Potential: The Why of Financial Independence

The why of financial independence


Imagine what you would do if you woke one morning and discovered that you were financially independent. After you fainted, and awoke, and whooped, and celebrated and jubiliated and shouted wheeeee! to your heart’s content, what would you do? What would you do if money was no longer a concern, if you had enough money to cover your living expenses in perpetuity?


This happy question is one that all of us on the path to financial independence have to grapple with. We are working towards a possible early retirement, but what comes next? How will we spend our time on earth once we’re done running the FIRE marathon?

The answers to this question are as varied as the human race itself.

Constant travel in an RV. A life of perpetual travel abroad. Coaching a soccer team. Writing a book. Relocating to a new country. Going back to college. Playing video games all day. Brewing beer. Painting that masterpiece. Working on a farm. Building that killer app. Volunteering. Hiking the PCT.

The Why of Financial Independence
Photo by Eugene Quek on Unsplash


The possibilities are endless.

This then, is why we strive for financial independence. We do it to bring potential back into our lives.


Once Upon A Time….


Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far, away….well actually, right here on Earth, some 8000 miles away in a country called India there lived a little girl. She was bright, and did very well at school. Her parents told her how proud they were of her. Her teachers told her that she had so much potential. Her cousins hated her a little because their parents asked why they could not get the same grades in school as her (and so sometimes they were extra rough with her during play, and who is to say that she didn’t deserve it at least a little?). The message this girl received all through her childhood was that if she worked hard, and went to college, the world was her oyster. She could be anything. She could do anything. She could accomplish anything.

The why of financial independence
So much potential, the sky is the limit!

This little girl was naive enough to lap it all up. She truly believed that she would change the world. She didn’t know how it would happen, but she was sure that it would.

Eventually the girl grew up and left her little pond. She did well enough, but as she was exposed to the world in all its vastness, she began to harbour doubts about how truly exceptional she really was. She was bright, that was true, her parents and teachers had not been pathological liars; but so were so very many others. She hardly stood out.


She walked the path well traveled. She got a good job, she made good money, she worked on interesting things, she even filed some U.S. patents along the way, but with each passing year her world grew smaller. She traveled, and fell in love and started a family of her own, and yet her world grew smaller.

Her world grew smaller because all the potential leaked right out of it. Her path seemed set in stone. She could see all the way to her grave, and sometimes, in the long dark teatime of the soul she felt filled with quiet despair. It would be a good life. It would also be a life most ordinary, and there was still enough of the little girl alive deep inside her, that this truth hurt.


Then one day, she discovered that she could achieve financial independence.

And suddenly, just like that, her life was filled with potential again.


The Why of Financial Independence


For me, this is the heart of the quest for financial independence.

We should pursue it, and not for the pile of money that will result. We should pursue it because it will bring potential back into our lives. It will give us the power to change the course of our lives. It will empower us to dream again. It will allow us, when we espy a rabbit hole, to merrily go down it and meet Cheshire cats.


When we are children, we are at our creative best. We are unafraid to try new things. We worry not about the next meal, or healthcare, or rent. We assume those things are taken care of, and we focus on what is truly important: drawing that picture, writing our first poem, inventing a new universe, climbing that tree. Achieving financial independence frees us to return to this childlike state of wonder and discovery and creation.


I don’t know exactly what it is that I might do, or be, or make once I get to the finish line and that is the most awesome thing ever. It could be anything. And that little voice of quiet despair? She seems to have shut up for good.


22 thoughts on “Potential: The Why of Financial Independence”

  1. Great storytelling way of getting your points across. I’ve read it with a sense of wonder myself. It took me out of the numbers filled grinding of the FIRE and made me realise some new things. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. I love the story you shared in this piece. I identify with it well and look forward to that potential that is at the other side of financial independence. It may take a long time, but eventually, it’ll be worth it to awaken that little fire inside once more. Thank you.

    1. You are most welcome Kate! It is going to be awesome, and we are all so lucky that we are on a path that is going to get us there.

  3. “Achieving financial independence frees us to return to this childlike state of wonder and discovery and creation.”

    So true and so scary. When I was a child I wanted to be a professional dodge-ball player. Little did I know then that such an occupation doesn’t exist. But that’s beside the point. The point is I used to dream–and dream big. Now that I’m retired, I’m doing exactly what I want to do: picking up litter, blogging, and traveling. But are those avocations my true dreams? In other words, am I still dreaming big enough? Damn it, Mrs. B. You’re making me think.

    1. When I was a child I thought dodge ball was a game invented by the devil to torture slow uncoordinated kids like myself. My only saving grace was that I was as skinny as a toothpick and that made me a difficult target.

