GCC: We first met Bob and family at an expensive import coffee shop (aka Starbucks) in Osaka, Japan, where we enjoyed some tasty treats as a globetrotting respite. So clearly this was after they had found balance and inner peace :) Check out this personal story from the trenches of hard saving, and the important reminder to enjoy the journey.

Lately, Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) is getting a lot of attention. The concept is literally spreading like a wild fire as more main stream medias are publishing FIRE related stories. This is certainly true for Jeremy and Winnie, as their story has appeared on many different media outlets.

The core concept of FIRE is simple – Increase your savings rate by decreasing expenses and increasing income. Invest the savings in appreciating assets. Once these assets produce sufficient passive income to cover your expenses, you are financially independent. You can retire early if you choose.

Although my dad retired from full time work when he was 43, my wife and I didn’t fully grasp the key benefits of financial independence (FI) until 2010. After reading many personal finance and investing books and blogs, we began to take charge of our own finances. We simplified our investments and learned to take advantage of the tax-free and tax-deferred accounts.

We are now 8 years into our own FIRE journey. Thanks to our passive income streams, various side hustles, and our house in the hot metro Vancouver housing market, we can be financially independent today if we choose to. We also feel blessed that we could retire today if we wished to. But we realized that we have more to do than just be ready financially.

When we first started our FIRE journey, I wanted to cross the finish line as quickly as we possibly could. I spent a lot of time looking at our budget system and evaluating which expenses we could eliminate. I had the idea of spending as little money as possible, so we could invest more money and build our asset empire quickly.

I began to develop the save, save, and save some more mentality.

As my desire to reach FIRE as quickly as possible got stronger I began to question all of our household spendings. At first, my wife and I were on board with the idea. We started feeling guilty for spending money on treats like chocolates, coffees, pastries, sushi, and other “treat-your-self” expenses.

The finer things

Unfortunately, it was not a healthy practice. Over time, we began to feel that we were not enjoying our lives. We were having arguments often on these small expenses and ridicule each other for spending money on unnecessary things.

At one point, I felt that my wife and I were drifting apart because we didn’t see eye to eye financially.

I knew we had to fix this quick. I didn’t want to be financially independent without my wife.

After a bit of soul searching and reflecting, I began to realize that FIRE isn’t as simple as crossing a finish line. I was looking at FIRE the wrong way. I was rushing to get to the FIRE status at the expense of my relationship with my wife. She was holding a grudge against me because we couldn’t agree on how to spend money, or rather how to save as much as possible. I also realized that life does not change suddenly after we reach FIRE. Life continues the same way regardless of us having reached FIRE or not. Rather than focusing on the FIRE journey alone, I realized that I needed to focus more on my life journey with my wife and our kids since they are the most important part of my journey.

I had realized the importance of finding the right personal balance between spending money now to enjoy the present moment and saving money for the future.

Spending money does not always mean bad. Spending money is a natural process in life. It’s OK to spend money on things that are important to you.

It comes down to prioritization.

If you prioritize travel in life, spend your money on travel and get that incredible experience. If you prioritize outdoor adventure in life, spend your money on outdoor gear and outdoor trips. If you prioritize good food in life, spend your money on quality ingredients and cookware so you can prepare your own meals. If you prioritize experience in life, spend your money on those experiences instead of things.

Today my wife, our kids, and I enjoy going out to a cafe to enjoy latte, hot chocolate, and some pastry treats occasionally. Yes, we spend money, but we get to spend quality time together and enjoy each other’s company. We also get to build stronger relationships.

We also spend money on travels. Because we get to create unforgettable memories and we get to explore new cultures, new foods, and new cities.

Along our FIRE journey, my wife and I have also learned the importance of personal development.

For example, I am by no means the perfect person and there are many things I can work on to improve myself. I read self-improvement books to learn to control my temper, manners, and develop the ways I interact with other people. I am practicing gratitude every day, I am spending quality time with the important people in my life, I am learning to be attentive and be present, I am learning to accept ideas and other people. I am not striving to become perfect (nobody is perfect anyways), but each day I am working on becoming a better version of myself than the day before.

I have learned to get involved in my community to help others in need. My wife and I have provided helping hands by volunteering and donating money. For the past few years, we have sponsored single-mom families for Christmas by buying food for the family and gifts for the kids. We also got our young kids involved so they could learn the importance of giving back to the community.

Today, we have decided that we are not in a rush to reach the FIRE financial milestone. We are prolonging our financial independence journey by choice. Whether we reach FIRE today, tomorrow, or 10 years from now, I am not too concerned about the timeline. I am content where I am in life. I know we will reach FIRE one day, it is simply a matter of time. And when that time comes, we will be ready!

Enjoy the journey