FIRE Doesn’t Fix Everything

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My alarm clock taunted me.

3am, 4am, 5 am.

I could barely lift my eyelids. Sleep weighed me down like a thick blanket, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t fall sleep. Every time I drifted off; a shot of adrenaline would kick me awake.

What if I don’t get this project in on time? What if I get fired? What if I’m a huge failure?

I don’t think I can do this anymore.

Where’s my life going? What’s the point of all this?

My brain was a broken record player. Play. Pause. Repeat. Play. Pause. Repeat.

What if..

What if..

What if..

At 7:30am, I finally dragged myself out of bed. Even though I’d slept for less than 2 hours, it was time for work. Time to keep running the treadmill and pretend everything was okay.

But I didn’t get on the subway that day. Instead, right after I got up, I ended up on the floor, gasping for air. The room spun, my heart felt like it was bursting out of my chest, and my fingers felt numb.

I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!

Oh God, am I dying?

At age 30, that was my first panic attack.

And after two months of not sleeping, my doctor prescribed me meds. Benzodiazepines to help me sleep. Anti-depressants to help me feel normal again.

I’ve always been an anxious person, but it was never bad enough that I needed to shove pills down my throat.

It was my big wake up call. Because after this, I’d become FI and never need to take pills again.

After this, I thought, my anxiety will be gone forever…

Flash forward 4 years.

I’m staring at the clock again.




What if Quit Like a Millionaire isn’t any good?

What if I don’t sell a single copy?

What if Penguin thinks I’m a big failure and bans me from ever writing again?

It turns out I haven’t beaten anxiety. In fact, anxiety isn’t something you can beat. It’s a beast that stays with you.

4 Years of retirement later, I still haven’t completely tamed my anxiety beast. Turns out, as an overachiever, you don’t just calm down overnight. Turns out, becoming FI doesn’t change who you are. All it does is give you the space and time, so you can fix yourself.

Before I retired, I thought FIRE was the magic bullet. Once I became FI, I was going to be happier, healthier, and never have to suffer anxiety again.

As it turns out, my anxiety didn’t go away. Because as soon as we released our book, Quit Like a Millionaire, it came roaring back.

That’s when I realized I was wrong about what FIRE can and can’t fix.

Here’s what I found:


Ways FIRE Won’t Help You:


It Won’t Turn You into a New Person

Are you a A-type overachiever? Laid back B type person? Anxious and Neurotic like me?

Well, guess what? After you become FI, you’ll still be all those things. An overachiever won’t all of a sudden just be okay with not accomplishing anything. A B-type person won’t all of a sudden turn competitive. And a worrier won’t turn zen overnight. Our demons stick with us. We can’t run away from them.


Passion Projects: You’ll still be Anxious if You Care

One of the benefits of working on passion projects versus a job is that you have the freedom to work on things you care about rather than for money. And if you have autonomy, you no longer have to be anxious about schedules, deadlines, or meeting unrealistic expectations.

But here’s the thing. When you care about something, you’ll still get anxious. If you spend 2 years working on your book baby, once you release it into the world and open it up to criticism, it’ll still feel terrifying. I didn’t do it for the money, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care whether it makes an impact.

So, in retirement, if you work on passion projects, you could still be anxious because you still care. The more you care, the more anxious you become. FIRE doesn’t take that away.


It Doesn’t Give You a Purpose

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

This is the biggest regret from the dying and I’m grateful it won’t be my last regret. FI has given me the time and space to question how I want to live my life. And working long hours doing work to doing work I wasn’t passion about to enrich a big corporation, wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time.

But running the rat race was a pretty good distraction from having to think about the bigger picture and your life’s purpose. Once you’re FI, you no longer have to run this race, and that’s pretty terrifying because now you have to find your real purpose. FIRE won’t automatically give you that. You have to find it yourself.

Okay, so we know that FIRE won’t fix your anxiety, but it does help you in other ways.


Ways FIRE Will Help You


Takes Away Your Fear of Running Out of Money

FI mathematically defines the point of “enough”, so you no longer have to worry about running out of money. This is a life-changing concept that has completely elevated my life and changed my mindset from “scarcity” to “abundance”. I also no longer have to be torn between following my passion and being a burden on my parents. By using the POT score I mentioned in Quit Like a Millionaire and following my passion after FI, I’ve had the advantage of having money and following my dreams.

