Saturday 5 August 2017

Making a difference

As each week of Financial Independence (FI) passes, particularly the last few weeks, I can feel quite a bit of change occurring within myself.  The stresses of work just seem to continue to melt away and excitingly that energy is then able to be channelled elsewhere.  One area that I’ve been thinking about is what’s important to me spiritually and how I define myself.  Interestingly, what keeps coming to mind is that in life I’d really like to make a difference to the world.  That might be a little arrogant but do bear with me...

With this in mind I’ve then been asking myself have I already made a difference and the answer I came up with is a resounding yes.  I’ve definitely made a big difference to my family but let me stay away from that to protect the innocent and talk about a few other examples.

During my work life and particularly in more recent years I have made a lot of money for the companies I’ve worked for which has then been distributed to a lot of people – both private and public owners.  That however means absolutely nothing to me as they are just rentiers living off my back.  Something I’ll be doing in FIRE so some hypocrisy here but let’s keep going.  What does mean something to me is that to make all that money I’ve had to rebuild, grow and develop teams into very high performing teams.  They are now efficient and very competent which has secured their foreseeable future in a very competitive industry not frightened to send jobs to low cost countries.  One of the reasons I started on my FIRE plan in the first place.  This means I’ve then helped secure a little bit of their families financial future.  That’s hundreds of families I’ve made a difference to and that is motivating for me.

Another example is this blog.  I’ve now been at it for nearly 8 years and during that time have built a steady regular readership.  Today each post on average receives a little over 11,000 page views including regulars who receive my musings via email, Facebook or Twitter.  I know from personal emails and discussions on some of the forums I frequent that over the years I’ve made a difference too many.  That’s hundreds of people I’ve made a difference to and that is motivating for me.

Yet another example is my recently published book.  To date over 300 copies have been read with positive feedback at 86%.  Assuming that positivity is carried through all copies then that’s hundreds of people I’ve made a difference to and that is motivating for me.

In the not to distant future I’ll FIRE.  Firstly, given how my life is changing for the better just being FI I can only imagine what the much talked about post FIRE decompression feels like in the first few months/years.  I’m looking forward to that.  Secondly though, I’m about to get 60-70 hours of a week back to do with what I desire.  I can guarantee a portion of that will go to my family but it will be interesting to see where the rest of it will be channelled to make a difference.

Life really is good thanks to FI and FIRE.


  1. A pertinent topic actually. When I mention my early retirement plans to friends I often receive very sceptical looks combined with statements of "I think that would be boring".

    I always want to reply "you lack imagination".

    There are so many fulfilling things I can think of doing once free from work. Even work itself, parts of which I actually enjoy, will become more of a "spiritual" practice. I mean in the sense that I could (and may) choose to continue to do a similar role, possibly part time, and be free to take more risks, make more waves, do things differently.

    I also have many side projects I do currently in my little spare time. I also have a dream of building my own house. I could do that if I wanted. Or I could build part of a house (ie. an outbuilding). Or I could take up kayaking. Or I could become a rugby coach for a local school. Or a videographer for a pro rugby club (rugby being my passion).

    These things I consider spiritually fulfilling in themselves. My partner has a big social streak too, and volunteers for social programmes. I could easily be convinced to get involved with that. All of which seems hard now but becomes easier when work is optional.

    I find it all so exciting and can't empathise without anyone who uses the word boring. One just needs imagination.

    I look forward to seeing where your "spiritual" journey takes you.

    1. I'm with you on that. I really don't think I'm ever going to be bored. Just walking, cycling, running, swimming, making things from scratch (inc ginger beer, bread etc), a veggie patch and spending more fun time with family is going to keep me pretty busy.

      I do find the situation where work defines people and they don't plan for anything different difficult to understand. During my early years I enjoyed work a lot but 10 or so years in I lost the naivety around 'I'm going to work to age 137' because I love it so much which I still hear from people. Things can and do change and it pays to have options when/if it does.

      Given where I sit today I really wouldn't be in great shape with a high pressure stressful job that I formerly 'loved' and that I can't avoid because of my PCP car, my £400k mortgage and my £37,000 worth of credit card debt. No thanks. Give my FI/FIRE and quality of life any day.

  2. I'm a few months into FI/RE, and I've been occupied with a mix of my outdoor hobbies, which take up a fair amount of time, and some volunteering (in an area I enjoy, and could even consider a hobby/interest, but perhaps not very 'worthy'!) On down days, I'm happy to do jobs around the house, and read. Longer term, I may need some other interests, but happy to take it as it comes for now.

    1. I think it's up to each of us to define our own 'worthy' and it sounds like it's worthy to you.

      Many congratulations on FIRE'ing. Would you care to describe how decompression has been for you? It's something I'm quite interested in as FIRE fast approaches.

