September 23, 2023
Sometimes people find it hard to imagine what FI or ‘retired’ life is like.
But other than ‘not having to work’ many folks struggle to imagine what tangible benefits this creates.
Which is not totally surprising. After all, it’s genuinely hard to imagine a life that’s much different from our own.
So in this article, I want to share the many and varied ways your life can improve by having more freedom. Because there are lots of seemingly small ways where more free time can provide us with little bursts of enjoyment and moments of gratitude.
And this doesn’t have to mean quitting your job and retiring. It can simply mean working a little less and winding down those hours at a steady pace.
Not only is this is more comfortable to get your head around, it’s less of a shock to your system. This approach also lets you have a taste of freedom and see whether your life is improved or not.
I’m yet to have someone reach out and say their life became less enjoyable after having more freedom and flexibility in their life. It surely happens, but more control over your time seems to be a damn near universal winner.
Alright, so how will your life improve? Let’s get into it.
I’ll run through a lot of this in dot point summaries, simply because there are so many things to cover. But I encourage you to pause on points that appeal to you, and then ponder how life could be with more of that thing.
No more alarm: Without the need to be somewhere at 7, 8, 9 o’clock, you can get up whatever the hell time you feel like. It’s probably the first thing you’ll appreciate and hard to overstate how good it feels. Getting as much sleep as you need will ensure your body is better rested. Now, you might return to using an alarm later and having a structured routine (as I do), but it’ll be because you want that, not because you have to.
Kill the commute: Working less achieves this automatically. But you can also do it by switching roles to something closer (even if it pays less), or a work-from-home position. This can significantly reduce the time and stress associated with work, making for a more relaxed lifestyle. How much better would your day be without a soul sucking commute?
Time luxury: Wake up without the pressure of rushing to work. Chill with your morning cuppa as you make plans for the day, allowing your body and mind to wake up more gently, savoring these peaceful moments before the day unfolds. You can do 1 main thing for the day, or plan a full schedule of 10 different things – it’s all up to you. Make tons of plans, or none at all and just do whatever floats your boat at any given moment!
Improved health: Make that workout / training routine a top priority. Get it done in the morning, maybe after your cuppa, and you’ll feel great for the rest of the day. Take an exercise class, join a running club, take refreshing swims, or have a midday yoga session. You also have the luxury of more time to prepare healthier meals and snacks, compounding the benefits. Incorporating more movement into your lifestyle is a huge boost to wellbeing.
Pursue hobbies/interests: Dive into hobbies that bring you joy. Whether it’s gardening, hiking, carpentry, or playing an instrument, you can explore activities you’ve always wanted to engage in but couldn’t due to limited time or energy. This can be seen as your productive daily outlet. If you’ve spent the morning at a leisurely pace and got your exercise in, maybe you then spend the afternoon on a hobby or learning something (see below).
Learn new things: The extra time available enables you to pursue new skills you mightn’t have otherwise done. Maybe it’s learning to cook, DIY home renovations, reading history, learning a language (I’m currently learning Spanish), studying psychology, or absolutely anything else you can think of. You might find yourself spending more time on the internet following your curiosity. But you’ll have to monitor that since we know how much of a black hole the internet can be!
Avoid busyness: You get to structure your day according to your preferred schedule. No more needing to head to the shops when everyone else is there. Nor do you need to sit at a café with screaming babies and loud talkers next to you on a jam-packed Saturday lunchtime. You can plan all your errands and appointments for less busy times, avoiding lines, and so on. I call this the ‘off-peak life’, and it’s pretty damn amazing.
Nature: Most of us in Australia live in clusters around the coast, and we’ve also got tons of forest and parklands to enjoy. Spend more time in the tranquility of nature by by getting out there for a beach walk, bushland bike ride, or simply relaxing somewhere nice listening to the birdlife. You can make this ‘nature-bathing’ a part of your everyday life. It’ll enhance your feelings of appreciation and connectedness to the world and enhance your wellbeing. For me, this has become one of the best parts of early retirement.
The above benefits lead to a couple of overarching themes. The first one is this: lower stress and greater contentment.
Having a life that you feel in absolute control of sees your stress melt away and sense of wellbeing soar. Not only do you have more time for what you deem important, you also drop the shackles of the ‘always on’ productivity-driven culture of work.
You get to live at your own pace, crafting your schedule and activities in such a way that you find the most enjoyable. These benefits also culminate themselves into a second theme: feeling more energised and alive.
Now, it could’ve been magnified for me as a shift worker. But after a month or two of retirement, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. More alive is simply the best description I can come up with.
I’ve said this before, but almost none of us have really experienced true freedom as adults. Mental, physical, practical and financial. Even if we took a a year off to travel, we knew we’d be back to dealing with getting a job, juggling bills and a mortgage soon enough. So we may have had physical and practical freedom, but we lacked financial and mental freedom.
Therefore, it’s impossible to imagine how energised and alive we can feel when there’s essentially nothing required of us. All that physical and mental energy we used to devote to an employer is now untapped potential for us to use as we wish.
