I am writing this from a hotel room 250 miles from home on another business trip. For this short jaunt, I decided to drive. On the way here, I had to pass through New York City. As anyone who has done that jaunt can attest I spent a lot of time sitting in traffic going nowhere very slowly. That got me thinking of how much of my financial life currently feels like it’s stuck in traffic, but also how much that might not really be true.
The Slow Middle Between FIRE and Debt
About two years ago I wrote a post about how it feels to be in the weird abyss of personal finance between fully financially independent and in debt. That period of the accumulation phase seems to go on forever. I am knee-deep in that phase and have been for some time.
Already FI, Just Not FI Enough
Now don’t get me wrong, as noted before in some sense I am already Financially Independent (FI). If I were to geo arbitrage, be comfortable with just the 4% rule to my current spending levels, or be willing to cut some corners I could retire tomorrow. I have a lot of gratitude for that as I know it’s not a common thing. But, I don’t want to do any of those things. By my own number, I won’t be financially independent until about double what I have today.
The Slow Slog Towards Hitting Our Financial Goals
Now, before we continue I should note I am still not in a rush to retire. Our plans remain set at 55, which is years down the road. But I’ve also had quite a bit of frustration with my new job. If I were closer to my Financial independence number I might be more likely to push management for an extended sabbatical. Instead, I keep plugging along and the progress seems to be moving about like the traffic over the George Washington Bridge last week.
I’d estimate the double goal is at least half a decade away, if not a full decade given the current state of the market. A decade, it sounds like a long time. A decade ago I was dating my wife, had no kids, and still had never owned a house. A lot has changed. The world around me has changed.
Oh the Changes We Will See In the Comming Decade
State of the art ten years ago, and I know this because my Corvette was on that edge in some areas, were cars with keyless entry and push-button start. Those features are now everywhere and we are talking about driverless cars. Ridesharing companies like Uber literally just came into existence. The world of travel, like my life, was completely different just 10 years ago.
Slow But Not Slow: Ten Years Doesn’t Necessarily Feel Long
On the flip side, however, ten years doesn’t feel like that long ago. The older I get the longer the relevant measurement of the passage of time seems to be. If you were to ask me if the 90s were long ago I’d say yes. However, someone celebrating the historic 00s would get a weird look from me. And yet here we are knocking on the 20s doorstep. Funny how that happens.
Forget About IT
The reality is ten years will be here before I know it. Our savings goes up between 1 and 2 times expenses every year. So real and massive progress. So the problem is not the progress itself. The key is to not become obsessed with that progress. A watched pot never boils and watching yourself slowly drift towards Financial Independence can drive you crazy. A better plan is to get things setup correctly for your finances. Then configure them to go on autopilot.
Check back every few years and Financial Independence will sneak up on you before you know it. It’s no coincidence the best investors time and again are shown to be those that forget about their accounts. Attention drives a desire to tinker, and tinkering leads to worse outcomes. It also leads to less enjoyment in other areas of your life.
For those in the mid part of the Financial Independence Journey, have you automated? How often do you check your progress?