Snuffing The FIRE To Live Life
What kind of person changes life ideologies with the wind?
Apparently, I do!
I Caught On FIRE
About a year ago, I became acquainted with the term FIRE– Financial Independence Retire Early. Folks on the FIRE path save and invest their money strategically (and dedicatedly) so that their nest egg grows much faster than it would for a typical retiree. Once they hit their magic number in the bank, they no longer have to work. The rest of their life is their own—and they get to enjoy it before old age.
Intrigued by the concept, I read countless blogs from clever, resolute people who had stopped trading their lives for money. I wanted that for myself.
With a new money perspective, I started setting up systems to build wealth. My dream was becoming a plan. I could see how early retirement was a real possibility for me– in about 15 years.
I would be in my late 40’s. I remember thinking that would be pretty impressive and I could reasonably expect at least a couple of decades of good health. Women in my family have decent longevity.
I Started Questioning My Path
Then, life confronted me with loss. My grandfather died. While he was 85 (and his passing not surprising), the idea of mortality, of finite time started impressing upon me a sense of urgency.
15 years suddenly seemed too far away!
I looked around. Everyone I loved was inching towards their judgment day– some faster than others. I also had a personal to-do list that was collecting dust.
How could I spend the time that I wanted with loved ones, achieve my own goals and still maintain my full time work arrangement?
The answer was—I really couldn’t. So—I made a choice…
I Snuffed The FIRE
A couple of months ago, I said sayonara to my main source of income so that I could spend more time at home/with loved ones and really get into those back-burnered personal goals.
I have been great with my money management and savings rate for the last couple of years so I’m not worried about financing the next 12-18 months.
In fact, I still have some income trickling in. I procured some part time, remote work that should pay the majority of my mortgage each month, preserving and extending my savings.
So far, it’s been great! I have spent more time by my lake. I have gone on more outings with my fiancé. I have booked travel to see family (in MA – I’m in FL) this spring AND fall. And– I am making incremental progress crossing items off of my once rusty checklist.
Questioning My Path (Again)
However, now that my income has been cut down to roughly 1/3rd of what it was just earlier this year, the realization that I am living my life quite counter to the principles of FIRE—a concept I still very much believe in—became heavy on my heart.
I am no longer saving and investing. My account balances and net worth are dropping (albeit somewhat slowly in a metered and predictable way).
I am getting further away from financial independence. The only thing improving for me financially is that I am continuing to pay down my mortgage (and soon student loans).
I decided to use my nest egg now and to lead a semi retired lifestyle — at least for the foreseeable future.
I can’t help but wonder if it’s a mistake to trade my future security for the moments I am having right now…
Reconciling With Myself
I have waivered a bit on this one.
Some days, I feel that I absolutely made the right choice. The rest of the world (and the people I care about in it) are not going to be frozen in time while I work to achieve FIRE. There is a good chance that many of them will have passed away by the time I arrive at that destination.
And let’s get real here– a big reason we pursue FIRE is so that we can spend more time with the ones that we love. If they are all gone when we hit the magic number in the bank account, all of the years leading up to that moment will feel wasted, like it was all completely in vain.
I have also considered that while numerically I am moving away from FIRE, philosophically I am living it completely. I am living according to my schedule and pursuing my goals. I am also working on additional income streams (like this site) so that I can hopefully maintain this semi-retired lifestyle indefinitely.
This arrangement also gives me great insight into what FIRE feels like. I have had to hold myself accountable to get things done, to remain productive and fulfilled. I have had to really plan out my time so that I am utilizing it to the fullest.
But– I also need to ensure that I am not over-planning. It’s a delicate balance. After all, I am kind of/sort of retired. It’s nice to sleep in and knock off working on the day’s project after lunch.
I’m still amazed when I’m strolling in a park on a Tuesday afternoon. It feels awesomely naughty. The challenge of maintaining equilibrium between task (albeit self-imposed) and leisure has been the most blissful undertaking ever!
On the flip side of the coin, I worry that I will run out of money and that I will need to return to traditional full time work (you know– cubes, commutes and corporations). The idea depresses me.
I have only been at home for two months and I feel like this is how it’s supposed to be. I can’t imagine the struggle it would be to lose this freedom after another year has gone by.
I’m also afraid that I will find myself unable to retire at all because my focus has changed. I am enjoying the here and now– with the people that are also present. But I am not having children. If my guy passes before me, I have this vision of being penniless and alone.
I would say it’s an irrational fear (and maybe it is) but I know so many seniors are in bad shape money-wise, with no one they can lean on. I don’t want that to be me!
I am trying to remain positive. After all, I have secured myself one hell of a deal and I plan to make the most of it and enjoy every second.
I also see myself as industrious and capable of earning money in non-traditional ways.
Just because my pursuit of full retirement has been delayed—it doesn’t mean that it has been cancelled. I tell myself that I WILL achieve everything that I want (OK, at least most of it!). I may need to take weird paths to get there, but I’ll get there.
Most days, I believe it. It’s those insidious little moments of doubt that have the power to derail a really great thing.
But I won’t let them.
I may have snuffed the FIRE for now—but I am test driving what it will be like. And—with the ashes still hot, I have the lighter fluid and matches close by.
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