We weren’t born to just pay bills and die.
You’ve probably seen this quote floating around the Internet. It’s totally apropos for what we here at Changing Our Default are doing. FIRE (Financial Independence and Retiring Early) is now a primary goal for us.
“We were meant to live for so much more…have we lost ourselves?” – Switchfoot
Too many of us have bought into this insidious lie, this belief of what life is about. Going to a good school, getting a job, working until we’re 65, then retiring. If we’re lucky, maybe we get a decent number of retirement years, enjoying good health and freedom and enough of a nest egg to trek to Arizona every winter.
Hands up if this sounds like what you were always taught. Yeah? Now, hands up if that sounds like the extraordinary life you imagined for yourself as a kid. No? Me neither.
Part of the problem is, this perspective is so ubiquitous that you feel ridiculous anytime you try to go against it. Early retirement? Financial independence? Surely these are mere pipe dreams, feasible only for the ultra-rich or those who sell some invention for millions.
Nope, better to stay the course, follow the reasonable path of working for forty or fifty years, saving ten or fifteen percent all that time to finance a meager retirement. Then cross your fingers, praying the money won’t run out before your time does.
This default setting is problematic for so many reasons. There’s the obvious issue of working away our healthiest and most vibrant years and retiring only to find we don’t have the strength or health to actually enjoy the “golden years” as we’d always planned. Our bodies are constantly wearing out, and no one wants to risk being confined to a limited lifestyle once we finally shed the shackles of the 9-to-5 work world.
The dangers of a deferred lifestyle
The “deferred” lifestyle, as Tim Ferriss calls it in his bestseller The Four-Hour Workweek, holds little appeal to us. We want to embrace life, to experience new challenges and wonders all the time, to enjoy the moments we have now, in the present.
Don’t we all crave that?
This isn’t selfish greed. This is taking what we’ve been given, rather, entrusted, by our Creator, and making the most of it. No matter what you may believe about the purpose of life, one fact is certain: our time here on this planet is finite. We won’t live forever. So we want to savor all the beauty we can pack into the hours and days and months and years we have left. Waiting for the weekend, waiting for our next vacation, waiting for our retirement at 59.5 or 62 or 68 or whenever, doesn’t sound like much of a life to us.
Defeating the lies we’ve been told
- Lie #1: We believed we could never save enough for retirement unless we had incredible, six-figure incomes. False.
- Lie #2: We believed a two-income household was imperative in order to afford a decent and comfortable lifestyle. False.
- Lie #3: We believed it was perfectly acceptable and normal to take out loans and go into debt to buy cars, vacations, and other necessities and luxuries. SO false!
We believed we were stuck doing the jobs we only “sort of” like for the rest of our lives. Nope. This one’s a work in progress. Tiptoeing out onto the ledge of possibility, we’re learning that we can take risks, try new ventures and opportunities, and be willing to fail. Failure is just a sign that you tried something valuable, and it might just lead to success down the road one day.
Our money manifesto
We don’t need all the trappings of the modern-day, comfortably luxurious lifestyle so many of us have signed up for. $20K car loans? No way! Elite daycare and preschools? Nah. Too much house for our family, that would enslave us to our jobs forever? Not for us.
We’ve slashed our spending in dozens of areas over the past few years, getting really serious, or “gazelle-intense”, as our friend Dave Ramsey would say, only in the past eight months or so. Mr. COD has always been good at finding cheaper phone plans, discounted options for insurance, and the like. He’s always done our home and car repairs himself, referring to good old YouTube for instruction as needed. We started shopping at discount grocers instead of pricier grocery stores. We downgraded to a ten-year-old minivan rather than going out and financing that sleek Hyundai Tucson we’d been eyeing previously.
Something flipped a switch in us. Whatever it was, it motivated us to pay off our student loans and all other debts immediately. It made us willing to cut back on our dining out and shopping and other spending areas, and find many cheaper alternatives in our everyday life. Why?
Because we were made for more! We don’t need all that stuff that costs extra money. We’re at least as happy, if not more so, making do with less. We’re not tying up our identity in things.
Time–that’s what truly matters. We’re tired of putting so little worth on our time, and we want to make the most of the time we have, with the people who matter most.
We finally discovered a key secret of FIRE. Early retirement and financial independence? NOT a myth. Not remotely! People all over, people making average salaries, everyday people like you and me, are finding out the secrets to living the lives of which they’ve always dreamed. And it doesn’t take a million-dollar invention, lucky lawsuit, or marrying rich to make it happen. There are reasonable, intelligent, practically painless ways to save more money now and be able to retire years, even decades, earlier than your contemporaries. Or, if you prefer, you can take mini-retirements instead, doing a yearlong stint helping orphans in Nicaragua, or learning Italian in Florence, or traveling around the country in an RV.
Now, we’re 35 and 40, so we’re obviously not going to be retired super-duper early. But we still expect to be doing what we want to do by our early to mid-fifties, which is a big improvement over what we thought not so long ago.
For us, the first mini-retirement of sorts is going to be my (Mrs. COD’s) staying home with our two young boys starting this summer. When I started the school year last August, I dreaded leaving my little guys with a babysitter 40-plus hours a week. I didn’t see a way out of it. Now, thanks to the changes we’ve made only in the past year, I gave my resignation a month ago. I’m going to be able to be a stay-at-home mom for several years without worry that I’m jeopardizing our family’s security or future. What an amazing gift!
It’s all because we changed our default. We didn’t continue on the path we had been following for so long. We’ve made some humdingers of financial mistakes, but we’re fixing them. We’ve changed what we typically would do in financial situations, and these changes are making a real difference. Here we are with our future and our present looking brighter than ever. We listened to Dave Ramsey, Mr. Money Mustache, the Frugalwoods, the Mad Fientist, and so many other personal finance bloggers, and believed we could change.
So this is our journey. We want to share it with you because we’re so grateful for those who have shared their financial struggles and successes with us. We want a record of our journey for us and our kids. We also hope to maybe even save some of you from making the same mistakes we’ve made with our money, giving you real and effective alternatives to following the crowd. By no means have we “figured it all out”. But we’ll be here chronicling our journey towards financial independence. Along the way, we’ll talk about changing all kinds of habits, from financial to physical to relational. We hope you’ll join us, sharing your own default changes and how those make your lives better.
C.S. Lewis said it well: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
What defaults do you want to change? What dreams have you deferred for far too long? What are your beliefs about financial independence?