Interview with The Fioneers: My experience downshifting to a lower stress job

In the second half of 2021 I had the absolute pleasure of being interviewed by Jessica from The Fioneers about my experience downshifting to a lower stress job.

If you’re not following The Fioneers I encourage you to head on over to their socials and blog and subscribe to their content. I love their content because they don’t cover the usual path to Financial Independence (e.g. reduce expenses to the bone, and invest at least 60% +++ of your income).

Instead, they are taking a different slower and more sustainable approach to Financial Independence coined Slow FI and write about their own journey via their blog. My favourite recent blog post is their experience in 2021 ‘Designing a life we don’t want to retire from‘.

The Fioneers also have a number of interviews with others who are taking a different approach to the conventional financial independence journey. My recently favourite interview was with Mr. 1500 who reached financial independence in 1500 days (no that’s not a misprint). But, this achievement wasn’t what The Fioneer’s interview focussed on at all. The interview with Mr. 1500 was around why he was telling people to slow down and enjoy the journey. The interview is aptly named ‘Avoid the “Death March” to Financial Independence‘, and I strongly encourage you to read it.

This brings me to my own opportunity to be interviewed by Jessica from The Fioneers around my experience ‘downshifting’ to a lower stress job and still working towards financial independence. For those who aren’t familiar with ‘downshifting’.

‘Downshifting’ your career involves taking a step down in the role you have now to a level with less stress or minimal management duties.

For a long time, I loved working having a high pressure / high stakes job role. But over time, the stress and expectations of it wore me down. I didn’t want to be on call every day. I didn’t want to deal with the politics. I just wanted to do a great job and come home.

If you are interested in reading more feel free to read the full interview here via The Fioneers website.

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I’ve lost my FIRE mojo…

As midnight passed on the 31st of December 2021 I didn’t feel my usual excitement, or the desire to create a set of goals for 2022.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Pexels.com

In the days leading up to the end of 2021 I saw so many awesome fellow bloggers sharing their 2021 wins and their goals for 2022. I was happy and excited for each of them, and usually this would then inspire me to to write and share my own. But instead I felt no desire to do so, and just figured that the desire to set some goals would come once 2022 rolled around.

I was wrong………..

So here I am sitting here trying to think of anything I want to aim for (and can likely achieve), and I’m coming up with blanks.

Something is wrong and I’ve think I’ve lost my FIRE mojo.

Don’t get me wrong I still want to FIRE but I’m worried about making any goals this year. 2022 just feels so uncertain, and I don’t feel I have a lot of control over what is going to happen this year. This lack of control has left me feeling extremely unmotivated, and searching for ways to get back my motivation back.

So what am I doing about it……..

Well the first thing I’ve done is recognise it and accept how I’m feeling.

Next I’ve done a bit of a google search to find the top ways to get your mojo back, and have cherry picked five that I like best and I’m going to try.

  1. Get a small win: When I read this mojo suggestion it made complete sense to do this. So I’m setting a really small goal for this week which is to print out and set up my 52 week investing challenge for 2022 (link here to free printable). I’m hoping seeing this printable on my fridge ready for my first pay of 2022 will get me feeling a little more motivated to setting some goals.
  2. Physical Activity: I had a bit of an ‘of course’ moment when I read this one, but me without a mojo just didn’t have the capacity to come up with this myself. So this week I’m going to go for a good walk and hopefully feel a little more inspired.
  3. Stay away from Triggers: Another suggestion I kept reading was stay away from negativity, but I decided that staying away from triggers was more tangible. Common triggers for me are not enough sleep, alcohol, and too much screen time so I’ll be avoiding these.
  4. Be Kind to Yourself: I’m going to be super kind to myself during this time, and give myself some extra time to get used to 2022. It’s okay for me to not be operating at 100%, and I’ll get there in my own time.
  5. Look backwards and review your progress: Hubby and I skipped our date night in December as we were just so busy. During our date nights we usually look back at our last sprint’s (month’s) progress and refocus. Reviewing our progress usually gets me motivated for the next sprint. So I’m going to make sure we prioritise it this month.

