The Why of FI – Sometimes You Don’t Have A Reason

The Why of FI

People talk a lot about the “why of FI” and the importance of having an over-arching purpose that is bigger than achieving financial independence itself. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It wasn’t like that for me.

Draw Your Line in the Sand

I have been keeping a journal for several years and when I look back to when I seriously doubled down on getting my financial life in order, I find some pages about Life Purpose.

This was the time when I had just read “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod – a book I have recommended several times before and will do again.

“Make a decision today to create the life you want. The reality is, if we don’t change now, our life won’t change. If we don’t consistently invest time into self improvement, our life will not improve. Yet, most of us wake up every day and stay the same.”

The routines of family life and making a living – day to day, week to week, month to month – nothing much changed over time. I was sleep-walking through life. And looking around at friends and colleagues – everyone seemed to be living the same way.

At the time I was enjoying my job. I loved my life outside of work too and everything seemed to be in balance. When life is good the easiest thing is to just drift along. Why upset the apple cart? Why push yourself to do anything different?

But when I really thought about it, I knew that I wanted security and freedom from any financial worries. I was in a good financial position compared to many, but we all have our demons and mine would regularly taunt me – niggling thoughts and worries that it could all be taken away and we could lose the security around us.

I had no ambitions to become super rich and live a life of extreme luxury. I wanted to have exactly the life I had, but to be completely secure within it – and that meant improving my financial situation.

Time to draw my line in the sand and start making some changes.

Determining Your Why

“When you are committed to a life purpose that is bigger than your problems, your problems will become insignificant and you will overcome them with ease.”

It is easy to be cynical about self-help books. But to make significant changes and achieve the security I craved I had to overcome the procrastination mindset of “I work hard, I’m exhausted, in my free time I need to relax” and find reserves of energy to apply elsewhere.

I recognised the wisdom in what I was reading – I needed to focus on the bigger picture in order to be able to get through the individual tasks. Worrying about how much needed to be done would be counter-productive and form an obstacle.

When you have a family and a career and a household to run, it isn’t easy to find the time and the energy to fit anything else in. But focusing on the bigger picture of achieving financial independence and measuring progress to that goal, was a huge motivator.

One of the first things I did was divert some of my savings into property – a fantastic source of passive income once set up, but hugely time-consuming at the initial stages. Researching the property market, scheduling viewings for the weekends, sourcing solicitors, surveyors, insurance…. the list is almost overwhelming when the only time you have free is at the edges of the day and all you want to do is curl up with a glass of wine.

My “why” kept me going. But my “why” was simply to gain the security that comes with financial independence.

For me there was no greater why. I didn’t want to be financially independent so that I could go on and change the world or go on a grand tour. My why of FI was simple. I wanted to get there because I wanted the security. Simple as that – I just wanted to get there. And once there, I knew I could figure out the next phase of my life without worry or financial constraint.

Some people thrive on having a greater purpose in life. They know they are destined for different things than working in an office every day and they focus on their specific aims to get them through the slog of the savings years.

But many of us don’t have that one thing in mind that we were always meant to do or be and that’s ok too.

Sometimes, when daily life is busy and stressful and all-consuming there just isn’t the head-space for any level of deeper thought. What some of us want is simply room to breathe; to sit back and figure out the next phase of life at our leisure. That is our why.

14 thoughts on “The Why of FI – Sometimes You Don’t Have A Reason”

  1. “I didn’t want to be financially independent so that I could go on and change the world or go on a grand tour.”

    Before FI it didn’t matter whether you wanted this or not, as it was not a viable option.

    After FI it became a decision you made, a conscious choice.

    Financial Independence is simply a tool that gives you options. No more than that.

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  2. A common phrase I’ve heard is that you don’t want to retire from something you want to retire to something.

    What you want to do once you get to fi may change completely

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  3. I completely understand you. But to reach a state where you have room to breathe and relax and time to reflect on your next steps, understand who you are and what you want, is a greater cause than ‘I want to travel the world and change it while doing it’. It doesn’t sound as spectacular, but it’s more important. Only when you have filled up your gas tank, you can carry passengers.

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  4. Financial security is a big why. Just Be is mine at the moment. As others have said, I’ll figure out what else when I’ve had a chance to be FI.

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  5. It makes great headlines when someone says they will be doing exciting things when they reach FI.

    The reality is that most (particularly those who don’t blog) will just enjoy a more simple life without the stress and worries which may have plagued them when they were working full-time.

    Your ‘why’ will likely change in time, eg when your children leave home, you will have more time to do something else. Or not. It’s your choice.

    The thing is that you will be able to try things knowing that if don’t like them, you have the financial security to switch to something else.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Agree with everyone else about financial security being a big “why”. But from your post is also looks like you already have the rest of your why – you like your life and you want to continue to live it without fear. That is a bigger “why” than just financial security.

    I’ve been through that process about feeling like I have been sleepwalking through life. I envy you in feeling so content with your life. When I got that sleepwalking realisation it led to me wanting to change things up more fundamentally. Your point about just needing space to pause and breath is spot on and deeply underrated. We all need to it a lot it a lot more.

    I also have strong views on morning routines…but that’s for another time! Great post.

    Caveman

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  7. I can relate to this post. I’m not necessarily looking to retire early. My reasons for trying to achieve some level of financial independence are mostly motivated by wanting an extra level of security, and not suddenly finding myself struggling to survive if I lose my job in the future

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    1. What a great post. I particularly like:

      “When you are committed to a life purpose that is bigger than your problems, your problems will become insignificant and you will overcome them with ease.”

      For me, the reason for aiming for FIRE is simple. To be able to enjoy my relatively modest lifestyle (no spouse, no children, no car, no interest in ‘bling’ no desire to travel to distant shores etc.) without having to work in paid conventional employment to be able to afford to do so. That for me is reason enough.

      I can understand why younger people (I am 55) with more commitments, or indeed more ambition, might aspire for more.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. For me the quest for FI comes from two reasons. The first is security. I grew up poor by today’s standards and I want the security of knowing it’s really unlikely I will ever be poor again. This presents a practical problem of how much buffer is ever enough? My challenge is that no number will ever be enough, but I need to call time and RE at some point before long.

    And the reason I need to RE before long is because of my second reason. I’m trying hard to get control of my life – getting off the treadmill of corporate BS, long hours, always tired, not making time for quality conversations. Neither FI nor RE will cure these problems like a silver bullet, but my hope is they will provide the time and space to re-engage with the world.

    These motivations are personal to me. I don’t expect to travel the world nor to save it when I RE. But having the time and money to attempt either will be nice.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for writing this post! I’ve often struggled with the advice that you must have a goal or plan of what you intend to do once financially independent/retired. I’ve never felt like I have 1 overarching important goal that I ‘must’ achieve, so this is refreshing to read that you (and others in the comments) are the same. My ultimate motivation for chasing FIRE is security and the knowledge that I would never have to work in a job that I dislike again, simple as that.

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