When To Walk Away From The Rat Race – How Much Money Is Enough?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Many people struggle with money.

We don’t have enough, we don’t earn enough and we can’t pay for the things we want in life.

Our first thought must be that the people who struggle with money are those who earn little.

But, this is not true.

As I explained in this post about hedonic adaption:

As a person achieves more success, the expectations and desires rise. The result is that we never feel satisfied, and don’t increase our happiness level.

The scary part is that even those who earn a million dollars per year can be in deep debt. 

What does that tell us? 

Your problems with money wont be solved because you earn more. 

As your pay check raises year after year, so are your expectations and desires. 

When you finally get that job that pays you $60,000, you’re already starting to plan how you can get to $70,000.

Instead of increase our savings with each pay raise, we instead consume more.

This leads us into an never ending loop with consumption, more work and higher debt because we always strive for more.

The Secret To Solve Your Money Problems

I’m just going to tell you the secret right away: Change your relationship with money.

But people hate change. 

Instead they say: “When I win the lottery, then I will be rich and live my dream life”.

Do you know what most people answer that they would do if they actually won the lottery?

“I would quit my job”

“I would buy a big house and a nice car”

“I would travel the world”


You have now lost your main source of income, bought expensive assets that produce no passive income and splurged on your holiday doing nothing.

You’ll be broke as a dead rat in some years if you do as most people.

Instead: change your relationship with money.

Why raise your consumption just to keep up with the Joneses? 

Why is it so important to impress others?

You do know that they don’t care about you, don’t you?

Isn’t it better to increase your savings rate when you get that promotion at work? 

By the way, don’t believe that you win the lottery.

The probability is too low. 

What makes you think you will be any different?

Here’s an inconvenient truth.

You and I are average people.

Your IQ isn’t 180, your family isn’t billionaires, and you’re not inventing the next Apple.

Neither am I.

How do I know?

If we were, you wouldn’t be reading this blog, Route 2 FI, and I wouldn’t be writing it.

That means if we want to reach financial independence, we need to do it the normal way.

Earning more money will do nothing.

Winning the lottery will do nothing.

You will not solve your money problems until you change your relationship with money.

Think back to when you were a kid.

Your mother and father gave you $5 pocket money each week, and you’d buy a couple of candy bars, or a pack of Pokemon cards, maybe you’d save up for a few weeks and then buy a Super Mario video game.

Then when you were 13, you got a job at the local super market, and the owner started paying you $60 per week.

You didn’t even know how you were going to spend $60 per week.

And now think about your job today. Maybe you earn $40 – 60 per hour.

It’s still not enough, right?

I can use myself as an example here.

I just signed a new job. This time I’ll be paid $81,500 to work 35,5 hours per week. A total of 1950 hours per year.

When I started three years ago in the corporate world my starting salary was $58,000.

I’ve increased my salary by 41 % on these three years.

You can read more about my new job in my newsletter here.

But what happens after you’ve landed a new contract? 

You automatically start thinking about the next level. 

I think it’s in our nature to aim for more, to reach higher.

When you break six figures, that’s still not enough.

When To Walk Away From The Rat Race 

One day you get your first million dollars. This will still not be enough.

This is the culture we live in.

If your salary is not growing, you’re failing.

If you haven’t upgraded your car in five years, you’re failing.

If you walk around with iPhone 5, people will start asking you why you haven’t bought a new one.

What would happen if everybody wanted less? What if I gave you the brand new IPhone X, but you replied: “Thank you, but I’m doing fine with my old iPhone 5

Nobody wants to be failing.

This is the culture of more.

Humans created it.

But the thing about a culture of more is, there is no finish line.

You’ll be chasing it forever.

Stuck in the rat race.

Since none of us live forever, it’s a game that can’t be won.

So why are we still playing?

The FIRE-movement is my saviour

My brother told me about index funds, and from the first moment I was completely hooked.

Was there really a legal escape out of the 9-5? I couldn’t believe it! It was too good to be true.

I started reading the stories of many people around the world who had left the rat race to live free and simple lives.

What they valued was being time free, meaning unlimited time to read, write, listen to music, travel, create things, doing sports etc.

These are my values as well, and I decided that this was the lifestyle I wanted to dedicate my life too.

I feel really ambitious, and most people don’t understand why I want to pursue FIRE.

For me FIRE is about having options.

To choose the kind of life I want.

To work with what I want, when I want, with whom I want and to walk away without boundaries.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness.

Many people spend their whole life trying to get rich, then they get rich. Soon they realize they’re not happy.

They then tell their children, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” The children don’t believe the old folks.

So they too spend their whole life trying to get rich.

This reminds me of this tweet by @billionaire_key:

The thing about the simple life is, like most journeys, this can’t just be forced on you through a blog post, it can’t be preached.

It can simply be shared, and either it resonates with you or it doesn’t. 

The FIRE-movement is about teaching yourself to find joy outside of money

A brand new Porsche might bring you joy for a few months, and will cost you $250,000.

Living in Italy (or your dream destination) for a year where you meet some new interesting people might bring you joy for a life time, and will probably cost you less than $25,000.

The option with living in Italy requires you to work at a job for maybe 6 – 12 months, the other option requires you to work in a high stress corporate job for at least 5 – 10 years.

When you look at it like that, it’s easy to see what is making you most happy, right?

But how would you ever know this unless you’ve been living in Italy for a year and you’ve had the Porsche?

That might be why many never wrap their heads around it.

All over the world people are living on way less than you do.

They don’t have a fancy job or fancy house and are smiling and laughing every day, probably far more than you have in the last ten years.

To be able to feel completely happy just read a book, take a walk or listen to music.

Things like that open your eyes and may change your life.

One quote in a book may lead your life in a total new direction and change your life. 

