I started on my journey to financial independence not long ago, around the end of 2014. Much like compound interest, my investment in financial independence (and early retirement) exponentially grew with each tidbit of knowledge I consumed. Looking back, I can’t even imagine how many blogs I ripped through; devouring their content like my cat eats her breakfast. (Imagine a tuxedo colored vacuum sucking up all the food from a tiny dish in a few seconds.) Unlike many who come across the path of financial independence, my journey started with a gift! A gift I can only imagine my wife now regrets. 🙂
Off to the Races
My dearest wife bought me a YNAB activation key back on that fateful day. For weeks I dabbled with the software, not fully understanding its purpose, or true power. At some point I stumbled head first, bewildered into the online reddit communities of r/personalfinance and r/financialindependence. One post tied into the next, which tied into the next, continuing on for a seemingly endless amount of finance related knowledge. Eventually I ended up being pulled down the Mr. Money Mustache rabbit hole for an afternoon of jaw-dropping insights and unthinkable (yet, so simple) math concepts.
I was convinced of the math. I was FIRE-d up for the task ahead. I was ready to be financially independent and I wanted it now!
Of course that is not how achieving financial independence works. It takes time (years on years), it takes dedication (heaps of on heaps), and it takes one simple guideline (so simple, that it’s kind of stupid).
Spend less than you earn, save the rest. Better yet invest!
So I started using YNAB religiously. All my accounts were updated real time, I budgeted every month, and I made sure to balance after the month finished. It was somewhere in this euphoria that I began to realize just how much waste I allowed into my life. Eating lunch out five days a week, going out for drinks and generously paying, buying frivolous, soon-to-collect-dust objects. All of this while I still had five-digits in student loan debt! (Pete at Mr. Money Mustache would be ashamed my debt was not treated like an emergency!)
Slowly, I began changing my lifestyle. I brought lunch to work with only the occasional meal out. I continued going out for drinks, but I spent less and lowered my generosity. I completely cut back on the silly little purchases that were cutting into my net worth progress. I was changing my life, and it was all thanks to my wife’s gift of a twenty-six digit YNAB activation key. (Thanks babe!) 😀
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Now that I’ve been on the path for two-plus years, my habits have changed, and my financial outlook has shifted dramatically. Our household is earning and saving like never before. Our path is destined for financial independence. But, at the same time things are becoming monotonous.
My quest for knowledge is slowed, and I am entering what is likely the most difficult segment on the path to financial independence. I’m past the exciting ramp up. I’ve stabilized and I’m beginning to see real progress towards my financial independence goal. Now I just sustain for a handful of years more before finalizing the numbers for our departure from our current work life. Fortunately, I enjoy my current lifestyle and have no feelings of deprivation. However, without staying mindful of my intentions it will be all too easy to jump right back into that consumer lifestyle of yore.
It’s because of this stage I am entering that I’ve taken a note from Ms. ONL and decided to write my own Financial Independence Mission Statement. She wrote a fantastic blog post about the purpose of such a statement and some extremely useful questions to help craft your own. You can check out here full post here: Write Your Financial Independence Mission Statement
Crafting My Financial Independence Mission Statement
I graduated in the middle of the Great Recession with an engineering degree. For the first few years out of school I was fully engaged in my work, eager and far too happy to be a working lad. Over time that feeling was slowly replaced with indifference. I still cared about doing a good job, but my engagement surely dropped. As of last year, I switched jobs for something fresh and more tailored to my career interests. Now one year in, the excitement is beginning to wane. I can’t help but to daydream of a different life, but it’s hard walking away from such a prosperous position.
However, I don’t foresee myself quitting work entirely. I imagine I will pursue a variety of avenues. With a passive income stream sustaining my lifestyle I could see myself getting back into the outdoor recreation industry. Or, I could end up creating my own full-time project or business (blogging, brewing beer, wood working?). In my mind I imagine all of these avenues as seasonal/contractual engagements.
My goal is to escape the typical office work of an engineer by 2025.
How I WILL Achieve My Goal?
I will achieve my goal by living within my means (spending less than I earn) and using the rest of my income to build a passive, long-term cash flow machine.
I will build my passive income stream via index fund investing. This is a simple, hands-off approach that requires minimal effort. I will invest in total market, or equivalent, funds with the lowest fees possible per my investment vehicle. I will consider the value of each expenditure before committing my income to the purchase. I will use to my advantage benefits existing in the tax code. (I’m looking at you 401k, HSA, home-mortgage deduction, and IRA).
On my journey I will do my best to live a full and happy life, striving to find a balance between hedonism and deprivation through frugality. I will not pursue real estate. I will stay up to date with investment vehicles and advantageous finance technology. I will not invest in single stocks.
Why is this My Goal?
I want to reach my goal so I can LIVE MY LIFE, FOR ME.
For years, I have been locked in by commitments to school or a job. Both positions consume my time. If I truly want to live my life on my terms, I need to be in full control of how my life energy is consumed. It should not be for someone else’s profit. I have one life to live (AFAIK) and it is my belief it should be spent pursuing what makes me happiest.
I want to spend my energy pursuing hobbies I enjoy like brewing beer, recreating outdoors, planning and executing home projects, and spending more time with my family. I want to find NEW hobbies I’ve never even tried! I want time to travel at a slower pace, so I can experience what this earth and its people have to offer. I want to travel my country in a RV or converted van. I want to have the option to donate my time.
Who Benefits from My Goal?
Ultimately, everyone benefits if I am able to achieve my goal.
Clearly I benefit, and nearly as clearly my family benefits from my freedom. I would be able to give more freely of my life energy to help provide for their needs. No longer will I be forced into a work-life balance where work is king, and too often family gets left behind.
With my freedom, I can begin pursuing unknown interests where I can use all of my strengths to benefit the world in my unique way. No longer will I be fearful of being late for work, or held back worrying how I will contribute to my household. Instead my only fear will be that I each day is too short to accomplish all my goals.
My Financial Independence Mission Statement
EARN 100% until 2025. SAVE abundantly without sacrifice, and INVEST lazily. ENJOY and share MY TIME with family, hobbies, and the world!
What about YOU?!
This is a fantastic exercise, and I am glad I came across it and that Ms. ONL put her post together so thoughtfully with the guiding questions. I know I spent a good amount of time considering each question and revising my statements. It is a bit difficult to capture all of my thoughts in writing, but I foresee myself coming back periodically to revise my statement. I understand how valuable these few words will be during these coming years of working and saving. They will ensure I stay mindful of my ultimate goal and guide me past the pitfalls on my path towards financial freedom.
Do you have a Financial Independence Mission Statement?
I’d love to hear it! If not, I’d love to help write one with you. Leave a comment and we can work together – the exercise is worth your time!