Being able to sleep better, lead a healthier lifestyle, and do more things you want without outside pressures and demands, leaves you feeling more alive, more peaceful, and happier on a daily basis.
Zooming out now, let’s take a look at some of the more big-picture benefits of freedom. Some of these may not be part of your everyday life, yet are huge pluses nevertheless.
Entrepreneurial or creative pursuits: If you’ve got dreams of starting a small business or a creative outlet you want to explore, you can turn that into reality. This becomes much easier when most or all of your other bills are covered and the pressure to make money quickly is off the table. This will feed your productive energy and give you a new sense of purpose.
Exploring/Travel: More freedom opens the door to extra and different travel. Maybe you take advantage of off-peak travel seasons (including discounts), enjoying destinations without the usual crowds. Maybe you take longer trips aka slow travel, or do house sitting at exotic locations whenever the opportunity arises. Or maybe every Wednesday you decide to explore somewhere new in your city/state for the day.
Friends/Family: One of the most alluring aspects of early retirement is the ability to spend more time with those you care about. Catch up with your friends more often, or even make new ones who’s schedule better aligns with yours. Attend your kid’s events, be more active in their lives, and visit family more often. Join various groups, clubs, or meetups for things you’re interested in and you’re bound to meet new like-minded people.
Volunteering: Use some of your time to contribute to something outside yourself. Whether it’s volunteering at an animal shelter, food bank, environmental group, or another organisation. Pick something and give it a try. Remember, it’s not about you – it’s about making the world a tiny bit better by putting in some effort to an external cause. Deliberately being helpful in this way and doing something nice is far more rewarding when you’re not being paid for it.
Control/choice of work: Become highly selective about what type of new work you take on. Maybe you only work with people or companies on something you care about. Or maybe you choose to only work specific hours that fits neatly around your schedule. The ability to be picky about employment and knowing you can leave anytime is a huge psychological boost.
Now, as great as these things are, many are rather obvious. So they’ll be of no surprise to most of you reading this, who are pursuing FI for exactly these reasons.
But there are also some less obvious ways your life can improve by having more freedom.
Now let’s discuss some of the smaller benefits you might not have considered.
Some of these are related to what we’ve covered, but many are psychological and mental benefits that are sometimes hard to describe. I’m sure there’s a bunch more, but this is a short list I came up with.
Customise your routine: You can tailor your daily routine to suit your natural rhythm and what works best for you. For example, maybe you’re a night owl, so you choose to do your productive activities in the evenings, stay up late, and then get up at 11am. There really are no restrictions on how you structure your days.
Be spontaneous: Having the freedom to do whatever the hell you like at a moment’s notice is pretty damn cool. This can be as simple as seeing it’s a gorgeous day outside and deciding to go for a coffee and walk at the beach. It could be saying yes to attending an event the next day, knowing you don’t have to worry about what time you finish work, traffic, preparing for the next day, etc. Your freedom acts as a shock absorber in the lifelong battle between commitments, problems, and the time we have available.
Embrace slow living: I alluded to this earlier, but you’re able to adopt a slow living philosophy to your entire existence. You no longer have to rush through your day, cramming too many things into too little time. While seeming like a small benefit, this means you can actually spend more time in the present moment, enjoying whatever is happening, and less time worrying about fitting it all in or the next thing you have to do.
Discover new things: More free time means you can explore your local region more than you otherwise would. You might discover nature trails, a quirky shop with cool stuff, small art galleries you might’ve missed or an amazing restaurant you never even knew existed.
Enjoy the peace: Many of you may have jobs right now that require you to socialise and be busier and more ‘on’ more than you want to be. Maybe you’re longing for some solitude and more time to yourself. I find this an underappreciated part of modern life, especially in western culture (see rant below). I love having more time simply to enjoy the peace and quiet of everyday life.
Self reflection: Without the demands of work, you have more time for self-reflection and personal development. You can explore your values, passions, and interests, leading to a deeper understanding of yourself and your path in life. It’s highly likely you’ll have many reasliations and ideas you wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Mindfulness: When there’s less going on, it’s much easier to focus on the present moment and not be distracted by the other things on your to-do list. This means you’re able to properly enjoy what you’re doing. It also gives your mind the ability to think more clearly, leading to better decision making.
Location independence: Not being tied to a specific job location offers you the choice to move to an area or climate (or country!) that aligns better with what you like. Maybe you move to the country, maybe you move to a small beach town, or maybe you decide to live overseas… or maybe you choose not to have a home base at all and do a mix of country-hopping, slow travel and house sitting (I’ve actually heard of someone doing that).
Contentment: With more time off the hamster wheel, it might further embed the idea of simplicity versus chasing more. So you may adopt a more minimalist lifestyle or simply focus your efforts on appreciating the simple pleasures of life, like watching a sunset, reading a book, or having a leisurely meal with friends or loved ones. The freer you are the more you can give your middle finger to consumerism or any other norms you deem to be nonsense.
Remember, the true value of freedom is in how you choose to use it. Freedom is simply a blank canvas on which to paint the life you really want. One that aligns with what’s important to you, while you go about creating a more fulfilling and meaningful existence.
