When I created this blog, the sole purpose was to chronicle our journey for financial independence and joyful life. I wanted to share my knowledge with like-minded people. I could have just focused on writing articles about money and personal finance. But I didn’t. Right from the start, I put a strong emphasis on the joyful life aspect, because I realized that having all the money in the world does not automatically make one happy. Happiness needs to come from within and finding this internal happiness is a daily practice. I realized, that writing about money gets old quickly, I wanted to be able to write about more than just the money.
Being the sole income earner of the family (for now), early retirement was never really a goal I had in mind. My focus has always been on financial independence. I want to reach financial independence so Mrs. T and I can have more options in life and have the freedom to work because we want to, rather than working because we have to. Perhaps one of the reasons that early retirement isn’t on my radar, is because I enjoy what I do at work. Having been with the same company for over 11 years, I feel fortunate that I started my working career with the company when I first graduated from university. To me, early retirement has always been just one of the nice things that we would have in life one day. It does not mean I must retire early in my 30’s to make me happy. Or that I must hit a specific FI number or hit a specific FI date.
Perhaps I am a bit unique compared to most people, as I grew up in a family where multiple family members either retired in their early 40’s, or became financially independent but continued working in their 40’s. Money has never been a tabooed subject in my family. Talking about money related topics has had a very positive impact in my life. From my family members’ examples, I realized how empowering it is to be able to decide on your own terms whether to continue to work, or to retire early. I never felt these family members are any different or more privileged than others.
One of the distinctive benefits of having a dad who retired early and a stay-at-home mom is that my parents were always there when I needed them. Unlike many of my school friends, both my dad and mom were able to attend many of my school functions, like basketball games, band concerts, and field trips. Now I am a dad of two young kids, I am even more appreciative of what my parents were able to do for me and my brother when we grew up. Always being available and being completely present at my kids’ important life and school events is something I want to achieve. I am practicing it right now as best as I can with a full time job.
Growing up, we went on extended road trips because both my parents were free during school summer break. When I was in high school, every summer we would go on road trips that usually lasted over a month. One year, we flew to Toronto and drove around Eastern Canada and Eastern United States. Another year we drove from Vancouver to Alaska and back. Another time we drove from Vancouver to New Orleans and back. Then once to Prince Edward Island to drive around the Maritimes and Maine. Throughout high school, we also drove to Banff and Alberta multiple times.
The year I got my driver’s license (Learner, not a full license), my family and I drove up from Vancouver to Alaska and stopped in different small northern towns along the way. One day, I drove for more than 12 hours on the flat boring Alaska Highway. Because I had just gotten my license, I was loving every single minute of this new experience. Even today, I still smile whenever I think about this particular memory.
My extensive travels growing up is the exact reason why I want travelling to be part of my family’s life going forward. I want Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 to learn invaluable lessons that can only be learned from travelling and seeing the world with their own eyes. There are so many things that you simply cannot learn from reading books or sitting in a classroom. You must see them and experience them yourself.
FIRE the end
Although I have been involved in the FIRE community, shamefully I didn’t know the acronym FIRE (Financially Independent Retire Early) until a few years after I started this blog. For a while, I was confused whenever people used this acronym. I also didn’t know about lean FIRE and fat FIRE. Apparently, there are many facets of FIRE. I had no idea!
FIRE has been getting more and more mainstream coverage lately. Almost every other day I would come across articles on so-on retired at age 38, or someone who retired at age 27 to travel around the world, or someone who retired after saving extremely aggressively for 5 years, or someone who retired by saving up one million dollars in less 5 years, and the list goes on.
FIRE is flawed in these articles.
They don’t provide the general public what FIRE really means.
Unfortunately, almost all of these articles only focus on the early retirement aspect and provide a false image of relaxed and luxurious life in retirement – travelling around the world, leaving the 9-5 rat race, saying FU to the employers, and slipping piña colada on the beach. Early retirement is all fun and games. There are no drawbacks and no negatives to early retirement. It is a lie, because no matter where you go, you will always bring yourself. So if you are not in a happy place while pursuing FIRE, you sure won’t be happy once you reach it.
Many of these articles also fail to acknowledge that many of these early retirees are not really “retired” in the traditional sense. In fact, many of these early retirees are still earning money through side hustles or even part-time jobs.