      Your life right now sounds pretty damn good to me. Though if you do decide to dream big and end up picking up a Nobel prize, I will expect to be mentioned by name in your acceptance speech.

  4. What an awesome way to think of early retirement! Potential. Bringing back a childlike belief in an endless world of possibilities. It’s kind of ironic that one has to do really well at “adulting” (dealing with sometimes-ugly realities of rent, mortgages, debt repayment, career, etc.) in order to even approach the possibility of early retirement and all that childlike faith. Quitting my teaching job did a lot for my perspective as far as opening up my mind to different options. I still don’t know whether any of those alternative careers will pan out (I hope so!) or if I’ll return to teaching in a couple of years, but it’s been great to experience a bit more openness to the possibilities!

    1. That is ironic, isn’t it? I think it is wonderful that you are already trying out other paths for size. I can’t wait to start doing that too.

  5. I get excited thinking about all the possibilities that come along with the freedom of not working. This past weekend I played on the banjo for about 5 hrs (over the whole weekend, not at once) and enjoyed the freedom of getting to sit down and enjoy playing, working on new tunes, old tunes and more.

    It will be nice to get to do that or whatever else I want to do whenever I want to do it. So much potential indeed!

    1. I was imagining you playing till your fingers were raw and bleeding while you children wept and moaned and begged for you to stop and please feed them.

      Seriously though, that sounds like a solid way to spend a weekend.

      1. Hahaha, actually my oldest came into the office and said, “Dad, that music sounds good!” It gave me a big smile and hope that he may want to pick up the guitar/mandolin/violin/something one day and play along. 🙂 My brief foray into learning fiddle was more likely to evoke the wailing and moaning and begging me to stop. Imagine a sick cat being tortured and that’s about the level of sounds I could coax from the fiddle, lol.

  6. As always, that hits the spot! I truly think that being child like crazy is the secret to a happy life and FI is a great tool to keep our positive insanity alive! Keep those great articles coming!

    1. Thank you Gorden! Isn’t it going to be wonderful to be able to be childlike and also not have any of childhood’s rules apply? You can dream, and try out new stuff AND eat ice cream whenever you want. Crazy stuff.

  7. So much truth in this post! Although we will not retire early, being so late to the party, we will retire with more freedom than a lot of people. It’s so true that along the way in this life we lose that feeling of potential, and FIRE, or the financial serenity that we are seeking, can often bring that feeling back. I enjoy reading your posts, especially the ones like this, where you share your story and your heart.

    1. Life is short enough without having to waste too much of it on something as mundane as money. I hope you find the serenity you seek, and sooner rather than later. Thank you for stopping by, and thank you for reminding me why I write.

  8. Thanks Mrs BITA that was a great shot in the arm to keep the motivation up! You should consider writing full-time when you reach your FI goal line. You are bloody funny but always on the mark.

  9. Hi, I can really relate to ur story…. I also immigrated from India 19 yeas back …. Last of 3 kids and being the smartest…. theres always that invisible force on u to keep excelling .. and always work harder … more harder …. I can now see light at the end of the tunnel… Trying for FI in couple of years… Thanks for sharing

    1. Yay for FI being so close that you can almost touch it! I always love hearing from fellow immigrants, and it is a special treat to hear from another Indian. Thank you for stopping by Sri.

  10. Let me offer a counter opinion.

    You are still doing what you’ve always been taught – chasing a goal. Once you reach the goal, the next thing is not necessarily going to materialize – although I hope it does for you. I’ve been through this process and have been at the FI state for about 10 years. When you lose the goal of financial survival, the really challenging other questions of core purpose become much more vocal. My recommendation is to focus on defining (discovering) your core purpose along with the FI path and find a way to transition to it.

    If you were disappointed by your ‘not great enough’ potential before, get ready for the big brick to hit after FI. I’ve tried ‘retiring’ from a corporate job at least 3 times and came face to face with my fears and in the 10 years have a little bit better understanding in that dimension. Perhaps that’s just me.

  11. I had to laugh at your mention of dodge ball to Mr.G – seriously, worse game ever invented!

    My feelings about FI are very similar to yours. I have a “why”, in fact, I have a lot of little “why’s”. There is not one thing propelling me more than another beside the chance for financial freedom. Similar to the first time my mom let me ride my bike farther than the one block radius I was allowed, I suddenly felt like I could do anything and go anywhere. Like you said, it isn’t about the money. It’s about the freedom we are getting back to make our own choices. I CANT FUCKING WAIT!! 🙂

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