Anyway I’m hoping that these mojo suggestions are going to have me back to feeling more motivated for 2022 (fingers crossed).

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How to pursue financial independence with a family

We stumbled onto the concept of FIRE otherwise known as Financial Independence Retire Early in mid 2019. Just over 2 years have passed since then, and in this time we have been actively working towards financial independence as a family of four. I’ll be the first to admit it hasn’t been a smooth pathway, and we’ve done a whole heap of learning by making mistakes along the way.

When we first started our journey there wasn’t a lot of information specific to those who already had children at the time of starting their financial independence journey. I found a lot of people who had reached FIRE who now had kids, but most had already been on a FI journey before they had children. I couldn’t find anyone writing about how challenging investing that first 10k was when you had childcare, school, activities, and a severe lack of spare time (or sleep) to consider.

So we started our FIRE journey by following those whose lives were different to ours, and picked out the bits of FIRE we could apply to our own lives. In the early days this often led to my own personal frustration at not being able to ‘fast track’ our progress like others in the community had: for example we weren’t able to spend $50 or less a week on groceries, or get rid of our second car, or buy a duplex and house hack, and so on. We found having a family presented challenges that made some of the general FIRE advice difficult to follow.

These kids and dogs may look cute but they are expensive…….

So what are the major challenges to those pursuing FIRE with children?

Having connected with lots of great family FIRE accounts in the last few years I decided to put this question to the community. I wanted to ensure that the challenges we had experienced whilst working towards FI with a family were valid. Also being a family with older kids I wanted to ensure we included challenges that those with younger children were experiencing. I collated the responses and there was quite a lot of consistent challenges experienced by those in the community including:

  • Difficulty calculating a FIRE/FI number as there were unknown future costs that were difficult to calculate
  • Loss of income to be at pick ups/drop offs or staying home to care for children
  • Child Care Fees
  • School Fees
  • Extra curricular activities
  • Needing to own multiple cars
  • Less time to read and become financially literate
  • Small incidental costs that are often difficult to plan for
  • Unpaid sick leave due to caring for children during illness
  • Rising cost of living
  • Peer pressure
  • Working towards multiple financial goals at the same time (debt, retirement, investing, and travel)
  • The desire to give our children opportunities that we didn’t have growing up

I’m sure there are many more challenges that could be added to this list (feel free to add to the comments section below).

Review your challenges

If you are reading this post hoping for a way to magically overcome all of the challenges you are experiencing on your pursuit to financial independence you will be disappointed. Instead the message I want to convey is if you are pursuing financial independence then it’s important you understand your challenges, make a plan for those challenges that are within your control of changing, and learn to accept what isn’t within your control.

I recommend getting a pen, paper and spend 5 minutes writing down your own list of challenges. Then against each one determine if these are within your control to do anything about.

For example of a challenge you might be able to change: if you’re struggling with time to learn more about your finances reconsider the way you consume information. This may mean listening to an audiobook with headphones while doing the house cleaning instead of waiting until you have spare time to read a book. Or read 10 pages of a book each day instead of trying to find 30 minutes a day to read.

Then work out which challenges you can’t change.

For example we can’t go without our second car long term. It might reduce our expenses somewhat (under $50 a week), but the trade off is that we would be spending a tonne of extra hours each month in order to do make this work. I would also have to cancel some extra curricular events for the kids as public transport or walking isn’t an option for the location.

Understanding and accepting what we could and couldn’t change helped us deal with our own feelings of comparison early on in our journey. These feelings of comparison were from us comparing our situation with others without realising that our situation was unique to us, and therefore we were going to have to tread a slightly different path.

Find your Tribe

Eventually I connected with similar families on a FIRE/FI journey on Instagram who had similar challenges as us, and they were making progress without the traditional FIRE ‘fast tracking’ that just wasn’t going to work for our family.

