What Early Financial Independence Means to Me

by FI Fighter on April 21, 2014

in Thoughts

Duckies

Early financial independence means something different to each and every one of us. For some, it might mean that you’re retired forever after. For others, it might involve kicking back on the beach everyday and sipping on pina coladas. Others just want free time to travel or learn new things. Different strokes for different folks.

There’s no right or wrong answer. The general consensus, though, is that you’ll be able to live your new life without having to be constrained with worrying about money. By definition, if you are financially free, that means you’ll have enough passive (semi-passive) income coming in each month to pay for all of your expenses.

And that’s all that there is to it.

For myself, I yearn to be financially free, and day-by-day, I’m trying to save and invest my way to making it happen. I hope to get to early FI sometime next year (2015), a year in which I’ll still be 30. If I can make it all happen, here’s what I would like to do:

Slow Down Time

I’ve been working since I graduated in 2007, and time has zoomed by at a torrid pace. It’s crazy to think that I’m almost 30 already! When I think back to childhood, I remember long days filled with a lot of fun in the sun. Summer breaks were especially nice because I had so much free time to play sports and learn new things. Life always felt like an adventure, and when I think back to my youth I can’t help but feel nostalgic.

So, these days, I often find myself asking, “Why does adult life have to be so complicated?” In many ways, I’m longing to get to early FI so that I can experience a rebirth… a second childhood.

I really do believe that age ain’t nothing but a number… You are only as old as you feel. Work makes me feel old and decrepit, so I’m desperately hoping that early FI will be my fountain of youth.

Most important of all, I want to SLOW DOWN time. We only get one shot at life, so we must make it count! Your life doesn’t go on forever… At some point, we all have to come to grips with our own mortality. I traded away my 20’s slaving away for The Man… I refuse to also barter away my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, etc.

Early FI will give me my life back. Life will finally slow down and I will be able to move at a much more relaxed, comfortable pace.

Pursuing Dreams

I aspire to be a polymath. So far in my life, I’ve done an exceptionally poor job of accomplishing that. Rather, I’ve spent my days and nights becoming a specialized drone who only knows how to do ONE thing. My employer wouldn’t have it any other way, but after seven years of engineering, I’m ready to move on and do something else.

  • I want to dedicate my free time to maximizing health and fitness. I long to be able to work out every single day with passion and vigor. I like to go hiking, and should have the freedom to explore trails early in the morning on the weekdays. Further, I would love to be able to take a nap during the middle of the day, anytime I want… and then lift weights afterwards. Once I get my health back, maybe I’ll even start training to run half-marathons, or full marathons. These days, I’m running on fumes, and just way too burnt out from work to even fathom the thought of trying such things…
  • I want to dedicate my free time to traveling the world. The world is so vast and there is so much to see and experience. I honestly don’t feel like I can grow and maximize my potential as a human being if I just stay secluded to living in the U.S. my entire life. No matter how wonderful this country is, I need to know what else is out there. Meeting people, learning new languages, and experiencing different cultures can’t help but enrich me as a person.
  • I want to dedicate my free time to learning. There are so many books that I haven’t read! I’ve always said, “I’ll read it when I have some free time…” No more excuses. When I get to early FI, I’m going to dust off my Kindle, and get to it. Outside of reading, I want to learn martial arts, practice guitar, learn piano, learn how to cook, practice photography, and work on millions of other things.

Recharging the Battery

Life can be stressful, and especially so if you are 100% dependent on your employer for making ends meet. Once upon a time I was, and I nearly destroyed my health in the process. Around 2008-2009 timeframe, almost all of my co-workers were scared of being laid off, so everyone worked from dust till dawn. 9-5 wasn’t going to cut it, and working overtime became the new norm… No one wanted to be let go, so we all worked especially hard during those dark times. Even when I felt sick, or over-worked, I continued working. I just sucked it up and continued marching forward… I was young, stubborn, and scared (stupid).

I never want to have to go through that experience again! Thanks to early FI, I won’t have to. In the future, should I ever feel tired or drained, I will have the option of taking it easy and calling timeout. There will be no need to overdo anything, so I should never have to push myself passed the breaking point; maintaining optimum health will always be the most important thing.

