What you need to know about financial freedom before it destroys your career
Make sure to follow these points and anticipate the impact getting close to FIRE may have on your career potential
So as you may be aware – I have a goal to reach financial independence and achieve a net worth of $1.5M by age 35, with the promise of officially leaving my corporate desk job behind.
Everyone should have their own interpretation of what financial independence means to them. To me that means not having to worry about money, and spending my time on something I enjoy. Whether that be woodworking, teaching, writing blog posts on this site – whatever it is I want freedom of choice.
Now less than 5 years away and I am hitting the $300k net worth range. I am on the path to actually achieving Financial Independence (i.e. taking my place in the FIRE community).
Becoming aware that this was even a possibility a few years ago has really impacted and completely changed the direction of my life. The possibility that you don’t have to work 40 years, 40 hours a week and grind it out until retirement age.
Now, I have found I am living a much more intentional and actually enjoyable life because of this. I have a concrete goal in mind that achieving that goal won’t just pay me back with some monetary amount, or material item, but actually the most important thing of all. Time!
Freedom to spend my time on the areas of life that are important to me. Spending more time with family, travelling more, seeing more of this beautiful earth, learning new skills, forgetting old ones (Excel anybody?), drinking Guinness, learning to ride a horse…I can keep going if you want me to? You get the picture.
However I have found recently that as my net worth has accelerated over the last couple of years, I’m not quite as motivated to succeed in my current career and job. I now see my career as a stepping stone to freedom, rather than the end goal of having a shiny corner office and climbing to the top of the corporate ladder.
Where it all started…
I have been quite surprised by this. In my early twenties starting out in a consulting firm I was extremely motivated to get to the top of the rat race. Within consulting that means reaching Partner and a hefty compensation that goes with it of upward of $1M dollars or more. I even had the goal of becoming a CEO of a fortune 500 company. I was set on this path.
Coming from a working class background and not have much growing up in a family of nine. This only enhanced that feeling of wanting career success and striving for more. I remember as a kid telling my brothers growing up, ‘You wait and see, I will be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company when I am older”.
I was fixated on this, and I flew up the ranks being promoted four times in five years. Now, eight years into my career I am now considered to be on the big bucks, $200k. More than I ever dreamed growing up, and my net worth has recently hit $300k, all by the age of 30. Not saying this to brag but to show it is achievable for anyone coming from any background.
Surely this progress would motivate me to keep on my path and achieve that goal? Which I had proudly declared to my family around the dinner table, eating our usual hot lamb stew on a rainy Irish day.
But since then, I’ve realized there is an alternative.
The alternative being you can achieve financial independence a different way, through consistency.
Aiming to save at least 50% of your income, and as high as 80% if you can. Living within your means and most importantly investing all of your savings into low cost broad based ETF’s (e.g. VTI, VOO, VEE) and REITS (e.g. HOM.U). This will get you to financial independence within 10 years.
So what impact will following this path have on your career success?
I am by no means performing poorly or at risk of losing my job. In fact I am thriving, receiving great feedback on every project I have worked on this year as well as being on track for another promotion.
But I’m now not as committed to excelling as I used to be. I feel that this is partially because material possessions used to be a big motivating factor in my life and career. I dreamt of driving an Aston Martin DB-9 (yes the one from the James Bond movie) but now I know they aren’t what’s important in my life. My priorities have shifted away from making as much money as possible to afford them or climbing the corporate ladder.
My motivation and goal is now to have freedom.
Freedom from worrying about money, bosses, deadlines, you name it.
I want to be clear that this is not necessarily a negative thing, but I’m finding it to be an interesting side effect of pursuing financial freedom. If you are also on this journey, be prepared to cross this bridge and recognize it when it does arrive. Failing to, could end in career suicide.
There are a lot of other people out there that are feeling the same thing. I have come across numerous articles and posts on Reddit, with people of all ages discussing this very topic.
So what can you do, so it doesn’t ruin your career and ultimately your goal of achieving Financial Freedom?
Take stock of the below areas if you are feeling this now and action them. If this hasn’t happened it may in the future, so prepare yourself. As I always recommend, research, up skill, keep yourself informed to make logical decisions.
Recognize it and reflect
I know this sounds a bit airy, fairy. But just take the time to self reflect and actually recognize this may be impacting your motivation to excel in your career. It’s okay for your goals and priorities to change throughout your life. In fact I encourage it, you should constantly reset and alter your goals as you get older. Don’t try and deny it, accept it, course correct and move on!
Bend the truth if you have to
I don’t mean lying, but if you’re getting closer to your FIRE target, approaching your standard annual review question of “What is your 5 year plan?” may require some alteration of what you really think. In the next five years I’ll either leanFIRE or coastFIRE. Either way, my five year plan doesn’t involve my current career trajectory. It’s difficult to be stagnant working when your end goal isn’t to progress in your career or get a pay rise anymore. Just to keep your current job and get out as soon as you hit that milestone. It also sucks having to lie to a boss you actually might genuinely like. But, don’t be stupid about it – they will understand in the long run that you are striving for time to spend on your terms with your family and on things that matter more. In fact they will respect you more for it. A little white lie will help you not ruin your career in the interim.
Find alternative rewards from your career
If money is no longer a big motivator, and you’re just putting in the time to achieve your financial freedom target. See if you can find alternative rewards from your job and career. For me that means, looking at other areas such as building a bigger network with my work colleagues that isn’t all about promotion and getting ahead. Actually looking to find friendships and common interests with other colleagues. It becomes easier when it is coming from a sincere place, not motivated by a monetary driver. This will help you enjoy other areas of your job, and could support you when you do finally move away from the corporate life or whatever job you are looking to retire from.
I have put this into practice recently, and have made some really great connections which have made it more enjoyable to go to work every day.
Decouple your value as a human from your job
Unless you truly enjoy the challenge of climbing the corporate ladder like I had set out early in my life and that goal remains consistent throughout your life. At a certain point the allure of more money for the sake of a bigger house/nicer car/fancier debt loses its allure. My career is a priority for sure, as it will help me to achieve financial freedom but it’s not the only priority. I am not willing to sacrifice my physical and mental health, personal time, and close relationships for the sake of a bigger pay-check. You should recognize this, so you don’t despise your career and end up leaving. Take your vacation, clock off early, the bigger check is not always worth it. Don’t tie your value as a human to how much you take home every month. This becomes a lot easier the more you practice it.
What do you think?
Everyone should have their own interpretation of what financial independence means to them. To me that means not having to worry about money, and spending my time on something I enjoy.
I am interested if there are others who are experiencing this, let me know in the comments.
I have also come across a few folks who have found the exact opposite. The closer they get the more motivated they are to keep climbing the corporate ladder and the bigger pay-check.
Either way, don’t make a silly mistake with your career, that you may regret a few years down the line. Be smart and reflect on the points noted above.
You will achieve your financial freedom goals happier with a bigger network of friends to call on while truly understanding where your value in life comes from.
As always, I hope you find some of these areas helpful in your own journey to whatever your goal is. Make sure to follow along on my journey on how this thing called life and my goal of financial freedom works out, I keep my net worth updated here. Sign up to my newsletter, you will receive some great free content such as a first steps to financial freedom guide and an overview of the easiest sites/places to invest, While also staying up to date on my latest blog posts to show you the path forward. I post at least weekly and no spam, I promise.
Leave a comment or contact me if you would like to get in touch and update me on your progress towards your goals.
Catch you soon,