The Regrets I’ll Never Have
This post is going to be a quick one today — I’m playing nurse for two sick kids and taking advantage of The Sick Day Advantage.
Today’s post is about regrets.
I’m sure you’ve seen those “Top 5 regrets of the dying” posts online. They’ve done the rounds on the internet, and those things certainly seem like legitimate regrets someone might have on their deathbed after a lifetime of a busy career and keeping up with the Joneses.
As a FI-escapee however, most of those regrets don’t really apply to me — I’m not spending my life at the office and I’m living the kind of life I choose to live. Not a life forced upon me by society or financial constraints.
I made the leap, and I’m living the dream.
So how did I get on this morbid idea of life regrets? Well, I was thinking about regrets on one of my walks this week — I try to go for a walk every day (if possible) and on this particular day I was thoroughly enjoying life. The weather was fantastic, my stress level was minimal, and our finances are in great shape, with a 2.43% spending ratio and tons of dividend income.
Life is really good. Being the contrarian that I am however, I couldn’t help but entertain the idea — What if it all went wrong? What if my entire FI plant went to shit, and I needed to go back to work?
Things have been going swimmingly these past three years, but I’m still a pretty cautious person. I’ve already thought of a scenario that could entirely derail my financial independence.
If those horrible scenarios happened, would I wind-up regretting this FI life I’ve chosen? Would I somehow regret not working longer?
First of all, I’ve always said that family is one of the best reasons for financial independence. Being able to leave work and spend the time with my boys while they’re young is priceless. Kids grow up really fast and then that time is gone. There is absolutely no amount of money in the world that can bring that time back, so I’m glad I have it.
While I might not be a perfect parent, I like to think being around when they’re growing-up counts for something. Hopefully we’ve built a meaningful father-son relationship.
I don’t think I will ever regret leaving my career with a fancy desk job to spend time with my kids. Even if I’m forced by economic circumstances to go back to work someday I will truly cherish the moments I had together with my kids.
Giving Up A Career
When people entertain thoughts of financial independence that usually means leaving their job. One of the first concerns that pops into most people’s minds is giving up a career.
Once you’ve left a career for a few years, it’s nearly impossible to jump back into that same career if your FI plan doesn’t work out.
In the event of a horrible FI-failure I will probably need to start my career over — at the bottom again. More than likely I’d need to take an entry level position and reprove myself, earning significantly less pay than when I left my job.
Would I end-up regretting leaving my career because of this?
Frankly, no. I don’t want my old career back. I climbed the corporate ladder for years until I worked my way into a middle-management job. I definitely earned more, but the stress levels were off the charts. I worked weekends, I reported to multiple bosses, and had project outcomes and millions of dollars in company profits resting squarely on my shoulders.
It wasn’t that great a job. It was a ton of responsibility, time and stress. If I needed to restart my career over with a entry-level position, that would be absolutely perfect — low stress and low responsibility, but also lower pay.
That sounds pretty good to me. I’m not interested in management positions anymore. No regrets about careers here!
Not Saving Enough
If our FI plan turns into a giant failure, then the thinking goes, “Well they must not have saved enough. Oops! Too bad for them!”
Is that really the case though? With annual spending last year of $73k and a net worth over $3 million, the actual percentage of our net worth spent is 2.43%. This is a fraction of what many retirement “experts” recommend.
If some devastating economic recession came along and destroyed our net worth, with our conservative spending level we’d actually be one of the last to fail. That’s right, there’d be plenty of bloggers, early retirees, and even plenty of “regular” retirees that would fail long before us.
The 4% rule is a very popular gauge of retirement readiness right now (as is the 25x rule), but I’ve never put much stock into those popular ideas. I’ve always favored more conservative numbers and saved accordingly.
So would I regret not saving more?
No, I don’t think so, and here’s why: Imagine (for a moment) that a much more conservative spending rate of 1.5% is required for someone to 100% successfully reach financial independence. If that’s the case, then we would seemly need to save $4,866,000. Nearly 5 million dollars!
That’s a level of savings that says to me the financial system would be completely broken if I needed to save 66x my spending to save enough for retirement. Investment returns would be entirely unnecessary if you consider how long it would take to save that much and then consider how long the average human lifespan is.
The numbers involved seem too crazy to be realistic. Investment returns after retirement would have to be absolutely horrible for a scenario like that to make any sense.
After considering all these horrible FI disaster scenarios, I’ve come to the conclusion that on my deathbed I probably won’t be telling everyone to avoid financial independence. If anything, financial independence is probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. One of the best choices I’ve ever made in life.
If there are things I’m going to regret on my deathbed, it’s probably going to be not having enough time to do everything I wanted.
Despite leaving work at the very early age of 38, there’s just not enough time in this world to do everything. Inevitably there’s going to be some item from my bucket list that I wish I’d done. I’ll probably wish I retired earlier.
What about you? Would you have any regrets if your FI plan failed and you were forced to start over?
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26 thoughts on “The Regrets I’ll Never Have”
Good stuff Tako. I don’t think anyone in any circumstance could/should regret having a family focus, being FIRE or not.
As far as regretting not having enough time, we’re all probably going to be there one day
Thanks Accidental Fire. Could agree more. Life is just too short.
I’m sure I won’t regret it. I lived the dream for 6 years already and it’s been great. If it all comes crashing down, I’ll figure something out. That’s life. I’m pretty confident it will work out, though.
Also, I hope the kids feel better soon. It’s no fun being sick.
Thanks Joe. They’ve had fevers for a couple days and can only keep down water.
