Why Everyone Wants Us To Fail

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Photo credit: Chris Griffith @ Flickr

Pop quiz of the day:

After travelling the world and coming back to visit, your ex-colleague will likely:

A) Ask about your trip

B) Brag about work

C) Make snide remarks

If you answered B and C, you are right.

 “I’d be so bored if I wasn’t working.”

“You haven’t run out of money yet? Give it time.”

“Wait until you have kids. You’ll never have money again.”

The funny thing is this ex co-worker, whom I shall call “Don”,  could easily become Financially Independent. But he refuses to, because he is obsessed with keeping up with the Jones’s.

And so, even though he knows exactly how this FI thing works, he’d rather keep convincing himself it’s a bad idea, than take the leap.

“Kids are so expensive. Do you have any idea how expensive private school is?“

Don easily makes twice our combined salaries.

“Houses are money sinks! It’s going to cost us at least 400K just to add a second level. Just wait until you have to buy house!”

Don lives in one of the most expensive areas in Toronto. His house is worth well over a million, but not only is he not cashing out, he’s planning to spend another 400K. His wife wants granite counter tops and he wants a man-cave.

“Once you leave, you’ll have a hole in your resume and you’ll never be able to come back to work!

Don knows our post-retirement life is amazing. He knows we don’t want to go back to work.

And since I’m not exactly the picture of calm, you’d think Don would have a fist-sized hole in his face by now.

But no, I wasn’t mad. Instead, I was sad. So very sad for Don.

You see, Don is extremely unhappy. Though he’d never admit it.

He works really hard for his money, but he can’t stop it from leaking like a sieve. With a salary 3 times the average, Don still feels poor. With an insatiable house monster and expensive private school tuition.

On the surface, Don may seem like he has it all. On the surface, Don seems happy.

But deep down inside, he isn’t.

How do I know?

Because happy people don’t tear other people down. Happy people are just…happy.

And I’ve been there. I used to be just like Don. Constantly putting others down. Constantly belittling their promotions, their dreams, how they choose to live their lives.

I was a Grinch. Green with envy for other people’s successes. Guarded because of my tiny, shrivelled heart.

But then I became FI and travelled the world.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by happy people. People from all different walks of life. People with different stories, different perspectives, different social economic backgrounds.

They were all different, but they all had one thing in common:

They were HAPPY.

Happy to be working for themselves. Happy to be exploring the world. Happy to be following their passions.

And I used to look at these happy people with jealousy. Hate. Fear.

I used to wonder what it would be like to join their circle. But my shrivelled little Grinch heart never let me.

Until now.

Then ever so slowly, like an inflating balloon, my heart grew three sizes! And I became happy too. And now I can be happy for others, instead of tearing them down like I used to, not very long ago.

Unfortunately, Don is still a Grinch.

He wants us to be miserable. Because if we’re miserable, he won’t have to be scared. He won’t have to question his choices. He can choose to stay in his “safe”, complacent life.

But here’s the thing. What Don perceives as “safe” isn’t really safe at all.

Don loves his job now, but will he love it in 5, 10, 15 years?

Don loves being a father, and it’s a HUGE part of his identity, but what about when his kids leave the nest?

Don loves eating out, but what if his health deteriorates because he never has time to work out?

Staying still feels safe. Staying still feels comfortable.

But companies always need to make MORE money. Sooner or later, they will squeeze you. Sooner or later, they will squeeze every last bit of life from you, because they need to make shareholders happy, not you.

I once had a good job too. It was great at the beginning and everyone was happy. But when it turned bad, I chose to quit. And that’s the best thing about becoming Financially Independent. It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job. It just means you have the option to do so. And having choices leads to freedom, which leads to fulfillment, which leads to happiness

And I’ll be honest. Retiring from the 9 to 5 isn’t always great. Some days you miss your friends. Some days you run into roadblocks. And some days, you screw up your travel plans.

But none of that really matters.

Because in the end, it’s still worth it.


Because even the WORST day working for myself, is still better than the BEST day working for someone else.

I’m living the life I want to live. And it’s infinitely better than living a life DICTATED by someone else.

Because in this life, I’m the author. I get to write my own story. Not someone else’s.

And because I’m Financially Independent, I can build any dream I want. I can try again and again, failing over and over, until I finally succeed.

