Mindset

Is Financial Independence a Blessing or a Curse?

Is Financial Independence a Blessing or a Curse
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Cody
Hit me up!

Cody

Creator at Fly to FI
Cody is a personal finance junkie who constantly tracks his net worth with Personal Capital.

In his spare time, he enjoys exploring the globe for FREE using travel rewards.
Cody
Hit me up!

The alarm wakes me up at 5:40 AM. I get up, shower, scarf down breakfast, and leave the house by 6:30 AM to catch the 6:57 AM train. The train ride is 1 hour and 23 minutes long. During the ride, I spend my time writing blog posts, editing the podcast, and responding to emails. I arrive at South Station in Boston at 8:20 AM and walk 15 minutes to my office.

I sit down, clock in, and begin the nine-to-five grind. 95% of my workday is spent sitting in a cubicle staring into my computer screen. Ideally, I clock out at 5:20 PM to catch the 5:40 PM train back home. Again, I spend the entire train ride blogging, editing, or doing administrative things for my side hustles. The train pulls in at 7:03 PM (when there are no delays) and I get into my car at 7:10 PM.  Finally, I drive 10 minutes to the gym, spend 45 minutes to 1 hour there, and get home around 8:45 PM.

I wolf down dinner and then, depending on the night, I either record a podcast, write content, plan social media posts, answer emails, or [insert laundry list of other tasks]. I typically get to bed around 11:00 PM and then repeat that exact same routine every single day of the week.

A Reality Unknown

I’m not looking for pity. I know that I am beyond fortunate to live in America, have a roof over my head, know where my next meal is coming from, earn a great income, enjoy amazing family and friends, and so much more. However, despite all of this fortune, I still wake up each weekday with feelings of disdain, weariness, and entrapment.

If you’re like 67% of Americans, you probably feel the same way. Now, here’s where the dilemma ensues: Is financial independence a blessing or a curse?

At my office, and at offices around the country, I know that many employees have similar feelings about their nine-to-five jobs. However, these same employees have been stuck in the hamster wheel for so long that they forgot what it feels like to stop running.

Hamster Wheel Fly to FI

These complacent, unfulfilled employees have accepted this routine as their reality, and see no chances of escape. They show up, clock in, do their job, clock out, get home, de-stress, and continue the cycle for 40+ years in the hopes that, someday, they can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The craziest part? Despite the monotony and lack of purpose experienced by many of these employees, they have convinced themselves that “it’s not so bad” and “everybody has to live like this”. These people have not seen the light. They have not been exposed to the tenets of financial independence and life flexibility. Should I pity their ignorance, or envy it?

Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

I have woken up from the Matrix. Mr. Money Morpheus and his band of FIRE-advocates have unplugged me from the system and allowed me to take a step back and see the world through a different lens. I don’t want that life. I don’t want to run on the hamster wheel until my legs collapse, only to then “enjoy the fruits of my labor” at the young age of 65.

Are my complaints unwarranted? Maybe. Should I just suck it up and live like I’m “supposed to”? Maybe. Is my judgment clouded by my American-given sense of entitlement? Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned before, I am incredibly grateful for the things I have, people I know, the society I grew up in, opportunities I have been granted, etc. Nonetheless, this whole financial independence thing has transformed my mindset and my outlook on the world.

Sometimes, I’m a bit jealous of those who haven’t discovered financial independence. There are also some people who have heard and just refuse to believe it. It seems that if you say “this isn’t so bad” enough, your brain actually starts to believe it.

These people, trapped in the Matrix, are at least somewhat content with their lives. They don’t mind showing up to work, mindlessly writing or punching numbers for 8 hours, and repeating this routine for 5 days per week, 50 weeks per year, and 40+ years of their life because “everybody else is doing it”.

Was I lucky to stumble into this financial independence movement, or is ignorance really bliss?

Knowledge is Power

Since discovering this financial independence movement, I feel that I now have a responsibility to society. I (and the rest of my fellow financial independence content creators) need to play the role of Neo and fight back against the system.

We need to ‘wake up’ as many people as possible and show them that a different type of life is actually possible. One that doesn’t involve sitting in a cubicle for 8+ hours per day, 50 weeks per year, and 40+ years of our lives. One that doesn’t keep us away from our passions, goals, family, friends, and relationships.

We need to illustrate that it is possible to create a life that you love. Once the light bulb in your brain flicks on and you realize the true value of money and what it can buy — at that moment — you take back control of your life.

Financial independence is truly the greatest gift of all. Share the message with your family, friends, coworkers, classmates, and anybody else who will listen.

As I conclude this post I feel that I have answered my initial question. Knowing about financial independence is a blessing. Although it may be a burdensome blessing, and ignorance surely involves less of a moral responsibility, it is a blessing nonetheless.

As long as I’m still creating content, my goal is to convert as many hamsters back to their human form as possible. There is more to life than slogging away in a cubicle, longing for each weekend, and dreading Monday mornings.

Are You With Me?