    2. Sure, it's something people often ask, e.g. how are you finding 'retirement', and I answer along the lines of I don't feel particularly different from when I was working, which I appreciate must sound strange.
      I'd say my working life was quite different to yours - it wasn't high pressure, and in the final couple of years I didn't really have much to do, and was pretty bored, which was my main reason for deciding to get out (albeit, my departure was actually through redundancy, rather than me quitting.)
      Previously, when I still quite enjoyed my job, my framework around hours of work, the requirement to be in office, etc., was pretty flexible, e.g. I could suit myself about working from home, when to start and finish each day, my bosses were based at other end of country.
      Due to knowing of the possibility of redundancy, my countdown to leaving was spread over the best part of a year, getting a bit more certain as the months passed. The bulk of my three month notice period was spent at home - as long as I kept on top of emails, I was able to do my own thing.
      I, therefore, feel like I had a long gradual slide into FI/RE, and so haven't felt a need to 'decompress' as such. So far, it feels like I'm on an extended summer holiday, but I'm aware my outdoor interests may not be as enjoyable in the wind, rain and snow of winter, so I suspect that's when I'll be able to say more about whether I feel any different, or if I've made the right decision.
      I usually tell people I'm keeping my options open, and that while I wouldn't rule out some kind of paid employment in the future, from a financial perspective I shouldn't need to work.

    3. Many thanks for sharing Scott. Most interesting.

      I think my decompression could be quite aggressive. Right now my stress levels are relieving quite rapidly but at the same time my tolerance for bullsh*t is rapidly dwindling and in amongst it all I'm still working a lot of hours. There is definitely a risk that the exit point may come sooner than planned because of the bullsh*t but we'll see.

      Maybe a useful topic for a post a bit later on. I just have to try and figure out whether it's all because of FI and FIRE or whether some of it would have happened anyway. Right now I think it's the former.

  3. Thanks RIT for all the excellent advice you've given on this blog, I'm certainly one of the (normally silent) readership benefiting from your example. Since finding your blog 20 months ago I've accelerated my journey to FI, changed careers and generally felt much better about life. I'm no longer trudging along in an increasingly frustrating and tiring career and am getting ready for the sense of freedom you are starting to achieve. Great stuff.


    1. Thanks for the hat tip DB and glad I've been able to help a little. It's also really pleasing to hear your life is better for changing direction and accelerating towards FI. I wish you a speedy journey. Do you have a view on how long it might take you?

      Just a quick note that I don't offer advise here at You have to pay a 'professional' a lot of money for that...

    2. I'm lucky that I've always been a saver rather than a spender so with a bit of focus I will be there in 2-3 years, all being well. I'm freelance now and if a gap between contracts comes along, I'll use it as an opportunity for a mini-retirement to test things out. Thanks again for all the pointers (rather than advice).

  4. Retire to Cornwall and work for the lifeboats. Train as a helicopter pilot and get Prince William's old job. There's tons of things to do. Just remember that you are not going to play international rugby, football, or cricket.

    1. How do you know I don't have one of those jobs already? ;-)

  5. You've got a good way of looking at things RIT, I would expect that many people have a much greater impact on their various communities than they realise.

    "Worthy" is most certainly defined by the individual. To have got anywhere near FIRE a person must already have said bollocks to conventional wisdom and to hell with what the Joneses think, why would assessing the value of noble pursuits be any different?

    Good luck with exploring your "what's next" projects and activities, having the luxury of that choice is certainly something that I've enjoyed over the last 12 months.

    1. Many thanks for the wishes Slow Dad. I look forward to experiencing what you already are.

  6. Remember the American experience. People retire and leave (for instance) New York to escape the filthy climate: they buy a retirement house in Florida. Quite soon they buy a Recreational Vehicle so that they can escape the vile Florida summer.

    I rather like the idea of the Ozzies who buy an RV and tootle up and down the east coast: Queensland in the dry season, and down into Victoria in summer.

    1. I can see why people do it but I think for the next stage of my life I'm looking to put roots down for a while. That means buy a house and live happily ever after for a few years at least. I think this is because of the amount of travel I've had to do which at times has literally meant living out of a suitcase for years at a time.

  7. I too have reached FI in the last year, and it is freeing. At this year's annual review, for example, I was able to say I want to focus on things where I can add most value, that play to my strengths and enable me to grow - and I don't mind if that's no longer a full time job here.

    Tellingly, the powers that be are finding me work that matches those aspirations.

