Smell the roses on the way to FI

Smell the roses
Smell the roses

Since discovering FIRE, my moods swing from being overwhelmed to really busy putting things in place to now feeling slightly bored …

There is the initial stage of OMG I’m so behind everyone else pursuing FIRE. Hint – already in my late 40s – others retired at 30!!! So very behind …

Then comes the optimistic stage – of course I can do this, I just have to catch up. Must read & listen to everything FIRE related.

Oh, there’s so much to do! Track my expenses, tick! Set up emergency fund, tick! Contribute to retirement fund (superannuation), tick! Invest in low cost index funds, tick! Eliminate takeaways and restaurant meals, tick! 

There is of course still lots of room for improvement. I am too embarrassed to tell you what my grocery bill is each month. And I must find ways to reduce my utility bills without freezing my butt off or sweltering in 40 degrees Celsius heat.

Oh, and there’s my outsourcing of gardening and cleaning jobs … oops, yes I feel guilty about those expenses. There was also the big fail on travel hacking … (you can read about that here – still trying not to beat myself up about it)

And new skills to learn, side hustles to pursue perhaps …

But seriously, there is only so much agonising one can do over where to invest, what to cook this week, how to save on blah blah blah … the list goes on. Once things are set in motion, what do you do?

As a result, I’ve been in a reflective mood lately. I reflected on my money story, looking at how my parents’ relationship with money influenced my own money management habits (read that post here, only if you want to, of course).

Now I want to look to the future.

The FIRE journey is not for the faint hearted. It is a long haul process, an on going project that will take years to complete.

So I looked at my goals again. And basically ask this question  –

What am I willing to suffer for?

For there is some suffering here if we are to reach financial independence in a relatively short amount of years.

If my goals or dreams do not excite me, then this FIRE journey will be difficult to sustain. or at worst case scenario, not sustainable. I may as well go back to getting a takeaway cappuccino or two every day & having brunches every week. I may as well just spend my money on what makes me happy now with no regard to tomorrow.

So … what do I want to do when I reach FI?

Do I want to stop working? Right now the answer is a resounding yes. Yes, it will be a relief to stop working full time, in a never ending cycle of stress. I am tired of managing people, of putting out fires, of constantly not having enough time to do what I have to get done. This is the first time in my whole working career that I feel this way, that doing my job no longer gives me any sense of achievement & accomplishment. At the end of each day, I am just grateful I made it through the day.

Reaching FI will give me the option of working part time or not at all.

But then what would I DO if I weren’t working? Sitting around all day drinking coffee and reading? Or watching Netflix (which subscription I cancelled during my frugal month challenge)? So much of our identity is tied to our work, to the job we do. It is often the first question a stranger asks you in a social situation – ‘So what do you do for a living?’

The answer is I don’t know. Beyond not wanting to work full time, I don’t really know what I want to do once I reach FI.

That is so sad! I now realise that I have never liked looking too far into the future – anything can happen so what’s the point of worrying about it? It amazes me that  I find it so difficult to articulate what my dreams of the future are, what I would like my future life to look like. 

Time to pause and appreciate the present

So in the meantime, I decide to (literally) stop and smell the roses … while I figure out what it is I really want for my future.

Grevillea and roses from my garden

Spring brings me such beauty in my garden. I am appreciating all that my outsourcing has created – the beautiful grevillea recently planted; the abundant roses in bloom; the cheerful geraniums that grow without any effort on my part.

Tracking my expenses shows just how much I spend outsourcing my gardening. This has accelerated my wanting to learn how to garden. I was reserving this for when I retire but hey, why wait?

I want to pursue this vein of hey, let’s not wait till I reach FI to do things. Why not start exploring activities now and figure out what I’d like to do once I reach FI?

So I planted pumpkins from seeds I dried from a pumpkin I cooked! I must amend that to … there are some green shoots sprouting through the earth … hopefully they will turn out to be pumpkins eventually.

And I start visiting my local library again, not only to borrow books on investing and personal finance but also novels that I enjoy reading.

I am listening to podcasts that have nothing to do with personal finance or FIRE or side hustles … though I am still committed to listening to those podcasts, of course. Just need some variety to spice up my life!

I am exercising once again – though to be fair, my personal trainer is back from maternity leave so I have no excuses. But I now share my session with another friend – this reduces my cost and increases the fun.

Final thoughts

My conclusion is that while on the journey to FI, there will be many ups and downs. I must seek balance in my life as I grapple with the bigger question of what I want my future to look like beyond reaching FI. So I must remind myself to stop and smell the roses from time to time on my way to FI.

Do you stop and smell the roses on your way to FI? How do you find balance in your life?

10 Replies to “Smell the roses on the way to FI”

  1. Great article. This is SO important and so often overlooked while pursing FI. Figuring out how you’ll want to to spend your time before you have even more of is is JUST as important as the financial part.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Raina 😊 I am trying my best to live a balanced life now rather than waiting till I reach FI to do so.

  2. This is one of the things I am always going back and forth on. What am I willing to give up now to be able to FI (sooner) later. You can give up somethings and be okay but, after a certain point, it’s trading life now for life later.
    Working on finding the balance and improving life now as well. 🙂

  3. I go through this, too. Sometimes I think I’m getting too good at delaying gratification. But you never know…. Not to be morbid, but FI may never happen, because, well, $%(! happens. So I’m trying to learn to enjoy life in the here and now, exactly the way it is. I don’t want my meaning to always be in the nebulous future. If/when we do reach FI, it’ll just be all the better, AND we’ll have had a good ride along the way.

  4. I love the honesty in your posts and you’ve really articulated that feeling we all go through when we discover FI/RE and that there is something else out there! Your comment was so true: “hey, let’s not wait till I reach FI to do things. Why not start exploring activities now and figure out what I’d like to do once I reach FI?”

    I still wrangle with what to do with my time in a productive way, now that I’m deliberately ‘semi-retired’ (with work averaging out to six months each year at age 35), though slow travel keeps me busy. Blogging is an excellent hobby to keep you accountable and help to nut it out!

    Looking forward to reading more of your journey as a fellow Aussie.

    1. Hello, fellow Aussie! I so envy your slow travel! That is definitely one of my goals – hmm … may work towards a mini retirement before full retirement. I always pack in too many activities during my travels but you need TIME to do it slow … which being FI should give me, hopefully

  5. This. Every word of it. I’m starting even later than you, so I’m fairly sure that I won’t be able to retire early – I’ll be happy just to make it to FI. I refuse to give up every enjoyable thing, but at the minimum I try to have one thing each month to look forward to.

    As for what I’ll do with myself when I did retire? My dad was worried about the same thing, and ended up saying he could never figure out how he found the time to work!

    1. Making it to FI is a worthy goal in itself! Retiring early for us late starters is a bonus. Oh, we must have things to look forward to – life is not worth living otherwise 🙂

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