I am in my 40’s, live in a large US city. Never married, no kids.
I stopped working about 5 years ago. The experience has been largely good, but mixed.
—If, 15 years ago, someone had asked me to design the ideal life, I would have described the life I am now living. I spend my time indulging in my passions and other healthy pursuits, I have traveled the world extensively, I have done most of the things that I always wanted to do and I am continually thinking up new ideas.
—Living an authentic life. Some people think I am a bit of an oddball (middle aged, never married, no kids). So be it — I am not struggling to fit into someone else’s mold. For years I was faking it so that I would be well regarded by some boss/girlfriend/professional community, etc. No more. Employers want you to be one thing, your girlfriend wants you to be something else. So does your church. So does the community into which you were born. They all want you to be something—often they nudge you to become what they mistakenly believe will make you happy. Sometimes they just want to live their lives through you. Regardless, when I was employed I was somewhat pressured by my employer to live a life that was not entirely authentic. Financial independence means I am as free as I choose to be—I am not beholden to, or dependent upon, any person or entity.
—Finantial peace of mind. I have virtually no financial restraints. I don’t have unlimited money but I have much more than enough to do whatever I want. I love having steady income (bond yields, dividends, rental income) without having to work. The securities are easy, the RE has a manager. I probably have to put about ten hours of work per month into making decisions, signing documents, talking on the phone, etc. Almost everything can be done with a laptop, a phone and the occasional visit to a notary.
—The clarity that came with financial independence, including freedom from the delusion that more money would solve everything. I used to think that my life would radically improve if only I had more money. I now have much more than I need, and while financial independence has improved my life in some areas it has also helped to clarify the degree to which money has a very limited impact on the things that matter most to me. Including:
1-Health. Money does not eliminate most health threats, including the physical and/or intellectual decline that eventually comes to everyone. However, FI frees me from stress inducing and soul crushing bureaucracies and people. I also have effectively unlimited time and money to pursue a healthy lifestyle
2-Interpersonal relationships with family and close friends. Aside from health, nothing is as important to me. An abundance of high quality and meaningful relationships is absolutely essential. Money has had virtually no impact on the most important relationships in my current life, although it has complicated some important romantic relationships.
3-Meaningful activities. Helping the people I care about. Doing good for others, even for strangers. Working every day to be a better version of myself. Living a life consistent with my values.
—Deceit. About half of the people in my life don’t know that I am financially independent or how much I travel. I may be gone for a month but they just assume that I have been in town and they just have not seen me in a while, or that I was traveling for work. I am effectively deceiving/lying to them. When they ask about work, I am vague and circumspect. Why? I am a private person. I am wary of envy, animosity, judgment etc.. No good comes from people knowing that I am rich. Most of my life long friends know. A few recent friends know, but very few. Some suspect but we don’t discuss it. The deception is stressful for me. I am looking for a way to resolve this and live more honestly with everyone.
—Loneliness. Traveling the world and doing whatever I want to do whenever I choose to do it can be lonely. My friends usually cannot join me on my adventures due to various limiting factors (family, job, finances, health). So I go alone.-sometimes for months at a time. I am sometimes lonely when I am away. And when I am home I am often lonely as well—I don’t work and that means I don’t have the regular day to day interaction with my old colleagues. Most of my friends are now married and have children so even on weekends it is hard to get together. I seek human interaction through my pursuits, volunteering, travel, etc, but its not the same as regular contact with a group of people who have known each other for years.
—Lack of structure or goals. I work very hard at imposing structure on myself because the lack of structure that financial independence facilitates can be disorienting. I plan trips, take classes and engage in lots of exercise. I go out of my way to initiate social activities with friends. But creating structure takes a lot of effort and sometimes I get lazy and spend days alone with little to do. Further, living alone with no career makes it hard to envision a future. I don’t have any idea where I will be in 20 years. If I had kids I would envision my relationship with them when they were grown and had kids themselves. If I had a career I would look ahead and plan a career path and objectives. I have had several careers, none of which was a true calling. One of my main goals in life was to be completely financially independent. OK, I’m there, and I live the life I have always wanted. But I have no long term goals. Like many people, I need goals, so I set up little goals for myself like exploring Bolivia or Singapore, but I don’t have any long term goals.
So it has been a mix. My focus now is to increase my social network and interaction and try to develop new long term goals. I encourage everyone on the path to financial independence to maintain and develop passions, hobbies, health and relationships along the way. When you get there, these factors will be as important to you as your finanical independence.