Saturday, 5 September 2015

Will I want seclusion in FIRE

I don’t learn quickly.  My successes so far have very much come from a mindset that life is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  This meant that during university and my early career (I'm still deciding if a career is a job where you don’t get paid for overtime) I spent a lot of time staring into a multitude of texts and tomes learning stuff.  During this period I also used to enjoy spending a lot of time socialising with friends and family in my spare time.  At work I was psychometrically profiled and discovered as part of this that apparently I'm an extrovert.  What I'm now starting to wonder is am I really an extrovert or was that just a response to life at that time?  That is the compulsory element of my life was a need to learn fast at an individual level and in response I craved company when spare time allowed.

Today my work day starts early and finishes late.  During those long days at work my day is broken down into not much more than 15 minute intervals.  Everyone wants/needs a piece of me and I’m constantly making decisions.  I no longer need to learn at such a great rate (I do need to stay current so some learning still occurs) with my ‘unique selling point’ now being my domain knowledge and leadership.  In return for that I'm paid well as those decisions are (currently at least) rarely wrong and my leadership skills are seen as a positive.  This probably sounds like the behaviour of an extrovert however now for the problem.

On weekends and the couple of spare hours I get during the week I now no longer crave company.  I certainly don’t enjoy spending time with wider family and friends who continue to consume like the best of them.  Their talk of how much their house has gone up in value or what new car they are going to buy now just bores me.  Instead I now chase quiet time with close friends/family while also coveting some seclusion and time to self reflect.  This blog is a great outlet for me now as it gives me quiet time to learn; self reflect and write about what’s important for me.  The question then becomes is my personal life a response to try and balance my compulsory extroverted work element, combined with consumerism no longer being important to me, or is it because I'm not actually not a natural extrovert?

As I move into FIRE (financially independent retired early) the previous compulsory elements of life – quiet time to learn fast early on transitioning into constant contact with a large number of people daily – are going to go away.  Instead the majority of my day should transition into what I enjoy and want to do.  That could be everything from a career I really enjoy (for which I may not be remunerated) to sitting in a hammock with a library of good books close by.  The question is what do I want to do?  This is where I struggle a little because of the extreme way I live - If I'm going to do something I'm going to do it well.  So right now that means an extreme extrovert during compulsory work.  Then I have seclusion on weekends driven I suspect, at least partially, by the work situation.

So the first FIRE question becomes will I naturally crave company, seclusion or a combination thereof?  Will I want to live in the middle of a town/city or will a piece of land with a humble home be me?  Which of these will my family desire?  At the moment I honestly don’t know so I'm just not going to decide.  Instead I'm going to first keep my head down and focus on crossing the FIRE finishing line.   What is then going to be critical is to not make any rash decisions until I decompress fully (which could I suspect take 12 months).  I want and need time to understand who I naturally really am when I don’t have a compulsory life element driving me.  At that time as a family we’ll decide that next crucial step.  That’s what for me makes FIRE so wonderful – freedom to do what you want, at your own pace and with no compulsory elements.


  1. Have you seen Susan Cain's Ted talk on introversion or read her book? She also has a website at Her book is quite interesting but I prefer Marti Laney's earlier book on the same subject. There are levels of introversion and getting the balance right for your own level is one of the balancing acts of life.
    Also if you were being profiled in work it's quite possible you put the answer down that you knew was expected by the company rather than the "truth" - as there is a mistaken belief by companies that the only way to get stuff done is through "teamwork" and endless pointless meetings.

    1. I have heard of Quiet in my travels but never gave it much thought until now as I always thought of myself as an extrovert. I just took the "The Quiet Revolution Personality Test" from her website and came out as an AMBIVERT which "means you fall smack in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. In many ways, ambiverts have the best of both worlds, able to tap into the strengths of both introverts and extroverts as needed. See below for information on introverts and extroverts; you’ll likely see part of yourself in both." Sort of matches what I've found in life. The question then becomes will I still be one once I've decompressed.

      I think it might be time to pick up that book.

  2. Leaving your job might be an event that causes grief. There's a hoary old rule of thumb that you should allow at least 14 months to get over the worst effects of grief (presumably because you need four seasons and then a bit more). I suppose there would then be a case for not even auditioning new places to live for 14 months. Call it the moping-in-situ policy.

