FIRE - Is it all about the money?
One of the blogs that I follow is Countdown to Tranquility, where BusyMom is documenting her 2000 day journey to early retirement. I look forward to the email telling me her new post has arrived - I hope you'll take a look and enjoy it as much as I do.
I just read her latest post, Financial Independence? Early Retirement? Does Your Spouse Agree? Spoiler alert, the answer is BusyMom and Mr BusyMom (actually referred to as BusyDad, who'd have thought?) don't exactly agree. That's always going to add some spice to life!
I did a post a while back with a similar theme called Different Pages - Retire Early Discussions with Your Partner.
Other than talking about our respective other halves, our posts have something else in common. They both zero in on money being the area of difference. Maybe that's not surprising, but it did get me thinking whether there's too much focus on money, and not enough on other equally (or more?) important aspects of a happy life.
In fact, as they say that money can't buy you happiness, how come we keep going on about money - myself included?
Show me the money
My perception is that most FIRE posts I read focus on money, often on the topics of:
How to be frugal, and
How to invest money
I'm probably no different and, in proof of my point, here I am continuing to talk about money! I suppose it's normal, after all becoming financially independent is about money, the word "financial" in the name is something of a give away.
I see three main elements to the money stream. One is controlling the spending (the frugal part, although I still don't like the word for some reason), another is making the most from your money (the investing part) and the third is the earning part.
I've already highlighted my view that much is written about spending and investing, but what about the maximising earnings part? There is stuff out there from the FIRE community, but is it getting the attention it deserves?
The posts I see often focus on increasing earnings by starting a side hustle - posts like "7 side hustles you can start today" or "15 easy side hustles for millennials". Again, nothing wrong with these, but how many people have the time and energy for this? Did I have the energy for a side hustle as well as working hard at my day job, and wouldn't the side hustle take time away from my family, friends and interests?
So should there be more posts about how to maximize earnings from your day job? I don't see many of these. I bet a number of people have the potential to earn more from their nine to five work, and with the right choices could be banking additional take home pay. They say it's easier to get extra sales from existing customers than it is to find a new customer. Could that same principle apply to maximising our earnings?
I don't have the expertise to address this in detail, but I'm sure some other FIRE bloggers have the skills to write some awesome posts about how to earn more from the job you're already doing. That extra money can then go straight to the Financial Independence fund.
I'll give a personal example. I've taken overseas roles, for which there are plus and minus points. Better pay was a big plus! How much extra? My rule of thumb was that I saved my payroll tax and got accommodation provided. I guess that's like a 30% plus increase. Just think how much more quickly you'd get to financial independence if every month you could save and invest your payroll taxes and your rent or mortgage. I don't expect people to rush to get a job in a different country, but it's one example that shows that there are ways to make more from the day job.
Yep, I definitely proved it, FIRE bloggers can't help talking about money!
Life is like a box of chocolates
I'm not much of a movie buff. I used "show me the money" from Jerry Maguire for the money part of this post, so I figured I needed another movie reference for the second part.
Forrest isn't wrong, one of the things that makes life interesting is the different flavours in life's chocolate box. In our FIRE box of chocolates, some of the flavours may represent money, but there are lots of other flavours as well.
I know that in my own early retirement, I have to make a conscious effort not to focus too much on money. It's easy to miss out on other parts of life because we're trying to save a buck, but that's not always the right way to go.
After all, why did we decide we wanted financial independence, and maybe early retirement, in the first place? There are lots of reasons, some of which may include wanting to spend more time with family, have time to help others, time for a hobby, etc.
If we focus too heavily on the money side of things in our chase for financial independence and the lifestyle benefits that come with it, do we risk missing out on some of life's opportunities during the journey?
Perhaps I'm worrying too much, because from the FIRE blogs that I read, the writers seem pretty happy. But it is worth remembering to keep a sensible balance in our lives.
As well as the money triangle, we shouldn't forget the another triangle in our quest for financial independence. It's important to keep our lives in balance - it's not just about the money.
Run David, Run
This is my second post that ends on an unrelated running note. Let's hope that my Forrest Gump references help me tomorrow as I have a marathon to run. If you don't see a post next week, it's not gone well, and I'm still running!