Unlimited Possibilities

When I get to early FI, initially, I want to relax and unwind. After I decompress, I want to travel and explore the world. It’s premature to say for sure at this point, but I’m guessing I’ll want to do this for about a year or two. Once I’ve gotten the travel bug out of my system, I’ll probably start thinking about my next steps in life…

At first glance, I’m thinking that I will want to move back home to the states and attempt real estate investing (REI) full-time. I’ll probably get my license and start trying to buy/sell homes. Depending on how much my network grows, I might even partner up with other investors and try flipping homes.

Wait a second, if I’m going to be financially independent, why am I considering working again!?! Isn’t this a contradiction to everything I’ve been preaching on this site? Doesn’t early FI mean that I’m restricted to nothing more than bumming around on the beach for the rest of my life? What gives???

Hold on for just one second there… Let me explain…

First of all, I believe that life is NOT black and white. Yes, the world is becoming increasingly digital (0’s and 1’s), but we will ALWAYS live and operate in an analog world. And that’s the whole beauty of early FI… you get to do whatever you want!

Yes, I want to relax and recuperate. Yes, I want to travel and explore. Yes, I want to learn new things and grow as a person… But I never said, “I don’t EVER want to work again.

No. What I meant to say was, “I never want to work for The Man (corporate) again.

There’s a world of difference there. I don’t actually mind working… This blog is work. But I do mind working for someone else. I do mind not having the freedom to come and go as I choose. I do mind having to be restricted to working in a cubicle or lab all day long. Further, I don’t need a boss… nor do I want one. I dislike being micromanaged, and I especially don’t like playing the game of corporate politics.

Early FI lets me escape all those bad things, but it should have never been implied that only a lifetime of leisure and laziness could exist afterwards… And I’m not so sure why so many people feel like that’s what early FI is supposed to mean! Early FI is about freedom of choice… It can be whatever you want it to be. You’re now financially free; do what your heart desires! You can even work harder and earn more money than you did when you worked for someone else… Or, keep working for someone else if that’s what you want to do.

Early FI is all about having choices and being able to pursue a life filled with unlimited possibilities. That’s music to my ears and I couldn’t possibly ask for anything more than that. Let me be the director of my own life and I promise to give it my best shot!

 

What does early financial independence mean to you? What are you most looking forward to doing? Do you plan on working post-FI?

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful LifeNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 4:13 am

I think for me, early financial independence would mean doing what I’ve been doing the past two weeks on my “eurotrip”. Traveling and running my blog every so often at an outdoor cafe sipping a cappuccino.

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2 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Stefanie,

That sounds lovely, and I could see myself doing the same in early FI! I hope you keep your blog going for a long time, and I’ll try and do the same.

All the best!

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3 No Nonsense LandlordNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 5:20 am

You have a great start. You have the goal, which is a major part of the process. Many people cannot even imagine a day without working for someone.

Those people spend every cent, and they need their employer. They assume that everyone has credit card bills, and a house payment. Travel vacations are something you do once in a long while, not every year.

I stated my quest a long time ago, when I was 22, and renewed it with a passion in recent years as it is becoming a reality. The awful truth is, it takes time if you want to life a life style similar to what you have while working.

Being financial independent also means that you are not dependent on an employer, even if you still have one.

I did just talk to a friend that has been retired for the past 4 years or so. he traveled the world as a salesman. Put 5 million miles on. Sold a half a billion in sales. So he was real busy. He said there has never been one day that he wished he was still working. Not one day he has been bored.

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4 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Eric,

That’s great that your friend is doing so well post FI, and I’m looking forward to giving it a shot sometime soon. You hear all these warnings, but I just don’t see how I could ever be bored… But even then, it’s not like you couldn’t sign back up and rejoin the work force… The freedom of choice is the beauty of FI.

In terms of lifestyle, I’m not too sure what to expect. I’ll try it out overseas and see how it goes… If I find myself pinching pennies and struggling to get by, I might just take on some sidle hustles (shouldn’t be too hard these days with the internet). Otherwise, I’ll have to cut my fun short and go back to the grind.

In any case, you won’t know until you try…

Take care!

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5 Liam @ HBS Real EstateNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 5:31 am

I like your plan for FI. I always say that I want the chance to choose to work, not HAVE to work.

A friend of mine says that he wants to be home (w/ his 4 kids) when he wants to be home and to be able to work when he wants to work.

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6 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Liam,

Thanks! I feel the same way, and think that a lot of stress can be removed when you no longer feel like you have to be at any one place.

Good luck to you as you get closer to FI!

Cheers!

