FIRE—Financially Independent, Retire Early—has been gaining a lot of traction on social media. From Reddit threads to Facebook groups, the community of individuals scouring the internet for saving hacks, investing tips, and simple calculations to retire well before they hit 65 has grown considerably. Some people cut out all the nonnecessities from their budgets, downsize their homes, and work extra jobs to save enough. Others pick up investment books and read through personal finance bloggers’ posts looking for the right figure before they call it quits. Having enough money in the bank and the potential to never work an office job again excites many people on the journey to FIRE, but they often overlook the possible downsides.
FIRE bloggers write about the challenges and trade-offs associated with pursuing financial independence—the skipped happy hours, the rice and beans in lieu of take-out dinners and delaying a vacation or two—but not everyone opens up as quickly about the impact on one’s mental health, before or after achieving it.
Retirement at any age can shake a person up emotionally. Depression and binge drinking is common, as is loneliness and deteriorating health. Getting psychologically ready to shed the identity you have built over the years can be unnerving. With FIRE, you take that emotional vulnerability and turn it up a notch. Going against the classic tide of life can add in a lot more worry: concerns about running out of money, doubts of making the right choices, and fears of no longer being useful to the world. Not to mention the “I-told-you-so” from unsupportive friends and family members if your plan fails.
While immediate gratification after FIRE might seem fulfilling, it is short-lived. Passion and purpose are the main drivers of enjoyment once the long vacation plans are accomplished. Brad Klontz, co-founder fo the Financial Psychology Institute, believes in going long and creating a detailed vision after accomplishing FIRE. “Think about year 5,10, 25,” he said. “Everyone has a list for the six months, very few people have a plan for what they are going to do after their vacation.”
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