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Living The FI Life: The Struggles

As discussed in last week’s post, there have been a number of amazing and good things that have happened to me since my discovery of FI around two years ago. My life has truly changed, and for the most part it is for the better.

However, despite there being so many good things that have happened, I also mentioned at the conclusion of the post that there have been several downsides to pursuing this lifestyle.

I hesitate to say “bad”, as it’s tough to take a look at my life from the high level and consider it a bad one by any means, so instead we’ll keep it to struggles or downsides that I have noticed.

A lot of the downsides I’ve noticed have simply come as a result to being exposed to this community and the amazing writings I have read. This isn’t to say the writing is bad, quite the contrary actually.

In fact, some of the ideas and thoughts I have been exposed to have required me to rethink the entire way I look at life, both for myself and others, and the resulting outcome has led me in some ways to an existential crisis.

What Do I Want To Do With My Life?

Really, this question reads to me as, “What will give me meaning and purpose in life?”

I’m envious of the people who have this question figured out. They know what they want to do with their life, what gives them motivation, purpose and meaning and what they could do every day for the rest of their life and be completely happy and fulfilled.

On the surface, this is a good thing to be thinking about. It’s better to figure it out sooner in life rather than later. However, whenever I think about this I get struck with a wave of anxiety and fear. The simple fact is that I truly don’t know what I want to do with my life.

It’s always been this way. When people would ask me what I wanted to be/do when I grew up, the only thing I could answer them with was that I wanted to play sports. However, I did not dedicate myself enough when I was younger to make that a realistic possibility. Thus, with guidance from my parents I chose to do something in the business world, as I knew that had good job prospects and would pay out a decent wage.

So while I certainly don’t mind what I’m doing now, it does not provide that fulfilling experience I’m searching for, it’s just a means to an end.

People always say you need to retire TO something, not FROM something. I wholeheartedly agree with this. But again, my troubles lie with that question… what do I want to do?? Thinking of this unknown is simultaneously exciting and limitless, but also terrifying and fear inducing.

I know I have many hobbies and stuff I like to do that I’ll have a lot more time for. There are things I want to learn, places I want to see, and people I want to spend more time with. But will all these things end up leaving me fulfilled and content with life post-FI? Or will I find that yes, it’s fun but there’s something missing? Will I ever figure out what it is that will bring me purpose?

Had I not been living the FI life, I likely wouldn’t have had to run into this dreaded existential question. I would have worked at my job for 40+ years, as that’s what “everybody does” and by the time I was done I’d probably be too tired from working my whole life to try and pursue anything that gave me meaning.

The good news is I still have a lot of time to figure this question out, but it’s certainly not one I was anticipating having to deal with when I signed on to this movement!

The Indecisiveness

One of the best things about the FI movement is getting exposed to the plethora of different stories out there of what people are doing on the journey, or what they have done to accomplish it.

It can also be one of the tougher parts to deal with.

You see, when I hear of all the amazing things people out there are doing, I can truly see myself doing most of these things too. The world is opened up a bit more, and another metaphorical door is added to my options to walk through.

The problem is, when you have hundreds of doors to choose from, what is the best path forward?

  • That person is buying rental properties, should I do that?
  • What area of the US is best to live now and long term?
  • Maybe I should try to build up a freelancing business like others?
  • Should I become a nomad and work out of an RV/travel abroad?

These are just a couple of the hundreds of questions that I’m constantly asking myself.

I’m a fairly easy going guy who likes to adventure and try new things, and I could see myself doing probably about 90% of the things people are doing out there.

How do you make a decision about a path forward when there are that many options!?

The indecisiveness of my path forward is something that truly weighs on me. I know I would like to do some of these things, but which is the best? My default in this situation is to simply not make a decision, and keep trudging on with whatever I’m doing. But that’s not always the best idea either. Sometimes change is necessary to adapt and grow and be exposed to different things.

As with the prior struggle, had I not found this FI life I probably would have just stuck with my job, and gone wherever that path took me. There’s much less indecisiveness when you’re climbing the corporate ladder.

I’m sure I will figure out the best path for me at some point, but in the meantime the indecisiveness will continue to be something that takes up my mental capacity.

Click: The Fast Forward Button

If you haven’t seen the movie, Click, it is a comedy (but also serious/sad movie?) about a man who gets a TV remote that allows him to use the buttons to effect his real life.

While the movie uses some buttons for comedic effect (slow-mo, rewind, language, etc) the main part of the movie revolves around his use of the fast forward button.

Whenever the main character has a part of life he doesn’t want to deal with, or doesn’t have time for (mainly work), he chooses to use the fast forward button and skip through it. I won’t ruin the ending, but there are many things to take away from this movie!

