With this article series you can follow our journey to financial freedom step by step. That way everyone can see how we achieved our goal and all steps, the ups and downs, along the way. In this special article, I discuss my Will of FIRE, the will to pursue financial freedom. Wish us luck!
The Will of Fire
Financial Freedom is the state in which you can retire while still being able to achieve your life goals. In my case, that would be starting my own restaurant, which was a childhood dream, and giving financial advice. My boyfriend would love to be able to spend more time on his hobby and develop himself in other fields and go back to school again to learn more. Perhaps these things sound familiar, I guess everyone has a dream of what they want to do if they win a lottery or when they retire. Yet, not many people seem to make that dream come true. Sometimes, life gets in the way. Accidents happen, people become untreatably sick. There is nothing a person can do about that, its terribly bad luck and unfair. However, more times than not people keep themselves back. Comfort zones become too comfortable. Fear keeps people from pursuing their dreams. Low self esteem keeps people from believing they can be more. I do not judge people for it. Every person makes choices in their life and it is up to them to decide if those were the right choices.
But people who pursue financial freedom cannot make excuses. They try to reach for something very few people achieve. That means they need a good plan and a very strong will to reach that goal. You need to be able to face your fears and challenge the status quo. You cannot swim with the current because that current will not get you where you want to go. It may also mean you have to argue with friends and family who will not believe you. Who will tell you that life is too short to live below your means. That it is too much of a risk. In order to face all that life throws at you, you need a strong will. Therefore, in order to give you some behind-the-scene insight into my journey, I will explain to you what my “Will of FIRE” is. I will explain why I want to achieve financial freedom but also what I am willing to sacrifice to achieve it, how strong my will to achieve it is. You must first know that a will doesn’t come over night. It is something you find out and develop over time. Children can have a very strong will, but it is unlikely to be financial freedom. Children are often (but not always!) sheltered from financial trouble by their parents. Still, in order to understand the strength of a person’s will, you need to look back in time.
In order to determine what I wanted, I journeyed back in time. What made me go down this road? I found out that developing my will has been going on for a while already. My dad wanted to quit working while he was 50. The idea of retiring early is from him. But the idea in its current form wasn’t worked out yet. I had considered stopping a few years earlier just because the retiring age was raising. Financial freedom was still completely unknown to me. My dad also never reached his goal. He is still working at the age of 62 albeit 4 days a week instead of 5. My dad said life got in the way. I think he made wrong choices. Even at the age of 62, he could have stopped working. He didn’t, instead he bought a big house and a vacation home. I don’t blame him. He is happy. He is happy working. He is happy with his home. He is happy to have a place to stay for vacation. He made a choice. It is just not a choice I would make.
I guess in a way you could say that it is my turn to achieve the goal of retiring early. That I inherited his dream. He prepared me unknowingly throughout my childhood. I grew up with a sound understanding and interest in money. When I was around 5 he read a financial newspaper to me and explained how the stock market worked. During high school it is no wonder that I loved and was quite good at economics and related subjects. At that point in time, all I wanted was to use that knowledge to become rich and wealthy and it didn’t really matter how long it would take. I pursued the subjects that would get me a career that would earn a lot of money quickly, no matter the cost. That changed right after I became an adult at the age of 18.
Suddenly, I had to pay for things instead of rely on my parents. I moved out of the house and into a student home. I had to pay rent and groceries and for water, gas and electricity. Vacations turned out to cost much more than I had imagined. Money was never an issue in my childhood so I had all of that when I was a child. Money management was something that also came naturally to me when I was young. I liked having money and I had a natural tendency too look for it but I was not so keen on spending it. I guess that was a family trait. So when I started studying I didn’t see the harm in having some student dept. I wouldn’t spend much and I would easily be able to pay it back when I started working, after all I had set my mind to money making career. I would keep a monthly budget and save some money during the year to go on holiday during the summer vacation. Study dept became a solution but, as I later found out also a chain. Working to earn money besides studying became normal. I had several jobs on the side, from student-assistant at my university to paid volunteer at the student bar.
