For myself, and I'm sure many others, the recent performance of the financial markets have been pretty tough to endure. There have been some pretty big drops plus consecutive days and weeks of red.
Worst of all is that when there are some big green days they're quickly reversed, wiping out our hopes of a refuge from the damage.
Anybody who has done their reading homework for the FIRE movement will have known that there will be periods during the journey where the markets are a bit more volatile. As much as we want the entire process to be smooth and consistent, that's simply just not how it works.
Any captain of the sea will tell you that even if you know the seas are going to get rougher it's still no easier to navigate. You may have put preparations in place but it's certainly no time to be complacent. You must work hard and take the right actions in order to make it through the tempest.
And so, back in my own world of financial independence, here's how I'm trying to weather the storm.
Remember the past
History can provide focus and guidance under any context and it's no different when it comes to the journey towards financial independence.
Obviously, when looking at the market indices over the long term we will see that the valuation has steadily risen. It has gone up so much that even some of the largest and most terrifying bear markets in history eventually look like nothing but a short blip in the persistent march upward.
Through this history there have been major events or conditions that are equally scary, if not more, in comparison to today's climate: World wars, huge bubbles, and great depressions for example.
If the economy can recover from these over time then I'm sure whatever is currently happening will fare no better in bringing about the "end of the world".
There's financial history as referred to above, but also personal history; more difficult times in our own lives that are unique to ourselves:
Taking a risky career leap that didn't quite work out, combined with needing to use every penny in my name at the time to pay off some family debt.
That time where someone close to me passed away unexpectedly, leading to multiple years of legal struggles and continuous court battles with hostile parties.
Being raised by a struggling single mother who had to give everything in order to ensure my sister and I had the best opportunities in life. 20+ years of constant hard struggle by a loving mother who never complained.
In comparison to these particular real-life events the "struggles" of today's markets not only seem, but really are, insignificant.
Times have been much, much worse but all of them passed by eventually.
Focus on the present
By remembering the sobering past it helps me get a clearer view.
Firstly it establishes that things really aren't that bad though it may feel uncomfortable right now. Secondly it reminds me that the key to getting through this is by focusing on what I can do to improve my own situation, rather than simply hoping for a miracle.
Item number one: Is my emergency fund healthy? (I have no debt currently)
Item number two: Am I bringing in an income?
Item number three: Am I living beyond my means?
Based on all three of my answers above I am further encouraged that the situation is actually pretty stable for me since I have a solid foundation.
This allows me to put my focus onto the "big thing" that's happening in my life right now which is my upcoming wedding.
Since most of the financial elements of my wedding have already been handled, or I have something in place to deal with it, my focus can simply be on doing the event and enjoying it.
It's the "present thing" in my life and something that will help me stay away from tracking the markets. Who knows, maybe after I'm married the markets will decide to give me a nice wedding gift.
But if not, then I'll simply move onto focusing on the next major thing in my life while continuing to make sure I have a solid financial foundation.
There is always a good investment
Right now the sentiment seems to be that there is nowhere "good" to invest.
Equities are falling, cryptocurrencies are following, bonds aren't attractive, cash is getting killed by inflation, while there are feelings of a housing bubble being formed.
But while we're accustomed to looking externally for a place to invest, there remains one place that will always be a "sure bet".
When push comes to shove one of the most obvious ways to stay afloat is by bringing in an income through working (gasp!) - either for someone else or for yourself.
Therefore we should spend our resources on learning new skills that would either create more stability for us - by raising the chances that we can continue to find work - or even get us a raise.
I know it's counter intuitive to for a FIRE blog to talk about doing work, but honestly if you have valuable skills to offer society then you're unlikely to go homeless or hungry.
Use it to get through rough patches so that you're not draining your savings to stay afloat while waiting for the "good times" to return.
Look to the future
Past, Present, and Future.
That's the sequence and so it should be obvious that I'd have a section for this.
There isn't much to say to be honest, nothing that you shouldn't already know; but it's always good to get a reminder.
This current climate isn't the first difficult period in the markets and it will not be the last. We should expect to go through more of these in our future, especially if you're of a similar age to myself.
I consider this to be one of the many tests that I need to experience so that I have the right mindset and emotional readiness to face every bear market that I'm going to live through.
Hopefully not too many, but it would be silly for me to expect there to be none.
Always remember that the longer we stay invested the more likely it is for our investment to become positive.
There are no quick paths to wealth, but we can walk one that eventually leads there.