Finding Purpose After Wealth Accumulation
Have you met your inner porpoise?
Cetacean jokes aside, purpose is important. If you’re reading this blog, chances are good your life is already filled with purpose. For the vast majority of us, going to work and paying for our lifestyles is our purpose.
What? You don’t agree?
Think about it. Work sucks up all those spare hours in your life when you’re not eating, sleeping, using the toilet, paying taxes, or reading cool blogs on the internet. You might believe life has some higher purpose, but the vast majority of your LIFE ENERGY is spent paying for your lifestyle.
Purpose isn’t what you believe in. Purpose is what you DO.
OK, I’ll grant you that most large corporations now have “mission statements” used to convince the worker-drones they have a purpose besides enriching executives and shareholders.
Sorry guys, I’m not buying that mission statement bullshit. The only real purpose in life (most) people have is heading to work Monday through Friday to pay for that house, the car, the occasional vacation to a sun drenched beach, and of course we can’t forget Christmas gifts.
But what if life didn’t have to be that way? What if you could lead a completely “normal” life, yet fill your time anyway you damn-well choose?
Finding Something Else
A relatively small batch of us humans had this dream, and actually did something about it. Instead of directing our efforts toward greater consumption, we directed our efforts toward investing and wealth accumulation. Those efforts paid off, and FIRE (Financial Independence and Early Retirement) is a reality.
That’s pretty much my life today. I don’t need a job, and I can buy pretty much anything I could possibly want. (Within reason of course) It’s a pretty great feeling that I have half my life ahead of me, and I can now live it on my own terms. But what’s my purpose? What keeps me going?
As we’ve discussed in more morbid posts, people with a purpose live longer. They lead fuller and happier lives too…hence the phrase “Don’t retire from something, retire to something”.
When I first decided to “be done” with work over a year ago, I didn’t even think about purpose. I was just ready to be finished with corporate life.
While I was working, life was too busy to think about such things — I had kids to take care of, bills to pay, and work projects to complete. Weekends would sometimes be consumed by work as well. Purpose wasn’t a proposition that came to mind frequently.
Now, 1 year into my Financial independence, the clouds are finally starting to clear…
So what purpose does an Octopus Without A Job have?
Traveling & Moving
It’s no secret that I live up in the Pacific Northwest, near the Seattle area. It’s cold and rainy nearly 9 months out of the year. Yes, it’s really like that, and it sucks. The other 3 months of the year are wonderful, but very very short.
The only reason why we live here is because we both had jobs here. Why would we bother staying if we didn’t have jobs in this area? I can’t think of any good reasons.
So, Mrs. Tako and I are going to do more traveling in the next couple years, and start scouting out a better home.
Eventually we will find that “better place” in our travels, and move there. Somewhere we can lead healthier lives not stuck indoors 9 months out of the year. Somewhere the property taxes, sales taxes, and car-tab taxes don’t rise at ridiculous rates to handle continuous and unrelenting population growth. I like what it does to my property value, but the cost of living here is growing crazy-fast. It’s not San Francisco yet, but not far off either.
I think moving would be a solid improvement to our Post-Work lives.
After leaving work, I noticed some of my old interests began to surface once again. Long forgotten and smothered by work, I re-discovered that really like to build things.
It’s not something I expect to make money doing, I just enjoy it for the love of making things. After attempting a more involved project, I think the results were decent.
Building is a good activity for kids too — They can learn the basics of engineering, robotics, programming, and all sorts of other great STEM fields.
Already the boys and I head out to the garage on a regular basis to “build stuff”, and I hope this continues as they get older. I’d love to start building projects like this robot kit (robots are fun for Dads too), or a DIY quadcopter … but I’ll have to wait a few years for that.
Leaving A Legacy For My Kids
One of my biggest “purposes” in life right now is my kids. Keeping them healthy, teaching them, and providing them the care that they need. I give them a huge amount of my time right now…and it’s mostly pretty great. Some days are worse than others (to be honest). But eventually they’ll grow up and won’t need ‘good old Dad’ anymore. They’ll want to be independent, and doing their own things. But I have bigger plans.
I’d like to give my kids the gift of financial independence at an early age, but NOT by giving them money. Instead, I’ll share with them my financial know-how, and a decent blueprint for financial independence. I think that’s far more valuable than handing them a big check when they graduate college.
The only problem with this plan is they’re way too young to understand money right now (ages one and three, if you’re curious). By the time they’re ready and willing to understand personal finance, I’ll either be dead or an old doddering fool.
Now is the time for me to be writing it all down.
That’s 85% of what blog is all about. Most of the time when I write a post, it’s written directly to my boys about something I want them to learn. I need to write down this legacy for them while my mind is sharp and the thoughts are still fresh.
