Changing Your Mind is a Freedom, Too

The world of personal finance blogs (this one included) is filled with a healthy dose of fantasy.  Where we’ll live, what we’ll do, and the many adventures that the ability to say “see ya” to our jobs will allow us to have.  There’s one freedom granted us by financial independence that I think a lot of personal finance and early retirement blogs gloss over:  The freedom of changing your mind.

This week, the future Mrs. Vagabond and I got to talking about the many places we want to live or visit in the world, and chatted happily about where we’d like to begin.  Part of our plan for the next few years is to get married, and hopefully start our family… just in time to begin to raise them on the road.  Well, to call it “on the road” may be overstating it a bit.  We don’t intend to jet from place to place at vacation speed.  We’ll arrive in each new location expecting to spend a few months, and either extend or cut short our stay depending on how much we’re getting out of the experience.

Though it was a happy conversation, it began because one of our close friends had attempted to pour a lot of cold water on our early retirement enthusiasm.  Curiously (or maybe totally expectedly), the few people who have voiced concerns about our plans of the next few years have all been very close to us.  We’ve been told that you can’t retire by forty, that you can’t travel with very young children, and that we are going to be lonely and miserable.  To be frank, I think they’re completely wrong on all counts.

But What if They’re Not Wrong?

What if the places that we romanticize are too hot, too cold, too boring, too scary, or just too different to make us happy?  What if we get so tired of traveling that all we want is the safety and reliability of the USA?

Who Cares?

If we’re not happy, we’ll change our minds.

We’ll move.  We’ll come home.  We’ll settle someplace new that we can’t imagine leaving.  We’ll take on part or full time jobs just to pass the time, assuming we enjoy them completely.  That’s part of complete financial freedom too.

Think about all the people in the world living paycheck to paycheck, or deeply in debt.  Those are the people who can’t change their minds.  If someone with no savings whatsoever takes a new job that turns out to be a nightmare, they have few options aside from finding another one.  Families relocating for work, pursuing further education in an attempt to get a raise, or working long hours are the ones truly trapped in their choices!

Financial Independence isn’t just a single moon-shot towards your fantasies.  It’s a safety net that allows you to make and unmake choices, to experiment, and to let the experience of freedom plant new desires and dreams inside of you.

If you’re a little further along on your journey to financial independence than we are, and you’re resisting pulling the trigger because you’re not sure you’ll like retirement, or you think you’ll be bored, don’t fear!  You have a power that is actually the foundation of the “independence” part of financial independence:  the freedom, the wherewithal, and the luxury of changing your mind.

35 thoughts on “Changing Your Mind is a Freedom, Too

  1. Fervent Finance

    I change my mind a little too much some would say, but I totally agree that’s why I want to be FI!!! If at first I want to go to Europe for a year, but then get sick of it after a month… who cares? I have to freedom to come back to USA or go to Asia. If I decide I don’t want to start the business but want to do wood working for friends and family, who cares!? The safety net of FI is there for me so that I can change my mind!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Exactly! Naysayers get so caught up in the “what ifs” that they miss the fact that the consequences of making a bad lifestyle decision in FI are mild to nonexistent.

  2. Mr. Enchumbao

    Nice post! I agree. With FI you have the freedom to choose and change your mind as you wish. The point is not that you need to have a fixed mindset on your retirement plan but that you have a fixed income that allows you to change course as you please. We don’t know exactly where we’ll live after FI. We have an idea and will be exploring it but we are also pondering about getting an RV and touring the US for a year. Who knows! It’s a great problem to have.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Totally. You guys seem to have some wonderful ideas, I can’t wait to see where you end up starting! For us, I think there will be homesick moments where we decide to come back to the US and spend a few months, but I think we’ll ultimately end up traveling again before too long. It’s just those locked into a “work until dead” mindset that can’t see that FI actually represents *less* risk than continuing to work!

  3. Ashlee @ SMD!

    Such a great article! Our close friends are our biggest naysayers, as well. We’re met with a lot of passive aggressiveness. Lots of gems, such as, “I’d be so bored if I retired early. What are you going to do ALL DAY?”

    They don’t understand that Financial Independence (our actual goal) is not synonymous with retirement. FI means we have the freedom and flexibility to do what we want and go where we want, and that includes changing our minds, if what we thought we wanted isn’t actually what we wanted at all! Unconventionality does not bode well for friendships, sometimes.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Ashlee, thanks so much for the comment and the kind words! I guess when you think about it, it’s easy to see why those closest to us are the biggest naysayers. They’re just the ones who know us well enough to share what a lot of people are probably thinking!

      I’ll occasionally read (on the MMM forums, or Reddit, or elsewhere) a post from someone who retired early and couldn’t stand it. Of course, that’s totally their right (and they too have the freedom to change their minds!)… but I am virtually certain we won’t be afflicted with that problem! So much of our fantasy life is spent thinking of all the wonderful things we will fill our time with, many of them things we already do and love. We won’t have any shortage of ideas as to how to fill our time!

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  5. Mrs. Groovy

    Great post! We change our minds often. There are two camps of naysayers in our inner circle – those who really love us and want to protect us, and those who care, but can’t see past their own lives. We stopped sharing our dreams with the latter. Those in the first group, we reassure we’re doing what’s right for us. Many people are afraid to change their minds because they don’t want to look foolish. We often look foolish, but we don’t care.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Mrs. Groovy, thank you very much for your comment! It’s like listening to someone else describe our own experience! I often say to my fiancé that nobody will believe it’s possible until they see us do it, and some of them not even then!! But we’re happy now, and will be happier still then.

