Pursuing FIRE is fun and exciting, but how do you stay motivated once you've reached financial independence and can retire early? Here's what we're doing,

Fighting FIRE Fatigue: Why We’re Creating More Short-Term Financial Goals

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Editor’s Note: Holly is back! Read her latest piece every Monday at Club Thrifty.

Whether you’re a new reader or a “ride or die” Club Thrifty fan, you may have noticed that we haven’t shared a whole lot of financial details for a while. That’s mostly because we’ve been focusing on a wide range of goals, including creating a few products like my new freelance writing course.

We also completed a major home remodeling project last year, traveled around the world for sixteen weeks, and basically lived the dream!

But, I promised Greg I would write more on the blog this year. So, here I am, keeping those promises!

My first post for the new year is going to bare some of our financial details for the world to see, but I’m also going to discuss how different life is for us now than it used to be.

From Debt Repayment to Pursuing FIRE

For those who don’t know our story, back in about 2011, we were around $50,000 to $60,000 in debt. Most of it was made up of car loans and student loan debt (not a lot of credit card debt), but it still S-U-C-K-E-D. I hated making monthly payments to a bunch of people every month, and I despised making interest payments. Fortunately, we killed all our debts within a few years other than our mortgage.

Once we were free of student loans and consumer debts, we paid off one of our rental properties and focused all our attention on our home mortgage. Over the course of a few years, we totally murdered our mortgage! You may even remember me writing about how we earned $2,000 in credit card rewards in the process and cashed them in for a Mediterranean cruise. Boom.

After that was over, we paid for a $100,000 home remodeling project in cash. We added on a 25 by 15 family room and a huge-ass paver patio that I absolutely love. We also had to get carpet, furniture, some decor, and other stuff…so it wasn’t cheap.

Like I said though, we paid as we went. We accomplished our goal, and now we have a house that’s worth about $325,000 with no mortgage. Nada. None.

Why I Loved Debt Repayment

Don’t get me wrong; we have been investing like crazy this whole time.

We have Solo 401(k)s with Vanguard so we can save a bunch of money for retirement. We are also saving cash for another rental property that may be purchased in the future when the housing market tanks again. (It will; it’s just a matter of time).

And, of course, we invest with Fundrise and earn a crap-ton of interest on our savings with our CIT Bank Savings Builder account.

But, you know what? It’s all pretty boring to me!

I actually miss paying down debt because it was such a fun and exciting experience.

When we were paying off car loans and student loans, I was constantly playing around with debt repayment calculators and trying to earn more money so I could pay off debt at a faster rate. And when we were paying off our mortgage, I LOVED seeing how big of a payment I could come up with each month, scheduling it online, then logging into my account to see my new balance. It was like a drug, and the sheer thought of an early mortgage payoff made me high as a kite!

And, even once our mortgage was paid off, I was pretty stoked to pay for our home remodeling in cash over the six months it took. I diligently tracked our payment progress and made sure I set aside enough cash to cover each upcoming bill. I enjoyed funneling the payments to my contractor through Plastiq.com to earn more credit card rewards, and I was pumped when the whole thing was paid off in the end.

But then…it was like the air was sucked out of the room.

Nobody cared that we paid off our house except for us and maybe my parents.

There were no fireworks. No mortgage burning party. No call into Dave Ramsey for a cheesy debt-free scream.

I basically woke up the next day like a regular person without a mortgage and without feeling any different. Honestly, it was a big letdown.

Pursuing FIRE is Boring, But Important

Why is everything that’s good for you also insanely tedious and boring?

Exercise 30 minutes per day to maintain your health. Start a budget. Eat broccoli. Whatever.

The most advantageous things in life are rarely fun, but we do them anyway.

These days, we are saving an absurd amount of our income because we don’t have any bills other than taxes, groceries, kids stuff, and travel expenses. It’s cool to know we’re reaching FIRE (financial independence, retire early) at a much faster rate, but it’s also pretty anticlimactic.

When you know you won’t stop working until your kids are college-aged, there aren’t any numbers that actually matter – regardless of your financial situation. There aren’t any fun calculators to play around with when you are on pace to retire early in almost every scenario on Earth. The only thing progress to get excited about is tracking your retirement and investing accounts, but that doesn’t have near the immediacy that debt repayment brings.

Setting Short-Term Goals

So, to stay motivated, we’ve decided to create some mini-goals to shoot for – tangible goals that we can focus on and actually achieve in the next few years. Those goals currently include:

  • Saving $100,000 in cash to purchase another rental property in 2019 (although we will not purchase until we find another rental we want to buy, which may not happen this year)
  • Investing $20,000 more with Fundrise or LendingClub in 2019
  • Maxing out our Solo 401(k) accounts, including the “employer” match from our business
  • Trying to EARN more money in 2019 – our goal is to reach another six-figure tier of earnings with my freelance career, our courses, and our website this year

These goals may not feel as exciting as debt repayment once did, but they are tangible.

To save $100,000 for a rental property in one year, for example, we need to save $8,333 in cash every month. That’s no small feat, regardless of how our expenses are. So, I am excited for us to put our heads down and knock this one out of the park.

The rest of our goals (like retirement savings) are pretty much on auto-pilot, but I’ll still make it a point to log into accounts and track them regularly.

FIRE Fatigue: The Bottom Line

Is debt repayment easier than pursuing FIRE? I absolutely think so, and I know I’m not alone.

There’s something exciting about creating a short-term goal and pursuing it with fervor. That feeling is much harder to replicate with a goal like retirement since it’s so far away.

For us, FIRE fatigue is real. So, for now, we’re going to focus on short-term goals like saving for another rental property and funding other investments. It’s our first-world solution to a first-world problem (FIRE Fatigue), and we think it’s the best way to move forward considering our lifestyle and goals.

Hopefully, we’ll get more pumped up as we move closer and closer to the day we can stop working altogether. And if not, hey, at least we’re doing the right thing.

Do you ever feel like your financial goals are boring? How do you stay on track?

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  1. Nice to have you back. I appreciate your enthusiasm for finance. After reading this entry I am confused with one point you made. How do you have an employer match in your 401K if you are self employed??

    1. Our business is able to contribute to our Solo 401ks in addition to the max we can contribute ourselves. So we “match” ourselves so we can save more and reduce our taxable income.

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