I write amongst a large group of people who are all focused on the same thing… financial independence – FI for short. FI is the amount of money that is needed to sustain your specific lifestyle comfortably for the unforeseeable future regardless if you work or not. Some have calculated their number based on a formula and when they hit it they will quit, others have picked a date and plan to hustle to until then. Personally, I am working towards a date. November 16, 2023.
I’ve talked about my date in-depth HERE, but briefly, I will explain that I have based it on a combination of actual retirement from my job and the amount of time it will take for me to save for my FI number and have come up with November 16, 2022. Though I have no intention of actually retiring, I will be so happy to know that I can take off months at a time and not worry about my financial future. Looking 6 years into the future, I see me spending my free time traveling, volunteering, maybe a bit of working…you know, enjoying life!! But what about right now? What about the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years between now and then? Am I looking to far into the future without giving today the attention it deserves?
I know many of you can’t read the line in that photo without breaking into Steven Tyler’s voice so go ahead…I’ll wait…
Ok. Welcome back!
It was recently commented on my How and Why of FI post by my friend at Full Time Finance, that for them financial independence is not just about the destination. It is all about the journey. This is so true! Here is what he had to say…
Smart! As fellow personal finance bloggers, we do talk a lot about that FI number or, in my case, that date. Many of us are so focused FI that we tend to lose perspective of the fact that the years up to FI are a big chunk of time in our life. An important chunk of time. It is all about the destination for some, but for others, this journey is so important because it is shaping our financial futures past that moment of financial independence. Naturally, I responded to the comment (which you can check out HERE), but I wanted to explain more thoroughly why what FTF pointed out is so important. I will take an example that I know firsthand… Long-distance hiking.
When you hike for long distances in the settings that I have, you carry everything you need on your back. You walk long days through all sorts of weather and with all sorts of people only to get to a hostel full to capacity with shared bathrooms and cold showers (yes, men and woman use the SAME bathrooms…Gasp!). Some days go by fast and others painfully slow. In the last 6 years of me hiking across 9 different countries, there are two things I am now certain of:
- The journey is pertinent to reaching the destination, and
- The Tortoise and The Hare is the best story of all…
There are many types of hikers, but my favorite are the young whippersnappers and the old fogies. What I have witnessed on many accounts, is the young pompous kids all full of life (the Hares) always jump ahead running and skipping about. They are excited and feel invincible…and often they tend to get hurt on day 1. Blisters, sprains, strains, getting lost and suffering from hypothermia and frostbite…all ailments I have seen happen on DAY 1!! One particularly odd bird decided he was going to hike the first day over the Pyrenees with no shoes – yeah, he didn’t make it past the first day either. The old folks (the Tortoises), on the other hand, like to go slow and take their time. They stop and sip coffee while chatting with the locals or take a day off to rest their bones and enjoy the sights. These old fogies are usually the ones that, despite their age-related ailments, manage to walk the path every step of the way to the end while the youngsters wind up taking the bus. I have concluded something important from these two types of hikers – it takes wisdom to appreciate the journey – including the complications of every bump in the road along the way. The more experience you have in life the more you realize that the valleys exist so the peaks can amaze.
Regardless of which route you take to get there, a funny thing happens when you reach the end of the road. The goal you have been walking (or saving) towards inevitably arrives and what does it bring? How is it marked by the rest of the world? In most cases, it isn’t. Because the journey is about you. It is personal. You might get there and not feel the overwhelming excitement that you thought you would have. There will be no fireworks or ticker tape parade. But you will get there and you will have done the work. It takes a lot of time to process inner resolution and even outward goals. I have heard several FIRE bloggers talk of the day they hit financial independence. In most case, it just happened…there wasn’t any big thing about it. But months later after the initial shock has worn off, I’m sure they eventually come around to realize the implications of what they have accomplished and how it has changed their lives. In fact, I know it was because they often talk about that too!
So back to money and YOUR journey… My advice here is simple – You have to go through your daily routine. You have to continue to work and save. You have to invest in your future while living for today because TODAY IS THE ONLY DAY YOU ARE GUARANTEED. If we look past it, we never truly LIVE…we only survive.
So how will you make your journey as important as the destination? What are you doing between now and then to fuel your passion adding sustenance to the endgame? These are all questions to ponder. When you come up with an answer, write it down. Put it somewhere you can see it and read it every day.
Here is what I am doing:
- Give thanks for what I have TODAY and not what I want for tomorrow
- Embrace the Suck – remember that the struggles you face are shaping who you will become. Do you give up easily or do you push through and make yourself stronger??
- Take time out of each week to do one thing you intend to make part of your post FI life. If you plan to retire early and read all day, spend an afternoon at the library each weekend. If you plan to open a shelter for dogs or volunteer more, take an hour each week and volunteer now! There is no point in delaying gratification if the work that makes you feel whole is available for you to work on today.
- When all else fails, GIVE BACK. Help someone else. I spend a lot of time on the Rockstar forums giving advice. Not because I know what the heck I am doing, but because I can relate to some people’s $$ issues and I want to help them feel they are not alone. If you are struggling with a specific part of your life, find someone else who is struggling worse than you and walk with them.
I realize the journey to a destination is not always easy. It can be so completely overwhelming. Whether it be the first step of a 500-mile journey, the 10 years you have to meet your FI number, or a mountain of debt you are about to start climbing – it is NOT easy! But the journey is a necessary part of the equation. A necessary part of your success.
I am currently 5 years from FI and I try to keep positive every day. Some days I succeed – others days I flounder. But overall, I am happy. I am so appreciative of my job and the fact that I get paid to do it. I truly love every day I’m at work…not every moment, but every day. I love it even more so on each 20th of the month when I get paid to do the most ridiculous job in the world and I get to save a portion of that pay towards my future goals. That in itself fuels me for the next day, the next month, and the next 5 years.
What will you do with the journey to your destination? Will you make the most of it??
Until next time…