Monday, April 5, 2021

Evaluating The Thought Process Behind Putting Financial Independence As a Goal That Is Worth Pursuing

During the gathering over the lunch break in your office, you overheard a conversation regarding one of your colleague that he has decided to call it a day after working 15 years in a corporate world. He was apparently quitting not because he was going to move roles into another company but rather decided to focus on his philanthropist aspect of making a social impact on a non-profit organization (NPO).

Given his relatively young age at 40 years old, the fact that he has a family to take care of and he has only commanded a middle management position throughout his entire career - it garnered your immediate attention and sparks your curiosity as to how he is able to achieve all of that. 

With all the trending talk about achieving Financial Independence earlier and younger in our lives, you may be thinking about this concept and wondering if it's a viable goal worth pursuing for you.

After all, we are talking about a project that requires many years (minimally one decade) of dedicated attention, and not just a split weekend to achieve. If you are motivated this week but give up the following week, which by the way is very common around what is happening, then it will be for nothing.

In this blog, I've articulated my provocation and thoughts around the idea of Financial Independence over a number of articles in the past.

Many of the articles were written with a systematic focus towards achieving a more attainable income and savings through personal savings tips, career tips at work, and investment opportunity.

In this article, the framework is a little different from some of the past articles I've written on this topic.

It's about evaluating the thought process behind putting financial independence as a goal that is worth pursuing and I am going to use my own experience to validate some of the process itself.

So let's begin.

Assume you are someone who just graduated and was introduced the concept of Financial Independence. You know what it means on the surface and every articles you read on F.I.R.E seems to be fun but you aren't sure if you are going to commit yourself into this project for the next 10-20 years in your life.

You find yourself suddenly in doubt.

I was once in the same position and I used some of these questions that hopefully it can also help you sort your thinking.

Do I find Joy or Satisfaction in what I'm currently doing?

There's a lot of perception in thinking that people who are seeking financial independence possess a lower satisfaction level in their jobs.

I think that is somewhat true to a certain extent.

If we think about it in reverse, people who enjoy thriving and excelling in their jobs are likely to do well because they have put pride into the work that they believe are worth pursuing a lot more than anything else. In the same context, you need time and effort to do well financially and a commitment to promise.

The largest category pool of people - is the group where they are in the "I am not satisfied and happy with my current job" but "I am also not going to do anything else to change my life apart from moaning". This is the worst category that you will not want to be in.

Does this reflect what is important to me (my values)?

Values is something that you held to your own conviction and belief, what it brings to the table (importance), and what you get in return (worth).

It can be quantifiable as a monetary worth if your values are consigned with the purpose of having more money, increasing net-worth or having an alternate income to boost your savings.

It can also be the way it is being done in a certain manner - that you believe are an important aspect in the way you live, work and play. For example, you are someone who treasure not only work hard, play hard but also time for your families and your personal growth well-being.

All of these values are treasures that means a lot to you and financial independence can give you more of these options.

Regardless, it has to be an extract of what you believe in and not by hearsay because everyone else says so.

Does this draw on my strengths?

On your way to becoming financially independent, you'd start to learn and cope with a lot of new things that you've never encountered before previously in your life.

You'll start to do budgeting, limit the amount of Starbucks coffee you can drink, pay for your own utilities, and care for your own emergency funds.

You will start to strategize what is good for your own pocket and well-being without over compromising too much one over another.

The process of having to go through this presents an opportunity to be at your very best every single day and learn how to live an independent life socially.

Source: DeviantArt

Is this target goal feasible? Do I believe that it can be achievable?

Set yourself a realistic goal based on your current circumstances.

If you are a sole breadwinner of the family with two children and are part of a sandwich generation, it may be tough to set a stretch goal that is comparable to someone who is single and possess a stronger family background.

On my way towards financial independence, I've always given myself accountability gunning towards a stretch yet achievable target. The objective is to make it not an easy goal to reach yet not an overly impossible task to achieve.

What Opportunity Costs will I give up in order for me to reach this goal?

The hardest part about making changes to your habits and lifestyle is the restraint that you will have to accept.

It is likely that you will have to settle with less (coffee, bags, shoes, night life entertainment) and go for more (nature, exercise, bonding, writing) to fill in those gaps.

They'll be very difficult to achieve at the beginning as you start to suffer from the symptom of withdrawal effect but as time goes by, it becomes the norm which you will accept and take in.

The question that you constantly have to ask yourself is if it's all worth the effort you are trying to push.

Source: AZ Quotes

Am I progressing well?

You know how most people usually get excited when they make their New Year's resolution at the start and then fizzles out a couple of weeks later.

The same goes for this one.