Believe me.

Just start reading 10 pages every day.

My hope is that this blog will inspire you to open your eyes and start living the life you want.

So what is the secret to changing your relationship with money?

Saving 10 % of your salary helps.

Living in a smaller house helps.

Selling the things you don’t use helps.

But these are all mini moves; they won’t break the unwinnable cycle you’ve been in your whole life, of earning more and spending more and wanting more.

So how can you break the cycle?

Find joy in things that don’t cost an entire paycheck, and realize they brought you more joy than any new car or pair of shoes ever did.

And if you are able to experience joy in the smaller, simple things, you won’t need to buy $250,000 cars or million dollar houses to fill those gaps.

Your life will surely be plentiful already. How you take the first step on that journey, is up to you.  

How Much Money Is Enough To Walk Away From The Rat Race?

This is an individual question.

But probably it is way less than you think.

I’ve asked a lot of people this question.

And most people say that they need at least $5 million dollars to walk away.

For me I think it would be enough with $600,000. This would allow me to spend $2,000 every month for the rest of my life without earning a dime ever again (which is highly unlikely).

I plan to reach a $600,000 net worth in a little less than 5 years. I wrote about that in detail here.

Will I quit my job when I reach $600,000 ?

I don’t know yet, but I would love to have the option to eventually try to start a business, go part-time to spend time with the kids and all the hobbies I have.

Will I be influenced by hedonic adaption along the road to $600,000?

Most probably. I am afraid that I will make up an excuse that my FI-number is not high enough when the time comes.

One more year-syndrome. I think I’m a serious candidate for this.

Is it that easy to retire early when you reach financial independence?

You might not have an overflowing bank account when you quit your job, but your life will be full of revenue streams of happiness you can share with those who are important to you.

And that’s what important in life, isn’t it?

That’s how you win.

Don’t wait to pursue your dreams untill your 67 years old. 

Because after all, life is just a game.

Now play.

Have questions, comments or suggestions? I would love to help you with your FI-journey.

Feel free to reach out directly at @Route2FI on Twitter, Facebook or email me at post@route2FI.com

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14 Replies to “When To Walk Away From The Rat Race – How Much Money Is Enough?”

  1. Where is the “LIKE” button?! 😛

    This was a good one! I think “to inspire” is also what drives me lately.
    I’ve never understood, how religious movements continue to thrive in our modern day society, but I now understand that finding something that you truly believe in, with all of your heart, can drive you to do some crazy things 😛 I hate that people don’t understand the “concept” of FI(RE) when you talk to them. In the end, you can’t force people to understand it. You can merely plant a seed, and hope that it grows into a plant or a big-ass tree!

    Keep playing my friend! (And good job fixing your SMTP settings – this post was not spam-flagged!) 😛

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      How do I install the like-button?
      Thank you, Nick! I feel you. No one except us bloggers understand FIRE. At least that’s how it feels like!
      How many hours per week do you think you do FIRE-related tasks btw? For me I think it’s a lot 😛
      I’m glad the post wasn’t flagged as spam! Btw, do you know a good plugin to show related posts at the bottom of each post?

    2. Nick, I think that some people just don’t want to talk about anything money-related as it’s boring, but what they don’t realise is that the life you can have when you FIRE can be amazingly exciting.

      1. route2fi says: Reply

        Thanks for your view on it, Sam. I think you’re right!

  2. Great article, enjoyed it. Nice flow to the article and definitely resonates with me.

    As for 600k to reach FI, personally I’d find it pretty tight but everyone has different goals.
    Your 5-year plan is great though, will keep following how things go.

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      Thank you so much !
      What is your FI number?
      Awesome ? Btw, what do you invest in?

      1. Hello there,
        Jonathan here. I like your stuff in Twitter and even though I am not a FIREman myself I highly value the concepts in this article. I have been in the hedonic treadmill myself but it seems I have found my number. When I pass that number, I get excited : yay everything above that, I can save/invest. Haha.
        Just a question to you : I understand the options thing, that is also important to me but why does that need to involve quitting the rat race? A corporate job can be nice under some circumstances and builds up some entrepreneurial skills too. As an addition to your article : Why not encouraging people to experiment with what they say they truly want? For example : why not test drive a Porsche or rent it for one week? Is it possible to spend a few weeks/months in Italy to test the waters? Maybe people will then be able to define better what they want to achieve?

  3. Thanks for writing this. I’m quite new to the idea of FIRE and I have been reading a lot of similar blogs to learn more about it. It seems to me that where I grew up that it’s not normal to think of alternative ways on how to live. I tried to discuss this to people that I know and it saddens me to know that everyone I know just subscribed to the idea of working until the retirement age and waiting until then to do the things that we love.

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      Thanks, Thrifty Hustler!

      Where did you grow up?

      Welcome to the FIRE community!

      Whats is you FI plan?

  4. Fire-ing at 600k is pretty wild! Good luck, with those earnings you will be there before you know it! =

  5. “The FIRE-movement is about teaching yourself to find joy outside of money”

    Sounds counterintuitive since it’s all about personal finance. Yet it’s true.

  6. It’s a hard question for everyone. For me, I had to figure out a different way of life. Working in a job I hated didn’t work. I was eager to get out and I did. On the other hand, my wife is still working. We have enough for her to FIRE now, but she still isn’t ready to quit.

    1. route2fi says: Reply

      Thanks for your input, Joe! How long time did you use on your desicison to quit your 9 – 5?

  7. I retired early the first time with way less than a $1mm portfolio. My encore career paid me 22% more than my first long career and it still wasn’t enough to keep me longer after my interest in doing it ended. Got what I wanted out of it in experience and knowledge and retired early again. You are right, FIRE causes an evolution in our relationship with money.

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