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7 ThegoblinchiefNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 5:49 am

By the time I hit early FI I hope to have all the skills to build a house from the ground up, designed with sustainable features like grey water capture for irrigation,etc. Ideally I would like to do a true homestead that is off grid and grows as much of our own food as possible.

In the winter months, we would travel. I wouldn’t mind perpetually slow traveling but my DW has shot that down.

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8 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Thegoblinchief,

That would be a great skill to have! If I ever get into flipping houses, I would love to learn how to repair/install things… Kind of like what The Stoic Investor has been doing with his own place.

Yeah, I love the idea of escaping the harsh winter and traveling. I might make that a habit when I get to FI.

All the best!

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9 kbNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:58 am

Good stuff man. I don’t think the point of FI and ER is to really just lounge around and do nothing all day – it’s a golden opportunity to pursue anything that interests you.

Good luck with everything. I truly enjoy your blog and agree with a lot of the things you say and suggest. I’m also about to turn 30.

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10 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Kb,

Thanks! I appreciate the support and am glad you are enjoying the blog.

Exactly, I feel the same way and think that FI is a chance to pursue the life you’ve always desired without restrictions. When you have all the time in the world to do what you want, you are really free to live!

I can’t wait to get started!

Take care!

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11 SavvyFinancialLatinaNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 7:19 am

I’m not sure if FI is possible for us. My parents have no retirement plan, so their retirement will fall on my little brother and I. But I am trying my best to make sure we spend less than we make, have no consumer debt, and invest. FI would mean doing what I want to do and not being bored with mindless corporate work.

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12 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:13 pm

SavvyFinancialLatina,

You’re doing great, and you just have to do the best that you can. By eliminating consumer debt and investing, you’re already ahead of most people in our society. Just keep plugging away, and over time your investments will keep on growing.

FI is not a race, and it’s amazing how much progress can be made in a short period of time. You just have to keep at it since consistency is the most important part.

Best wishes!

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13 MichelleNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 8:25 am

I sort of already feel like we are in early financial independence since switching to self-employment. We can do what we want, and we both have flexible schedules. Once we actually do reach FI, I do see us still working somewhat, as I always like having something to do and goals to work towards.

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14 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Michelle,

That’s awesome and I’m so jealous of you and your wonderful lifestyle! ;)

Flexibility in my schedule is probably the one thing I crave the most. The work is fine for the most part, but I wish I had the freedom to move about freely.

Hope to join you in self-employment soon!

Take care!

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15 Scott @ Youthful InvestorNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

Time is the most important element I’m looking forward to. I took care of the credit cards and car long ago and have built up an immense amount of savings and investments. The only thing haunting me is my student loan. Even with that one headache I have a lot more free time than I did prior.

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16 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Scott,

Great job on taking care of business! Time is also what I’m fighting for and hopefully I will own that soon.

Keep paying down those student loans and things will get easier with time.

Best wishes!

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17 My Dividend PipelineNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 1:11 pm

First of all, I really enjoy reading your blog. I have been reading it for a while and this is my first comment.

I like the idea of being able to do things at my pace as opposed to the monotonous regimen that many employers require of their staff. If I want to run four miles at 6 am one day and then two miles at 5 in the afternoon the next, so be it. Right now, I am lucky if I have the energy to run twice a week. Many times I go weeks without running simply because I work six days a week with then spend the other day spent with my wife.

I look forward to lazy days relaxing in the hammock, fishing on the lake, and watching movies chilling with the wife and dogs.

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18 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm

My Dividend Pipeline,

Thanks! Glad you are enjoying the blog so far.

Yes, I can totally feel you on that! Exercise is very important to me and I would love to have the freedom to go running anytime I wanted to. But in the corporate world, as soon as you go missing, everyone questions your whereabouts… and we can’t have any slackers on board. People talk and pretty soon your boss finds out you’ve been “unproductive” with company time.

Can’t wait for those lazy days and slow pace of life!

All the best!

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19 Dave @ The New York BudgetNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Since you will be reaching FI before I do, I cannot WAIT to start reading posts once you are on the other side. FI means something different to everyone, but I think that my version of is definitely kin to yours.

Good luck and I won’t be too far behind!

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20 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Dave,

You and I are definitely on the same page when it comes to early FI my friend. Yes, I absolutely cannot wait to start posting more photos and blog entries on some travel adventures!!

You’re doing great — Keep at it and I’ll see you out on an island one day very soon… Maybe even Hawaii!

Take care!

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21 Dividend MantraNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 7:01 pm

FI,

I largely agree with what you’re aiming for.

