Gaining financial independence and retiring early is ostensibly an exercise is quantity. Markers of it are dotted throughout the FI language. FI number. Safe withdrawal rate. Savings rate. Not to mention the emphasis on investments, budgets, net worth and the gamut of other financial tools used to run one’s own personal treasury. This is partly through necessity – FI undoubtedly has a large quantitative component. The comparability of these factors also helps the community converse, share ideas and grow.
The numbers we generate seem tangible and the changes to them visceral; we follow their rise and fall with eager anticipation. Who can deny the exhilaration of seeing your investments rise in value? Who hasn’t felt the dismay of seeing them fall?
Time for one more?
There is another quantitative measure that humans are almost universally obsessed with. Time is invariably sought after, as we try to grasp its frail tendrils in our clutches. An extra moment in bed. Relaxing with that loved one just a bit longer. Wishing the sun would stay up a little while more.
We have a tendency to view our lives in terms of duration and will go to some lengths to prolong it. Everyone from a Pope to mad scientists have sought ways to prolong life. Indeed, our legends are studded with the stories of those who were said to be immortal.
It’s likely that many have found themselves with more time on their hands than usual in the recent days and weeks. Some will be using their newfound temporal freedom to finally take up painting, learn that language, fix their bike or start that novella. The weekly cycle of sleep-work-eat-repeat is being broken for a whole host of people across the country. An insight into the journey after FIRE, perhaps.
Whether it’s our lifespan or FI number, we often focus on quantity. Now more than ever, we mustn’t forget that it’s the quality of our lives that we’re also trying to change, to better, to embellish. You probably know your risk tolerance, or appetite, or how far you’re willing to let your investments drop before you sell them. What about your quality of life? What reductions in that are you willing to accept if needs be? In a period where all of our vitality is under threat, it is time for introspection: examine what brings quality to your life.
Unlike quantity, the language of quality is less easy to communicate in. It’s less clear-cut, more subjective. It makes discussing it that bit more difficult and yet discuss it we must. Reflection is not enough. Talk to your partner, your parents, your friends, your children. Learn what enriches their lives and share what enhances the quality of yours.
Covid-19 has spread to nearly the whole of the UK; it will affect all of us in some way. Many of the population are likely to get coronavirus; sadly many are going to die. There may soon be a time where you’re forced to consider what constitutes an acceptable reduction in quality of life, be it for yourself or for your loved ones. If that time comes, it’s imperative that you’ve already spoken about ‘the other q’.
Take care of yourselves and each other,