These articles are simply click baits. They are there to get the average Joes and Janes to click on them, read, and feel more miserable about their lives. Because most of them cannot fathom the idea of financial independence or early retirement. A small minority even get so fed up with the idea of early retirement, they become trolls and leave very negative comments on these articles.
The fundamental problem with FIRE
The root of the problem is that too many people hate their jobs. They despise what they do at work, they don’t like their bosses, they don’t like their co-workers. Through media, these people have been told that owning expensive things will make them happy. Purchasing things will solve all of their problems. So, they mindlessly spend money on things they don’t need, only to find out that they need to somehow make more money to sustain their expensive-never-ending-purchasing-spree. They work simply because they need the money to pay for the new things that would supposedly make them happier in life. Therefore, they continue to clock in and clock out every week day in spite of hating their jobs. Due to how they feel about their jobs, they are constantly looking forward to the weekend or their next vacation, because that’s when they can be completely free from their jobs. And so, the Monday blues sets in whenever they are back to work from weekends or their vacations.
To them, FIRE is an escape. The happy ending. The escape route. The finish line. They tell themselves that they will only be happy once they are retired. Before they get there, they will never be happy. They constantly remind themselves how miserable their life is and how wonderful their life will be once they are free from their 9-5 job. So, they constantly look forward to that retirement day so they can give their employers the middle finger and tell their coworkers to get lost.
Connecting life problems to not having money, financial independence, or retire early is simply incorrect and fallacious.
Reaching financial independence and retire early does not automatically mean that you have crossed the finish line and that automatically makes you happy. If you are in a bad relationship with your partner or spouse, do you really think everything will be rosy when you have more money? Most divorces are causes by money issues!
If you are not happy and content with your life right at this moment, what makes you think that you will suddenly become happy when you are financially independent and/or retired early?
You still need to work on those problems in your life regardless of you are FIRE’d or not. Instead of using FIRE as an excuse not to work on these problems right now, start taking steps to resolve these problems. Stop ignoring problems in your life thinking they will disappear once you are financially independent or retired.
Practice gratitude every day and be appreciative that you are still alive at this very moment. Enjoy the present moment, because you can’t be certain that you will be alive tomorrow. Stop worrying about things in the past because they are already done. Stress is just an imaginary thing that we invented. The things you are stressing out about, you don’t have a control over. So why stress over them?
We can’t fight the human nature…but we can learn from it
We are wired to believe that we need to have something first in order to do what we want to do, so we can be who we want to be (happy). So, we teach our brains that we must attain retirement before we can enjoy our lives. It’s only when we attain early retirement, then we can do what we want to do with our lives. Once we can do what we want to do with our lives, we can finally be happy. Unfortunately, it is easy to get stuck in this endless loop of chasing that next new shiny thing and never be satisfied with our life. We are constantly comparing ourselves with our neighbours, friends, family members, and even strangers. We envy someone who has a brand new car, we envy someone who got promoted, we envy someone who has a big job title, we envy someone who is retired in their early 30’s, we envy people who became millionaires in 5 years, etc.
It is human nature to compare with our peers. But don’t let comparisons create a negative affect where we become hateful or envious of someone else. Instead of comparisons, think of other people as positive motivators and inspirators and allow them to drive us and improve ourselves in every aspect of our life, every single day.
I truly believe that rather than focus on early retirement, the mainstream media articles should focus on financial independence instead. Become financially independent so one has the option to decide whether to continue to work or to do something that they are truly passionate about, whether that brings in income or not. In fact, many of these early retirees featured in the mainstream media articles are still “working” in some ways. Many of them have a blog that is generating side income, some have turned their hobbies into a second career, and some are providing consulting services. They are doing things that they enjoy doing and making an income. They no longer see these things as work. The term “work” has taken on a completely different meaning after they become financially independent.
What is success?
How do you define success? Success has different definitions for each person. Why do we always tie success to how much money someone has, someone’s job title, someone’s social status, or accomplishments, or popularity? Why can’t we define being successful as in being happy and provide value to the community? Are celebrities and professional athletes really more successful than someone who volunteers at the homeless shelter every single week?
Every single job is an honourable job!
FIRE is just one of the many possibilities in life. One important thing I have learned and constantly remind myself of, is that there is no need to compare myself with other people. I am successful in my own ways. The way I define success is to be content and at peace with myself and improve the world that we live in. There is no need to compare myself with other people. It’s about holding myself to a higher standard every single day, and practice gratitude. Be humble, be appreciative, that is the way life should be.
