I write quite a bit about my perspective on what it’s like to be financially free so early in life, sharing this first-person view in real-time.
That’s because I believe financial independence is part of a holistic lifestyle that helps one pursue happiness, and I can say that I’ve experienced a notable uptick in my own happiness, which I can directly attribute to this lifestyle.
Once you’re financially free, you have so much more time and energy to align your lifestyle with all that you value. It’s about adding value to your life. And when you find so much value being added to your life, you’ll no doubt be in a great spot to add value to others’ lives. This all allows one to become the best version of themselves.
As such, you’ll find few bigger fans of this lifestyle than me. And so I only hope that I’m able to inspire others looking for something similar out of their lives – this view is just too wonderful to keep all to myself.
However, not everything about this lifestyle is great.
While I certainly think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, that doesn’t mean there are no drawbacks.
And while my experiences will naturally vary from yours, I thought it’d be insightful to share three drawbacks that have revealed themselves to various degrees in my own life.
I’m a natural introvert, being an INTJ personality type, although I do feel that I’ve become more extroverted and less cynical after becoming financially free. I see the world differently than I ever have before. No longer being in a position of service, I’m freed of expectations by others while simultaneously assuming the best about those around me.
But there’s also a certain sense of isolation that comes with this lifestyle.
First, there’s the adopting of a frugal lifestyle, which can limit one’s social life to a degree.
If your friends usually hit the town on Friday nights, you have to make a choice there as to whether or not that’s going to make you happier than being in control of your time and life. And you have to decide whether or not you really value hitting the town. Or are you just doing it because everyone else is?
I don’t drink. And I don’t like small talk. So avoiding this kind of stuff actually came quite naturally to me. But your experience may differ.
Either way, it can be isolating.
I also no longer have co-workers to commiserate with, losing a potential source of friendship.
This shouldn’t be underestimated.
As adults, we have limited opportunities to make friends. It’s different than when you’re a kid, seemingly able to make friends all over the place. Work is to adults what school is to kids. Both can be a real drag. And both take up most of your waking hours. But both are also a major source of possible friendship.
I’m also not flowing with most of society. Most people are waking up early in the morning, working, going to lunch, working some more, and then coming home late in the day.
So I’m basically swimming against the current a lot of the time, seeing schools of fish swim past me and all around me. It’s a big ocean out there, which is certainly very exciting. However, it can be dark and lonely if you’re swimming out there alone much of the time.
And there’s kind of a sense of losing time, where Saturday becomes Tuesday. The days and hours blend together a little bit, which can be a little jarring if you’re used to (or prefer) a more agrarian or religious-based schedule with tightly defined workdays, weekends, and routines. I like not having a routine, but I sense that I’m in the minority there.
So there’s all of that, which can be a little jarring at first.
However, I think the larger sense of isolation exists in the form of not feeling like you can really connect with anyone.
It takes a fairly unique person with a special set of drive, foresight, will, persistence, patience, perseverance, creativity, and intelligence to achieve financial independence at a young age. It’s not something you accidentally happen upon.
As such, I find it hard to really relate to most people with more usual, everyday issues and perspectives. This issue is further compounded when people have an equally difficult time relating to me.
Whereas most people talk about subjects like the weather, their kids, work, and pop culture when they congregate, I’m more likely to want to discuss things like the power of financial freedom and how it impacts one’s pursuit of happiness, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, business news, philanthropic causes, opportunities and challenges we face as a species, and how to make our cities better in regards to design, infrastructure, transportation, and energy.
In essence, I’m looking for more than superficial conversations and connections.
Tangentially, it’s theorized that intelligent people are more likely to have fewer friends. I suppose it’s a gift and a curse to be intelligent.
Now, was I interested in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or financial freedom when I was in my mid-20s and knee-deep in my career, just trying to make money and cover my lifestyle? Absolutely not. And, sure, some of these interests just come about with age.
