About this time two years ago it became apparent that my job would soon be redundant. This wasn’t the shock that maybe it would have been to many. Heading up the finance function of a small company that had recently been taken over by a corporate giant, I knew it was inevitable.
To cut a very long story short, come January 1st last year, I found myself in a new role within the aforementioned global corporation. Dodged a bullet, salary still coming in, big relief all round, no need for the poorhouse just yet.
Discovery of FIRE
The thing is, I had recently stumbled across the FIRE community (Financial Independence Retire Early). I was (and still am) a little bit obsessed with it, if I’m honest. The idea that there was a formula – an actual mathematical formula – that would allow me to achieve my dream of being financially independent, was like finding the keys to the kingdom. The biggest light-bulb moment I had ever experienced.
I had thrown myself into it, somewhat haphazardly, trying to do everything – not only spend less, save more and invest the difference, but also actively trying to increase my income streams, find other sources of income, create passive income streams, write books, start the blog, get into property, peer to peer lending, retail arbitrage. You name it, I was researching it and trying to put it into action. This while also holding down my old job – I job I had held for five years and knew like the back of my hand. Yes, I worked hard, don’t get me wrong, but there was room at the edges, at the start of the day or after work and at the weekends, where I would work on my other projects.
Starting Again is a Humbling Thing…
When you have been doing the same job for a while, you forget what it is like to start again. Knowing nothing is an incredibly humbling experience. And that was where I found myself on day one of the new job. After twenty odd years of working, I have reached a fairly senior level within the world of finance management and with that comes expectation. So despite being thrown into a completely different company, department and group of people, the job title comes with a price and that price is expectation. There would be little time for getting up to speed, little forgiveness for lack of knowledge and simply a need for the job to be done.
I have suffered from imposter syndrome all my working life. The absolute certainty that I am here through sheer luck, through being in the right place at the right time and my career success being nothing more than that. At any moment I could be found out and thrown out on my ear; my job being given to somebody that actually knew what they were doing and who had earned it.
So finding myself in a position where everything was new and unfamiliar, was terrifying. And all-consuming. And therein lies the dilemma. On the one hand, my recent discovery of FIRE and my drive to achieve it. On the other, an all-consuming, energy sapping, baptism by fire of a new job that required all my time, energy and brain power – and then some.
Half of me was desperately trying not to give up on my dream and to devote some time every day to my FIRE projects. The other half needed every ounce of my being to be devoted to making a success of the new job. After all, it pays well every single month and provides enviable and valuable benefits on top.
A dilemma indeed.
At this point, the fact that I am a reader probably saved me. I read voraciously and had recently completed Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Both of these advocate the use of affirmations as a means to achieve your goals.
I haven’t ever used affirmations. Yet in a fit of good intent following reading these books, I had set some time aside and written mine. I know the power is in repeating them every day – I hadn’t of course. I’d written them, said them for a few days and then parked them in a drawer. 🙂
Now though, one became very relevant. I am not sure if this is entirely original, or if I took it from the aforementioned books or indeed from any other recent readings. I apologise now if this is the case – please let me know if you recognise the source and I will of course, give credit where it is due. What I do know is that this is written in my journal from that time:
“I recognise that the quickest way to financial independence is to use a high salary to buy assets and starting from today I will devote myself to my job and be the best that I can be, every single day.”
The Quickest Route to FIRE
As valuable as side-hustles and other income streams can be when seeking financial independence, it is important not to forget that the quickest route can be to use a high salary to get there.
It is incredibly tempting to take your job for granted and to assume you will continue to get paid no matter what. I can’t deny I would much rather be working on my own projects than working for my employer – but my own projects come nowhere near generating the sort of income that my employer reliably pays me month in and month out. I think that’s an important point to remember as we get caught up in the “new and shiny” aspects of seeking financial independence.
We are not super human. There are only so many hours in a day and we all only have so much energy. If I’d carried on at the same pace, I would have worked myself into a nervous breakdown – or worse.
Achieving financial independence is a marathon not a sprint. I learned to pace myself and prioritise my time on what will get me there the quickest. And a year later, the job is under control and I feel less and less like an imposter with each new week. Some days still, I leave work exhausted and spent, arriving home with only the energy to eat, drink and sleep. But often now, I reach the end of my “employed day” and find I have renewed energy for my own projects again – and can work on them with a clear conscience.
The time will come when I can say goodbye to my colleagues for the last time, send my last corporate email and hand in my badge. And when it does I will hold my head high, knowing I gave what I needed to give and walk away with all the time in the world for projects of my own. It can’t come soon enough.