Why You Should Pursue FI Even If You Can’t Retire Early

After pursuing FI for a couple of years, I find myself in a place where I may not actually reach FI any earlier than the traditional age, 65. Life has led me down a road where my savings rate isn't quite what it used to be. But, I'm okay with it! And, I've found so many benefits of Choosing FI along the way. If I had to do it again knowing that I'd never actually retire early, I'd still be right on the path that I'm on. And, I believe that anyone should Choose FI, even if they can't retire early. Here's why…

You'll know that you can at least retire at the traditional age of 65.

I believe many who start the path to early retirement may have been on a path that didn't even lead to traditional retirement. It's so easy to get caught up in life and spend all that hard-earned money without even thinking, but we've only really got about 40 or so years in our careers. Once marriage and kids come along, it may or may not be as easy to save money and plan for the future. For me, I was decent at saving, but it didn't have a purpose. It usually went to buying a new car or filling up my apartment with stuff I'd later replace.

In pursuing FI, it makes us more aware of our finances. In tracking what it would take to retire early, it makes us aware of what it would at least take to retire traditionally, and not just trust what the advisor tells me. I've found that even though I may or may not retire any earlier than 65, I know that my path at least will let me retire at 65. Sure, I'd much rather be out earlier! But, at least I know I'll be able to take it easy a bit when I'm older.

You might find a job you like and not need to retire early.

In pursuing FI, it's only natural to strive for living on the lowest budget possible. I found that once I knew I could live on this lower budget, it opened up more doors for me as far as work. I was offered a lower paying job about two years into our marriage. This is probably why my FI path slowed down a bit. After a lot of talking and considering with my wife, she encouraged me to go for it and it's been great. While I may not retire as early, I'm okay with it because I've found work where I'm fulfilling a purpose and doing something great with my life.

If you're pursuing FI, don't get too narrow of a vision and stay stuck in a job you hate! If you know what you can live on, and have a good nest egg started, feel free to take a more meaningful job. Don't be reckless and ruin your chances of traditional retirement. But, why work for 10 years in a job you hate so you can retire early, when you can work 20-30 years in a job you love?

You have freedom to fail at a side hustle or passion project.

My wife hated her job even more than I did. Not only was it terrible, but she spent three hours a day on the Seoul subway system during rush hour each day. It really wasn't a good time for her. But, now knowing what we can live on, it's given her freedom to fail at a side-hustle that she's been wanting to do! She went to school for art, but never got to pursue it after graduating because she got pulled into the rat race. Once we were at a place where she could quit, she did. Then, she started an Etsy shop with her spare time! She still works part time to help with our monthly expenses, but her passion is in her art. It may or may not produce enough income to support us, but it doesn't matter. She has that freedom because it's above and beyond what we need to do.
If you've got a passion project or something you want to pursue, do it! Do it in your spare time after work. If your spouse is working, talk to them about living on one income so you can pursue it. It may take off and end up supporting you both. Or, maybe it won't, but you'll learn a ton from it in the process that will maybe help for your next side-hustle. Your savings rate might suffer a bit, but isn't it all about pursuing happiness anyway?

You'll find more value in the places you do spend money.

We set a rule in our house. We don't buy it unless we love it. Especially when we're shopping for clothing or things for the house. We question each other, “Do you love it?” If the answer isn't “yes”, then we don't buy it. Sometimes we even hold that we both need to love it. If I buy a pair of shoes that she turns her nose at, is it really money well spent?
Just being aware of your budget, you'll spend more intentionally. You'll probably find value in spending money in certain areas, like experiences rather than stuff. Perhaps you'll spend time with friends and family rather than drinking or eating away your retirement. You might find less value in spending where it doesn't add value to your life. It makes you aware of the opportunity cost in your budget.

It will (hopefully) bring you closer to your spouse.

There's nothing like a common dream to bring two people together. If your spouse isn't on board yet, slow down and figure that out first. Because when you share that dream, and work together towards the goal, you're unstoppable. That first budget may be frustrating. The second and third ones might only be slightly better. But, if you can find a dream and a goal to strive for, it will continually get easier and easier.

Take some time to dream together with your spouse. Why are you pursuing FI? What will you do once you reach FI? What are some ways that you can enjoy the journey together while still reaching your FI goals? Once you reach FI, you'll have a lot more time with your spouse. So, take time now to build that relationship so you can enjoy all that time together!

What if you could never retire?

Joshua Sheets of Radical Personal Finance asks two great questions. What would you be doing if you knew you could never retire? And, what would you be doing if you reached financial independence today? Somewhere between those two questions is a great place to be. You may or may not get there as early as your calculations are showing. So, make sure you're enjoying the ride.

Want to read more from SeoulOnFire? Check out his other articles here.

Why You Should Pursue FI Even If You Can't Retire Early

2 Replies to “Why You Should Pursue FI Even If You Can’t Retire Early”

  1. Looking at thoughts on my situation. My wife and I are in our early 50’s and have always led a frugal life. We were very disciplined in our savings and did what we were taught to do, work, work and work some more and then save for retirement through a 401K plan. Recently I left my job to pursue a different career and my wife is a state worker with access to a retirement plan and pension.
    My question is regarding a strategy going forward for saving. We have a very nice balance for our investments, however we have about 75% of those funds tied up in 401K and traditional IRA’s. My wife currently contributes 10% of her income to her retirement plan, I don’t have access to a plan. Wondering if it would be better to cut back on her contributions and funnel that money into post tax accounts instead.
    Thoughts?

  2. Hi Mifi66!

    I’m not sure if you were looking for my input specifically or the ChooseFI community as a whole. I’ve been away from the States now for nearly 10 years, so I’m not really fully informed on tax strategies. I would suggest putting that question up in the Facebook forums as you’ll get lots of great feedback there!

    The big question would be, do you have enough in those retirement accounts to support your lifestyle in retirement? As in, can you live on 4% of the balances? If so, I personally would start funnelling money into something that I could access a little sooner that an IRA or 401(k). But, that’s a big question that only you can answer.

    It also depends on what her employer is matching. I wouldn’t suggest going any lower than what her employer will match since that’s an instant ROI.

    I’m guessing, just by the way you explain your frugal lifestyle and savings habits, that you might actually have enough of a balance in there to think about retirement. Again, that’s purely guessing as I don’t know your situation. If that’s true, and if you’re wanting to retire earlier than you have access to those funds (i.e. before 59 1/2), then you might want to consider funnelling money into a place that you had easier access to.

    I’m not a tax expert. Please take my opinion for what it is, just an opinion. And definitely pitch that question out to the Facebook group and see what others say as this is a great question to be asking yourself at this point in life!

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