A Meaningful Life
In the last three lessons, we looked closely at the calculations behind early retirement. While understanding that your income, expenses, and assets form the backbone of your ability to become F.I.R.E., the math alone won’t help you on your journey. As you may have learned in Lesson 6, you may be more than ten years away from hitting your F.I.R.E. target, which may feel like a long time. How can you stay the course? Today, we’ll look at other aspects of your life that will support your journey over the long term.
Many people who embark on the F.I.R.E. journey go through the stages of excitement of realizing how attainable early retirement is. We get excited about the freedom and independence it can bring, but following the initial excitement, we can feel a bit down about the amount of time that has to pass before we get there. Feeling down can make us become obsessed with checking our investments daily or become extremely strict about spending to the point where we remove opportunities to spend money to support our day-to-day enjoyment of life.
Automate, Forget, and Review
It’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s something new you can do every day to get closer to F.I.R.E. Much of the success comes from forming habits that over time, help you accumulate funds while still living a meaningful life. Frugal habits that support F.I.R.E. include: cooking at home as much as possible, taking a brown bag lunch to work, putting your thermostat on a timer, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, planning your week so you can take cheaper forms of transport, or building in time to walk/cycle somewhere instead of using a car.
When you’ve automated your frugal habits, the money you save can then be set up to be automatically taken from your checking account and moved into your investing account to purchase index funds every month. Similar to how you may have set up your bill payment schedule, setting up an investment schedule means you don’t have to think about transferring money every month. This will free up your time to focus on other activities that contribute to a meaningful life.
Most of us are guilty of neglecting our health, but it can be difficult to enjoy early retirement if the years leading up to it are not spent investing in our physical and mental well-being. Some of my health activities overlap well with my frugality, e.g., meal planning. By planning out my meals in advance, I not only can more carefully control what I’m consuming but also stick to my grocery budget and keep my eating costs down. Focusing on your health doesn’t just mean exercising and eating well to support your physical well-being; there’s also a huge opportunity to increase your mental resilience. Socializing can play a big role in your mental well-being too. Health is wealth, which is why we’re going to cover this in more detail in the next lesson.
Whom do you not spend enough time with? It doesn’t have to cost you anything to spend time with your partner, friends, or family. It never fails to amaze me how many of my friends are more than happy to host a dinner party at one of our places. We don’t miss eating out in restaurants together because a dinner party allows us to eat well, enjoy each other’s company, and not have the penalty of heavily marked-up food and drink in a restaurant that’s too noisy to have a conversation in.
Even better is an activity that not only supports our mental well-being through socializing but also involves a certain level of physicality, like yoga, wall climbing, or hiking. If you find it hard to stick to an exercise habit like running, try recruiting a friend to be your running partner. This way, you can hold each other accountable while nurturing your relationship.
There’s something to be said about how accessible education is today. The internet provides a wealth of information and support to help you grow your knowledge and increase your skill set. Learning can be as cheap as borrowing a book from a library or if you prefer to keep a copy, paying less than $20 for a used book. The great thing about reading is that you can do it almost anywhere, and once you’ve paid that upfront cost, there are no ongoing costs to using it. You can even go a step further and sell it when you’ve finished.
If you’ve spent time and money investing in living a meaningful life, you will be less likely to start early retirement feeling lost and unsure about how to spend your time. We’ll return to this theme in the final lesson. Tomorrow, we’ll dig deeper into health, the impact of preventative care, and the importance of health insurance.
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