FIRE will do the same for you. It takes away the fear of not having enough money (which people who grew up in poverty know all too well), so you can fearlessly follow your dreams.


Helps You Find Camaraderie

One of the personality traits that helps you become FI is disagreeableness. This is because it takes a ton of courage to go against the herd, save your money instead of spending it, and retire early. Being a contrarian isn’t easy and it’s also very isolating. That’s why once you become FI, your problems will no longer be relatable to your ex co-workers and existing circle of friends. While you’re pondering the meaning of life and your purpose, they’ll be too busy worrying about the mortgage, TPS reports, and whether they should be buying the newest Louis Vuitton or Prada bag—stuff you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about.

That’s why becoming FI opens you up to a whole new group of people—contrarians who aren’t afraid to question the status quo and want to have deeper conversations (I like to call these “high bandwidth conversations) about the meaning of life, passion projects, and self-improvement.

These are your peeps, and they will elevate your thinking to a whole new level. They will teach you to see the world in entirely new and different ways.

When you’re no longer trapped in the bubble of work, your friend circle will open up, and you will find people who get you. This will significantly reduce your anxiety, because you’ll know that you’re not alone. You’ll be able to have candid conversations in a safe space without jealousy or judgement. One of the best places to find this type of camraderie is at the Chautauquas. In fact, most of our friends are now Chautauquans, and despite never wanting to see a Goddamn snowflake again, we gladly put up with subzero temperatures just to hang out with my Chautauquan family!


Gives You Time and Space to Work on Yourself

I said that FIRE doesn’t fix your anxiety, but it does give you the time and space to fix it yourself.

I have to admit, I had a ton of anxiety leading up to the release of Quit Like a Millionaire. And even after it got published and became a bestseller, I still have anxiety. My brain immediately started latching onto the next thing. What’s the next book I should write? What about a FIRE TV show? What about public speaking?

*sigh*. Stupid brain. Even if I became empress of the world, my brain will still be like “empress of the world? Why not empress of the universe?”.

Turns out even after accomplishing your dreams, if you’re anxious, your brain will just find something else to be anxious about.

The good news is that once I become FI, even if I lose a night of sleep, I can just sleep in the next day. Back when I was working, not sleeping would cause me to be anxious about getting up for work, which would make it even harder to fall asleep. Then I’d have to be “on” all day at work, without any downtime to recover. It was a vicious cycle.

When you’re FI, you can break that cycle. But it doesn’t mean your anxiety will go away completely.

That’s why you have to work on yourself.

What do I mean by that?

I’ve come to the realization that constantly striving for “the next thing” isn’t the key to happiness.

The key to happiness is being present.

That’s why I’ve started reading books on Buddhism and meditation as a way to manage my anxiety. I’m not into religion or general “woo woo” advice, but Buddhism speaks to me because it encourages you to question everything and have an open mind. Its teachings are the only spiritual beliefs that are somewhat compatible with my logical, skeptical brain.

I also love the idea of impermanence. Buddhism teaches us that all life is suffering, and nothing is ever permanent. Good things that happen to you don’t last forever, but bad things also don’t. What’s important is being in the moment.

And since FI gives you the wonderful gift of space and time, I’ve decided I’m going to work on myself by signing up for a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. It’s staffed completely by volunteers and survives on donations—most of the students even donate a bit more than their expenses so that someone else can benefit from the transformative experience. I love this concept.

Here’s an awesome write-up from my friend and Chautauquan, Clover, who said it was one of the most life changing things she’d ever done:

So, after 4 years of retirement, I’ve discovered that FIRE may not solve whatever internal demons you face, but it does give you a suit of armor to face them yourself.

How about you? Do you have any demons you want to face? What will you do with your time once you become FI?

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91 thoughts on “FIRE Doesn’t Fix Everything”

  1. It takes so much courage to talk about stuff like this publicly! I’m lucky I’ve never struggled with anxiety, and I really admire folks who persevere in spite of it! I’d never have believed FIRE was possible if it weren’t for people like you.

    One thing is for sure… after nearly a year of early retirement, I am just as busy as I ever was during my career! So much for taking it easy!

    1. Thanks, Brian! The more I talk to other people in the FIRE community, the more I realize that anxiety is common–especially if you were a high achiever and used that to become FI. We are all much more similar than we think. I struggled to write this post–it’s hard to be vulnerable–but hopefully it’ll hope other people know they are not alone.