Now it is easy to write and talk about this idea of success. It is much harder to practice this on a daily basis.
That is why we should all aim to be a better version of ourselves every single day. That’s the only way we can improve as human beings. Treat each day as the best day of our lives, because it is. Tell yourself every morning: “Today is the greatest day of my life” and then look for reasons to feel good.
So what exactly is FIRE? To me, FIRE is more of a lifestyle rather than a key life milestone. FIRE means not having to worry about cash flow, being able to dictate what I do with my everyday life, being my own boss, determining my own schedule, having more flexibility in life, helping the community, and improving the world that I live in. There are no defined paths to achieve FIRE. There is no set formula, no trick, no magic. Really, FIRE is more than having enough money to sustain your entire lifetime. It is a mentality, a lifestyle of self-improvement and sustainability.
I’ll end this post with this life advice from Holly Butcher, who passed away at the tender age of 27 on Jan 4, 2018. She wrote the following heartbreaking letter a few days before her passing. I have reflected about life a lot since reading it. What exactly is my purpose in life? Should I be more grateful and more appreciative of the privileged life I have? To have a loving wife, to be a dad of two precious kids, to have a job that I enjoy doing, and to have travelled in many different countries already in my 35 years on earth. I have been super fortunate in life. FIRE or not FIRE, I am already successful and I have a great life.
It’s a strange thing to realise and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; Until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey- most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.
That’s the thing about life; It is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.
I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy.. I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.
I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared – I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to it’s inevitability.. Except when I want to talk about it and it is treated like a ‘taboo’ topic that will never happen to any of us.. That’s been a bit tough. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.
I have dropped lots of my thoughts below as I have had a lot of time to ponder life these last few months. Of course it’s the middle of the night when these random things pop in my head most!
Those times you are whining about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively effect other people’s days.
Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that – breathe.
You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. Your new fake nails might have got a chip, your boobs are too small, or you have cellulite on your arse and your belly is wobbling.
Let all that shit go.. I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.
I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise – Be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them.
I tried to live a healthy life, in fact, that was probably my major passion. Appreciate your good health and functioning body- even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it.
Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body.. work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. That way you might realise just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is.. While on this topic, delete any account that pops up on your news feeds that gives you any sense of feeling shit about yourself. Friend or not.. Be ruthless for your own well-being.
Be grateful for each day you don’t have pain and even the days where you are unwell with man flu, a sore back or a sprained ankle, accept it is shit but be thankful it isn’t life threatening and will go away.
Whinge less, people! .. And help each other more.
Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; More than I could I ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.
It is a weird thing having money to spend at the end.. when you’re dying. It’s not a time you go out and buy material things that you usually would, like a new dress. It makes you think how silly it is that we think it is worth spending so much money on new clothes and ‘things’ in our lives.
Buy your friend something kind instead of another dress, beauty product or jewellery for that next wedding. 1. No-one cares if you wear the same thing twice 2. It feels good. Take them out for a meal, or better yet, cook them a meal. Shout their coffee. Give/ buy them a plant, a massage or a candle and tell them you love them when you give it to them.
Value other people’s time. Don’t keep them waiting because you are shit at being on time. Get ready earlier if you are one of those people and appreciate that your friends want to share their time with you, not sit by themselves, waiting on a mate. You will gain respect too! Amen sister.
This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves.. strange! It might seem lame but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. Mind you, it was also easier to do in our house because we had no little kiddies there. Anyway, moral of the story- presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas. Moving on.
Use your money on experiences.. Or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit.
Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.
Get amongst nature.
Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.. enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.
Random rhetorical question. Are those several hours you spend doing your hair and make up each day or to go out for one night really worth it? I’ve never understood this about females 🤔.
Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colours the sun makes as it rises.
Listen to music.. really listen. Music is therapy. Old is best.
Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.
Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing okay?
Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.
Work to live, don’t live to work.
Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.
Eat the cake. Zero guilt.
Say no to things you really don’t want to do.
Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life.. you might want a mediocre life and that is so okay.
Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.
Also, remember if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it – in work or love or whatever it may be. Have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable. I know that is said all the time but it couldn’t be more true.
Anyway, that’s just this one young gals life advice. Take it or leave it, I don’t mind!
Oh and one last thing, if you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. I feel like it is something that is so overlooked considering every donation can save 3 lives! That is a massive impact each person can have and the process really is so simple.
Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year – a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend it here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.
..’Til we meet again