You’ve been ‘awakened’ to FI, and you’ve done all the penny-pinching, investing, and optimizing you can do. All that’s left is to wait for that wealth snowball to come rolling down the hill!
But it’s rolling so slowly. And it’s a really long hill. How will you ever wait it out?
This is what I call the doldrums of FI:
I’ve been there
A couple of years ago, I was stuck in the doldrums of FI. I’d long ago read every Mr. Money Mustache article, optimized our investments, and slashed our recurring expenses.
All that was left to do was wait and give the magical powers of compounding time to work. But it was impossible for me to just sit around, willing myself to be patient. I needed to do something!
As it turns out—there was plenty I could do when stuck in the doldrums. I just needed to get creative and dig deeper.
In this article, I’ll share the 11 things I did to both speed up my FI journey and make the waiting game a little less painful.
Table of Contents
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1. Live like you’re already FI
FI veterans stress this all the time: don’t wait for FI to live the life you want. They’re right—we can all take steps to be just as happy now as we will be post-FI.
Here are some of the things we’re doing now, long before we’ll reach FI:
- Travel as much as we can as a family—even if it slows our path to FI.
- Prioritize and consciously schedule quality time with family and friends.
- Engage in hobbies and interests—even if we don’t have as much time for them as we’d like.
- Indulge in occasional luxuries like fancy foods, restaurant meals, and fun experiences.
- Do work that we love.
- Learn new skills.
- Constantly work at self-improvement.
Think of all the ways you can add more happiness into your life NOW—then take action.
2. Aim for the next milestone
The stretch between $0 and FI is long. And we all know the best way to tackle a big goal is to break it down into smaller chunks…
So check out these FI milestone articles to see where you’re at, and use them as motivation to reach your next mini-goal:
- The Six Stages of Financial Freedom from J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly
- The Seven Stages of Financial Independence (podcast) from Joshua Sheats on Afford Anything
- The 7 Levels of Financial Freedom (podcast) from Rob Berger at DoughRoller
- The Milestones of FI from Joel at FI 180
- What’s the Difference Between Fire, Lean Fire, and Fat Fire? from Adam at Minafi
- Hierarchy of Financial Needs from Brandon at Mad Fientist
3. Consume even more FI content
You’ve listened to and read all the content from the big names in the FI community—now what? Well, maybe it’s a good time to explore new FI content! Here are some ideas:
- FI School: I’ve rounded up the best, most-helpful FI content in FI School: The Ultimate Guide to FI. Even if you’re a FI veteran, you could still learn a thing or two!
- Check out newer/smaller podcasts and blogs: Everyone has a different spin on FI, and you may just stumble across a nugget of wisdom that’ll change your life!
- Listen to or read your favourite content all over again: Now that you’re more experienced with FI, you’ll take away new and different things from previously-consumed content.
- Venture outside of the FI community: Check out personal finance, personal growth, and travel content. You may even come across an interview of your favourite FI personality. It’s always enlightening to hear/read about their story from a different angle.
4. Learn new skills
There are so many ways to learn new skills at little or no cost. Why not speed up your journey to FI by picking up a new skill, and using it to save money or earn extra income?
Here are some ideas:
- Car maintenance: I learned how to change my car’s cabin and engine air filters. Easy peasy! Savings: $60+ per filter.
- Hair cutting: I cut M and the boys’ hair every three weeks. While I’m no expert, I do a decent-enough job. They even get occasional compliments on their cuts! Savings: $15–$25/cut.
- Repairs and mending: I’ve always been pretty handy, but when I get stuck and need better techniques or ideas to fix something, a bit of internet research never fails me. Savings: hundreds of dollars.
- Basic electrical work: I’ve learned to move electrical boxes for outlets and light switches, decommission an electrical breaker, and how to fish wire through walls. It’s fun and so satisfying! Savings: hundreds of dollars.
- Basic plumbing: I’ve learned how to install: toilets, dishwashers, faucets, braided hoses for toilets and sinks, and more. Savings: hundreds of dollars.
- Cooking: We’ve gradually learned how to cook more and more of the dishes we love—saving us from having to eat out in order to enjoy them. Savings: THOUSANDS of dollars!
- Parenting: I can’t count how many parenting skills I’ve learned through books and audiobooks (all free from the library). When you’re a more-skilled and confident parent, you’re happier—and so are your kids. Happy kids have less anxiety and behavioral issues, which equals less need for costly counselling sessions. Savings: priceless.
5. Learn about other investments
You’ve got your nest egg invested in low-cost, total stock market index funds/ETFs. Things are humming along nicely and you’re perfectly happy with the set up.
That’s great, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving it at that. But if you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to kick things up a notch.
If so, consider learning about different sectors or tactics and how they can enhance/augment your basic index investing portfolio.
Here are some areas I’ve researched and implemented in our portfolio:
- Emerging markets: You can increase the returns and decrease the volatility in your portfolio by adding this and other non-correlated asset classes.
- Small cap value: Many trusted experts advocate for this asset class. While it’s been debated if the premium’s still there, I still believe in the long-term performance of small cap value.
- Leveraged investing/Smith Manoeuvre: This is how we shaved four years off of our FI date. (Read more about this in 13 Ways to Reach FI Sooner.)
- Real estate: I researched and mathed this to death, and ultimately decided against it. But it’s a fantastic option for many—just not for me (Vancouver real estate’s way overpriced).