    1. Congratulations on the FI!

      The funny thing with how it's playing out is that if your employer can indeed match your aspirations it's going to be a win win. You're going to love what you're doing which in turn is going to give your employer your discretionary energy which will benefit them. Additionally, because you're good at it you're also going to be more productive which again is going to be more enjoyable for you but also directly benefit your employer from an output perspective.

  8. I want to take issue with this bit.

    > During my work life ... I have made a lot of money for the companies I’ve worked for ... means absolutely nothing to me as they are just rentiers living off my back. Something I’ll be doing in FIRE so some hypocrisy here

    1) There's nothing necessarily wrong with being a rentier.

    2) Companies are not mere rentiers - they do something by bring people together and organising them toward common goals. As an isolated person there are many jobs you couldn't do (regardless of skill level) for instance those providing 24x7 support for something.

    1. I agree with you Peter.

      During my work life and particularly in more recent years I have made a lot of money for the companies I’ve worked for which has then been distributed to a lot of people – both private and public owners. That however means absolutely nothing to me as they are just rentiers living off my back.

      I feel this a disparaging remark and denigrates the companies and businesses that RIT has worked for . It also seems a rather arrogant statement - implying that RIT - being aware that he has done well for his employers - feels that he should have been better remunerated for his contribution .

      However - I like the team-building comments - that is definitely something to be proud of .

    2. Thanks both for calling me out on this. I think most of it is just poor wording on my behalf but I'm going to think about it a bit more as it could just be a bit more than that.

      What I was trying to get across is that a large sum of money every month/year goes off to the owners of the companies I have worked for. I know nothing of nor have anything to do with these people so it means little to me as I can't see any difference because of what I do. I think I did call myself out on it a little with my hypocrisy term.

      Now switch to the people in the company (your point 2 Peter I think), those that I interact with every day and see changing daily. Those I help and those that help me. There I see directly the difference my efforts (both positive and negative) make and that's important to me.

  9. RIT, I wonder what your advice would be to your younger self regarding work? Do you think with hindsight, you would have educated yourself in a different area and for a different career? It sounds like you've been successful creating/managing high performing teams but given you'll be leaving this behind, would you prefer you'd been creating/managing high end woodworking products?

    1. Interesting question Nick. If I had my time again I think I'd do the same career again. For the most part I've enjoyed it, particularly the early days where I'd say I loved it. I've seen the world (both good and bad), met some fabulous people and looking back feel I've made a difference. That said of late it's been tough with quite a lot of stress and long hours but it's enabled FIRE so worth it. I think it's just run its course and its time to try something new.

      If I could go back in time what I would tell my younger self is to start earlier. I went through a 5-8 year period where in hindsight I really did just tread water and didn't need to. I'd also tell myself the tricks I've learnt to earn more, spend less and invest wisely enabling me to maximise the opportunity much faster.

      Thinking about it about the only thing I "regret" is that my career as it played out does not really lend itself to working for myself. Maybe if I could have managed that I might have structured things a little differently but it's a small thing because right now I'm in a great place.

      As for the future. It's funny you mention woodwork. At school I was top of my class in woodwork. Maybe, just maybe...

  10. RIT, thank you for this post. A lot of people write about the ambition of FI, and a smaller number about the way they enjoy their life having achieved it, but few about that critical transition period. The 'decompression' phase you talk about.

    I am 10 months into FIRE (although the RE bit is only a few years before standard). My aim was always FI rather than RE. My goal was to work on things I was passionate about, rather than things the company said were important. So I am working in the same sort of field, but in a different way. To the point where my partner is suspiciously saying - "you haven't retired at all have you?".

    The transition itself was relatively easy - I wanted to have a consulting option available, so there were practical things to do to set up company, develop website etc. That took a couple of months to get right. I finally had time to research some topics that had been on the back burner for years, and I went to several meetings and conferences that I would have had to turn down previously as they were not right in the company area of interest.

    Then a couple of interesting projects came up through personal recommendations that kept me doing worthwhile work for a few months.

    FI means that I can choose what to work on and what not, and whether to charge or not. That allows me to do what I think is important in the way I think it should be done. For me that has been the great benefit. I had no ambition to go and do something completely different.

    So now I am doing some commercial contracts, working with a group of SME's as a mentor, acting as a judge for some industry awards, reviewing projects for the EC (pays a tiny amount, but is fun to do), and working with some NGO's and professional societies on future strategies.

    I had always been a regular speaker at industry events, partly because people were interested in what I had to say, and partly because of who I represented. Those who were interested in a representative have vanished, the much smaller number interested in what I had to say have remained.

    I also have a vague ambition to write down some of what I have learned in case it is useful to others in the future, and have enjoyed planning and sketching this out.

    I am not prepared to do the required amount of self-publicising to be an individual expert 'name' in my field, so I expect/plan to fade away over time. Perhaps my partner's 'real' retirement will kick in then.

