When we hear about Financial Independence, immediately the image of relaxing on the beach with a beverage comes to mind. For some, it might not be this particular scene, but rather their own personal dreams taking the spotlight. However, thats the reward after a long journey. If you are just starting on your journey and already went through the series here on financial independence you may have seen how long its going to take to reach your goals. It might be a long journey and that is ok! Most people aren’t winning the lottery and retiring. It’s all too easy to fixate on the magical number in our bank accounts or the age when we can say farewell to our careers. In doing so, we might overlook the beautiful moments and valuable lessons that the journey to financial independence, or FIRE, can provide, not to mention the things we take for granted along the way. I’d like to share in this post some of the things I have experiend on my journey.
Don’t Forget About The Journey
How often have you wished you had gone back and done something? I don’t mean the things we regret doing in the moment, but the items or experiences that we continue to think about for weeks or months on end. It might have been a trip with friends or that jacket you didn’t buy but can’t seem to forget. This literally happened to me as I was on vacation and saw a jacket I liked but didn’t feel like I needed a new jacket. But boy did it make me feel like a million bucks when I wore it. I coudln’t stop thinking about it for months after we came back home. We shouldn’t be so fixated on our financial plans that we become blind to the life unfolding around us. Life doesn’t start at financial independence; its happening right now and yes I wish I had bought that jacket. As I have shared before on building your budget, I highly recommend having a section for fun. What’s the point of financial freedom if it doesn’t enhance the quality of our everyday lives?
The Gift Of Flexibility And Peace Of Mind
My personal journey toward FIRE has made me realize one of the most underrated aspects is flexibility and peace of mind. Pursuing FIRE isn’t just about the end goal of early retirement; it’s also about creating a strong financial buffer for life’s unpredictable events.
Working towards financial independence has benefits even in the short term. Emergencies that would once have sent us spiraling into stress and debt become manageable. When life threw curveballs, my family and I took comfort in our solid financial foundation. Instead of panic, there was a calm pivot in our plans, understanding that even if retirement took a little longer, our present was secure and comfortable. Our path towards FIRE allowed my wife to work less when our children were born and we continue with this to this day. While it does mean we delay our FIRE date by an extra year or two, it seems well worth it that we have the option to spend more time with our children while they are younger. This was not part of the plan when we started on our journey, but it was a blessing to be able to change our plans and not be heavily impacted by these decisions.
Embracing Quality Over Quantity
The FIRE journey allows us to reconsider our consumer habits. It does more than prompt us to question whether a purchase aligns with our goals or significantly impacts our lives; it encourages a long-term perspective. Afterall, most people, even those who are going down this journey aren’t retiring quickly. Investing in a high-quality item that will last years, is often a wiser investment than buying a bunch of cheaper alternatives. There is a reason there is the saying “Penny Wise, Pound Foolish” which cautions against overvaluing immediate savings at the expense of long-term costs. The classic example is a pair of boots that cost twice as much but might last 5x longer than the cheap pair of boots.
Through my experiences, I’ve learned that there’s profound value in each step of this journey. Let’s not narrow our focus solely to our FIRE number or the balance in our brokerage accounts. We must remember to live fully in the present as well and recognize that the pursuit of financial independence itself offers its own rewards, long before we reach our ultimate destination.