I went to the gym recently, the first time in roughly 12 months. I had taken a break from my expensive, high end gym in New York City in order to reduce a high recurring expense. But then I cancelled it because my job at that time had become really stressful, and I didn’t have time for consistent gym work out sessions. Big mistake.
Physically, it all goes down from here…
I had been experiencing some lower back pain in my sides for the previous 3 months, but I actually didn’t think much of it. I only really noticed it when I got out of bed in the morning or when I was twisting around to reach for something behind me. I just thought I’d get back into my gym routine when I had more time. Getting terminated gave me that opportunity, and so I thought I’d be fine in no time.
At least, that’s what had always been the case until that particular day. For the past 20 years, my exercise life had been a rollercoaster ranging from benign neglect (strenuous physical activity when I felt like it) to very consistent dedication (in my prime, I went to the gym 3x per week and could bench press 1.5 times my body weight for 10 reps).
But after doing 1 set of deadlifts with just the bar and 2×10 lbs. plates (65 lbs total), I felt something pull in my lower right back. It was as if a mechanism with 2 closely fitting gears got jammed and didn’t fit properly anymore.
I immediately had difficulty walking and bending over because of the pain. Rather embarrassed, I explained my situation to a fellow gym member and asked him to replace the bar and the plates on the rack for me. He did so and even addressed me as “sir”. Because of my normally youthful appearance and vigor at the gym, I was taken aback. Wow.
I had been witnessing first hand the physical (and mental) decline of my parents, who are now in their early 80’s. But like many of life’s experiences, it’s different when you experience it yourself.
My Own Why of FI: Declining Health
As I sat in a chair recovering, I began to reflect on the gradual, inevitable decline of my physical capabilities. Like most people, I had not appreciated my physical health and capabilities until I started to lose it.
But instead of getting depressed over the inevitable, I realized how blessed I was. I have probably about 20-25 years left during which my physical and mental capabilities would allow me to really experience the world and have a productive impact. If I’m lucky, I might still have some enjoyment for an additional 10-15 years after that.
Most people would at my age would need to march to the salt mines – in my world, hunched over keyboards and staring at monitors for 10-12 hours – literally trading their vitality and health for money.
Fortunately, I’m on the cusp of FI, where I only minimally need to exchange my time and vitality for money to meet my day to day needs. In a few short years (or even now, if I were less conservative), I wouldn’t even need to consider compensation for whatever I wanted to devoted my efforts towards.
In my post termination thinking process, this incident brought clarity and meaning to what otherwise could be aimless ruminations about what I should be doing in my new phase of life.
It sounds cliché, but the incident made me realize that I had to make the most of whatever time I have left.
What about you?
For those who are getting older and seeing health begin to decline, does this spur you on to get to financial independence as soon as possible?