I have a massive parachute, and I will keep building new dreams. Forever and forever. And I will succeed. Because failure doesn’t faze me. Especially since I never have to give up, and be forced to go back to work.

Get Everwise_Flickr_JZ
Photo credit: Get Everwise @ Flickr

I feel for Don. I really do. I know what it’s like to feel compelled to put others down. I know what it’s like to be jealous of other people’s success.

And on your journey to FI, you will have the same push back.

Your cellmates don’t want you to be free.

Your “friends” don’t want you to live a better life.

And your parents will tell you it’s a big scary world out there.

Well, you know what? I’ve been out there. I’ve been outside those long, metal bars.

And it’s not scary at all. In fact, it’s beautiful.

But, don’t take my word for it. Break free and see for yourself.

Photo credit: professeurfax@Flickr

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to force you do anything you don’t want to do.

You don’t have to come with me. You can stay exactly where you are. You can keep telling yourself: my life isn’t that bad, I don’t need to change anything.

But …

When you are lying in your deathbed, and your life is a movie reel playing in front of your eyes…

…will you like what you see?

Or will you forever be wondering…

…“what if?”

Click here for the follow up: Why Everyone Wants Us to Fail Part 2

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24 thoughts on “Why Everyone Wants Us To Fail”

  1. “I once had a good job too. It was great at the beginning and everyone was happy. But when it turned bad, I chose to quit. And that’s the best thing about becoming Financially Independent. It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job. It just means you have the option to do so. And having choices leads to freedom, which leads to fulfillment, which leads to happiness”

    I’m probably old enough to be your parental unit, but about 6 months ago I chose the same path as you. My partner still works, because the work is fulfilling and fun. We have not been as great as you two in reducing expenses, but much better than most, and saving about 50% of our take home pay over the last few years, at least (we did not keep track before!)

    Lots of “Don”s around, most of my old colleagues are hanging on for full pension, and are wishing away each and every day of life.

    1. Hey, a 50% savings rate is AMAZING, considering the average from Stats Can is like 5%. Good for you!

      And you know, I used to think a pension was the best thing in the world, but I was talking to a friend who works in government, and the people there are just sitting there, deliberately not doing any work (because if they do any it makes their coworkers look bad), essentially just taking up space for 30 years until they can get their pension, and I can’t imagine a more pointless existence.

  2. I think we all know this Don guy very well… Funny how someone can make so much money, but not smart enough to take advantage of it and stop working. Time is our most valuable asset, don’t waste it!

    1. Right! Money is a proxy for time, people! Stockpiling money only makes sense if you use it to buy back your time. Why don’t people get that?

  3. Really good post. I think a lot of people working the typical job really are jealous and bitter at those who go a different route.

    Still, early retirement isn’t for everyone. A typical worklife might honestly be a much better fit for some (maybe most) than the mad-dash to financial independence that many of us are embarking on.

    That is to say, the things we think are no big deal (like, living on a shoestring while stacking up investments for a decade or so) are kind of dealbreakers for others.

    All that said, yeah, I certainly like the options that FI provides. I think it’s a good tradeoff. I just like to remind myself that it’s not for everyone.

    1. Given that this is an FI blog, I’m a little biased. 😛 But hey, if people are perfectly happy with their lives, and don’t feel they need to become FI, this lame-ass blog is NOT for them. We started it to let other people who AREN’T happy know that they have this option. They are free to take it or leave it.

      From my experience, many of my friends and co-workers (aka “Don”) AREN’T happy with their lives. If they were, my FI-ness wouldn’t bug them and they wouldn’t need to make snarky comments. Happy people are just happy. Negativity just wastes their energy.

  4. (Found this blog due to donebyforty<—–Thanks).

    What a great post! I must admit I had to look up what a turret was and I hope this "Don" lives in a castle, because it may look out of place otherwise;)

    That aside, I think you had a lot of good points in your post and congrats on FI. I'm one of those odd ducks in the PF world that loves his job and finds great fulfillment in it, so I'm happy even though I haven't reached FI. Your story and many others makes me sad that so many people feel "stuck" in jobs they hate until the day they die or retire. As Gary Vaynerchuk says "Regret is the worst poison" and as you implied No one wants to look back on life and feel regret.

