You know, the one which about to hit you, so is the main reason for being spendy and ‘living for the moment’? Sounds silly, but it is a concept with merits.
Firstly, if you were to shuffle off this mortal coil and have to reconcile your actions how would you stack up? Are you a useful member of society or a bit of a recluse because you’re trying to save every penny? This isn’t necessarily a money thing, just a general question – what are you giving up for this long term goal and is the trade worth it? Are you happy with you as a person?
Life is for living and in pursuing FI you want to maximise the amount of time you control, so what happens if you do nothing but work for ten or fifteen years before quitting the rat race? Would you be able to transition easily? You may think it would be straight forward – you hate the office and The Man and there’s lots on the To Do list, but ticking the outstanding items off that list – visiting relatives and making more time for friends, great – but limited. Sort out your sock drawer, fix the leaking tap and mow the lawn – you can do those bits in a few days.
You would definitely want and need the decompression time but what then. What if you don’t like working in a charity shop? Perhaps you are not actually that good at art and that novel just doesn’t quite make its way onto the page. Do you have hobbies or have you shelved them for the sake of increasing your savings rate? What if it turns out you love horse-riding or you get the travel bug, but your FIRE budget doesn’t support more expensive pursuits – do you go back to the office again? Do you switch job to work in a stable or start your own travel company to allow you do what you love?
The point is whilst I completely buy into FIRE and want that control, I’m willing to sacrifice the timing for the sake of enjoying myself now and figuring out what really flicks my switch. Don’t worry I haven’t been plugged back into the Matrix! I am not saying I have to have five luxury holidays a year and life simply isn’t worth living without a fast red car, but if I had bought that winning lottery ticket what would I do? I feel I would struggle for a purpose or sense of meaning, and most of us need that in our lives.
I hope that having started this journey I can save a lot, but also prepare for the transition by trying things now. Yes, that will cost money and push back my quitting date, but if you find the right interest or, as yet untapped, skill, you can enjoy discovering it and honing it whilst working and then, when the time comes, you move smoothly from desk jockey one day to coach, volunteer, museum guide, whatever, the next. If you find that passion sooner it makes the intervening period much more enjoyable.
I remember watching a Steve Jobs speech at some graduation ceremony and the abiding message was about not settling for the status quo if you don’t like it – change something, do something. Choosing FIRE is a big step and is “easy” if you follow the rules, but that leaves a significant period of time being badly deployed capital, not performing to your highest function and spending a lot of time unhappy and clockwatching.
As I sit here today, if I did get that lottery ticket I probably wouldn’t quit work straight away. That is good, because I enjoy my job and that’s a positive thing! It’s bad because I am pursuing FIRE, because I want my time under my control, and life is too short and precious to spend in an office. It’s going to take me a while to hit that number so I have time to figure out what I will do afterwards and will have fun trying stuff out in the mean time!