Problems Come, and Problems Go (Even in FIRE)

[Happy Friday! Got another celebrity guest post for y’all today from one of the hottest FIRE blogs around — Accidentally Retired!  This post will be a fresh slap in the face for anyone wondering if retiring early will solve all life’s problems. Happiness and balance need to be a part of the plan. Check it out 👇👇👇]

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Problems. Everyone has them, even early retirees. 

One might think that FIRE is the single biggest thing you can do to remove problems from your life. 

Well, I am here to inform you, that simply isn’t the case

“The truth is pretty simple: All we do, all we ever do, is trade one set of problems for another.”

   -Seth Godin

I couldn’t have put it any better.

All we ever do is trade one set of problems for another. Plain and simple. 

Your problem is work, so you come up with a creative plan to retire early. 

You work hard for years to achieve that goal. 

And then you take the plunge. 

Well, guess what? You might have given yourself the freedom to do what you want, when you want…but you have only resolved one of your problems: work. 

You can’t rid yourself of any relationship problems, parenting responsibilities, health issues, or even money stress. 

Why Your Problems Pre-Retirement Are Still Your Problems Post-Retirement

When I left my CEO gig to head off into my mini-retirement (eventually finding myself Accidentally Retired), it was mostly to leave the corporate bureaucracy behind. 

As an entrepreneur, there was nothing I disliked more than not being able to hire/fire and fully control my budget. But after selling our company to a billion-dollar public company, everything slowly but surely started to slip out of our control. 

And while I have left corporate bureaucracy far behind, which has resulted in a happiness boost, that hasn’t taken away most of my other “problems.”

I am still a parent – and parenting is stressful! So while not a problem in the traditional sense, it is still a daily stress. I don’t have as much time for myself as you would think. I’ve got to be on my game for my kids in the morning, in the evenings, weekends, etc. Parenting is hard!

Look, I am not trying to complain about parenting. I love my kids, I left my job to spend more time with my kids. I am actively choosing this lifestyle every day, but when you have FIREd with kids, you are really a stay-at-home parent. Being a stay-at-home parent is really hard!

I still have family/relationship problems. I have had the worst year of my life for family relationships. One relationship in particular has deteriorated so badly in the past year, that it will take years to fully mend it, if that is even possible. I wish I could say exactly why this happened, but it’s too long, complicated, and confusing for this post. 

I still stress about money. Because my retirement was entirely unexpected and unplanned, I still have a lot of stress about money. Some of it has gone away since I fired my financial advisor and took up DIY investing, but not all!

Having my money fully in my control and removing my blind spots in regards to investing has paid dividends (literally). Yet, I still stress. 

Sequence of return risk is circling like a hawk. My hope is that buying a website instead of real estate, will eventually help to smooth out some of my long-term cash flow concerns. 

I still stress about my parents and in-laws’ health. I understand that this is completely not in my control. But there is still stress about my aging parents and my aging in-laws. Just yesterday, I had to call 911 and send the paramedics to my in-laws’ house because my mother-in-law was having a health issue and called my wife instead. 

Thankfully, it turned out to be a false alarm — a panic attack (likely). Still, time marches on and there is simply no easy way to unload this stressor. 

I still stress about being a good spouse. Nothing is more important to me than my wife’s happiness. So I try to figure out how I can best support her. We have been together for a long time now (nearly 20 years), and even though our relationship is great overall, it is hard work! We have disagreements and minor problems that need to continue to be worked on. Plus we also need to make sure that we make space for each other, and space for our relationship. 

All of these problems were here pre-retirement. All of them remain. 

The Positives of FIRE Still Outweigh the Negatives

Now, I don’t want to go on here making it seem like my life is in shambles and I regret FIRE. 

I do not regret it. Not. One. Bit. 

But early retirement hasn’t exactly been a holy grail stress reliever. 

It has relieved some stress, but not all!

Still, the benefits of FIRE outweigh the negatives any day of the week. 

Ultimately, what we all crave is freedom. The freedom to do with our time what we want, whenever we want to do it. 

Once we have that freedom, our problems remain. But on the positive side, now we have more time to work on them

What Can You Do to Offset Your Early Retirement Problems?

For one, I work at my happiness every day. I track my happiness, like a runner tracks their miles. 

Happiness isn’t something that can be improved overnight. You have to work at it, day after day.

So I work at it.

Tracking my happiness has helped me focus on making better daily choices that support my happiness, help me to start each day fresh, focus on being present in the moment more, and tweak my routines when they need tweaking.

Beyond happiness, I’ve focused on my health.

I walk more. 

I golf more. 

I hike more. 

I bike more. 

I work out more.

I’ve also found that I enjoy being productive, and I enjoy writing. This is why I started AR. I need a purpose in my life. AR has given me that purpose, that enjoyment, and the challenge I need. 

I read. I strive to be a continuous learner. And I feel like I have learned more in the last year and a half of FIRE than I have in my career as an entrepreneur and CEO (though that’s probably recency bias). 

I journal. I’ve added morning pages into my routine. It gives me a chance to unload my problems to no one in particular, but unload them nonetheless. This is a huge stress reliever that I cannot understate. I never journaled until retirement. And now it has become a big part of my daily routine that I cannot live without. 