Yes, eventually they’ll probably inherit some money from ‘good old Dad’… When that time comes, I hope they know what to do with it.
While I’m not big on giving money to charity, I strongly believe in helping people. Helping people with my time, not necessarily my money.
I’m not a big fan of monetary hand-outs, I think they incentivize the wrong things. Instead I prefer the “teach a man to fish” option rather than just giving him the fish. In my mind, it’s a more personal way of giving too.
Examples of this in-practice might mean: Helping a friend finish their home remodel. Donating time to a local cause. Lending my tools to friends and neighbors. Or even giving people who ask financial advice on how to improve their lives.
There’s a lot of ways to help people, and it doesn’t have to be people on other continents. Simply put, I’d like to help the people and communities closest to me.
I realize many people think about this differently, but I won’t judge.
We help in our own way. For me personally, I’m going to realize far more personal satisfaction than I would by sending an annual check to charity.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting on your road to financial independence, or practically at the finish line — Having a purpose is important. If you spend your days sitting around eating bonbons and watching TV, you won’t last long!
Finding a purpose outside of work can be a challenge. Most of us never think about it. Almost from birth we’re conscripted into the system — Go to school, get good grades. Graduate. Go to college. Graduate. Find a job. Buy a home. Buy a car. Work for 40 years. Consume. Retire. Die.
For decades we’re practically told what to do by our families, our peers, and “the system”. Nowhere in the standard script is there a line-item for purpose outside of work and consumption. Guess what — The standard script doesn’t have the answer! You’re going to have to find purpose for yourself!
For some, they might just stay at work.
What will you do when you reach Financial Independence?
35 thoughts on “Finding Purpose After Wealth Accumulation”
What will I do once I get to my FIRE date (Jan 2021, btw)?
I recently wrote a whole blog post about this. My goal is to be on my death bed and not feel like I wasted my one chance here on Earth, to not die a sad, sniveling ball of regrets. I believe that in order to do that I need to create something, to be able to point to something and say “I made that” (and it has to be something other than Toddler BITA). Once I get to my FIRE date I’m going to spend my time figuring out what that something is. And trying, and failing. And rinsing and repeating.
Your post begins with a picture of a porpoise. Coincidentally, mine began with a quote about dolphins. We may be on to some common theme about purpose here.
Either that, or we both love bad puns!
Those robot kits look pretty cool! I would love to have time to build those.
I’ve often wondered why people stay in places with climates that aren’t exactly ideal for getting outside of the house. Do you think because your kids are 1 and 3 it would be easier now to move to a new location before they develop ties in school?
Yeah, I think it’s harder on kids to move once they get older. I think it makes sense to stay in one place from about middle school through high school.
So as a fellow early retiree, I had a lot of similar “purpose” questions the first year. I took a few months just checking things off my bucket list (like attending a special F/X class), doing a bunch of fishing, and diving into several projects. But when the dust settled, I realized that my purpose was to really set an example for my children by helping others with their finances with respect to how it aligns with their life’s goals. It’s been a blast engaging with my kids at such a young age and it’s really helped me to see the bigger picture in life beyond what I ever imagined before. Life today is really all about balance for me – maintaining my happiness and positive energy so it will hopefully spread to others around me. 🙂
Have fun traveling and exploring! There are so many cool places to live in the U.S. I think once my wife retires, I’d love to live in different states during different times of the year.
“For the vast majority of us, going to work and paying for our lifestyles is our purpose.”
Bang! Right in your face. Love how you put it so bluntly.
If I’m down in Seattle one of these days we should try to meet up so I can pick on your brain. 😉
You highlighted many reasons why I want to achieve FI in the near future. To spend more time on stuff I like and want to do rather than spending majority of my weekdays at work.
Right now my weekends are spent without thinking about work and they don’t feel aimless at all! I don’t think I have a broader purpose in mind each weekend but I do usually have some tasks I’d like to get done and a few hobbies I’d like to spend some time on. And I feel like that’s enough! I don’t think we need some kind of higher purpose than doing what makes us happy. 🙂
Purpose is soooo important. I think that is why over 2/3rds of Americans are unhappy… because they are just chugging away at jobs they don’t find purpose in. And you are correct, that the mission statement doesn’t do much to change that.
I’ve actually really enjoyed my career, but not enough to spend 40+ hours a week at it. I’m a big believer in moving toward a part time work society. That way professionals, can still be involved in interesting projects and spend time with their peers, but also have plenty of time to do what they love. While FIRE is a great start, that is a very small community, and most people don’t want to retire completely, they just want more time. I left the corporate world 4 years ago at 39, but I find working 2-3 days per week actually gives me more balance (and even some more purpose) than not working at all. And most people can achieve this balance at any age.