    So for me the present is a logical extension of my previous career with more choice, less pressure, less travel, better food, more 'holidays', more exercise and more downtime. Now if it is a sunny day I can just abandon my 'work' and go for a hike, bike ride, or read in the garden. No guilt.

    However, I have also discovered that my home office remains a tip and this is due to my natural untidiness, and not as I had always claimed to the pressure of work. Also, I had planned to improve my guitar playing and learn the piano, but faced with the opportunity to do it it looks like I just don't care enough.

    This all sounds horribly smug, but comes from the fact that I really am passionate about what I do, and believe it is important. I want to do it in a more effective way and FI gives me the chance to try. Perhaps it will all come to nothing and in 10 years time I will be cursing all the world cruises I did not take, but I suspect not.

  11. I've always liked the 80,000 hours idea.

    Either optimise the good you're doing through work, or earn loads and make sure you give in a charitable way.

    The principle is that a great doctor could save a few additional lives over an average one, but a great cancer researcher could save millions of lives.

    Be warned - having read your blog for a while, you might take this to the extreme, meaning you'll never retire, but set out to earn entirely for a charity of your choosing.

  12. With over 1,000 flights in the last 10 years (on business) and a huge commitment to work that prevented me spending anywhere near enough time with the family, my main aim for the first few years of retirement is to close that “deficit” and give time back to the family and also some time back to me to simply enjoy the things I have missed (spending time in the mountains).
    After that (and after my 12 month part time contract has expired) I will spend some time coaching and teaching which is always something I did as a side gig and I would happily give 25% of my time to that. Mostly though, having spent my work life being very structured I want the next phase to be very much unstructured!

  13. Maybe I'm an 'outlier', but my first 4 months of RE have been essentially one of "what day is it today"? I've not worn a watch since I pulled the trigger.

    Relaxing, gardening, walking, art galleries, parks... - the simple pleasue of deciding "I'll do that later".

    Perhaps, after years of "meet me in Hong Kong on Sunday", I'm in extreme de-compression.

    But I admire the aspirations of all who have posted above - could be I'll do it next week, or maybe not!

    1. Absolutely get this. Whilst I have big 'plans' and a 3 week holiday will be the first thing I do....but after that happy to sleep, eat well (healthy) and plod for 6 months. As you aptly call it 'decompress'.

      Then after that maybe understand what life is about. Too many defined by their work. Graft, achieving goals and activity to survive is the human condition....but 'work' as we know it today is a very poor substitute.

  14. I know we have messaged privately in the past but wanted to reiterate that the point you and many in this thread raise is the whole point of FIRE.
    I was lucky enough to have a 6 month unpaid sabbatical in 2013 and I effectively retired. Friends said I looked 15 years younger (and I was only 45 at the time) and I had a spring in my step.
    Whether I was in Florence, Siena, Sydney enjoying a coffee on Balmain high street, enjoying NottingHill carnival or just playing with my grandkids in the garden (yes, we started very young) every day was an absolute wonder.
    Watching the ring of Saturn in Byron Bay or playing foitball with a truly international group from Sydney in the botanical gardens were normal days. I annoyingly grabbed every single minute of life.

    I will retire at 50 and tremble with excitement. Kilimanjaro, Amazin, Califonia road trip as well as helping my mates on a building project or just relaxing and starting a barbecue at 3 in the afternoon.

    Plenty of time for some colenteersvolenteers at the local hospital (drivers for patients service) too.

    And this is without any time to give it any thought. Once I do leave work next year my life absolutely bounce.

    Reality is for me is that work (stressful financial senior role) just dominates a my emotional energy. I am a 4/10 when I work. And On holiday or sabbatical I know I am a 9/10 in terms of life appreciation. Whilst many others do a lot better when they work thry therefore consequently are less happy when they leave.

    okay I do have a passion outside work which you know about and my friends in the building trade will offer a social network and an honest day's labouring if ever I want a few weeks pocket money. For me a joy to have that option.

    Cornwall all the way rather than some country that isn't the UK....but in that we will always disagree. You have ibspired many and whilst I am a late comer I have enjoy our chats.

    Take time choosing you have worked hard to be able to choose. But know all paths will have pro's and cons and relish the journey you are on.


    1. Love the blog. I took a 3 month sabbatical this year to travel the far flung parts of the world and distress. It worked and after trekking in Nepal, touring Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Auz, Bali, etc...had to finally return to Dubai an reality. The good news is I will retire next March at 55 to Spain and find my second wind in life with my wife. Cant wait and followed the FIRE without knowing it. You don't retire you just start trying to find the passions that died along the way.