not have had the time to grow my own business that much. I would have a lot less time with my family and I would have wasted more time of my life to bould somebody else’s business!
Now I spend a good part of my time spreading the word of FI through our Blog. Not because I have to. Because I love to. Because it makes sense. I want to spend a lot more time on stuff that I want to do and a lot less (or nothing) on shit that I don’t like doing.
If I manage to inspire 1 person to wake up from the rat race and have the courage of thinking differently, it was woth it!
You, MadFientist, Frugalwoods, MrMoneyMustache and other fellow bloggers are inspiring people every day and radically improve their lives just by typing shit in your PCs. Keep doing that!
What a great post and I have to agree wholeheartedly! At the start of our FI journey my husband and I decided there were some things that we would not sacrifice, even if it means it will take longer to get to our goal. I was just drafting this exact thing for my next blog post. 1) fitness – I love doing obstacle course races and exercising. Although I do my best to keep these costs as low as possible it is expensive. But this brings such joy to my life that I cannot imagine giving it up just to increase my bank account balance. 2) Food- we eat wonderful local and organic food but this can be costly. Knowing that it is an investment in our health though means I am OK with this. Eating beans and rice every day would certainly make me unhappy.
I also had a similar revelation on the job front. My boss is retiring next fall and I will have the opportunity to take over for him. Last year, before starting this journey, that was actually my plan. But as I have been evaluating this idea more over the past couple of months I have realized that climbing the corporate ladder is not actually what I want. I actually don’t want more responsibility even if it means more money. It is going to be hard to have this conversation later this year but knowing that I could reach my FI goal in 5-7 is enough for me. I am going to have to use your strategy of just asking for what you want at some point as they worst they can do is say no. But if I don’t ask, I will never get it.
I love being the low man on the totem pole because when something really stressful happens, there’s always someone else above me that has to worry about it. I can just keep doing what I’m doing and I’m not forced to waste all my time fighting fires. It’s great so I don’t blame you for not wanting to be the boss!
This is a great post! So much to think about. I am miles away from financial independence at this point, but I am working on it… and I’m definitely enjoying what I do along the way, so hopefully I won’t fall in to the unhappy state you found yourself in. Thanks for sharing your story and your lessons. Super helpful for those of us still on the journey.
Pure awesomeness, this post hit so many nails on my head, literally. Perhaps I’ve been guilty to put too much focus on reaching FI and forget to enjoy life right now. Very cool to hear from an engineer that works remotely, this is something I plan to do in the future as well. Good advice. Thanks!
Amazing advice and reflection. Thank you for sharing! You’re quote “putting off my present happiness for the hope of happiness in the future.” hit home. It’s that fine balance that we all have to find and each day is a new set of decisions. Thank you again, this was great!
This post is right up my alley lately. I’m still VERY far from FI, but I have decided to start exercising some of the FI power earlier than later. I’ve decided that next month I’m going to ask for a remote work arrangement. I’ve already started talking to people who think I’ll definitely be able to do it, but haven’t talked to the boss yet. I’m going to shoot for 6 months off the bat, and hopefully go from there. What’s the worst that can happen – they say no? They sure as heck aren’t going to fire me. Wish me luck!
No boss in their right mind would fire a good employee just because they asked for something so you definitely have nothing to lose! Good luck and let me know what happens!
This is great advice for people like me and the Mrs. who are new to our FI path. I am very goal-driven and this is a good reminder to not put the future before the present. We are quite a ways away from reaching FI, but together my wife and I plan to enjoy the journey, and most importantly, enjoy each other!
My parents were like this just before they retired – they had the attitude that they wouldn’t do anything fun etc until they retired and as such were so crabby until they managed it! I think I have a more balanced attitude – I want to be able to enjoy somethings and be frugal in other ways. I’m Scottish too! Did you find it different to be frugal on different countries?
Nice, where are you from?
Scottish people are generally more frugal than Americans but I’m still very extreme in comparison so I still feel like as much of a oddball here as I do in the States.
Thanks so much for this really thoughtful post! I spend a lot of time feeling guilty about various financial decisions I make because I’m in my twenties and sometimes feel I should be saving 80% of my income now to “win” (what I’m winning, I’m not sure) later. Except I don’t want to spend my twenties “feeling” deprived, and this post has caused me to breathe a huge sigh of relief to know its okay to keep working if you like it, and that you don’t have to feel guilty spending on what you like doing (for me, the very expensive hobby of triathlons). Such a lightbulb moment! Thanks again!