My studies did learn me to look critically at the world: Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Microecomomics, Leadership and Strategic Management. Over time I started to realise that the world isn’t such a straight path. There are unconscious and conscious choises and paradigms that shape the world like in the Matrix movies. It changed my views. I didn’t want to become rich any more. I just wanted to earn enough to live the life I wanted. I wanted a nice house, see a bit more of the world, enjoy time with my friends and family. Around me I lost some people. My parents were relatively old when I was born (end of their 30’s). More and more people started to pass 55 and I realised that at that age, death starts to come around the corner. I lost family members and friends of my parents I grew up with a loved dearly. Because of my older parents, I saw these developments before most of my peers. It made an impact. By the time I was in university most people had passed their 50’s. Someone died the year she was supposed to retire. Other people never even made it to that age. Cancer started to become a familiar term that thus far had only sounded like something old people died from. I became scared and a little depressed. I started to focus more on saving money, instead of spending it on frivolous things. After my bachelor, I changed university to pursue a master and from there on things started to change. It all started with a new study and another side job.
In 2017, when I was 23, I started working at the McDonalds. It was a conscious choice. I had some extra time because my pre-master resulted in me only following half the amount of courses from normal. A job would earn me some extra money and could learn me some things. I decided to go for the McDonalds because I wanted to learn about logistical efficiency and learn how to work hard. I also wanted to work in the restaurant business in order to learn a thing or two for when I started my own restaurant (that has been a dream for way before the financial freedom plan). Working at the McDonalds was one of the best and worst decision of my entire life. It was the worst decision of my life because the work sucks. It is has a low pay (minimum wage), sucky hours (night work), it is quite dirty (cleaning toilets) and dangerous work (grill burns all over your hands). Not to mention you have to stand for nearly 8 straight hours. Yet, working at the McDonalds was also the best decision of my life. I worked there for 3 months for 24 hours a week as I had a temporary contract, which is NOTHING compared to other people, and I hated it. The first month was still sorta OK. The hours were fine and I learned a lot of new things that were useful for the restaurant I wanted to start. The second month was not that fun I started to lose sense of time because of the late hours (most of my shifts ended 7am in the morning). I became stressed, anxious and my diet was all over the place. From the second month onwards I started to count the days till the contract ended and the 3rd month was just hell.
It may look weird to say that this was the best decision of my life but it was. I hated working there and it made my realise that this was REALLY not what I wanted. I hated it that the job I hated could decide if I could take vacation or free days. I hated it that I had to work for 8 hours instead of 6. I hated it that I had to plan my free life around my job. Sure, studying has its deadlines and exams but when I do things or how was never an issue. Working changed that. It forced my to live into a certain rhythm that I could barely change. Of course I had had a summer job in the past but that job gave me an enormous amount of freedom, intellectual challenge and I always knew it was temporary (1-2 months). This job felt like an eternity. I felt stuck and my misery also didn’t really translate into more money that I could use to make up for the misery. At the same time, my pre-master and master studies became more of a slur than an enjoyment. Why was I studying for a job that may earn me a lot but would limit my freedom the same way? Of course I knew that my job after finishing university wasn’t going to be as bad as the side job at the McDonalds but it had put the world into perspective. Because my work, whatever it was, would still mean I was chained to it. Where my studies has some form of freedom, work often does not. You are paid for a certain amount of hours, not for the result. You study for a grade but that grade depends on your intelligence and a bit on the amount of hours. You are always stuck working the hours you need to work. I became determined to find a way out of it. I had finally learned the true value of money. The true value of money is TIME.
Around that time in 2017, I encountered a Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) article. It was a breath of fresh air, it showed a way out. I had to turn money into time. I realised I needed to make plan. It started with small plans on how I could achieve it. Of course I had my Dad’s blueprint but that one didn’t work out. So it needed some tweaking and I would have to do that myself. At this point it was still an interest, it was a bit more than a dream but I had not started my career yet. Financial freedom became an interest which quickly turned into an obsession which later became a life style. When I finished my study I was happy it was over. I had finished that part of my life. But I also had to make a choice. I could continue to go on the path of wealth and chains. I could go for an easier life and be less chained but for a longer amount of time. Or I could go for financial independence and later financial freedom. I picked the last choice.
I want to enjoy life before I am old and vulnerable. I lost people that died too soon and I cannot forget them. I cannot avoid what happened to them but I can make the most of my life before the risk becomes to big. Working my entire life until the formal pension age and risking the chance of dying before I get the chance to enjoy it. I felt the stress of working and now know why it kills people and makes families miserable. It is so important to me, I even took it into account when dating. I want to do whatever I want whenever I want it. I want to live my life in a nice house, not too big, and enjoy the time with my friends and family doing the things I like and I need my partner to agree with that. I want to see the world and contribute to this world. But most of all, I want to be there for the people that need me. This is why I pursue financial freedom and why I know I will make it. This is my Will of FIRE.