I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately… dangerous, right? Hindsight has me realizing that if you’re hoping to reach financial independence, the path is simple, but it’s not necessarily an easy journey to get there.
As I’m typing this, I’m down to four working days until I’m done working at a career I’ve been at for 19½ years – a job I started right after my 24th birthday.
At the time, I had just bailed out of retail management. I was an assistant store manager at Walmart. I didn’t hate retail, but I didn’t love it either. It’s a job where you’re needed most at all the worst times – evenings, weekends, and holidays.
It was also a job that required a lot of working hours… too many in my opinion. Spending 50-55 hours per week working for someone else while making $35k per year is excessive in my book.
I was a Computer Information Systems major at the time. On top of the long work weeks, I was trying to slowwwly work my way through college at Kent State University.
I decided to bail when I was still a handful of classes away from graduation. I needed to get out of retail and find my way into my field. On top of that, although $35k/year was decent money for someone in their early twenties back in the mid-nineties, my hourly wage probably amounted to about 13 or 14 dollars.
So, I quit. I left with no job lined up either. It was a risk, but at the time, I was still living with my parents, so it wasn’t totally crazy.
I touched-up my resume, put on a suit one day, and went door-to-door in an area of IT companies. I introduced myself at each place and dropped off my resume. I was able to score a couple of interviews out of the deal.
The first one involved a lot of travel and I wasn’t interested in that at the time, so I took a pass on it.
The second one was with my current employer. With zero experience, I was excited to be given a shot as a Systems Engineer. I still had a year of school left at the time and my boss was flexible enough to work around it for that year.
I took a pay cut at the time bringing me down to $25k/year – though this was for part-time work. But it was a great opportunity in the field I went to school for, so I was very appreciative.
I stuck with it over the years, learned everything I could, and eventually worked my way up to become the engineers’ manager. Almost 20 years later, I’m finally wrapping up my IT career.
My point to all of this is to bring attention to the fact that I’m not some genius (though I tell everyone I am!). I didn’t start with an inheritance or a large nest egg. I also didn’t have anything handed to me.
I’m just a regular guy who’s pushed forward over the years (with the help of Mrs. R2R) to reach financial independence. In other words, anyone can do this – it’s not complicated.
In my post, There is a Secret Formula to FI, But It Ain’t No Secret!, I laid out a framework for reaching financial independence…
1) Get out of debt
2) Know where you are now and where you need to be
3) Cut stupid expenses
4) Increase your income
5) Save… a lot
6) Invest intelligently
7) Continue learning
8) Don’t forget about today
Notice that there’s nothing crazy on this list. The path is simple – really simple.
Seriously, the most important thing to do is to save more than you earn. And the more you save, the faster you reach the goal and can move onto a life of more freedom.
Sounds good, right?
But, there’s one thing that makes reaching financial independence difficult… you.
The path is simple… here’s why we screw it up
So, if the path is simple and anyone can do it, why aren’t more folks reaching financial independence? What’s stopping each and every person from being financially free?
And I say that in a general fashion. Some of you are already FI or are well on your way.
However, it’s evident that most folks get in the way of their own freedom. They trip over their own feet and possibly condemn themselves to be a slave to money for the rest of their lives.
It seems that we have this innate nature of sabotaging our future.
You don’t know what you don’t know, so we tend to follow what we see others are doing. And the problem with that is that the majority of folks are doing the same bad things… because they don’t know either!
So, what do we end up doing?
- Spending the money we do have on excessive nights out and overpriced vacations
- Running up crazy amounts of debt by buying more things that we think we’re supposed to get like new luxury cars, fancy homes, and the latest and greatest electronics
- Wasting hours of every day on social media, television, and streaming media like Netflix instead of finding ways to increase our income
- Paying exorbitant fees for investments and advice from the wrong folks
- Rationalizing that it’s too late to change so giving up and continuing with our bad habits (why not – that’s what others are doing!)
And because those things, we save incredibly less than we should be thus dooming ourselves to a life of servitude to the dollar.
See the problem? Even though the path is simple, we’re making it much harder than it needs to be.
The road to happiness
With just a few tweaks in our lifestyles, we have the chance to not only enjoy financial freedom, but to gain the opportunity for true happiness. Picture how much happier you would be if money wasn’t the driving factor in your life.
Imagine the fun you could then spend your time experiencing… projects that you want to do simply because they bring you joy. Or work you could do to better the lives of others – think of the happiness!
The path is simple but it’s not necessarily easy – these are two different things. For most people, it means you need to make some choices in what your priorities will be and stick with the plan.
With the new year coming, if you’ve realized you’re not where you should be financially, it’s time to turn over a new leaf.
This is not the time to do something silly like giving up chocolate or beer for a while (besides those are two of my favorite things!). This is your future.
It’s a chance to change how you think about money, make some small changes in your lifestyle and habits, and get on the road to financial independence.
Reading this blog, among others, is a great place to start. Instead of binge-watching Stranger Things or Mad Men, it’s time to use your spare time productively to come up with a solid game plan.
Use my post There is a Secret Formula to FI, But It Ain’t No Secret! as a basic guide and try to optimize your path. Check out The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement from Mr. Money Mustache to get an idea as to how many years you need to work to reach FI.
And then here’s the hard part… don’t get in the way of yourself. The path is simple, but you need to take control and stop making stupid decisions that screw up your plan.
Ignore the naysayers who like to come up with every excuse as to why financial freedom can’t work. As a regular guy who’s pulled this off without feeling like he’s sacrificed along the way, I can say that this is absolutely possible to achieve.
Don’t let the masses define your future – make your own path to freedom.
Is financial independence on our radar? Have you found the path to be difficult or are we as humans just making it more complex than it needs to be?
Thanks for reading!!