You Don’t Need To Be Rich To Enjoy Financial Freedom
Not only in the way that you think of things that are bad and no fun, but it actually sucks. It sucks the life from you. It sucks the energy from you.
Some say it sucks the very soul from you. If you believe in souls, that might very well be true.
For the last four years, I’ve been working a job that’s been eating away at my health. For the last six months, I’ve been on sick leave.
Correction, I’ve been on partial sick leave. I’ve been working 50%. Now, after vacations, I’m back to working full time. I’ve been back for a week. And I’m dreading it. You see, nothing has changed for the better at my workplace. Rather the opposite.
This whole situation has gotten us thinking and calculating, my wife and I.
FIRE And Stress
A year ago I wasn’t familiar with the abbreviation FIRE. If you’re as confused about it now, as I was then, FIRE means Financial Independence Retire Early. Apart from being a witty abbreviation, it’s also how many people who are on their way to FIRE feel. Like a fire is burning inside them.
Our family is working on FIRE as well, but with what has happened to me, we have gotten a bit sidetracked. Our savings and budgeting ties into the money we make, which is logical. Only working part time brings in less money. Which leads to less money saved. Less increase in net worth.
Longer path to FIRE.
But there are silver linings on everything. Getting to the point where I am, makes you think about life. You question the way we’re living. You re-evaluate what’s important. Let’s face facts.
Stress kills you.
It can kill you in an obvious way, like a heart attack. But what I think of as a low level, less obvious stress also kills you in a slower way. Chronic stress can lead to heart disease, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and accidents - only to name a few things. It’s also shaving years off your life by causing damage to your DNA.
Burnout leads to scarring on the brain.
My job situation has so far put me in risk of a whole slew of health issues to look forward too. It also might have caused brain damage.
We could examine the cost of all this. We could look at the cost in money, by calculating the time I could have been productive, but instead, I died early. From problems related to chronic stress. But for that to be an accurate calculation, I’d have to be dead. So let’s hold off on that for, let’s say 50 or so years. Deal?
Let’s conclude that stress is very bad and if you’re in a similar situation at your job, get the heck out. Fast!
FIRE is still our goal and it’s a great goal. But to get there we need to feel like we’re living a life that will actually help us get there. Stress-free.
What Is Freedom For Us?
We’re not new to living a frugal life or to budgeting. We’ve allowed for some lifestyle inflation since we started working. But we’ve tried to keep our budget the same as when we were studying.
Our salaries have gone up over the years. But our expenses have stayed rather low and we manage to save between 50-70% of the income each month. That’s after taxes, though.
If you calculate the amount of money we save, it means a few things. In theory, we could work 6 months and not work for six months. If we let the money we saved sit in an account and do nothing. Provided we had the same expenses.
It could also mean that one of us could keep working and the other one would not work. If we assume my salary and my wife's salary is rather similar.
With an interest rate of 7%, it could mean that we work for 15 years and then retire altogether. I base this calculation on the debatable 4% safe withdrawal rate. But oh, how I love compound interest.
It could also mean that I only work 50%. Or that my wife does. Or actually, that both of us do.
If you've paid attention, you can see with my reasoning above, we're not close to FIRE, though. We're 15 years off with our current situation. So how dare I talk about financial freedom?
What Can Financial Freedom Mean
The fact is that there are different kinds of financial freedom. Even though we strive for FIRE our way of living has made it possible for us to have choices.
As you can also see above, these choices can be of many different kinds. I picked some reasonable ones for the sake of argument.
I'm currently pursuing the idea of a side hustle which makes it appealing to be able to reduce work time to 50%. That is if the side hustle takes off and I can start building a business.
My wife would still want to work full time. Which means we could afford it and still save money. With an assumption, that my side hustle brings in zero income. If it brings in some money, we'd be even better off.
Why would you care about my situation like this, you might ask. Well, it could be that you don't care. But, you're still reading, so I guess that's not true. Or you wonder how this could be of use to you.
Let's look at it like this. If I didn't burn out like I did, there's a good chance that I wouldn't question how my life was going. I mean, in a great many ways it was going well. Good job, good salary, and an in general good life. Except for the stress. Minor issue, right?
I wrote this to argue that FIRE isn't the only thing you can pursue. Yes, it's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, believe me, I know. But you have to take stock of the smaller wins along the way to the grand prize.
If you realize you're not forced to work full time to make ends meet, it's a great win. In all honesty, I will work full time in one way or another to be able to reach FIRE faster. But that's a choice too. I know that I don't have to as it is now, though.
In our case, we have the freedom to pursue a dream of a different life. It’s empowering to know that you are in a position where your boss has less hold on you. All because you don’t need the money as much since you have planned your financial life.
It Does Take A Plan
If you're in a position where you're thinking about FIRE we can assume you have paid off your debt (or you're on your way). You're managing your money. That's how it is for most people. Unless, of course, you make so much money that FIRE will come no matter what you do. In that case, congratulations.
But if you are managing your money, you know that it's not easy. Especially not at first. It takes work to learn how to budget and live in a more frugal way.
The road to FIRE requires a roadmap as well.
On the road, there will be checkpoints. Aim for those at first. It's at a checkpoint our family is standing now. The one where you understand that you're doing something right in your finances. We're seeing results on our work so far. It's a confirmation that things are on the right track. It feels good.
We'll map out the road from here. It's completely not clear today.
We will continue to live a life where we avoid debt, where we save what we don't use, where we budget and live in a frugal way.
We're not rich yet, but we're not poor either. We're financially secure at the moment. And that's a good place to be.
How is it with your family? Are you working your way towards FIRE as well? How far along are you? If you're not yet on the road to FIRE - what do you need to get you started?
Leave us a comment below and let us know!