3 Constant Reminders at Work of Why We Need to Seize the Moment and Retire Early

In the FIRE community, we tend to talk a lot about money, as we understand the need of having enough of that life energy stored to be able to retire early. Someone outside of this circle might even think that we have a “money obsession”, but nothing could be further away from the truth than that belief.

Financial independence is not about accumulating money, it’s about accumulating time. Every dollar that we decide to put away instead of spending, buys us more time away from the office. Every investment we make keeps us from having to worry about how we’re going to pay for our living expenses in the future.

Why is this so important?

Because with a finite time on Earth, we want to spend our time on things that really matter.

3 constant reminders at work on why we need to retire early

I don’t think that a week passes by where I’m not reminded of the why of our early retirement plan. The following types of events are like shock waves to the system, reminding me that life is not meant to be spent inside a cubicle.

1. Hearing of someone passing away

We’re supposed to die of old age, but obviously that’s not always the case. And let me break the news to you: we’re all going to die, but no one knows when. And if someone out there knows they’re not sharing it with you. You’re on your own with that one.

A sudden unexpected death reminds me of how mortal we are. When I hear of a coworker’s death, I stop to think of what happened. Most importantly, even without knowing that person, I wondered if they lived a good life.

What does it mean to live a good life?

We all have our own definition of that. Think of what you might regret not doing if you were going to die today. If your list starts to get long, then it might be time to review your priorities.

Maybe that coworker that passed away lived a good life. One thing for sure is that he or she might have never experienced a life outside of the constraints of mandatory work. That person denied himself/herself the very dear thing that we are working towards: retiring early.

No one wants to die

Do I want to die before I retire?

Hell no!

Nobody wants to, but not everybody is going to do something to ensure a different outcome.

Someone passing away makes me realize that by the time we have enough to retire, we need to push the eject button because we don’t know if there will be a safe landing later on.

Or there might not even be a later on.

It doesn’t matter how smart we think we are, we can’t outsmart death.

The “later on” is not guaranteed. Don’t reserve the kisses and the “I love you’s” for later. You don’t run out of those just by giving. And the more you give, the more you want to keep on giving.

Don’t keep working to maintain a lifestyle that doesn’t bring you happiness. The time to change is now and we must seize the moment! We must do our best so that death doesn’t find us living a mediocre life in a corporate setting. While I’m not afraid to die, a little dose of mortality gives me a nice kick in the butt to keep it real.

2. Hearing of someone contracting a sudden illness or disease

I think this one is even more sad and scary than the first reminder on the list because it involves pain and suffering. It’s sad to see a coworker go through sickness and, sometimes, hear the pain they go through on a daily basis. It’s even more shocking when people who have a healthy lifestyle contract an illness, like a nonsmoker getting lung cancer or vegetarians getting colon cancer. Folks, diseases do not discriminate.

At home, we try to live a healthy lifestyle. One of us was even told by a doctor that we have good poop. The best poop analysis they’ve ever seen. 🙂 But we’re a little afraid of the unknown and a small dose of fear in that area might be good for us.

Do you know why?

A little fear keeps us in check and makes us question our lives.

Are we enjoying life as much as we can?

And this doesn’t need to involve spending lots of money, folks.

Are we going on exploration trips?

Are we giving the best years of our lives to ourselves?

After ll, we only got one life to live!

Early retirement and disease

When we tell someone that we’re retiring early they often ask: What if you get sick? That must be a frequently asked question for early retirees. If we do get sick, then we’ll be so glad that we chose early retirement. We’ll be so happy that we decided to get more out of life early on instead of postponing things. There’d be no regrets because a disease wouldn’t have found us in a cubicle.

The angel of death would have a hard time finding us because he’ll need to look in unexpected places. He might need to get acquainted with the FIRE community. 😉

As far as the safety net of having a job while being sick goes, let me tell you some of the advantages of being sick and early retired over sick and employed:

  • We’d still have health insurance as we plan to buy it after retirement.
  • We wouldn’t have to worry about showing up to work and can concentrate on getting better.
  • There would be no worries about losing a job due to sickness, a bad economy, or a pandemic.
  • We’d have our Freedom Fund at our disposal. That one easily beats the paycheck to paycheck fund.
  • The healthy partner has time to think and execute a side hustle if we need more money.

