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My inspiration for the FIRE philosophy happened long before this movement was popularized.
My father was a physician, practicing Internal Medicine in the 70’s and 80’s. I remember how hard he worked throughout my childhood. Sure we would take family vacations but for the most part I always saw him working constantly, pulling double shifts and doing extra call.
My father had the mentality that if you worked hard now, you can enjoy life later.
Unfortunately that later never really came. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and within 6 months of that diagnosis he passed away at the age of 50 (I was 14 at the time).
Despite all the sacrifices he made throughout his life, he never got to enjoy his golden years as they were cut short.
My father was an inspiration to me and I entered the medical field because of him. (I’m including my original medical school application personal essay I had to unearth 25 years later, which attested to the kind of impact my father had at such an early age.)
I admit that initially I shared the same philosophy as my father, work hard, sacrifice, and enjoy life later.
As I am slowly approaching the age my father passed away (I was born in 1971) I am starting to learn the biggest lesson from him: time is not guaranteed.
There are many ways to earn money, but there is none to earn more time.
Because of this lesson I am currently focusing on ventures that allow me to generative passive income streams so that one day all my basic needs are met without me having to actively work to earn a living.
When I am fully financially independent, I can then reassess my life and make choices that would bring my family and me the greatest amount of happiness.
- This could mean decreasing my clinical duties, or even fully retiring early, so that I have more free time to spend with family and friends.
- Taking more vacations to fulfill my desire to explore various cultures.
- Or even choosing an alternative career path that may be less lucrative but more fulfilling (such as desire to write a book or teach).
There are so many choices that can bring happiness when you are financially independent.
That is the ultimate goal of any individual on the FIRE path. To have options.
Superpower Take-Home Points:
- Time is guaranteed for no one
- Try and achieve an appropriate and realistic balance between sacrifice and enjoyment
- Achieving FIRE will allow options to help you pick the path of most happiness.
Do you know someone who kept on saving for a rainy day but never got a chance to cash in?
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Saving for a retirement and then not reaching your retirement years to enjoy is more common than we would like to believe. My parents & their generation gave me the same advice, work hard for as long as you can, then enjoy your retirement. These days that could be when you are 70+, which is not really when I was to defer enjoyment to.
My aim in FIRE is contentment, not a blind desire to seek a flurry of highs. To me contentment is sustainable.
All the best with your journey.
Thank you so much for the comment. I agree that putting off enjoying retirement until you are in your 70s can lead to a lot of disappointment. The money may be there to enjoy life experiences at that time but the body may be unwilling. It is the great parody of life: when we are young we have all the time but no money. Then as we age we progress to all the money but no time. Need to find a happy compromise and enjoy life while still able to (I think those on FIRE path have realized this)
Your father’s story is truly a tragedy, and its unfortunately a risk that we all live with. We are guaranteed nothing. Its interesting that your father’s life being cut short inspired you to seek FIRE. To me, it is an example of the risk of FIRE. In our community, we place a great deal of emphasis on being frugal, sacrificing, investing, and reaching financial independence as soon as possible. The obvious risk that we never talk about is that you will sacrifice for years, and then be denied the chance to enjoy the fruits of your labors. That risk is… Read more »
I agree taken to an extreme this can easily be a risk of fire FIRE too. I think my personal path to FIRE has allowed me to have a much different lifestyle now so I can take time and enjoy it. I’m not going to lie being in a well compensated specialty like radiology made it quicker to get to this point despite making major mistakes along the way.
It’s the personal debate that I’ve had with myself for years….”how much do I enjoy now, versus saving/waiting for later?)
I’m sorry you didn’t get to enjoy more years with your father. My dad turned 90 this year…still working in his shop. If I’m as fortunate as he is, I better be prepared for a long retirement….
Sounds like you have great genes running through you and likely have a long retirement ahead.
Thanks for the sentiment about my dad. Yeah it was a life cut way too short but in that short time I learned a lot which I put in practice today
It is difficult to find the sweet spot between planning for the future and living for today. I’m sorry you dad’s life was cut so short. Sometimes our mentors teach us valuable lessons without even trying.
Appreciate the sentiment. It is a very delicate balance. I would wager that most FIRE folks are very conservative and will end up with a large surplus at the end of life. Does that mean they could have worked a few years less? Sure. But liking paying off mortgage instead of investing there is a peace of mind with knowing you will likely have saved too much. Plus it is not all lost as you can pass it on to people you love
I always refer to my in-laws as perfect citizens, worked their whole lives, retired at 62, my mother-n-law got 1 SS check then dies, my father-n-law got 2 SS checks, then died. The were just going to kick back and help us raise their grandbabies. You never know what is around the next bend.
I am sorry for your loss 🙁 That is the great unknown, how much time does each of us have left in us. The best we can do is balance the quest for living well in the future with living well today. Go to either extreme and you will likely suffer. I have definitely taken more lifestyle choices than my father did because I saw directly firsthand what could happen (future never guaranteed).
And that’s why , as you are working towards FI/FIRE, you need to take the time to enjoy the present. You never know about tomorrow. Great post!
Thanks Caroline, thanks for the comment and stopping by. Enjoying the journey to FIRE is just as important as the end goal.
Great read! Ultimate goal is to achieve financial stability so that we can work to live and not live to work. I’ve managed to cut back to part-time status as a RN after having babies. Work is much more enjoyable when you go in because you want to and not have to.
