A Shock to the System – Welcome to the Rat Race
I finished uni and started my first “real” job at the ripe old age of 27 (this is not unusual where I am from, a lot of people stay in uni until they are 30!).
After only a few months in the rat race, reality hit me. This couldn’t possibly be what adult like is supposed to be like, right? Getting up at the same time every morning. Forcing down breakfast. Putting on uncomfortable clothes to look “professional”. Watching the depressed faces of my fellow morning commuters on the train. Being stuck behind a desk for hours on end (no matter how nice and inviting the weather is outside). Looking at the clock every 10 minutes. A brief sense of relief when it’s finally time to go home for the day. Watching the depressed faces on the train again. Dinner. TV. Bed. REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT…. What a nightmare!
It didn’t take me long to realise that life as a full-time employee is not for me, especially not for another 40+ years. I actually didn’t mind my job and the work itself at all. But the general lack of personal freedom that came with it really bothered me. The thought of having be at the office for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week was unbearable. Having to live my life on someone else’s terms made me feel very uneasy. I changed jobs a few times, but my general sentiment about life as an employee did not change at all.
It became clear to me that if I didn’t find a way out, I would probably end up like this guy:
In addition, there was the nagging feeling that I was wasting my youth and health. A few years earlier, I had been diagnosed with a rather serious autoimmune disease that generally gets worse with age. I was very aware that every day I spent behind my desk was a day I would never get back. A day I should instead have spent hiking, swimming, traveling or skydiving – while my body still allows me to do these activities.
A Way Out
A few months after starting my first job, I started poking around the internet to see if anyone else out there felt the same way. I finally stumbled across Jim Collin´s F-You Money post. Mind blown! This was in 2012. I did a bit more digging and finally discovered Mr. Money Mustache (his blog was only about a year old at the time). I was hooked.
I had never had any interest in finances and building long-term wealth, so all of this was completely new to me. In the months after my discovery, I read everything I could find on Financial Independence.
And then… I did nothing about it for several years.
Why didn’t I just start working towards FI? This topic deserves its own blog post (I am already working on it). Here is a quick summary of my incorrect assumptions and silly excuses:
- For some reason did not believe that WE could REALLY pull this off.
- I ran our numbers and – according to the 4% rule – it would have taken us 20 years to get to FI (we were not on the biggest of incomes at the time). If only I had known about shortcuts like Flamingo FI back then!
- I assumed that we would have to make many sacrifices and deprive ourselves to get to FI. Since my job was already making me miserable, I didn’t want the path to FI to make me even more miserable.
Looking back, I can of course see why I thought these things. They were weak excuses. But I just didn’t know any better at the time. This is one of my main reasons for writing this blog – maybe someone out there is having the same misguided thoughts. If that’s you, please stick around the blog and you’ll soon see that these thoughts are nothing but smoke and mirrors!
The Loser’s Game
After about 2.5 years in my corporate career, I had enough. I just couldn’t do it anymore. In mid-2014, I quit my job.
My plan was to build my own freelancing business in the field I had studied at university (my corporate jobs were in an unrelated field). I was approved for a government grant for new entrepreneurs. The government would pay me 65% of my previous full-time salary for a whole 12 months so that I could get my freelancing business off the ground without having to stress about money. Great, right? I had finally escaped the corporate world. Freedom! This was the lifestyle change I needed. Or so I thought.
In a way, the period that followed was a semi-retirement test drive for me. It was up to me when, where and how much I wanted to work. I was no longer chained to my desk from 9 to 5. Unfortunately, there was one problem: I was not really interested in starting a freelance business. It was just something that offered me a ticket out of corporate prison. I ran into a wall.
I quickly learned the hard way that running away from something because you hate it is not enough. And how important it is to find something that excites you and makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. I realised that freedom has to be earned. I will dedicate a future post to this topic, but here is a brief recap of what happened: I couldn’t handle the lack of structure. I was unable to motivate myself. I was aimless. I felt like a failure. All of this was completely unlike the normal me. Mr. Flamingo was working abroad on a project for a few months during that time and we only saw each other once or twice a month. So there was no one there who could have noticed that I stopped getting up in the morning and hardly ever left the house.
Within a few short months, I found myself drinking mulled wine at 9 a.m. most days. And what goes better with a drinking habit than gambling? I started playing blackjack and poker online. Of course, I lost some money. Then I broke the number one rule – never continue playing to win back your losses. So I lost some more. And drank some more mulled wine. I was playing a loser’s game. Have a look at the cover photo of this post. There is a reason the Queen looks so depressed.
It was a sad time in my life.
As you can see, I didn’t exaggerate when I said that this story is not your everyday FIRE fairy tale.
Want to know what happened next? Stay tuned, part 3 of the Our Story series is coming soon!