If You’re Not Happy Now, FIRE Can’t Fix That… Baloney!

If You're Not Happy Now, FIRE Can't Fix That... Baloney!Much of what I’ve read lately seems to revolve around the idea that if you’re not happy today, you won’t be happy once you reach FIRE (financial independence / retire early).

After all, happiness is more than just whether or not you’re stuck in the rat race.  If you’re not content with your life now, how will quitting your job make any difference?

Hmm, yeah, I’m sorry… I’m not buying it.

Now before you jump to lashing out at me in the comments, give me an opportunity to explain.

I do think that you need to be somewhat happy with your life to begin with.  If you’re just normally a miserable person, chances are you’re always going to be a miserable person… sorry!

However, if life is pretty good, but your job’s just getting in the way of life’s grand plan, then you’re probably in much better shape to have FIRE come to the rescue.

And in that instance, I believe it is possible to be raised to a whole different level of happiness once you leave your job.


Happy is as happy does

Let’s get this out of the way right now.  If you’re not satisfied with your family and friends or the life you lead today, leaving your job isn’t going to be the fix-all in your life.

On top of that, early retirement is more of an opportunity to start or continue something you’ve got cooking up than it is an ending.

You might have heard the saying that “you need to retire to something” and I believe that’s wholeheartedly true.  If you don’t have any hobbies or interests in life outside of your regular 9-5 job, retiring is likely the setup for a gloomy future.

Removing a rat-race job from your life isn’t going to be the Band-Aid of happiness.  It’s not going to change who you are or what your interests and dislikes are.  It’s also not going to melt away all your problems.

If You're Not Happy Now, FIRE Can't Fix That... Baloney! - Happy is as happy does
And it burns, burns, burns… the ring of FIRE, the ring of FIRE.

That said, there’s one thing I don’t think anyone can argue with:

FIRE = freedom and time

FIRE does provide you with more free time in your life.  How you use that time is up to you.  Trying to quit your job solely so you can stop life from being so hectic is actually a recipe for disaster.  You’ll be bored out of your mind in no time.

In fact, I know a couple of people in life that have done the traditional retirement at 65, got bored within a couple months, and went back to work.

And that’s absolutely Ok.  If you enjoy your job and that’s what you want to do, go for it.

But if you have other passions you want to pursue in life, FIRE can be very important.  Obviously, if you’re not tied down to your job, you now have more time in your life to chase after those dreams.

I don’t believe FIRE is a solver of all problems, but I do think it can give you that edge of extra time in your life to concentrate on other things.

Therefore, if a lack of time is the biggest detractor of happiness in your life, there’s a good chance that FIRE can remedy that situation.  And if that’s you, then reaching FIRE can bring along the missing puzzle piece of your life with it.


Our situation

We’re closing in on FIRE fast.  It’s very possible that I’ll be leaving my job earlier than the end of 2019 as planned.  I’ll post about that little tidbit in the near future.

Regardless, FIRE is right around the corner and I’m not going to lie… I’m super excited.  Moreover, things are going well for us as we reach the homestretch.

As I talked about in my three-year blog post, I’ve finally gotten over the compulsiveness of saving every penny.  Our saving and investing runs are on autopilot.  We’re currently at a 60% personal savings rate running just on my income, which I think is pretty darn good.

That leaves us the remainder of our money to use for paying bills and having fun.  I feel like I lost my way somewhat a while back because my mind was consumed with saving all we could to reach retirement even faster.

But obviously, that’s a bad plan.  You need to enjoy today as well – you never know if you won’t make it to tomorrow.

We’re spending more time together as a family and enjoying ourselves.  We’ve already made a number of plans for this summer and fall including a number of tent camping trips, an amusement park trip for a couple days, a trip or two to Kelleys Island, and a Caribbean cruise.

In the meantime, we’re chugging along and brainstorming some of the planning and various nuances of our upcoming move to Panama.

If You're Not Happy Now, FIRE Can't Fix That... Baloney! - Our situationI have only two complaints in life right now…

1)  I don’t have enough time.  When I’m doing something fun, my mind tends to wander and think about the other things I need to get done.

I’ve committed to writing one post a week on Route to Retire and, in three years, I haven’t missed one yet.

However, it’s a challenge to find the time to do it.  A single post generally takes me between 6-8 hours to complete.  That takes a good portion of my free time out of the mix right now.

