Here’s why you should aim for FIRE (financial independence, retire early) even if you love your job.
There are a couple of common objections I hear against going for FIRE (financial independence, retire early). The first and most common objection is that it’s just impossible. I disagree with this, and recently broke down the three simple steps to FIRE.
The second objection I hear is this: “I love my job!”
The reasoning goes like this: “I don’t need to worry about FIRE because I love my job. I’ve got a great boss, good pay, and good benefits. I’ll be happy to keep on working in this job for the rest of my life.”
When I hear this, I nod and make empathetic facial expressions. But inside, I’m vigorously shaking my head. If they let me, I’ll spend a few minutes trying to convince them of one essential point:
Nothing lasts forever
Here’s what I hope you realize:
- You have a great boss, right now.
- You love your job, right now.
- You’re healthy and able to work, right now.
I’m a relatively young physician, now about five years into my career as a surgeon. But I’ve already seen examples of all of these elements changing virtually overnight in both my own life and others’.
You have a great boss, right now
You might have an amazing boss. Perhaps they’re understanding, empathetic, fair, and inspiring. Maybe you love going to work just to bask in their glory. Perhaps the amount of power they wield over you doesn’t bother you, because they’re awesome.
But things can change.
Last year, just a couple of months into the pandemic, my department chief announced that he was stepping down. This was the person that interviewed me, hired me, and mentored me as a young attending surgeon.
This really rocked my world and introduced a huge amount of uncertainty into my work life. Who was going to be selected as the new chief? As an employed physician, my department chief has a lot of influence over the day to day aspects of my schedule. Eventually, I myself got selected as department chief, which in a way decreased that uncertainty.
But as soon as this happened, I suddenly found myself with two new bosses: the hospital medical director and the surgical director.
Luckily, both of my new bosses were excellent. But just a few weeks ago, my surgical director decided to step down as well. Hello again, uncertainty!
I’m optimistic that the new surgical director will do a great job, and hopefully we’ll get along well. But the last year has made it really clear that when it comes to bosses, nothing is certain.
Given the power your boss has over your life, I argue it’s best to prepare for the possibility that your boss isn’t so great.
You love your job, right now
Let’s set aside bosses for a minute. Let’s talk about the minute to minute details of your workday. Do you enjoy most of your day? If so, count yourself lucky. You get to do something you mostly enjoy, and get paid for it! That’s great.
I also enjoy most of what I do at work. It’s a great privilege that I can use surgery to fix my patients’ problems. It’s instantly rewarding in a way that’s hard to match.
But there are a lot of challenges to my job too. For every patient that thanks me with heartfelt gratitude, there are two patients that are perpetually disappointed with me for some reason. And of course, there are the sleepless nights of overnight call, the grinding clinic days with 30 patients, and the stress of being responsible for the health of other human beings.
For now, I still feel like I enjoy most of my job. But what if that proportion shifts, and I find myself disliking more and more of my work hours? In that case, I’d love the freedom to walk away and find another job, or even switch careers.
You’re healthy and able to work, right now
This one is really a no brainer. If you’re healthy right now, that’s fantastic. I hope you stay that way forever, until you pass away in your sleep at the age of 120 years old. But what if your health changes?
In the last decade, I’ve seen the following examples of unexpected health changes, all in people I know who were below 50 years old:
- Heart attack
- Fall from ladder
- Multiple sclerosis
- Brain aneurysm bleed
- Advanced cancer diagnosis
- Chronic pain after routine surgery
I could go on and on. Every day that you’re in good health is a blessing. But health is one of those things that can change in an instant. So I believe it’s essential to prepare for a world where you can’t work, even if you want to.
Of course, disability insurance is going to play a big part here. But it’s unusual for disability insurance to cover 100% of your prior income, and that payout may still be taxable.
Furthermore, there’s no prospect of raises or salary increases with disability coverage. It’s like forced retirement. Your income gets fixed at that moment.
In the event of disability, the financial discipline and assets required for financial independence will allow you to not only survive, but to thrive, at least financially.
So today we went over the reasons why you should plan for FIRE even if you love your job. To sum it up in one phrase, it’s this: nothing lasts forever.
Your boss, your job, and even your health can change in an instant. There’s no better preparation for these possibilities than prepping for financial independence. The ability to replace part (or all) of your income gives you choices if your boss suddenly grows horns and becomes intolerable. If you find yourself disliking more and more of your day to day work week, a strong financial position gives you the freedom to consider alternatives. And if your health changes, having alternative streams of income can make a huge difference.
I know that personally, having a steady stream of cash flow from our rental real estate is incredibly reassuring. Although it currently would only replace a small part of our annual expenditures, it gives us extra breathing room if anything were to change with our jobs.
So what if you read to this point, and you’re like, “Well none of this applies, because I hate my job!”
Well that makes it even simpler. What are you waiting for? Start your journey to FIRE, right away.
So do you love your job and don’t see the point of FIRE? Did you find this convincing? Comment below, and subscribe to my weekly newsletter so you don’t miss a post!
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This is probably the best argument for achieving FIRE that I have ever read. Great post!!!!
Thanks so much Ian!
The points about our boss and job are spot on. For the past 10 years there have been three of us in our practice. And it has been a great 10 years. Same schedule. Same boss. Same partners.
Now we are hiring a fourth. Which should be good for all of us. But then there is change. Changing the clinic, OR, the call schedules etc. Hopefully change is good and we will know in a year. But nothing is certain. Hopefully another great ten years ahead.
One thing about achieving FIRE is understanding how quick or slow YOU want to get there. Not anyone else. Also learning to be flexible and pivot if necessary.
Thanks for sharing your story. I agree — it’s about guarding against the uncertain with the certainty of a strong financial position.