Do you have trouble envisioning how you’re going to achieve a goal? Maybe the goal is financial freedom, retiring early, or redefining your 9-5.
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture – not just your current situation. Are you considering that you may be in a better place financially 5-10 years from now?
Research, learn, apply forward-moving strategies and then decide if it’s possible.
Recently, I shared the moves that made the financial freedom goal possible for my household. Financial freedom is a worthy and lofty goal to strive for, though not everyone will share this sentiment. Maybe financial freedom (in the strict sense) isn’t for you, but you can still choose to redefine your financial outlook.
Today, I’m sharing my thoughts of when I started learning about financial freedom (and the possibility of retiring early) and how I ultimately determined it was an achievable goal.
ME: Hey babe, what do you think about living out of an RV?
HUBS: For vacation? Sure, why not.
ME: How about retiring to that type of life?
HUBS: Um, no.
ME: Ok, didn’t think so…
Who was I kidding?
There’s nothing wrong with living on the road, but I knew what I needed – creature comforts and a place to call home.
You may be wondering why I was posing these questions.
Financial Freedom Goal: A Redefined 9-5 Pursuit
What I Learned In The Beginning
Back in 2013, I had initiated the talk about FI/RE – aka Financial Independence / Retire Early.
At that point, I wanted to achieve FI and then retire from the 9-5 completely.
Nowadays, the goal is essentially the same, except, I plan on redefining my life’s work.
When I came to the realization that there were real people ditching the 9-5, I wanted to learn all about it.
During the research phase, I noticed the common denominator.
People were saving huge chunks of their income by keeping their expenses low and being very intentional about adding the funds to wealth-builders.
As a result, this allowed them to retire decades earlier.
Of course, this applied to the folks that wanted to retire in a shorter timeframe.
I wanted that earlier timeframe. That’s why I was searching for alternative retirement strategies like living out of an RV – which was shortly nixed. Although it works for other people, it didn’t make sense for my household.
My Biggest Takeaway
One of the things I learned that stood out was that my FI/RE number (nest egg) is in my control.
It isn’t an arbitrary number like $5M.
The amount of money spent each year is taken into account when calculating the nest egg.
⇓ Lower expenses = ⇓ Lower nest egg
⇑ Higher expenses = ⇑ Higher nest egg
What this meant for me: I needed to think long-term as to the life I wanted to build. Big ticket items would need to be carefully analyzed. For instance, it may be the difference between a $250k house and what the bank thinks I can afford. If I wanted to move to a different state, I would need to heavily consider the cost of living vs. salaries for certain professions.
Keep in mind, this isn’t an exercise of how low you can get your expenses to achieve the goal.
Compare this to your nutrition. It’s not advisable to drastically cut your daily required calories to lose weight.
In terms of a money goal, it doesn’t make sense to cut your spending to the max. Some of these goals will span over 1-3 decades. That’s just not feasible or sustainable to do.
The best way is to take the balanced route. Set the goal, make it attainable, use an action plan, revisit often, but continue to live knowing that the progress you make will only benefit you in the long-run.
To calculate your nest egg requirements, a rule of thumb is to take your annual expenses by 25. Let’s say your annual spend is $60k, using the Multiply by 25 rule, you will need $1.5M ($60k x 25).
The “Multiply By 25 rule” is simply a way to estimate the necessary nest egg by taking desired annual income by 25.
This is another way of looking at the 4% rule which is used for considering how much to withdraw during retirement.
These methods assume a real rate of return of at least 4% (considering inflation).
For a more conservative approach use “33” as your factor, instead of “25”.
Was FI/RE Going To Work?
In my case, I was nowhere near $500k, $1M, or $1.5M. Sure, I was saving a large portion of my paycheck by living off one of the two household incomes.
Here’s the kicker. I hadn’t been intentional in building wealth.
I was going to work for a long time so why bother, right?
Investing consisted of a 401k up to the employer match plus a few percent more and Roth IRA’s that didn’t meet the yearly max.
At this point, I could have easily ditched the idea of achieving this goal considering I was nowhere near the numbers I needed.
Looking back further, in my early 20’s, I would have completely sidelined the idea. Back then, there wasn’t much money at all. Also, I was quite content working until my older years. That’s just how it works, right?
At 28, I had established a career and there was actually money available to plan the future.
The money that my husband and I worked really hard to make more of was waiting to be deployed. Was it going to be a bigger house, list of wants, and so on?
In 2013, when I considered FI/RE, the money took a whole new shape.
Prelim Analysis + Setting The Goal
Money goals associated with FI/RE require a long-term outlook.
Since my main method of investment is in the stock market, with a drawdown method from equities of ~4%, I would need over $1M given that I planned to spend more money in retirement (higher mortgage/rent, more travel, healthcare).
For my situation that would mean about $15k-$20k additional spend.
I’m not considering any social security since that’s over 30 years out for my household. Let’s just say it’ll be a “bonus”.
Also, there is a pension, depending on years of service will either stay put or get rolled over into an IRA. This will change the total nest egg needed depending on what ends up happening.
Back in 2013, I hadn’t considered renting out my home. This is currently being heavily considered as a means of passive income.