      And yeah, I hear you about the busy-ness. Some days I feel like I’m running harder than when I did when I was working. It’s fun in the beginning, but after a few years, you realize you have to take time for yourself.

    1. I realized after talking to other people in this community that many of us struggle with anxiety. Let’s get through it together.

  2. “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! Oh God, am I dying?” – reminds me of a song I wrote when I was working full time “…and suddenly it feels, like I’m about to die, my pulse is pounding and I don’t know why” it is a song that literally describes the place I used to work but is also a metaphor describing hell. I wrote it for my spouse as a promise that we wouldn’t be there forever. It was years before I found your blog and I didn’t know how we were going to make it out but that we would some day. 5 years later I got to follow through on that promise.

    1. Sounds like an amazing, heartfelt song, Liz! I’m so glad you made it out of that work place. Would love to hear your song some day if you’re open to sharing it.

      1. Sure, I’ll need to get a better recording of it. Things have been really busy lately having to work extra hours to meet some deadlines at work and just made it through the choir concert gauntlet – too much socializing for an introvert like me – and leaving town for Christmas in a few days but I’ll definitely get it done in the new year and let you know.

  3. My wife and I are approachin a point where we may not “have” to work or will be allowed to dramatically reduce the responsibility of “work” that we choose to do. This window of time between here and that point has given me tons of anxiety as I watch videos and read blogs about people working themselves to death or retiring and then just dropping dead from the lack of adrenaline. It’s like getting into a fight or crashing on a bike. You won’t really feel how banged-up you are until after the stress settles. Working a large portion of one’s life in a stressful envrionment may be the same thing.

    1. It’s definitely scary. We are now working to live now instead of living to work. Gotta take time to work on our health–without it we have nothing. All the money or time in the world won’t help if we are bedridden.

      Kudos on approaching FI!

  4. Sure, I’ll agree with that. Just because you have a bunch of money in a brokerage account somewhere isn’t going to change how your brain works.

    At this point, you’re probably stuck with your brain the way it is, but like all things you can probably work hard to make it more manageable.

    Good luck!

    1. Yup. My brain got me here, but once you don’t have to earn money any more, it doesn’t know how to stop pushing. Gotta figure out this whole meditation thing and work on myself (hopefully not by turning it into a “competitive meditation” race :P)

      1. I have joined various meditation communities for over 2 decades. “Competitive meditation” is a real danger in spiritual world. Please be careful and always connect with your intention. This link on Loving kindness may help:

        You have helped so many people, including me. Please let that goodness sinks in your heart and heal the wound. Anxiety is from both our biological bias towards negative ( and our modern culture that cracks up anxiety volume for profits.

        I am working through the same issue like you 🙂 Please take care of yourself!

    1. Well, I do love being a smart-ass 😉

      Good news on the FIRE comedy–one of my Chautauquan friends, Tyler, is putting together a funny FIRE podcast, so stay tuned for that!

  5. All i know is, I recommended my 36 year old daughter read your book, and she did. Now she is very excited about saving money amd getting to FI. I’m thrilled it clicked with her, as it did with us when we started reading your blog. You did good. And I’m grateful.

    1. Aww, thanks Brenda! I’m so happy it clicked with her 🙂 I’m so grateful for readers like you and comments like this!

      btw, if you enjoyed QLM, would you consider leaving us an Amazon review? It would mean a lot to us! Thank you. You rock.

    1. Retirement definitely isn’t for everyone 😀

      My struggle right now though is learning how to retire properly–without the need to be constantly “doing” stuff for merit. I thought working on stuff I enjoyed would help my anxiety but it didn’t. “Being” instead of “doing” is harder than I thought ;D

  6. This is a great, brave honest post.
    I think too many of us in the community focus too much on making that end line, and thinking once were there, were done.

    I still think FIRE is a wonderful goal, and really, something most people should aim for.
    But we should treat it more of a journey, not a destination.
    I’ve had my anxiety issues over the years, and, yes, crappy high pressure jobs absolutely exacerbate the problem. I too hated hated hated working for a big corporation, under pressure to produce stuff that you know deep down was often meaningless. Quitting that was definitely a huge relief.

    Since then, I’ve spent a few months travelling, including a lot of hiking in Nepal, and am now doing a little part time work for a tiny start up in the travel space – something I wouldn’t really have found I don’t think, pre FI. So far, it’t really good, and my normal work related anxiety dissipated after the first couple of day 🙂

    But you’re right, FI doesn’t fix everything, but it does give you the time to work on it yourself. And for some people, that can be kind of scary.
    I’m glad you are looking into Buddhism, I think it’s wonderfully helpful.

