“When and why did you decide to pursue Financial Freedom”
This is a question we frequently get asked. But while I’ve touched on some of our reasons in various posts – I’ve never written a post about how exactly we started our journey here because it’s a question that’s simultaneously easy and hard for me to answer.
But let’s start with the easy answer – our why.
In 2011/12 Mike and I had both been working sustained periods of long hours and extended travel for our respective jobs. We had been doing it for years, and burnout had been creeping into our lives in a big way.
Our oldest son was nearly 3 years old, and essentially, up to that point, had been raised by a nanny. Neither of us were willing to contemplate having a conversation about growing our family.
We easily had another 17 years (minimum) left in our careers, and if we maintained the current trajectory, our stress levels and work demands were only going to continue to climb. We knew something had to give.
Thus far it had been our family and personal lives.
We had both thought we were juggling things well, both ignored the toll work was taking, and we had both previously seen our first marriages dissolve.
At separate times, we had individually reached the precipice of our financial means. Having stretched ourselves arguably beyond capacity by each buying our ex-spouses out of our former homes.
We both knew what it felt like to be holding on by our fingertips. Staying afloat by working immense amounts of overtime in order to keep an incredibly unstable house of cards from crashing down around us.
Fortunately for both of us, we were able to prioritize the long game, and through a lot of hard work, grit and resolve, intermixed with many moments of floundering, uncertainty, emotional turmoil, and a hefty market crash, we both ultimately regained solid financial footings.
We also reached a space where we had a moment to lift our heads up and breathe, as well as to glance around at our surroundings.
What we saw made us realize that we were no longer okay paying the price of “success”. Over many conversations we slowly turned our minds to the fact that we wanted to effect change in our lives. We wanted to shift our priorities.
We wanted to measure our success by the metrics and strength of our family, rather than the metrics of our career’s and bank accounts.
That was our why.
It took a lot of work. Many iterations of trying to find a good balance between our family and our work. Slowly we were able to dial back our hours, learn to say no (easier said than done), and over all find a sense of satisfaction and productivity in the spaces of our life that didn’t involve work.
The overall process took several years of intentionality, hard work, and plenty of failure along the way.
Regaining control of our time was equally as difficult, if not more so, than effecting the financial architecture to achieve Financial Freedom.
The when is the harder question.
When people ask me this question, I can’t help but wonder, did the roots of our desire for Financial Freedom stem from a frugal genetic make-up, or did it start when our parents had conversations with us about savings? Or maybe when we both got jobs early in life because we liked having control over our own personal money?
Or was it when my Dad cautioned me to think long and hard before I sprung for the A/C in my very first car, because the additional $50 p/month payment could become really important down the road?
(Admittedly – no A/C was a challenge in a climate that frequently boasted 40+ degree Celsius weather in the summer. But I followed my Dad’s wise advise, and not having AC certainly taught me a lot about needs vs. wants. It also necessitated bringing a second shirt to work due to massive back sweat after the drive. Gross! But he was also bang on – a couple years later when I was able to buy my first home, the availability of that extra $50 each month came in handy on a few occasions.)
Or maybe it was when I made the decision to pass on post-secondary education and look for a job that had the potential to pay a substantial salary because I couldn’t stomach the prospect of student loans when I didn’t really know what I wanted to do?
I’ve tried many times to identify a specific time or experience in life when my tendencies toward frugality took hold, but looking back – it was a slow evolution. The totality of our life experiences built a foundation from which Financial Freedom was something we could even consider. The small decisions and the big. The good money influences and the bad. The fortunate opportunities, and the epic failures. The hard work and the uncertainty of direction.
It was everything.
It was all of those things that led us to a place in life where Mike and I met. Where we had independently nurtured strong financial habits and views, where we had developed the confidence that we could get through hard times, and where we possessed the knowledge and understanding that we were absolutely the creators of our own future.
The trillions of mind boggling variables that led us to a sunny spring day in 2012, when we decided to take a walk along the beautiful tree lined streets bordering the breath taking views of English Bay in downtown Vancouver. It was at that moment, and because of everything that led to it, that we hit our fork in the road.
It was before FIRE, Financial Freedom, or Mr. Money Mustache were trendy things people were talking about, and while we’d read many finance related books, it wasn’t until years later that we would even hear of Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez or their incredibly powerful book “Your Money or Your Life“.
So our conversation wasn’t exactly about wanting to pursue FIRE, or having heard about some cool new idea to retire early, but it did centre on freedom, choice, and questioning our priorities.
How could we build a life where we took back control? One where we were no longer participants in the rat race? That walk, and that conversation, changed our financial and life trajectory in ways that we never anticipated.
And the biggest change came from stopping, stepping back, assessing where we were at, and changing our mindset about where we wanted to go.
It didn’t happen all in that one day. Changing our mindset took awhile, but the clarity of that conversation was definitely the first concrete and intentional action we took towards recognizing (out loud): We are not content with our current life. WHY?
The obvious follow-up question was: What kind of life would we be content with?
Throughout the conversation we consistently came back to one singular answer – a life where we could choose how we spent our time.
The feeling of real choice was what we were missing. The feeling of being able to escape from the raging swells of societies river, relentlessly pushing us along with the rest of the world, setting standards and expectations that weren’t our own, but we had felt compelled to meet.
We wanted to eliminate those. To live our own lives, follow our own path, one that we forged through intentional decision making and ownership.
Once we reached that moment of clarity – the rest was simple. We knew freedom meant not being reliant on our jobs, choosing to go to work instead of having to. The difference in that one word was so incredibly powerful.
So our game plan to achieving choice was to identify where we wanted to end up, make sure we were on the same page, eliminate all debt, and simultaneously build passive income streams.
Fortunately, making things happen is something we have always been good at. Like dogs with a bone, we got after it, in a big way. By 2017 we had reached Financial Freedom. We each ended up taking extended leaves from our work.
We never went back.
If You Are Considering FF or FIRE……..
If you are reading this post wondering if this whole FIRE/FF thing could work for you, ask yourself these questions.
Are you entirely content with your current life? If the answer is yes, don’t change a thing. Contentment is an elusive beast, if you’ve found it within your life, enjoy every moment.
But – odds are, if you are reading this, your answer is probably no, or at least partly no. If that’s the case, then ask yourself (and your spouse) what a life of contentment would look like for you?
And I don’t mean what your ideal vacation would look like – but what would your day to day, forever more, life look like? The one where you would feel CONTENT.
Content with what you have, content with what you are doing, content with who you are. Truly content. It’s easier said than done.
But once you have the answer to that question – build a financial plan that allows you to get there. Maybe it’s Financial Freedom, maybe it’s FIRE, maybe it’s not. Maybe it will take 2 years, maybe it will take 30.
There are no rules to this, and there is no “right” way – it’s called personal finance for a reason.
Build the plan that will get you to where you want to be. Take the pieces of financial movements/ideas that work for YOUR plan – discard the rest.
Listen to the voices and influences that motivate and energize you to pursue YOUR state of contentment – ignore the rest.
Then – get after it.
This post marks the 99th post here at Freedom 101. The past two years have been a lot of fun, and have given us a chance to chat and connect with some amazing people who are pursuing their own versions of Financial Freedom.
Thanks to all of you for continuing to follow along with us, and for making this such an amazing endeavour.
Post 100 will be coming out next week, and in it we’ll be launching a new YEAR LONG series. We hope you’ll be as excited about it as we are!