Financial Independence Is an Illusion. Therefore You Should Not Aim for It…?!

The other day I read a blog post where the author described why aiming for FI is an illusion and he chose not to aim for it.

Since we achieved FI a couple of years ago (and we’re pretty happy we did so), the title of that blogpost caught my attention.

The author named four reasons why he thinks striving for FI is basically horsshit. I’ve tried to sum them up:

1. he doesn’t want to live a frugal lifestyle for years. He doesn’t want to carefully look at every penny he can save in the supermarket.

2. he wants to fully live and enjoy the present. He wants to enjoy his life now! Not in the future! His work-life balance is amazing already. Why change this situation?

3. nobody is ever completely financially independent…

4. He would chose to work anyway, even if he would be financially independent…so why bother reaching it?
Right. So what do I make of that?

The funny thing is: I basically agree with all 4 headlines.

The devil lies in the details though.

So, let’s analyse this bit by bit:

1. I don’t want to look at every penny I can save in the supermarket either.

During our years before reaching FI we lived a pretty frugal lifestyle. It wasn’t frugal in a way that we had to make a sacrifice and say NO to thinks we would have liked to get. It was naturally frugal. Because that’s how we like it!

We didn’t even plan on becoming FI until just before we reached it…

Let me give you just a few examples of this “extremely” frugal lifestyle: saw several mediterranean cities during a cruise, we flew to US, we had an amazing holiday in Thailand. We did a long trip to South America, we traveled 1700 kilometers in Turkey and visited amazing places. In fact, we flew back and fort between our home Germany and Romania, Scotland, Ireland, Hungary several times a year to visit family and friends.

Add to that several “frugal” ski trips in the Austrian Alps almost every year.

This are just holidays. Not to mention all the money we spent on furniture, gadgets and all that.

I am frugal. But I don’t want to save money on things that make me or my family happy. As it happens though…things that really make me happy don’t cost much money. Best holiday example: couchsurfing. I absolutely love it and we used it (both: as travelers and hosts) a lot. Every hour of it provided us with great, unforgettable memories. For nearly no cost.

The point is: striving for FI doesn’t have to mean that you’re saving every penny and you only spend your money on rent and buy only basic food living in a dark room for 10 years or so…

2. I want to fully live and enjoy the present.

Yup! Agree!

“My work life balance is amazing, why should I change?”

Many people have a job they genuinely love. This is a great situation and I wish more people would choose a job they love. The reality is though, that most people are miserable at work. Even if they don’t admit.

During my time as an employee, literally all my colleagues were complaning about something in their job. Most of them (including the boss) really hated it and hated a bunch of their direct colleagues.

I never absolutely loved my job, but it wasn’t stressful and I was OK with it. Still: I’m out of it. They are not. They are dependent of it.

There are so many jobs that make sense. Where your work makes a change in somebody’s life. I deeply respect all theose people who chose to be a doctor, a nurse or a teacher because they love what they’re doing.

If you really like what you’re working and it makes you happy don’t stop! Do it! It makes a lot of sense for you and your community!

At the end of the day, what truly makes you happy is making a positive change and helping others in one way or another.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that striving for FI makes no sense!

Why? Because being financially independent simply makes your work a lot better!

Did you see Pete Adeney’s WDS talk? NO? Then please take a break and watch it! Please!

Do you want some examples?

If a teacher is FI and loves what he’s doing, he can fully focus on making his job better, finding out ways to inspire those kids and change their lifes for the better.

The problem with the education nowadays is exactly that: having too many teachers who don’t do their job with passion. Who don’t understand the impact of their work and work only for the money or only because they made a wrong choice and they’re to lazy to start again…

If a doctor does his job for the money, and not because he wants to help, we’re in a big mess! And this is what’s happening so often here in Romania: if you don’t bribe the doctor, you might not get the right treatment. You might die because your doctor didn’t get the concept of financial independence.

Is your work life balance amazing? Then ask yourself: Who’s life do you live when you’re working?

If the answer is: your own. It’s great! Don’t stop doing it.

But if you work for Mercedes Benz designing the new S-Klass super luxury car, then don’t tell me you live YOUR life during work. That new S-Klass won’t make the world any better. It’s a product that makes no fucking sense at all. The time you spend at work is not yours! You get paid but the time is lost!

So many creative, talented people waste 8-10 hours a day solving fake problems and literally wasting their life while making investors happy.