    1. Yeah, he wants a turret to ward off the incoming Orc invasion 😉

      I’m super happy for you that you have a great, fulfilling job 🙂 Very rare these days (they say at least 70% of people are unhappy with their jobs). So you are an odd (and very lucky) duck indeed. Good for you!

      I love that you quoted Gary Vaynerchuk (love him!), and I completely agree with him that “Regret is the worst poison”. I can honestly now say that I live with no regrets. And it feels AWESOME!

  5. Sorry but this was a very condescending article. Who are you tell somebody they are unhappy? Are you a psychologist now?

    There are countless ways to be happy in life and I am glad you found yours, but financial independence isn’t the only way and telling people they are unhappy and even “feeling sad” for them is nothing short of patronizing.

    Who’s to say he isn’t happy working 9-5 to look after his kids? Who’s to say he isn’t happy with a million dollar house and a $400k reno? Just because someone complains about money when they earn $200k doesn’t mean they’re miserable. Maybe he would rather spend his money lavishly than live frugally and retire like you. Everyone has their own path to happiness and telling someone they’re miserable and feeling sorry for them with no knowledge of how they truly feel is wrong.

    I hope this blog doesn’t turn into a preachy, high horse, “We are right, you are wrong” mentality, as it feels like it’s getting that way. Stick to solid unbiased advice and perhaps avoid comparing yourselves to everybody else as to be honest, you’re in the vast minority here.

    1. “Who are you tell somebody they are unhappy?”
      – Um, if someone COMPLAINS, they are clearly not happy. That’s what COMPLAINING means.

      And we will never turn into a preachy, high horse blog. We may turn into a preachy high ELEPHANT blog. But definitely not a high horse blog. Horses are jerks #LongStory

    2. Andrew, lighten up! It’s refreshing to hear someone talk openly about what reactions to expect when we pull the trigger and retire early. I totally agree with Firecracker, some people love being negative/snarky if you’re breaking the status quo in any way. Funnily this also applies to your comment just now. If this blog only sticks to unbiased advice and worries about offending people then it will be super boring to read, like most of the other blogs out there.
      In fact one of the toughest things about success or breaking the status quo in any way is ignoring negative people! Especially if you are sensitive to social pressure like me. Great article.

      1. THANK YOU! Many finance blogs worry about offending people, and I think that’s why reading about money feels so boring. We’re trying change that. Sure, some people will get offended, but comments like yours and the positive emails we get makes it all worth while. Besides, being FI means you don’t have to care about what other people think.

  6. I always say that more people will talk you into debt than out of it! My friends and family have the same reaction when I tell them my fiancé and my goals. We unfortunately did the new car/house thing at 25 and at 27 and 30 we are trying to reverse that. Cool to find your site and likeminded young people. Bookmarking for later!

    1. Thanks, Julie! I have lots of friends that are doing the car/house thing. It is reversible and I applaud you for your willingness to make changes. Most people just choose to stay in their situation (out of fear) and complain.

  7. I love this article because it relates so well to life too! My new in-laws are always telling us what our future will look like once we have kids or buy a house but they always forget those are choices! Houses and kids AREN’T things that MUST happen in life. I am 26 and have my whole life ahead of me (hopefully) and I never have wanted a house and am constantly on the fence about kids. The sad thing is 7 years ago before I met my husband I didn’t realize these were choices. I had been brainwashed so badly by society I thought I HAD to buy a house and HAD to have kids to even consider my self successful. There are so many different paths to success but overall YOU have to be happy with what you are doing and feel YOU are successful and that is really what matters. I saw this commercial the other day for this financial company (I believe) with an Olympian saying “People ask me how it feels to have a gold medal and I tell them you already have medals all around you.” It then shows her running by a man washing his BMW as she says “your bronze” then running by a family moving into a house and the Olympian saying “your silver” and finally (as I am sure you can guess) running by a women pushing a stroller and her saying “your gold.” I find it sad to think that there are probably a lot of people like me who don’t think of other paths and just stay on the path most traveled because it is CONSTANTLY thrown in our face or pressed upon us by family, friends and society. I honestly have had to stop hanging out with some friends and limit my time with some family who is constantly squashing my dreams and trying to shove their path down my throat. I try to surround myself with people who uplift me and make me think outside of the box. When my husband and I first found out about FI I told everyone and anyone what our plan was and I got SO MANY weird looks like I was out of my mind. My husband pulled me aside at one family party and told me I should probably not tell a lot of people because they couldn’t fathom it or because they would end up trying to tell me how my plan was stupid. Overall Kudos to you FIrecracker for being able to hang out with Don still and be a shining light in case he ever wants to join you all on the same path.

