When I mention to people that I am on a journey to Financial independence and early retirement (FIRE), I am often met with a snicker. And not a nice snicker (is there such a thing as a nice snicker?) but a “Jesus christ, you’re one of those freaks” type of snicker. This is usually followed by statements such as:
“I guess you don’t spend money on anything then“,
” You’re missing out on life!“,
“You’re too young to retire!”
and my personal favourite “You could die tomorrow, you know.”
It always surprised me that during my 10+ years of doing this, I rarely get a response that deviates from those four. It goes to show that my choices aren’t the norm. I’m ok with that.
“I guess you don’t spend money on anything then”
I wish I didn’t have to spend money on anything. I wish I could live in a society without money. If I could barter and trade my way through life, I’d be doing that. Since I can’t, of course I’m going to spend money on things. In fact, I spend a large amount of money on things that I’m sure a lot of people would object to. I love good food. I love organic food. I love grass fed beef. I love beer, whiskey and good coffee. None of those things are cheap. I love to drive my rattling car, I love to go to events, I love to travel. Again, not cheap.
(I’m mentioning things that aren’t the basic necessities, such as rent/mortgage, food to survive, and clothes to cover my food loving body. I assume that’s not what they are referring to. )
My point is, I base all of my “frivolous” spending on my values. I don’t want to spend money on things I don’t truly care about, or things that society thinks I should have. I’d much rather put that money into investments to fund one of my main goals in life (other than good health, relationships, and being a good human being): financial independence.
“You’re missing out on life!”
I spent six months of my life as a full on vegan. I did it to challenge myself, to explore other types of food, to see if I could align my eating with my environmentalist soul. What I discovered was not six months of suffering and self deprivation. I discovered new and exciting things. Different ways of cooking and preparing strange (to me) ingredients that I would never have tried had I remained in my meat-eating lane, trucking along, eating the same old things, over and over again because it was convenient and familiar.
I’m a huge believer in challenging myself and that often means imposing strict rules.
For example, I’ve been watching a lot of MSNBC’s Lockup lately. One of the many reasons the show fascinates me is the level of ingenuity and creativity shown by the inmates who are locked up. With limited access to every day conveniences, they have to come up with creative solutions to everyday problems. The shower-head disperses water too wide to get all the shampoo out of your hair? Attach a deodorant bottle to compress the water flow. No make up? Rub vaseline onto a magazine page, which has been printed using a colour you find pretty, then apply the coloured vaseline as eyeshadow, blush or lipstick. No dumbbells available? Fill up a plastic sack with water, tie a sheet around it, make a loop as a handle and build those muscles!
What I’m trying to say is, creating restrictions in our lives does not mean that we are missing out. If we do it with an open mind, we can discover and experience things we never would have otherwise.
“You’re too young to retire!”
I don’t want this essay to be too long since your time is valuable, but here’s the thing about retirement: It does not have to mean quitting my job and doing nothing till I die. If that was what it meant, then I’d probably not be as motivated to get there. Retirement to me is pulling off the freeway everyone else is on. Discovering new routes, stopping wherever I want to stop, leaving whenever I want to leave. Retirement, to me, means not having to do things I don’t want to do because I need the money.
Imagine going to work because you love what you do and you want to be there, not because you have bills to pay and food to buy. Even if your boss paid you nothing, you’d still go in because it’s no longer about the money.
That is what retirement means to me. The option to work or not to work. The option to work for free for a cause that matters to me, just for fun, or to simply spend time with people I like.
I’m not too young to retire right now. I’m too financially limited to retire right now. And I’m changing that.
“You could die tomorrow, you know.”
Damn right I could die tomorrow. I could also not die tomorrow. I could die 60 years from now and why would I want to screw the older version of myself because I want to spend money on silly things I don’t need right now?
I don’t spend money on unnecessary things out of respect for myself. I respect and love the older Ebba, even though she’s not here yet. The same way I don’t pour oil into the ocean because it wont affect us right now. Further down the line it might. The earth could be nuked or hit by an asteroid tomorrow or 10 years from now, but what if it isn’t?
The selfishness of my younger self could make things really difficult for the older me and I’m not willing to risk it.
So those are the detailed responses I give when talking to people who are genuinely interested in knowing why I live the way I do. If I’m sitting in a pub, talking to a person who is trying to convince me to go on a £5,000 cruise because it was the best thing ever and I’m stupid for not going, I usually just snicker back and change the subject.