I do the things I need to do. If I am stressed about something for any period of time, I just do it. I have the time, so there is no longer an excuse. I either need to do it, or delete it from my mind. 

I am grateful. Gratitude is the ultimate problem solver. If I am having a particularly bad day, I open my journal and I list out everything (and I mean everything) that I am grateful for. From my kids, to my morning cup of coffee, to my favorite TV shows. I write it all down. That is one surefire way of making yourself feel better! 

Life Is Simply Trading One Set of Problems for Another

So, if my Accidental Retirement has taught you anything, it is that some problems will go, but others will remain. 

They are a part of life.

You are constantly trading one set of problems for another. 

As soon as I resolve my money stress, my family relationship issues, and this parenting hiccup or that, new problems will crop up

And that is OK. Because nothing is perfect. 

You certainly cannot rid yourself of problems. Not at least if you want relationships, kids, money, or health. 

So if you want any of those good things, then the only thing we can do is accept that problems will come and problems will go, and that is part of life. 

Just don’t go expecting that your early retirement is going to be sunshine, rainbows and lollipops. It certainly won’t be that. 

“Did Pete cry? Goodness no. Buttons come, and buttons go.” Eric Litwin, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

If Pete the Cat has taught me anything, it is that problems are like possessions. They come, and they go.

Your happiness is not dependent on all of your problems going away, just the same as your happiness should never be dependent on people or things. 

Happiness is a daily pursuit, and ultimately it is a choice. 

I, for one, choose happiness. I encourage you too, also. ;)

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Accidentally Retired is one of my favorite bloggers… Check out his site Accidentally Retired for more posts on early retirement, financial independence, and being happy regardless of how much money you have in life.

Have a great weekend all!

– Joel

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15 Comments

  1. Nick Riedel November 19, 2021 at 10:55 AM

    Hi there, keep seeing FIRE being mentioned but haven’t understood where that term is coming from. Is it an anagram or a program?

    Wanting more info.

    Reply
    1. Accidentally Retired November 19, 2021 at 11:49 AM

      Hey Nick – FIRE is an acronym for Financial Independence Retire Early. This is what we often use to basically say “Hey, I retired early.”

      Reply
  2. ZygBlog November 19, 2021 at 11:15 AM

    Love it

    Reply
  3. Olaf, the Mile High Finance Guy November 19, 2021 at 11:30 AM

    Well put, Joel. Financial independence isn’t the cure, but rather just another progression in life. To truly rid yourself of problems requires you to understand yourself and the condition we call existence. Problems are all relative, after all, and stem from misaligned expectations and reality!

    Reply
  4. Joel November 19, 2021 at 3:57 PM

    “Gratitude is the ultimate problem solver”. This is my new fav quote. Gonna get it tattooed on my forearm :)

    Reply
    1. Accidentally Retired November 21, 2021 at 4:39 PM

      I gotta see a picture of that if it ends up happening! Speaking of which, I am grateful for your morning emails. Always a huge mood booster. EVERY DAY!

      Reply
  5. Impersonal Finances November 20, 2021 at 11:53 PM

    Hey Joel–awesome, honest post. Sorry to hear about the family relationship trouble–sometimes there is nothing you can do but try.

    You are right about trading one set of problems for another, though at least you are slightly more in control of what problems you choose to spend your time on. I am a fairly negative person by some birth defect but working hard at gratitude and positivity–and leaning on people like you for inspiration!

    Reply
    1. Accidentally Retired November 21, 2021 at 4:38 PM

      Hey Impersonal Finances – thanks! And to be clear, these are my issues, not Joel’s. And you are right, at least most of my issues now are more directly in my control and never at the control of an employer. That is the best part, is having that sort of freedom.

      Reply
      1. Impersonal Finances November 23, 2021 at 1:02 AM

        Crazy I didn’t even realize it was a guest post! In that case–the post applies to both of you! Keep up the great work!

        Reply
    2. Lou November 22, 2021 at 11:03 AM

      Impersonal Finances – I tend to be more negative minded also. However, after being around someone for over a week who tends to verbalize every negative thing, I realize how draining it can be on the listeners and it has inspired me to be more positive. I also keep a gratitude journal. It’s amazing how that helps, too.

      Reply
  6. steveark November 22, 2021 at 5:57 PM

    When our company was bought up by a Fortune 200 corporation everything changed. For one they put me in charge of our company, and that was nice, but the pressure was ratcheted up so much it became like a minefield where every step was a potential landmine. I kind of enjoyed the money and the amphetamine juiced hectic pace for a couple of years but it grew old fast. I was a happy guy in spite of it because I didn’t need the money, I could just walk off into the sunset, and did. And I think if you are a happy guy at work you’ll likely be a happy guy in retirement. And if the opposite is true you might have a problem in retirement. I know some people are very unhappy in retirement, I guess I question whether they weren’t already pretty miserable before they retired?

    Reply
  7. Rajeev November 29, 2021 at 4:23 AM

    Taking care on the personal front is still very much important no matter whether you are in FIRE or not. Maintaining fruitfully relationship is also a cornerstone of happy and content retirement.

    Reply

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