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Note: I am not a financial advisor or fiduciary. All the information presented in this article reflects my opinion. I am not liable for any financial losses incurred related to this content. My content is always written with the readers’ best interests in mind. I believe that my content is helpful and well-researched, but it is not professional financial advice. For more information, read our Privacy Policy.

28 thoughts on “Is Financial Independence a Blessing or a Curse?

  1. Great article.

    I’m a little bit older than you.

    I’m currently on vacation with my partner and my partners parents (one retired, one close to)

    The thing that struck me was all the retired people, shuffling around in cheap ‘sensubke’ Clothes and looks of – I’m not sure what. Bewilderment? Fear? Is this what I worked all those years for ?

    But also the younger guys with dreadlocks living in vans. Also – what am I doing?

    What am I saying? FI yes. Passive income – absolutely. But as you say once you’re off the hamster wheel, have a life you love planned and waiting for you.

    1. Really appreciate you taking the time to read. You definitley make some insightful points.

      I think the key is to be intentional in every stage of your life. The people you are describing sound like they let life happen to them.

      The hamster wheel is definitely a dangerous contraption, but getting off with nowhere else to run can be equally as dangerous.

      Have a happy thanksgiving!

  2. Once you swallow that pill the whole game changes and you can’t go back.

    I too am glad I have awoken from the slumber and stumbled onto the world of FIRE. It is sometimes tough to not let in on the secret those who have not discovered this reality.

    Keep carrying on what you do and word will eventually spread

    1. Thanks for reading, X-ray! It really is a superpower and it’s a shame that only a small subset of the population knows it exists.

      Hopefully in a few years that will all change as FIRE gains more mainstream recognition.

  3. The knowledge of financial independence is definitely a blessing. When I was your age I didn’t know about “FI” but I did know I wanted to save my money, buy property and plan for financial goals. I would urge you to balance your desire for FI with enjoyment in your current life. Don’t look at your job as a giant hamster wheel. Look for ways to make it more enjoyable. Youth often brings great, out of the box ideas, creativity and vigor. Try to use your time to find ways to make work better and more interesting. It doesn’t have to feel like such a drudgery and if you are counting down the days to FI then rethink your plan. You shouldn’t feel miserable between now and then. You have the power to make it more tolerable and maybe even learn to like going to work. I’m twice your age but looking back I can now see how much fulfillment and satisfaction I felt at work. If you are wise enough to reach for FI I bet you’ll have no problem viewing work in a different light.

    1. Thank you for the insightful thoughts OFG. I think the problem stems from the job itself. You’ll definitely enjoy my post coming out this Sunday 🙂

      But I completely agree. However, if I want to feel value from my corporate job I think I need a more intropreneur type role. At my current job it’s very cookie-cutter procedures and not much room for creativity. It’s more like “get this done by this deadline” type of work.

      I truly appreciate the kind words. Don’t worry, I’ll be enjoying my journey very soon!

      1. I definitely agree with you both.

        I tell my younger staff two things they need to be doing:
        1. Treat their boss (me) as if I was a client, not their boss. Change their mindset about how to deliver a project, issue or even just an email. Responsibility. Resourcefulness. Autonomy. Efficiency. Treat it like paid learning for your next job. And
        2. Since I work in architecture- what does your portfolio look like?. I.e. what can you take to your next role from where you are here. How can you show what you personally brought to a project, process or situation rather than just doing what you were supposed to.

        Both the business and these young folk benefit from really showing up at work and improving beyond the ‘hamster wheel’ approach.

        I also urge them to get out of work on time. Regardless of what’s on your plate, nail it. Get out on time. Glad to see you have that one covered Cody.

        Oh, and happy thanksgiving to all my US Friends

        1. Thank you for your advice and for all of the kind words! I know that I will eventually find my calling but my current role at my current company just isn’t doing it for me.

          With this mindset I’ve adopted, I’ll find something eventually.

          Happy thanksgiving from us over in the U.S.!

  4. Hustle now, because goodness knows once you get a life, you’ll never have this sort of time again.

    I want to commend you for having a fire in your belly, but please tell me you’re going out and making memories. When I was job hunting in the midst of the recession, a friend from an entirely different line of work scored me an interview. I am very lucky that I knew her socially, because that position was never posted.

    Why did you choose your career? For the financial aspect of it? Or because you love it?

    Because 19/20 days, I love my job. I’m happy to be going in. I’m not thinking, I really gotta do this another 30 years?

    If that way of thinking spawned your blog, maybe you should consider a career change.

    (Unless your problem is that they’re sticking 22-year-old you with the grunt work. It’s like that!)

    https://www.melanie.city/

    1. Thanks for reading Melanie! Unfortunately I chose my current career for the money. It’s definitely not something I want to be doing for the next 30 years, but I’ll find my calling

      I’m still young so i have plenty of years to write new chapters of my life 🙂

  5. The thing I don’t get is voluntarily spending 3 hours a day commuting. I chose a high paying job eight minutes from my house in a town with no traffic. I have a dozen multi-millionaire friends here who have lived the same life. No commute, enjoyable six, sometimes seven figure annual compensation jobs. And a cost of living third lowest in the country. I really don’t get how big city life seems to be where it is at for millennials when the time and money cost of living is so high there. I rarely see millennials discuss geoarbitrage when it comes to their careers. I’m not criticizing it, just trying to understand it. Even my three millennial kids are in larger cities making far less money than I did at their age.

