“Get good grades in school to get into a good university to get a good paying job”, my parents always enforced when I was younger. That was the secret formula to success and happiness– at least I thought so. Heck, I even went to get a masters in hope to secure that high paying job. Then at last, I can live that successful lifestyle (e.g., nice house, nice car, fancy things).
Growing up, my family was middle class. Both my parents work at jobs that provided the means to feed me, put me through school, buy most of the stuff a child would want. My family enjoyed the typical luxuries like brand name clothes/accessories, European cars, etc. As immigrants coming to America, they pretty much worked and saved their way up. I get that they want to indulge in some of these things. As a result, I grew up wanted those things as well. My goal through school was to do well to earn a high salary as fast as I can and just do that until the retirement age of 65. It never really occurred to me to figure out what I wanted in life.
Fast forward to after I got my masters, I worked as a management consultant earning a salary that I thought was fairly good for a fresh grad. I did also come out the other end with ~$55k in debt (~$15k from undergrad which i was able to minimize with the help of my parents and work-study and ~$40k from grad school). I was 25 and thought I did it, I should be living the good life now. At this time I wasn’t exposed to this concept of FI but I did know that I need to save and not spend all my money. I had some individual stocks, mutual funds (those high expense fees ones!), and 401k. I also wasn’t spending outrageously or buying a fancy car like my peers, but I didn’t have to budget much either. Despite this, I came to a quick realization that life wasn’t a rosy as the “success” formula had painted. Is this the rest of my life until the legal retirement age? Does my life consist of waking up, grinding the 7-7 (yea 9-5 doesn’t exist in consulting), eat, sleep, repeat? Where and when do I get to do the rest of the things like travel, explore, hang out with friends and family? I wrestle with these questions and what the purpose of all this is like I was in a never ending jiu-jutsu match. It exhausted me, lead me to borderline depression, and frustrated me. Wasn’t I supposed to be happy now? Why did I work so hard to get here? The more I earned/worked the less time I had to spend and enjoy the fruits of my labor. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good at what I do or absolutely hated it. There was just more to life that I wanted to do. There has to be an alternative to this rat-race cycle.
I started reading blogs and books about lifestyle, personal finance, etc where I hope to glean insights to how others created a life on their own terms. For me I wanted time or the freedom over how to fill my time. I started digging to minimalism, Buddhism, FI, early retirement, frugality, career choices to hopefully learn how to free myself from working to live. It became clear to me that establishing some FU money is the way to break the conventional path to success ingrained in me. FIRE was the way to enable me to not worry about working to live but can give me the option to craft my life on my own terms.