Why FI? Because YOLO

Why FI_ Because YOLO

I’ve been giving a lot of thoughts lately to the “why of FI”, or financial independence. The FIRE movement seems to get a lot of press because of the “RE” – or Retire Early – part of the acronym. After all, we’ve all seen the stories of people retiring at 30, 35, or their early 40’s (and the anger/vitriol of the commentors at said people).

The RE makes for more clicks – more eyeballs on the story. More social sharing, both positive (wow, look what this person did!) and negative (Ugh, look at this rich person!). More advertising revenue, and more opportunities to make money.

Most of the people within the so-called FIRE movement don’t want to retire early. They want to reach financial independence, and make retirement elective.

They want to be financially independent so they have choices.

What does this have to do with YOLO – or You Only Live Once?

The YOLO Argument

Many people who scoff at those pursuing financial independence take a YOLO attitude towards their money.

Since you only live once, they argue, you should enjoy your money today. Go on that trip, get that new kitchen, buy the new car, get that expensive outfit. Tomorrow is promised to none of us, so live for today!

I would argue the opposite.

I would say to FI because you only live once.

None of us knows how much time we have on this earth. We could live healthfully to a ripe old three digit age. Or we could die in a car crash heading home from work today.

And none of us know what our path will be like in the future. We’re healthy now – will we be healthy until we’re ninety? Or will cancer strike us down? Will we get dementia, needing 24/7 care in a locked ward at a nursing home for a decade or more? Or pass of a heart attack in our sleep?

Financial independence, financial freedom, is particularly important for women. We’re the ones that typically want to take time off, or take a step back, while our children are young. And we’re also the ones that typically become caregivers to our parents when age, or become ill.

Our husbands are likely to age, become ill, and pass away before we do. We may want – or need – time off work to care for them.

Living paycheck to paycheck means you have no choices. Spending like there’s no tomorrow locks you in. You have to work. You have to work in a job that pays the same as the one you have now.

Taking time off, or a step back, is impossible. Or it puts you in a tremendous amount of debt. Your lifestyle suffers, you’re forced to downsize your home, you live off benefits.

You only have one life to live. And what are the things that are really important in life?

What Really Matters

We can get so caught up in our day to day lives that we lose sight of what really matters.

We chase that promotion, working long hours and traveling away from our families, forgetting that we will never get that time with our kids back.

The shiny new car is tons of fun, but we forget that in a few short years we’ll be tired of it and want another new one. Many hours spent at the grind, away from the things and people we enjoy about life, were needed to get this shiny car.

Our expensive outfit looks great, and we get a ton of compliments on it. But it will eventually sit in the back of the closet, and be donated to Goodwill. It will become a distant memory, and all that will remain is the fact that we traded hours of our life for these clothes.

I’ve written before about what the old, ill, and dying regret – and how to avoid those regrets in your own life. They don’t regret not buying the clothes, shoes, expensive homes, new kitchens, and so on.

They regret working too hard. Not spending enough time with their kids, or making friends. They regret worrying too much about the future, and not spending enough time in the present. They wish they had taken more trips, saved more for retirement (instead of their younger self blowing money on things long-gone), and buried the hatchet with friends and family.

Financial Freedom Is About Freedom

Financial freedom, financial independence – or even being partway to FI – can bring you the freedom and flexibility you need to live in a way you won’t have any regrets.

It can allow you to go for that dream job, knowing that if you fail, you’ll be financially OK. Or start that business you’ve always dreamed of.

It lets you take a step back from work when needed to care for children, parents, or just focus on finding happiness in your life outside of work.

Financial independence can enable you to leave a position that doesn’t align with your life goals, and lets you find (or create) one that does without fear of failure. You know that you can go without income for a while, or you can find a less stressful, lower paying job that gives you back your life.

Maybe you do retire early, so you can spend years of good health doing the things you’ve always wanted to do – before that good health is torn away. Health is something many of us take for granted, or assume because we live a “healthy lifestyle” we’ll always be healthy. Sadly, that’s not always the case. And none of us know when we’ll be next in the lottery of ill health.

So if you’re pursing FI, ignore the people who try to tell you that you need to “spend more on yourself”, and the pressure to buy stuff because YOLO. That stuff doesn’t matter. Most of the stuff you see on Instagram will be in the landfill shortly.

Financial freedom isn’t about retiring early. It’s about enabling you to live your best life, and giving you the flexibility and power to create the life you want to live. Living well below your means gives you choices. It ensures you’re not locked into a life path you despise just to pay the bills.

The things that are really important in life – money can’t buy those. But financial independence gives you the freedom to spend the time you need on the things that are important.

Financial freedom is about freedom.

You only live once.

