FIER

Are You Missing The Point?

The guy I work with buys lottery tickets.  He says it’s just fun to think about what he would buy with the money if he ever won.  This lead to a conversation about retirement, specifically, how much money you need to retire on.  I mentioned that I followed a few bloggers that were able to retire in their early 30’s by sometimes spending only 5,000 a year.

My coworker’s response was: “yeah, but you would have to live like that for the rest of your life.”

I will agree that living off $5,000 a year is an extreme case.  I’m sure most of the extreme early retirees are living off a lot more than $5,000 a year, but that wasn’t the point.

The more I talked about how these bloggers lived to reach early retirement the more I could see him checking out of the conversation.  It’s like a wall went up.  I could see that it wasn’t in his reality that people could actually be happy, and even prefer, living below their means.

I feel that most people share my co worker’s thinking went it comes to early retirement.  Why retire early if that life has to be one of deprivation.

My thinking tends to be why spend my entire life working for money to buy things I know aren’t really going to make me happy.

Does one live a life of deprivation if they ride a bike instead off a gas guzzling SUV? Does one live a life of deprivation if they cook every night instead of eating out at fancy restaurants?  Does one live a life of deprivation if they use a burner phone instead of the newest iPhone?  I don’t feel deprived.

Saving money with the motivation to consume more is missing the point.  FIER is not about amassing wealth so one day in the future you can spend it recklessly.  FIER is about gaining control over one’s time (the most valuable commodity), avoiding conspicuous consumption, and becoming less dependent on the financial system in general.

Do you fantasize about what you would buy with the money you save?  Or do you fantasize about how you will spend your time when you no longer have to worry about money?

If you fantasize about the latter you’re approaching FIER from the right place.   

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Early Retirement And Purposelessness

Through high school and college I had a summer job at a golf course.  I worked maintenance.  Half of the staff were college kids the other half were older guys that had already retired.  The older guys only worked a few hours a day.  I could never understand why they kept showing up to work when they didn’t have to.  If you asked them why you usually got the same answer, “to get away from the wife.”

There was one guy who worked there till he was 80.  He got so senile that management finally had to let him go.  He died two years later.

I now understand why these guys kept showing up to work when they didn’t have to.  It wasn’t because of their wives.  Well, maybe a little bit. But I think the real reason they kept showing up is because they wanted to feel like they had a purpose.

I’ve been semi retired for a little over a year.  A lot of that time was spent building an internet business.  My main motivation, passive income.  It’s doing alright and still growing.  The money I make from this business isn’t going to buy me a seaside mansion, it’s barely enough to get buy on,  but it’s decent for being almost completely passive.  At this point, I’ve delegated most of the tasks and work the four hour workweek that most would dream about.

But it’s not a dream.  I have free time.  I can wake up without an alarm.  I can move at my own pace.  This was good for a while, don’t get me wrong.  However, too much of good thing can be a bad thing.  I’m bored.  I feel purposeless.  Everyday is groundhog day.

I’m writing this because lately a lot of my posts have revolved around FIER (Financial Independence Early Retirement).  Now I’m starting to reconsider if this is goal worth striving for.  Do you really want FIER ?  Do you think you will ease into retirement at a young age?

Financial Independence is definitely worth striving for.  Not being dependent on a job you hate is worth striving for.  However, you better find a productive way to fill your time when you have reached FIER or else you will be completely miserable.

I’m trying to play devil’s advocate here.  I still think FIER is worthwhile goal and not just because it means sleeping in as late you want to.  I think FIER should be more about the means than the end.  The means is ripping yourself away from being a mindless consumer.  The end, is of course, Fuck You Money.  Both good. But one shouldn’t focus on the Fuck You Money like it’s some pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Instead, one should focus on the habits they must instill to reach FIER.

What FIER really means:

  • It doesn’t mean no work.  It means you don’t have to work for money.  You do work that interests you without worrying about paying the bills.  Maybe this is volunteer work, maybe gardening, maybe it’s writing a blog.         
  • You stop being a mindless consumer.  You don’t buy new furniture you reuse old furniture instead.  You learn to cook your own food instead of eating out every night at expensive and unhealthy restaurants.  You learn how to fix things.  
  • You learn how to make your money work for you. 

In the end, the goal is to become less and less dependent on the financial system.

Does this solve the problem of feeling purposeless?  Not working shouldn’t be the goal but then again, what’s the point of working for working sake?  Do you need to be given money to feel like your living with purpose?