Money is a Foil

Money is a foil, a false prophet.  Financial Independence is a mirage.

I know, I know.  What kind of statement is this from a personal finance blogger.  But bear with me.

When children dream of the future, they dream of endless possibilities.  What they will do “for a living” or become has much less to do with income and much more with identity.  To the child, one doesn’t practice medicine, they become a doctor.  They might fight fires for a living, but what they are is a fireman.  The financial consequences become nonexistent in comparison to the dream of being.  Children, in their unadorned wisdom, focus much more on purpose.  From this, we adults could learn much.

Somewhere in our leap from child to FIRE (financial independence retire early) enthusiast, our purpose changes.  Our jobs become just that-jobs.  We no longer intertwine or 9-5 with our 5-9.  Instead we maximize the W2 asset class in order to reach a goal.  Our identities have shifted from employment drone to hip FIRE guys and gals.

This gives us pride.  There is nothing more beautiful in life than striving.  Nothing more uplifting than the ephemeral reach for that  which is just out of grasp.  It defines us.

Lovingly we pour over excel spreadsheets, calculate net worth and write blog posts, give each other digital pats on the back for some economic hack or another.  And it feels so good.  Our purpose defines us and builds our community.  It’s the climb.  Step by step, moment by moment, we paw our way to the peak fooling ourselves that there is an actual destination way up there.

We dream of freedom, of traveling, of working on passion projects, and being the parents we always regretted not being.  Which we later find out will suffice.  For awhile.

Because undeniably when we reach 25X or 30X or whatever rule makes us flip the bird to our bosses, we find something is still missing.  It’s almost as if we start to wish that instead of making it, we were still a few steps back behind.  Maybe two-thirds up the hill, but not all the way at the peak!

Standing up there all alone we realize that we are not on the peak at all, but just a large ledge.  A shelf.  There are still unfathomable heights up ahead.

What now? We shake our heads and look down and see all the miles we have journeyed.

Money is a foil.  It’s not who we are.  Financial independence is a mirage.  It’s a tool to rid ourselves from slavery.

I doff my hat to all of you who are striving and have reached FI.  You, like I, are throwing off the life sucking bile of the W2 asset class.

But now that you have the energy and time, where will you go?  Who will you become?

Am I the only one struggling with this?

Thank you MadFientist whose post inspired this rant.

Doc G

A doctor who discovered the FI community but still struggling with RE.

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7 Responses

  1. Steveark says:

    As someone on the other side I found paid side gigs are essential to keep me from floundering. I’m sure more noble people won’t need to earn money, and I don’t need to financially but I do need to be useful and contribute and even though I do lots of volunteer work it doesn’t give me nearly as much purpose as the paid gigs. I worry that people will work so hard to become completely free of demands and find they don’t have a purpose anymore. In my case I’m the happiest I’ve ever been but it is because I balance my leisure activities and travel with paid work and volunteer work.

  2. Caroline says:

    I think we have all been there or still are! I am all of FI but not so much RE, I like to work and keep busy. Financial freedom will just allow me to pick and choose what I want to do. Maybe it will be side hustles, maybe volunteering maybe both and lots of travel but I will have the freedom to choose:)

  3. Amy says:

    This is why I try to look at all the dimensions of life. Finances are just one of 8, and if you neglect the others no amount of money will help. The other seven are – physical, social, intellectual, occupational, spiritual, emotional, and the community/environment. So even if after retiring from a W-2 job many need some other ‘work.’ Perhaps that’s a part-time job, creative hobby, volunteer work…or a blog that educates and entertains.

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