FIRE – It’s about time, not money

Financial. Independence. Retire. Early.
F.I.R.E.

If you are interested in financial freedom, sooner rather than later you will stumble upon this term. While reaching financial independence and being able to retire early is not a new concept, it seems that these days it got plenty of steam, and there certainly is a very good reason for it. Probably more than one.

One of the main reasons I could think of would probably be the ever-increasing lack of job security, and the increased amount of options to travel and to explore the world.

Job security is becoming a relict of the past

As far back as I can remember, I was being told that to make a career one has to be flexible, adaptable and independent. While I got no problem with this and actually very much embrace the idea, one needs to realize that with more flexibility, we are also talking about more freelance jobs and short-term contracts. The traditional life-long assignment with one company has not become a rarity just yet, but it is becoming less common.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to blame the industry or politics for this though. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine and wouldn’t even want to work for the same company all my life. Even 4 or 5 years would feel like an eternity to me. I rather believe that this is pretty much a reciprocal alignment of interests from both, the modern employee and employer’s side.

Working in hotels, I usually receive a contract for 1 or 2 years for each property. It happened only once, that I received an unlimited contract as a manager, but in most cases, it’s a limited offer. It’s a common standard in international hospitality so I don’t spend too many thoughts on this, but for most of my friends, family, and colleagues from my home area of Germany, there is not much understanding why anyone would agree to work on terms like this.

It all comes down to security, or does it?

Of course, the main idea behind the thinking of my family, friends, and colleagues is about the job and pension security. While schools and universities are preaching independence and flexibility, parents and politics are trying to push us into “stable” careers where you don’t need to worry about growing old – and receiving a sustainable and handy pension. This might be less common in the US, but it is pretty much the idea on which Europe has been built on.

I am traveling for a long time now, and my personal attitude was to always put freedom ahead of security. I hated the over-regulated German system and always wanted to get out of it. So, talking about security was always just some annoying concept to me. Being young, educated and in a booming industry, I was feeling like I could take on the world and handle everything by myself, while having much more fun, traveling and exploring the world along the way.

But things change, and you surely start to think differently when you turn 35 and got a family to support. For me, something happened around that time, when my daughter was born.

If you got no kids, you won’t be able to understand the fundamental change in your attitude that just comes naturally shortly after your kid is born. Your thoughts and priorities will slowly start to shift, towards wanting to make sure that you can care not only for yourself but also for your loved ones – no matter what. You might be a master in survival, but your significant other and your little ones might be much more vulnerable and you might start taking this into account at some point.

Many people start then to think about security for their family. As for my case, while security is a part of it, my worries shifted not towards security, but even more towards freedom. Freedom for myself, for my wife and for my daughter.

It’s all about time and what we do with it

I mentioned it over and over again and I will not get tired of repeating it: A successful career is the single, most important piece of the puzzle that you need to work on to reach your target of financial independence as early on as possible. The logic is simple: The more you earn, the more you can save, invest and the earlier you can start living off your investments and your savings.

A successful career has also plenty of other benefits, namely opportunities to gather experience and to face challenges in areas which you might not be able to have access to as a regular rank & file employee. Every experience helps us to develop further, to learn more and to understand the world, people and everything around it a little better. Therefore, I absolutely think that one should aim high and try to move up the career ranks quickly and with a high motivation to learn and to develop.

But having said all that, there is really no reason to do it for all your life. Especially when you have a family, spending 60-70 hours a week in an office becomes less and less desirable. You want to have more time, and you want to have the freedom to use this time the way that it will benefit you and your family the most.

Now here is the single most important realization about any job:

To work means to trade time for money. Your time is limited. Money is not.

You can only have more time if you have sufficient money to support yourself. If you don’t have money, you need to trade your time for money. You need to work. The more you have to work, the less time you have for anything else.

It’s simple, but yet only a few people truly recognize the significance of this logic.

Thus, the ultimate goal is actually not really about money. It’s about time. It’s about the freedom not to need to trade your time for money. This means that we have to use our careers, our income, and our skills to invest in assets and to set up businesses, that will allow us, step by step, to reduce the amount of time that we would normally need to trade for money.

Once we reach the point that we don’t need to trade time for money anymore, then FIRE becomes a reality. Or, whatever you would prefer to call it.

On a final note

There is one more thing that I will dedicate a separate post later on, but that I would like to shortly bring up today. If you truly understood the point above, then you will also realize another fact. Since your time is limited – on a daily basis – there is also a limit on how much you can earn by trading your time for money – on a daily basis.

Think about this: Let’s say you are a barber. It doesn’t matter how good you are and how much you charge for a hair-cut, there is a time limit as to how many haircuts you can perform per day. Meaning, there is a limit to how much you can earn.

Becoming independent also means that you remove this natural barrier, by focusing on money earning methods that are scalable. Meaning: They have no time limit attached to them and can produce higher results, without trading in additional time.

This might sound a little bit more complicated, but I will get on this topic in detail at another time soon.

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