Post from ECA
For as long as I can remember, I have always been an optimizer optimizing for the best return on investment. Yes I have always been a big fan of the Pareto principle (known as the 80/20 rule). When in school, I studied 80% of content that’s most important to the course with only 20% of effort. This allows me to graduate with an engineering degree and a minor in 6 semesters while doing research, TA and having lots of fun. When working, I focus my efforts on the visible projects allowing me to shine and differentiate from peers. This (together with lots of luck) allows me to climb the corporate ladder relatively fast and quadruple my salary within 6 years of graduation.
While my fundamental belief of optimizing for ROI hasn’t changed, FI has changed my way of evaluate the returns and my approach to life, ie what matters to me has changed.
Like most people pursuing/achieving FI, the old me tends to live more in the future. The trait of living in the future allows us to set up a goal, plan and follow through to achieve the results. With the future in promise, delaying gratification which is crucial to traditional successes becomes pretty easy. However, it can be detrimental when in extreme. One example is eating rice and beans every day to get to FIRE in supersonic speed. The other end of the spectrum is living in the present. Being present gives us great satisfaction and contentment which is the key to happiness. It can be detrimental when in extreme as well. The splurge today (or every day)/ YOLO attitude can get us into deep debts and digs us into holes our future self may never able to climb out. Truth is somewhere in the middle, moderation is gold!
The new me post-FI is slowing moving into the spectrum of living more in the present. One examples, earlier in my career, I was willing to take on 2 people’s responsibilities for 5 months so I can promoted. Granted, I was not that busy anyway even with 2 people’s responsibilities. I still actively made my choice to “sacrifice” for 5 months, so I can harvest the return of higher pay in the long run. The same example, recently I had an opportunity to decide between 2 job opportunities. One was foreseeably harder than the other but with the promise to be promote within 1 year. I did not even blink and picked the easier one that allows me to work from home but with no direct route to a promotion. Maybe this is the result of diminishing marginal returns. Maybe this is because over the years, ER uncle and I slowly influence each other. As I feel pretty comfortable with our net worth and the potential to quit working as a whole, getting promoted is no longer as important to me as before. I become more chill and more genuinely interested in learning new things vs learning to gain a skill to be promote (which is exactly why I got my MBA. I did not get an MBA because I am passionate about business. I got it because I was able to make more money). With this new role, I am getting into a new field I am always curious about but don’t have any experience in. So I am grateful to stay in the same company and move to this role. Also, as I considered what to do after we reach our fat FI number, am I really going to quit? Or if I am working from home comfortably doing things I am fine with, should I even quit?
Do I regret the old me? Absolutely not. It is the future oriented thinking that set the foundation for today. If anything, the new me today is very thankful for the old me for the past 10 years. The motivation, persistence, effort, skill (and of course luck, lots of it) of the old me builds the landscape today I get to enjoy. Now, the new me is going to enjoy the fruit of labor and live a happier and more chill life, so hopefully the EC in 10 years can age gracefully and becomes a woman full of adventure, happy memories and passion for life. The future me will thank the present me as well for an amazing next 10 years to come.