I want flexibility with my time. I want to see family a lot more. I want to slow WAY down. Working 50+ hours every week, blogging, managing investments, etc. It’s hard to sustain that for decades on end. I just want to live life on my terms every single day. Maybe that means blogging for 2-3 hours, and then doing nothing but watching movies for the rest of the day. Maybe it instead means hitting the gym for an hour in the morning and being super productive for the rest of the day. Maybe it means waking up in Thailand. Maybe it means living in a small town, or a big city, or wherever. Financial independence means endless possibilities to me. It means choice. And even if I don’t take certain choices and live a slow, boring life for a while it’s because I CAN.

Best wishes!

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22 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

DM,

I’m with you buddy, and I want very much the same for myself — live life on my own terms.

I think we’ve always been aligned on our intentions with FI, so you know I’m going to be rooting for you every step of the way there.

I’ll be in Thailand later this year and absolutely can’t wait for that trip. It’ll be a good precursor into early FI…

Endless possibilities… that’s what keeps me going!

All the best!

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23 ZeeNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 11:24 pm

I’ve definitely thought about how I would spend my time after achieving financial independence. Many of the ideas are the same, I would want to spend the first year traveling. I think 2 years would be a lot to start with, though, the older you get the harder it may be so getting this done in your younger years might be better.

I also would like to get my health into better shape. It’s fallen to the back burner for the same reasons you mention, who has the time or energy once you get home from work. One thing that I found was when I was taking better care of myself, if I got up and immediately did push ups and sit ups before I could even think about being tired it actually worked for me. It also woke me up. I know this strategy works for basically…. no one else… but you never know until you try.

What I imagine doing after all of that, (instead of buying and selling homes) is working with animals in some capacity. I wouldn’t mind working at a no-kill animal shelter. I would love to work with larger animals or exotic animals (like a zoo or something) but who knows. I’ll have plenty of time to look into that later.

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24 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Zee,

Yeah, definitely, the traveling is something I want to knock out early as I know it will be more difficult with age… That, and I may have to worry about kids or a family later in life.

I hear you on not being able to workout as regularly as you’d like… It’s extremely tough with a full time job, especially one that is time consuming and draining. I usually just relax after work… too tired to really do anything.

That’s awesome that you’ve thought about life after FI. Just keep at it and you’ll get there soon!

Take care!

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25 Even StevenNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 1:32 pm

What does early financial independence mean to you?
Freedom to decide without consequences.

What are you most looking forward to doing?
Being able to travel for extended periods of time which will include golfing with my Dad everyday for a month, if we both can hold up.

Do you plan on working post-FI?
Freedom to choose type work, probably more of my side income gigs than anything(ebay, real estate, blog(I suppose that has to make $ to be a side income). I tend to focus in short increments, I have to sprint rather than run a full marathon with items i’m working on.

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26 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Even Steven,

Thanks for sharing! Golf sounds like fun and a really great way to kick off early FI… very relaxing.

All the best!

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27 NunoNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Time is the most valuable commodity. Your plan seems great! And you made me learn a new word today: polymath (I’m not english native)

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28 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Nuno,

Time is extremely precious, especially since it is finite for everyone; that’s why I want to preserve as much of it as I can.

Haha, polymath is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the early FI/RE community. I didn’t know what it was when I first heard it either ;)

Cheers!

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29 The First Million is the HardestNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 5:47 pm

To me FI is all about having the time to do what I want on my own schedule. Your progress certainly motivates me to step up my game and work on getting there ahead of schedule!

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30 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Jay,

Definitely, blogs like your own and all the other fantastic ones out there also keep me motivated and focused to keep going.

I hope you do get there well ahead of schedule!

All the best!

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31 Retire Before DadNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm

FIF,
I recently wrote about what is my primary driver for FI (travel). But a lot of what you say here strikes a cord with me. Healthy living is a big one, and slowing down and reading more too. Depending on how early I reach FI, I may find some kind of work I enjoy on my terms. It would be enjoyable though, and not for anyone else. Early retirement could include some kind of business or non-passive income. But at some point I’ll stop all work. I also like the idea of not working so I can help out family if needed (aging parents). Trying to do that while working for the man would be difficult.
-RBD

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32 Mr. GrumpNo Gravatar April 23, 2014 at 6:46 am

Nice article. Cute ducklings. I won’t make it FI by 30 but hopefully by 40. I completely agree it’s about doing what you want to do not what you have to do.

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