“The saddest people are those who don’t know what they want”
– Larry from the “Newness” movie.
I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie “Newness” on Netflix. I’m guessing not many since it’s a movie about swingers (and no I’m not talking about dancers from the 1920s). We watched it only because we have friends in the swinger community (No. Not us, FRIENDS. FRIENDS!).
Anyhoo, so, basically the premise of this movie is about two millennials who use an online dating app (Tinder anyone?) to hook up. This happened after they both had crappy one-night stands and end up finding each other as sloppy seconds. Then quicker than you can say “genital herpes”, they fall in love and move in together. To the surprise of no one, they get bored of each other within weeks, especially given the female lead, Gabi’s confession that she’s obsessed with “constant newness” (Hence the movie’s title). So, they agree to start swinging.
Clearly, this isn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, but given my extremely low expectations for it (it has a 6.4/10 rating from IMDB), it had some depth that I wasn’t expecting. This movie taught me two things:
1) Swinging rarely solves relationship problems
2) The saddest people are those who don’t know what they want
Lesson one is obvious. Every fault you find in your current partner ends up being exacerbated, because of the “grass is greener” syndrome in thinking the new partner won’t have that issue. But eventually, you’ll start finding faults in the new partner also, and then want to trade up again. And the vicious cycle continues.
Again, this is NOT something I know from experience. This is me just iterating what I’ve learned from OTHER PEOPLE. Yes, NOT US—OTHER PEOPLE, and from the characters in the movie. *ahem*
Lesson 2 is less obvious, and I had to pause the movie to really think about this. The characters end up frustrated and constantly breaking up and getting back together because they don’t know what they want.
While their ex’s have moved on, gotten married, started families, they keep oscillating between having a serious, committed relationship to hooking up with strangers and enjoying a fun, hedonistic existence. Gabi and Martin couldn’t decide whether they wanted to commit to each other or continue boinking other people. As a result, they were sad.
This got me thinking about financial independence. (HA! And you thought I couldn’t write an article linking swinging to Financial Independence. Take that, brain!)
Before I become financially independent, I was terrified that I was wasting my life away in a cubical. I was also sad because I didn’t know what I wanted. I knew I didn’t want to be coding and writing up TPS reports in my 60s, but I also didn’t know whether I could make a living as a writer.
Being stuck in limbo caused me a lot of anxiety, and at one point I ended up being diagnosed with depression. Some of it was due to work stress, but the other part was due to my confusion about my identity. I’d been an engineer for 10 years, could I really just throw it all away to be a writer? Did I really want to be writer? Along with low earnings, the ridicule you face of being an artist (mostly from my parents) and the challenges with creating art that’s good enough to be at a professional level, could I handle all that?
And what about all my co-workers and friends? They all seemed to be following the prescribed formula—the status quo of working long hours, getting a mortgage and working until the age of 65. Few of them seemed happy. Many seemed to live that life because they didn’t think there were any other options.
I didn’t want to just copy them. I needed to find out what made sense for me.
It wasn’t until my FI armour took care of the money part of the equation that I could finally stop and think about what I really wanted.
And in order to do that, I had to think long and hard about my personal values. I took out a piece of paper and wrote down 3 top values:
Status, people-pleasing, and, surprisingly, money wasn’t any of them. I simply needed enough money to cover my needs. Any additional money to buy fancy things, impress people, or gain respect don’t interest me in the least.
These values have led me to the very fulfilling, very satisfying life I lead today. I get to spend all my time with Wanderer, who’s my best friend and love of my life. I have tons of freedom to pursue my passions—writing, public speaking, travel, volunteering for WeNeedDiverseBooks, having fun with friends. And in terms of achievement, although I’m no longer climbing the corporate ladder, I can fulfill that value with Quit Like a Millionaire, speaking at Chautauqua, and working on this blog. Occasionally, if I feel like it, I can even take on freelance work (cue the retirement police).
This is why when we got over 1000 hater comments after our story went live on CBC, I was able to shrug it off.
When friends and family FOMO me for not buying a house, I ignored them.
When I see co-workers getting promotions and moving up the corporate ladder, I’m not jealous. I’m happy for them.
One of the criticisms the FIRE community gets is that FIRE is not for everyone. Some people argue that they’re not suited for FIRE. They don’t want to track their expenses, they don’t want to retire, and they don’t believe it’s worth pursuing.
And if they find that their values don’t align with the pursuit of FIRE, that’s a perfectly logical reason for not jumping on the bandwagon.
Some values that I think are well-suited for FIRE;
If freedom is one of your values, FI is worth pursuing because it gives you the ability to choose. No longer are you shackled to the conventional way of doing things. You can go your own way.
2) Independent Thinker
If you don’t enjoy following the herd and would rather carve your own path, FI allows you to take the initiative to do so.
One of the best things that FIRE has given me is the time to spend with my loved ones. If you want more time to spend with your spouse, kids, pets, family, you’ll be able to trade the hours you spend at work with hours spend with your loved ones. This one is probably the biggest benefit of fire. No one ever said on their death bed, “I wish I could’ve worked more”. They usually say “I wish I had spent more time with kids/spouse/friends/etc”.
Some that I don’t think are suitable:
If you’re the type of person that worries a lot about what other people think of you, and you’re extremely uncomfortable with conflict, you may not be able to handle all the scrutiny that comes with an unconventional lifestyle. You may want to just follow the traditional path to please others and keep the peace.
If you care about status and are unhappy unless you’re flaunting your work title or fancy things, then the down-to-earth, live on “enough” philosophy probably won’t appeal to you. You will probably want to keep working and earning money to elevate your status.
So on your path to FI, if you worry that you’ll give up or that other people will cause you to lose momentum, refer to your values.
Here’s a list I found of common personal values:
Sit down, write down your top 3-5 values and refer back to this list whenever you lose the motivation to build a life you love.
Now, keep in mind that values can change over time. As you grow older, as you meet new people who teach you new things, or as you age, your values can and probably will change.
So make sure you redo this exercise every few years to evaluate whether you are living a life that’s true to your values.
What are your top 3 values? And do you think you’re suited for FIRE?
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