Why Achieving Financial Independence Isn’t Enough

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Documenting our personal financial journey.

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Financial independence is a goal that many people strive for throughout their lives. They may not refer to it as that, but that’s what traditional retirement is. Putting our nose to the grindstone, working 40+ years to get the social security credits. All while hoping beyond all hope we saved enough to last us from 65 years to our eventual deaths.

Financial independence is the ability to live off one’s passive income and assets without having to work for a living. Achieving it is a significant accomplishment, but it brings a new set of challenges.

After being on the proverbial treadmill for so many years, how does one just stop? How do they stop hitting their 5am alarm? Stop getting up and ready for an hour or longer commute to a job that is just that for most, a job? For a lot of retirees, the choice is simple. They just stop. They stop moving, living. They sit on the couch, their body sore and achy from all the years spent in a different position at that job. They turn on the TV and they’re okay with that. That’s what retirement is.

For others though, it’s not so simple. They reached financial independence or retirement and left the job but what do they do with all the free time? They’re not pacified by simply existing on that couch. Not pacified by watching TV or eating what they want, when they want it. And so these adults lose themselves. They tied their identities so close to how they used to live that the life they dreamed of without it is hard to bring into fruition.

No matter if you’re Person A or B above, having a plan for your free time is essential. This is your literal WHY. WHY you get up in the morning to work that job. Why you’re paying down debt, cutting expenses, fighting each day to increase your income and grow that margin between retiring when you’re 72 versus 40. Your why matters and it not only impacts your mental health and personal wellbeing, it impacts your community.

So that’s our why, but what’s yours?

Literally starting from scratch on a why is tough. My husband and I spent many nights, weekends, and walks, debating even going on the journey to FIRE. Would it work? Would it payoff? Why are we even thinking of doing it? I’d certainly began the journey on my own in 2018, almost as a way to prove to myself that there was light at the end of the tunnel. There was more to life than just waking up and going to a job. That was before I even really knew what FIRE (financial independence retire early) was. It was an internal instinct to take action to free myself from the daily strains of traditional society.

I think the way we came to the decision to start an orchard all boiled down to an argument where we were both frustrated. We’d moved to countries but it’d been a miserable 9 months of financial insecurity. Eventually, unable to afford to live there, I broke and we moved back to the States at the haste of my husband. He was just “happier” there and I was desperate for financial stability. An indicator of how bad it was is after filing taxes, the provincial government sent us $300 a month in financial support checks. That wouldn’t ever happen in the US and I never cashed those checks. Naively I thought that financial stability was enough, it was good, for about a year. Just long enough for us to buy a house and really get into the “settled” lifestyle.

But I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t happy in my home State because it felt like everything was always against me. There was no good places to hike, it was too expensive to travel from, laws were changing to be medically unsafe, and the jobs just didn’t pay all that well. The list could go on but I’ll stop it there. We went on a mental health walk one weekend and I broke it to my husband that I couldn’t be there anymore. I’d lost the plot and couldn’t keep playing a role I never wanted. It’s okay to be selfish in life, we’re stuck living it! Being married is a partnership, it’s about compromise on both sides to find a happy medium.

The argument all boiled down to one question: What do you really want?

I didn’t want to live in my home state. Didn’t want to be forced into a job for 40 years. I wanted more time and freedom to live life doing what I loved. He just wanted ducks. Ducks. We’d moved countries because he’d wanted ducks. He’s allergic to ducks. 🦆 I grew up on a non-working farm. I hated the city since I was forced to live in it for university. It was dirty and there were too many people. I couldn’t even see the stars. I’d move to the country in a heartbeat. But ducks wouldn’t pay the bills. With that, we returned home and I pulled up different business options, ran numbers, and tried to consider what we both liked. I liked gardening and he liked cider so a hard cider orchard quickly became the game plan we both could stand behind.

All that to say, the way we found our “why” was to ask what we really wanted and extrapolate from there.

The math is simple: Ducks + Gardening + Cider + Countryside = Hard Cider Orchard

It’s not always that simple though and that’s okay. One of my teachers in Japan taught us to ask “why” at least 5 times to get to the bare truth. It could go something like:

Person A: “Why do you want to retire early?”

Person B: “Because I don’t want to risk not living to retirement.”

Person A: “Why do you think it’s a risk?”

Person B: “Because my health hasn’t been the best and I would regret not being able to travel.”

Person A: “Why would you regret not traveling?”

Person B: “Because I promised myself I would see the world.”

Person A: “Why do you want to see the world?”

Person B: “Because I love trying new foods.”

Person A: “Why do you like trying new food?”

Person B: “Because my grandma always made interesting dishes and I want to make recipe book to honor her.”

Person B’s true why is the drive to honor their ancestors and love of foods. It’s fair to say a 40 hour week job doesn’t allow for much freedom to travel or try new foods! By the end of the day, most just reach for whatever is easiest to put in their mouth because they’re exhausted from the daily grind.

In conclusion, knowing your “why” and having a plan for your free time after achieving financial independence is essential for your mental health and personal wellbeing. It provides structure, purpose, and a sense of fulfillment. Pursuing hobbies and interests, even starting a business, can bring a sense of joy and satisfaction. While, volunteering and supporting local organizations can help make a positive impact on the community, leading to personal growth and a sense of purpose.

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