What if you run out of money? You will have failed and good luck with that!
Over the weekend, a story about the FIRE movement appeared in the New York Times. The comment above was from one of the naysayers on social media. I also saw this:
What if the stock market crashes and you lose your money?
A common theme is “I hate my occupation” which is sad. A couple million at 30 years old isn’t enough to live well into one’s 80s with two kids assuming university one day, inflation at 3%, inheritance, etc @ obsolete 4% withdrawal rate
These folks have a bad case of One More If syndrome.
One More If Syndrome
Most have heard of One More Year syndrome. That’s when you’re set to leave work, but can’t quite do it, so you hang on for another year. Maybe you have a bonus coming up or you just haven’t figured out life post-job yet.
A related and more insidious disease is called One More If syndrome. You may have a case of One More If syndrome if you’ve ever uttered any of the following:
What if the 4% Rule doesn’t hold up?
What if social security fails?
What if the stock market goes to zero?
Will I be a poor example for my kids if I leave work?
All of those things may happen. Leaving work at an early age is a calculated risk. I acknowledge that I may go down in flames, but I don’t think it will happen. I’ve thought about numbers and money for years. My moat is large and I have backup plans for my backup plans.
And there are downsides to staying at a job you no longer need. They aren’t as obvious, but they are there.
To the naysayers:
If I didn’t leave my job, I wouldn’t be able to spend the amount of time with my children that I do now. Being able to work on math or hike with them down by the creek for hours every day is incredible.
If I didn’t leave my job, my health may have still been on a poor trajectory. Sitting behind a keyboard for 8 hours a day was doing me no favors. I’m 25 pounds lighter and no longer suffer from hypertension.
If I didn’t leave my job, I wouldn’t have time to pursue activity that really matters to me. I love to build with my hands. I love to read and think.
If I didn’t leave my job, I wouldn’t be able to do the work that’s really important to me. That’s right, I said work. I love to write and create. I still write code (I was a software developer) occasionally too. I work on my own terms and I do it for happiness, not money.
Now that I’ve left my job (16 months ago!), I’ve realized that I’ll never get around to doing most of the things on my retirement list. There are no do-overs in life, but I should have left sooner.
What Most Miss
The hedonic treadmill isn’t a recipe for happiness. I’ve been there and done that. A big home didn’t make me happy. What most miss it this:
A frugal, simple life is often the happiest, most content way to live. A side effect of living this way is that you may just end up with a lot of extra money. Working towards early retirement is really just pursuing a fulfilling life. It isn’t a compromise or sacrifice.
And to build on the above:
Money isn’t the goal. Money is just the starting point. Money is a facilitator. The FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement is really about living intentionally. While it would be arrogant to say that you can’t do this with a job, it’s difficult to reconcile the life you truly want to live with committing 2,000 hours per year to someone else. There just isn’t enough time.
I’d also ask the naysayers why they set the bar so low for themselves. Stop making excuses for who and why you are. Once you stop, it’s easier to imagine the person you might become.
When we’re young, time seems infinite. It’s only when we’re old or have a near-death experience that we really appreciate just how valuable time is. Money is renewable, time isn’t. Think about this daily.
So yes, I may not succeed. My money may run out before I die. And if it does, I’ll just get a job*.
To the naysayers, I say this:
I’d rather live big and fail than never try.
Do what you’re meant to do before it’s too late.
I’m so grateful for all of this.
*A fellow blogger, Joel from FI180 said it best.
What happens if I run out of money? I go and get another job.
My worst-case scenario is everyone else’s daily life. I can live with that.
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