My FIRE is Sputtering

This is not the post I was planning on writing for you today. According to my calendar, I should be delighting you with the simplicity of asset allocation. Instead, I find myself tired and lacking motivation.

The path to financial independence is sloooooow. We are looking at 15 years if:

  1. We (continue to) work at it
  2. The sharemarket gods remain benevolent, or at least continue to provide the historical average return
  3. We don’t do anything stupid when markets drop, as they will at some point.

We are still in Year 1 of those 15 years.

Besides being slow, working towards financial independence involves making lots of little daily decisions. Day in and day out, we have to decide to not spend money. To take our lunch. To plan meals and go grocery shopping. To cook and freeze. To keep an eye out for bargains on things we’ve identified we need.

Cat looking unimpressed.
I am not impressed with the daily requirements of life right now.

Rebellion!

For some reason, this month, I’ve rebelled against the discipline. For probably only the second time this year, we wasted food. Last time was because of a change of plans that was out of my control. This time, it was a deliberate ‘I don’t want to eat that even though it’s perfectly good food, I’m buying takeaway’. This meal sat in the fridge for so long that even I had to admit it wasn’t worth the risk. These days, if someone were to ask, I would state with complete conviction—‘We never waste food’. Yet, we did.

Another example—it was Sunday. We had to do meal planning and grocery shopping for the week ahead. I didn’t want to do it. Mr. ETT eagerly agreed, and that was the end of it. That night, I said I couldn’t be bothered cooking tea. He jumped straight to ‘I’ll go out and buy it’. More takeaway.

My poor attitude this month has made me realise that at this point in our lives, I am the primary driver on our trip to FI. Mr. ETT is along for the ride, but if I run out of petrol, then we sit and wait until I walk to the station to top up. I’m the one responsible not only for identifying behaviour change, but also for ensuring it’s continually practised.

I’m still not the binding nominee on Mr. ETT’s Super. I gave him the form to fill out. He did that, got the witness signatures, yet hasn’t put it in an envelope and posted it. Also, remember how we had to replace our lost life insurance certificates? While I filled everything out, received the replacement policy certificate and subsequently reduced my premium, Mr. ETT hasn’t started filling out the form. I even had to hassle him to make sure he paid his own tax bill.

I guess it’s not surprising that I’m tired. I’m doing the heavy lifting for two. I’m the un-fun parent, the one that always says ‘no’, and tells you to clean your room.

Angry/cranky cat.
‘Don’t make me come in there!’

Reasons

To understand this in context, we all have different limits to our mental capacity. Right now, Mr. ETT is at a point where he needs to leave his job. I’m sure many of you can understand how draining and soul-sucking a job that no longer fits can be. I’ve been there, to the point of crying before and after work each day. Some trips I had to pull over because I couldn’t drive and sob at the same time.

It isn’t a matter of just getting another job for Mr. ETT. We are looking down the barrel of at least 15 more years in the workforce. Does he even want to stay in his field? Should he retrain? Step sideways? Take a role that pays less? Travel further? These are huge life decisions that take a lot of investment of time, energy and mental capacity. Although being FI now would solve some issues, we’re still far away. Until we work through this, I will remain on my own as chief pilot and navigator of the Enough Time machine.

But you know what? I’m resilient. I can see my rebellious behaviour for what it is. I will pull myself up by my bootstraps and get back in the driver’s seat. The advantage of a long journey is that this month only represents 1/180th of the time it will take. That’s a smidge over 0.5%. We may not have even wrecked our daily spending rate goal. I just have to be careful that this behaviour doesn’t become embedded and ongoing.

Also, this is a snapshot of our lives now. When Mr. ETT gets a new job that he loves, it will free him up to help keep me on track when I fall over. As for next week? I’ll be right back with the promised post on asset allocation.

If you are in a partnership, is the day-to-day of FI shared equally? Is there someone to pull you up if you begin to make poor decisions?

Disclaimer: this is a whinge and a first world problem, but it’s also about the feels.

12 thoughts on “My FIRE is Sputtering

    • But I have a need for perfection, and I feel like every dollar counts! Actually, I think I’m after the easy way out, which is (sometimes) just having someone to tell me what to do. Until I then rebel against being told what to do… my behaviour doesn’t make sense.

  1. J @ Hey, It's Just Money! says:

    hugs I can totally relate to this (and to your feels). I also like sticking to goals and I don’t like failing, but through the years, I realised I can only do/achieve so much. Especially with money. Sometimes, we have to be kind to ourselves, too. I actually had a self-care day the other week. I had a mild panic attack overnight and when I got to work, I couldn’t concentrate. I went home and had a sobfest. I reflected on it and figured I was tired/drained/stressed from: looking for a house, looking for investments, rebalancing our portfolio, planning a holiday, searching for alternative work prospects, etc (there is an etc.). I mean, yeah. My body and mind didn’t like that. I tend to overthink and over worry about the future. I had to stop and tell myself to chill.

