How the FIRE Movement Helped Me Create My Ideal Life Before Reaching FI
The FIRE movement stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. It is a group lead by a popular blogger, Mr. Money Mustache. MMM espouses the value of living frugally, saving large portions of take-home salary, and investing early and often, in order to reach financial independence at an early age.
Financial independence is when a person is able to live off their investments alone and no longer needs to work for a living.
This movement has created retirees in their 30’s and 40’s, that are living modest lives and have the ability to do what they choose with their time- whether it is laying on a beach, pursuing a passion project, or spending more time with their family.
The FIRE movement has some haters
But, the FIRE movement gets a lot of flack sometimes.
Some people say it encourages people to deprive themselves too much in the journey to financial independence.
Some don’t like to live frugally, they think it means not enjoy the finer things for their rest of their lives.
Others say the FIRE movement is taking valuable workers out of the workforce entirely too early.
Others, like me, shy away from the group think that is developing as the movement gets really popular.
How the FIRE movement changed my life
But, I have to admit that the FIRE movement has changed my life.
I come from a very Indian upbringing. The mindset about money in the Indian community is generally this- work as hard as you can for all of your life, buy the biggest house you can afford so everyone knows your status in the community, save up as much money as possible, and retire when you can’t work (or walk) anymore.
From the time I was a teenager, this Indian mindset didn’t sit well with me. I couldn’t understand why someone would want to buy a huge house just to work all the time and not be able to enjoy it.
I couldn’t fathom why someone would want to have a huge pile of cash saved up at the end of their lives, at the expense of not spending time with their children early in their lives when they really needed them.
The FIRE community gave me the words I needed. The FIRE community emphasizes making value-based financial decisions and starting with the end in mind. It espouses living below one’s means to accumulate cash and invest, but it also emphasizes that value of time.
Once I got into it, I started thinking about what I would do when I retired? What would make me happy?
It makes me ask: What is really important to me? What would I rather be doing than my current job? What sacrifices am I willing to make to get to get the most out of life?
Being Out of Balance
Before I knew the FIRE movement, I found myself in my first attending job feeling overworked and at my wit’s end trying to balance being a good doctor, a good mom, and a good wife.
Most of the time, I felt like I could only do two of those well at any given time. I had a big house and a nice life by anyone’s standards, but I wasn’t happy.
The FIRE movement gave me permission to open my mind to the possibility that this did not have to be the way I lived for the rest of my life.
What if I could “retire” at 45 and do whatever I wanted afterward? What if I could make money work for me instead of working for money for the rest of my life?
Thinking about the rest of my life in this way and having the option to retire early brought several truths to light in my mind.
I like being a doctor. I didn’t actually like thinking about retiring from medicine at 45 and leaving all of my patients behind to find another primary. Having just changed practices after accumulating patients for only 2 years, I can tell you it’s one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. My patients become like my family and I want to be there for them.
Also, I realized I like medicine. I like the challenge and the detective work of it. I also like that it makes me feel like I have a purpose.
My ideal life in medicine would mean I would work more predictable hours and for fewer hours a week.
I’m a creature of habit and I love having routines I can count on. Jumping back and forth between working nights and days and working when others weren’t on the weekends and holidays was wearing me thin.
It wasn’t just the physical taxation of this schedule. I hated the fact that I couldn’t maintain any kind of healthy routine for very long because my hours were so variable. I dreamed that in my ideal life, post-financial independence, I would have a predictable schedule and work 2-3 days a week- no more nights and weekends.
I really wanted to be around for my kids. I was not willing to run towards FI so fast that I would miss my kids’ childhoods entirely.
I was not content being an employee for the rest of my life. I like being creative and making things people can use. In my ideal life, I’d be doing that a lot more.
How I Created My Ideal Life
So, I set out to learn more about financial independence with these things in mind. The FIRE community gave me the toolbox to cut expenses and make value-based decisions on spending. It also helped me find the books I needed to read to understand investing.
But, as Josh and I worked our debt snowball, I realize now I was also already unconsciously working toward creating my ideal life. I left the grueling hospitalist schedule to change to primary care where schedules were more predictable. Then, I changed practices to a more rural place where I could practice 3 days a week and spend quality time with my patients.
Just 3 years after I had my financial “awakening,” I find that I have already created my ideal life.
I work Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and have four days off to spend with my toddlers and to build up my passion project here. I also have the option of picking up more shifts if I want (more of that later). But, I have somehow changed my schedule drastically to a much better lifestyle for me, without taking a pay cut.
And it all started with the question- what would I do if I was financially independent? What would my ideal life look like?
I really have to give the FIRE movement credit for giving me the inspiration to think outside the box and dream big. And they gave me the toolset to make my ideal life happen. So, thanks FIRE community!
Stay frugal, y’all!
Standard Disclaimer: Not meant as individualized financial or medical advice.