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The Slow Middle of the Path to Finacial Independence

I am writing this from a hotel room 250 miles from home on another business trip.  For this short jaunt, I decided to drive.   On the way here, I had to pass through New York City.  As anyone who has done that jaunt can attest I spent a lot of time sitting in traffic going nowhere very slowly.  That got me thinking of how much of my financial life currently feels like it’s stuck in traffic, but also how much that might not really be true.

The Slow Middle Between FIRE and Debt

About two years ago I wrote a post about how it feels to be in the weird abyss of personal finance between fully financially independent and in debt.  That period of the accumulation phase seems to go on forever.    I am knee-deep in that phase and have been for some time.

Already FI, Just Not FI Enough

Now don’t get me wrong, as noted before in some sense I am already Financially Independent (FI).  If I were to geo arbitrage, be comfortable with just the 4% rule to my current spending levels,  or be willing to cut some corners I could retire tomorrow.    I have a lot of gratitude for that as I know it’s not a common thing.  But, I don’t want to do any of those things.  By my own number, I won’t be financially independent until about double what I have today.

The Slow Slog Towards Hitting Our Financial Goals

Now, before we continue I should note I am still not in a rush to retire.  Our plans remain set at 55, which is years down the road.  But I’ve also had quite a bit of frustration with my new job.  If I were closer to my Financial independence number I might be more likely to push management for an extended sabbatical.    Instead, I keep plugging along and the progress seems to be moving about like the traffic over the George Washington Bridge last week. 

 I’d estimate the double goal is at least half a decade away, if not a full decade given the current state of the market.  A decade, it sounds like a long time.  A decade ago I was dating my wife, had no kids, and still had never owned a house.    A lot has changed.  The world around me has changed.

Oh the Changes We Will See In the Comming Decade

State of the art ten years ago, and I know this because my Corvette was on that edge in some areas, were cars with keyless entry and push-button start.  Those features are now everywhere and we are talking about driverless cars.  Ridesharing companies like Uber literally just came into existence.  The world of travel, like my life, was completely different just 10 years ago.

Slow But Not Slow: Ten Years Doesn’t Necessarily Feel Long

On the flip side, however, ten years doesn’t feel like that long ago.  The older I get the longer the relevant measurement of the passage of time seems to be.  If you were to ask me if the 90s were long ago I’d say yes.  However, someone celebrating the historic 00s would get a weird look from me.  And yet here we are knocking on the 20s doorstep.    Funny how that happens.

Forget About IT

The reality is ten years will be here before I know it.  Our savings goes up between 1 and 2 times expenses every year.   So real and massive progress.  So the problem is not the progress itself.   The key is to not become obsessed with that progress.  A watched pot never boils and watching yourself slowly drift towards Financial Independence can drive you crazy.    A better plan is to get things setup correctly for your finances.  Then configure them to go on autopilot.

Check back every few years and Financial Independence will sneak up on you before you know it.    It’s no coincidence the best investors time and again are shown to be those that forget about their accounts.  Attention drives a desire to tinker, and tinkering leads to worse outcomes.  It also leads to less enjoyment in other areas of your life.  

For those in the mid part of the Financial Independence Journey, have you automated?  How often do you check your progress?


  1. Great post and reflections FTF.

    This is an area I’ve been focusing on a lot lately… what do I do in the mean time as I continue to work, save and grow wealth for the future.

    Something I’ve came to realize is after automation of my finances, I really don’t need to worry or think about anything else – I can just go about my days and focus on living life to the fullest.

    Now, I’m working on some new website projects, rock climbing, doing zumba, biking, and getting out into the world more with friends and family.

    It’s really difficult though to get over that initial hump, and I’m guessing it will be very difficult to again get to fully FI – but we are both up for the challenge 🙂

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance July 24, 2019

      One day at a time, Multiple meanings in that saying. Don’t worry too much about the future… enjoy today..
      Anything can be tackled if you go at it in bite size chunks.

  2. Xrayvsn
    Xrayvsn July 24, 2019

    I have a very similar philosophy. I can likely retire today and keep my current lifestyle intact (if things go smoothly). However a bad SORR can put some strain on it so it would not be my choice to do it. Most people would consider where I am at not even lean FIRE but in my mind that’s where I put myself. I think 5 more years (age 53 at that time) would really rocket me into the fat FIRE range that I would feel more comfortable at).

    It really depends though. I have hit the net worth I wanted when I first started this journey but now than I’m here It’s hard to say it’s enough anymore because of the uncertainties in the future.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance July 24, 2019

      So is it one more year syndrome or a real need?

  3. Financial Samurai
    Financial Samurai July 24, 2019

    Don’t worry! I got debt too. And just refinanced.

    It’s great u have the endurance to go to 55. Feel blessed! Bc many, including myself can’t last that long without hating life anymore.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance July 24, 2019

      My job keeps me from being bored by bringing challenges. The day that stops I’m right there with you.

  4. Xrayvsn
    Xrayvsn July 25, 2019

    Good question. I’m not sure. Probably a combination of both in my head 🙂

    I know when I fully leave medicine I want it to be a closed door with no turning back because to get back into medicine would require an inordinate amount of effort if you have been out of it for awhile (and even worse if you let your credentials/licensing lapse).

  5. Joe
    Joe July 25, 2019

    You’re right about watching the pot boil. Time stretches if you watch it too much.
    You just have to get on with life and don’t pay too much attention to the progress. You’ll get there someday. For now, just focus on making your life more enjoyable without spending too much money.
    Keep at it!

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance July 26, 2019

      Love the attitude. Life is about the journey, not the destination.

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