Finding our tribe was absolutely fundamental in changing our mindset from focusing on ‘What we couldn’t do‘, and refocusing it on ‘What we could do to reach our goals‘. It helped us find inspiration from other families pursuing financial independence in areas that we could actually put to work in our own journey.

There is more than one way to FIRE

Once we found our tribe we quickly discovered that there was more than one way to pursue FIRE. When I first discovered FIRE I only knew about Traditional FIRE which was quite intimidating for us, however over time I discovered that there are so many other types of FIRE including:

  • Traditional or Regular FIRE – Generally those on a regular or traditional FIRE journey aim to invest over 60% of their incomes and retire when their portfolio equals 25 x their annual expenses.
  • Lean FIRE – Those aiming for an annual passive income to cover annual expenses of 40k or less. Those aiming for this type are typically frugal and have a minimalistic approach to their lifestyle.
  • Fat FIRE – The opposite of Lean FIRE with annual expenses of 100k or more.
  • Barista FIRE – For those who have quit their regular 9-5 job, and use part time work to cover expenses. Typically they have enough invested so they can withdraw 4% of their passive income to cover the difference in income (or even work part time).
  • Part Time FIRE – Similar to Barista FIRE those pursuing this type of FIRE aim to continue working until traditional retirement age but transition to part time working hours once their passive income is able to supplement the loss of income.
  • Flamingo FIRE – You work and invest really hard for a few years and then you semi-retire and work part time. Then you enjoy your new semi-retirement whilst your passive income continues to grow in the background until you are financially independent. To read more about this type of FIRE click here.
  • Slow FIRE – As per the name suggests this is a slower and more sustainable financial independence journey. Read more about it here.
  • Coast FIRE – Having enough invested so that even if you never invested another cent you would be able to retire at a traditional retirement age. Often Coast FIRE is a very important milestone for all who are aspiring to financial independence.

The types of FIRE above aren’t the only options out there. You may choose to initially aim for one, and then change your mind completely. Or you may choose your own pathway that suits your needs.

Get on the same page

If you are a family pursuing FIRE then it’s vital that you as a couple get on the same page. I advise you to read the Fioneers post named ‘How to pursue financial independence as a couple‘ as this really is the blueprint for designing your ideal FI life as a couple. It has some great tips for overcoming issues like resentfulness and policing, and handy hints for motivating your partner to pursue financial independence (if they aren’t as keen as you).

Continuously adapt your plan to reach your goals

Designing your financial independence plan whether for a family, couple or an individual isn’t something you do once. Your plan to financial independence will continuously be adapted and changed as you do. It’s just as important to review your financial independence plan as it is to review your expenses and budget. If your not hitting your targets then it’s time to take a look at your plan to ensure it sets you up for success. If your plan isn’t setting you up to reach your goals then it’s time to take a look around, see what you can change, or alternatively look at a slower and more sustainable goal.

Gratitude and happiness over comparison and self loathing

I’m sure you’ve heard the very famous quote from Theodore Roosevelt ‘Comparison is the thief of joy‘, but did you know that the reason we compare is evolutionary based. One of the best ways to overcome negative feelings from comparison is to practice gratitude daily (or more if you need it). I have a gratitude diary next to my bed that I complete each day with a minimum of 3 things. I also limit my time on things that may trigger me (e.g. Social Media). For me practicing gratitude has helped me be more content with the many blessings of my life and accept our slower financial independence journey in comparison to others.

I’m confident that we will get to our FI goal at exactly the right time we’re suppose to get there, and I’m sure you will too. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Starting your journey to Financial Independence in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond – Late FIRE

This post is for those who are worried they may have left it to late to start a journey of Financial Independence. My hope is that it will inspire you to start your journey if you haven’t started, or help you stay on your journey if you’ve already started.

  1. Follow those who have walked or are walking the same path as you

I’m not sure about you but I get a lot of reassurance and inspiration from those who are treading or have treaded the same or similar path as me.

