gofi’s fear and plans to tread lightly, but brightly

Over Christmas dinner, a friend asked me what I feared the most. I could think of many things, but most were beyond my control – my parent’s health for example. Seeing me stumped, he went ahead – being broke, I fear being broke the most, he said.

He was speaking from experience. He’d moved to Denver from NYC to be with his girlfriend (now wife) with nothing. She booked him a room at a cheap motel because her parents were not very keen. She got him a job at a restaurant – that was about ten years back. He’s a machinist now. I’m not sure what kind – but he’s now happily married with two kids, a suburban house and with enough to be financially savvy.

He’s ‘typical’ – as in the kind that eventually become millionaires.

We’ve met a few times over the three years I’ve been in Denver, and our shared interest in personal finance has secured a bond I think will last. I mentioned FIRE a few times, but did not over indulge him because he seemed in control of what he was doing – 401k plans, roth and some trading. I did tell him how he might want to get into index funds because it is just so much safer (and better) – but one really has to appreciate these things on their own. It cannot be forced.

For me, it is about asset allocation. S&P 500 index funds for stocks, some bonds and some cash reserve (when credit cards are not viable) – properly allocated.

I’ve had a few days to think over what I fear the most. And it became quite clear this morning. Of all the things I fear, I fear not reaching FI in time. The question is not if, but when we’ll get there. There are many good reasons why one may want to get there sooner than later.

To start with, it’s easier when we’re younger. It’s easier to find jobs, switch jobs and change careers when you’re young. I’ve had many old colleagues – good, honest men and women. But I do not want to be another old man in a cube. I want to be secure – and a job is just a job until it’s not. Older folks have a more difficult time finding and keeping a job. And companies don’t care that you’re old when they plan to trim down. So get there when you’re younger, then go climb the mountain if you want, or join the Trader Joes crew – whatever floats your boat.

I also want a second shot at success. I grew up with a lot of promise – more than my friends who’re now doctors, engineers, professors, even fancy civil servants. I do not envy them. I’m happy. Their success validates what hard work can do. That, some guidance, and luck (being at the right place at the right time). I also realize comparing where I am to where they are is to my own detriment. My goal is to make the most of myself. I want to be a better person today than I was yesterday. And FI is my first validation point – a proof to myself that I can grind and reach. Money is not my measure. Many late FI success stories will tell you that one of their mistakes was not knowing when to stop.

You can stop to smell the rose. Or better, delay it a bit. But not till either the rose withers or your sense of smell does.

Lastly, we’re having our first child in March which is all the more reason to pursue FI more aggressively. I tell Mrs. Gofi if she’d like to be one of those lovely ‘still-young’ ladies who participate in all their children’s activities – take them to school, to swimming practices, then go for runs in the middle of the day on weekdays.

Mrs. Gofi tells me that those would be lovely.

In reality though, our little girl will delay our FI by a few years. And few years means not just time, but all the uncertainties that those years may bring.

We’re expecting our savings rate to fall by 50% in the next few years. Mrs. Gofi will need to give up a quarter of her working hours because a full time day care is out of question for us. Even the part time daycare that we’ve decided on is like a second mortgage.

To lower our expenses, we’ve decided to cancel all vacations till it starts making sense to the girl. We’ll significantly cut down on restaurants and gifts. That should save us about $6K – nearly half the part time daycare cost.

I know we will eventually reach FI. The goal was to reach FI by 2026 i.e. to have enough to not worry about our jobs. I’m not keen on retiring – I would be bored if I didn’t do anything. 2026 though seems a little ambitious at the moment – but if we need to add a few years, it will just those few years and not one more.

Mrs. Gofi likes reminding me that our girl will bring her own luck when she comes. I’m looking forward to that – and to becoming an awesome father. She’d run wild in the rain, and laugh at me for falling in the mud. That, dear friend, is the plan.

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