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When I first started out on my financial journey, the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement was brand new to me. I had never heard of it until two years ago. The crazy thing was that I had been employing many of those principles along the way. I was shaving the fat in my budget and laser-focused on knocking out debt and saving as much as I could for retirement.
From around the time I started college to now, I have been hustling. I have tried to set myself up for a good financial future. In college, I learned how to invest in the market. Through investing, I was able to put down enough money to buy my first home at the age of 23.
However, I loaded up on leverage (debt) and took on a hefty mortgage. Because of that, I needed to rent out the bedrooms of my home in order to cover the monthly payments and bills. Eventually, my house was bursting at the seams with friends and even strangers. At one point, I had to move out of my house and into my parent’s to further maximize the rental income. I was thankful that that didn’t last too long, but clearly, I was needing any additional income I could get.
Living with strangers was a bit taxing on me as an introvert. Sometimes, I just wanted a little bit of silence. After an exhausting day of work, I didn’t think a quiet evening at home was too much to ask for.
Some of the guys were rowdy, and most of the guys were quite outgoing. We always had people over at the house. It felt like a frat house most days. Thank goodness we had a bi-weekly a maid service. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure my house would have been destroyed.
As expected in any small confined space, there were some disagreements with the guys along the way. While I am incredibly thankful for the income that I received, I definitely dealt with some sleepless nights due to the stress.
That stress didn’t go away until I got married, and my wife and I made the final mortgage payment for the house. At the time, I remember taking a huge sigh of relief. But within a couple of days, I knew that there was more work to do.
Like an athlete, I knew that I needed to continue setting and achieving more ambitious goals. So the money that I had been applying to the mortgage, I applied towards my retirement. However, I remember thinking to myself, how much is enough to save for retirement?
Financial Independence, Retire Early
It wasn’t until I learned about the FIRE movement two years ago, when I began to see the principles in place. I learned how long it would take for me to become ready to retire and how long it would take for me to reach $1 million. I also encountered people who had reached FIRE and others who were well on their ways.
The FIRE movement was critical to my financial growth and acumen.
With that said, I find myself, as I become closer to reaching FIRE (< 3 years), wondering if there is something else that I would like to do other than retiring.
I know that the point of the FIRE movement is not always to retire early and bum out on a beach. Far from it. In fact, most people that reach FIRE go on to do things that they are actually passionate about.
Changing My Perspective
I think less about the retirement aspect and more on what would make me happy. Some people grind away at work, hoping that in 5, 10, or even 20 years, they’ll be able to retire to do whatever they want. In the meantime, their stress levels are sky high, and they are miserable.
Recently, I’ve thought, what if I shifted my perspective? What if instead of focusing on early retirement, I thought about creating a second childhood?
That may sound silly. But, think about it for a second. Nothing is better than seeing joy in a child’s eyes. It doesn’t always take much.
My wife and I love to reminisce about our wonderful childhoods. We grew up seven houses down from each other but never met, so we joke about all the times we must have missed each other by seconds as we played around the neighborhood.
We always found a reason to be outside, whether it was biking, sledding, or catching tadpoles in the creek. Our neighborhood had so many kids, so there was always something fun going on.
A Second Childhood
Now that I’m older, I want to try to recapture some of the joy from my childhood. In my 20s and 30s, I was grinding away trying to set myself up for the future. Now that I’ve almost reached FIRE, it’s time to set some new goals around trying to create a second childhood.
I want to pursue more of the things that I care about and bring me joy. Just being outside more, for starters. I hope to join a softball team again, where I can throw the ball around and have fun with the guys. I want to have a smile on my face more often.
On top of that, I am looking forward to pursuing more projects that provide joy in my life. I love teaching people about personal finance. I want to expand my Reaching FIRE course and have more one-on-one sessions. The joy that comes after helping someone with their finances is amazing. Even small changes here and there can have a tremendous impact.
I remember in my childhood that I was always busy doing something. I barely remember watching TV growing up. It would be great to get back to that type of “busy” lifestyle. It was a great mixture of fun and productivity.
I’ve heard that you can never recapture your childhood, but through the skills that I learned through FIRE, I am hoping that I can indeed create a second childhood.