    1. Steve, valid points and I appreciate you taking the time to read. Although this commute is voluntary, it is temporary. If you haven’t read https://flytofi.com/financial-freedom-book-tour-the-next-chapter-in-my-life/, then you can check out what’s next for me.

      As far as finding high-paying jobs close by, I live in a rural farming town with very little opportunity for earning a substantially high income straight out of college (and have a short commute). I chose to pursue the banking job I have now so that I could quickly build a cash cushion to ultimately jump ship and pursue my entrepreneurial dreams.

  6. This schedule sounds awful. More opportunities open up as you get older and the autonomy of work gets better. Being financially secure allows you to take jobs you might not have taken if you were beholden to a lot of debt or a certain lifestyle. Financial independence is more about that freedom of choice than stopping work altogether. Meaningful work is fulfilling to me. I feel better when I have contributed.

    1. Yeah the schedule is brutal, although only temporary. I understand that more autonomy comes with seniority but I’m not about to wait around for the corporate hierarchy to decide that for me. I feel most alive and fulfilled when I am working on my own ventures and creating things myself. Unfortunately, the role at my current job does not give me this feeling whatsoever. Financial independence is different for everyone. For me, it’s about having the option to live a more intentional life by setting up passive / semi-passive cash flow streams to support the costs of my monthly and yearly expenses — and of course investing the difference.

  7. I certainly welcome the challenge of financial independence. I don’t want to work on someone else’s dream my entire life and hope others see the advantages of pursuing financial independence.

    However, we can’t all FIRE. If everyone pursued it, a massive sea change would occur in our economy and would cause the world we face to change.

    I’ve enjoyed the skills I’ve developed from my work and feel grateful for the many wonderful things in my life it hasn’t afforded me. I’ve gladly traded my time for invaluable experience. With enough dedication to FI, I hope this trade eventually changes to benefitting me more through opening up time to invest in other pursuits.

    1. Financial independence is one the greatest blessings of this community. Understanding that there is a different path and that time is more valuable than money are revolutionary thoughts.

      When you say “we can’t all FIRE”, it seems to focus on the RE part, which may be true. However, I (and many others in this community) definitely plan to continue work once we hit our FI number / cash flow goals. But, instead of working towards someone else’s dreams, we will pursue our own.

      Depending on your job, there are definitely benefits to be enjoyed. But, if you’re like me and are fed up with the daily drudgery, then it may be time to move on and pursue something more in-line with your values.

      Thanks for reading!

  8. Hi Cody,

    Nice read for this article. You need to start on your own path, your”re still young, but i really admire you for your responsibilities and drive. You’re still taking the train into Boston everyday, I feel for you. I’m fortunate, I only have to go to Burlington, MA, so I’m away from the city. Keep up on your thoughts, dreams and passions. Work hard, because it’s hard work that will get you to financial independence.

    Alan

    1. Alan,

      I really appreciate all the kind words and your support on my journey. I really do believe that life is too short for me “suck it up” and “grind it out” just to hit some magical number to chase my dreams and passions. I certainly have long days now, but not for long! Hopefully everything pans out and my entrepreneurial ventures can comfortably support me next year. I’ll keep all the readers of my blog updated!

      Cody

  9. Discovering financial independence is a blessing. But the difficult thing is whether you can last on the hamster wheel for at least 10 years. That’s when it really gets difficult because everything gets really really monotonous afterwhile. But I think you got a grind it out for at least 10 years to build that after-tax investment portfolio to generate passivenincome.

    The time will go quickly and you won’t regret the grind!

    Sam

    1. Hey Sam! Thanks for reading. I’ll definitely have to find a job that aligns more with my values and passions. As of now, I’m going full-blown entrepreneur and we’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep the community updated 🙂

  10. Financial independence is merely a milestone on the journey of life for some

    For others their milestone is forgiveness and experiencing the self freedom that comes of it and for some others their milestone is their knowledge they are planting a tree for tomorrows children to enjoy its shade.

    When most people first hear of the F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement it’s natural to assume the movement is all about money and being free, however we would be wrong.

    In truth the F.I.R.E. movement is about self-discovery, our authenticity, experiences and our journey towards personal mastery. The mastery of being able to better define, develop and live our own authenticity and to add value to others.

    1. Well said, Peter. The FIRE movement extends far beyond just the money and number-crunching aspects. It’s a long journey toward self-actualization and figuring out what truly gives you a sense of purpose. I was lucky to stumble onto this concept early and now I have my whole life ahead of me to pursue my biggest and most audacious goals!

  11. I was indeed happier with my job before I found FI, but would not change path if I could 🙂
    Your work to help people see that they have options is so inspiring.

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