Eight years ago, in 2015, I embarked on a life-changing journey towards financial independence and early retirement (FIRE). Armed with a stable job in the finance industry and alongside my partner, we set our sights on achieving our FIRE goals. After the initial excitement of setting out on this path, we found ourselves in what’s often referred to as the “Boring Middle.”
During the Boring Middle, we feel like we are on cruise control. Our financial plans are now dialed in, and we have a clear roadmap. However, this seemingly stable phase comes with its challenges. The desire to reach financial independence faster nags at me. I often found myself exploring ways to optimize our strategies.
Understanding the Boring Middle
As someone who’s naturally goal-oriented, I find the Boring Middle as an unexpected challenge. I tend to thrive off of achievements, checking things off my goals list. I can’t help but find myself thinking: Given our current progress of savings and investing, how can I get to FIRE faster? What if we increase income by starting a side business on top of a full time job?
The Boring Middle is not a time to rush or make hasty decisions; rather, it’s an opportunity to build discipline and fortitude. The finish line of early retirement might still be a good 10-20 years away, and it’s essential to stay the course without succumbing to the temptation of shortcuts.
Mindset for Navigating the Boring Middle
Navigating the boring middle requires a mindset shift.
Focus on the Journey, Not Just the Destination
When journeying through the boring middle, it’s crucial to embrace the process of working towards financial independence and early retirement (FIRE). As the excitement of the initial steps settles, we may find ourselves yearning for the finish line, eager to reach the destination.
By savoring each moment, celebrating the progress made, and acknowledging the personal growth that comes with it, we can find purpose and satisfaction in the present.
Focus on behavior and consistent action rather than the fluctuating net worth number. This is powerful during market downturns and volatility.
Balancing Life and Financial Goals
Don’t forget to live! Constantly obsessing over spreadsheets and financial numbers can lead to burnout and rob us of the joy and spontaneity that life has to offer.
The pursuit of FIRE should never come at the expense of a well-rounded life. While financial goals are essential, it’s equally important to strike a balance between work, personal life, and leisure.
Planning fun trips or engaging in hobbies not only provides a sense of rejuvenation but also serves as a reminder of what we are ultimately working towards – a life of financial independence that affords us the freedom to enjoy such experiences.
Shooting for Bigger Wins
As we journey through the boring middle, we must remain focused on bigger wins that can propel significant progress towards our FIRE goals.
There is a time in one’s financial journey that coupon clipping and penny pinching might be suitable. It’s easy to get stuck in thinking how to save a few dollars by shopping in 3 different grocery stores.
Yet what really moves the needle when it comes to FIRE is often seeking higher-paying job opportunities to accelerate our earnings. Check in on yourself if you’re fixating on minor optimizations or micro dials. Instead, focus on leveling up your careers and pursuing well-compensated roles to expedite the journey to financial freedom.
Strategies to Maintain Progress in the Boring Middle
Celebrating Every Milestone
While the big goal of financial independence may still be a distant dream, it’s essential to set smaller milestones along the way. Celebrating these achievements can keep us motivated and reinforce the progress we’ve made. Whether it’s saving enough to cover our utility bills, groceries, or a fun weekend getaway, each milestone brings us closer to the ultimate goal.
I vividly remember the satisfaction of reaching one such milestone. After years of disciplined saving and budgeting, we finally had enough saved to cover a month’s worth of household expenses without relying on our regular income. This moment served as a powerful reminder that our efforts were paying off, even in the seemingly uneventful Boring Middle.
Lowering Stress and Exploring Alternate Opportunities
As we trudge through the Boring Middle, continue to reassess your work-life balance. For me, this phase came after years of being a startup founder and working in high-pressure investment banking roles. Transitioning to a less stressful job allowed me to focus on my mental health and other aspects of life.
Reducing stress doesn’t mean abandoning ambition; rather, it involves finding a balance that ensures personal well-being while still working towards FIRE. Keep an open mind when it comes to opportunities that can provide the financial stability needed for our journey, while also affording us more time to explore passions outside of work.
Setting A Different Challenge
The Boring Middle also presents an opportunity to explore setting challenges beyond monetary goals. Why not set yourself a different challenge?
Embrace New Hobbies. Use this time to delve into new hobbies that bring you joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s taking up tennis, golf, painting, or learning a musical instrument, immersing yourself in a new passion can be deeply rewarding.
It allows you to redirect your goal-oriented nature towards mastering a skill or craft. The sense of accomplishment gained can be just as (if not more!) satisfying as reaching financial milestones. For me, I’m looking forward to training for a half marathon for 2024!
Building a Community. Connect with like-minded individuals in your city. Host meetups, join online forums to share experiences on things you are curious about (financial related or not!).
Avoiding Serious Mistakes
“All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.”
Charlie Munger’s wisdom serves as a valuable lesson during the Boring Middle. I vividly recall the mistakes I made during 2021-2022, when the lure of quick gains led me to go big into cryptocurrencies. Unfortunately, I lost six figures in the process, setting us back significantly.
While I had previously made a substantial profit from Bitcoin investments back in 2013, the losses from the recent crypto run outweighed those gains. It was a stark reminder that taking unnecessary risks could derail our progress.
Moments of impatience and the allure of quick gains can lead to significant setbacks. It’s crucial to remain vigilant, making informed decisions based on our long-term objectives rather than short-term temptations.
Embracing the Journey
The Boring Middle may not boast the adrenaline rush of the beginning or the triumphant feeling of reaching financial independence, but it is a phase filled with valuable lessons.
Slow and steady progress is the name of the game. It is the foundation of lasting success.
Are you currently in the Boring Middle? How are you navigating this phase of FIRE-ing?