I feel like sometimes this is how I feel. “If only I could fast forward to where I am at FI, then I’ll have things figured out.” “It’s going to be so great once I’m at FI, can I just skip the next couple work years and get there already?”

This is also a theme I’ve noticed in some parts of the financial independence community.

The fact of the matter though is that life is precious. It’s a finite thing we have that once gone, you can never get back.

I know I should not think this way, but it can be easy to romanticize a future moment in life where you have a lot more freedom to do whatever you want.

Without the FI movement, this thought never would have even crossed my mind. Fast forward to retirement, when I’m 65? No thanks. But somehow it is different to think about when that fast forward point is only 5-10 years away.

Perhaps the best way to counter this would be to incorporate more freedom into my current life. There are many ways to do this and make that possible.

The bad part? Add another option to that list of indecisiveness in the previous section. 🙁

The “What-Ifs”

Lastly, and in conclusion, there are so many what-ifs in this movement to think about that can cause anxiety and stress.

  • What if I do in fact run out of money and can’t find another job?
  • What if the stock market hits a recession and never recovers (a la the Nikkei)?
  • What will I do about healthcare and if I suffer a debilitating injury or health condition?
  • What if I choose the wrong path to go down and don’t like the outcome?

All these questions are less concerning to me than the ones in the indecisiveness section. I do think there are ways to mitigate these things and if I’m truly worried about running out of money, the best thing to do would simply be to save up more before pulling the plug on the job.

But the fact remains that those questions are still out there and something I think about from time to time. Are we all crazy for doing this thing and pursuing this FI lifestyle?

I truly think that answer is a resounding, “NO”, and I sincerely doubt I will have any regrets about venturing forth on this path.

There are too many good things that have happened already on this path for me to have any regrets about it. This post is simply a reminder that even though things can be great and appear so on the surface, there are also some unseen struggles that can go along with any journey.

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What struggles have you had living the FI life? Can you relate to some of my thoughts/concerns or do you have any that I did not highlight?

5 thoughts to “Living The FI Life: The Struggles”

  1. Those are all legitimate concerns. But I learned to live in the present and don’t stress about the future much.
    I’m in a better financial position that 95% of all US households. If there are problems, we’d still be way ahead.
    Truthfully, I haven’t found my purpose either. I envy people who have a primary mission, but life is also more relaxing without the constant pressure. I don’t worry about it anymore. It’ll come and if it doesn’t, that’s fine too.
    That’s part of FIRE. You have to accept some uncertainties.
    Keep at it and don’t worry too much.

  2. I agree with Retire By Forty. I don’t know what my purpose is, I may never know. But I don’t worry about it, I just take life as it comes day by day. I couldn’t tell you where I’ll be in 20 years, let alone 5. Similar to you as a child, I also wanted to play or be involved in sports “when I grow up.” Well, I’m grown up now and I’m not, haha. On a side note, I’m beginning to think we may be related in some way given the way you seem to live your life and interests we share LOL. 🙂

    Now that you mention it, the indecisiveness and uncertainty is certainly a factor. In particular I find that I can’t decide what to do when exploring other sources of income. More along the uncertainty lines, health insurance is my biggest concern if I were to walk away from work. They’ll be at least a 20 year gap (even in a best-case scenario) between retiring and gaining medicare eligibility.

    But the beauty of it all is that financial independence affords you the freedom to walk away if you want. If I want to keep working, I can! If I want to transition to part time work, I can! If I want to not work at all, that’s cool too. I think that is best evaluated once you hit FI, not right now.

  3. I tend to romanticize FI as well. I have not considered too much in what I would do or the dread that could potentially hit me like a wave. But, I know there are certain things I would personally like to pursue that I haven’t because the time work requires from me. I read somewhere that devoted religious figures seem to be the happiest people in the world. Ergo content. I’m not trying to be any sort of priest, but I think there are principles (community, existential lessons, life, meaning etc) I would like to explore.

  4. I came from the traditional work hard (really hard and all the time b/c I’m in 24/7 hustle land, NYC). So I agree that FIRE forces you to confront the “What do I want to do with my life” question, but I find it so much more refreshing compared to that opposite “Head down and just grind.” I still don’t know what I want to do except that I want to travel more, so this year we’re focused on travel and hopefully we’ll figure it out after that. I think it’s great that you’re thinking about these big questions — experiment with it. Treat it like a science experiment, or a game if that feels more natural. How many interesting things can you do? Usually these will point you to the right direction.

  5. It’s all about giving yourself options!

    Stick with the automatic stuff when it comes to money, that way you can decide later on whether a FIRE lifestyle is right for you. I’m kind of in the same boat. I could make the leap to RE, but I feel this work routine isn’t the worst thing in the world for me personally.

    Best in your journey, mate!!

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