Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

A conversation in the ER.

Ryan24’s foot on Tuesday. The pen mark to the right is where the line of infection was.

“The pain isn’t going to go away. You won’t be pain-free. But what you have to do is realise which level of pain you can deal with, and then only ask for pain relief when it gets worse than that.”

This was a nurse in the ER at Monash hospital, talking to Ryan24. Four days earlier Ryan24, fancying a morning cup of coffee, used the Aeropress incorrectly and ended up with boiling hot coffee and coffee grounds all over him. By the time he’d taken off his jeans and right sock, the damage was done. His left sock had soaked in all of the coffee that landed on it and when he pulled off the sock, he pulled off his skin with it.

Four days later, there we were in the ER after our doctor looked at how it was progressing. It wasn’t. It was infected, even with antibiotics, with red all around the foot and going up his leg in an 8cm streak. He needed to be on an IV antibiotic drip and, as it turns out, he also needs a couple of skin grafts. The burn covers nearly half the top of his foot.

Infection on the undamaged part of the foot. I have photos of the other side, but they’re not for the squeamish!

Now why am I telling you all this? Because life happens. And the things that we hold as true in the FI world also hold true in life.

Look at the advice the nurse in the ER told Ryan24. Afterwards, thinking over the day, I realised that what he was saying was pretty much what we advise all people who are starting to get their financial lives in order:

“The pain (of being in debt) isn’t going to go away. You won’t be pain-free ( when you give up buying whatever you want in the moment.) But what you have to do is realise which level of pain (spending) you can deal with, and then only ask for pain relief (to adjust the amount) when it gets worse than that (beyond a level where you’re happy.)

Today is Thursday. I’m expecting that Ryan24 will undergo the first operation for a skin graft today. He’s had 2 full days on the antibiotic IV and the infection has calmed down. Fortunately, he’s a uni student and holidays have already started for him. He has until March to recover and get back to work.

Being a burns patient is painful. So is being in debt. Recovering from both is also painful and requires a level of self-discipline and endurance.

I don’t have any great philosophical insight to end this post with. There are no great lessons here that you haven’t heard many times before. It simply struck me how inextricably finances and life are linked – how the lessons we learn in getting our financial lives in order aren’t wasted once we reach FI.

They’re the skills and traits that are available for us to use for the rest of our lives. Self-discipline and endurance. Delayed gratification. All useful things to be able to tap into when needed.

And please people – be careful around hot water!!!


  1. Wendy

    Oh…poor Ryan 24… that sounds just awful for him! Hopefully it improves quickly and doesn’t spoil his Xmas. I am guessing you are nursing him? Lucky for him to have such a caring Mum who is also on holidays…..

    • FrogdancerJones

      No, Ryan24’s still in hospital waiting for the skin graft surgeries. I’m a caring Mum (who’s not yet on holidays… they begin at 12:31PM tomorrow...) but he certainly doesn’t want me trying to sew bits of skin on him!!!
      That wouldn’t end well.

    • Wendy

      I had a hot coffee incident of my own yesterday…. ended up with a freshly poured cup of black coffee spilt all over my thigh. Quite minor in comparison to Ryan’s injury, but the initial pain did give me some insight into his situation. Please tell him that I feel for him and wish him a very speedy recovery .

      • FrogdancerJones

        I’m glad you escaped without injury. Funny, we all have stories like this to tell. That’s why when someone is unlucky, like Ryan24, we feel it.

  2. freddy smidlap

    ouch. i like the analogy of how much pain you can withstand as a baseline. i always tell people to start smaller with the saving/investing and go up from there towards the pain point.

    i see some with grand declarations of saving a certain high rate and they sometimes can’t sustain that and the last thing you want is to give up completely. get the direction correct first!

  3. Aussie HIFIRE

    Very sorry to hear about Ryan’s injury, hopefully he makes a swift recovery!

    • FrogdancerJones

      He’s still waiting for the first surgery. They said he was on the twilight list tonight, so hopefully he won’t have to wait another day.

  4. Lucinda

    Hope the skin graft went well. Burns are the worst.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Hopefully the first op will be tonight.
      Fun and games…

  5. Abe

    Hi, there – New reader and just wanted to say I hope everything goes even better than you hope with a swift recovery from both pain and infection .

    • FrogdancerJones

      Thanks so much. We go back to hospital today for the first skin graft.

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