I started my first “real” job in early 2012. 10 years ago at the time of writing. A lot has changed in those 10 years. I went from being broke and feeling stuck to enjoying a fabulous semi-retired lifestyle with my family. Time for a look back.
This article is a mix of personal reflection and some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last 10 years. It’s a bit different from my regular articles on the blog, but I hope you enjoy it.
I had always dreaded entering the corporate world. Even during my summer jobs during high school, I hated being stuck somewhere for 8+ hours a day. And the prospect of being stuck in an office for 8+ hours a day, five days a week, didn’t appeal to me.
I think that I subconsciously delayed starting a full-time job as long as possible. I completed two lengthy uni degrees, took a gap year to go backpacking, went on dozens of trips with friends, spent the summers in different European capitals, lived in Spain for six months… The list goes on. I had many different part-time and casual jobs over the years to fund all of this and keep the fun times going as long as possible.
But at some point, it was inevitable: I had to start being a real adult and do what real adults do: get a real job. It didn’t take long before I got frustrated and tired. I’ve written about how stuck I felt during the first few months in the corporate world many times. Yes, you get used to the ’40 hours a week, every week’ routine after a while. But that’s not necessarily a good thing if you ask me.
I remember vividly how desperate I got to find a way out of the rat race, which eventually led me to the world of Financial Independence (which was a relatively small world back then!).
So in a way, I needed to go through this phase of unhappiness to find the information that has allowed me to get to the position my family and I are in today.
When I entered the workforce 10 years ago, I knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about investing. I was constantly broke, and whenever I had saved a little money, I would go on a trip or find another way to spend it. I was financially clueless.
I don’t regret not getting ahead financially in my 20s. I had so many fantastic experiences and got to travel to so many different places.
I look back at the person I was back then and see someone who is just enjoying life, having a good time, oblivious to the realities of adult life. And I am glad that person got to enjoy those years.
When I read posts from people in their early 20s who are highly focused on getting ahead financially, I often think they are missing out on so many great experiences.
For instance, the year I spent backpacking in my early 20s was one of the best years of my life. Yes, you can go travelling later in life, but it won’t be the same experience. It’s a trade-off at the end of the day.
Information = Power
Back to 2012 and my desperate search for a way out of the rat race.
I remember how grateful and excited I was when I found the world of FIRE.
However, looking back, I really wish there had been more information on alternative and “softer” FI strategies out there. That might have saved me a few years of misery.
Back then, there were only a few FIRE blogs (MMM was the most prominent one). And while the information was life-changing for me, it did demotivate me at the same time.
There was basically the ultra-frugal “work hard and save hard for 10-15 years” FIRE approach or the alternative: work for 40 years and then retire. There was no in-between. No information on semi-retirement, Coast FI, nothing.
That’s basically like telling someone that they can choose between
a) climbing Mt. Everest or
b) sitting on the couch and eating potato chips indefinitely, even if their back hurts and they don’t enjoy it
At least that’s what the two options felt like to me.
I was on a pretty low income at the time and saving 50% of my income seemed impossible (and would have deprived me of the little joys in life as well). And even if I’d been able to save 50% of my salary, it would have taken me 17(!) years to get to FI. So I didn’t bother with it for the next few years. I went with the eating potato chips on the couch option (and trust me, I did not enjoy it!).
This is one of my main motivations for creating this blog: I want to help others in the same situation stay motivated. I want to show them that there are other ways and that FI doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing, black and white.
What followed were a few underwhelming years in the corporate world, broken up by some holidays to make it all more bearable. I was not in a good place. I tried to change my situation a few times but I just felt stuck. Eventually, I even started gambling and drinking too much. I now realise that this all came down to having the wrong mindset.
Sometimes you just need a fresh start
Luckily, we pulled the emergency brake and decided to make a big life change and a fresh start. We moved to the other side of the world and built a life here in Australia.
I’m not trying to say that we needed to move here to achieve our goals. We could absolutely have achieved a similar result back in Europe. But there is a certain magic about new beginnings. We got to start over from scratch – a new country, new jobs, a completely new environment. Our fresh start allowed us to design our new life deliberately and exactly how we wanted it.
We finally got motivated to pursue Financial Independence again with a fresh mindset. I also actively surrounded myself with supportive people with a growth mindset to ensure I stay on track this time around.
I started implementing all of the information about FI and investing I had read over the years. Luckily I had never stopped reading finance blogs, and at that point, I had a pretty good grasp of personal finance and investing concepts. Our future started to look bright.
One other thing that had changed by that time was that I actually enjoyed my job. It turns out that my first job and the environment I was in just weren’t a good fit. Plus, the more F-You money we accumulated (which meant I could walk away from a job if I wanted to), the more I enjoyed working.
I know that many others feel the same way about their work, but it still amazes me that work really is so much better when you do it by choice, not because you absolutely have to.
There are two things I realised that year:
- I liked working and didn’t really want to fully retire. I just wanted to have more freedom and control of my time.
- If we are not in a rush to retire asap, we could use the power of compound interest in our favour.
Flamingo FI was born, and the rest is history. Five short years later, in 2020, we hit our goal and semi-retired.
Starting a Family
I have to say that having children has probably been the most significant life change for me over the last 10 years. Having children is one of those experiences you can only understand if you have children yourself. This is something I was told many times before we started a family, and it’s definitely true.
Being a mum has changed and challenged me in many ways I didn’t expect. It has also been the hardest and, at the same time, most meaningful job I’ve ever had.
Being in an excellent financial position makes being a parent so much easier (and it’s still hard in many other respects!). We never knew if we wanted to have kids, and I’m glad we just went for it. I can’t imagine my life any other way now.
I am very grateful that we can spend a lot of quality time with our kids because we don’t have to work 40 hours a week anymore.
The main thing kids want from their parents is their time and undivided attention. Getting as close to FI (or an alternative) as possible before having kids is a good idea for this reason.
So much can change in 10 years
When I started that first job 10 years ago, my life was so different. Back then, I would never, ever have imagined that I would be where I am now.
People say that we overestimate what we can achieve in one year but underestimate what we can do in 10. I think they are right.
We have built a life around our priorities and goals. I am proud of what we have achieved, and I am so excited for our family’s future.
Looking at how much has changed in my life over these 10 years has made me realise that my life will probably be completely different in another 10 years from now.
I think it’s important to realise how much life changes, how much we change over time. So it’s good to stay flexible and keep as many options open as possible for our future selves. I feel that we have set ourselves up in a way that will give us that flexibility.
Mindset + support + information = Magic
My biggest take-away from reflecting on the last decade is this:
The right mindset + the right support network + the right information = Magic
You really need all three, at the same time, to make big changes in the right direction without getting sidetracked. There are, of course, also other important factors that help – like a bit of luck – but I think a good mindset, strong support and the right information are the basis for success.
When I finally had all three ingredients after we made our fresh start, everything fell into place.
I see so many people in the FIRE community run away from something (like the job they hate). I was there myself. I don’t think this is the right approach. Running towards something is so much better and more motivating. A growth/abundance mindset and a positive outlook can make all the difference.
Bring on the next 10 years!
I am stoked about what we have achieved over the last decade. I am really looking forward to the future and am excited to find out what the next 10 years hold for our family.
Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey so far. I really hope the information I share here on the blog helps some of you to take steps towards your goals well.
Thanks for reading. 🙂