Today I learned that there’s an entire website devoted to Top 10 lists, and yet there isn’t a single one for why people might want to pursue financial independence.
That’s a shame. I mean, there are some terrific compilations out there. The 15 hottest zombie teens. The worst 25 video games released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Ten things you are doing right now to piss off your neighbor. Still, I couldn’t find any that provided reasons folks might want to save and invest tons of their money early in life instead of spending it.
So that’s getting fixed right now. Let’s break out the Top 10 Reasons to Pursue Financial Independence.
#10) You Care About The Planet
The only realistic way to reach financial independence for most folks is to reduce consumption across the board. Buying less stuff helps you to save, and saving is how the job gets done. An awesome side effect of your decision to cut costs is a lower footprint on good ‘ol planet Earth.
In Latin, to consume means literally to ruin and destroy. Considering the environmental effects of material production, energy usage, and waste processing, that sounds about right.
#9) Pursuit of A Different Vocation
If you’re married with a family, it’s more than likely they’re depending on your income in order to survive.
So if you no longer love your job and want to try something else — say, trade your job as an accountant making 100K to become a math teacher pulling 50 — you probably can’t do that without severe consequences.
On the other hand, implementing aggressive saving techniques and reducing your cost of living will allow you to quickly build up enough money to allow you to take a chance on something new, minus the risk. This amount is commonly known as F-You Money. (Thanks, jlcollinsnh). You don’t even need to hit your full “FI” goal in order to to this — a partial completion of the journey is sufficient.
#8) You Want Memories Instead of Things
Fact 1: People who don’t have to spend 45+ hours a week working (and commuting to work, and thinking about work) can perform a wider range of activities, as opposed to doing the same old stuff every day.
Fact 2: People remember unique experiences and forget the specifics of things that happen over and over again. I’ve tied my shoelaces over 10,000 times in my life but the only time I actually remember doing it is when I was 4, back when I was learning the skill. How many of your days at work stand apart in your memory and are worth recalling? I’m betting not all that many.
#7) It’s an Amazing Feat
Most people like challenges, and this is an intense one. You’ll be working to overcome years of MegaCorp training which has taught you and everyone you know to spend everything you earn, and then some.
Hell, if it wasn’t such an unusual, incredible achievement, more people would pull it off. And if more people were doing it, there’d be more Top 10 lists of reasons to do it on the internet.
Note that I’m not saying that only a few people are capable of reaching FI. Quite the opposite, I think nearly everyone can do it. Even so, the miniscule number of people who are able to retire before the age of 40 speaks for itself. This nut is tough to crack.
#6) Work-Life Balance is a Myth
If you’ve been in your field for more than a few years, it’s likely that you’re getting tired of the murderous treadmill of commutes, to-do lists, meetings, off-hours emails, weekend work, politics, and forced socializing. It’s called the grind for a reason — over time, it chews you up.
Even the best of jobs still take up the vast majority of your waking hours. Your typical day of getting ready for work, travel, working, then getting back home and attempting to decompress will take ten or eleven hours, easy. Working a full-time salaried position is never going to feel like anything resembling true life balance — especially for folks with kids.
Confucious said: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Collary: If you dislike what you do, every day you work will suck.
#5) There’s virtually no downside
Let’s say you pursue FI, quit your job, and find that the lifestyle is not working out for you.
That’s OK. Really, it is. Despite all of the complaining I do on this blog about how much work sucks, I recognize that some people genuinely enjoy what they do and would do it without pay.
The beauty of retiring early and going back to work voluntarily is that you’ll be doing it with your eyes wide open, with complete awareness and freedom of choice, rather than because you feel trapped.
Plus, when you go back to work, you’ll still have the pile of money you built up so you could quit. And everybody likes money.
What have you got to lose?
#4) Spending More Time with Family
Interested in staying home to raise children? Then you want FI.
#3) Having Options in Life
Long before you reach your goal of true independence, you’ll be reaping the benefits of being financially secure.
Most families need only a few years of aggressive saving to sock away enough money to cover living expenses for an extended period of time. This stockpile of funds provides security, of course, but also a sense of increasing options in life.
Simply having the stash of cash around will make you feel fantastic. Your stress levels go down and your confidence will improve.
The path to FI isn’t like some horrible trek through alligator-infested swampland. It’s more like walking down the newly paved yellow brick road to Oz. But without the poppy fields. Or the Tin-Man. (Okay, okay, this is a terrible analogy.) Anyway, the point is that years you spend on the journey itself are terrific in and of themselves. You’ll feel alive and awake in a way that wasn’t possible for your former self.
#2) Lots of Slow Travel
One of the biggest reasons people want to retire is so they can travel. It makes sense, given the near-universal human desire to go places you’ve never been, see new things, meet different kinds of people, and experience other cultures.
Yet, when you’re living the working life, you’ll rarely be able to take more than a week off at at time. Since you only have a few days to spend abroad, you’ll feel entitled or even obligated to engage in “fast travel.” This is when you take a plane trip to your destination, stay at the very best hotels, spend a small fortune on restaurants, hit the most popular tourist attractions and come home to a final bill of 10K.
Not having a day job will let you travel slow. It’s less expensive and more rewarding. You can stay wherever you want for months, soaking in the environment. When it comes to visiting other places, slower is better.
In the wonderous Land of FI, the future is suddenly malleable instead of fixed.
You can spend your days following your dreams: pursuing personal goals, working on projects that interest you, learning things you would never otherwise be able to learn.
You will be free to live out the perfect life for you, whatever that may be.
And you can start this journey today. What have you got to lose?
#9 deserves a mention of F-You Money and a link to Jim Collins’ blog.
I love your reversal of Confucius, lol.
Yep, great call. Done. It’s one of his all-time best posts. The other two that I particularly like are the entirety of the stock series and the ‘why your house is a terrible investment.’ That one made me laugh ruefully for full week after reading.
If I had a macro-enabled keyboard, a hyperlink to the house article would be bound to the very first slot. I link that so many times on the MMM forums.
It was very enlightening, despite the fact that I’d still be a homeowner knowing that. Hopefully we wouldn’t have bought right at the peak in 06, but I value having a yard, not sharing any walls with others, and generally like DIY stuff. And in my city, there hasn’t been a time (even at peak property values) where renting had the price advantage.
I’ve shared the link a few times myself, usually to people who are early in their FI journey and think that home ownership is a required part of the trip. If you’ve read my Mistakes were Made post, you probably know that I wouldn’t buy a home if I had to do it again. Not that I’m horrifically disappointed with how things turned out — there remain some nice positives to owning, specifically with regard to stability (don’t have to move) and predictability (your monthly payments are very stable, maybe even going down if you managed to refi). But it’s incredibly illiquid. We’re trying to downsize over the next 12-15 months and the amount of work required makes my head hurt. If we were renting — poof. Moved.
I realize I’m commenting a year late but in case others are reading these old posts now like I am I thought I would add to the thread.
I read MMM, Jim Collins and ERE sites among others like most readers of this site but I don’t see #3 mentioned enough on Finance blogs. For me it might be the best reason.
“This stockpile of funds provides security, of course, but also a sense of increasing options in life.”
I can’t wait for the endgame but the incredible sense of relief I have on the journey is reason enough.
Thank you for the great info on the site.
I was always curious if there really was such thing as “work-life balance”….
that last caption on freedom is hilarious. i really am a fan of your writing – thank you