    For me, I need to take on more ‘contrarian’ friends, I haven’t really though about the importance of expanding my circle, but I agree, we should reach out to like minded tribe members, it’s a very human need.

    Good luck on your retreat.

    1. Thanks, Sean! You said it best with “But we should treat it more of a journey, not a destination.” The FI part gives us time and space, but we still have to work on ourselves, regardless of whether we get to FI or not. It’s been eye opening, and I’m so grateful I was able to come to this realization before it’s too late. Who knew “being” is so much harder than “doing”.

      I’ll report back on the retreat experience–I expect it’ll be one of the hardest things I’ll ever do but it’ll be a worthwhile challenge.

    1. “when you empty your closets, the skeletons come out.”

      Love this. It’s so true. You can’t use work as a distraction anymore, so you’re forced to face your skeletons.

      I guess, that’s how silent meditation works too–get rid of all the noise and you’ll hear the truth. Let’s hope I can handle it 😀

  7. I can relate very much to your experience. I am 61, retired for 3 years and loving it. But I am still me and the anxiety I’ve struggled with for much of my life surfaces occasionally, albeit not at the level it was when I was working. I have been a casual student of Buddhism for the last 15 years and have found it very helpful. I recently completed the 10 day Vipassana training you refer to. Great experience but keep in mind that this too won’t fix everything. I like to keep John Kabat-Zinn’s mantra handy, “wherever you go, there you are.”

    Good luck on your quest and keep up the great writing.

    1. Nice! which Vipassana center did you go to?

      And yes, you are right, the retreat won’t fix everything either. My hope is that it’ll give me a new tool in my toolbox so I can use it to manage anxiety. It won’t go away 100%, but I need to learn how to manage it.

  8. I read your book. It was your story and it was good. I get the anxiety part unfortunately. I could do without it.

    I recommend the book 10% happier by Dan Harris. It is funny and real. This guy had panic attacks on TV and talks about his meditation and his journey.

    Also love the song Piece of Mind by Boston.

    1. Great post!
      I second 10% Happier by Dan Harris. The title is kind of cheesy but the book is hilarious and he makes a great case for meditation to skeptically minded people.

      I also really like The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. I’ve been casually meditating for around 7 years but that book has cleared up so much confusion I’ve had about it for so long, and is really making a big difference in my day-to-day life.

      It’s amazing how much simpler life can become when you learn to distance yourself from your inner narrator.

      1. Thanks for the recommendation, Michael! I’ve added the Joy of Living to my TBR book list. Too bad I can’t read all of them during the 10 day meditation, but I guess that would be missing the point 😀 I’ll be consuming all these books on my future flights/train/bus rides though.

    2. Thanks, Scott! Really appreciate your kind words on QLM.

      And yes, I’ve heard of the 10% happier book. I will add it to my TBR pile. Thank you for the recommendation!

      Btw, if you enjoyed QLM, would you consider leaving us an Amazon review? The more reviews we get, the more Amazon’s algorithms will pick it up and show it to new readers. Thank you so much!

  9. sorry to hear this Firecracker

    i know all about it . being an A type too …

    i suffered panic attacks many years ago and had very few . but then suffered Panic disorder ….

    always worried of having one

    then i had a bad series of attacks and was told i could take long term medication instead of the benzos . ( short term and addictive )

    wow what a difference … i now take a very low dose everyday of Efexor .. its a pure miracle

    i feel so different and can face anything now ..

    i will take this forever . best thing i ever had .. i just feel normal not super relaxed or drugged . just normal

    wish someone had told me years ago ..

    best to you

    1. Thanks, EA. I’m happy that you were able to find the right medication. I remember it being a crap shoot when the doctor prescribed mine–she told me “we might have to try a few over a period of time to see what works. It might take a while.” Lucky for me, the first one worked, but for one of my friends, it took months and many different meds.

      Kudos for being brave and sharing your struggles.

  10. That’s cool that you’re getting into Buddhism. Daily meditation definitely helps re-wire the brain a little bit to put you into a less reactive mode of operation. Without meditation, impulsive people such as myself have the process of bad stimulus (even if just a bad thought) -> immediate bad reaction (and stupid downward spiral into neuroticism). With meditation, it’s more like, bad stimulus -> pause and inspect that bad stimulus -> moderated reaction. There are some scientific studies that meditation changes the activity in the amygdala, which is our reptilian fear center.