    Take it easy, be kind to yourself. 🙂 A small slip is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Like you said, it might not even affect your spending rate. You can do it!

    • Wow, J, you’ve got a lot going on at the moment. No wonder you are tired. Also, even though it is arbitrary, I really think that coming to the end of the year has something to do with it. Only instead of winding down, there’s a wind-up for Christmas.

      Thanks for the encouragement, I appreciate your comment. We can both do it! I hope your self-care day helped.

  2. Roz says:

    I love this honest and raw post. Much prefer to read this than asset allocation! I feel the same as you and I am the driver in our home and it is exhausting. We just pick up when our strength returns and keep going. Motivation will come back to you when the time is right.

    • Thanks Roz. Writing it down helped, but hearing that others find it exhausting helps a lot too. It seems crazy that something like this can be so draining! I guess that’s one reason the FIRE community exists online – to support and encourage each other in ways we don’t always get from the people in our lives.

  3. Your highs won’t feel as high if you never experience the lows. <— no idea who said that first but I always try to remember it when I’m having a down day.

    I completely understand the need for someone else to take the reins sometimes. If Mr ETT was excited or enthusiastic enough to take on the grocery shopping it might not have been so bad. The hardest part is sometimes getting out the door. Perhaps for those days when neither of you have the mental energy to be on the ball in every waking moment you could have a backup ‘takeaway’ in your freezer. A couple of supermarket frozen pizzas, or some leftover lasagna etc. You may come to find they are quicker and easier than going to get takeaway and nobody has to play the ‘adult’ (and subsequently cheaper and healthier too!)

    It’s good to acknowledge the flat days/weeks though as they are an important part of any journey (haha I sounds like a 10th grade English teacher)

    Have a great day!

    B

    • You know, I was pondering this in context of my migraines. They are horrendous, and for 2 (sometimes 3) days I’m essentially non-functional. But when I finally come out of one, I feel SO GOOD. I appreciate feeling normal. I have a spring in my step and a smile on my face, and I can walk with my head held high. Are the migraines worth it? No way. But that is the silver lining, and you’re right, Miss B. The silver lining of feeling as I do at the moment should give me a better appreciation for when I am motivated again.

  4. slackinv says:

    Hey Mrs ETT … I remember lots of moments early on in the FI process where I thought I was going nowhere. When you are starting, progress is very slow (or sometimes you might even go backwards!). It is disheartening but you are setting yourself up with the right habits and eventual success is assured. Celebrate little FI victories and tiny achievements with Mr ETT … Have a special dinner (wine helps with me and Ms SI) discuss what you would like your future to be … and if it worth some sacrifices now – Its much easier to travel in a canoe if there are two paddlers! Good Luck … and ride through this minor setback. Cheers and regards, Slack Investor

    • It’s really helpful to hear you say that, Slack Investor. You’ve been here, you’ve made your way through, and you are the perfect example that if I do persist we will eventually make it.

      I will take some time out with Mr. ETT. Yesterday we reached a small numerical milestone, and it’s easy to acknowledge then let it pass by in the monotony of daily life. We should make time to celebrate and renew our enthusiasm for the end goal. I appreciate your comment.

  5. Oh no, you’ve fallen off the wagon lol!

    I hope MR ETT is really with you on this, and only temporarily struggling?

    I like the fact that you point out any perceived failings or missteps – it’s really refreshing. Some of us bloggers like to pretend we always stick to our principles and don’t do anything wrong 😉

    This tends to be common. There’s usually one partner more focused/motivated than the other. I was the (obsessive) driving force on our journey. I constantly felt like the bad guy, questioning everything we bought, did, valued. Although once I pointed out our new priorities to my partner, it made sense to her. I suppose it was constant persuasion, and then when she could see we were getting closer and there was light at the end of the tunnel, she even came up with some savings ideas herself and helped us keep on track.

    Come to think of it – when I felt discouraged about how long it was going to take, I just looked for ways to (possibly) make it faster. Finding new ways to save, doing more overtime, learning more about investing. And once I calculated the difference it would make, it gave me more motivation to find more improvements…so maybe when you get frustrated – go have a brainstorming session??

    • Yes, I did! Mr. ETT is along for the ride, but he’s a natural spender. It takes a lot more effort for him to remain disciplined, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he takes the opportunity to return to old ways.

      It could be the timing as well. We don’t feel like we are seeing any real progress because the payoff is still so far away. I’m sure that as we get closer it will be easier to stay disciplined. I remember that happening when the mortgage finally started to drop off. There was nothing for ages, but we reached a point then suddenly it was getting faster and faster. We just need to keep going until we see that with our investments.

      It has been a while since we sat down to specifically look at where we are and what we are doing. Brainstorming here we come…

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