But financial independence has a way of bestowing a new perspective upon someone. It, too, can be both a gift and a curse.
First, you’re no longer really thinking and talking about typical career issues, because… well, you probably have no “career” any longer. While you’ll most likely continue to exchange some of your time for money, it’s a totally different situation.
And with newfound time and energy to complement one’s unique set of aforementioned skills, your interests are likely to expand in terms of scope to the point where spending 30 minutes talking to someone about the weather or what reality show is popular seems like a total waste of precious time.
This all has the effect of isolating someone.
Even when you do happen upon the chance to meet someone new, there are good odds there that it’ll be difficult to connect due to disparate viewpoints.
Moreover, even just sharing the fact that you’re financially free can have an adverse impact, creating other potential drawbacks…
Being resented for your success is a real threat, and it’s something I’ve personally faced.
This drawback sort of works hand in hand with the feeling of being isolated.
It can be hard to share the fact that you’re financially free with others around you, especially if they’re not already extremely close confidants.
All kinds of thoughts can enter one’s mind when they think about sharing their position in life.
“Will people change their expectations of me?”
“Will people understand what it took to get here?”
“Are people going to resent me for my financial position?”
I used to not really think too much about these issues, sharing my position pretty freely both through my writing and in real life, in hopes that it would inspire others looking for a way out of the rat race.
The thoughts that used to enter my head when thinking about sharing all of this used to be far more along the lines of how interested people would likely be.
“People will become instantly inspired by my story, motivated to improve their lives.”
“If I can do this, so can almost anyone else.”
“If a significant number of people live like this, we could potentially change the world.”
But after losing a good chunk of my family due to their resentment of my success, I’ve become a bit more hesitant to openly share my thoughts on all of this outside of this forum.
This fear of sharing what can become a substantial portion of your identity can further isolate you from others, meaning you’re only able to open up a little bit. You’re almost forced into more superficial conversations and relationships, which just makes you feel even more unlike everyone else. It can be a vicious circle of frustration.
Being Too Free
Can one be too free?
This is subject to debate, but I do think that being completely unchained can be an issue for some people.
What if you’re financially free but your significant other isn’t? Will they be okay with going off to work while you stay home, hang out at the coffee shop, go to the beach, or catch a movie?
Even if you’re more than able to cover your portion of the household bills, it can be difficult to be in such different positions of freedom. You may not want to share your easy, breezy day with your partner when you know that their day wasn’t so leisurely. This can also lead to resentment and isolation, as laid out above.
And what does that gap in freedom look like, where you’re free and someone else isn’t? You have massive opportunities that other people lack, which can be both good and bad.
For instance, you could just go off and travel. Or you could just move to almost anywhere else in the world. Suppressing opportunities can be difficult, with the knowledge of what you’re capable of already part of your psyche.
A good example of this was when I traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand in mid-2015. I had been wanting to visit Thailand since I was in my early 20s, and the appeal only grew once I became financially free – the geographical arbitrage that’s possible there is pretty amazing, further increasing one’s freedom and opportunities.
What was once just a place I wanted to see became almost a mecca, where cheapness intersected with the fun and interesting. So many digital nomads and travelers looking to stretch their dollars without sacrificing quality of life had found this place to be “it”, so I knew I just had to see it for myself. Of course, I only realized later that I was chasing experiencism instead of consumerism.
So while my significant other lacked the ability to just jet off to some exotic place for an indefinite period of time, I didn’t. And so I kind of bullied my way into going, which caused our relationship some hardship during this period.
Another example of this is in where we currently live. I’d like to move to a larger city than Sarasota – somewhere where the public transportation is a bit more robust and the overall lifestyle is a bit more dynamic. I’m craving the ability to experience more high-quality urbanity and walkability on a daily basis. But my partner can’t just up and go at will.
Moreover, even if we were to move somewhere else, would I then at some point shortly down the road find myself in a situation where I want to go somewhere new once more?
