This Isn’t a Dress Rehearsal

You only get one life. This isn’t a dress rehearsal, this is it. I want to live my life as well as I can and the way I want to. However, to enable me to do that, I need £’s. And lots of it. So, I need to live as well as I can, strategically, before I can live the life I truly want.

When we were in our early 20s, undergraduate degrees in the bag, we both started our first professional jobs in London. And initially, it was exciting. It was grown up, we felt like proper adults, with actual responsibilities. And dare I say it, we even liked the train commute; it gave us time to read or do our online food shopping.

But time wore on and the sparkle faded away. The weeks turned to months, which inevitably turned to years and before we knew it, we had 6 years of London commuting under our belts and we were knackered. Like, bone exhaustingly tired. Mentally and physically taxed. And we were still only 28!   

We moved to America and slashed our commute time dramatically (paying for it in an increase in housing costs for living in the city) but the exhaustion remained. The constant conveyor belt of waking up, going to work and being out of the house for up to 12 hours a day (or more for Mr. LLC), coming home, scrabbling to make dinner and lunch for the next day. Spending our weekend days doing chores, before resetting and doing the same thing all over again and again. And again.

I don’t even hate the life I live. And in small chunks that routine is perfectly manageable. But it’s the week after week relentlessness of it that wore us both down relatively early in our professional lives. When you realise this is life until 65 (if you’re lucky), it’s overwhelming. And you work so hard all your working lives, so that, hopefully, you’ll be well enough to enjoy the free time retirement gives you. But what if you can’t? What if you drop down dead 6 months into your retirement? My dad’s colleague died of pancreatic cancer in his 50s, before he even got the chance to retire to the life he had been working so hard towards.

Financial freedom will enable us to live the life we want to live whilst we’re still able to. The ‘early retirement’ of ‘FIRE’ (financial independence | early retirement) has never sat completely well with me. When I think of retirement, I inevitably think of older adults and the twilight years of life.

I like to think of it financial independence | living life on my terms.

We’re saving aggressively so we have wealth to be able to live how we want. And at the moment, we don’t even fully know what that means. We know it will involve moving to the countryside, pursuing our hobbies and working on passion projects. It’s OK that it’s not quite figured out yet; there’s still plenty of saving to do before we get there.

We know what it doesn’t mean though. It means not being ruled by the alarm clock, commuting for 3+ hours a day on top of working, sitting in a grey, sterile work environment with people you can barely tolerate, having that nagging feeling that you should be checking your work emails at home, getting ill through stress, not spending enough time with the people you truly want to. We spend more time staring at a computer screen/drab office walls than we get to spend staring at mountains or the ocean or a great expanse of desert.

One thing I’m fond of saying to Mr. LLC is that he is literally my most favourite person in the world and yet, his work colleagues get to spend more time with him than I do. How backward is that?! The one person I literally want to spend every waking second with and I can’t, because we’re wage slaves. I can’t wait for the days that we have so much time together we start to get on each other’s nerves!

Ours is a simple strategy to enable us to live a simple, well-intentioned life but it’s not easy to achieve. You have to live your life well and with intention on the journey. Because, whilst you’re saving for the life you aspire to, you’re still living your one life. The clock doesn’t reset when you hit your target and leave the 9-5 behind. It’s about striking a balance between working and saving aggressively to give yourself a better life but still stopping to appreciate the journey and the ups and downs along the way. We don’t want to live in deprivation and begin resenting what we’re doing because it won’t bring us fulfilment when we finally achieve it. We want to be happy with how we live in the meantime so we can be proud of what we created for ourselves.  

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  1. Great post, looks like the realisation came sooner to you – I have 17 years of commuting under my belt! I’m sure the US has its compensations though and perhaps more sympathy for FIRE, have you revealed your plan to colleagues? It’s almost insulting to let others know you’re not prepared to live the life they have consigned themselves to – so I keep my FIRE activity on the down low!

    Keep up the good work, John (‘Frugal and Freegan London’ FB Group).

    1. Thanks for your comment, John! I salute you for 17 years of London commuting. I know that’ll be our reality when we move back and work in London before we leave the 9-5’s behind. Not looking forward to it!!

      I find that the FIRE concept/plan is more prevalent in the US. I’ve not found too many UK based people doing it – perhaps there are lots who just aren’t writing about it! But, we haven’t revealed our plans to our colleagues, hence the anonymity of this blog! I have the same feelings to you towards it. Also the couple of friends we’ve vaguely told our plans to just didn’t quite understand what we were trying to do, so we’ll just keep plodding along with it & surprise everyone when the time comes! Best of luck on your FIRE journey.

  2. Great Post and oh so true. I’m approaching my twilight years and can’t wait to spend more time with my husband. Unfortunately, we didn’t save when we were younger as we lived week to week just trying to keep our heads above water. Retirement for us is looking scarey!! We are trying to save as much as we can now but in reality we have left it too late and we’ll probably have to be very careful with our money when we do get to retire which won’t be much fun. Your advise to save aggressively is so right and you’re never too young to start.

    1. Hi Trish, thanks for reading and your comment! It’s so hard in this current climate. Sometimes you feel like you take one step forward and two steps back. I think what really brought it home to us was getting a pension projection from my husband’s scheme. He has a very good pension that he and his employer pays into but even then it would’ve only given us £11000 a year to live on. And we’re in our early 30s, who knows what the state pension age will be when we’re approaching our 60s. I assume over 70! I wish you and your husband all the best, maybe you could start some side hustles for some extra income?

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