Achieving Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) is extremely fulfilling and liberating. Before you embark on your FIRE journey, you should spend some time to think about your motivation. Why do you even want to get FIREd in the first place? Your reasons will help you keep your eye on the prize.
In my previous post How We Achieved Financial Independence Retire Early in 7 Years, I discussed the 4% rule in detail and shared with you Mr Wow’s and my FIRE strategy. Today, let’s go back to the beginning and focus on WHY we wanted to achieve FIRE:
1. The Discovery
It was an ordinary Sunday night, some time in the second half of 2012. I was in bed, reading up on annuity plans on my phone when I chanced upon a blog called Mr Money Mustache. Put simply, IT BLEW MY MIND. I stayed up all night reading the articles and contemplating Mr Wow’s and my financial future. The following night, I found Financial Samurai (my absolute favourite), then Early Retirement Extreme, JL Collins and others. I must have read every FIRE blog out there over the past decade.
When I first told Mr Wow about FIRE, he didn’t seem that keen, much to my disappointment. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear, I thought. Hence, I forwarded a number of articles to him, but he didn’t read any of them. I refused to give up and kept talking about FIRE persistently and enthusiastically for weeks. He finally read the articles (probably to shut me up) and guess what? He was completely swept up in the wave of enthusiasm! Hurrah! From then on, we had a new goal in life — to be financially independent in 10 years.
Mr Wow: Actually I found the FIRE philosophy very interesting from the start, but we were finally in our comfort zone and I wanted life to stay that way just a tad longer. Nevertheless, Mrs Wow was relentless as usual and after reading the articles she’d sent me, my immediate reaction was: OMG! Forget about comfort zone! Let’s get FIREd!
2. The ‘HOT’ Reasons
Before we began to strategise and develop an action plan to reach our FIRE goal, Mr Wow and I spent some time talking about WHY — why we want to get FIREd? What’s the motivation behind it? How will it enrich our lives? Does it align with or deviate from our money values? If you’re thinking of pursuing FIRE, I would strongly encourage you to start by thinking about your reasons too. They will be the driving force that keeps you going, especially when you encounter obstacles. In our case, FIRE has always been about getting HOT — Happiness, Options and Time.
As mentioned in Our Story and Business Adventure Part 2: The Defeat, Mr Wow and I experienced a major financial setback when our first business failed. At one point, we were so broke that we were looking for things at home to sell. Of course, many people have been through a lot worse. The point is, IT SUCKS NOT TO HAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR YOUR BASIC NEEDS. It makes you feel inadequate and powerless. It affects your mental health. It puts stress on your personal relationships. I can go on and on…
Like it or not, money impacts our happiness even though conventional wisdom has it that money can’t buy happiness. Sorry to say this but I think people who believe in this are either delusional or hypocritical. Money is essential to survival in this day and age. That’s why we spend so much of our waking hours thinking about it: how much we earn, how much we should save, how much we can spend, etc. We need money to ensure a roof over our heads, pay bills and put food on the table. If these basic needs cannot be met, our personal well-being will most certainly suffer, and this in turn affects life satisfaction and happiness.
Like it or not, money impacts our happiness even though conventional wisdom has it that money can’t buy happiness.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs best explains it:
According to Maslow, if physiological needs like food, water, warmth and rest are not fulfilled, people become preoccupied with meeting these needs above all else. For instance, starving people in a war zone might be oblivious to danger when in search of food. Once physiological needs are satisfied, we seek safety needs such as job security, which again is linked to money. Even for esteem needs, someone who is struggling to pay his or her bills is not going to feel very accomplished.
I’m not saying that money is the only source of happiness. Obviously, many factors contribute to a person’s overall happiness. But given that money is one of the key factors, Mr Wow and I were determined to achieve financial independence. We hit rock bottom once and we told ourselves NEVER AGAIN. We would get smart with money so that we do not have to worry about it ever again. Our happiness is in our hands.
Check out: The Joy of Simple Living: My Story
Who doesn’t want to have options in life? Who doesn’t want to have the freedom or right to make a choice? In life, the more options we are able to exercise, the better. We feel more in control and therefore, happier.
FIRE is about creating options for ourselves. Even though Mr Wow and I enjoyed our work, we wanted to have the option to cut down or stop work any time we deemed fit. The whole idea is to work because we want to, not because we have to. Financial independence basically frees us from working to survive. How liberating and reassuring is that! Even if life deals us with a bad hand, e.g. diagnosed with a serious illness tomorrow, at least we know we will be financially okay. Poor physical health + poor financial health = YOU ARE SO SCREWED! (Still unconvinced? Read my article Unlock Your Future: 5 Reasons to Plan for Early Retirement.)
Financial independence basically frees us from working to survive. How liberating and reassuring is that!
Speaking of poor health, I wonder how many corporate executives who clock 50 to 60 hours per week at work would regret if their lives were suddenly cut short (e.g. only three more months to live)? ‘Lost time is never found again,’ said Benjamin Franklin. Life is short and there’s no rewind. When we trade hours for dollars, e.g. the life of a typical office worker, it means we are not able to dictate how we can spend our time. Someone else is calling the shots.
When we trade hours for dollars, e.g. the life of a typical office worker, it means we are not able to dictate how we can spend our time.
Conversely, having full control of our time means we’re free to do whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want. We can spend our short time on Earth building meaningful relationships, pursuing our interests and gaining new experiences. It’s entirely up to us. Time is truly the most valuable commodity and it’s the best thing money buys. That’s why Mr Wow and I wanted to achieve FIRE.
So what are your reasons? Let us know in the comment section below.
Are you on the same financial page as your spouse? Read how Mr Wow and I resolve our money differences as a couple. Do you know what the 7 levels of wealth are? Check out Mr Wow’s article.
Learn how to maintain a diversified portfolio for passive income and capital appreciation in The Retirement Bucket Strategy Demystified, Why We Love Dividend Investing but It’s Not For Everyone and Why Index Funds are Perfect for Do-Nothing Investors.