Hey – wait a minute! If Batman only needs one super power to save the world – why then do I need five to help me on my FIRE journey to financial independence??
The answer is, ofcourse, you don’t. But like many things in life – there are undoubtedly some personality traits that help more than others on your journey to financial independence.
So let’s take a look at what “Super Powers” helped us the most on our journey to financial independence.
1. Being Fine With Taking Your Time
Even a superhero has to wait for the screen to load…
But then, when you’re running around all night chasing bad guys, you probably need a break.
The FIRE journey is one that’s going to take some time. Likely more time than you’d like, however small your planned post-FIRE budget, however high your savings rate. It’s still going to be a matter of years before you reach your target and usually over a decade. That’s a big chunk of expected lifespan for anyone.
So from the start you have to be ready to be in it for the long haul. If you are the kind of person who finds it difficult to stick with things when it doesn’t seem like much is happening – you’re going to find your FIRE journey harder than someone who has more natural patience.
S & I are both pretty good at being patient. We knew it would take a while. Some days were harder than others. When the train home from work broke down (again) and you get home at midnight, knowing you have to be up again at 4:40 am, you start to wonder. And look at what it would take to speed things up.
But there’s no good quick answer and anybody saying otherwise is (highly) likely trying to sell you something. You just have to stick with it.
One top tip – don’t wish your life away. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of counting down the years/months to FIRE and forget to make the most of your life on the way.
It really is all about the journey – and it’s not just a financial one. Yes you need to patiently wait for your savings & investments to do their thing. But that doesn’t mean not doing anything else.
“Life is for living – both before and after FIRE”
One handy trick that worked for us on those days when it just all seemed too far away. We’d dream out loud together about why we were doing it, how we planned to use all our free time post FIRE. Visualising it like this made it seem real again and kept us going. We’d also look at what we could do now that would help us with these plans post FIRE, like learning a language for somewhere we wanted to travel to.
The upside of this is two-fold. By making your post FIRE plans more realistic – it actually helps ensure your post FIRE life will be as you envision and hope. Whilst at the same time, it’s a handy reminder of what you are putting in all this effort for.
Which leads neatly on to our second FIRE Super Power…
2. Better Late Than Never
No, Batman – owning all the latest cars, planes and gadgets is not exactly what I meant by delaying gratification…
Then again, I guess you already are a multi-millionaire…
I briefly introduced the power of delaying gratification back in part III of the FIRE Triangle mini-series – but it’s worth including it here again since it’s such a big deal.
Especially since, for me, this one works on two levels – financial and time-wise. On a financial level, possessing the ability to not spend now in anticipation of having more later is pretty much fundamental to the whole FIRE concept. If this comes naturally to you, so will FIRE.
The other less-oft discussed side of delaying gratification is on time. Many people on their journey to financial freedom choose to run some kind of side-gig alongside their main job. Speeding up their earning potential to minimise that FIRE path. This to me is also using the power of delayed gratification – by spending your time working now in anticipation of less work later.
By work, I mean anything that you wouldn’t choose to do if you weren’t paid for it. There’s all kinds of work people want to do, volunteering, helping others, diving into passionate hobbies.
“A common misunderstanding of FIRE and retiring early is that it’s all about stopping work – whereas it’s really about not having to do work you don’t enjoy to earn money”
We were lucky, both S & I naturally fell into the delayed gratification camp. For us – it was a case of having a strong enough “why” alongside a belief that we could make it happen. We’d also use this question from part IV of the FIRE Triangle to help us get the balance right between now and later.
“Is having or doing this particular thing worth x years of financial freedom to us?”
This one can be especially tough in todays’ “Have It Now” culture. Which funnily enough – just happens to be superpower #3…..
3. It Doesn't Have To Be All Shiny
An unusual pose for Batman – and perhaps not the perfect role model of contentment with all that inner rage…
The ability to be content is another often under-rated super power of FIRE, if not life.