And that doesn’t include the other projects I want to do.  I have so many things on my to-do list that I know I don’t have time for right now.  So in the meantime, I just try to sneak in a few minutes here or there working on them.

2)  Work.  I don’t hate my job… but I definitely don’t love it either.  My biggest concern is that it gets in the way of doing things I’m truly passionate about.

I rarely have to work outside of normal business hours, which is such a blessing and not something everyone is lucky enough to say.

However, I’m still losing about 45 hours of my week every day to my job… plus another 3 ½ hours if you include the travel to and from the office.  That’s 48.5 hours that disappear completely out of the 168 hours we all get in a week.

If you take into consideration that I need to sleep for 8 hours a day (I definitely need my beauty rest!), then I’m left with 63.5 hours in the week.

63.5 hours may not seem to be too horrible, but when you have a family along with other interests you want to pursue, that’s really not a lot of time.

Funny how my #2 complaint seems to loop around back to my #1 complaint, right?


My last piece of the happiness puzzle

I think anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m a laid-back guy.  I really don’t take life too seriously.  Everything’s a big joke to me and if it’s not, I’ll try to figure out a way to make it into something funny.

I like to laugh and just have fun.

But I’m frustrated.  I’m not happy because I don’t have enough time right now and feel like I need to break-through into a world where I actually have more hours in the day.

My job has become such a burden on my time that it brings me down.  Sure, I take it for what it is and still try to enjoy the time that I put in there.  In all actuality though, it seems to be the only thing left keeping me from being more or less truly happy.

I’m greedy – I want more time to spend with my family.  Time where I’m not thinking about how I’m going to squeeze in other projects later (like this blog).  I want the time that the freedom of FIRE provides to pursue other passions.

I have a number of projects I want to do that I don’t have time for yet: writing a couple more books, learning some coding (I’m rusty) to develop a couple apps I have in mind, and maybe even starting a podcast.

If You're Not Happy Now, FIRE Can't Fix That... Baloney! - Our situation
I want to be this happy… but just a little less creepy looking.

I’m super excited to get to that point.  I think FIRE can bring a better balance to our lives and with that help me close in on the one angle of my life causing a thorn in my side.

And I get it – there are plenty of people out there who will never be happy.  They might think that leaving their job will fix all their other problems in life.  It won’t.  If you’re one of those people, you need to dig a little deeper and repair some of the other aspects of your life first.

But if you’re normally a happy guy or gal who loves life but just needs more hours in the day, I think FIRE can provide that piece of happiness.

Every early retiree I know in this community swears that they’re busier now than they were before, but it’s a different kind of busy… they’re doing the things they want to do.  And that’s why FIRE can add that piece of happiness to your life!


Do you think FIRE can play a part in making you happy?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

20 thoughts on “If You’re Not Happy Now, FIRE Can’t Fix That… Baloney!”

  1. I’m still only semi-FIRE’d so I can’t speak to this fully, but I’m generally happier. Not immensely so. To me, the biggest factor is reducing work-stress. Stress is a known killer, and I feel reducing that is the key to making yourself happier and healthier.

    If someone’s job is not giving them too much stress, then perhaps they don’t need to retire. But for me it was too much.

    1. Yeah, it’s funny, but work-stress seems to drain me more than other stress – I’m guessing that’s the same for a number of other folks as well. But I’m with you – it gets to be too much.

      Like you, I’m also not anti-job either. My brother loves his job and has always planned to work for a long time… more power to him. I know a few people like that and they’re welcome to keep working as long as they want, but not this guy!

      — Jim

  2. I think i agree… to some extent. I do think it is important to learn to be happy now…My biggest problem with FIRE is that we somehow end up cultivating this utter disdain for our work/ W2 jobs. While i know that many of them may be crappy, we really have the option to set our lives up in a way that we are working in a job and at a company that we enjoy working for (is this a pipe dream?).

    However, i do think FI is non negotiable, as hitting FI will give you more options and flexibility. But by my estimation i will still continue working in some capacity, or on some passion project as you have mentioned even after i hit FI.

    1. I totally agree, HLT. If I wasn’t this close to FIRE, I would look at changing careers instead of just complaining about my job. But with as close as I am, I decided to just suck it up for a little bit longer to wrap this up and get to the fun stuff.

