I’m a big believer that life events seldom occur by accident.
10 years ago, I didn’t have my eyes set on the path to financial freedom.
I was far from it.
The goal was to build my “dream” life.
This article isn’t about how I changed my life trajectory.
Today, I’m going over the moves that helped me gain momentum to financial freedom.
Pursuing this alternate life, or redefined life, as I like to call it now – it’s well worth it.
Even still, the formula I’m illustrating can’t be exactly replicated for each and every person.
Though, I will tell you.
Nothing I’ve done is extraordinary.
It paints the picture that it’s possible to be financially free – even if it’s a new, old, or stale goal for you.
Revive it and give it life so that you can redefine yours.
Financial Freedom: Steps Taken To Gain Momentum
My Meaning Of FI/RE.
So that we’re on the same page…
Financial freedom and independence are used interchangeably by me.
It’s the ability to live and thrive without a traditional 9-5 to support you. No paycheck? No problem. The resources that you amass during your working life will provide a steady stream of income – that’s the goal at least!
In the beginning, FI/RE was 100% FI/Retire Early.
Now, my FI/RE has evolved into FI/REdefined 9-5 life.
With this change, you don’t necessarily need to reach FI before redefining your 9-5 and vice versa. That’s the beauty of it. The progression you make towards being financially free opens your world up to new opportunities.
Wealth Formula + FI Accelerators.
In the past, I’ve mentioned the use of the wealth equation in pursuing retirement.
Here at FTD, I reference early retirement as any age prior to 65, so don’t feel bad if you’re not aiming for retirement in your 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. Do what makes you happy.
The wealth formula is simply:
It’s not a new or profound concept that these 3 variables will build wealth and financial stability.
Today, I’m using the wealth formula combined with FI accelerators to illustrate my financial freedom progression.
*FI + REdefined 9-5 life
As I share the moves I’ve made toward financial freedom, I’ll explain how each one relates to this equation.
Let’s get to it!
#1 – Financial freedom became a goal.
I’m a goal-oriented person.
As I mentioned earlier, the goal wasn’t always financial freedom.
It was to build a comfortable and expensive life.
The plan was to work for a long, long time to make it happen.
I fantasized about a two-story, technologically advanced house on a corner lot (or large acreage), taking a short trip every other weekend to break up the monotony of the 9-5, and of course, all the finer things in life.
I was quite the dreamer.
These days, I dream about a different life.
Right now, I’m still working on the sketches.
Either way, financial freedom will provide options – where money isn’t a prime factor in making life’s decisions.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM REVIEW
According to the dictionary:
“A dream is to contemplate the possibility of doing something or that something might be the case. A goal is a projected state of affairs that a person or a system plans or intends to achieve – a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development.”
I’ll tell you that even though financial freedom is a worthy and lofty goal, in which everyone should strive for, I understand that not everyone will share this sentiment.
That’s why, if you WANT financial freedom and a life defined by YOU, then make it a goal and set out to ACHIEVE it.
Learn about how I determined financial freedom was possible: Financial Freedom Goal And Redefined 9-5 Pursuit
#2 – Dual-income household for over a decade.
Up until my job loss, both my husband and I had worked to build a life together.
In the beginning, it was working to pay for college, an overpriced mortgage, and other living expenses.
Later on, it became apparent that living on one income as part of a dual-income household was enough.
It worked out in that stage of our lives. It’s something we continued to do as the years went by.
My husband has always been on the same page with the finances.
In 2013, when I expressed what I wanted to do and how I was going to get us there – my husband was all hands on deck.
Sure, he had reservations.
He trusted that although we were trading in an “extravagant” future – we weren’t giving up anything game-changing.
Those game-changing decisions were separate from the financials.
All we were doing was trading the superficial nature of our dreams.
If he had been resistant and couldn’t see the bigger picture it would have been difficult for me to reconcile.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM REVIEW
#3 – College degrees.
I’m not one of those people that knew what they wanted to do with their life.
I had adversity that I had to overcome. Life wasn’t easy, breezy, and beautiful for a while.
But then there were things that came into my life that brightened it and gave me hope.
That being said…
With low college aspirations, I started my career as a hairstylist.
It took one afternoon of flipping through a trade school book for me to decide on a career as a hairstylist making ~$20k/year (as they advertised).
I thought to myself….” Maybe someday I’ll open a hair salon and make more money”.
Owning my own business meant I could control my income with my level of effort.
True, but I didn’t want to work 60-70 hour weeks to make the same amount I could at a 40-hour 9-5.
Work smarter, not harder – right?
It was after working as a hairstylist for over a year and doing some soul-searching, I realized that a college degree in a well-paying field would be far more secure than owning a salon.
Luckily, Accounting had some promise, so I powered through in an effort to make more money and prove to myself I could do it.
An undergrad, MBA, and certification later – this resulted in boosting my income over the next 8 years.
This accounts for 2 degrees.
My husband also earned a degree and is certified in his field.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM REVIEW
College degrees cater to both professional and personal achievement. It’s not all about the money. A large part of it is, but not all of it.
Sure, it’s helpful to get a degree in a well-paying field, but what if you’re not happy in that job? It’s better to find what you want to do for a living. College degree or not, if you’re content with your life’s work, then you’ve won.
#4 – Earning power.
The turning point for earning power began in my mid-20’s.