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  7. Kim @ Needing The Dough

    This is wonderful – and so true! We’re working on an early retirement plan, but I don’t have a set goal date or age for early retirement. The only person I’ve discuss my early retirement plans with are my husband, and even he doesn’t think it’s possible. The thing I like to remind him is very similar to what you’re talking about – the plan to retire early is flexible. Just because I hope to retire at 40, but I reach 40 and decide it’s not really going to happen, doesn’t mean that effort was wasted. Plans can change in early retirement, but they can also change on the way there. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of someone working hard towards a goal, having it not work out exactly as expected, and decide that they whole effort was useless and wasted. The ability to change your mind just because you want to is worth celebrating in and of itself.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hey Kim, thank you! I think you’re spot on– it’s about contentment and knowing you have options. How you choose to exercise that freedom is totally up for discussion and open to change– and it’s totally ok!

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  9. Kurt

    Yes, try an adventure or experiment. If it doesn’t work you as you hoped, you can always do something else! Too many fear failure I think and so stick to the conventional (i.e., boring) course. I’ve been guilty of this in some big ways, to my long lasting regret.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks so much for commenting, Kurt. I can tell from your blog that you’re turning any regrets you have to a positive end. I admire you and your wife’s dedication to your own path– I wouldn’t call you guys conventional, that’s for sure!

  10. John

    Great post and reminder that life is always a work-in-progress. Staying flexible is “huge” (as Trump would say) to long term success. While reasonable planning is appropriate, trying to map everything out is not only futile, but takes some of the fun out of life!

    Enjoy the ride…..have a plan, but stay flexible…..and live life!

    John

  11. Matt Spillar

    Discovered your blog through Rockstar Finance, and really enjoyed this post. There’s so much freedom and peace that comes with not being tied down and dependent on a job. Being able to backtrack and change course whenever you want sounds amazing. Forget the naysayers!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks, Matt! Yeah, it’s like when I was first paying off my high interest debt: The peace of mind you get from just being able to pick up your own phone without fearing some creditor is amazing, and each step after that has just given me more and more relief. Financial independence just gives us the ability to shrug off course changes… and yes, even making mistakes!

  12. Pingback: Financial Independence Means Having The Ability To Change Your Mind | Lifehacker Australia

  13. Emily

    This is awesome! I’m only just beginning in this personal finance world, but I’ve been trying to think ‘big picture’ what my goal is – I’m not a big fan of travelling ‘aimlessly’, because I’m far too uptight, but it was starting to feel that that kind of long-term travel was the whole point of getting on top of your finances and getting to early retirement. I feel much freer reading this post, and realising that actually the point of getting there is to decide, if I feel like it, to travel for six months at a time…or sit at home and read every book published that year. Or, who knows – work!

  14. Pingback: Financial Independence as the Freedom of Changing Your Mind - Personal Finance News

  15. PersonalFinanceNews

    Very insightful! Financial independence does open more options in life, including the freedom of changing your mind. It’s a worthy goal for anyone to strive for. I’ve put a short summary and point more readers to this excellent articles.

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  17. Mortimer

    Awesome post. This is absolutely true. And I think it applies at just about any financial point in life (or should) post complete debt freedom. It just doesn’t take that much money to live a good life in the US, or in most places in the world. If you have no debt, and you’re just covering food, you should be able to quit your job and freelance or work part time just about whenever you want. And it’s that freedom of choice that is so special—not any one thing you choose to do or place you go. So many people haven’t had it for so long, they can’t even imagine a life with choices again. Thanks for the breath of fresh air.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Mortimer, thanks! I think you put it more eloquently than I did! People go without real choice in their lives for so long that the very thought of real freedom is terrifying! That’s exactly where the naysaying comes from.

  18. A.A.Ron

    My wife and I had the opportunity to do the Dave Ramsey Work Place Edition of Financial Peace University early in our marriage. Neither one of us had credit card debt but we both had auto loans and I had student loan debt. Fast forward a couple of years with paid off vehicles and an all around better financial situation. We saved up a good amount of money and this past weekend went and bought a used vehicle for $13k…..cash. Technically a cashiers check drawn out of our money market account but still CASH! I work for credit union and do auto loans often but the sense of ‘I got a car without taking out a loan’ is a huge accomplishment. Financial Independence is spectacular to say the least. We are not there 100% but we are marching down that path. One step at a time.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Nicely done, Aaron! I think we’re all doing it a step at a time! I’m with you, I’d only buy a car in cash at this point. My fiancée’s car is on its last legs, and I’ve been telling her that her next car (used, cash!) will be her last before early retirement 🙂

  19. Jaymee

    Awesome post! I’ve been working full-time in my career (2years I’m still new :P) and I’ve noticed the type of language some of my colleagues or anyone who’ve been in the workforce for years talk about – paying mortgage, saving and looking forward to vacation, retirement being so far off yet.. I want that freedom you talk about, the one that doesn’t strap me down to my job 🙂

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks, Jaymee! Yeah, my fiancée and I were talking about saving and budgeting a bit last night. Like you, were are surrounded by folks decades into their careers, but we’re closer to retirement than they are. We just want the freedom to try something, and if we don’t like it, try something new.

      You can do it!!

  20. Daisy

    Thank you for this! We’re so used to thinking that when you make a huge life choice, you can’t go back from it. That might be true for some things (having kids, for example) but you’re showing us how limiting that thinking is. More motivated to get financially independent now! Will share on Twitter!

  21. Ty @ Get Rich Quickish

    What a great post! When thinking about all the freedom FI buys, I’ve never considered that it also buys the ability to change my mind, but after reading this it’s so obvious and so intuitive that I’m surprised I’ve not framed it in these terms already. I love discovering these types of posts – thanks for the additional perspective!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks, Ty! Yeah, I think that’s the great strength of the PF blogging community– all the voices give us countless ways to express some of the same ideas, and each of us will connect more strongly with someone. Thank you for the kind words of encouragement!

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