These brilliant minds could just as well solve real problems, changing lives!

3. nobody is ever completely financially independent.
Yeap! I agree. But you can be more, or less FI. The more FI you are, the easier you can say NO to bullshit. The more choices you have. The more time you have to live YOUR life the way you want it.

I am not fully independent either even though I consider myself FI.

One depends on sooo many things in life: train schedules, banks, mario draghi or even mothers-in-law… but being independent of a job, or, to put it in a different way: to be in the position to quit any time is f.a.n.t.a.s.t.i.c in sooo many ways.

4. I would chose to work anyway, even if he would be FI…so why bother reaching FI?
FI is not about doing nothing. Look arund, most of the people who reached FI actually continue working. Working on things they love, things that make sense! So do we. But is that a reason to stop aiming for FI?

Being FI allows me to work for free for my community. That’s what really makes me happy while having a positive impact (even if small) on the world around me.

It’s obvious, that if I had a 9to5 job I wouldn’t have the time to do that.

Being FI also makes this blog free of shitty popups and ads sliding up or down the page making you buy eBooks or other annoying things.

Working after reaching FI is something that one can even factor in the long therm planing: if you know that you would really like to work part time after reaching FI, then you might need many years less in the job you don’t like that much.

This, I think is a great idea for so many people who are in a situation where reachig full FI would mean too much time or too many restrictions.
So, as a conclusion: while I fully agree with those 4 points, I came to the exact opposite conclusions on whether or not one should aim for FI.

Everybody defines Fi in a different way. Our lives can be so different. Our ideal lives can be so different but FI is not a bullshit idea.

One thing is for sure though: FI should NEVER be the end goal. What really matters is what are your plans for the time after!

And the most important conclusion for me is that FI helps me be more genuine! And that fucking rocks!

What are your conclusions? I’d love to hear them!

  • amber tree

    Same here, agreed on all 4 points, still aiming to FI one day. And while doing that, enjoying the now even more, working with more pleasure as it is my intentional choice to do the job

    • you know, even if some people decide to be extra frugal, it doesn’t have to mean they miss out of a lot of fun. Sooo many things in life can make one happy that cost little money…

  • i agree with you. like u, i am almost reaching FI although i never planned it.

    • Welcome to the blog! was a very similar situation than ours then. Whereabout are you from?

      • brazil. l lived in germany as well, that’s why i understand how amazing your achievement is. Gut gemacht !

        • you lived in Germany and moved back to Brasil? That sounds interesting though. Would you like to share your story as a guestpost? Feel free to send us an email or connect on Facebook!

  • Agreed that FI is absolutely something you should aim for!

    However, I’d argue that FI is possible, as long as you don’t define it in some ridiculous way like “you’ll never need money again, no matter what happens.” Obviously, some things COULD happen–no matter how unlikely they may be–that would render you impoverished (e.g. your insurance company fails, and you are diagnosed with a serious illness right afterward, before you can get coverage with another company, or rampant inflation following the complete collapse of the entire world economy). Saying that it’s not possible reminds me of the argument that you can never reach your destination because you first have to travel half the distance, then half the remaining distance, then half of THAT distance, etc…But people reach their destinations all the time, absurd academic objections aside.

    To say that FI isn’t possible is foolish. People will see that and think “Oh, well, then why bother?” and continue their lavish spending, instead of striving to improve their situations.

    FI is, for all practical purposes, possible! Let’s not say otherwise…

    • hey! welcome to the blog!
      I share you opinion, but to be fair the blogger I read didn’t actually say that FI is not possible, just that, for him it doesn’t make sens for the above mentioned reasons. Anyway, I think the discussion is more baout how you define FI. Complete bulletproof financial independence is not what most people are aiming for.

      • Got it! The implication of saying that FI is an illusion is that it’s not possible–kind of like a mirage in the desert isn’t actually water; it’s an illusion. Hence my strong reaction! 🙂

        Everyone’s different, I suppose. It’s still smart to strive for FI–even if he or she is happy with the employer, the employer may not return the favor. Or perhaps the employer goes out of business, or cuts that person’s department…etc.

        As long as the person you read isn’t wasteful, then he/she is probably working toward FI without realizing it! If the person IS being wasteful and refuses to pursue financial freedom…well, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink!

