Since I’ve started working from home, I have also started to reconsider retiring early.
I am fiercely passionate about the FIRE movement and have been actively working towards this for years. FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early and is all about setting yourself up financially so you have the choice to retire earlier than the standard age of 60+. This has been one of my key motivators for budgeting, saving, investing, increasing my income and all things related to improving your personal finances.
However, I have now started to reconsider.
Why I decided to start pursuing FIRE
For a long time, I worked hard for one goal – getting a “big girl” marketing job. I knew I wanted to get into marketing in high school so I did a relevant degree, did unpaid internships, part-time gigs before finally landing my first salaried marketing job at a large corporate. I was 19.
I thought that was it, I made it.
I could now start working on awesome projects and build my career while having enough money to spend on my hobbies, going out with my family and friends etc. I was done, right? Wrong! I quickly realised that I couldn’t do this for another 40 odd years. Why?
I felt that I no longer had control over time.
Realising full-time work wasn’t for me
I quickly realised that full-time work is not just 9am – 5pm. It is the time you get ready in the morning. The time you spend commuting between home and work. The time you take to prepare your lunch. The time spent on the weekend catching up from chores that you couldn’t get to during the weekdays. And, working in marketing, I was involved with running events outside of work hours including multi-day conferences, sometimes in different states. Full-time work made me feel like time was slipping away, and I wasn’t able to spend time doing what I actually wanted to.
This is when I decided to do some research and came across the FIRE movement. It was exactly in line with my thoughts. I wanted control of my time. I wanted to be able to spend my time with my family and friends, painting and doing yoga, sleeping 8 hours a night and retiring early would let me do that. This is when I started researching into the stock market, playing around with portfolio calculators before finally making my first stock purchase.
I started to invest not to be rich, but for freedom. Freedom over my time.
Fast forward to today
Slowly moving up the career ranks, I’ve now quadrupled my salary from that first corporate job. However, the whole time things kept getting worse. Until recently, I had still being feeling massively time-poor. I even did a time audit to help maximise my time and documented the process, you can read all about it by clicking here.
In university, I had a pretty busy schedule. I worked throughout my studies and even had a portion where I worked and studied full-time thanks to night classes. Even though I had less time than when I had a corporate job, I never felt trapped for time.
Perhaps, because I knew there was an end. Once I graduated, it would be over. However, when working full-time, you know that it will last for decades.
The turning point
However, since I started WFH (working from home), I feel I am once again in control of my time. No commuting means I get to sleep my full 8 hours every night (sometimes, more!). I don’t have to worry about what I am taking for lunch and snacks everyday because I can spend a couple of minutes in my kitchen whipping up lunch.
The funny thing is, I am actually working more hours. I’m more productive. I no longer feel pressed to finish exactly at 5pm and am happy to keep working away from the comfort from my own home. Working an extra 2 hours in the office was a pretty big deal. However, with WFH I can hang out on my couch and get the work done from the comfort of my own home.
I also used to struggle to find the time to exercise. I’d get home from work at around 6pm, I’d then rush into my workout clothes and head out. Even getting in 30 minutes a day was a challenge. These days, it is so easy for me to exercise. With no commute time, I can fit in a workout before or after work with ease.
I’ve been feeling this way for the last month, but I am not sure if I want to FIRE anymore. All these new changes that remote work brought is making a substantial difference in my mental health and is drastically improving my quality of life.
WFH has removed a lot of the reasons I was chasing financial independence.
All I ever wanted from FIRE, I now have.
Am I going to abandon the FIRE movement?
Certainly not! I’d still love to give my future self the choice to work. I am still on track to FIRE in my mid-30s so if I don’t end up fully retiring, I’d love to do work less days a week or start a business.
I also know that WFH might not be here to stay in 5, 10, 15 years and it makes sense to be prepared in case our world changes.
I’d love to hear any thoughts for those of you pursuing financial independence. Has the pandemic and WFH culture changed your investment strategy? How so?