    As for your declining interest in the company of people whom you find increasingly unsympathetic, that's just growing up. Perfectly natural.

    1. Interesting thinking. From what I've read people know when they have decompressed (maybe it is grieving in a way) and I read about it taking everything from 6 to 12 months which at the far end of the scale is with your thoughts. As always I'm just trying to do it quicker - I think I just need to slow it down as after all I could have 40 or more years of this FIRE lark. There really is no rush...

  3. I think you're entering into a rather emotionally turbulent phase - you're on the border of FI but which side of the border you're on depends on precisely how you run your spreadsheets and on what assumptions and estimates lie behind those sheets.

    I know all about this stretch of the FIRE road as I'm on it - and have been for a while.

    For years you'll have been nose down on investment strategy and analysis, SWR calculations, and spending graphs. Then, rather suddenly, you're there. But the freedom of choice that was attractive about FIRE in the first place starts to be problematic. And the uncontrollable issues that were secondary to accumulation rise to become the most important factors - yet remain uncontrollable: big issues such as accommodation of family into The Plan, small issues such as exchange rates, and fundamental issues such as "where do we want to live?".

    All of which conspire to delay the pulling of the trigger. Sometimes rightly; if another year's work will better accommodate the now better understood ambitions of your wife; sometimes less positively - when further accumulation is just a comfort blanket in response to fear of FIRE.

    I know in my case that the past year or so has been largely spent doing the de-compressing and consideration thing - but before pulling the trigger. With the pressure off to accumulate, I've had more mental space to consider where and how we want to live, and how to fund non-core family ambitions.

    1. You're very much right about being on either side of the border of FI dependent on spreadsheet data. If I was prepared to run a bit leaner on the spending or live in a smaller home I could pretty much be done. Switch to the 4% Rule and I was done long ago. If my company was to sack me tomorrow I'd get a bit of bonus redundancy money and I might even give FIRE a go based on what I have today with just a careful eye on Mr Market for a year or two. Something I hope I won't do if I reach my target.

      As you highlight my mind does now focus on the more emotional side of FIRE and it's not an area where I have experience nor am I a natural so is even a little 'uncomfortable'. It's an area that is also increasing in focus almost daily. I sleep soundly on the financial side as I know what I've been talking about on here since 2009 has worked/will have worked (for me at least).

      I don't believe I'm doing a OMY as I have not met the plan I set long ago. What I really hope though is that as soon as I hit The Number I can have the courage to pull the pin.

      Interesting that you're trying to decompress while still at work. I'm going to give that some more thought as for me at least I didn't think it would be possible. I am in real danger at the moment of my work defining me as a person and I don't like it. Given this situation I don't know if it would even be wise to try and decompress as I believe work will affect my thinking.

      Thanks for some great thoughts. Would you be prepared to share more of your story? How long your total journey has been and how long you have been in this phase would be particularly interesting as a comparator.

  4. Hi RIT

    Like the post, I also feel the need to mix with other people a lot less as I get older, I thought it was purely because I am anti-social miserable old get and now I see that others feel the same way.

    Not yet thought too much about decompressing and certainly couldn't do it while at work, but I am hopefully fast approaching the time to give it some thought.

    Best Wishes
    FI UK

  5. Hi RIT,

    We have FIRE in our late 30's in the south of France after working hectic jobs around London. After our move we required at least a year to learn to slow down (it was not easy and we really questioned ourselves alot / too much). It took time to realise there was no need to rush a meal - run somewhere or to some meeting.

    If there was a deadline it now is of our own making so we do not have to be overly agressive - what is the point?

    We thought long and hard about our move and the impact it would have on us which has helped massively with the change and on our young kids.

    Although we have FIRE we still desire the need to keep busy and have meaning to our lives. After a year we threw ourselves into a personal project and have enjoyed every minute of it. We are going to setup a small business for ourselves as a challenge in the coming year.

    Finally our social life has actually improved by moving to a quieter place where the pace of life is not so fast. People have time to stop and talk about real life issues and the broarder world around us (conversation is not overly materialistic). The weather encourages social events outside which keeps people away from being glued to gadgets or the TV.