        • it’s a good way to draw attention… 🙂

          • It certainly is–worked on me! 😉

          • haha mee too!
            Where are you from BTW?

          • I’m from the United States. More specifically, I’m a graduate student in Ohio. I take it that you’re from Europe–are you still living in Germany as your “About” page says?

          • We lived in germany for over 10y but moved to Romania recently (have to change the about page) 🙂

  • Nice write up, and generally agree with you except bullet 3. You can definitely be completely financially independent (by definition of having enough income to cover expenses), but it is associated with a certain amount of risk if you will remain FI for the rest of your life.
    Where you are independent in things other than finance, that’s debatable (and likely true that you will always be dependent on something or some body) .

    • welcome to the Blog Team CF! What I mean with not being completely independent is that there are many unforseeable things that can throw you back. So, indeed, you can look at your excel sheet and see how your dividends cover your current expenses, but in a week a crash comes and cut those dividends in half. OR: 2 out of 4 tennants top paying the rent next month. SHIT! Isn’t it?
      Nevertheless, the more diversified you are over different asset categories, the better. The smaller the cance your expenses are not fully covered.
      Over the long run, no investment is 100% safe. But if you did reach a good part of your way to FI, you’re a truckloads better of than a 9to5 jobber…

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  • Ines

    Some people just love to find excuses for not making an effort I think. Some also love the feeling of being busy, it makes them fell important plus they would not know what to do with the free time.

    • for many, financial independence seems to be an unachievable goal and somehow, it’s natural to have such a reaction…

  • I agree to a certain extent. For a long time, I was aiming for FI subconsciously i.e. I was actually saving, investing, being frugal etc. But it was less focused. I had no plan or magic number in mind. I just wanted to retire earlier, ‘at some point’.
    It’s only when I laser targeted my annual expenses and ran some numbers through an FI calculator, I was able to put a plan together and create some new and diverse passive income streams to cover these annual expenses. I report on this plan on a quarterly basis and being accountable enables me to stick to the plan and reach FI a little quicker. Fast track the process if you like.
    Yes, becoming financially independent is only half the battle. The other half is finding fulfilment and purpose in everyday life. I think this is going to be more challenging and a whole new topic in itself…

    • Welcom to the blog TCC!
      Indeed. It’s challenging, but you have enough time to think about it, walk with eyes open to see what you actually love to do after FI.
      What are your other passive income streams?

      • Hey Mr W,
        Thanks, I enjoy reading your posts and your outlook on life i.e.your geographic arbitrage techniques in residing in a low cost country etc. That’s exactly my mind set!
        I’m invested in dividend growth stocks, an index fund (my SIPP/pension), property and P2P lending. It will still take some time until they reach that magic crosshairs moment, but I’m getting there slowly.
        I’m currently doing consulting like you did yourself, but anticipate reducing that once the passive income kicks in…

        • Finally, congrats on becoming financially independent at such a young age:- ) I only discovered that now on your ‘About’ page. I did the digital nomad thing in Budapest…your wonderful home country. Great spot!

        • In which country do you plan on moving? Or do you want to travel around?

          • I’ve done a lot of traveling around with the consulting work, so planning on making a base in Portugal or Hungary. Need time to mull over

          • why Hungary?

          • It’s got character and charm, makes a great central base (easy access to Europe and cheap flights), affordable property/ rental market, pleasant locals, low cost of living and fair taxes

          • For me these are obvious reasons but hey, I’m hungarian and I speak the language. It’s pretty interesting to see (assuming) non-hungarians thinking about moving there. Even thoug the cultural differences are negligeable, the language is mostly a problem. We’re talking about a language where even the word “restaurant” it’s spelled completely differently: “étterem”. Just to piss tourists off 🙂
            Keep us posted and, why not, meet there one day.
            BTW: Hungary is not my home country. I’m from Translylvania (Romania). Borders changed…history 🙂

          • I feel Budapest is set up for digital nomads, which has a fairly big start up scene. There’s lots of ‘Meet Up’ events where it’s centred around the entrepreneur, tech and other start up events.
            Hence, I could probably get around the language, as there’s this big expat scene. But, I agree it can be a little frustrating buying groceries at the local supermarket or ordering a meal at a local restaurant etc. A very difficult language indeed, so fair play to you.
            Yes, if I get around to moving there, we should connect. Maybe If I ever get over to Romania, we can discuss FI tactics:- )
            All the best…