A FIRE Women's Struggle (and plan!)
The eternal struggle of how to balance FIRE goals with raising a family when you discover these ideas a little later in life. It's hard to say how close we are to FIRE because it depends on so many factors. Do we stay in our current house? Do we downsize when the kids are grown? Do we sell and just rent? Do we need to keep 2 cars? How much will the market grow or fall during our accumulation years? All those factors change our number and years required to reach FI. As it currently stands, in our current home, we are about 50-60% of the way there. However if there was a major market correction such as in 2008 our time line would dramatically increase until the markets picked up again. All this to say we don't know but have some good educated guesses.
The part I struggle with at the moment is how to balance time with the family versus the money I could contribute to our net worth. My husband is not looking for early retirement and is quite happy to continue working for another 10 years or so. This would put him retiring around 50-55. I feel very fortunate in that I could just decide to stay home with the kids and we'd be find to pay all our bills and reach that traditional early retirement age. I am very grateful that we've been able to grow our RRSPs and TFSA enough that, based on compounding interest calculators, we don't have to add any more money to them and they should reach our FI number by 55-65. As long as they are left to continue to grow, we only need to worry about covering our day to day life costs. Obviously we will continue to contribute to our various accounts, but this is a sense of freedom in itself.
Since having children I've struggled with the desire to stay home with them versus working. Often the dream of staying home with them comes during periods of not loving my current job pushing the focus to hitting FI as soon as possible. However when I am home alone with them, I quickly realize I haven't quite figured out how what we'd do with so much time together without resorting to screen time.. My daydream has both of us off, doing some longer trips and adventures with the kids. The reality is far from that. When I'm home with them I find the days so long, especially in the younger years. Also if I'm honest I'm afraid to be a stay at home mom. I'm afraid of the isolation and the monotony. I'm afraid of becoming depressed. I love my kids, but I don't love the day to day repetitiveness of being home with them full time. My goal has always been to get my youngest in school then look at staying home/retiring.
Part of the guilt I feel is that my kids would love me to be home. It makes me question if I'm selling out time with my kids to reach the elusive independence. To be constantly available, to volunteer at their school and have summers off. But why should I feel this guilt but not my husband? We really are equal partners in our relationship and parenting yet by society's default (and our earning potential, with him earning more) I feel much more guilt at not being more available to the kids. I feel the pressure to put my career on hold or slow it down to be available to the kids.
My contract ended in December and I've been looking for work since. It has given me time to reflect on what I want out of it while hunting for a new opportunity. It has also been a struggle to admit that I don't have the desire to climb the corporate ladder or attain a high level position, something that my younger self always thought I'd strive for. I just want fulfilling work I can continue to learn things in, feel like I'm contributing something to my workplace and perhaps share my knowledge with others. I do want more time with my kids but I want to be more or less personally financially independent before I sacrifice my career for them. My career is very technology based and I fear that being out of the workplace for a couple years would make it very difficult to get back in should I decide to or need to. That makes it feel very final to stop working and be a stay at home mom. I think that is the main aspect that increases the appeal of retiring rather then stopping. I wouldn't have to worry about going back if I was financially independent. The fact that that feeling of independence could be found with two to three years of full time work and some good market returns (we'd be saving all of my salary plus a portion of my husbands) makes it seem very appealing to continue working.
I wish I could lessen the impact of money on my decision making but it does play a huge part, as the money gives me both freedom and security. Perhaps this is one downside to discovering the ideas of FIRE in 2015. Prior to realizing that early retirement was possible for us in 5 to 10 more years, I would have likely just kept plugging along, moved to part-time as possible and back to full time when it felt right for our family. I might have been able to lessen the impact of money on my decision making process. Though to be honest I was making a lot less money in Quebec than is possible in Alberta. Any salary here could be much more powerful in increasing the speed to FIRE than my previous one. Even without discovering FIRE I would have been very fearful of giving up my career to stay home. Now with the ideas of FI I have a greater sense of when I have enough security and financially it makes sense to. So for now, as mentioned above, my goal is about 3 years out when my youngest starts school or perhaps longer if we decide to have another baby. I think being home once they all start school is the best of both worlds. I'll have time to do my hobbies, exercise, have some time a part and lots of time together.