I think solitude is misunderstood in modern times. Most people who like their own company are often considered weird.
Even Wikipedia partly describes solitude as ‘lack of socialisation’. Which is kind of odd, because the definition of ‘lack’ is to be deficient in, or not have enough of something.
But that’s obviously not right. That sounds more like loneliness. Solitude and loneliness are not even close to the same thing. Solitude is simply to be solo, to be alone. Why would we define it as deficient and lacking?
This assumption itself is unhealthy. The truth is, one can spent a large amount of time alone while still getting all the socialisation they need for their personality. In fact, many great people in history have done exactly that. Further, there are massive benefits of solitude which are often missed. Two articles on that here and here.
We’re in an overstimulated world of constantly buzzing useless distractions. Where people are uncomfortable to be with their own thoughts for 5 seconds. What does that say about us?
At the same time, many of us feel overwhelmed, stressed, rushed, and our mental health is in the toilet. Giving your mind time to process things – which ironically enough, happens when you’re alone with your thoughts – is one of the best ways to ease this sense of overwhelm and gain greater peace of mind.
Yet we avoid it because it feels uncomfortable, and our culture promotes non-stop noise, distractions, socialisation, entertainment, and communication. Again, solitude simply means time by oneself.
But if we think of solitude and aloneness in a negative light, people will freak out when they’re alone and that in itself will create problems. Just like we shouldn’t think of socialising – being with people – in a negative light. Both can be positive and enjoyable, both can be negative and stressful. To imply otherwise is lopsided logic – everything has an opposite.
Another side note: I’ve observed that many extroverted people don’t understand introverts. The introverts, on the other hand, seem to get how extroverts are wired and don’t try to change (or shame) them. The extroverts though, just cannot fathom why quieter people enjoy spending their time working on their own things, love thinking about ideas and concepts, and socialise only sometimes for shorter bursts.
The simplest description I’ve heard is that extroverts are energised by lots of socialising and quickly get sick of time alone. Whereas introverts are energised by lots of time alone and quickly get sick of socialising. Each naturally wants to revert to the mental state they enjoy most.
So I have to call bullshit on the negative connotation of solitude and the lopsided way many people look at this stuff. We all know this: you can be alone without feeling the tiniest bit lonely. And you can be in a large group while feeling completely and utterly alone.
Even though financial independence feels kind of magical, it’s really not. OK, it still is (who are we kidding?), but let me explain.
A fearful or anxious person will be just as fearful and anxious with wealth as they were back in their broke days. Only now they have more money to worry about, and all the possible complications that brings. And if it’s not money, they’ll find something else.
Hence the saying, “wherever you go, there you are.”
Of course, we know this from our own experience. We’ve all got that relative or friend who just moves from one worry to another – their mind consumed with keeping them ‘safe’. The behaviour is the same, only the details change. These people often even admit the issue, “I’m just a worrier.”
But it doesn’t stop there.
Financial Independence and wealth can amplify who you are as a person. If you’re kind and generous, you have greater time and resources to be kind and generous. If you’re a selfish arsehole, you’ll be twice as shitty to others when you’re wealthy.
Fortunately, the freedom of FI enables greater space to work on your issues and become a better person. This, in turn, can help amplify the best parts of you, as you learn to better channel your energy and resources towards more fruitful outcomes (just like you did in pursuing FI in the first place).
Some of these benefits may seem minor, but I promise you they’re not. Don’t underestimate the impact they can have on your wellbeing.
Many of the things which genuinely make our life better simply go underappreciated because they aren’t as sexy as chasing more status, prestige, and luxury.
When people think of financial freedom, they probably think of holidays, family, hobbies, socialising, and free time. Very rarely do people consider the smaller ways having more freedom can improve your mental health.
In fact, sometimes it’s assumed that leaving a traditional career and doing something different from everyone else will be damaging to your mental health.
But that’s just our instinct of worry coming out again! So while that can be true, in my experience the opposite is more common. The mental health aspect of having more freedom and control in your life is probably the greatest part.
More space to create a peaceful mind. More space for relaxation. More flexibility and options. More time to do more of the things you like and less of the things you don’t. More time to think and process things, and lower overall stress.
Ultimately, getting more freedom in your life gives you a beautiful mix of practical benefits and psychological benefits, which helps you create your ideal life with greater meaning, health and happiness.
What that looks like… well, that’s up to you.
Here are some resources you may find useful on your wealth building journey:
Mortgage broker: My personal broker of 10 years is More Than Mortgages. Highly rated and award winning, Deanna and her team been super helpful over the years and can assist you with anything home loan related, including refinancing and debt recycling.
Sharesight: A great portfolio tracking tool for share investors, and free for up to 10 holdings. It tracks all dividends, franking credits and capital gains, which is incredibly helpful at tax time. Saves me a lot of time and headache!
My book: After 5 years and hundreds of articles and podcasts, I decided to distill everything down into an easy to follow book. Designed as a complete roadmap to achieving financial independence and retiring early in Australia. Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.
Just so you know, if you do use these resources, this blog may receive a financial benefit at no extra cost to you (thanks in advance). I only ever recommend things I genuinely believe in.
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