Dreams can be funny things. Our minds conjuring up images of perfection. Of a time when all will be “right” with the world, with us, with our loved ones.
The thing is – how often have you dreamt of something only for the reality to fall short? When your expectations have been so unrealistically high, it was impossible from the start for reality to ever match the image in your mind? Relationships, jobs, homes – take your pick. They all often suffer from the same problem. Reality crashing in unpleasantly.
FIRE is one of the ultimate such dreams for a lot of people. Of a time when all your hard work will be rewarded. Everything you have sacrificed will be worth it when you just reach that magical point and pull the trigger.
And yes – now that I’ve been on ‘the other side’ for over two years, it’s safe to say it was absolutely worth it. For us. But ( there’s always a but, right?) that doesn’t necessarily mean that reaching FIRE is the right dream for you.
That all depends on what you are expecting FIRE to “do” for you.
FIRE Is Not A Magic Bullet
The first myth worth dispelling is that FIRE is not a magical answer to all your problems. In fact, the chances are FIRE will just uncover some new challenges for you.
Yes, FIRE can remove the stress of enduring a job you don’t enjoy when you no longer need to earn that income. That’s a big one. But for a lot of people it opens up a can of worms about what they will do instead.
No longer bound by the “I need to do this” argument – what do you actually want to do? Not everyone has an immediate passion they’ve been putting off doing whilst time-constrained. Some are alarmed when they thought they did – only to discover two weeks in they actually hate it!
The same goes for those who wanted more time for family and friends. The first few weeks may be great but there’s a big difference to spending the bulk of your time together than a few precious hours each week. If you had relationship problems before – they are likely to be magnified – not disappeared.
The point is – don’t expect FIRE to be the thing that “fixes” your life. If you have issues – deal with them. Don’t just wait it out and hope they fix themselves.
FIRE Is Not A Permanent Holiday
It can be easy to imagine FIRE like being on holiday 365 days a year. No responsibilities. The freedom to go and do what you please. After all, that’s what it’s like when you take your annual holiday, right?
However, that pesky reality will tell you different again. Yes, you have a lot more freedom but life post FIRE is not a constant stream of beer, wine and all things fine. Well, not if you want to see beyond five years or so!
When you have unlimited time and resources, you have to learn how to moderate yourself. Hopefully some of the habits of FIRE will stick and this will come naturally. But it can be a shock to some people who imagine it differently.
A lot of people envision travel as a big part of their FIRE plans. We certainly did! But travel long-term is again different to a holiday. Slow travel suits us really well and has a lot of advantages – but it is not like our old holidays by a long stretch. Far less indulgent!
There is no escaping the reality of life.
Things will always need fixing, replacing. People you love will get sick. Older. More fragile. You still need to exercise, eat a balanced diet. Look after yourself.
In upshot – if you are imagining your life post FIRE as one long holiday free from the daily concerns of life – think again!
FIRE Is Not Stress Free
Money can and will fix a lot of problems. But not all of them. Relationships still take effort even when the stress that money can cause is removed.
Sometimes achieving FIRE can uncover the cracks that were hidden simply by surviving the well-known hamster wheel together. Exposing the differences in your dreams, in how you see your future. Both free to do what you want, not just what’s needed to achieve FIRE. Do you both dream of the same things or do you have new conflicts to manage your way through?
Likewise, a lot of people dream of FIRE giving them security. Money problems removed. No longer exposed to the daily stresses of life. Some bad news for you, sorry, not going to happen.
If you are prone to anxiety and worry now – don’t expect reaching FIRE to resolve those feelings.
The mind is a wonderful thing. But if you are anxious by nature, as you will know, removing one set of problems often just leaves you moving on to the next thing to worry about. Still searching for that elusive security.
FIRE may well remove a lot of the financial stresses – but it will not leave you living a stress-free life.
FIRE Is A Beginning - Not An End
I think perhaps one of the most common mistakes I see people making when dreaming of FIRE is that of seeing it as the end goal. I know for sure that’s what I often thought. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out it’s just the beginning of the next adventure.