This has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and it’s pretty neat to see two posts on it in a week coming from smart folks with other perspectives. I am not at the Finding My Special Purpose stage yet; heck, I’m barely at the Don’t Want To Retire and Die of Boredom stage of philosophical development!
But it’s on the radar and under construction, so to speak.
As a bit of an aside: I used to work in philanthropy, and as a result, I’ve also refocused from global causes to local ones. Mega-corporate-global-philanthropy has a place, but most of what we use large-scale charity for is stuff that should be done by governments for the economies of scale that they can achieve – it’s just that long-standing systems (corruption, land ownership, etc.) have interfered with governments being simultaneously able and willing to do it. Some examples: providing clean water, health care systems, etc.
Though it took me a while to implement, I made the conscious decision that my charitable gifts needed to be as much about connecting me to the community as they were about “improving” it.
And, hey – you don’t like rainy cloudy weather?! I turned down a job because it was in an area that didn’t get enough cloud cover 🙂
A little cloud cover is OK. 300 days a year of clouds and 200 days a year of rain is a bit much. No point in suffering.
Just … that picture. Oh my god, the puns. I love it.
I agree that most of us subscribe to work being our purpose in life. After all, what would I wake up for at 5:30 every morning without work? Not a damn thing!
As part of my contract job, we’re about to start two weeks of on-call work. That’s corporate slang for “we’re giving you two weeks off with pay because we like you.” So during this time every year I get a taste of what retirement would be like, and it is awesome. However, after about three days I do feel a lack of purpose. It’s all about finding what to do with your life when you aren’t forcing yourself to do something for money.
As far as my own retirement plans, I would love to spend more time with our future-kiddos, which is important to me. I’d love to have grown the blog into a full-blown business by then, as well. I think it’s also important to have some kind of side work, so I’d love to volunteer at an animal shelter too.
Enjoy the two weeks off!
Wishing you luck on that “better place” to live. While it can be the subject of entire blogs, couching it within the subject of FIRE makes it all the more alluring. We are doing the same thing, no one place seems to quite fit, and having two places is of course self-defeating. I look forward to your travails. Our high today, December 14th, 2016 in AZ is predicted to be 78f… but just as you dread winter we dread summer.
Perhaps somewhere in the middle is good! 😉
Also, I’m jealous of those winter temps — 78F is nice for December!
I believe in giving both money and my time.
Most of our monetary giving goes to help the poor and homeless.
My volunteer time is spent on a non-profit board for a women’s health clinic and housing program for single moms who were homeless.
All of it is very fulfilling…
If I really didn’t need to earn money anymore. I’d buy a house that I could tinker with. Do some woodworking. Read. Help others with personal finance, maybe try to convince a local college to let me present to incoming freshman or high school seniors. Drive an RV around the US and Canada for a year. Sounds like a good time to me!
It does sound like a good time!
I like that most of the time when you write, you’re writing with your boys in mind as an audience. I think that will be something great for your kids
I started getting serious about reaching FIRE once my daughter was born 6 years ago. I hated that I couldn’t be with her to spend as much time with her as I wanted – for fun and for helping her to learn things they don’t teach in school (like FI!). Unfortunately, she’ll probably be around 14 when I am able to quit my job and likely will be at the age where she doesn’t want to hang around with dear old dad as much, but I want to be available anytime she does need me.
We’re discussing a move to Panama, which would be an adventure in itself, but it would also move the date up of retirement significantly. Other than that, I want to use my time after working to focus on things I just don’t have the time to do now… I would love to try my hand at gardening and get back into the martial arts.
I’m not sure if a specific purpose comes to mind for me, but my wife will aim for different kinds of volunteer work which brings her a lot of satisfaction.
I hear a lot of good things about Panama. Very curious about that place myself.
I’ll give you the low-down when we get back – I’m sure I’ll write about the good, bad, and ugly after the trip.
Looking forward to it.
I think this is very important too. I wrote a post on it referring to finding your “ikigai”. Essentially, retiring to no purpose will shorten your life.
Mine is getting involved with the kiddos schools, some fishing, woodworking, music playing, but I think some of that may not feel as pruposeful as I imagine now. I’m sure something will come of it though, as I have many irons in the fire on post work purpose. 🙂
We’re also wanting to relocate away from the Gulf Coast to somewhere with 4 seasons, topography etc… It’s tricky picking a place though. We started with findmyspot.com to get some ideas and then use city-data.com to help with other stuff like weather, cloudinesss, snowfall, employment, and other random demographics.
Good luck with your search!
