Author Topic: Dreams of FIRE not lining up with dreams of SO  (Read 16475 times)


  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 906
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Oregon
Re: Dreams of FIRE not lining up with dreams of SO
« Reply #50 on: April 08, 2015, 12:32:53 PM »
I realize telecommuting and changing jobs is an option, but still comes short for two reasons. I feel a duty to stay at my present job (no telecommuting foreseeable) for at least a few years to get some experience and to give my employer some return on their investment in me.

I understand this feeling well, because I've been in the same position before. When I was your age my employer paid to train me in software development, and I was contractually (and, I felt, morally) obligated to stay long enough for them to get a return on their investment. With almost a decade of hindsight, I want to strongly impress upon you to plan on changing jobs about every two years if you want to stay in software dev. Not only does changing jobs typically come with a pay increase (which is important for your FIRE plans) but in our field it is crucial that you never stagnate or stop learning. It's not just new languages and technologies (which you can learn on your own), but also new methodologies and workflows. Gaining experience in how different types of organizations operate is something you can't learn from a book or, and it is every bit as important as keeping up your technical chops, especially as your career progresses.


  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3118
Re: Dreams of FIRE not lining up with dreams of SO
« Reply #51 on: April 08, 2015, 12:42:54 PM »
   Hi everybody. Long time lurker of MMM, first real post on the forums. A little bit about me: I'm a 22 year old male, just starting my journey to FIRE. I just started my first real job out of college, in a new city, 3 months ago, and I have been saving ~60% of my income so far (almost all of which is going towards student loans, which I should be able to pay off in about a year, hell yeah!).

   Anyways, I had a long talk with my SO of 3 years last night about the future. She recently got accepted into a Biology PhD program 3,000 miles away at a very good school, where she will be moving this Fall, and this has caused us to worry about our future together. She is very career oriented, as am I, and we're both kind of stubborn, so this new development has caused some friction.

   How does this have to do with FIRE? I'm slowly learning that we have different dreams. She wants to move around the world doing research, with a goal of becoming a professor. I want put my nose to the grind and build an awesome life. I want a place in this world to call my own, with solar panels and gardens and big trees, out in the country somewhere. I have no problem grinding for a decade or more to reach RE. I fully support her following her dream, but it leaves me in a tough spot. I've thought of three scenarios, none of which are appealing, but which seem inevitable:

   1. Follow her....
   2. Stay behind.... .
   3. Break up, move on....

And for my second ever post, another topic that I have direct experience with.

Your experience isn't unique to the particular fields you chose. Most professional couples face compromise in terms of where they will move after graduation, if they hook up in college. Someone's career usually has to take priority, and whose it is can depend on earning potential, life stage, other goals, etc.

Also, it's admirable to have some clear goals and plans, but at 22? You also need to recognize that having a flexible outlook on life will likely serve you better than attaching yourself intensely to a very particular vision of how to live, REGARDLESS of whether you commit to this particular relationship. Your dream sounds exactly like how my husband and  I both wanted to live when were grad students, but life threw curves and compromises into the mix. Now in my mid 40s, I realize how naive we were.

My point isn't that you shouldn't set goals and have preferences, but you need to be realistic too. Life will happen, to some extent, while you are making other plans.

To your specific point, my husband and I were both wildlife biology grad students (similar to ecology), so we've lived this to some extent. He was older and further along in school when we met, and had a more specific idea of what he wanted to do, so his career ended up taking priority, and I ended up not pursuing professional biology work (though I still do field work and work in a job associated with the field). That ended up being ok for us, but it might not have worked if we were both equally ambitious.

Ecology and biology careers might be lab focused, field research focused, or some combo. If your gf wants to go into academia as a research scientist with a field research program, that is likely to be a long, tough (if rewarding) road. My husband did this, and now has a great job as an adjunct faculty/govt research scientist at a major university. But it took getting a BS, MS, PhD, AND a post Doc to land the job he wanted. Research jobs are usually based out of college towns and cities (there are occasional exceptions). So eventually, if you followed her, you would be likely to get good employment, too.

However, this is a competitive field, and she might not have a lot of choice about where she ends up living. This was a hard realization for my husband and me, because we had fantasies of a settled life in a beautiful location (very similar to what you envision). Because of the realities of biology job locations, however,  we ended up in a city we don't like and where that lifestyle isn't feasible, because the job opportunity was perfect for him. The positive trade offs include amazing travel opportunities, cool research, low cost of living so we can catch up on being financially secure after a very late start, etc.  We don't regret the field we majored in, or the job choice, but it did take some mental adjustment to get past our original fantasy.