This super power often comes easier as we get older – we’re more confident in ourselves. We’ve figured out what matters and are less likely to be impressed by the latest shiny things or feel the need to impress others. Well, most of us, most of the time…
To be clear – I’m absolutely not saying it’s somehow wrong to want to have or do things – just that it’s very easy to want them for reasons that aren’t necessarily all that helpful for us. There’s a big difference between purposely spending money on something you know will add value to your lives vs being sucked into it by peer pressure and advertising.
It’s easy in today’s world to get caught up in the spin of needing the latest & greatest. Upgrade this, go here, eat this, wear that….it goes on and on. And that’s kinda the point – there’s no end in sight because the people selling this stuff need the cycle to go on. And on. One of our ‘secret’ FIRE super powers was spending with purpose.
“Spend your money on what you value – not on what others want you to value”
One thing we were lucky to learn fast is that for everything you want to do or own in life – there’s usually a good middle ground to be found. Starting any new hobby or activity,say camping, some people will go out and buy the ‘best of the best’ with all the bells & whistles only to find out 2 months later they actually hate the reality of life in a tent. Others will buy the cheapest tent going and get put off ever going again as they sit in a damp puddle in a field somewhere.
Our self-build is a great example. At the start, we attended those huge trade fair type events – stuffed to the gills with everything the discerning house-builder could ever need. And more. Did our budget stretch to a central vacuum system that would save you 5 mins of plugging in your hoover – no, we’ll pass, thanks. But solid oak skirting boards at only 2x cost of pine. Years of no gloss paint touch ups. Yup, makes sense to us.
“Cheap isn’t always best. What matters is good value”
Being able to be content with yourself and to know what really brings you value is a huge benefit on your FIRE journey. It’s hard enough to make the money in the first place – you may as well try and put as much effort into spending it well.
This one is a whole lot easier when you aren’t too fussed about following the crowd. Which would you believe it is our next not so secret super power…
4. Doing Your Own Thing
Yeah….go Batman….strut your stuff…who cares..
Easier when you’ve apparently bought the whole dance floor for yourself…
And probably wise if you’re getting sweaty in leather..
Pretty much every culture that I’m aware of has something which equates to “the expected path you follow in life”. It may differ from country to country but the one thing that is common across them all is a strong force of societal and family peer pressure to do “what is normal”.
There’s a lot of historical baggage as to why this is engrained in the more primitive parts of our brains but it mostly boils down to being normal meant acceptance by your herd. This approach meant safety back in the days of hunting boars and berries – you looked a little lonely standing by yourself as the wolves closed in.
My absolute favourite blogger Tim Urban of WaitButWhy has an awesome blog-post series that will take you through pretty much everything you need to know and more. Suffice to say, what worked back then isn’t necessarily the most help to us now. Especially when it comes to wanting your financial independence.
When you start following anything FIRE-related, it’s going to go a lot easier for you if you aren’t too concerned about following the herd. The most fundamental point of FIRE is wanting to do something different from the generally accepted path of working until state retirement age. So it stands to reason that the more comfortable you are with forging your own path and not being influenced by others, the easier you are going to find it.
If you take a few mins to read our bio, you’ll quickly see that both S & I have more than our fair share of a natural contrarian streak in us. This has helped us no end – especially in our late twenties & thirties. We looked on as most of friends followed the normal path of marriage, kids, bigger houses, expensive holidays, new cars etc etc. And yes, at times it does make you wonder if you are doing the right thing after all.
But at the end of the day for me, it boils down to doing things because you want to, not because you are expected to. And definitely not because some marketing campaign tells me I will be instantly more lovable or amazing with x, y or z product.
The value of being happy with who you are and not comparing yourself to others is priceless. Both in life and on your FIRE journey.
I love that all my friends enjoy their lives & the choices they have made. I’m not going to try and convert them to our way of thinking just to make me feel better. Same way they accept that we love our lives the way they are. Accepting each other for what we are is why we’re friends after all.