I can’t help but feel a little disheartened when I can’t apply the same methods that others are using to reach FIRE for example:

  • Don’t buy a house to live in,
  • Avoid owning a car,
  • Live at home with your parents,
  • Keep your grocery bill under $50,
  • Start investing at 18,
  • etc…….

I’m sure that I’m not alone and you may have personal circumstances that preclude you from applying certain financial independence advice as well. This can often feel like a barrier, or a blocker in your FIRE journey and with every additional blocker you can start to feel a little less confident in achieving your goals.

This is where it becomes so important to find narratives that are similar to your own. This will help you to stop seeing your own personal circumstances as insurmountable blockers to FIRE, and reassure you that you can overcome them and reach FIRE.

I’ve listed a few of my favourite inspirational Late FIRE blogs below:

Project Palm Tree – Shaun is an Australian who officially declared that he was starting his Late FIRE journey at age 52. He is aiming to retire at 60, and shares his experiences on his blog.

Burning Desire For FIRE – Frogdancer Jones is an single Australian mother to 4 now grown men who retired at 57 (without a 6 figure income). I have followed her journey for many years initially on a site called Simple Savers. If you want to be inspired read this.

Late Starter FI – A blog about starting your FIRE journey in your late 40’s. Late Starter FI isn’t retired yet so this is a great blog to follow for the honest up’s and down’s of being on a FIRE journey.

Started at 50Becky and her husband Stephen from Colorado started their FIRE journey at 50 and retired early at 63. I loved their story and we both share similar retirement hobbies.

  1. Stop the comparison

Comparison is the thief of joy.

My situation is different to your situation and vice versa so if you do struggle with comparison try to work on your mindset by focussing on what you can do and implement rather than anything you can’t implement (shut out that noise).

If you want to read more on how your mindset can affect your finances click here.

  1. Stop wishing away the past and live a life of no regrets

Constant feelings of regret from mistakes you have made, and opportunities you didn’t take will eat you up inside if you don’t let them go.

I started my journey towards FIRE at 32. Prior to the age of 32 we made a tonne of ‘financial mistakes’ including misusing credit cards, buying brand new cars with loans, didn’t invest, and we even pulled out our superannuation (retirement) to buy a swimming pool (these are just a few of our mistakes).

In order to move past these mistakes and work towards FIRE it was necessary for us to acknowledge our bad decisions, learn from them, let go of the regret and forgive ourselves. If you don’t forgive yourself and learn from it then its difficult to grow from it.

Ask yourself. Is there anything you regret, and are you still holding onto it?

  1. Focus on your strengths

As you get older you start to gather more life experience, information and knowledge. You can turn these life experiences, information and knowledge into strengths which someone just starting their FIRE journey at 18 or in their 20’s won’t have.

For example:

Starting your FIRE journey a little later means you are more likely to have an established career that can assist you to get to your FIRE goals.

or

You may have previously travelled the world in your 20’s so you don’t mind skipping a few holidays and putting the money you would’ve spent to your FIRE fund.

or

You had your kids early and your children might be adults when you FIRE so you won’t have to factor in the costs associated with raising children in your FIRE number.

or

You’ve had a bad experience with consumer debt, and dug yourself out of debt. You will never let yourself get back there again.

These are all examples only, and may not apply to your situation. That said I’m sure you can think of your own lived experiences, and I encourage you to write them down and think of them as strengths you will use to succeed on your FIRE journey.

FIRE is a marathon not a sprint

Lastly for the overwhelming majority of people who achieve FIRE it takes a long time, and it won’t happen overnight. It’s easy to feel like everyone’s reaching FIRE so quickly when you don’t reflect on your own journey.

Make sure to celebrate each mini milestone, give yourself a break when you need it, readjust with your learnings, and then get back on that bike.

Ask yourself. When was the last time you celebrated how far you’ve come?

Lastly I don’t know who needs to hear this but you’ve got this (and if you ever need to someone to reach out to on this journey feel free to hit me up).

I’m keen to read about any other awesome Late FIRE blogs that you may have come across (or that you may blog on). Feel free to add them to the comments below.

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