- General investing: Getting better-educated on investing will help you learn about other asset classes. Check out FI School Lesson 7: Investing for a list of resources to help with this.
6. DIY more of your investing
If you’re hands-off with your investing, consider learning how to take the reins yourself.
You’ll get a better feel for your investments and save on fees and commissions. This can add up to a significant amount over decades, so it’s worth learning how to do these tasks:
- DIY: Instead of using a robo-advisor, do the trading and rebalancing yourself.
- Tax harvesting: Harvest your losses and/or gains to optimize your taxes.
- Invest in US-listed ETFs: A great way for Canadians to save on fees and taxes.
- Norbert’s Gambit: A cheaper way for Canadians to exchange currencies.
Learn more about DIY investing in FI School Lesson 6: Index Investing.
7. Look into lesser-known tax hacks
Most people’s eyes glaze over when the topic of taxes comes up. Not so for FI seekers! We know there’s money to be saved by optimizing our taxes.
There’s a wealth of knowledge out there—but you’ll have to dig to go beyond the basics that everyone already knows.
Here are some lesser-known tactics that I’ve researched and used ( = Canadian content):
To go even deeper, here are more resources:
8. Start a side hustle or house hack
This is a great way to boost your saving rate and reach FI sooner. Do some brainstorming to come up with a side hustle you’ll love. Or spruce up your spare bedrooms and put them to good use!
Side hustle resources:
House hacking resources:
9. Tackle the small stuff
Congratulations! You’ve made all the big changes that’ll really move the needle.
Now you can think about the smaller changes. While these changes may not make a huge difference to your bottom line, they’re easy wins. (And sometimes that’s just what you need to push through.)
Here are some ideas:
- Make your house more energy-efficient: Install LED bulbs, seal gaps, add insulation, switch to low-flow faucets and toilets.
- Find cheaper service providers: Just a few phone calls could significantly lower your internet, phone and cell phone bills.
- Reassess your insurance needs: Every 1-3 years, get new quotes; increase the deductibles on your home and car insurance; reduce your life insurance coverage as your nest egg grows.
- Konmari, then sell your stuff: Declutter and organize your storage spaces, then make some money back by selling your unneeded items.
- Mend or repair your stuff: Take a look at the stuff you’re wanting to replace and see if you can save money by mending or repairing them yourself.
- Get frugal and save more: Check out FI School Lesson 2: Frugality and Saving for resources and tips to stretch your dollars.
10. Debrief, reflect, and dream
Take some time to debrief, reflect, and dream. Ask yourself:
- What have I accomplished, learned, and figured out?
- How did the above help me get closer to my goals and dreams?
- What are my next goals and dreams?
- How will I move forward to reach them?
My favourite way to debrief, reflect, and dream is by journalling* in Evernote. (I call it journalling, but it’s more like freestyle note-taking.)
*Journalling keeps my brain uncluttered, helps me to make sense of the billions of fragments of useful info I take in, and keeps me moving forward.
This process may sound a bit woo-woo, but it’s an incredible life hack! Taking time to debrief, reflect, and dream turns your ideas into plans and actions.
And that’s how you get to FI—by mindfully making plans and taking action to implement them.
11. Accept and move on
Okay, maybe you’ve already done everything I’ve suggested above, and truly have nothing left to do in your FI journey. If you’re like me (driven and impatient), reaching this point is extraordinarily frustrating!
Thankfully, I have a simple solution that’ll not only get you through the doldrums, but also help in other areas of your life: acceptance.
Instead of trying to will the doldrums of FI away, or forcing yourself to do things just to keep the needle moving, learn to practice acceptance.
- Acceptance is often erroneously thought of as giving up and simply taking the lemons that life throws at us. But that’s not it at all.
- Acceptance is actually about seeing a situation for what it really is, letting go of our (often fruitless) desire to force our own changes upon it, then moving on.
- Here’s an excellent article with more about acceptance.
How to practice acceptance
- Stop the frantic thoughts. (Try picturing a stop sign, or picture the thoughts as clouds or balloons floating into the distance.)
- Give yourself the space to simply breathe. (Try the 4-7-8 technique—it really works.)
- Tell yourself: “FI will come in time. I’ve done everything in my circle of control to speed the journey. I can’t do any more, so I’m going to stop torturing myself, and move on.”
- Stop obsessively checking your accounts and FI progress trackers!
- Distract yourself by engaging in other interesting activities: pick up a new hobby, work on self-improvement, spend more time with family and friends, etc.
- Every time you feel the impatience returning, repeat the steps above.
Paradoxically, acceptance might even help you reach FI faster. Since your mind will be freed from obsessing about FI, you can think about new and different pursuits to earn extra income!
(And all the while, your wealth snowball will keep growing as it rolls its way down the hill.)
If you’re tired of waiting for FI:
- Start by living your FI life now—don’t wait for FI to be happy and fulfilled.
- Fill your time with the activities in this article.
- If you’re still struggling with impatience—practice acceptance, then move on.
Where I’m at now
These days, I’m mostly unaffected by the gnawing impatience that afflicted me earlier in my journey. I’ve learned to accept that the journey is long and slow, and I’m distracting myself with new interests—like blogging.
(I don’t expect my blog to make one iota of difference to our savings, but it’s a welcome distraction that’s helped keep me out of the doldrums!)
What about you?
Where are you in your FI journey? How have you dealt with the doldrums? Share in the comments so we can all learn from each other!
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