Life can’t just be put on hold until we achieve Financial Independence

Snails

While I didn’t think that these snails that I ordered in Cannes tasted particularly good, I’m glad that I have at least tried them!

If you read as many PF blogs as I do, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole FI blogosphere is obsessed with achieving Financial Independence at the expense of almost all other things in life. At least that is what a typical hyper-consumer would probably think when they first start reading blogs from this community anyway.




While I am as driven as the next blogger in this community to achieve FI and exit the rat race early, I wouldn’t want to do it at the expense of some other great experiences that I believe are important in life, for example:

  • Having a significant other (who isn’t a “cheapskate”) to share the journey with you, and get married with a traditionally expensive wedding
  • Having children
  • Seeing a bit of the world (and not just in a cheesy tourist way either)
How many people can say that they have been this close to the pope?! Lucky I'm taller than the average bear and could get a photo over the crowd - it was almost like being crushed at a rock concert!

How many people can say that they have been this close to the Pope?! Lucky I’m taller than the average bear and could get a photo over the crowd – it was almost like being crushed at a rock concert!

Now I’m not saying that all PF bloggers don’t appreciate the importance of many of the above things, but many people that are new to the community would assume that it’s just not possible to retire early and still have the above three things in your life (or at least have them before you retire). Well I’m here to tell you that these things are entirely possible, and many of the PF bloggers in the community have done all three.

I for one am married (which involved a $25k wedding), and while my wife is steadily reforming her spending ways, she is by no means a “cheapskate”. We also have two young children and my wife works part time.

And while we have ticked boxes one and two above, we have also travelled extensively, having lived/worked in another of Australia’s largest cities for two years, after which we lived/worked in London for a year and travelled throughout Europe and South East Asia. We got this travel out of the way before we had kids though, and I’m glad that we did as we haven’t really travelled since before our eldest was born!

Why is it important to focus on other things as well?

If you read many personal finance blogs, you will usually notice the gradual evolution of the blogger’s awareness of other things becoming more important in life. These “other things” tend to be more about experiences, where the blogger realises that endlessly chasing money to buy more stuff isn’t what will actually make them happy.

It is ironic however that some of these “other things” (getting married, raising children, travelling) still cost money, but with a different mindset you can achieve them in far more cost-effective ways without sacrificing any of the important things about the experience.

The desire to focus on these “other things” is often the main driver for achieving FI, but we all need to keep in mind that we can’t just put life (or these “other things”) on hold until we reach FI, otherwise it could all be for nothing! You never know when fate might strike and your life could change for the worse in an unexpected way, and while you won’t care about not owning more stuff, you would surely regret not making it a priority to have some of the best experiences in life.

What else would you miss out on?

I’m certainly not saying that we should set aside the FI/ER goal that many of us have, but we need to ensure that we have balance in our lives to go along with it. In the same way that the typical hyperconsumer is totally imbalanced, so too does the aspiring FI/RE blogger need to ensure that things aren’t as far out of balance in the opposite direction.

Some of the things that I believe many aspiring FI/ER bloggers are at risk of missing out on include:

  • Having meaningful relationships with family and friends because we haven’t worked out how to have non-judgemental ways of interacting with our loved ones that may well be Financial Train Wrecks!
  • Completely missing out on social experiences or having such a narrow social framework that it never involves doing anything different. If your idea of socialising involves having drinks at home with friends on a Friday night then I can certainly see how this could be very enjoyable. But what if a friend asks you to join them and some other new people for the latest
  • Having a vacation/holiday (in whatever form that may take) to get away from work (and the accumulation of wealth).
  • Trying new foods because we have our menus down to a set routine. Much efficiency can be gained in the strive for financial independence by refining your actions (and therefore expenses, e.g. groceries), which can certainly be a good thing. When this becomes bad however is when one chooses not to even try anything new because they know that it will cost (more) money. If this is how you think then one might ask why you even get out of bed in the morning if you’ve already experienced everything life has to offer!
  • Having a family because children are seen as “too expensive”: If this is your rationale for not having children then I believe that you will be full of regret when you are older. Many people aren’t able to have children for various reasons, which would be hard enough, but for those that can have children and don’t simply because of money I believe that it would be one of the biggest causes of regret as the years go by.
  • Travelling internationally because travel is seen as a waste of money: While I believe that some pre-packaged holidays can be a bit of a waste of money with everything being commercialised within an inch of its life, if travelling is done in a certain way I think that it can give a whole new perspective on life and what is actually important (and I don’t mean living a five star lifestyle). If you never have the experience of travelling to see other cultures then you really won’t have any idea of what you are missing!
This Oasis concert at Wembley arena in 2008 was awesome. I had been a big fan of their music when I was in high school and to be able to see them was well worth the 500 quid that I had to pay to get the tickets from a reseller!

This Oasis concert at Wembley arena in 2008 was awesome. I had been a big fan of their music when I was in high school and to be able to see them was well worth the ~500 quid that I had to pay to get the tickets from a reseller!

I genuinely believe that if people were to miss out on the large majority of these things then they would be kicking themselves on their deathbeds (if they have the strength that is!), so let’s make sure that we all keep a bit of balance in our lives on the journey to FI/RE, rather than just leaving everything until we reach the finish line!

IA.

