Imagine you are waiting at the starting line of a race. Picture yourself stretching, tightening your shoelaces and quietly taking deep relaxing breaths. There is no doubt you are ready. You spent months training for this particular event. You step into position and brace for the sound of the starting gun.
Then suddenly bang! You’re off. Listening to the sound of your feet hitting the track as you strive toward the finish line.
The Race for Financial Independence
The quest for financial independence feels a lot like a race. Not just any old ordinary contest, but a sprint in which we dart towards the finish line as fast as humanly possible. To reach the end in record time we work long hours, save more than half of our income and pick up side hustles all along the way.
We prepare for the journey ahead. We memorize road maps and ask others for advice. “Earn more, spend less and invest what’s left,” everyone says. The instructions seem remarkably simple. Yet, it can’t possibly be that easy. Deep down inside we know we have a long way to go and little time to rest.
As we start to run we repeat the mantras over and over in our minds. We focus on the goal ahead and do our best to avoid distractions. Now is not the time to buy a big house, a new car or even the avocado toast or latte we’ve been dreaming about. Instead we keep our eyes fixated squarely on the path ahead and do our best to avoid advertisements.
We carefully pick and choose our social media outlets. We avoid Facebook pages full of perfect lives and stay away from the Joneses.
The FI Finish Line
To complete the course we must stay focused. We put our feet on the ground and propel ourselves forward step by step. We create spreadsheets to demonstrate our steady progress and to remind ourselves that the end is in sight.
Our expenses determine our unique finish line, which means the race may be longer or shorter depending on how much we spend in life. We slash extraneous costs and save every dollar we can. Eventually narrowing our sights on a specific net worth. With this number in hand we can officially mark the end of the race.
We check and triple check our math just to be sure. We run calculations based on the 4% rule and verify scenarios based on historical market trends and facts.
One day, after all of this hard work and effort, we log into our bank accounts and add up our assets. There, in all of it’s glory, is that big sum of money we’ve been racing to attain.
When we reach that very special number we throw our hands in the air with utmost glee. The race was exhausting, but we finally made it. We’ve reached the finish line! We collect our race ribbons and congratulate ourselves.
The race is over, but what happens next?
What Happens After We Finish the Race
I know plenty of people who sign up for a new race the minute they finish the previous one. Maybe they want to run farther or faster next time. Perhaps they’ll take on a harder course with steeper elevations or tougher terrain. That makes perfect sense. Most of us want to push our limits and conquer new heights.
But what happens after the race for financial independence? The quest for financial freedom is long and arduous, but the task can only be accomplished once in a lifetime.
As soon as you jump over the hurdle of FI you’re finished. This is the one and only race. You can’t get back on the track. Once you’ve reached your financial target there’s no going back.
Why Financial Independence Doesn’t Make You Happy
If you haven’t reached financial independence you probably think you’ll feel elated, giddy, so excited you can barely contain yourself. That might be true at first, but after awhile the thrill will diminish.
As strange as it sounds this long term objective can suddenly feel quite short sighted. It’s similar to the way a newlywed couple may feel on the day after their wedding. A bride and groom who spent months planning the perfect day can feel rather deflated once the party is over.
What is the Goal of Financial Independence
What is the goal of financial independence? Why do we strive to increase our incomes or side hustle our way to a 50% savings rate?
Perhaps we want to quit our boring, 9-to-5 jobs. Maybe we need to get away from an unfulfilling career or a toxic work environment.
Those are all important goals, no doubt, but what else do we want out of life? What will we do after we reach financial independence?
With the race in our rearview mirror we may find ourselves a little stumped as to how to proceed. Some of us are so narrowly focused on the financial goal that it’s difficult to think about anything else.
We may find ourselves suddenly asking, “What should I do with the rest of my life?”
No More Excuses
Let’s be honest, many of us use work as an excuse. We believe our jobs prevent us from living our best life.
We say things like, “I’m too tired to cook. I’ll just pick up carry-out on the way home from work.” Or “I’m so tired from working that I’ll just veg out in front of the television for awhile.”
But once you reach FI, (once you know you don’t need to stay in your job), then what will you say and do?
With work out of the picture your primary reasons for living a subpar life will melt away. I’m sure you are thinking that sounds great. Sign me up. When do I begin?
Stuck in your 9-to-5 job you cannot wait to escape corporate America. You set your sights on financial goals and count down the days, but what will you do with your newfound freedom once you achieve it?
My husband and I have reached financial independence and I no longer need to seek employment. The hurdle of money may be a thing of the past, but I now feel a heavy, self-imposed pressure to make the most of my days.
Making the Most of Those Precious Hours
Now that the race to financial independence is over I have no excuses left. While traveling, vegging out with friends and doing nothing other than blogging day after day sounds fun at first I don’t think it’s enough.
So I’m lacing up my sneakers and exploring new possibilities and new paths in life. I have no idea where I am going or how I will get there, but I know one thing for sure. This time my success will not be determined by a number.
My race for financial independence may be over, but my journey is far from complete. In fact, in some ways the most important trek is just beginning.