I surely didn’t expect any pitfalls when I started my journey to FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early).
Life after FI?
Hanging around the Financial Independence (FI) Facebook groups, I stumbled upon this question:
I have a question for those of you already living the Fi life. What is it that you do with your time now that you don’t have to work for money anymore? Do you chill out and take it easy, do you raise your kids, do you try to cure cancer during the day and fight crime during the night, do you continue working the same job as before just because you like it, do you travel the world?
And those of you who are not yet living the FI live (so you won’t feel left out) how do you see yourselves once you reach FI?
About 2years ago I had a very good picture of how I see myself post-FI. Now that I’ve got a taste of it, I’m further down the path and I have experiences to share.
First of all, our generation is in a unique situation to even think about FI. Our parents and their parents worked hard to rebuild after the World Wars, to put food on the table, and to pay for our education. We are the first generation with freedom and access to anything possible from knowledge to contacts, to grants and business ideas. Thank you Internet.
Let’s say we play our cards smartly without destroying the planet, and we reach FI, life post-FI it’s a whole other beast.
The Financial Independence Pitfalls
Imagine you somehow acquired a hefty sum in the bank, money is flowing in indefinitely, you don’t have to work anymore. You never ever have to go to your boring, dreadful job and report to your even more boring, dreadful boss. Well done, you’ve made it! You can retire now.
Whatcha gonna do now?
🗺✈🚗 Travel the world
Although traveling is interesting it becomes tiring at some point. A couple of months on the road are enough to make me realize how much I miss my home, my routine, cooking in my kitchen and sleeping in my bed.
Some people practice the perpetual travel lifestyle (check out Jake Desyllas‘ The Voluntary Life podcast). This is when you settle in a place for 6 months or so, live mas o menos like a local and only then move to the next destination. This is more acceptable to me, but still – I like my home comforts too much to have to build it up every half year from scratch. I don’t have children but I can imagine it’d present a whole other set of logistical issues to deal with.
💻🏖📚Become a Digital Nomad
Another myth that I busted was that of the digital nomad. It’s not like you can go anywhere in the world, have a comfortable, quiet space for work, reliable internet, good coffee plus all the needed equipment (a good monitor for photo retouching for example). At least this is what I need.
You don’t get all of the above at one-third of the price you’d pay for at home (at your home base).
Maybe they’re developing digital nomad hubs like Chang Mai or East Europe* but it’s not like you can work from anywhere.
*while writing this article I came upon Coworking Bansko in the mountains of Bulgaria with 150 MBit fiber internet which I haven’t personally tried out but it
Take for example Fuerteventura – a Balearic Island belonging to Spain. It’s where I did one of my attempts in digital nomady and where I thought I’d be perfectly connected – well, good luck with that 😉 The winds were so strong, that the network was a mirage in the desert of this sandy, rocky place.
👨👩👧👦 Spend more time with your family
This one also comes from the romanticized, wishy-washy area of your imagination. Tell me, what’s the maximum time you can spend with your parents without killing each other? For me, it’s anything from 2days to a week. For longer periods of time, I need to apply daily meditation, walks in nature, and extract myself from my family for at least a couple of hours a day.
You might be in perfect relationship with your (extended) family, the family of your spouse and even your kids. But still – use this family time with caution. It’s best for all parties to maintain a healthy distance. I’ve noticed my mother’s enthusiasm to see me is inversely proportional to the length of my stay. There might have been a reason you weren’t seeing them so much in your pre-FI life.
🧘🏼♀️💅🏼⛱Hang out and take it easy
It is disorienting to suddenly find oneself with too much free time. I know – isn’t this the dream come true? So much time to do all of the things you’ve been putting on hold and just hang out. Again, like with traveling, you will run out of things to do very quickly. It might be a month, a year, depending on how disconnected and negligent you were with yourself in the pre-FI life.
Without the structure of the job, you will have to create your own schedule and structure. Monday became my favorite day of the week only because I borrowed methods from the agile (software development) world – like planning, scrum, retrospectives. I also attended the Productivity Day that beautifully solved the lack of structure and social environment.
On top of that, all kinds of suppressed emotions will come up and it is a good time to get them ‘processed’. It’s the best self-discovery time – I guarantee you that.
👫🎉👯Meet your friends and get to know new people
The job provides an environment and people to be around. They are not your best buddies and soul mates, but it’s still a social environment. Your non-FI friends still have to go to work, and there won’t be many people to hang out with on a Monday afternoon. You have to connect to a whole new set of people with a matching mindset to hang out with. Things like Meetup, or entrepreneur, creative workshops, get-togethers are useful in this case.
For me, the FI interested people I know are mostly online. They’re spread around the globe, and this year it will be the first time I’ll meet some of them in person at a FIWE 2019 (Financial Independence Week Europe). I wish I had connected earlier. I would have saved me many doubts, sense of loneliness, and steps back on the path.
🎸🎨📸Work on all those projects you never had time for
Finally, you’d have time to learn to play the guitar, work on your photography portfolio, learn to program, learn proper German (for all my expat friends in Berlin – I know this is on your list ;), write a book, or … (fill in the gap).
You’ll do many of these, but once the initial excitement fades away, you’ll need to find motivation. The job provides the external expectations and the environment to keep you going, even on the slow days and even when you don’t feel like it (boring status meetings, anyone?)
In my creative projects, I missed a team and people to collaborate with. This was a big one for me, and since I couldn’t solve it in the 6 months I had, I went back to my job with lots of enthusiasm to reunite ‘the working force’.
This situation has pushed me to experimented extensively with my optimal work/life schedule and lead to the Empowerment routine I keep following.
💸💰💳 Be sure your money will be totally enough for the rest of your life
Whatever the amount you imagine you will need for your monthly expenses, double it. It’s true you won’t be spending money on work-related items (lunch, commute, fancy clothes). But you still live, eat, move and have interests.
There’re frugal ways, but I haven’t figured out how to get a Mac computer, a nice retreat, or get my teeth done in a frugal way yet. And these are things, you would surely either need or fancy at some point. Prepare a buffer! Here’s my retrospective after a 6months sabbatical: I spend double my projected base monthly expenses.
What can you do ’bout it?
I’d recommend that you try it for yourself (even for a short time).
Instead of waiting to reach the BIG FI (currently at about 30%), I decided to have some mini FI moments in between. I did a few test drives of a FI life: a 6-months sabbatical and a transition to a 3d and then 4d working week. Why defer to a later stage in life, when you won’t have the energy, stamina or the courage to take on adventures, visit remote places and start new projects?
I traveled a lot, developed on my blog and photography projects, visited family, read, went to a meditation retreat, and practiced my driving skills. I gathered enough data to test out my hypothesis of what life after
You can do it too!
That being said, I am still looking for my FI life recipe – and I am happy to learn from people farther on the path than I am.
Thanks, Debora Apostolova for posing for this title image