Interesting that you know the Japanese word for it!
I think back to my late father. I think his purpose in life was accumulating wealth. He attacked the problem from both ends. He didn’t like to spend money and he knew how to invest money. He didn’t have any hobbies that I was aware of. He seemed indifferent about his job. He spent most of his time with household budgets, investment plans and net worth calculations. If your purpose in life is wealth accumulation, spending a dollar is antithetical to your life’s purpose. Good for your life’s purpose but tough on your wife and kid.
I didn’t want to be like my father so I looked for jobs that I thought I would enjoy. If I have to spend 40 hours or more a week doing something, I may as well enjoy it. Having two engineering degrees & moderate analytical and computer skills, I’ve been able to pursue what I enjoy and be paid nicely for it. Compared to my father I am a spendthrift but not when compared to the US population as a whole. The one thing my father and I share is a keen interest in investing.
I have now gotten to the point where I am FI but I don’t want to RE because I have liked my jobs for most of my career. However, my current job is the least favorite of my career and I am having a difficult time getting a new job. I am considering retirement because I don’t want to go to work many days. This is a new situation for me. Similar to your situation, I think a layoff or buyout would be the best thing for me. It would force a decision by me. The thing that frightens me is that I can’t imagine what my purpose will be once I retire (whenever that is).
You’ll figure it out when the time comes Dan. It took me almost a year to figure it out!
A lot of our travel has also been around the same theme. We don’t like the cold so much and keep looking to find someplace warmer, sunnier, and cheaper. But the more we travel, the more we also learn to appreciate what we have and where we are. Every place has it’s pluses and minuses. So far we do not have plans to move, but we are still looking and doing our due diligence. Enjoy your travels, I’ll be curious to see what you might find 🙂
I’m sure I’ll blog all about it Mr. CK! Just keep reading.
Great post! What locations are on your list? We are considering moving too, but we don’t know where to move to. Portland has some problems, but it is still a great place to live. Our schools are pretty good too. We could move back to Mrs. RB40’s hometown and save a lot of money, but the schools are not very good.
Raising the kid is a good purpose, but it’s tough. Jr is getting more difficult every day and he needs me less and less. Soon, I’ll need to find a different purpose. Blogging is good too. I’d love to build more once we have more space.
Hawaii and Okinawa are our favorites right now, but I’m not convinced we can afford them. We’ll start by looking around the Vancouver/Portland suburbs and outlying small towns. Since we won’t need to commute, anything within 45 minutes of the big city would be fine. Somewhere in Nevada, Florida, or Arizona might be good options too.
We loved Queensland Australia, but it’s probably too far from friends and family to be viable.
I’ve also heard good things about Panama. Haven’t been there yet. Need to check that one out!
I just need to know how and when to stop!
I am EXTREMELY fortunate that I work in a field where I can earn in the (very low) six figures working four or five days a month as an independently contracted supercommuter, hotel, airfare, and travel paid. I do, however, have pretty much the only job in my field in my area, where I absolutely LOVE living. And they have accommodated a slightly weird disability. I make twice what I would commuting, and of course I don’t have to travel (although no FF miles.) But every year they tighten the chains- now they want to take my vacation away!!
I’m 44, have a million saved, an investment property nearly paid off, and a small pension when I hit 65. Spouse is a low earner. I’m torn…when do I quit???
The post your looking for is probably this one, but I do stress that 1 million is not so much anymore.
I know. It’s not. I think the dilemma is whether to cut down to quarter time and earn $150k a year, or whether I need to slave full time (for reasons not worth explaining, quarter time would pay the same as half time) without any vacation ever until 50, when I might just have two million. I do not like this choice…there seems to be no point in saving, at all. It’s never enough (I might add I saved the million in five years, admittedly with a great stock market run), and everyone I know who seems to have a good Q of L has managed to score lots of government benefits (mainly subsidized housing).
All the old people and parents seem to get the government to take care of them; I have a paltry million and a crap life! Most of the time I wish I hadn’t even tried…
What would I do?
I would have ownership of my time, to pursue endeavors that interest me. Quality Family time, Reading, investing, perhaps travelling.
Money to me is not what it can buy in terms of material possessions, but it is all about the peace of mind that it can buy me, so that I can do my own thing.
When I reach financial independence, I will continue working at my business, but reduce down to 25-30 hours a week. The work I do is valuable to the world and I will be even better at it by then. I may even do more of it for free if I don’t have to worry about covering my bills.
Purpose outside a work is a good question. I know you are right in that some people are challenged with finding a purpose or something to do when they reach financial independence or retire. In my perspective there are many things to do, places to visit, things to learn, activities to try out and ways to contribute or help others once we reach financial independence.