My first salary position paid $50k which was a crazy amount for me.
In my mind, I had “made it”.
I worked for the next ~8 years increasing my salary by making the right moves.
By right moves, I mean doing what was deemed important to my employers.
It all varies, but working in Accounting, it’s SO important to meet deadlines, show up, work hard, and above all, take initiative.
No one needed to hold my hand. I taught myself to do a lot of tasks by doing my own research.
This resulted in promotion after promotion.
Believe me, it surprised me too.
In my case, with two salaries in the mix, the 5-year* average was ~$100k. After taxes and 401k contributions, about 20% less than that.
Over those 5 years, salaries could have been $20k-$30k higher just living in a different state with similar COL.
*2012 – 2016
FINANCIAL FREEDOM REVIEW
Earning power is VERY important in the grand scheme – not just for financial freedom but to build a life that you want.
For my situation, it made sense to go back to school to get a degree.
Understandably, there are occupations out there that just don’t provide the upward mobility!
What I’ve noticed during my job search is that salaries can vary drastically depending on industry and type of company you’re working in.
It’s always best to be strategic as to where you start working because it may affect your future earning abilities.
Overall, your situation is unique in that only you will know how to perform your job to get a raise or promotion and what industry will pay the most money.
#5 – Saving power.
Prior to making a financial freedom goal, I was already saving for the future with no concrete plans.
To make this clear. I didn’t change my lifestyle drastically to be able to pursue financial freedom.
Saving was already my M.O.
To curb lifestyle inflation, when more income came in, expenses remained mostly constant.
At the time, I didn’t have a name for the lifestyle I was living.
Now I know that it’s just a strategic way of living – with frugal tendencies.
Though I had big dreams, I had a time and place for everything to occur – sometime in the future.
In the meantime, I had to save for those dreams.
This meant any wants and needs in a large part were based on if there were a means to pay for it.
Throughout the years, the only part of the budget that consistently increased was food and travel.
This meant getting to eat better quality foods and taking a vacation once (or more) per year.
Through the use of my Budget + Tracking Spreadsheet, I’m able to let you know that over the same 5-year period, spending ranged from high-$30k’s to mid-$40k’s for two people living in the Southwest region of the US.
My biggest expenses:
Get the Budget + Tracking Spreadsheet and 20-page guide today: Learn More And Start Your FI Progress!
FINANCIAL FREEDOM REVIEW
It’s important to note here that if your goal is to reach FI at some point in your lifetime, look at your savings rate.
If you’re following along, you will notice that there was about an average 50% surplus in the 5-year timeframe (after factoring in expenses).
With the surplus, I distributed these funds to both savings and investments.
(Take-home pay – Expenses = Surplus → either savings or investments).
Income is a small part of the equation. What you do after the money is in your possession – that’s what matters!
It’s about deploying the money strategically to reach your goals.
If you take stock now of what you need to live and be content while working to financial freedom, then you can determine if it’s possible given your income and expenses to actually achieve the goal.
Your income is a small part of the wealth equation: Learn more!
#6 – Investing power.
In my early 20’s, I opened a Roth IRA for me and my future husband. This was my go-to account for throwing extra money in beyond savings.
When I got my first salary position at 25, I contributed to meet the match and 1-2% more. I mindlessly threw money into a “Target 20XX” Fund – until later when I switched to mainly index funds.
After financial freedom was a goal, I added brokerage accounts, individual stocks, and contributed ~8-10% into my 401k on both regular compensation and bonuses.
My husband has a pension that is planned for traditional retirement (60+). Another discussion…
After really paying attention and being more intentional with investing, it made financial freedom possible for me.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM REVIEW
Investing is the last part of the 3-part wealth equation AND one of the most crucial.
It’s important to save money. Though, once I realized it was going to take 10x more effort to build my resources using savings alone, I looked for alternatives.
If your goal is FI, look for ways to grow your money. Whatever method you choose to invest, remember it’s not a get rich quick scheme.
- Investing: Why To Grow Your Money Beyond Savings
- 5 Realizations Of A Millionaire Mindset
- Renting For Profit? Tips To Get A Qualified Tenant
- Living A Simpler Life: My Mindset, Money, And Goals
As you can see, my path to financial freedom hasn’t been extraordinary.
I had the checks and balances in place early on, so when the FI goal came around, it resulted in minor adjustments – mainly streamlining expenses and intentional investing.
Though there have been setbacks, I’m enthusiastic about the fact that my household is in a better place than we were just 6 years ago.
Here are your takeaways from my experience:
Dual-income HH for over a decade | 5-year avg. ~$100k before taxes/deductions/401k and pension contributions.
Increased income | College degrees and certifications | Effort, hard work, and determination.
Yearly expenses | 5-year range $35k-$45k | Kept lifestyle inflation at bay in 20’s.
Savings rate | 5-year avg. ~50%.
Savings & Investing | Higher percentage allocated to investing in a variety of accounts.
Money mindset | Pay myself first, live below my means, invest for the future, and live in the present.
In time, I’m going to expand on what I’ve described here – stay tuned.
Full-Time Dollars (FTD) is dedicated to providing insights and resources to help you achieve your financial goals.
Read more about my mission HERE.
*As with all financial and investment decisions, consult a professional. Read disclaimer here.
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Readers, how has your financial freedom progression varied from what I’ve outlined?