I thought it would be fitting for my first blog post to be published on Independence Day, even if I don’t have any readers yet to appreciate its significance.
I never thought I would have a blog. I used to think that blogs were either for 1) conceited people who long for fame by sharing unnecessary, tedious accounts of their otherwise mundane lives, or 2) hustlers who don’t really care who their audience is as long as they can secure a steady income stream from advertisers. I now generally I view blogs differently, and I owe it entirely to financial independence. Rather, the supportive nature of the financial-independence-retire-early (FIRE) community.
When I got my first (and current) job out of college, I opened my first investment account: a 401(k) through my employer. I had no idea how to invest, so I set out to learn. I found a few blogs about investing, bought a couple of books, and started to shape my investment portfolio. As I learned more, I kept searching for new information. I found investing interesting, but something was lacking. I needed to find a purpose for building wealth that wasn’t just for the sake of being rich, because studies have shown that while there is a correlation between income and happiness, the impact of money declines as you get more of it. So what did I really want out of the money that I was arbitrarily saving?
I discovered the concept of early retirement* through Mr. Money Mustache. (If you’re unfamiliar with it, the process is very straight forward: save most of your money early in your working career so you don’t have to work. It’s the same process as “regular” retirement, just accelerated so that you can spend most of your life actually enjoying it, rather than working because you need a paycheck.) For some reason, I had never considered an alternative to working for 40 years. It’s not like I’m naturally very spendy and really need those 40 years of working to be able to save enough to be able to afford not to work. I was just so numbed to the idea because…well, that’s just how it is. That’s what everyone does, so that must be the only way to do it.
My life goals changed significantly in a short period, and it felt empowering. No longer would I put up with sitting in a cubicle for the next 40 years, sacrificing my precious time for the pursuit of my career. I recognized then that I wanted to be able to choose what I do with my time. And the one thing that could give me that power was the one thing that is holding so many people back: money.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy freedom.
Freedom to work on things that interest you. Freedom to decide what to do with your own time. Freedom to go where you want. Once you embrace that, you consider how spending money today means sacrificing freedom in the future.
So often people associate money with sin. It’s perceived as the root of greed because many people only think of it in terms of consumption. I challenge you to view it differently! Don’t think about what things you can buy with money, but what you would do differently with your time. I would travel. I would read more and learn a new musical instrument. I might start a small business. I honestly don’t know what I would do specifically, but I do know that I would greatly prefer it to sitting in a cube for most of my life.
This blog will be about me, along with my wife, charting out our own plan for financial independence and early retirement by discussing and putting into practice the necessary steps that many before have already taken. Some steps will probably be different, because our lives are different from yours. I hope most of the value of my writing will be in the small differences in our plan from others so that we can help others in situations similar to ours, or just provide a different perspective that encourages you to approach a problem differently. I think the hardest part for me will be balancing saving money with my happiness now. I don’t want to deprive myself, but I do want to eliminate unnecessary spending.
Much of what I will be writing about has already been written, but the whole point of this blog is to document my own discoveries and finding out what works for me. Hopefully it will help some other people along the way, but I’ve always been bothered by the “if my words change the life of just one person it will all be worth it” gimmick, because that sounds super egotistical. DISCLAIMER: nothing I say will be life changing (probably?). I also welcome the challenge of adding my voice to the (perhaps already saturated) FI blogosphere by describing the main points of financial independence and early retirement in a unique way. I’m just here to add to the discussion so that we can all reason through this FIRE thing together.
*My definition of “early retirement” (and I think most others’ definition) doesn’t mean that you stop working. It just means that you stop working because you have to. Early “retirement” typically involves pursuing other entrepreneurial ventures that you wouldn’t have pursued if you had to work full time (doing what someone else wants you to do). I view the money saved during working years as insurance.