Being grounded in some ways isn’t a bad thing, yet having no constraints whatsoever limits how grounded someone can be. Being too free can boost any fickle behavior one already exhibits.
I find that sometimes I end up spending too much time in my own mind, in my own world. Feeling like you’re a part of something – a job, a relationship, a community, etc. – acts as sort of a compass. It gives you a sense of place. A sense of belonging. A sense of direction. A sense of relativity.
If you free yourself of everything and everyone, you’ll find yourself alone and floating. That’s not where you want to be. Being too free puts you on an island of yourself.
Too much freedom also shows up in many different ways.
You might be less prone to being on time for appointments or meetings (like hanging out with friends/family), seeing as how time loses some of its meaning once you no longer have to have a tight schedule/routine.
You might also see days turn into months, if you’re not careful. One can become complacent. Even lethargic.
While I believe that the type of person who’s going to achieve financial freedom at a young age is driven to the point of probably having a bigger problem limiting how far they stretch themselves in terms of tackling challenges, the initial jolt of operating outside the realm of the 9-5 can be intoxicating, putting one in a position to just kind of let the time pass by without any kind of reckoning.
Then again, I think allowing time to slip away is just as much of a problem, if not a larger problem, when one is busy working all the time. For me, time passes by slower these days. But I am cognizant of this potential drawback, as I do sometimes go on long stretches of leisure.
Nonetheless, I think having too much freedom is exactly why one should continue to scale new heights, climb new mountains, and write new chapters.
If you just let yourself slip away instead of taking on new challenges, life can kind of lose its meaning, becoming something of a blur. Existing is not living, and living is not thriving. Thriving involves constantly becoming a better version of yourself in all aspects. We should aim to regularly improve ourselves and our surroundings. The former allows us to personally thrive while the latter allows others to thrive. Making the world a better place shows empathy, which I believe is a necessary facet to the pursuit of happiness. Part of being a human being is being empathetic.
Essentially, being financially free is like playing a video game on “God mode”. The normal rules of everyday life are pretty much thrown out the window. You’re not confined to the limitations of a work-sleep-work cycle, opening you up to a new perspective where you see totally different challenges and opportunities in life than everyone else. This doesn’t make you better than anyone else, but it can indeed make you different.
Unfortunately, this can be isolating, whereby few people are able to relate to your position. And it can potentially make it difficult for you, too, to relate to others. You just find yourself living a totally different lifestyle.
This situation can also invite resentment from others who don’t understand what it takes to get there, or are too limited by their own hangups or situations to tackle the journey to financial independence. Even those you love can find it difficult to support such an immense amount of freedom, because this freedom can create distance between you and them. Your abilities can make their inabilities all the more apparent. Your freedom can make their lack of freedom that much more obvious.
And just like “God mode” can make playing a video game too easy, financial freedom can potentially allow one to become too free, making life too easy. If you’re not seeking out new challenges and constantly becoming a better version of yourself, life loses some of its meaning. You end up just existing. But we’re not meant to simply survive; we’re meant to thrive. We need purpose.
Becoming financially free at a young age isn’t designed to be a construct whereby you just sit around every day. It’s instead a huge gift that can free you from the ordinary demands of exchanging valuable units of your time for less valuable units of money, which then puts you in a position to do almost anything. And while you’ll still likely go on to exchange some of your time for money, it’ll be almost completely on your terms. You can do as much or as little of it as you please.
But this gift can be somewhat of a curse. I do believe the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, but I think it’s important to be honest with everyone about the fact that there are some drawbacks. Nothing in life is perfect, financial independence included.
However, if you’re able to leverage this gift to the hilt, I’m confident that you’ll eventually experience self-transcendence, and the pursuit of happiness will be as successful for you as it possibly can be.
What do you think? Are these potential major drawbacks to achieving financial freedom at a young age? Experience any of these? Have any other drawbacks you’ve personally experienced?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.