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)
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!
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!