In the past few years, the FIRE movement has gained momentum and recognition. If you’re not familiar with it, it stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. But within this community is the “Slow FI” movement, which takes a slightly different approach: focusing on enjoying the journey rather than simply the end goal of retirement.
Why Slow FI is Better For Me Than FIRE
This ridiculously awesome post was written by our staff writer, Kate Underwood. This post may contain affiliate links.
A quick Google search several years ago led my husband and I to find Mr. Money Mustache and eventually dozens of other early retirement proponents.
While we credit the FIRE movement for inspiring us to change our spending habits, leading to a ton of positive changes in our life, we’ve eased up on the idea of early retirement. We no longer aspire to retire insanely early, but are choosing the parts of the FIRE concept that we like.
My Slow FI Path
Slow FI, for me and my family, means my husband and I are both pursuing work we love. A few years after learning about FIRE, we decided to leave our teaching careers to pursue self-employment. We aren’t making as much as we did in our regular careers, but we’re okay with that.
The trade-offs are worth it:
- more time with family,
- health, and
- enjoying each day.
For my family, Slow FI is the right choice, and here’s why:
1) FIRE Requires Too Much Sacrifice In the Present
I’m all for delayed gratification and living frugally. I almost never
- go out to eat,
- get my hair done, or
- buy unnecessary things.
But FIRE, for me, seems to represent too much sacrifice in the now.
If I wanted to retire super-early, I’d need to really buckle down and ratchet up my income. That would require too much time missing out on my family.
Living for the weekend (and for retirement) isn’t a sustainable lifestyle choice for me. I’m privileged to be able to make a choice about this, so I choose to live a life I enjoy every day.
2) My FIRE Path Was Unhealthy
I’m not suggesting that everyone who pursues early retirement is working themselves into the ground. But for me, working a job I didn’t love was extremely unhealthy.
I was always stressed and in a hurry.
- Days were packed full of teaching,
- free time was packed with lesson-planning and grading, and
- I couldn’t wait for those magical days off the school calendar provided.
Even with summers off, teacher life didn’t cut it for me. I wanted to be able to get outside during daylight hours for sunshine and exercise. To sleep enough each night to feel fully rested. To have the time to not only prepare healthy meals, but actually enjoy those meals!
3) Because You Never Know
Knowing people who have faced serious illnesses or even passed away in their thirties and forties has also given me a sobering perspective. While some pursue FIRE to mitigate the risk of putting off retirement only to die young, I can see the other side.
I don’t want to…
- overextend myself for the next 5-7 years,
- retire early,
- and then get a terrible diagnosis.
Slow FI means I’m enjoying my life to the max right now. I’m not waiting for a magical retirement to fix everything.
If tragic circumstances come our way, it will be tough, obviously. But I’ll take comfort in knowing my husband and I carved out this amazing time together as a family.
4) Slow FI Allows Me To Do Work I Love
For me, early retirement was originally appealing because I felt so lackluster about my career at the time. There were plenty of shining moments in teaching, but overall I was dissatisfied with my job.
Early retirement sounded awesome — primarily because I couldn’t wait to get out of that career.
What more could we want than to wake up each morning and be excited about our day? To actually look forward to interesting, challenging, and fulfilling work? That’s a pretty amazing privilege. I’m just glad that I was alert enough to see these opportunities when they appeared.
Working at a slower pace and in a field of work I enjoy means I no longer dread work. I might even enjoy working until typical retirement age. Imagine that!
5) Slow FI Gives Me More Time With Family
As a parent of young kids, I want to make the most of the time I have with them. Early retirement would push me to be away from my kids more than I want to be, and even if I retired early, I’d still miss out on a lot of their young lives.
With a Slow FI approach, my husband and I get amazing amounts of precious time with our little boys. We get to enjoy being there for them through all of the milestones.
Enjoying The Journey To Slow FI
Slow FI creates balance, combining parts of traditional career paths and parts of FIRE. I get to enjoy a lot of time with my family and work reasonable hours, while planning carefully for my future.
I’d rather work 5 or 10 years longer and avoid the intense stress of a true FIRE trajectory. Since we live pretty simply, early retirement should still be within our reach. Not at age 35 or 45, but by our early fifties is quite a reasonable expectation.
Enjoying the journey is the key tenet of my Slow FI philosophy. It’s what all of us aspire to, deep down — to enjoy every moment of life as much as possible, while doing as much good in the world as possible.
I’m eternally grateful that I discovered the FIRE movement. It’s been absolutely life-changing. But equally important is the Slow FI concept. Evolving my goals and my family’s goals to include Slow FI has led us to the right lifestyle for us.
FIRE may be for you. I’ll be sticking with Slow FI so that I can work for the future while savoring the present.
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.