Thank you so much for sharing your honest story of your pursuit to FI. I think FI like any goal in life only makes sense if you are happy in the journey to achieve it. Life is not about destinations it’s about journeys and while not all journeys have the potential to give us happiness, we shouldn’t neglect the importance of experiencing happiness along the way.
Glad you enjoyed it, Shannon! Looking forward to our chat tomorrow 🙂
As we look for that balance between financial freedom in the future (be it near term or longer term) and the happiness we all seek in the “now” , I always find comfort in the quote: “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted”
Live those precious moments and treasure them.
Great great post Mad Fientist and hope you continue to enjoy my home country in your journey along the financial freedom trail.
I really enjoyed the podcast you did with the Frugawoods, Mad Fientist and today it was great to read a post from you. I’m still new to this early retirement world so will take your advice on board. Thanks!
Thank you for this post. We are a little late getting started, but hope that now we are on the bandwagon at least we can make up for some lost time. BUT, I do try to continue to be balanced and enjoy the things we love, music, travel, without making too much a dent in the bank. Thank you for making me feel better about spending a little now and then to maintain a healthy life balance.
Great article Mad Fientist,
Wonderful insight that reaching FI doesn’t really change things all that much, after all is 98% FI really all that different from 100% FI? We are still the same people, with all the same problems, neuroses and cognitive bias. You are right it’s tough to predict what will make us happy, and I love the idea of just eliminating all the unpleasant things until only good things are left. De-clutter all the crap!
I’m a big believer in honesty and it’s benefits. Funny how being honest with your employer (and yourself) resulted in only good things happening. People crave authentic honest people, are drawn to them. Just speaking the truth and not worrying about which boss will be mildly offended frees up a great deal of mental energy just to focus on doing an awesome job 😉
FI is a journey and process to be enjoyed!
Hi Frugalwoods. I am working on something for my happiness and something that is in line with my financial goals. I know one day I can get financial independence. All I have to do is stick to what I am doing and do whatever it takes towards that goal.
Love it! Balancing happiness with financial goals is never easy. It’s nice to hear this from the other end of the spectrum—i.e., so frugal it hurt—and that as with almost everything in life, even here there is a middle ground.
What a weird time to stumble on this article, I’ve been caught on this topic mentally lately. I’m working ALOT lately, in the field with 4 days off a month, and worry that if I don’t hit my goals then I will have sacrificed time for no reward. This read kind of reminded me that I don’t need to take my job as seriously as I am, because when you are open to new opportunity – you can find it.
Appreciated the words… Thanks!
Good to keep front of mind: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
It’s really nice to read about the feeling of isolation and borderline obsessive tendencies that can happen when pursuing FI. Someone understands!!!
One day I will have that attitude towards my job. One day.
Exactly why I take the time to enjoy my life within reason while working towards financial independence. Besides my wife makes me, lol
Great post! What your describing isn’t about reaching the goal of financial independence….it’s about truly building WEALTH, because when you’re “wealthy” you have more MONEY, more TIME, and more PURPOSE in your life. Without time to be with the people we love and do the things we enjoy or without purpose to help other people or make a positive impact in the world, money is just a token. Yes, money is a tool by which we can create the lives we want to live, and it sounds like you learned there’s more to financial freedom than just dollar signs. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom!
This post was just what I needed today. Lots of great information here. BTW, I’m really enjoying your Financial Independence podcast.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “the right way” to pursue FI as it seems like you need a very delicate balance in place to go through it correctly and remain happy. Thanks for the insight MFI.
A fantastic, real world account of the traps and snags associated with an idealistic approach to an intoxicating subject. My wife is suddenly on board with the FI Path thanks to the Mad Fientist (specifically the podcast episode interviewing your wife) and for that I am grateful! Thank you for all you do and for introducing me to the Frugalwoods.
How refreshing to find a like minded community so close by!
An interesting post and a good advice for sure.There has to be a balance while we work towards FI .Just concentrating on 1 goal and ignoring whats happening currently in life is definetly a NO NO.
Will for sure keep this in mind 🙂 and work towards our FIRE journey.
The biggest long-term financial goal for most people is saving enough money to retire. The common rule of thumb that you should save 10% to 15% of every paycheck in a tax-advantaged retirement account like a 401(k), 403(b), or Roth IRA is a good first step.