Hey Donna. Thank you so much for stopping by and really appreciate the comment. Congratulations on being able to cut back to part-time work. I personally think I’ve extended my career by decreasing my clinical hours by just 1 day a week. I will tell you that day off can be amazing. I can completely recharge my batteries just by giving me that extra break. And when you do errands on that day off when everyone else is working, you cannot believe how much more enjoyable it is. Lines are less, stores less crowded, etc. And you can take advantage… Read more »
Very sorry to hear about your Dad. That was truly terrible, he was very young. We must all remain vigilant for balance in our lives. Working hard is important but it is equally important to dial work down as well.
The math works consistently for FI. It’s all the other areas that seem to trip most of us up. (Time, meaning, health, relationships….)
Thanks MB for the condolences. It’s hard to believe that the majority (over 2/3) of my life he has been gone and I’m only 47. I agree there are a lot of things to navigate towards FI. Fortunately the vast majority make it and able to reap the rewards of early sacrifice. Unfortunately no one is told if they are going to be in that group or the less fortunate group with the things that trip us up like you mentioned.
Wow this is so heart felt and relatable for me. I haven’t shared the story of my dad on the blog yet, but it is eerily similar. This literally gave me goosebumps.
Thanks for sharing! You are well on your way
Well that sucks it is relatable to you because I know what you went through and it wasn’t fun. Thanks for the comment and hopefully we have more positive things to be relatable
Thanks for sharing the story about your father. When reading all these PF blogs, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and be obsessed with Roth conversions, SWR, tax loss harvesting, alternative investments, sequence of returns risk, optimizing social security benefits, Monte Carlo simulations, etc, etc. I say don’t worry about it if you are not totally optimized. As DocG would say, bring your B game for that stuff. You just never know what life has in store. Plan the best you can, live the best you can, be kind and good to people, and things will take care of itself.… Read more »
Thanks for your sentiment. Absolutely correct that one should not sweat the small stuff. The biggest thing is savings rate. Optimizing can be icing on the cake but if it distracts you from enjoying life it’s not worth it
That’s a hard story to hear. Thanks for sharing your inspiration. I think you’re right. Time is not guaranteed. You have to enjoy life while you’re here. Making sacrifice is okay for a few years, but 40 years is too long. Everyone has to find their own path to contentment. I don’t believe in happiness anymore, contentment is much more achievable.
Appreciate the comment Joe. Contentment definitely sounds like the ideal way to go and I think achieving that brings happiness along with it. If you are not content you will always be comparing yourself to those more successful and that can definitely reduce happiness.
Xrayvision, I’m so sorry to hear about your father’s untimely death. From your personal statement, it sounds like he left a real legacy of joy to patients and family alike. From your writing it certainly appears the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Today, on a bus ride seated next to my daughter (10 years old), she asked when I was going to die. I told her I had no idea, which opened up an interesting conversation about balancing deferred gratification and long-term goals with current time allocation. It was fascinating to hear her ideas on the subject. Thanks… Read more »
Thanks CD for the kind words. Yeah he definitely left a legacy. It is amazing because I visited the last place he practiced (Louisiana)for a friends wedding (and about 15 years after he passed away), I was in a store and a older lady came up to me and said I remember your father, he was a great doctor and he is incredibly missed. I’m not sure how she recognized me because I was in my 30’s when I went back and last lived there when I was 14 (maybe she got lucky as there are not too many Indians… Read more »
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[…] father work hard to support his family only to die an early death from pancreatic cancer. In My Inspiration for FIRE he discusses how that experience is driving him to find a balance between life and work now in case […]
I hear stories like this one so often and I pray I am not one of those that works until I die. That is not the life I want to live. So many live in the here and now though . It is no wonder some people are never able to retire and this is sad to me. Mostly I believe because people do not feel that it is worthwhile to save or that they will ever reach their goals. Great post and a great inspiration for FIRE!
That is the scariest part of the equation, that we don’t know how much time we have left. Best thing to do is approach it in moderation and have some live for today moments and some save for tomorrow moments. Too extreme to one end and you run the risk of not enjoying life at all
Very true! I want to find a good balance.
Those Indian (and Filipino and Pakistani and Korean and Nigerian) docs from the 1970s were a breed apart. I’m sorry you lost your father so early, and glad you had him as long as you did and that he inspired you.
Every time I think of retiring I’m humbled by the sacrifice and fortitude of that generation, and it makes it hard. Then again, medicine is different and worse in every way now.
I salute your father and his generation. They broke the mold, they really did.
I really appreciate your comment and kind words. Thank you for that. It is amazing thinking of what my dad did and many of his peers. He was a practicing foreign doc that sacrificed it all to come to the US and subject himself again to more training as a resident to qualify to practice medicine here. I would be very hard pressed to make the sacrifice of essentially going through two residencies. You are right that medicine has taken a turn for the worse. It is quite sad and we sort of didn’t carry on the baton of the… Read more »
[…] mentioned previously, my father was a physician (Internist) and there was a strong push for me to become a doctor […]
Such a phenomenal post with such incredibly relatable comments. I am certain to revisit this many more times. And as I think so many would find this helpful in my work world, I’m going to share this site and this particular post. Not enough of us discuss financial strategy, plans, concerns, etc. This is a great venue to do so. Thank you so much for directing me here.
Thanks Michelle. I am glad you enjoyed the site and this post and as always appreciate the comments.
Great post! Great reminder that our time on this earth is short. I know that many were blessed to have known your father while he was alive and treating patients. What a legacy he left behind. Especially through a son who chose to also make a difference in the lives of patients everyday.
Thanks Andrea. It is wild that I am approaching the age that my father was when he died (just a little over a year from now).