Among the FIRE community, there are many who wish to FIRE before they are or when they reach 40. Ms ZiYou is one of them and well on her way to achieving her goal.
And why not? Slog it out in the corporate world, maximising your earning power, living frugally and within your means, saving and investing as much as you can, building a pot of wealth so that you can call it quits on your work at/by 40, choose to do some other kind of work or really FIRE, as in retire early.
What’s not to like?
This got me thinking – imagine if I had learned of FIRE in my twenties just as I’d gotten my first permanent job?
Imagine if I’d been able to save 40-50% of my salary (and save up all my bonuses) and invested it all. I was a different person when I was 24-25 years old, unlikely to have embraced the idea of FIRE but had I done so, my underlying character would have meant that I would have pursued it in the same determined fashion – what hasn’t changed since my younger days is that if I set my heart and head on something, I don’t give up too easily.
So, imagine I’d been on the FIRE path since my mid-20s. Coming up to the age of 38/39, I’d be planning to pull the FIRE plug; I’d be thinking about what I could do with all my spare time, what places I could travel to.
Except that my plans would have gone completely pear-shaped because I would have been pulling the plug just as the 2008 global financial crisis happened, a complete meltdown of the stock markets and the near-destruction of the global economy. Ouch.
That would have been really unfortunate timing, yet sequence of returns risk could still affect any of us currently on the FIRE path.
Older and Wiser
Caveman recently wrote that the best time to start on the FIRE path was in your 30s/40s and in much the same way, I’m glad that I didn’t discover FIRE in my 20s and stopped working at 40, global financial crisis notwithstanding.
That’s because in terms of job satisfaction, I’ve found that the work I’ve done and the jobs I’ve had between the age of 40-50 have been far more rewarding than any I’ve done or had earlier in my career.
No, it’s not the increase in salary – having spent most of my career with the same company for over 20 years, my wages were stagnating so did not really increase in any significant increments (or not at all for several years). I’ve never been one to chase the higher wages.
I think part of the satisfaction comes from experience – I’ve learned to work with all kinds of people at all different levels, managing their expectations, learned to work smarter, not be afraid when to speak up but also to know when to shut up/not say anything.
In my 20s-30s, i recall getting caught up in office politics, stressing about promotions (mine and other people’s), stressing about pay (what I earned and what other people earned), stressing about people’s time-keeping, the number of ‘sick-days’ people had, the time they spent going out for cigarette breaks, people’s extended lunch-breaks, the overtime they did, the clock-watching, my long working hours, etc, etc. I was once labelled a ‘trouble-maker’ by one of the directors – well, I obviously hadn’t learned at the time when to shut up!
That’s a lot of stress, with very little to do with me personally!
As I got older, I became only concerned about my own performance at work and that’s it. What anyone else did (or didn’t do) was their problem. My work ends when I leave the office – I argued that it was unnecessary for me to have a work mobile (and won) and I don’t take my laptop home (unless there’s an urgent piece of work that can’t wait). This attitude meant that I enjoyed my work a lot more and was able to concentrate and focus more on the job at hand. I have a good work/life balance.
You could argue that I was bothered and stressed by all those things when I was younger because my personal finances weren’t in a great way. I was carrying high credit card debts and funnily enough, once I’d paid them all off, I was a much happier person.
And so, I now move to what I believe will be the final stage of my working career. I’m not looking to progress up the career ladder – I’m just looking to remain gainfully (and happily) employed until I hit my FIRE goal.
I like my job and I enjoy the work I’m doing – I’m given a lot of flexibility and autonomy, the work is challenging, my colleagues are nice and I like and respect my boss. But I can see how just a few factors changing could make things really difficult for me.
I’ve mentioned that change/company re-organisation is on the cards, perhaps later this year but more likely to be next year.
The question is: will I be able to ride out the changes until I reach my FI goal?
And of course, another global financial crisis could still happen just as I reach my goal and I don’t know if I’d be any more prepared.
Since I can’t control what will happen in the future with my job or with the stock market, I will concentrate on what I can control, that is my spending, my saving/investing and living my life.
Update on Freetrade’s Free Shares
And finally, further to my recent mention of free shares via Freetrade worth up to £200 (previously £80), I’m beta-testing their referral scheme so if you want to check out their cool app and bag a free share, DM me via Twitter (@QuietlySaving) or via the Contact Me form for a one-use only link – first come first served!
UK only and Android users will need version 7.0 or above.
Hope you all have a great weekend!