16 thoughts on “Life can’t just be put on hold until we achieve Financial Independence

  1. You’re pieces are so on point and a genuine joy to read – I’m subjectively frugal with how I spend my money and often get called a hypocrite as a result. I guess financial independence/frugality is just as personally subjective as religion. Thanks for writing 🙂

    • Thanks Mrs WaterB, and I agree that it can be difficult to relate to non-frugal people sometimes, especially when they set out to cast you as a hypocrite. Some people just won’t be convinced, so sometimes you just need to agree to disagree!

  2. Such a great post!! I definitely fall into focussing too much on FI, and driving my husband nuts! I guess that’s why I started my blog to begin with, because I’m a little obsessed with the topic. 🙂 I’m trying hard to strike a balance, because thinking about retiring all the time is probably not healthy. I want to live a full and meaningful life, not always planning finances and stressing out about it. In general, it doesn’t appear that I’m missing out as I can tick everything off your list except the kids (though we are trying!). But internally, there is room for improvement.

    P.S. 500 quid??? eeek!!!

    • Yeah well I drive my wife nuts at times too, and when she saw this post she suggested that perhaps I should take a bit more of my own advice!

      While I agree that thinking about retiring 100% of the time probably isn’t the best, if you have been thinking about it long enough it changes your whole outlook on life (for the better in my opinion) and that then rubs off on your loved one. So they end up on your side eventually (at least that has been my experience anyway!).

      Yeah, the concert was expensive but only because all of the tickets sold out in about five minutes and so we had to buy from a reseller with exorbitant prices. I figured if the tickers sold out that quickly it had to be a great show, and I was right!

      • Hehe, when I was relaying your blog post to my husband, he was in extreme agreement! He thinks I’m constantly trying degrade our quality of life, and it stresses him out a lot. We have different ideas of what’s frugal, but he’s also come a long way since I started getting excited about early retirement.

        While I think it’s okay to *think* about ER a lot, what’s not okay is to stress about it all the time. That’s my problem. I need to chill out and trust that it will happen when it happens, as long as I consistently save and invest (which I do already!).

        • My wife was a bit like that when we first started this journey but it doesn’t stress her out so much any more as she has changed her mindset significantly. So don’t worry, Mr German, you will get used to it before long and then you might even be the one thinking up good ways to save money!

  3. This is a really timely post as it’s something Mrs Reality Cheque and I have been talking over recently. Yep, we get the whole FI thing and we’re striving to achieve FI/RE. But we are now also trying to get the balance right between living in the here-and-now and preparing for comfortable, simple living in the future.

    We have found one of the best ways to think about this is by considering value, something which others have blogged about too. It helps to ask yourself the question: does this offer good value?
    A simple example: when buying a new shirt, you might know that brand A is more expensive than brand B, but you also know that brand A washes better and lasts longer, therefore offering better fiscal value.
    Alternatively, something may have experiential value, much like many of the things you illustrate in your blog. These things are often more difficult to put a value on, and it’s often a case of suck-it-and-see. My own experiences backed this up recently when I spent more than I would have liked to climb the tower of a large cathedral – but the experience at the top, afforded by the effort involved in getting there and the resultant panoramic views, were worth every penny.

    Mrs Reality Cheque and I are now, perhaps, a little less zealous in our frugality, but the balance we achieve in our lives feels more comfortable, more natural, and less like we’re depriving ourselves of a life now, in exchange for a life in the future.
    Great writing – keep it up.

    • Thanks for the comment, and I am glad to hear that this post is resonating with others in the community.

      I think you are exactly right about balance – you need to get to somewhere that feels comfortable rather than continuing to challenge yourself with extreme frugality. Otherwise it will lead to plenty of other problems (stress on relationships, reduced general enjoyment of life, etc) that will cause burnout with the whole FI/RE goal.

      P.S. I always liked climbing the towers of cathedrals when we were in Europe – the view was always amazing and sometimes it was like going through a maze of hidden tunnels just to get to the top. I would have spent plenty of cash on entrance fees but never regretted it at all.

  4. Great post! We disagree on the pricy wedding but agree on all the rest. We have never regretted having a small wedding. It was small and still a little extravagant, but cost about $8000 total. We’re also not having kids, but support that for those who want them. Overall, it’s so important to keep living a full life while you’re on the path to FI. You often don’t have to spend a lot to do that — sometimes it’s just in your mindset!

    • Yeah well the pricey wedding (which included a $5k honeymoon in Thailand BTW) was a bit out there, we were young and thought that was what people did (What were we thinking? We weren’t thinking! ). We sure as hell aren’t getting divorced so we won’t be paying for another wedding like that!

      I have actually found the less expensive weddings to be as much if not more fun, which is what weddings should be all about IMO.

  5. Hi Insider

    A great post, and something I wholeheartedly agree with. I don’t want to live life like a monk to reach Financial Independence as soon as possible, but want to have an enjoyable life, so live the middle ground.

    In financial terms we have a benefit in not having children (on medical grounds), but make up for this by having great holidays (along with the expenditure) as I need the break from the wage slavery.

    I understand that this money could have been invested to make my FI even earlier (probably have got there now) but my FI may have been lived from the asylum, as without the frequent breaks (and change of scenery with the experience of different cultures) I am sure I would go round the bend.

    I hope your journey is enjoyable, an that the destination is equally rewarding.

    Best Wishes
    FIUK

    • I know what you mean about the need for breaks from wage slavery – often the higher up you get, the more breaks you feel you need just to stay sane. We travelled extensively in our mid 20s so don’t feel as much of a need for more extravagant travel now, so we favour travel by car within Australia which comes at a much lower cost. It’s also much less stressful with kids than going through airports!

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