(AKA- How I Plan to Become Financially Independent and Retire Early)
As previously mentioned, I DO NOT WANT TO WORK ANYMORE. So, I'm plotting my escape. It's a long term plan, but much shorter that most people my age. In fact, I am 32 and want to "FIRE" by the time I hit my mid-40s.
That doesn't mean I'm going to lay around like these elephant seals all day. Being financially independent means I don't have to work if I don't want to and that I can pursue whatever I want, whenever I want. Maybe I want to take one 6 month contract job each year and use that money to go on fabulous treks across Europe while my FIRE money pays for my normal everyday expenses. Maybe I want to learn a new skill and start a small business. Maybe I want to become an ultra-marathon runner and this will free up my time to train. Financial Independence is the answer to the problem we all have- "I don't have the time."
You may be asking yourself, "How, exactly, do you plan on doing this?"
- Reduce my monthly expenditures. I am, admittedly, bad at this. But I am trying. This is an easy concept for everyone, I think. The less you spend, the more you can save. Reducing expenses can be done easier if you differentiate between wants and needs. Very few things are needs- housing, food, basic utilities, clothing- but over-consumption of these needs are wants. Personally, I have worked with my expenses by (1) cutting my grocery bill nearly in half by carefully sticking to a list.. this has also helped with food waste as we were tossing a lot of food that got too old (2) limiting eating out.. this is SO HARD but I almost never buy lunch anymore... maybe once or twice the last 3 months as opposed to at least once a week pre-FIRE plan, and (3) carefully considering each purchase by asking if it is worth the cost, if it will bring lasting enjoyment and, if all else fails, giving it the test of time by waiting a week or two and revisiting whether or not I still want to purchase it. My 2 biggest "to-dos" are switching our cell plans to MVNOs and maybe doing something about cable.
- Understand what I have and what I will have. I took stock of my assets- savings, checking, 401ks, etc. I went to ssa.gov and got my projected SS payout. I verified with an old employer my projected monthly pension.
- Pay off debts. As of last week, I have no credit card debt eating away at my future. I still have a mortgage and it is my only debt. My plan is to have this paid off by the time I reach FIRE and leave my job *or* have a plan to sell and move somewhere cheaper. That way, my monthly expenses after leaving work are greatly reduced.
- Build up my "old person" retirement accounts. These are our 401k type retirement accounts. We were putting in more than enough to get our employer matches, but recently upped that amount so that we grow money in these accounts now. If I retire in my early to mid-40s, I will only have 10-12 more years to contribute and I want to ensure that there is enough in there to fuel compound growth so it is there when we reach the normal retirement age. But what about that time between FIRE and normal retirement age?
- Invest simply and wisely. I haven't taken this step yet because I just paid off my credit card and I need to build an emergency fund for house repairs, car repairs, an unlikely job loss, etc. Once I'm done doing that, I will start investing in low cost funds with proven success- An index fund or funds that represent the US and international markets as a whole plus bond indexes and REITs for balance. I just finished reading A Random Walk Down Wall Street which really helped a beginner like me understand the markets and sensible investing. The money I invest needs to grow enough in the next 10-12 years to a point where it is enough to cover our expenses from the time we leave work to the time we can start accessing our 401ks. Since Kris is 5 years older than me, this is about 11 or so years of time we'll need to live off of our FIRE investment money. Don't forget I can still make money other ways whenever I want after I'm financially independent!
I think the future is a beautiful, free place to be. I want to do what I can now to get there as soon as possible. I'm just getting started but, thankfully, we do have a decent amount we've saved in our 401ks. As much as I ignored financial advice over the years, that is one thing that I made sure to do, even if it wasn't as much as it should have been.
I'll be doing future posts on how I'm calculating things to make sure I will have enough. I love math, so it is kinda fun. Call me crazy!
Anyone else looking to retire early? What would you do if you were financially independent? PARTY?!