I believe that a satisfying life is built on living true to my values and I’ve known for a long time that I value simplicity, security, and freedom. These values are likely why I am so strongly drawn to the idea of financial independence. I’ve been consciously and deliberately saving toward my goal of financial independence and early retirement (FIRE) for more than 4 years now, and along the way I’ve continued to clarify why I push forward toward this goal, and what I hope to achieve along the way.
Reaching the goal of FIRE requires a lot of hard work, and everyone does it a bit differently. Below are the tenets of financial well being that I try to live by every day, that will help me achieve my goal.
It’s difficult to have long-term plans in life if you aren’t sure what you want to achieve. When I allow myself to dream and plan for the future and define what I truly value and desire in life, all aspects of my life become more clear. The role that money can play in reaching my goals is always becoming more focused.
Living Below My Means & Saving
My current lifestyle costs me about $22,000 per year. Keeping my annual spending as low as possible allows me to realistically plan for a future where my savings can support me, and allows me to stash more than 50% of my income toward my “retirement” from a typical career. Saving aggresively and living on much less than I bring in both satisfy my desire for safety.
Community, Relationships, and Helping Others
Real connections with the important people in my life is one of my biggest priorities. Strong relationships can make life less expensive, and will definitely help make a retired life more fulfilling. A life without the demands of a typical career will give me more time to focus on building the community and relationships I want. Right now I strive to spend time maintaining, expanding, and enriching mutually beneficial connections with other people.
I also would love the opportunity to spend time helping other people define and reach their financial goals. Having a robust community in FIRE will help make retirement an enriching and satisfying experience.
Balance and Recharging
Both on the path to FIRE, and in retirement, balance is critically important. I could work twice as many hours per week and earn more money now, but instead I realize that balance allows me to focus on other important aspects of life like relationships, health, creativity, and recharging. Embracing balance allows for a sustainable life that builds toward more freedom over time, and helps avoid a life of stress and burnout.
Frugality and Budgeting
A frugal mindset helps maintain a low-cost lifestyle. This kind of thinking has always come naturally to me, I find joy in knowing that I am actively avoiding expenses through planning, patience, and resourcefullness.
You might think that a frugal person doesn’t need to budget, but I find that the activity helps me clearly define how the money I spend aligns with my values. A clear budget allows me to separate necessities from luxuries, and allows me to easily communicate about monetary priorities with my girlfriend. Budgeting also helps me see the big picture and get a snapshot of my true expenses; instead of just looking at recurring monthly expenses, I plan for intermittent and one-time expenses as well.
Side Hustles and Micro Businesses
On the path to retirement I plan to dedicate some of my time toward side hustles, in the hopes of making some extra money and accelerating my approach to FIRE.
As I’ve writen about before, I also plan for early retirement to be full of satisfying pursuits, including small-scale entrepreneurship. My hope is that in retirement I will be able to use micro business ideas as creative outlets and small-scale money making ventures. Even with complete freedom, I will always be drawn to some form of entrepreneurship, and allowing myself to “play” in this arena is one of the main reasons I am seeking FIRE. When a side hustle or micro business isn’t required to provide for you or your family, most of the stress of entrepreneurship doesn’t exist.
Self Reliance and Learning
An incredibly important part of life for me is continually growing my knowledge, skills, and self reliance. Not only does this habit simplify many aspects of life, but it saves money, and improves my potential usefullness to others.
Simplicity and Minimalism
I’ve always appreciated simplicity in life. From daily routines to the items I own, keeping things simple generally avoids stress and worry. From a financial perspective, simple usually means less expensive.
Avoiding Mainstream Thinking
As humans we are easily swayed by the society we live in. I strive to employ a healthy sense of skepticism, and a willingness to live contrary to society. I actively avoid the 24 hour news cycle and as much advertising as possible. I believe it’s important to define for myself what will make a satisfying life. A majority of people float through life living the life that has been defined for them by their family and community – including the shackles of a 30 or 40 year career and the trap of constantly increasing consumption.
Focus on Health
Maintaining mental and physical health is an important building block for a long satisfying life. Keeping my body and mind in good health also directly reduces the financial demands of healthcare. Riding my bike is my favorite healthy activity because it not only provides transportation, but also gives me cardio exercise and time to either learn (listening to podcasts or audiobooks) or actively practice mindfulness.
Patience & Willpower
Patience and willpower are cornerstones of saving toward FIRE. They also help with frugality, healthly living, and more. If there are two skills that will benefit your financial life more than any others, they might be patience and willpower.
What tenets make up your everyday financial well-being? If you’re working toward FIRE, what are you doing now that’s different? Will your values and the way you live your life be different in retirement?
[featured image: Moyan Brenn]