    I like the perspective… I’ve been thinking about how the path to FI can lead some super type-A people to get OCD and tunnel vision about FI, and make them lose that peripheral vision/forget how to live a balanced life and be a balanced human. How does that turn out once one reaches FI?

    Also, your book was amazing and one of my FI favorites.

    1. Well put, Alex! Your description of meditation and Buddhism is exactly what drew me to it. My anxious thoughts frequently end up spiralling because I’m so neurotic. I need to recognize that thoughts are just thoughts. They aren’t reality. (easier said than done)

      Living a balanced life is definitely a better choice than tunnel visioning to get to FI. Though I can understand for people who grew up poor, get tunnel vision and hyper-focusing on making money is an instinct that’s hard to fight).

      Thank you so much for your compliment on our book! Really appreciate it. If you would consider leaving us an Amazon review, that would be amazing. You rock!

      1. I have been reading your blog for about a week now (devouring all of your previous posts) and something that has continually popped into my head over and over is the anxiety associated with getting to FI… or maybe it’s just me? My hubby and I are technically FI, but man I STILL worry about every, single penny. I worry so so much how my money anxiety is affecting my kids, and I wonder if I will ever feel free from it. I long for the days where I can go out for dinner (a rare occurrence) or enjoy a vacation without worrying about the financial side. Money definitely has a psychological side to it.

  11. The one thing FIRE will help you do: focus on having healthy, positive relationships. It turns out that is the largest factor in leading a healthy, happy life. The Harvard Grant Study, Blue Zones/CNN’s Chasing Life, Roseto Effect, Murray and Peacock 1996, among many other sources.

    The biggest impediments to this: you probably aren’t used to making relationships a priority over achievements (but now that you are FIREd, you can!), and others in your life aren’t going to suddenly change and start making relationships a priority. And it requires work to learn how to have healthy, positive relationships. It requires empathy, compassion, and the willingness to stop trying to manage/fight your emotions.

    1. One more thing: I love meditation and I find it to be a great tool in “rebooting” my brain into a better state. It contributes to well-being as do eating healthy, getting exercise and spending time in nature. But all of these are essentially rounding errors when compared to having strong relationships. We are at our core social creatures and we crave connection. And I am saying this as a lifelong introvert who used to think I wasn’t really a “people person”. It is a learnable skill. It just takes a lot of time and effort (and a good therapist helps too).

    2. As someone who also has anxiety (and suffered the torture of panic attacks) this post resonated so much with me.

      It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve discovered meditation as a useful tool for managing your anxiety.

      Meds and therapy helped me through my depression, but for some reason didn’t help a lot with my anxiety.

      Meditation was the only thing that’s been effective for managing (and nearly extinguishing) my anxiety.

      Like you wrote, it sounds woo-woo. But it really works, while also helping to make me a more present and happy person. And after you’ve been doing it daily for many years, it just becomes ingrained in you.

      Even when I skip an occasional formal practice, I can still pull myself out of an anxious mood by focusing on the present and just BREATHING.

      Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sure it will be inspirational and helpful to many. 🙂

      1. Thanks, Chrissy! Glad to know that meditation was helpful for you. Took me a while to get on it, but better late than never.

    3. Thanks for sharing, Dave! I love that Harvard study. I don’t remember where I first heard about it, but it’s so fascinating (especially the part where they revealed one of the participants was a US president. Amazing).

      I’m definitely working on “watering my relationships” (to quote my friend, Katie), instead of trying to say yes to every opportunity. It helps tremendously to have a tight knit community. I’ve also realized over the years that quality trumps quantity (especially being an introvert/ambivert). So grateful for my Chautauquan family.

  12. Maybe you should consider going back to work (I’m totally joking !!)..

    Actually, anxiety is a very tough thing to deal with, but it’s important to know that it’s not at all uncommon. At my work, in the last few years, we’ve had a three employees that ended up at the hospital as a result of panic attacks. Two of these fellows were transported via ambulance (from work). Another younger guy drove himself to the emergency on his way home from work. The two ambulance guys, they both started the work day worrying about work and/or money, and over the course of a few hours they convinced themselves that they were having a cardiac arrest. This is very typical.

