So we went over how we plan on reaching financial independence but we have yet to explain why we want to be financially independent. The retort that I get from many of my peers when I mention anything about our plans is “Even if that works out for you, what are you going to do all day?” or “Well I personally enjoy working, I will probably work until I am 75 or so”
Both of these are valid arguments depending on your situation and point of view. The strongest reason that I have for pursuing FI is time. Time is unique in that, everyone – whether skilled or mediocre, rich or poor, outgoing or introverted, unlucky or well-connected, etc. – has a finite amount of. Sure some people, whether through health, luck, genetics or better access to modern medicine have a larger share of time than others, but no one has discovered the secret of immortality. I could earn billions upon billions of dollars, and none of it is ever going to buy me an escape from Father Time.
What money can buy me (with hard work and proper planning) is the freedom to spend what time I have in the manner that I choose.
The ability to not need to spend 1.5+ hours of the day commuting to a job if I don’t want to.
The ability to be more involved in my children’s lives – whether by being more involved in their school by way of volunteering or by being home earlier to talk about their day. Not to mention having more quality time to spend with them in the evenings since I won’t be worried about fitting the laundry and dishes into the limited time that I have between getting home from work and going to sleep.
The ability to spend that extra time working in some new exercises at my home gym. The freedom to choose to go on a 3 hour hike in the middle of a Tuesday. Firing up FL Studio on my laptop or loading up LSDJ on one of my Gameboys are trying to design a new sound and make some music sounds a whole lot better than traffic, daily standups and sprint planning.
Instead of sending my kids to local summer camps in between school years, we can travel (smart and slow) across the country or even the world. Or maybe just stay in town for the summer and join a local pool and swim every day, or spend more time doing things together, gardening, volunteering, making music, building things, walking, talking… all of that will be possible when we are not beholden to making room for a 48+ hour (counting commuting) work week in our lives.
This is all not to say that I don’t aspire towards all of these endeavors in the here and now. We try our darndest to be as focused as we possibly can on our kids and our home life when at home, but sometimes the reality of “we need this laundry folded because its piling up”, “dirty dishes are covering the 30 square feet of counter space in the kitchen” or “I’ve got to ship this code tonight” causes us to fall short of being the best parents that we can be.
We find time for exercise and outdoor activities, we travel where we can and get the most bang for our buck (via travel hacking) when we can. We try to make time for creative endeavors and the occasional escapist pleasures (see movies and videogames). But what if we could organize our lives around the things that we love instead of organizing the things we love around our (work) lives?
That is why we are pursuing financial independence. I can’t say for sure that I will stop some form of income generating work altogether when we reach FI, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to have that option in my back pocket. Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy my job right now – the company I work for is great and the people are even better. But I don’t want my epitaph to read “Logged 10,000 hours, maintained social media plugins, 90% code coverage”. Something closer to “laughed a lot, loved a lot, kept learning and smiling” is a step in the right direction.
Looking at it in another way – I want to have FU money. Sure I really like my job now, but what if, a few years out, the priorities change for the company leading to a drop in benefits or a wage freeze or less flexibility for employees with children? With a hefty stash of FU money, I can leave that job and never think twice. Heck, with just two 2 years worth of living expenses saved, I could leave and take my time finding another job. Hopefully it never comes to that before we hit our FI number, but if it does, having the freedom to hold out for the right position with the best benefits will be key.
You should be grateful for your situation
Oh I most certainly am grateful for all of the people and situations that helped me get to where I am today. I consider myself very blessed, but that doesn’t mean I just accept my lot in life and sign up for the standard American dream of “get married, have kids, buy a big house with a truck and SUV and drive to preschool sports all weekend and then work ‘til 70 to retire to a fraying social safety net and no money”.
I am very appreciative of my situation and the privilege afforded to me based on the environment in which I was raised. But I don’t owe any of that to some corporate entity. The jQuery media upload widget progress bar I shipped last quarter didn’t help provide food and shelter for my family – I did. I owe my thanks, time, and gratitude to family and friends and a large part of our “why of FI” is to spend more time with those people.
Won’t you get bored?
If I could let you see inside my head and the laundry list of projects that I have on the backburner at any time, I don’t think I would get bored over the span of two lifetimes.
My ideal day would be to wake up, having slept in until a decadent 7:45 AM, then sit down to a leisurely breakfast with my family. If the kids are still in school (and hopefully most of them will be still) send them off to the bus stop. At some point, go out for a walk and then make time for some exercise / strength training. Sit down for a nice lunch. Read a good book, go for a hike. Take care of the mundane house chores before my kiddos get home. Take some time for playing music, or maybe even writing some. Get dinner prepared at a reasonable pace, hang out outside with family and friends while the sun is out, light a fire for when it is not. Spend some time having a beer around the fire and marveling at another day spent on this crazy world… and that’s just during the school year. In the summertime I will like do much of the same thing, but on the road somewhere, traveling and exploring this great wide world.
Beyond all of that, I have more people than I can think of that I want to reconnect with, and while my financial independence doesn’t exactly clear up their schedule, as the one with four kids and a full time job right now I am most often the busiest common denominator. My free time now is almost 100% committed to my family, but I have to believe that if I didn’t need to work, I would have a lot more time to devote to my social life.
None of this is set in stone, but it all sounds much more amazing than being a servant to a consumer lifestyle. With all that in mind, I am very much aware that my existence could come to a halt long before we achieve FI – whether by illness or accident. I do my best to live in the moment and enjoy everyday for what it is – another loan installment from that big time bank in the sky.