It's been thirteen years since planting my financial independence flag in 2012. I want to share with you some thoughts on how life has been after financial independence. I originally wrote this post eight years after retiring early.
Before neutering my day job income, I feared whether I was doing the right thing financially. What I realized is that the fear of running out of money in early retirement is completely overblown because we are adaptable and resourceful.
Nobody here is too proud to work a minimum wage job if disaster strikes. Nobody here is too selfish not to help out a family member or friend in need. Surely, nobody here is too lazy not to hustle. You will find ways to make things work. Do not worry.
Here are three main points I want to share after achieving FIRE.
Life After Financial Independence: Lessons Learned
1) You change for the better.
There's this wonderful term called “F U Money” out there that's idealized by people who can't wait to have it. Who doesn't want to have enough money so they can tell their micromanager or high school bully to shove it where the sun doesn't shine? I know I did.
But the reality is that having enough money makes you more empathic towards other people's struggles. Your insecurities melt away once you've achieved your goals.
If you look at the Financial Samurai archives between 2009 – 2012, you'll notice a more irreverent tone with lots more comments on each post.
Now, despite the site being 10X larger, there's less comments on each post partly because less people are agitated by what I have to say. I've spent much more time listening to other people's perspectives and taking them into consideration when writing a post. I've also spent a lot more time responding to comments with less snark. You'd think the opposite would happen.
Having money makes you care more, not less.
2) You realize financial independence is just one stop.
Life is like a juicy mystery novel. You don't want to die before reaching the last chapter because that's where you THINK the excitement and satisfaction lies. What a shame to never find out whodunnit.
The reality is the greatest excitement resides right in the middle where you're struggling to get ahead. It's just hard to see when you're in the mix of things.
The last chapter in volume I is rarely satisfying because you realize there's volume II to look forward to. You simply put your past behind and look forward to a new challenge. In my case, when I first wrote this post the next volume was starting a family and now it's doing everything possible to be a good father to my two kids.
Now that I've been a father for six years, I admit it is the hardest job I've ever had. The joys are amazing and so are the sorrows.
3) The greatest reward is helping other people.
Once you achieve financial independence, making more money starts feeling like a game. It's fun to tinker with new income generating methods because there is no downside. But sooner or later you'll find the joy of making more money to be meaningless.
It's why there are plenty of unhappy rich people. They haven't fully tethered their wealth towards a cause they are passionate about. The best thing about retiring early is greater happiness for longer. It took me ten years of early retirement to realize this truth.
I want to help as many people achieve financial independence ASAP before and after I die. The internet is the best way to achieve this goal because access to my site is free and the content will live on forever. Everybody has something valuable to share.
Don't worry if you can't afford $50,000 a year in college tuition where only the wealthiest or smartest people with the most connections get to attend. Today is about giving access to everyone who wants to learn.
My desire to help people achieve financial independence is the main reason why I wrote a new personal finance book. Buy This, Not That is an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller and is the best book about building wealth and making better decisions you will read.
Words Of Thanks Keep Me Going
Every single comment or e-mail from a reader who says how an article I wrote helped them lead a better life gives me a “power up” to keep on going. It's easy to do nothing once you've taken care of yourself and your family. But I see the readers here as an extended family.
Here's a handwritten note I received that I'll cherish forever. I know financial independence is an inevitability for her and her wonderful family!
Keep On Fighting For Financial Independence
Life after financial independence is great. The sacrifices you make today will be worth it. I have no regrets sharing a studio with another fella in my early 20s in order to save money. Yes, it was embarrassing bringing people over at times, but who cares.
I have no regrets waking up by 5 am to work on my side-hustles before work in order to one day break free. Yes, hearing the alarm go off when it's pitch black outside while you're in the middle of a lovely dream is painful, but you'll get used to it.
Yes, I started the modern-day FIRE movement in 2009. It's been a wonderful journey. But what I realize fourteen years later is that you don't need to FIRE to live a good life.
In fact, early retirement / FIRE is becoming obsolete because many have more flexibility to earn in ways that are more enjoyable. Thanks to the internet, nobody is stuck with just a day job they don't like. No college degree is necessary to make money online!
You will regret more of the things you don't do than the things you try. Once you find that wonderful purpose, you'll go on forever. Keep on fighting!
Recommendation To Build Wealth
In order to optimize your finances, you've first got to track your finances. I recommend signing up for Empower's free financial tools so you can track your net worth. You can also analyze your investment portfolios for excessive fee, and run your financials through their fantastic Retirement Planning Calculator.
Those who are on top of their finances build much greater wealth longer term than those who don't. I've used Empower since 2012. It's the best free financial app out there to manage your money.
Negotiate A Severance To Retire Early
Never quit your job, get laid off instead with a severance package! If you plan to retire early because you've achieved financial independence, nothing feels better than leaving with money in your pocket.
My severance package paid for five years of living expenses after I retired in 2012. As a result, I felt more relaxed and free to do what I wanted.
In my latest edition of How To Engineer Your Layoff, you'll learn how to negotiate a severance to live the life that you want. Use the promo code ‘saveten‘ to save $10. The book is now in its 6th edition and updated for 2023 and beyond.
For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. Life After Financial Independence is a FS original post.