To prove to myself that financial freedom was possible in a certain timeframe, I set out to solidify my plans by putting numbers to paper, or in this case – a spreadsheet.
I mapped out an investment growth chart based on what was already saved, along with current and projected earnings, and applied this to different growth rates.
The growth rates I used ranged from 4%-8% to project different outcomes. After doing this prelim analysis, I became more confident that this could work for my household.
To give you an idea, the timeline I set to achieve the goal was from 2013 to 2020, with a stretch goal of 2025 – all by the time I turned 40.
Here’s what it would take to get there by 2020:
- Continued earnings from the 9-5
- Consistent monthly contributions to investment accounts
- ~$60k in total contributions per year, including 401k and pension
- Yearly return on investments > 6%
- Long-term outlook in terms of investing
…and what seemed necessary for me was countless spreadsheets showing progression to the goal. I’m very hands-on, therefore I update net worth, dividend transactions, passive income projections every month.
Since there were events that occurred and decisions made along the way, 2020 FI will not happen – but I’m optimistic about 2025 (or sooner).
Assessing Your Situation
At this point, I may have already lost you.
You’re thinking, how is this going to work for me?
A collection of negative thoughts:
- I barely make it on my income so not happening for me.
- Hard pass. I’m in debt with no end in sight.
- No way this will work for me. No freakin’ way.
Or maybe you’re optimistic about your future and want to make strides.
A collection of positive thoughts:
- I have a small income now but that may change in the future. I’m working towards increasing my income.
- This may work for me when I’m finished paying off my debt. I need to focus on that first.
- I’m going to make this work for me. I’ll do some research.
Note the differences?
Back when I started learning about FI/RE, I immensely appreciated people putting themselves out there to help me – someone they didn’t know. My life trajectory changed because of the information I learned.
We all have struggles we’re dealing with, some more than others. Sometimes people lead with them, sometimes not.
Only you will know your capabilities, your resources, and your mindset.
If you do want to redefine your 9-5 – there are resources that will help you, but you have to paint that picture for yourself.
Try not to compare your situation to mine. What you’re missing from reading this one article is the context of my life and how much effort it took to get to this point. I’m not going to bore you with the details.
With the various ways to make it to a financially free life…
- Mold your journey to work for YOU
- Set up a timeline that works for YOU
- Do what works best for YOU
Remember, you don’t have to live in an RV, move to a different country, or survive on $15k a year – unless you want to.
What you will need:
- Usable income for wealth-building
- Long-term investment in wealth-builders
- General knowledge of finances and a willingness to learn
- Strong desire to become financially free
- Achievable financial freedom number factoring in any continued income
Example of someone applying the financially free concept to work for their life:
→ $350k partial nest egg to redefine their 9-5 with more fulfilling work for 15+ years.
→ $500k partial nest egg … 10+ years.
→ $1.25M partial nest egg … 5+ years.
→ $1.75M full nest egg to … never work again.
There are SO MANY variations that can work. How will you redefine your 9-5?
- Financial Freedom: Steps I’ve Taken To Gain Momentum
- The Original FIRE Goal Of Retiring Early
- How Are You Building Your Retirement Success Story?
Here are some resources I used, in the beginning, to get familiar with financial independence, retiring early, investing, and money topics in general.
I listened to podcasts regularly which kept me motivated and I combed through blogs that inspired me to make it work for my life.
Blogs & Forums
This was my very first exposure to the process. I was on Jacob’s website a ton and also frequented the forums there.
- Dividend Mantra, now Mr. Free At 33
I found Jason’s original blog, Dividend Mantra and from that point, I started following him. It was here that I started learning about dividend-growth investing. His new blog is Mr. Free at 33.
They have an app you can download to follow the forums. I used to frequent it all the time. It’s a great resource for anyone interested in starting the process.
I found Syd through ERE’s website. Her background is in Accounting. At the time, I was working on my Accounting degree, so I could relate to her. She and her husband retired in their early 40’s. Her blog is no longer active.
Sam’s content is informative and interesting. I especially enjoyed his articles with the numbers.
Paula also has a blog under the same name geared towards financial independence and real estate investing. She is very knowledgeable and has a voice for radio.
Brandon also has a blog and is geared towards financial independence and early retirement. I listened to his podcasts at different points. His podcasts are interview-based.
- Stacking Benjamins
- The Truth About Money
- Dough Roller
Here’s the thing. There is no “one size fits all” approach, but there are many resources out there to help you begin. Find the voices that you can relate to and want to learn from and start moving forward – one step at a time.
Whatever your goal – financial independence, an early retirement, or redefining your life’s work – it doesn’t have to be linear.
Originally, I set my sights on retiring completely from the 9-5.
These days, I’m using my progression to FI as a buffer to find my ideal 9-5. I’m still on the path to financial freedom – I just took a detour on my way there. My mindset has changed on certain things, but that’s what happens sometimes (more on that later…).
At any rate, I’m in a better place financially than I was just 5 years ago – all from entertaining the concept of FI/RE.
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.
Join The FTD Community
+ Access to the "FTD Library"
+ BLOG UPDATES 1-2X A MONTH
Readers, when you first started learning about becoming financially free with the possibility of retiring early, did you think about it positively or negatively? How have you made it a possible goal for yourself? Share your thoughts.