    Our preperation (lots of visits to different places, deciding what we could and could not afford and impact on family) and longer term thinking (schooling, future challenges and our dreams) was really important to us. We made lots of lists and talked alot between us about these and if we were all comfortable with the final decision. There is no looking back now and we are having a great time.

    Good luck with it all and exciting times ahead.

    1. Thanks for jumping in with a great story. I just read your Financial Independence in 7 Years post (and a few others). Congratulations! It looks like you figured it out a couple of years earlier than me and also made it to the finish line a little quicker. Inspirational.

      It sounds like we're on similar paths with a move to Europe although I'm looking a little further south. I note that your wife is French which might have helped but can I ask:
      - How much French did you speak before you migrated?
      - Healthcare is always a consideration for me. From memory with France you need to be resident for 5 years before you can tap into the State system. Did being married to a French citizen help with that?

      Finally, good luck with the business.

    2. Hi RIT,

      My French was very limited before we left. It has improved a lot now out of necessity. We have been spending lots of time with the locals. It is a struggle keeping up with the conversations but you gradually pick up more and more words the more you persist.

      As for healthcare unfortunately the S1 form has now been scrapped - this was available to us for a year while we settled in.

      If you do not have health cover you are liable for the costs but a visit to the doctor and basic prescriptions are not costly (all in say £20 per visit). If you have a continuous illness you need to be on the system.

      You can try out any European country without commitment using the EHIC card from the UK and claim back any costs - once you commit to a country (see HMRC rules) you have to be on that countries system.

      There are a few ways to access the system in France:

      1. Pay something like 7% of your income for access to basic cover (mostly everything but you have to pay a % of the costs)
      2. Earn some income to gain access to general cover ~e.g. 75% re-imbursement of costs
      3. Go completely private for full cover 100% re-imbusement of costs (more expensive)
      4. Be a retired pensioner - guess that one is out then ;)
      5. After 5 years you are naturalised to the system but will still have to contribute something.

      We are keeping all our options open for the future. We spend less than our income and re-invest the rest. We enjoy our work towards mild self-sufficiency to reduce our monthly costs further. As for a bit of work \ meaning we are looking for a different challenge other than the corporate world we used to live in. One that we control and enjoy - ideally a sort of hobby. Again this provides further financial scurity for the family.

      I have and continue to enjoy your posts and advice

      All the best with your plans

  6. I could have written this post myself. I'm naturally an extrovert in work because I have to be. Afterwards I would much rather be with the closest of friends and family. In fact I actively reject offers from many. Why because I've learnt my free time and choose to spend it the way I want.

    I think that as someone so driven in their work and goals you have the right to choose how and with whom you spend your free time.

    I definitely think this mindset of seclusion will change in FIRE when the mind is not pulled in so many directions during the day.

    Darren I'm very interested in your relocation. We're definitely not the home-school types and a move for us to central europe hinges on the educational quality our daughter will have. How did you decide on Toulouse?

  7. Hi GF,

    We were quite thourough with our research. After choosing France (we had other countries and options in mind) - we started to research regions. After we settled on the SW we spent several holidays just driving around.

    After choosing the region by Toulouse we started to visit towns. We were looking for a vibrant town - with young families. We then visited and researched the schools. Eventually we found an excellet town and school in the Gers region between Bordeaux and Toulouse. The school has a lot of expat childeren, is private although not in the sense of the UK - not expensive 2 kids under 200 Euros per month.

    It is all about research and deciding on a school that is big enough to provide the right level of education but not so big that the class sizes are too big. There are lots of small schools where there are multilple age groups in the same class which we did not want for our kids.

    Toulouse itself has an excellent international school as well as very good Universities.

    Toulouse is 1.5 hrs from the Med and 2.5 hrs Atlantic, 2hrs from the mountains and a 4hr drive to Barcelona.

    France has its pros and cons (they love paperwork) like everywhere but we are enjoying ourselves.

    Good Luck

    1. Thats amazing to hear. We' big ski fans, but want to spend our summers in the heat, so France/Spain/Austria - actually central Europe seems to be our best bet. Plus it's not too far from home and the folks.

      We've previously been looking at private (€20k per year, which we couldnt afford) around geneva but to hear the french private system isn't that costly is great. Ms GF is only 12 weeks and our relocation will if suitable be in her very early school years. The earlier the better for her integration I suppose.