Checking in on the progress will not only allow you to understand where you are in terms of standing but also keep yourself in check when you are swaying sideways between the good and evil.

If you find yourself constantly struggling to meet the objective you've set, do use this opportunity to review them accordingly and make appropriate changes that will help you gets better.

Remember - the only person you are competing with is the same person you were yesterday. If you are progressing every single day, that's an encouraging step to be in.

What changes do I notice in myself?

Over time, you'd find yourself a totally changed person - someone whose goals are aligned with your own values and a reason to believe and look forward.

You'd also likely grow in confidence because you know you've taken that first step, made a promise to yourself and try to achieve them. That will likely help raise the confidence in everything else that you do, knowing that you can do it no matter the resistance.

You'd also do yourself justice, understanding the impact that organization has done to the world and similarly the same powerful impact you've done to your families.

You'd be happier, more open to opinions from friends and colleagues who actually truly cared for you and whose goals are aligned with you. You'd auto-shelf out the nasty people in your lives or people whom you are not bothered with because there is no spark and connection between the two of you.

You'd live a life where you look forward there is a tomorrow.


Throughout your entire experience looking for a way to achieve Financial Independence, you'll find that it is a means to an end, and not an end in itself.

It allows you to attain greater autonomy in making choices and you are happier making that choices because you know there are always options and alternatives you can take.

You choose this path because only you know it's worth pursuing.

No one forces a gun pointing at your direction to submit.

Thanks for reading.

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  1. Hello

    There will be politics where there are people, doesn't matter if the org is privately owned, publicly listed, government or NGO/NPO.

    I read somewhere that in some cases like government, the politics can be even more brutal "because the stakes are so low i.e. hard to get fired so can bully others and throw your weight around even more so than private sector."

    While having altruistic reasons for joining NGO/NPO is commendable, be aware there will always be politics. I was working for a non profit for a very short period of time and my, the politics are of a different level (using altruistic reasons like climate change, raise standard of living for the poor, educating the poor/women, gender investing, impact investing etc. to push their personal agendas or side hustles/business through). Sometimes conflicts of interests happen when the vendor/customer are friends or family. In short, because of lack of management control/clear oversight, people close 2 eyes and let things slide where in the private sector, you can be fired right away.

    There are also others who use NGO/NPO as a stepping stone to get connected to the rich, powerful and influential if you are on the fund-raising circuit. And these folks would return to the private world in a heartbeat if the role and pay from the private sector are enticing enough. I have seen a couple of folks who joined so-and-so billionaire's foundation for a year or 2 and were hired back by their previous company at 2 levels up simply because they have that billionaire's mobile on speed dial. Who you know not what you know.

    No saying all of them are like that, but you just need a few like that in any org for the experience to be awful.

    Sorry for the rambling and nothing to do with your article per se and hope your colleague made the right decision.

    1. Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts and perspectives on NGO.

      Having never worked in NGO myself (though I have friends who do), I do not know that there are as much if not more politics inside as compared to a normal corporate life, the latter of which is obviously omnipresent in profitability and extracting resources to dry.

  2. I like your comment that "There's a lot of perception in thinking that people who are seeking financial independence possess a lower satisfaction level in their jobs." Indeed, to want to pursue financial independence because you hate your job is quite depressing. And usually it's hard to succeed as you probably won't be successful in your career, and won't make enough money to achieve FI fast enough. The better goal is to do what you like to do while you are still young, and become rich and successful because you like what you do, achieve FI, but want to continue doing what you before achieving FI. Most successful people I know are like that.

    1. Hi Tan

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Very agreed on your comment. Someone who pursue FI for the sake of one day he can leave his own hated job/roles is not a sustainable outcome. At the very best, the outcome is having not enough compassion to look at other things in life and will remain a struggle in all other aspects in his/her life.

  3. Seeing the 3 circle diagram I thought this is yet another article about Ikagi. lol. 100% agree that FI is not an 'end' in itself, unless your goal is really only to make money, in which case, its a question of values.

    Asking about one's own values is a very valuable- especially for those who seem to thinking about FIRE - which means necessarily, that you are thinking about money a lot of the time. Is it really consistent with most people's values to be preoccupied by money, whether earning, spending, saving it?

    1. Hi Hello World

      Thanks for your comment.

      I must admit that when I started out on this project myself, money is my main motivation to reach there. To some extent, it somewhat is lacking in values because when I was young, inexperienced and haven't seen enough of the world, there's very little compassion to understand the true meaning of money. I think as I aged over time, it started to digress towards using it more as a means than the end. I am no longer as fixated in the past about certain things and I tend to look at things much more simpler. No fussy and hard fast rule about saving and spending for instance.

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