We’re told our entire lives to forge our own path. Avoid the crowd. And then we grow up and do what everyone else does.
Choices are part of what makes us human. We choose to be plumbers, or doctors, or stay-at-home moms and dads. We choose to go to college, or not. We choose who we associate with. We choose who we worship. Choice is ingrained in our democratic DNA, and one way we harness the power to choose is through our financial means.
We may seem strange or even out of touch with all this money-talk. We’ve seen why the Joneses aren’t worth it, explored some of the most money-sucking mistakes made in society, learned about the ever-so-destructive student loan epidemic and how we crushed it.
So why does any of this matter? The love of money is the root of all evil—why pay it so much attention?
Because money has never been the goal. It’s been about the freedom of choice that money grants us. It allows us to choose how we spend our day; where we live; when we travel; the passions we desire to pursue, and our work.
Some of these pursuits are feasible with money left completely out of the equation, but it’s far more arduous.
We could blindly follow the crowd—do what those before us and among us have done. But to be totally honest, they look miserable. Chasing something that seems to have no end. Yearning for something they can’t grasp. Gatsby, endlessly reaching outstretched arms toward East Egg.
So. Are we prepared to work (in the traditional sense) until we’re 65 or 70 years old? Absolutely. Nothing is guaranteed. Here’s the difference, though: Are we planning to work that long? Are we living in such a way that typifies a working life of 30 to 40 years? Of course not.
The math behind financial independence has massive implications for our lives. We can ‘retire’ with enough money to sustain our annual living expenses forever in as little as 11 years. Keep our savings rate above the 50% threshold, and this will happen. That. Is. Unreal. We ran the numbers again and again with different scenarios considered (children, job changes), and the number still proved true. What we had been learning about was right. Even if we slightly missed the mark, we’ll still retire decades before the average.
To let this take root, you must set aside limiting beliefs and biases. You have to consider another path, a less traveled path, a path with more.
Here’s why we’ve decided to pursue financial independence.
1. Time is a non-renewable resource.
It is one thing we can’t get more of. As much as we’d like to convince ourselves otherwise, it’s true. Once we get past the platitudes of use your time wisely, or, you’ve only got one life, then it starts to take root that no, you won’t get this time back. Your days are numbered. The clock is ticking. Trace Adkins might’ve said it best: You’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.
What would you do with your time if you had 100% say in how you spent it? Something we hear often: Wouldn’t you be bored? I’d feel useless if I didn’t have my job. If you had a year left to live, would you spend it at work?
2. Jobs are fleeting.
Which brings us to our next point—the jobs discussion. First off, jobs are a blessing. Seriously. We should count ourselves lucky by having the opportunity to work. They provide meaning to our lives and others. They produce goods and services for the world. They give back to society. And they give us the oh-so-valuable resource of money, which we then use to live our lives as we’d like.
Careers can be fleeting. Circumstances change. We wrap too much of our identities into our job, leaving us feeling lost when things go awry. Financial independence is our exit strategy. This prepares us for those times when it’s time to get out and get out now. Consider this, we have plans in case of a fire or when a tornado is in the area. We purchase insurance because of its monetary value in case of need. We should have an emergency exit for our jobs as well. This isn’t to say we run at the first sign of smoke. No, sometimes there’s a simple kitchen fire and we need only the extinguisher to put it out. Other times, the house becomes engulfed in flames and you’re wondering how it ever happened. Insure your career. Prepare an exit strategy. We never know when a fire is coming.
3. We live a life of surplus, not deprivation.
Boy, we have it good. We drive in our climate-controlled cars to our climate-controlled jobs where at lunchtime we eat the food we purchased from our climate-controlled grocery store. We drink from water faucets that never run out. We can go out and shop for almost anything our heart’s desire. Anything. Or, ya know, we could have it delivered to our doorstep (Thanks, Bezos). Oh, and we have access to nearly all the knowledge of the world in the palm of our hands. If you have an annual household income of $32,000 or greater, you are in the top 1% of earners in the world. Although we’d like to complain about our lives of deprivation, the truth is that many of us live like royalty without realizing it. We’d venture to say we’re spoiled.
Since we already have it so good, deciding to pursue FI becomes easy. What’s the worst that could happen from pursuing this intentional and purposeful life? Well, the stock market could crash, money would have no value, and our economy as we know it would cease to exist. At that point, it won’t matter if we’ve got money in a mattress, gold, or the stock market. If you don’t believe that an economic apocalypse of this nature will occur anytime soon, then pursuing FI comes with little anxiety and a boatload of hope.
4. There’s so much life to live.
How vast and complex is the world? How much is there to experience in this life? We keep a working list of the things we’d pursue if jobs weren’t a concern: volunteer and give back far more; travel on a frequent basis; spend more time with family, friends, and each other; focus on living a healthy lifestyle; pursue our passions like faith, entrepreneurship, reading, writing, creating, and learning . We were made for more than working, paying bills, having some fun on the side, and dying. Put one way, instead of focusing on a job or career, perhaps we should focus on our mission.
Believe us, we’ve heard the little voice of doubt that says this will only last so long. Boredom will settle in. An itch will begin to surface. The itch to do more. To feel busy.
The best news about this? If things go awry and we didn’t find purposeful ways to spend our lives, we can always go back. Our backgrounds are in high demand fields. We’re resourceful. If we find ourselves in a state of “What were we thinking?”, then we can simply revert back to the old life.
But we doubt we will. We’re breaking the mold. We are removing the limiting beliefs and fixed mindsets of those around us, and we’re doing it.