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!!
22 thoughts on “The Path Is Simple, but It’s Not Necessarily Easy”
I agree with the above views. I quote myself as an example. I secured FI and am still in full-time employment. Work is getting hectic and I work about 70 hours per week. I know that such working patterns is unsubstainable and will have adverse effect on my health in time to come.
I know what must be done and now in the process of making plan of exiting the full-time employment. I have my interest and will embark on making it my priority after my full-time employment. The interest does not generate any income. I do not mind it as I know that this is my personal interest.
That ought to be a big change, WTK, but having plans on what to do once you leave from work should make the transition a little easier. Looking forward to hearing more about it as you continue on the path!
Enjoy your holidays!
I can only add a couple things.
1.) Make double/triple/quadruple sure that, as long as you work, you never forget to prepare yourself to be unemployed at a moment’s notice. Tomorrow marks the anniversary (35th) of the time I was fired,,,on the day after Christmas,,from a job I needed desperately. We survived, but, times were very bad for a while. I vowed after that to make being “marketable @ the highest possible gain in income” my number one priority for the rest of my life.
2.) Everything in moderation. While I like and approve of the nose to the grindstone,,,,,,you owe yourself a couple of flights of excessive spending – for no good reason.
Other than that – – -Jim,,you DID it man! By the time this post is a week old, you’ll be one of us retired old farts!
Glad to have you visiting, Rich! Smart move to prepare yourself financially regardless of how much you enjoy your job since you really just never know.
Are you saying I’ll be an old fart come next week? 😉
Have a great Christmas!
Merry Christmas bud. Love the post – #8 is my favorite. It’s so easy to forget about to day and get caught up in the future. Being present is challenging. Excited for you to walk away from the job. Well earned after two decades of grinding.
Thanks, Drew – hope your holidays are good!
Love your advice. Cutting stupid expenses is the best thing you can do! But first you have to decide what is a stupid expense for you! Merry Christmas!
Definitely true – you really have to come to point where you wake up from the marketer’s trance and look at things a little differently. It’s a tough thing to realize that most of the stuff we think we need or want is really just junk cluttering up our lives.
Have a Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas! Like so many things in life, the path might be simple but not necessarily easy. This simple path is worth going after. Congrats on your final week of work!
Thanks, Deanna – enjoy your holidays!!
Good list of basic advice but so hard to follow for some people. The same for me and trying to lose weight, I know to eat less and exercise but following is the hard part and making excuses. Being able to retire and feeling comfortable in the new phase of life can be achieved following basics and understanding what we need and want in retirement. Our Christmas present to ourselves was to review our 2018 trips that we have taken and be grateful for our position in life.
Congratulations on setting your goal and achieving each goal as planned.
Well put and a great outlook on life, CB!
Enjoy your holidays and have a great 2019!
Congratulations on staying the course and getting to the end.
Enjoy your last day at work!
Thanks, Frogdancer – hope your holidays are good!
Congratulations for no longer having to work!
I’ve heard so many self-inflicted wounds it’s nuts. I really need to stop taking big investment bets and just hitting singles instead.
Let us know how the first year of early retirement goes!
Thanks, Sam! I like your idea of aiming for singles instead of trying to hit ’em all out of the park… probably not as much fun, but maybe a little easier to control the results a little more.
Good luck in 2019!
Great list but more importantly, congratulations!
I suspect this will be the best new year’s eve you have ever experienced! You made it!
Thank you – it’ll definitely be a good New Year’s Eve party!!
Thanks for sharing and congrats! I wish I didn’t get in the way of myself, but there are certainly habits where I’ve fallen into them easily without realizing it. For the month of February I gave up watching TV – and was amazed at how much time I had been filling with TV before. I’m planning to start some other productive habits in 2019 as well!
I think we all have some kind of waste-of-time bad habits. Giving up TV for an entire month is a fantastic feat – I can only imagine how much more you were able to get done. Out of curiosity, did you decide to continue with no TV, go back to the old ways, or somewhere in the middle?
Somewhere in the middle – the times I actually missed TV the most were being able to play video games with coworkers and having it on as background noise so I’ve gone back to those habits but also still watch shows here and there. Would love to do it in the future again though!
Nice! I love experiments like that – congrats on making it happen, PSW!