FIRE is a lot more than simply a financial state of freedom
FIRE by definition gives you more freedom – financially for sure. But in time and life too. If like me you had a demanding day job, it’s a huge change when you finally give that up. Even when it has been the dream for a long time – there’s still things you do and don’t miss about that work. And one of the big things FIRE does is set you free to pursue what you want to do – not what you have or feel you should do.
For most people, this is the big driver to reach it. The freedom to do what they want, not what they need to do to pay the bills. Freed from the obligations, the expectations of a working life.
That freedom comes with a twist though. It means taking personal responsibility for your happiness.
This can be daunting for some. Whilst you might hate your job and the stress that comes with it – it’s a known quantity. You understand it. When you are freed from those constraints – it’s empowering. Or it’s a new source of stress.
Finding purpose, meaning, new goals, all the things you have been dreaming of having the time and financial freedom to do. When the time comes though and you have that freedom – there are no more excuses. Nothing to hide behind.
No more “Well, I would write that bestseller if only I didn’t have to finish this powerpoint for the board”.
No more “Well, I have to put up with this job as it pays well. I’m not free to try out something else I might enjoy”
No more “Well, I’ve always dreamt of hiking the entire Camino De Santiago but there’s no way I can take three months out to do that”
Or whatever your own personal equivalent is.
The point being, FIRE removes those restrictions. That’s awesome. However it also means it is then truly up to us to make the most of the opportunity.
So don’t expect to hit FIRE and feel like you have completed your dream. That you are “done”.
It’s much more like the first really big step in living the life you want to.
Dream, Yes - But Make It The Right Dream For You
Now you may have read all that and started to wonder if FIRE really is the right dream for you. Is it going to be worth it?
And I’d say absolutely, unequivocally yes. So long as you are absolutely clear on what it will and won’t do for you. I’ve learned three big lessons from my own transition so far. So in the spirit of sharing knowledge hard-gained;
Lesson One: Be Realistic;
As with any dream, it is easy to get sucked into the glossy stories, the super successful examples of people doing amazing things. At the end of the day you are still going to be you. FIRE will not transform you or your life – you do that.
When you achieve FIRE, you will have the freedom to go after your dreams. But don’t expect to go hiking through the rainforest next week if you’ve never yet used your passport..
Manage your expectations and give yourself time to grow into your new life.
Lesson Two: Don’t Wait To Deal With Problems
FIRE is a fantastic goal, a great dream. It can also be an amazing way to avoid dealing with issues in your life now. The ultimate excuse for not confronting problems. For not trying out something different.
Are you really sure you couldn’t find a job you enjoy more and still achieve FIRE? Do you think you and your partner are really in the same place on how life after FIRE will look?
It may well be the case. But always be honest with yourself. Deal with whatever you are facing before FIRE for a better chance of your dream matching reality.
Lesson Three: Get Good At Change & Challenging Yourself
Finally, one of the biggest things you can do to help your life after FIRE match your dreams is to get used to driving your own life. Setting your own goals, finding your own purpose and sense of security.
There’s a huge benefit to getting used to doing this for yourself before pulling the trigger. A life in pursuit of FIRE can be very narrow at times. Purposely restrictive in anticipation of the bigger dream. Leaving you under-prepared at embracing change and opportunity.
Likewise a life following FIRE is simple in that you have a goal, a destination. A clear path. Once that’s gone – you can find yourself with no idea of what’s next. How to still challenge yourself, to grow. Many people struggle without the clear framework of work as to how to even define themselves.
But if you dream of travel – is there really no way you can use your two weeks holiday for something more stimulating than the same old place? If you secretly dream of being creative – do you really have zero time to scribble a few thoughts? If you want more time with family, do you really absolutely have to answer that email right now? Be honest now..
Finding what really inspires and drives you before you FIRE is perhaps the biggest help in making your life the dream you wanted. Or learning that it’s ok to not have goals. To just be. Knowing and accepting what works for you. Not what others think you should be or do. That’s what really gives you that sense of security.
And Finally – A Bonus lesson – Go For It!
Yes – dream big – it’s what gets you through the tough days on the journey.
But dream well. Start living that life now in whatever way you can. Whatever small steps you take now will pay dividends later. Compound interest and all 😉
The “future you” will defn thank you when you are loving your life after FIRE…