      Read through some of your older posts. If you don't mind, I might drop you a mail when we get plans a bit further along.

    2. Hi GF,

      Getting around has changed so much thanks to the budget airlines. So it is simple to get to and from the UK to see family.

      We needed to think about the start of formal education like you. Here it starts around 5yrs. This forced our hand \ got us moving. It is funny when you have a date to plan to you really can make it happen. We actually wanted to move earlier but decided to add a few more months of funds to the kitty.

      Living costs are MUCH lower where we are (hotter for longer - less heating, cheap locally produced produce, solar water heating, cheaper private schooling (V.Cheap), local holidays to name a few.

      Taxes are related to the size of the family in France so more childeren will result in little to no income tax. Social charges apply at a rate around 8%. Local Property taxes are comparable to the UK.

      Obviously this has a very large impact on how much income is required to FIRE.

      Property is much cheaper (especially compared to our old rental in London - to buy the price was insane).

      In my personal opinion it is important to make sure that income is at least 50% above living costs to pay for holidays, save \ invest some more etc. An emergency kitty in £ and the local currency is also desirable (currency fluctuations are a given). Ideally find a hobby that you enjoy and can monetise.

      Once you stop working investments need to be "safe" and need to be tax efficient for your given country. This needs to be worked out well in advance and it is worthwhile talking to an expert.

      e.g. Rental income in the UK is taxed in the UK and currently you can keep your personal allowance but Osbourne is looking to eradicate this.

      Capital gains in other European countries is much higher than the UK. You can get exemptions on investment income taxes (and social charges in France) depending on the type of investment. "Working" can have massive impacts on the cost of living (such as healthcare costs).

      Our cost of living per month (what we consider very comfortable) is around £1K all in. We are very frugal but have all the trappings of a normal modern life. We just minimise silly costs such as expensive phone \ internet contracts, ignore expensive processed foods, grow a little of our own food (so easy and silly not to do with good weather!) we also have several fruit trees, we have a very economical car etc.

      We are still learning (especially financially) and seeing how we get on. We are aware things can change quickly and reguarly question the robustness of our living arrangements

      Good luck, DYOR and feel free to mail me.

  8. I sometimes feel the same at weekends, work can be so hectic in the week that I resent having to share out my time to thinly. You need to relax at some point, right?

    I'd imagine that the first few months may well be secluded while you adjust and figure out what the hell is going on. That said, I'd be tempted to get up early, head into town for a coffee and feel smug watching everyone rushing about.

    It will be the end of a very large personal project, one which has had your undivided attention for years. It's going to feel like a gaping hole once you pull the trigger, but I guess that's part of the decompression, finding a new focus. An Iain Banks focus on writing would be good, 3 months of the year flat out writing, followed by 9 off to relax. You'd have the capital to support that kind of schedule

    Mr Z

  9. Hi RIT,

    I have done a few of those personality test type things over the years and one thing which was said a few times was that they are more telling for you outside of work as that's the real you. The work you is a construct to a greater or lesser extent.

    In terms of pulling the trigger on FIRE have you considered or taken any extended time off - your work hours seem very stressful, a full cold turkey quit might be detrimental without some focus or even minor goals to aim towards?

    Apologies if you have been through this, I haven't read all your posts!

  10. Variety and balance in all things RIT - that is the way.

    As Heinlein said, specialism is for insects.

    The end is nigh, time to stop being an insect and start being a human.

    I think that can only be a good thing, but keep an open mind - keep your options open.

    You may well end up needing to work again, not for the money, but for your state of mind.

    I will put my neck on the line and say there is pretty much no chance you will live out your remaining days sunning yourself in a villa on a Mediterranean island

  11. I think you are right that you naturally crave the opposite of what is forced, especially if, as it sounds like, you are half and half intro/extra.

    I would imagine I would come out fairly similar or perhaps slightly weighted towards the introvert at this stage of my life. I think if you took the test earlier in your life you are also more likely to have been tagged up as an extravert because younger people have more pressure to be sociable and therefore may end up answering as if they were an extravert, even if deep down they are probably not.

    Good luck with finding your balance!