In other words, I’d rather be sick and wealthy, than sick and employed. Money would be the last thing on our mind if we get sick in early retirement. It’s certainly the last one on the list above!

Also, in most cases, instead of going to a hospital for some invasive Western world treatment, we’d likely go for holistic and natural remedies. They are often more effective (and less toxic), as well as less expensive.

Cancer can be the scariest and costly disease we visualize and dread. But after watching The Truth About Cancer docu-series, we know for a fact we wouldn’t pursue the costly chemo/radiation package and would follow natural remedies that help your immune system, not kill it.

On a personal note: I’ve witnessed my dear mother work so hard to accomplish her retirement, but in the process, she sacrificed her health. Once she retired, she only had a few years to enjoy it. Even during those years, health issues got in the way of enjoyment. I wish that she’d have been a little more selfish and thought of herself first. She’d probably still be around. 🙁

3. Seeing people burning themselves out on the job (by choice)

Seeing overachievers working 10-12 hours a day makes me feel sad for them. Working yourself that much without taking time to enjoy the journey is not worth it. We have no interest in climbing the corporate ladder.

I experienced burnout before as an entrepreneur and it is not fun. It’s also very hazardous to your health, so take the time to care for yourself. The job responsibilities will still be there tomorrow.

I have created this silent agreement between me and corporate in which I’m going to come in, in person or virtually, do my best, provide ideas for improvements, be innovative and you’re going to pay me for my effort. I don’t need long-term career plans because, duh, we’re retiring by 2020. And I want flexibility, as much as I can get, because sitting in a chair at work for too long drives me nuts.

We believe that we don’t need to work extra hours to show our best performance. So the old mentality of working lots of hours to a point of burning out is another reminder to check our FIRE plans!

Even outside of work, I’m working to get the nonsense out-of-the-way, so that I can make more time for living. We can easily complicate our lives by making the wrong choices and that includes spending time with the wrong crowd. That’s why I’ve become more selfish with my time because I don’t know how much of it I got left.

Our investments buy us our time back, but they don’t buy us more time on the planet. That’s why we make sure to enjoy the journey to FIRE. By pursuing financial independence and early retirement, we’ve eliminated the need to work longer days and will soon eliminate the need to work at all. That’s the power of saving for early retirement!

Let’s “wow it out” until the end!

The most shocking moment for many is what they realize when they are on their deathbeds; they don’t wish that they had more money or to be able to finish a project at work. They might wish that they took better care of their health if poor health was the issue, but ultimately they wish that they had more time. I wouldn’t want this realization to come to me when I’m dying.

On my deathbed, I want to have my wow moment, just like Steve Jobs.

Mona Simpson, Job’s sister, described the moment of his passing; his last words in a moving tribute in the New York Times. On my deathbed, hopefully with my loved ones next to me, I want to be able to repeat his same last words: “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”

What are you doing to create your “wow moment” instead of life regrets? How do you balance seizing the moment while saving for tomorrow? What are the triggers around you that make you want to reach FIRE?


After dedicating 13 years of his career to Vanguard, José retired from the corporate world at the young age of 44. During his tenure at Vanguard, he expertly coordinated the production of both electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. Now, he relishes in his early retirement, cherishing time spent with his family, indulging in his favorite hobbies, seeking out new experiences, and savoring meals in the comfort of his own backyard.

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All of these reasons are actually why I chose to slow down the march to FI (though I still hope to get there at ~45). I cut my hours down to 80% time originally just to spend time with my young son before he starts school, but now that I’m here, I don’t expect to ramp back up once he does. I’ve found there’s so much living NOW by having more hours in my day (and since I have a small child, not working at all wouldn’t be “not working” because, well, toddler).

6 years ago

You have the right mindset when it comes to FI. It’s definitely not a race and you must be able to enjoy the journey. It’s great that you were able to cut down your hours and the beauty of it is that when you’re on the FI path you’re not doing mindless spending, so less income doesn’t equate to a lower quality of life. And what better way to spend that time than raising your child? 🙂

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