Make your life one you won’t regret.

Personal Note: I took May off from this site due to a lot of things happening in “real life”. This month has been life-altering in ways I’m not ready to talk about yet, but will soon. Thanks for sticking around with me – and even when I’m not writing here, you can always find me hanging out on Twitter and Instagram.

15 thoughts on “Why FI? Because YOLO”

  1. MS_FinancialCoach

    Excellent! Well said! Tears to my eyes!

    My favorite quote, “Financial freedom isn’t about retiring early. It’s about enabling you to live your best life, and giving you the flexibility and power to create the life you want to live. Living well below your means gives you choices. It ensures you’re not locked into a life path you despise just to pay the bills.”

  2. Camille Audain

    Thank you for this awesome post! I loved it and I agree with every word. Given that each of us only lives once, then we owe it to ourselves to makes our lives the best they can possibly be. Contrary to what the AdMan says, doing so doesn’t have to cost us every single penny that we earn!

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful post Chief! But what if the premise is wrong? I have to get a little metaphysical here, but what if C.S Lewis type thinkers are right and this life is just a preparation for another? What’s that do to the FIRE movement philosophy? For those of us like me who see lots of evidence that this life is just part of the journey we’re on, one in which we don’t have to achieve everything we want, then perhaps the change in thinking will be dramatic from “go for the gusto” to how can we be the best stewards we can be with our life by serving others until we wear out and enter the next, much better life? Not that I always live up to this platitude, but perhaps it would re-frame the debate over FIRE if there were a little more metaphysical introspection of the premise that all we can ever do must be captured in this life because that’s all there is or ever will be. To me, that’s a premise destined for disappointment without the hope of a future life that will be without disappointment.

    Thanks for the chance to offer a different look at this movement! I love the FIRE movement and the openness to challenge presuppositions your culture dumped on you. I’d love it more if the philosophical underpinnings of FIRE were examined with equal ferocity!

  4. I was so worried that I had dropped off of your mailing list. I hope you’re okay. I understand you not being ready to discuss. Hope you are okay, and I sincerely mean this. You have inspired me to keep going these last two years of debt pay-off. It has been excruciatingly weary these last seven years since my divorce.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      Yep, I’m still here! 😊 Just been dealing with a lot of life throwing things at me. May was a tough month, but I’m ready to go into June. Hope you’re doing well Heidi!

  5. I’ve been grapling with things like this IRL too.
    I’ve decided to take a step back from full-time work, for the first time since the kids were small.
    It’s weirdly scary and intoxicating at the same time.

  6. Liz, you are my rockstar role model right now. I am loving this post. Even though I am still a long way from the end of my debt payoff journey, I know that we have so much more stability now than we had last year. We can be a lot more intentional with our lives when we face up to our finances. Thank you for writing this!

    1. chiefmomofficer

      That’s one part of pursuing FI I think is often overlooked, and I’m glad you mentioned it. It’s not that we’re not financially independent, and then suddenly are. The journey towards financial independence brings increasing stability, freedom, and choices. Each step on the journey gives you more of each of those things.

  7. Yes to all of this, Liz! I think the idea of being able to step back is something that goes underappreciated. I valued it a lot when I realized my unpaid leave would cost us almost $20k over both school years (even though I was only out for 3 months!). So glad you wrote this!

  8. Hope all is ok Liz, and yes I completely agree that FI does give you the freedom to live life how you want, according to your own personal values, which cannot be underrated.

  9. My dad, a physician as well, passed away at the age of 50 (I was 15). I am now 48 and it is scary to think that he was just 2 years older than I am now when he died.

    I know he put off a lot of fun stuff working hard and making money so that he could have golden years that never came.

    It has shaped me where I don’t prioritize work anymore and have been reducing my clinical time by taking a day off a week (would love to get to the point of working 3 days a week).

    I am near FI if not already there (I’m super conservative) and hope to walk away from medicine in a few years so I can enjoy life while I have the health to do so. Even now I know my body is not like it was a few years ago and likely will be worse in the the next few years. So need to take advantage of the golden period where health and wealth are overlapping

  10. Physician on FIRE

    YOLO is such a good reason TO buck the trends and save for early FI. I agree with this sentiment completely and have always found it odd when people say things like “I’m into FIRE but my spouse is a YOLO type.”

    The fact that I only get one shot at this life is exactly why I want more freedom to live it my way.


    p.s. I hope all is well with you and the family. It’s good to see you back.

  11. This, all of this! From my work in hospice, I can tell you you’re spot on about what the dying regret—all that and the debt they’re leaving/financially illiterate spouses they’re leaving behind to deal with the financial mess. Thanks for writing this post and I hope you and yours are well.

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