I’ve had this blog up and running for about three months now, and I have yet to do a post dedicated to FIRE. For those of you coming across this acronym for the first time, FIRE stands for Financial Independence / Retire Early. Not even a year ago, I had never heard of FIRE. Retiring early to me meant throwing in the towel at 55. Maybe 50. Anything more aggressive than that was not even fathomable. You only retire before 50 if you win the lottery, receive a huge inheritance, or sell your kickass business for millions, right?
It’s funny how we fall into blindly following society norms. We watch others spend half a lifetime working in a job that doesn’t inspire them to be able to retire one day when their lives are three-quarters of the way over. When we reach adulthood, we simply follow down the same path. It doesn’t occur to many of us that another path is possible.
Choose the Path Towards FIRE
To achieve FIRE, there has to be something that drives you. A burning desire to break free from the norm and become financially independent at a much younger age than most feel is possible. For many, the drive to achieve FIRE stems from working a job they dislike. Exiting the rat race as soon as possible becomes a goal to free themselves from uninspiring work. For others, working in a highly intense and competitive environment leads to a stressful lifestyle that cannot be maintained for an extended period of time.
My drive is a little bit different and may seem a bit illogical at first. My career started out in one of those intense, competitive and stressful work environments. I worked long hours and traveled constantly. It was a grind. Welcome to the world of public accounting. To get an idea of what life is like working in a professional services firm, refer to the shit rolls downhill diagram in my Thankful post. Thankfully, I no longer have to look out for the fast rolling piles of shit in my current job.
I’m one of the few that can say I work in a true meritocracy. Before starting my current job, I don’t think I had ever heard anyone use the word meritocracy. It sounded like a made up word the first time I heard it. So what is a meritocracy? It means people are recognized based on achievement. There are no office politics. In a meritocracy, running around the office with a stack of papers and your cell phone glued to your head won’t lead others to think you’re incredibly busy and deserve a raise. Instead, promotions and compensation are dependent on the value you create for the organization. This provides me with a high degree of control over my career and leads to immense job satisfaction.
Oddly enough, working in a meritocratic environment is what really drives me to achieve financial independence. I’ve now had a taste of the good life. I can’t imagine going back to a world where compensation isn’t always based on merit, and I’m always worried about getting buried in someone else’s shit. While my job is secure, I recognize the possibility exists for my company to be acquired. If that happens, my job goes away. This possibility of having something great taken from me is what drives me to achieve financial independence as soon as possible.
Financially Independent vs. Retiring Early
To me, becoming financially independent means that I no longer have to work out of necessity. But if I’m still driven by my work and find enjoyment in it, then I see no reason to stop. We are at our happiest when working to achieve something that we are passionate about. As enticing as it is to spend the day binge watching an old season of The Office, it won’t lead to greater long-term satisfaction in my life. I know when I have a day like this, as much as I enjoy doing it at the time, I feel like crap afterward if I didn’t accomplish anything else.
The way I see it, achieving financial independence is all about the options it gives you. It provides you with the ultimate amount of control over your life. Money does not necessarily lead to happiness. But having control over your life does, and money can give you control. This is what I seek. Earning more money and saving as much as possible will earn me the freedom I desire.
Once financial independence is achieved, if something changes in my job or I no longer feel driven or motivated to achieve more at my current company, then I can quit. Does that mean I spend the rest of my days on the golf course and traveling the world? Maybe. Does it mean I do some consulting on the side while enjoying more time to pursue other passions? Who knows. Achieving financial independence will give me the option to do any of these and not have to worry about my future.
Achieving financial independence provides endless opportunities!
Readers, before I dive deeper into my personal goals for FIRE, I’d like to hear more about what drives you? Are your goals to be financially independent but keep working? Or do you want to completely retire from anything considered work once you become financially independent?