    The younger fellow often worries about money. He is married with two children. His wife stays at home and takes care of children. Mathematically, this guy should be financially fine, but he’s always broke (I suspect that his wife has major student loan debt). I try to pass on my FIRE knowledge, but it’s obvious that he’s not in a place to hear about it…I’ll keep trying..

    …I know you’ll do fantastic and over time all this anxiety will be thing of the past !

    1. LOL. And waste all those years making myself useless to employers? That would be a shame 😉

      I think I read that 18% of the population suffers from this, so you’re right, it not uncommon. And I hear you on the employees being rushed to hospital from work stress. One of my co-workers nearly died. It was terrifying!

      And thank you for the vote of confidence! I’ll definitely keep working on managing my anxiety ;D Won’t be easy but will be worth it.

  13. “So” relatable.

    Introvert, on a good path to FI, keep declining my promotion which is unheard of at my workplace this early in career stage, love nature and quiet and books and hate shopping. Almost all my anxiety stems from not being able to fit into this planet and superficial people all around. Quite familiar with vipassana and truly so glad you’re doing it! Look forward to hearing your experience.
    In addition to some great books on Buddhist teachings, also strongly recommend picking up Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (I like the slightly archaic English of the Oxford world classics version). It’s a heavier read and each bullet needs some patience to sink in, but I now keep it next to my pillow and carry it around in my office laptop bag, without fail.
    PS- also midway your book.
    Well done and keep it up.

    1. Ooh so many good book recommendations in the comments! I love it. I’ve added “Meditations” to my TBR pile. Thank you!

      And thank you for reading QLM! You rock!

  14. I love that you say “couldn’t give a rat’s ass…” LOL! That is something I say often and don’t know anyone else who uses that phrase!

    I am on day 21 of my “FIRoadtrip” – left the fruit company on 10/31 and set off on a cross-country road trip on 11/4. I am in Amarillo tonight and will be home for Thanksgiving. I know then that I will have to face who I am as I adjust to the FIRE life.

    I think it is great that you are continuing to work on yourself as a person and try new things to improve. I will try to do the same! Good luck taming that aniexty beast! Miss you and Bryce!

    1. Guess we both hate rat’s ass’s 😀

      Enjoy the rest of your trip (I’ve been following your adventures on instagram) and miss you too!

  15. It’s like you’re speaking right to me! I’ve lately been going down the yoga and meditation route, and as I was reading about your anxiety, that was ringing in my brain! Then you said it! Try yoga as well if you haven’t, it’s totally changed my life and made me much calmer. It lowers cortisol levels, so stress and anxiety are also lowered. A good book on mindfulness is Peace In Every Breath by Thich Nacht Hanh. I think mindfulness combined with gratitude and compassion is a great formula for inner peace and happiness. Good luck on the journey!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Zachary! I love Thich Nacht Hanh’s books. I’ve read several by him but not “Peace In Every Breath” yet. I’ll add it to my TBR list. YAY!

  16. Love your writing. This post. The book. The posts before the book. Already looking forward to the posts after the retreat. What FIRE can and cannot do from someone who’s tried it is exactly the kind of thing I hope to learn here.

    1. Thank you, Marie! This comment made my day 🙂 I’m excited to share what I learn from the retreat as well.

      If you enjoyed QLM, would you consider leaving us an Amazon review? That would be amazing. Thank you so much for your support and for reading!

  17. I just ordered your book from Amazon! I find your story fascinating as I read your blog. Love the fact that you are meditating, I need to do more of that. I started learning about FI late in life at age 55 and now at age 60 have turned my life away from the cult of consumerism. I am trying to share with others including my kids especially your famous line about how easy life can be if they understand money and how hard it can be if they don’t.

    I have taken a contrarian view on many aspects of life and because of that have left my church/religion which turned out to be a cult. So that’s 2 cults I have left. Walter Martin was a scholar who wrote about cult religions in the book Kingdom of The Cults. Find yourself but don’t exit one cult for another. Finance, Exercise and Religion have a lot in common but you can end up worshiping the wrong god in each. Stay balanced and keep seeking out the truth.

    1. Thank you, CP! Kudos for turning away from consumerism. It’s not easy but it’s definitely life-changing.

      And wow, so brave of you to break away from 2 cults! And now, we’re pulling you back in with the FIRE cult! 😉 Tee hee.

  18. “Why not empress of the universe?” – Why not stop there, there’s always a multiverse to conquer? #thisisajoke

    Good piece. As many have mentioned above, it takes bravery to lift one’s head above the parapet and say that everything isn’t awesome all the time.