    1. “There are so many different paths to success but overall YOU have to be happy with what you are doing and feel YOU are successful and that is really what matters.”

      Completely agree with you. And this is why the number 1 regret of the dying is ” I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” And ever since we became FI we found that we have ZERO regrets. ZERO. Back when I was working and trying to be like everyone else, I keep having nightmares about dying from a heart-attack at my desk or getting hit by a car. Then my life would be pointless. Thank God, I don’t have those fears anymore.

      I think it’s AMAZING that you’ve come to this realization and you’re only 26! When I was 26, I had no idea what FI was and had zero knowledge about investing. So I’d say you are well on your way! Screw all those idiots for telling you otherwise.

      I have lots of friends who thought I was crazy when I didn’t buy a house and invested instead. Now, they are stuck in hateful jobs while I get to travel the world and do what I love. It’s an amazing feeling. And on the plus side, now that they’ve seen what it’s like to break free from the corporate prison, they’re looking at their finances and trying to become FI too. And I’m cheering them on.

      Hang in there! Don’t let the haters derail you; use them to drive you instead. When you become a millionaire, you’ll be the one laughing.

  8. Great post, Firecracker! I’ve been binge reading many of your post and love them! Question: I know you make passive income from investing but considering inflation and your life expectancy (seeing you both are still quite young) do you ever worry about slowly reducing your capital? Just wanted to get your thoughts on that because I would definitely love to retire early like you guys and be FI. Thanks!

    1. Good question. Here’s the answer:

      1) Equities are naturally a good hedge against inflation (as prices go up, companies can charge more, and this profit goes back to the shareholders.).
      2) We also hold Real Return Bonds and REITs, which are hedged against inflation.
      3) Historically, the market has returned 6-8%/year, but we are only withdrawing 4%, so the extra gains hedge against inflation.
      4) And worse case, since we’re not tied to a job, we can move to low cost countries and live on much less.
      5) Or we can pick up some freelance (since we can code, that’s a portable, in demand skill) on the side.

      So there are many knobs to turn to hedge against inflation. Basically, if your money is not sitting in some savings account, earning only 1.5% and being taxed at the marginal rate, your investments will grow with the power of compounding.

      I hope that answers your question.

  9. Wow, I just found this site and everything is so amazing!

    I’m 23, on the second year out of five of Information Systems bachelor degree in Brazil and working as with software development as an intern. I had to leave my parents’ house and pay all my bills since I’m 19.
    Your story is so inspiring, I’ll learn as much as I can from you because I want to go the same path.

    Thank you so much for sharing with details so it can help so many people with what you learned and done.
    Great vibrations for you!

  10. Hi, Firecracker! I found your blog from your guest post on jlcollinsnh.com. I started reading your “How We Got Here” series and was immediately hooked. Your determination and dedication to your goal is inspiring, and I was saying “Hell, yeah!” to myself and raising my fist like the Millennial Revolution logo as I read about your FI progression and the day you gave the finger to your employer and walking away for good.

    I became FIREd in February, and it’s funny how many Dons are out there. A friend of mine had nearly identical responses when I told him of my plan: “What about college tuition if you have kids? You can’t drive your car forever…you’ll need to buy a new one someday. What if the stock market crashes?” Misery loves company, and people don’t like the idea of someone escaping the corporate dungeon and leaving them behind. Sadly, like you and jlcollins and MMM and others have pointed out, they are just as capable of fleeing if they only made a few changes and quit trying to keep up with the Joneses.

    1. Thanks! And yeah, it’s WAY easier for people to dismiss us than trying to make positive changes in their lives. They’d rather continue being miserable, complaining, and saying how FIers are all going to fail. Haters gonna hate 🙂 I’ve glad we’ve been able to prove them wrong.

      Congrats on becoming FIREd! It’s always a pleasure meeting other FIers…we all just GET each other 🙂

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