I am almost 50 years old this year. I have two children who are early on in their university education. I have noticed a slight discomfort recently that I did not see coming until I started to experience it. It is this realization that my children might not do as well financially as we have. It really began when I ran the numbers on my son’s possible path to FI. He might be coming out and earning 50K a year. That would be a pittance for most physicians. I needed to sit there with these numbers and be reminded of how much money I am leaving on the table by not working maximally.
We tend to think about money too often in these buckets that tend not to interact. What many in the FI community fail to see is that the accumulation is relatively simple. It is the interplay between all the moving parts that complicate things. It is complex enough with thinking about all this within my own financial planning. But when you add in the moving parts of your adult children’s lives, then it really gets interesting.
Perhaps for some of you whose children are very young, you dismiss the idea since you are still focused on how to deal with their growing needs. I see many worry about the need for private schools, sports camps and worrying about “spoiling” them. I have gone beyond all of that without much fanfare. It has been relatively easy for me and I am immensely thankful for that.
How Did I Do It?
I did not believe in private school for my children. I am a firm believer that if a student is motivated and hard working, spending more money on their education before post secondary studies is not worth it. I recently attended the high school graduation of my youngest daughter. The drive and the excellence of her classmates in a Canadian public high school were highly rewarded. No amount of private school would have made much difference for many of them. Money can not buy many things in life and I am glad that this was illustrated once again.
The issue of spoiling my children was never a problem. I simply did not make money a central tenet to a life well lived. They have watched first hand how I consistently pared down tasks such that it was more work to call someone to do it than to just do it myself. It is all in the design of most things. I spend much more time thinking than doing. I have shown them to equate a simple life with joy and peace. Money is only used to transact things we can not easily do for ourselves. But it quickly decouples when one uses money to solve too many of one’s life problems. I never held money as a goal for them, nor did I use it as a punishment for them. I never valued money in Gollum- like terms as “my precious” since I really see money as a tool.
The Wrinkles I Did Not Foresee
My youngest daughter has developed this unrelenting interest in becoming a physician. My husband and I have never told either of our children what they should pursue as a career. But knowing your child well has been invaluable. This one should pursue it.
And this is the other wrinkle. I have found her energy contagious for renewing my own interest in returning to my career. I absolutely did not see that coming. I was planning to work more when she went to university. I never thought my daughter wanting to pursue Medicine would make me want to work with renewed vigor. She has in her innocent admiration of a career in Medicine reminded me of the wealth I already held in my hands.
So those were a couple of odd wrinkles. One has been recognizing that my son may be a lower wage earner and how to set him up. The other, is how to deal with a child who wants to do what you have accomplished without getting them focused on the downsides of the career. It is a balancing act.
I have been FI for over a decade. I also have a physician spouse and children. All these factors impact FI more than a number. There are plenty of moving parts when you take it all into consideration. I can not plan without including all the needs of my family.
This is one of the reasons I continue to make comments to many physician blogging sites especially the younger ones. Do not be so quick to pull the medicine rug out from under your feet. Many of us do not see the pitfalls until we are blindsided by them. Please consider keeping your licenses active. I do not pretend to know anyone else’s situation but I can state for myself that I am grateful that I have always kept my options open.
FI is about options. But all options begin in your mind. And some options can not be purchased with money. If you can set it up properly, the road to FI will likely be easier and not such a maddeningly, blind rush. It reminds me once again that most times it isn’t about the money.