    I think the crux is that “Turns out, becoming FI doesn’t change who you are. All it does is give you the space and time, so you can fix yourself.”

    Maybe the key to moving forward is not so much a matter of trying to ‘fix’ oneself but is instead a matter of learning to live with oneself (warts and all). I.e. you don’t need to fix yourself because you’re not broken. You were made just the way that the Universe intended in the first place.


    1. LOL. You’re spot on. That’s where my brain is headed next–empress of the parallel universe.

      And thank you, it’s good to hear the words “you’re not broken”. You’re right, I need to realize that I’m enough. Just need to get that neurotic brain of mine to shut the hell up.

  19. Tigermom is a teeny bit older than Firecracker and Wanderer and have taken many self development and leadership courses. What much of the coaching boils down to is to ‘quit the toxic job’. That said, I think I will function less in emergency mode, and take things slower, and feel less like life is a chore-supporting elderly parents and mb ???. Also, maybe I can learn to code? Would also love to be consistent -I want to try vipasana too ?

    1. Way to go, Tigermom! I’m so impressed by people who are willing to work on self-improvement and leadership. Way better areas to spend money than on mindless consumerism.

      Learning to code would be very worthwhile. I highly recommend it. And hope you end up signing up for Vipassana too 🙂

  20. Great post! You are going to love the Vipassana retreat. And by “love” I mean you will overall find the experience valuable – but there will be moments that don’t feel so great (but push through it – or rather, just let it happen to you).

    I did the retreat several years ago. There were times during the retreat that I hated it, hated myself, hated everything about it! Something about sitting with only your thoughts for an extended period of time makes you confront the person you are, the choices you’ve made, etc.

    It was a tumultuous but cleansing experience. When I returned to “normal life” in the city, I felt so much better. One of my friends remarked that it seemed like a figurative weight was off my shoulders.

    I can’t wait for you to have this experience and to share it with us (if you choose to)!

    For some educational but light easy reading on meditation, I recommend Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier. It’s a terrific skeptic’s guide to meditation wrapped up in a memoir of a type-A personality. I also like his app for guided meditations.

    1. Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Sherry. I’m looking forward to it, but also a bit terrified that I’ll freak out and leave after day 3 😛 Must persevere!

  21. I know what you mean about the 2am, 3am, 4am, etc wake ups before work. For me, I was always worried that my alarm wouldn’t go off (while working shift work where you need to be in by a certain time). Luckily, because of FI, I no longer work day shifts to have to worry about that ever again. But man that anxiety wasn’t fun! Major congrats on booking the silent Vipassana meditation! Hoping its an incredible experience for you

  22. Thank you for sharing FIREcracker. I think it is so important that people talk about this stuff and share so we no this is a normal fight to go through and work on. I am so impressed. Thank you for sharing and anything we can to do support you we are there.

    1. Love you guys! I’m so grateful to have wonderful friends like you. No idea what awesome thing I did in my past life to deserve such exceptional friends. Can’t wait to see you soon!

  23. FIRE is a marketing gimmick because of “RE”. Financial Independence has been in execution for thousands of years by the early entrepreneurs.

    You planned and executed a successful FI plan and became the modern entrepreneur.

    An entrepreneur is not a complete life – regardless how successful the entrepreneurship will take you.

    The anxiety you are experiencing is the woman’s instinctive alarm that reminds you there is one life mission you must fulfill.

    For a moment, let go all the technical aspects of finance and embrace your intuition – you will see the mission.

    1. Thanks for your 2 cents, TE. I think through meditation I’ve found that life doesn’t have to be about some big mission. It’s enough to just “be” 🙂 Having a mission is a bonus.

  24. When I find myself fretting or anxious over a situation, I watch this video: “A Journey to the End of Time”

    It puts my issues into perspective and at the same time fills me with awe at just being here. One word of warning though; several people tell me it’s depressing. I guess for some having their entire existence shown to be so small in the vastness of time is something they have a problem with.

    The soundtrack is fantastic. In my opinion of course.

  25. We are, as Bryce says, very much alike. 🙂

    These days, when I start to worry, I know to ask: “Is this a money problem?”

    If the answer is “yes,” then it is not a problem. And most problems are money problems.