With school starting soon I’m sure it’ll make the rounds to your house soon enough. 🙁
“That’s a level of savings that says to me the financial system would be completely broken if I needed to save 66x my spending to save enough for retirement. Investment returns would be entirely unnecessary if you consider how long it would take to save that much and then consider how long the average human lifespan is.”
I come back to this as well and it’s a good way of thinking about it when you are being ultra-conservative. We won’t live forever (unless, of course, our brains are mapped onto computers, then all bets are off).
Based upon my own personal earnings level and savings rates (with a 6% annual return), it would have taken me 33 years to compound that much.
That’s pretty much a standard career length.
I’ve had too many friends / colleagues die young to regret taking my foot off of the gas. I’m happy becoming a Wal-Mart greeter when I’m old if I haven’t saved enough, as long as I have great memories of being there for my kids growing up 🙂
Hey, great idea — we should both be Wal-Mart greeters! 😉
I’m not FIRE yet. But when I pull the trigger I will have no regrets. Time with family is so important and I’ll never regret leaving work a little too early just to spend more time with family.
Even if I have to pick up a part-time job later in life after the kids have flown the nest, I won’t regret it either. Life is just too short!
The things people regret on their deathbed is usually the things they never did or never had the courage to do.
They wonder what would have happened if they
– had quit their day job to pursue their dreams.
– had asked the pretty girl out for a date.
– had not spent their money on useless things.
Taking chances is what makes life worth living. If you fail in life, at least you can look back and say:
“Hey, at least I tried!”
P.s. You need a new host for your blog. Too many timeouts and “http 500 Internal Server Errors” 🙂
Yeah, I’m still getting reports from people about http 500 errors. Not sure what’s causing it because I can’t reproduce the problem. Any assistance would be appreciated.
I would definitely not have any regrets if my plan failed. I don’t enjoy my job much anymore so if I needed to go back to work for whatever reason, I’d be choosing a different path anyway.
Now go take care of the kiddos!
Will do Jim! Thanks! 🙂
Oh no I hope your kids will feel better soon. I think about what I’d regret not doing if I died today sometimes (maybe often).
One thing for sure is that I’d regret not spending more time with my extended family (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins) and supported them financially more. They know hubby and I have a job but know we’re trying to pay off the mortgage. My parents keep telling us to keep saving. But I’d want to take them on a trip and buy them more gifts one day.
If I was going to die today, the only thing I would regret would be not spending even more time with my kids. Trips and gifts are great, but you can’t take ’em with you.
Well said! The irony is that most of us over-invest our time trying to make money and lose track of (the) why. Once we have enough to live comfortably, more dollars and the things we can buy with them won’t provide additional satisfaction. Acknowledging this law of diminishing returns is what led me to raise the value I assign to my time. And financial security gives us freedom to choose where to invest it.
Keep on keepin’ on,
Absolutely Max. After you’ve got all the nice luxuries that make for a comfortable life, anything more is just a fancier version of what you already have.
For example — I was recently looking at dishwashers. You can spend $200 or $3,000 for a dishwasher and every model gets the dishes clean. Other than a slight efficiency improvement on the higher end models, the differences are mostly ‘fluff’.
Good practical example Tako. I was thinking of the more intangible ‘happiness’. But ‘fluff’ is now definitely my word of the month
It’ll be difficult living with restrictions chaining the actions we wanted to take. Being able to live freely and chase our dream is one of the best things that can happen to us. It’ no fun living life with stress afterall.
I think the FIRE community is an incredibly cautious group. We do things different from most and can sometimes drive ourselves crazy trying to think of every possible way our plan can derail.
By the time a fire person truly pulls the plug they probably could have easily done it several years earlier and be fine (that is my biggest fear working too long to counteract a scenario that will never happen).
I guess the end of the day having too much money left on your death bed beats the alternative.
You are right though that once you leave the workforce it will be monumental effort to get back in it if things go awry. Especially as a physician it would be an onerous process trying to prove you have retained your medical skills (and keep up with continuing medical education etc).
The other thing we are good at is adapting. We don’t have to have the same draw every year in tough times.
Research shows that we tend to regret the things we didn’t do, rather than the things we DID do. So by that metric I would’ve regretted NOT FIRE-ing, so I’m glad we did. The travelling memories, experiences, improvements in health, time with family and friends, building a new community, new career, etc etc etc are all priceless. Would’ve never had any of that if I stayed in my job out of fear.
I’m glad you got to spend so much time with your kids! That really is priceless.
With your frugal (albeit luxurious) lifestyle and your more than 3M$ net worth… if you fail, I can’t imagine what the average Joe would go through.
It’s hard for me to think of a situation in which a withdrawal rate of 2.43% would fail and a 1.5% would survive. I mean if it is that big of a catastrophe to wipe out 3M$, it is probably also big enough to wipe out 5M$, don’t you think?
Great post Mr. Tako!
Time really is our most valuable resource. I’m only 27 years young, but this is something I strongly realise I already. Hopefully I’m able to leave the corporate working world at a young age too – reading blogs like yours certainly keeps me inspired to keep pushing on.
So, would you recommend all people to avoid those management level positions? Something like that might come up for me in the future, and I don’t know how I will respond to it.
I guess it depends upon how quickly you advance. Some people get pegged for management early on and can realize promotions every year or every other year. I’ve seen it happen.
If you fall into that category, you might want to just “go with it”! But that’s far from the norm that most people experience. Most of the time management level jobs are a TON of stress and promotions are far more rare.