What is Financial Independence and where did I hear about this magical pursuit?

I have become very interested in the FI, or financial independence, movement in the last year or so… Who doesn’t want to retire early and have the option to work – OR NOT?! I love to travel, spend time with my kids other than the morning rush and homework-dinner-bed time, see my far-flung friends and family regularly, eat good food, read books all day long, do yoga and cappeira, and be more involved in my neighborhood and community. When I heard about the FI movement, I thought, “this FI thing could work for me”!

If you don’t know about FI, you might be wondering “What is FI and how do I get in on this?” That’s what I was thinking when I first heard about it. How I understand it, is “financial independence” is a way of living where a person has enough money stockpiled, so that they don’t have to rely entirely on their income from a salaried or paycheck job to pay for their day to day needs. So if you think about it: the typical American path to retirement is a way to get to FI.  You work 40 hours a week, get paid hourly (or a salary), and put some of that money aside to build a nest egg. Then you don’t touch that money until typical retirement age – around 65 years old.

But it’s not necessarily THE way.

One version of FI is FIRE, an acronym which means Financial Independence Retire Early. In this scenario, like in FI, someone has enough money to afford life without having a regular “day job”. They don’t have to report to a regular hourly or salaried job to pay the bills, because they have enough money in the bank for that. When you have acheived“FIRE”, you have that money, before the typical retirement age. People do this by minimizing their spending, and in turn maximizing their savings and investing that money.

Reaching for FI or FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) means that you are essentially working to live your life on YOUR terms. And eventually you are not hustling day in and day out for a paycheck to survive (and pay for “all the things”). And that you do that not when you reach 65 years old, but asap (though it can be a long road). That essentially is what it means to me.

Reaching FI or FIRE status can mean as many things as there are people who reach it. Some want to use that that time to work on passion projects, be independent consultants in their career field, travel the world. Just a few examples, to say basically to live like the world is your oyster. When I have FIRE status, I will work as much as I want to (which will mean NOT grinding it out seeing 4 patients per hour 40 hours a week). I will be able to travel to see friends and family on my own family-of-four’s schedule, not when my employer approves the time off request with a heavy dose of guilt. And I can read all the books all the time (see above). Heck, maybe I will WRITE a book. That is what FIRE means to me – so far. We’ll have a nest egg to withdraw money from, so that I will work as much or as little as I want, while pursuing other interests that may or may not be streams of income. There are so many possibilities! 

If you want to do this, you can. There is so much good information out there. There are so many good podcasts and blogs about it. Unlike many stories I hear about other people’s path to FI (many got hooked on the FI movement reading Mr. Money Moustache’s blog https://www.mrmoneymustache.com), I found my way through podcasts.

In 2016, podcast episodes helped get me through my long commutes to and from clinic. I started out listening to The Minimalists. They are 2 guys who have this great documentary (it’s on Netflix) about their quest to live a meaningful life without all the unnecessary belongings. Their books and podcast are awesome too. 

Check out their website. It is so good:

https://www.theminimalists.com

Living as a family of four in a 1100 sq ft house, it always feels like we have too much stuff. When I found The Minimalists, I was reading Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” just wishing I had less socks to “thank and fold nicely”. Those of you who have read her book know that she frowns upon my preferred method of balling up socks and throwing them in a drawer.

The Minimalists have an episode or two about finances and minimalism. I had an aha! moment as I listened to one : “less money less problems (ie, stuff)?” So I scoured the app for FI podcasts. My first favorite was Listen Money Matters. I was hooked by the loud guitar riffs in their intro, and their non-financ-y delivery with a dose of sarcasm. I then found Choose FI and my current other favorites: Journey to Launch, FIRE Drill, and Redefining Wealth. I highly recommend ALL of those. If you are new to FI podcasts, start with the Pillars of FI episodes on Choose FI. And work your way through the others. You will learn SO MUCH.

Check out their websites, which all have links to their podcasts:

https://www.choosefi.com

https://www.journeytolaunch.com

https://firedrillpodcast.com

https://www.patricewashington.com/listen/

If and when you get hooked on the magical idea of Financial Independence, you will find ways to incorporate some of the strategies and money tips into your financial life. The core ideas are that straightforward. They will help you in the now AND beyond. (More on how that played into my money story on a future post.) 

You can start out by figuring out how much you really need to live/survive. Know your comfort zone. I for one, am comfortable NOT buying $4 lattes a couple times a week, like I did before I learned about FI (that adds up to almost $50 in a bad month!) If you start by tracking your spending, you will be off to an amazing start. Get real with ourself about how much you spend per month, and what you can minimize. That will give you an idea of how much you will actually NEED to live off of when you are living off your savings nest egg. You may find that you won’t HAVE to work until you are 65 years old (FIRE scenario); you may need less money in your nest egg than you think!

So if you want to get started on the FI journey, just start writing down EVERYTHING you spend money on for a month. Nothing fancy. It is soooooo eye-opening! What my next steps were… in my next post. -L

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