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As financial weirdos surrounded by normal people (or “normies” as we like to call them), it’s a rare and wonderful event when we meet another person just like us. In the 2 years we’ve been retired, we’ve only met a handful of these people in real life. And usually only 1 or 2 at a time.
That all changed at Chautauqua UK, when we got to spend a whole week a whole group of our peeps, which turned out to be the best week of our lives.
I thought that would be over once the week was over.
Thankfully I was wrong.
Because after Chautauqua UK, not only has this new group of life-long friends kept in touch on Facebook, there are actually reunions popping up all over the place, in the US and UK, because try as we might, we can’t stay away from each other.
So when one of the attendees reached out to me to chat about what it’s like to go back and adjust to normal life and work, I knew I had to write this post.
This is why I’m dedicating this post to Brandon, and all those FI-ers in the making who need an extra boost of motivation to keep going.
You know how it’s easy to get discouraged from “impossible” tasks because of how long it takes? Like if you find out your FI number is 15 to 20 years. Or if I tell you that publishing a novel takes 7 long soul-sucking, life-draining years?
In year 1, that journey seems to stretch on forever with no end in sight. You can’t see the finish line so it feels like you’re never, ever going to get there.
But here’s the thing. One of the best life lesson I’ve ever learned, that I credit to getting me to where I am today is this:
“The time will pass anyway. ” –Earl Nightingale
Unless you have a Time-Tuner from Harry Potter, there is NO WAY you can stop time from passing.
So if you don’t do something simply because it takes too long, the time will pass anyway.
If you give up and don’t start something because you think it’ll take 20 years, well, 20 years will pass and you will still have nothing to show for it. At the end of your life, do you want to look back at a life with no regrets or think about all the time you squandered talking about how long it takes to accomplish things?
Take my ex co-worker for example. Let’s call him, Jake.
Well, when I started working with him, he had been there for 4 years already and made more money than I did. I didn’t tell many people at work about my retirement plan, but I told Jake.
The first thing Jake did was laugh so hard he almost fell down. To him the idea of retiring early was as much of a joke as me becoming an author (I know, I have such nice friends).
Never mind that I spent all my after work hours writing and going to writing conferences, while he never wrote a damned thing. Never mind that I was the one binging on FIRE blogs and fiendishly tracking my expenses while he was blowing through his stash like it was burning a hole in his shiny Versace pocket.
He amused himself by wrinkling his nose at my homemade lunches, my “thriftstore-chic” wardrobe (“you’re never going to climb the ladder dressed like that”), berating me for not buying a house or car, and told me I was crazy to think all these silly little moves would help me retire by 31.
Luckily, having been bullied by idiots in grade school, my don’t-give-a-shit-what-you-think muscle was hulk-sized. So I ignored him and kept going.
I knew I was still years from retirement, but I kept thinking “the time will pass anyway.”
And guess what? The time did pass. My net worth grew over time, while his shrank.
When I gave my notice after working just 9 years, I had published a novel and built a million dollar portfolio. After working 13 years, he hadn’t published a damned thing and had amassed a massive pile of credit card debt.
In fact, it’s been 2 years since I retired and he’s exactly where he was 15 years ago. STILL working the same, hateful, stressful job while continuing to bleed money.
I’m so glad I didn’t look at the finish line back then, thinking “this is taking WAY too long” and give up. Because if I had, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have written a book, I wouldn’t have travelled the world, I wouldn’t have built the life of my dreams, and I sure as Hell, wouldn’t have started this blog.
And you know what else? We wouldn’t have written 221 posts in a little over a year! At around 1000 words per post, that’s 221,000 words! Enough to fill 2 and half adult books.
When we started this blog 1.3 years ago, if we had been thinking “Oh God, I can’t write 2 full books in just over a year! That’s insane”, we never would’ve gotten to the 2 million views we have today.
What most people don’t realize is how much small efforts incrementally add up over time. Writing a book seems insurmountable, until you realize that if you just write 250 words a day (that’s only 1/3 of the words you’ve read so far in this post) or 583 words 3 times a week, that’s 90,000 words a year! You’ve written a whole book in just one year by writing only a small number of words per day.
In a way, become FI is like writing a novel. You look at the end point and it seems SO far away (Good God I have to write HOW many words? 90,000? You’re nuts). But in reality, when you break that task down into small, digestible chunks, it’s not that hard to swallow.
Breaking tasks down like this is the exact strategy one of my writer friends used to get published.
Since she’s a lawyer with 2 kids, she had NO TIME to write. So she forced herself to get up at 5 AM every morning (before her kids woke up) to write 1000 words a day. And after an hour of writing, she would get the kids ready for the day, drive them to school and herself to work. It was gruelling at first, but over time, she got used to it. She even started a writing group on twitter using “#5amwriters” so her writing friends could motivate each other.
And guess what? It worked. She’s now on her 3rd book deal with Harper Collins.
So don’t under-estimate the power of doing seemingly small things, added together over time to produce big results.
And here’s the thing. When it comes to investing, growing your money is actually WAY easier than putting words to paper.
Why? Because of this magical compounding concept which Einstein referred to as:
“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… he who doesn’t… pays it.”
Because you don’t just save money. When you save money and invest it, it generates more money in terms of capital gains and dividends. And THAT money re-invested generates MORE money. Can you imagine how many books I could write if the words themselves wrote more words? And then THOSE words wrote even MORE words? Hell, I wouldn’t even need to remember how to string sentences together because over time, those books would LITERALLY write themselves.
So the next time you think “this FI thing is taking WAY too long. How can I keep going?”, do this:
Breakdown your FI journey into smaller, more digestible chunks.
For example, If you need 800K to retire and it’s projected to take you 10 years, use milestones for every 50K that your portfolio grows.
Celebrate Said Milestones:
Celebrate when you reach each milestone
For example, when your portfolio grows to $50K, go out for a fancy steak dinner. When your portfolio grows to $100K, book a weekend getaway. At $150K, book a trip to the Bahamas. And so on…
What you choose for the rewards depends on your personality, but you get the point.
Celebrating milestones is why we allowed our vacation costs to be so high. We would regularly spend over 5 grand a year on travelling, and we never spent that amount on any one thing before. We did it because we used those trips it to remind ourselves of the life we’d be living after FI. We used those splurges to drive us.
Use FU Money to enjoy the Ride:
FU money makes you powerful. FU money makes you better at your job. You don’t even need to become FI to reduce stress, take more risks than your co-wokers, and be a badass at your job.
Make sure to celebrate the milestones as you go like we did. Don’t think about the end game. Think about the journey.
The time will pass anyway. 15-20 years from now, you could be the person cackling and walking out of your cubical prison for the last time, or the poor sap who gets handed all of your work.
Who would you rather be?