It can be harder for some people than others to go against the flow. Being different to the crowd is taking a risk, standing out. It’s also something else I’d suggest you’re going to have to get used to on your path to financial freedom…
5. Not All Risk Is Bad
Looks like some pretty dodgy characters you’re meeting up with there Batman…
Still, guess they could say the same about the man dressed as a bat…
I’m a firm believer in all the best things of life taking effort. Whilst it might be comforting to believe that a knight in shining armour or a bloke with a large lottery cheque is going to turn up on your doorstep and make everything right – it’s not exactly empowering and it’s defn not what I believe in.
A lot of people are put off taking ownership of where their life is heading. It means thinking for yourself, taking action, actually doing things. It’s harder than just going with the flow and hoping that all the good stuff you want will simply come your way. And perhaps scariest of all for a lot of people – it means knowingly taking risks.
The thing is, pretty much everything we do in life comes with some sort of risk – whether we know it or not.
Financial risk is easier to measure than emotional risk but they both matter. Being brave enough to try, to start something new, to talk to that stranger can feel as much of a risk as picking individual shares and often more so.
Accepting that you can’t control the outcome and then taking the chance on it anyway – that’s a big FIRE super power for financial freedom. Sure, we make plans, we consider, we analyze. We do all we can to understand and minimise the risks involved. But at the end of the day at some point you still have to take that leap.
Being able to do so, to jump and give it your best shot, knowing you might fail. It can be scary. Trust me, we were pretty terrified at several points when building our own home. At the start it’s all money out without seeing much happen. Especially when you are literally doing it yourself – it’s slow going.
But taking chances is part of life – all the best things in ours have had a lot of risk attached. I’d far rather try and fail than wait around for something to magically happen. That to me is empowering – not frightening. Taking ownership of your life. And ultimately that’s what the journey to financial freedom is really all about after all.
Being Your Own Super Hero
Every superhero has their own special abilities…
Which is a good job – else the movies would get really dull, really fast..
At this point I should own up that S & I can’t actually fly through the air with just a large cape or miraculously survive an attack of what looks like about 100 or so thugs armed to the teeth. We aren’t Batman. Or Catwoman I guess to be anatomically correct.
In the same way – our top five super powers that helped us on our way to FIRE will likely not be the same as yours. We all have our own strengths and our own Achilles heels. The point is – being fully aware of both lets us tailor our FIRE approach.
The natural risk taker’s can take on as many side gigs as they can handle and dabble in all sorts of exotic trades – whilst the patient types can take advantage of playing the long game and letting compound interest take the strain over a longer time.
“The trick is to fit your FIRE strategy to play to your natural strengths”
After all – you wouldn’t exactly expect Superman to invest in a kryptonite mine right… So if you know you will never sleep again if you have your entire life savings in bitcoin, you’re going to find it a better fit to base your FIRE strategy on a longer term game plan. Likewise, if you know you can’t stick with anything beyond a few years max then you may well be better off with a strategy that incorporates trying many new ideas and hoping one gets lucky.
I’d, perhaps unsurprisingly, argue for a bit of a middle ground approach. Play to your strengths – but use your weaknesses too and look to hedge for your blind spots. If you know you are a low-risk taker, perhaps have a 5% ‘crazy’ pot which you invest in higher risk areas. And vice-versa. If you know you are prone to envying others and trying to keep up with the proverbial Jones’ – then think about having a budget for that – just make it a small one.
“Denying your weaknesses makes them stronger. Learn how to use them to your advantage instead.”
Or as Batman would put it;
“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”
And that’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed reading about the super powers that helped us the most on our journey to financial freedom. I would love to hear what you think your own FIRE super power is and how you’ve used it on your journey – let me know in the comments below!
PS – At the time of writing this post I found out I have been listed as #5 in the Top Ten UK Early Retirement Blogs in this link from Feedspot. Crazy days eh. They wanted me to include the link – so there you go, done. Moving on!