The Dark Side of Pursuing Financial Independence and Early Retirement

I’ve found that most of the resources detailing the FIRE philosophy which I’ve encountered are all kittens and unicorns.  The majority seem to focus on defining the philosophy, detailing prospective lifestyle adjustments to speed along the process, or crunching the numbers to show “if you save X amount for Y time, you will reach Financial Independence at Z date”.

This information is all well and good, and certainly not something I intend to dispute in this post.  However, my own experiences have taught me that all good things come with a cost, and achieving FIRE is no exception.

I feel I have made significant strides in my journey so far, having finally reached zero in February 2017, but it hasn’t come easy.  Sure, in theory, the lifestyle adjustments are simple enough to convey and implement.  Putting the ideas into practice, however, has had some unforeseen side effects.

Initially, the excitement of taking tangible steps toward improving my future brought a sense of accomplishment and well-being to my days.  Interestingly enough, as more time passed, I began to experience a very different emotion:  stress.

I began to stress over each and every expense I incurred, generally maintaining that “I don’t need this” or “this will only slow my progress toward my ultimate goal of FIRE.”  I’m not talking major expenses here.  This unsettling sensation began to pervade my decision-making nearly every time I considered any expenditure at all, no matter how minuscule.

Eventually, I reached a point where I would dread making any purchases at all, regardless of necessity.  Need fuel for my vehicle?  Sure thing, but I can *only* use one gas station because every other option is too expensive (and we’re talking about $.03 – $.05 /gallon here)!

Need eggs?  Too bad; they are $1.38 this week instead of $0.98.  You see…that $.40 cent difference is actually $0.96 after factoring in an annual compounded growth rate estimate of 6% over a 15 year time horizon.  And on and on.

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