If you’re like most of us working mortals you’ve spent a good part of your life working 9 to 5 running the so called rat race in hopes of saving enough money or reaching a point where you’d no longer have to worry about anything and you could just sit by the ocean and sip on Margaritas. There are numerous blogs on financial freedom (including this one) that talk about the idea of working until your passive income exceeds expenses. This can be achieved by either raising your income or by reducing your spending by living frugally. Learning about FIRE (Financially Independent to Retire Early) was such a contrarian view and a breath of fresh air that I was hooked on it from the very moment I was first introduced to it. There are two kinds of FIRE movement on (a) Lean FIRE which relies on frugality as a basis for perpetual reduction in expenses and (b) Fat FIRE wherein one aims at maintaining pre-retirement income in retirement. I do love the concept of financial independence but not quite the retire early part – at least the terminology doesn’t sit well with me. To live life on your terms is to me the essence of what you get out of financial freedom.
Life is about two things: the destination and the road that leads to the destination. Some of us have a very well crystallized idea of exactly where we want to go and life is all about working hard to get to that destination, the dream end-state. Such people are very motivated and couldn’t care less about how hard they’re working to make their dream come true. This is a very happy state to be in. Actually this is the state to be in. A dream end-state as the name itself implies is an end-state and doesn’t last long. And this is where setting a challenging goal comes handy. It makes the journey long. It motivates us. And it keeps us motivated for long. The anticipation of success is the best drug you can be on and it works. It perpetuates the happiness in us (well at least until you’ve reached the destination).
Most of us 9to5ers however are on the journey to we-don’t-know-where. We’re on it just because everyone else is on it and we keep on doing it for years. We are afraid to ask ourselves about the destination. We are afraid to introspect and question the very purpose of our only life. So we keep doing what we do every day, sometimes happily, sometimes unhappily. I remember saying to myself as I drove into work every morning – No handcuffs, no police to chase me and yet I drive into this place every single day at 8 in the morning. What an amazing corporate world system! We’re prisoners and we don’t even know it. The sooner we discover for ourselves our destination, the sooner we can make our life a purposeful one and question our everyday choices.
I have to admit, I’m a late bloomer. The concept of FIRE has become so popular and people have even found ways to retire as early as in their 30s to pursue their dreams. To retire early and vegetate on the couch half drunk is not my idea of retirement and probably not anybody’s. And so, the question more pertinent than how to quit work is why to quit work. This leads us to a very difficult question to answer – What do I want to do with my life? Its not an easy one and what works for one may not work for others. The key is for each one of us to find our purpose and answer that difficult question for ourselves. If we took a blank page and wrote on it all we wanted to get out of our life if money was no object, you’d be surprised to find that you don’t have to be a billionaire to check the items on that page. It takes a lot less.
Here I am, a 37 year old husband and a dad of two beautiful kids (7 and 4) in pursuit of generating happiness for myself and for those around me. Although I consider myself financially independent, I do not necessarily want to quit my day job. My work stimulates my brain and gives me an opportunity to play with all the nerdy ideas I cook up in my head. Its healthy for me. And so I want to use the leverage of my financial freedom to live life on my own terms. i.e. do what I want, when I want.
That being said I do feel the burden of a self-imposed pressure to perform well and bring value for my employer and this self imposed pressure to perform is tiresome. The self imposed pressure adversely weighs on my mental well being and my physical health and I want to find the right balance. I’m on a pursuit of rediscovering myself. I want to do something totally different. I want to learn (PhD in engineering is not enough!). I want to discover and I want to wander.
As I grow old I do want things to be more on my terms than on someone else’s terms. I do value time more than I value money now. I want to trade my paycheck for off-days to learn and wander and explore and I will be doing so aggressively. And for that purpose I have a very specific target – An extra month off every year going forward.
I’m clear that my reborn life is going to be about traveling and discovering. And baby, I’m fired up, more than ever before. I’m determined. One of the very reasons to write this blog is to make a commitment to myself in public. I’d be ashamed if I did not walk the talk.