      — Jim

  3. I can’t disagree as your caveats are really my point about hapiness and retirement. If you don’t have hobbies, don’t know how to be happy, don’t have a purpose, or have no friends/family then fire is not a magical elixir. It won’t cure these things. But if you already have them it can certainly enhance your well being. Then again so can fi on it’s own if you like work. Honestly being able to tell an employer that changes something and pisses you off ciao with a two weeks notice and no other job lined up is priceless.

    1. Definitely. If you have a job you like and you’re FI, you’re in the best situation possible. Since I’m moving to Panama, would I be able to tell my employer “adiós” instead of “ciao”? 😉

      — Jim

  4. Good post – I think the sentiment is more about you have to be happy and comfortable with yourself. FIRE is not going to change the person you are – only what you are able to do with your time. Some people are just unhappy with their lives in so many ways OUTSIDE of work that they are running to something that ultimately will not satisfy them.

    1. So true, Keli – if you’re truly unhappy, FIRE’s not going to make you any happier. In fact, that someone would probably be even more miserable because they have more time for it! 😉

      — Jim

  5. I had a chance to taste semi FIRE life when I took time off from my 9 to 5. I was definitely happier because I got a chance to do what I wanted to do without worrying about income. I agree that FIRE can bring a lot of balance to life, but it still requires some work. If your identity is tied to your job or position, there’s a lot of soul searching and experimentation that needs to be done to find your true interests and find what truly will bring you happiness. For a more rewarding FIRE, you need people + purpose.

    1. I can see that with a couple of the folks at my office (the boss and VP). The company is their life. If they left (which they have the money to do), they would be lost. It’ll be a learning curve for them to leave and find their purpose.

      I’m glad I found some interests already (like this blog) that can help bridge me into FIRE. Did you find in your time off from the 9-5 that you had some of your interests already in place?

      — Jim

  6. Struggling with this right now. As I’m approaching FIRE (25 months left) I am working through ideas on what I can do, hobbies I want to pursue, travel, etc. At the same time, I’m concerned about getting bored, missing out on a significant part of my social circle (my co-workers) and occupying time.

    I’m sure its the same sort of stuff that many people worry about as they approach their date.

    1. Nice job on closing in on your FIRE date! I can see the concern for the boredom – I feel like I already have some great ideas in the hopper to fill time but I’m guessing that my wife might struggle with this part.

      — Jim

  7. Well-written article with some great points.
    Personally, I really enjoy teaching – most days LOL – so once I’m AT work the days slip by reasonably well. But for me it’s the huge chunk of time it takes from most of my days. I have an hour-long commute each way, (thank God for podcasts!) and this doesn’t leave a lot of time for doing other things. After all, I didn’t get these dogs just to only see them for scraps of time during the week… not to mention my kids!
    I’m looking to retire in 4 or 5 years. I started later than a lot of you and in 4 years I can access my superannuation if I want to. I already have enough to retire if I want to be frugal. However, Old Lady Frogdancer wants to travel EVERYWHERE, and I intend to give that wrinkled old crone what she wants. 😛

    1. Haha, I laughed so hard at “wrinkled old crone”, though I probably shouldn’t have! 🙂

      Time does seem to be the most valuable asset out there. Love a job or hate it, it takes time away from other things you want to do. Good luck in your travels with Old Lady Frogdancer!

      — Jim

  8. Speaking from personal experience here — when I was working life kinda sucked. I spent most of my time either commuting (2 hours per day) or working (10ish hours per day). On top of that I’d frequently have to work at least a whole day on the weekends too.

    I’m not talking about working from home either… I had to go into the office on a Saturday and sometimes a Sunday. I hardly ever got to see my kids and I was underpaid for the work I did. It was ridiculous.

    Now, after FIRE, I can say that life is pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty darn good. I get to see my kids a lot. There’s time for fun, and learning. Less stress. And time for passion projects like blogging.

    Life is simply better now because of financial independence.

    1. Love to hear from someone who’s already reached FIRE like yourself, Mr. Tako! Great scoop on what changed for you. It sounds a lot like the way I envision it will be for us as well. Nothing’s perfect, but it seems that FI can put you a whole lot closer to a less time-constrained lifestyle.

      — Jim

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