    But those that aren’t, are “head” problems and those are thornier and tougher to deal with. 😉

    1. Twins separated at birth, that’s what we are 🙂

      I’m definitely grateful this is a head problem and not a money problem. Even having the time to realize it’s a head problem is a privilege. Guess I’ve moved up in Maslow’s hierarchy 😀

    1. Yup. More money doesn’t change who you are. I had anxiety bad then and I still have anxiety now (though much less). Meditation is helping though 🙂 So I’m grateful for the time to meditate.

  26. Good luck with Vipassana! It is difficult, maybe not for the reasons you think, but it is well worth it to stick it out for the whole ten days. You can do it!! Let me know if you have any questions, I went to the one in Montebello, Quebec.

    1. Thanks, Mario! I appreciate the cheerleading 🙂 It’s going to be hard but I’m going to stick with it. Will do a write-up afterwards and pick your brain if I have any questions.

  27. I’ve been battling anxiety for my entire life, with it raging out of control over the last decade or so. Years of working a high stress job had finally caught up to me, and the anxiety became something that dominated and controlled my life. And it kept taking less and less to set if off. Various medications definitely helped, but some are addictive and others will stop being effective over time. About 18 months ago, I took up mindfulness meditation and that has helped more than anything. And there is real scientific data to back up that it works. I’d suggest watching some youtube videos and reading a book or two on it. Does it “solve” anxiety. No. But it greatly diminishes it, you recover much more quickly from an anxious event and you become stronger and stronger over time in lieu of the anxiety. Plus, no drugs and it costs nothing (I know we all love that here in our little FIRE community). Good luck and thanks for doing what you do for all of us.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Superdave! It’s nice to know that we are not alone in our struggles. I’m meditating a lot more now and it’s definitely helping. I find that hiking and generally being in nature also helps a ton. After being in the concrete jungle for decades, it’s nice to go back to healing nature.

  28. Here you go again dropping knowledge bombs that cut directly to my core. I’ve never been a good sleeper throughout my whole life. Most recently I attributed it to working so much and just having too many things on my mind… fast forward to the last 3-4 months of FIRE and guess what? I have had some of the worst sleepless nights I have ever had. FIRE most certainly does NOT fix everything. What it has done was make me realize that I need to do something about my sleep habits and routine. Thanks for sharing the honest truth about your struggle with anxiety. I feel you!

  29. This really resonated with me as I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. It’s comforting to hear you speak so candidly about your struggles Firecracker. I think open discussion is what will eventually break down barriers and stigma. So interesting that many other FI ers have similar struggles! Us smart people must all have similar personality traits! ; )

    As someone who is close to FI, I must say I was a little disappointed to read that all my neuroses weren’t going to magically go away once I hit the magic number…but deep down I knew this as it’s impossible to run away from yourself. Sigh. I just hope it takes the pressure off and gives me new perspective and a slower pace of life.

    I’d love to come and meet you and ‘my clan’ at a future Chatauqua – hoping to make the trip once we’re almost at FI and our kids are a bit older. : )

    Thanks for being brave and authentic! The world needs more people like you.

    1. Thanks, LockedIn. The good news is that even though your anxiety won’t magically disappear after FI, you’ll have a lot more time to work on it. Had I not become FI, there’s no way I would’ve even realized I need to work on it, let alone having time to work on it. The vicious cycle of not sleeping, then going to work, then not sleeping, then forcing myself to stay awake at work wasn’t helpful at all. It was self-hate spiral. I’m glad I’m no longer in that spiral. I now have the time and space to work on myself and over the past month, it’s really been helping.

      I hope to see you at a future Chautauqua so we can have more of these deep, meaningful conversations. 🙂

  30. Thank you for writing this! In the past year or so, even before I resigned, I knew that FIRE would give me the space and time to figure some stuff out.. but I also realized that I wouldn’t suddenly become a better version of myself. Like you, I get anxious very easily so the thought of not knowing what is next is rather scary. It seems like I can’t really run away from what I am — so I better use the time to figure out how to manage myself. I guess this is the interesting bit… to get to know yourself better.

    1. Thanks for being brave and sharing your struggle, Frugalharpy. Not knowing what’s next is definitely scary, but working on yourself and simply acknowledging your thoughts without reacting to them has helped me a ton (I learned this through Buddhism books and meditation). Hope it helps you too.

  31. Sure thing FIRE is not a cure for all diseases. I have not found any friends I can share such conversations yet (maybe I should go to the next chautauqua). FIRE is a lonely journey actually, you’re always swimming against the stream. Keep it going. All the best in your retreat.

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