I have a confession to make. Ever since my first paycheck I have been thinking about retiring early.
I remember the conversation clearly with my dad as I was glowing from getting my first paycheck. He turned to me and said, ”You’re going to want to start saving for retirement. The sooner you do it the better you’ll be.”
Retirement has always felt like a Cloud 9 dream. Eventually I’ll have enough money and I will be able to sit on a beach, drink margaritas, and let the troubles of the world disappear as quickly as the waves hitting the sandy beach.
But recently things have changed. As the years tick on I’m starting to see that the beach life will only be a moment or two before I feel like there needs to be something more. Because beaches are only great because they are the exception, not the rule. Which means my FIRE dream is out of whack.
It’s time to rethink FIRE.
For most of us FIRE is an escape. It’s a means to an end for jobs we don’t like and transition to a life we’ve dreamed of. Or if nothing else, a life where we don’t have to answer to anyone else like a boss or manager. We read the tales of people saving up for FIRE on the internet and raise our hopes of a better life. It’s great.
But the one thing and nobody ever talks about is the day after FIRE. What then?
Sure they’ll be the celebratory night out and holiday to acknowledge the arrival of this big goal. Maybe a few weeks or months in a special location where we can relax and celebrate the end of what is likely a very long FIRE journey.
But what do you do after that?
Travel these days isn’t as much of a given as it used to be. It’s likely that you’ve watched enough Netflix this past year to know there is more to life than waiting for your latest season to launch.
So this begs the question what do you do after FIRE?
This isn’t meant to provide direction, more of an open-ended question for you to think about.
Let’s pretend right now that I’ve waved a magic wand and you are FIRE (yes I have a magic wand, no you can’t see it… but it’s totally real).
Poof! Magically your bank account is where it needs to be your income streams are bringing in enough money.
What are you going to do now?
Most of us are so focussed on FIRE that we don’t think about what happens afterwards. Yes there’s the ideal beach scenario, or a small cabin in the woods. Maybe just days filled with idle time. But idle time is the issue. What are you going to do to fill your time when you don’t have work to go to?
Because that’s the big question. What comes after FIRE?
FIRE isn’t just about freedom, it’s about how you’re going to spend the rest of your life once you don’t have to do the job you dislike. If you don’t have an answer to that don’t be afraid thinking about it now is better than thinking about it later.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought the past two years and I realize that it’s important to find things that I enjoy doing. The things that don’t matter if I get paid but do it because I enjoy it.
There is no right way to spend FIRE
I have a friend who worked hard and hit his FIRE goal. He spends his days going to scrap yards nearby, buying different pieces of scrap and turning them into passion repair projects.
When I asked him why he does it, he said “I spent my whole life working to be at a point where I could be a struggling artist without the struggle. This is great. I’m living my dream. It’s not anyone else’s but it’s mine and I love it.”
Now the thought of scavenging for things to fix, or turn into art, likely isn’t your post FIRE strategy. It isn’t mine. But my friend wakes up every day excited for what will come and what he gets to pursue. Right now he’s fixing up an old motorcycle and he loves the hunt.
That is what you should be thinking about. How will you spend your perfect day? There is no wrong answer, only the one that motivates you to move towards your FIRE goal.
As for me, I realize that my post FIRE life isn’t the dream I have in my head. Mostly because the last time I was on a beach I was done after 20 minutes, so was the margarita. I need to be busy. I need to create. So here’s what I’ve done to self correct my FIRE course.
Think about what you truly love doing
Take some time to write out the things you love to do. Not the things you like to do, but LOVE to do. For me it’s playing games, guitar, writing, solving puzzles, and being outdoors.
Next, start to find ways to put these things into your day. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but a quick shot of dopamine from something you love doing will strengthen your drive to FIRE and serve as a nice daily reward along the way.
I used to delay my rewards, now I try to incorporate them as much as possible. I’m happier for it and actively look forward to every day because I know that there will be some little treat that I love.
Lastly, once a year take a day off and live it like it’s your first day of FIRE. This will help put your ideas to the test and see if they are truly what you want to do.
Once you do that FIRE will start to feel more real, and you might remove the barrier that is keeping you from achieving FIRE because you will start to know more about what.
Start FIRE now
The truth is you can start living your FIRE days now, in small increments. The thing I forget is that life is a journey, and I know it’s been written a thousand times before, but when you focus on a goal as large as FIRE you tend to forget that.
So take the moments in the day to find what you enjoy and do more of that. Whether it’s a walk in the woods, or spending some time with a friend. Explore new hobbies and old ones you’ve forgotten. Don’t wait for FIRE to do everything you’ve wanted.
Enjoy things now and it will make the journey more enjoyable. After I switched to enjoying the journey it’s made all of the difference in my happiness. Because after all, aren’t we all just wanting more happiness?
Andrew Daniels is the Co-Founder of Millennial Homeowner, a site dedicated to helping make homeownership easy. You can download their free household essentials list here. It has everything in it you will need for your next place.