We have an expression in our family – “It’s not all about you ___”.
We use it when one of us is being selfish and not thinking about the other two. Demanding something or complaining about something without considering the wider impact.
Something that bothers me sometimes about my pursuit of financial independence and my single-minded desire to retire sooner rather than later, is the effect it may have on my children. I worry that it’s “all about me” because, well – it is.
All About Me
I’m doing this because I want to; because I’m burned out and tired and I need a break or (more accurately) a complete divorce from corporate life. It’s not about what is best for my family (although there will be both upsides and downsides for them). It’s all about me.
Putting myself so blatantly first like that is not something that comes naturally, as I’m sure it doesn’t to other parents. But like securing our own oxygen mask before helping anyone else (another thing that wouldn’t be instinctive), there are times when putting your own well-being first is necessary for the survival of the group.
Not That There Aren’t Upsides
There have definitely been some positive effects for the family from my quest for FIRE.
Witness the situation a few weeks ago when I was able to harness the power of my FU fund and assure my youngest that I would no longer travel for work. If anyone ever needs an example of “The Why of FI” let this be it. Being able to reassure your insecure child that you will be there every single morning while they get ready for school and not halfway across the globe while Grandma does her best to fill in. Having the courage to be able to say a big fat “No” to your boss because you have that stash of funds behind you.
Then there is their financial education. Financial independence and how to achieve early retirement was not so much a lightbulb moment in our house, it was more like having the entire Blackpool Illuminations shoot up in our own back garden.
It is a big deal. And such a positive potential lifestyle change that I talk about it a lot at home. Sometimes I wonder if I talk about it too much (I do have a pretty obsessive personality), especially when I see the eye rolls or when I realise I am performing a monologue rather than having a conversation. But I know they are absorbing everything – the eldest has aspirations to be retired by 40 – and they understand the fundamentals of how to get there.
But the Early Retirement Side? That Feels Like It’s All About Me.
University fees, a foot on the property ladder or a first car – these are all things I would like to help the children with in the future. (Not give them – but help them with).
Not to mention travelling at least once a month to watch his beloved football team play (for the youngest) and going somewhere warm on holiday (for the oldest) are the things they love and that I would love to keep doing with them over the next few years.
A Lean FI budget leaves no room for these things and that feels selfish.
I can’t help but compare myself to my father who worked in factories his entire life. Nobody works on a production line for over thirty years because they want to. He did it because that’s what you do – get married, start a family and work to provide for them. Working punishing shifts six or even seven days a week, I never heard him complain. He just got on with it and did what needed to be done.
Sometimes I feel pathetic complaining about the stress of my office job which is so cushy in comparison to his life. If he could turn up every single day to a noisy, smelly, physically punishing place of work for decades – can I not manage just another few short years for the sake of a better life for my family?
Of course I’m talking here only about the money and what the money can buy, not about the benefits of having a stay at home parent or even a parent that is not completely frazzled almost always.
My children are lucky so far to have experienced some of the good things in life that a big salary brings. Because I’ve always been a saver, there hasn’t been reckless spending and they certainly don’t have everything they want. But they have a nice house and laptops and phones and visits to exotic lands every now and again.
Then again, having to make sacrifices with some of the things they have so far taken for granted could be a valuable life lesson and leave them with more motivation to earn that lifestyle for themselves.
I read this week how Gordon Ramsey refuses to allow his kids to travel first class. He and his wife turn left; the kids turn right. He says they haven’t worked anywhere near hard enough to afford that privilege and I can’t help but agree. It’s a fine line between doing your best for your children and bringing them up spoiled and entitled.
It’s one thing quitting the all-consuming killer of a career. But somewhere in between that and early retirement is a less stressful job, perhaps in a smaller company without all the corporate BS, or – my preferred option – something completely different like working in a bookstore or a newsagent.
Being able to take my foot off the gas with regards to saving, means I could earn a lot less. And instead of the lean FI budget that would result from leaving work completely within the next couple of years, there would be more padding, so to speak.
And this is what I find myself contemplating now. Maybe some time off and then a move to the lower stress job is the compromise that assuages my guilt as a parent whilst giving me the relief from pressure that I crave.
Maybe…. (she says, reaching for the oxygen mask).
What do you think?
Is there a difference between what’s best for you and what your family want or need? How do you reconcile the two?