As occasionally happens on the weekends, I have an article from an MMM reader to share with you. I thought this one was an appropriate follow-up to my Internet Retirement Police rant. In that controversial piece, I attempted to re-define the word “Retirement” to reflect the reality that most of us don’t just simply stop doing things when we reach financial independence.
I issued that new definition to battle a common complaint against the philosophy of this blog: “I like working, and therefore I will never want to retire. Therefore, I will continue to spend all my money on myself as fast as I earn it, forever”.
Without a desire for financial independence, many of the lifestyle improvements we Mustachians take for granted may never come about. This is why I maintain this focus on “Reduce or Eliminate the Need to Work for Money – THEN see where life takes you after that”.
So let’s see what another early retiree – one who got there a few years younger than I did – has to say about life after freedom:
Financial Freedom Kind of Sucks – What Happened after a Young Retirement
What the hell was wrong with me?
I had done exactly what they all said to do. I skimped. I saved. I invested. Now, after six hard years of working my tail off, I was officially “financially free” at 26 years old. My income from my passive investments (mostly through real estate investing) eclipsed my monthly expenses (which I had minimized following a lot of the advice from guys like Mr Money Mustache) and I was technically retired.
And I was miserable.
I still remember the conversation I had with my wife the day I quit my job and said “I’ll never again have to use an alarm to wake up!” I thought that financial freedom was the freedom to do whatever I wanted – and I wanted sleep. I wanted to relax, to not have to work so hard, to not have to “fight the man” any longer. No more bosses, no more deadlines.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t loaded. I had simply surpassed my moderate amount of expenses with passive income. I didn’t have the money to live a life of ridiculous travel or buy myself a nice yacht to cruise around the islands with (though I don’t think that would make me any happier.) I simply had enough money not to work anymore. In other words – I had just enough money to wait around for death. I felt like I was living at a nursing home, but without the sterile walls and bed pans.
Granted, I don’t have children at this point so I can’t say how things would be different if I were raising some youngin’s, though my three cats definitely kept my busy. Okay, that’s a lie. My three cats took naps with me and I had to clean a litter box every few days. Okay, that’s a lie also – I just had to remind my wife that the litter box was in need of changing and I’d get back to the game. But when you have nothing to do, even the easiest, most mundane tasks seem overwhelming. In the words of Jim Gaffigan, “you mean I actually have to point the remote control?!”
At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m a lazy SOB who’s whining about “living the dream.”
Okay. That’s fair. I’ll still argue that “the dream” is more like watching a episode of a fishing show while taking sedatives. But let’s move on.
So, I had identified the problem: financial freedom sucks if that’s all it’s about.
I believe this fundamental thinking is imperative to get through our thick skulls, especially for followers of MrMoneyMustache. If you are following the lead of the head Mustachian by living below your means and curb stomping debt – chances are, it’s not going to be long before you are faced with the same problem.
So what should you do? Why does this even matter to you right now?
Here’s the deal: it’s time to start plotting your financial independence now, so you don’t end up a depressive pile of existence like I was.
Let’s play a quick game I just invented (yes, I’m pretty resourceful.)
I call it the “and then” game. It’s real easy to play and something that’s been stirring around in my head for some time now, which has helped me get over the “financial freedom slump” and into some true, healthy productivity. To play, I just want you to envision your goal.
What are you aiming for in your quest for financial freedom? Is it to quit your job? Is it to travel the world? What is the end-game for you.
Do you have it? Great. Now ask yourself: “and then?”
In a world where many of us grew up playing video games, “the end” was truly “the end.” Once we saved the Princess from Bowser’s castle, we shut the game off and popped in another cartridge, perhaps tackling “Paperboy” or “Duck Hunt.”
In America (and probably elsewhere) retirement mentality is the same. The end goal is retirement… and then death. There may be a few games of shuffleboard and a few nice Bahama cruises during the waiting time before we bite the dust, but there really is no game plan for post-retirement.
The “And Then” game helps to change that mentality. For me, my goal was to quit my job and not have to work.
Well… I wouldn’t need an alarm.
Well… I would probably need to find something to do.”
I’d start a business and maybe teach something I’m good at? And probably start building a family.
Bingo. For me, the “And Then” game reveals that my goal shouldn’t simply have been “I want to retire.” Instead, retirement to me meant building a business of something I loved to do. It also meant making babies (whoo hoo!) – neither of which really required me to reach financial freedom to get to. Granted, I now have the ability to devote 100% of my time to those goals, so reaching that first level of “financial freedom” was simply a stepping stone.
So officially I “came out of retirement” and planning on how I would take my real estate business to the next level, while also starting a blog which led to a leadership position with the most influential real estate investing website on the planet. I now get to do everything I want – and in reality – it doesn’t involve sleeping in. In fact, I wake up earlier, sleep less, have more stress (the good kind,) more deadlines, and even a boss again – and I love every second of it.
That’s true financial freedom. I started this article stating that, at the time, I believed financial freedom meant being able to do whatever I wanted. However – what I thought I wanted was the problem. I didn’t want sleep – I wanted to build something awesome.
“Work is good for the soul,” as my dad always told me (or maybe it was just a line I heard in a movie. Either way, it makes sense.)
You might be different – maybe you want to teach, maybe you want to travel, maybe you want to start a blog. Whatever you want – I encourage you to start looking today at how you can make that happen. You don’t need retirement to make financial freedom a possibility. Start right now. What’s your goal? What do you really want in life?
Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor and the editor of BiggerPockets.com
One last note from MMM: That’s another reason I ran this post from Brandon: he works at BiggerPockets, which is a really interesting real estate investment forum used by many readers of this blog. If you want to understand current state of the art in landlording, quickly, this is a great place to do it. Brandon suggested the link http://biggerpockets.com/starthere