As to separations, research scientists usually don't don't spend more than a few months out in the boondocks at a time, so your separations for that need not be super-long if you are living in her base-town. My husband and I have been separated regularly over the years due to one or the other doing field work in far flung locations (CA, Caribbean, Costa Rica, AZ, MN, Arctic Canada, and all over our resident state), but usually not for more than a month at a time. If you are dead set on actually being together every day, then likely this relationship won't work because significant others typically do not accompany researchers into the field (legal issues, funding, and field accommodations don't support it) unless they are co-researchers or one is serving as a qualified field assistant. But like I said, these separations are usually not that long, unless she's heading to a field station in Antarctica or something.

If your gf gets an academic job, eventually her field stints will become rarer (much to her dismay, most likely) and shorter (partly because she will be supervising her OWN set of graduate students, and THEY will be off in the far flung locations).

If your gf gets a job working for a consultant or some sort of private research company, then her field stints will likely be more frequent, but are unlikely to be very long.

If your gf ends up working in a lab, field work will not be an issue.

In some ways, you would work well as a couple because your field of specialty might be more portable and flexible, whereas she is likely to be constrained by the limited job numbers/locations.

But if you are committed to a specific lifestyle or location, or a particular job course that isn't compatible with hers, then you will probably need to rethink your goals individually and as a couple, and how they will affect the long term future of the relationship.



  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7943
  • Location: Bay Area at heart living in the PNW
    • The Best Is Yet To Come
Re: Dreams of FIRE not lining up with dreams of SO
« Reply #52 on: April 08, 2015, 01:20:41 PM »
I didn't read all the responses but couples with two awesome careers are rare.  Couples with two awesome careers and kids are very rare.  One partner inevitably follows the other. 

I found this particularly interesting because I think it illustrates the alternate bubble I live in here in Silicon Valley. We are a dual-career household with a baby and almost everyone I know is also in a dual-career partnership. I think what it goes to show is that if having dual careers is important, then it is important to end up in the part of the country where that is possible. Clearly being in a hub of tech and innovation where you have lots of good companies to choose from facilitates this enormously. ALternatively, having a career that is very portable (nurse, accountant, plumber etc.) would also make this much easier.

Back to the OP's situation: My own take is that you should not be making any decisions to limit your own career & life goals for someone who has not committed to spend his/her life with you. You don't want to end up 10 years from now regretting missed opportunities. Good luck, this situation is tough!


  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 317
Re: Dreams of FIRE not lining up with dreams of SO
« Reply #53 on: April 08, 2015, 01:21:05 PM »
I was where your GF is 10 years ago (I'm in my early 30s now). I had a nice BF, a really good guy, who got a good job in a lucrative industry. I didn't care about money at all. I wanted to run around the world studying awesome things. We basically did all of three of the options you listed: First we broke up, then he followed me, then we did long distance. And now I'm following him, and we got married last summer.

That's the short version. The longer version is that a year out of college we broke up and I went to live in the South Pacific. But we remained friends, and soon after that he realized that the corporate grind sucked, and he came to visit. Then he visited again, and then kind of never left. For my part, I dated other people, but realized that I just didn't feel the same connection with anyone else. Luckily, he's pretty talented, so he found some consulting gigs that allowed him to work from anywhere. And so when I was done with my work in the South Pacific, we did a year of traveling, in which he did his consulting gig, and I found volunteer/biology gigs so I could study the stuff I wanted to study. And then I went to a PhD program (fully funded at my first choice, due to all the experience I'd picked up globe trotting), and I thought he was going to follow me. He did not. He joined a masters program, and then a PhD program in a different city (also fully funded at his first choice, because he's a smartypants). And we did the long distance thing for years. In some ways it was hard, and in others it was completely fine. I guess you get used to it. And at this point, he's feeling more ambitious about his career than I am, and so I've made career accommodations so that we can actually live in the same place. Who knows what will happen next. But we're both pretty happy.

I'm not sure entirely what my point is. One is that life is long and people change. You guys might change together, you might not. Another one is that we both compromised and we both stuck to our guns, at different times and in different areas, and it just happened to work out that our compromises and gun-stickings were compatible. At 22 I was completely unwilling to compromise for a guy, because I thought it meant I was weak. But after seeing him compromise early in the game (and do so happily, in a way that still met his goals), I was far more willing to compromise farther down the line. Maybe you do one year long distance so she can establish herself in her program (the first year is tough) and you can pay off your loans/improve your resume, and then if you guys still want to be together you look for a job near her that can still achieve your financial goals. Maybe you send out some resumes now to jobs where she'll be and see what kind of bites you get (who knows, you might get a better offer). Maybe you just break up and see what happens. I guess my final point is that no matter what, you will probably look back and think that whatever happened was probably for the best.