If you’ve been following Our Rich Journey, you know that Amon and I have achieved our decade-long goal of becoming financially independent and retiring early. But, we didn’t just stumble into this achievement. No, to get where we are today, we had to take real, actionable steps. Interested in pursuing financial independence . . . and actually reaching it? Here are nine things that we did . . . and that you should do, too:
1. Establish the Proper Mindset
When you first come up with your FIRE number, you may become overwhelmed and discouraged by just how large of a number it is. But when you believe that you can achieve financial independence, you see that number as a challenge to be overcome. Easier said than done, right?
Ok, so how do you actually adopt a positive mindset if you’re not already a naturally positive person? What I recommend is to start by making a list of all the struggles and challenges that are facing you. As you make this list, start thinking of solutions for each obstacle that you face. You don’t even have to come up with these solutions yourselves- there is an entire FIRE community out there that has had those same challenges! There are people out there who have had lower incomes, families, or other challenges and have already succeeded in overcoming them. Find these people and gain inspiration from them! If there is a will, there is a way to get this done!
2. Create a “Pay Yourself First” Budget
The next thing we did was create a budget where we listed and tracked all of our expenses. I know, I know you may hate budgeting, but I’m going to be 100 percent real with you right now: You need to get over it. Budgeting is non-negotiable. You cannot achieve financial independence without a budget because it is a vital part of the planning process. Establishing a budget helps you identify areas to save and also helps you determine your FIRE number.
Most importantly though, we structured our budget around paying ourselves first. What I mean by this is that we made sure to invest our money first, before we started spending our money on other discretionary expenses. We treated investing like any other bill: It had to get paid every month, no matter what.
When we created our budget, we not only prioritized investments, but we prioritized specifically the investments that would support us in early retirement. The investments that are catered towards early retirement are much different than investments you’d make if you’re aiming for traditional retirement. Understand the differences and make your investment decisions accordingly.
3. Calculate your FIRE Number
Your FIRE number refers to the amount of money you’d need in investments to sustain yourself during retirement. Calculating your FIRE number is a very powerful exercise. Even if you don’t want to retire early, you should still determine what your FIRE number is because this number signifies your FREEDOM. Once you reach this number, you should literally never have to work again!
You calculate your FIRE number by taking your ESTIMATED EXPENSES IN RETIREMENT and multiplying them by 25 to come up with the amount of money you’d need in a stock portfolio to reach FIRE.
If you’re investing in real estate, you simply need to ensure that your expenses are equal to or less than the profits you’d generate from your property. Be careful not to overestimate when calculating your real estate income though. People often fail to account for vacancy rates, maintenance fees, property management fees, HOA, and taxes (just to name a few!).
4. Create an Incremental FIRE Plan
By creating an incremental FIRE plan and tracking that plan, you’re making your overall goal more achievable. Personally, we broke down our FIRE journey into 10 stages and we loved going through them. The stages weren’t so far apart that we became disillusioned by the distance, and when we hit a stage, we celebrated! We were able to visualize the next step more easily and in doing so gained confidence in ourselves. The incremental FIRE plan helped us get into the right mindset and really BELIEVE that we could do it!
5. Cut Expenses
This is where you finally get to put the plan into action. Look at your budget and identify where you can save money. Amon and I started with the biggest expenses first. For us, that was housing. We were able to live rent-free by house hacking and having our employer pay for our housing. Next was transportation. We solid our fancy car and replaced it with an $800 beater. These changes ended up saving us so much money!
If this looks overwhelming to you, don’t panic. Just focus on getting 1% better. If you can challenge yourself to just save 1% of your budget every month, by the end of the year you’ll have cut 12% off of your budget and be that much closer to financial independence.
6. Make More Money
There is only so much you can cut, which is why you really need to figure out ways to increase your income, especially if you work a lower or medium-income job. Amon and I started working numerous side-hustles in addition to our jobs as government employees. We did everything from driving Uber to retail arbitrage to AirBnB, and anything we could sell, we sold!
Remember, you may be stuck with a stagnant salary, but your salary is not the only way you can make money! You just have to be creative and prioritize making more money.
7. Become Financially Literate
We continued to learn throughout our entire FIRE journey. It is so important to become financially literate because after you make all this money, you have to understand what to actually DO with it. You need to teach yourself to be self-sufficient and not rely on others when it comes to finances. You can’t rely on others for the rest of your life, nor should you. Financial advisors will suck you dry with their fees, and you should never just blindly trust others with your money.
Trust me, you WILL be able to pick up these skills as you go. If you can figure out how to open a Netflix account, then you can do the same for a brokerage account! All you need to do is pick up a book, research the topics online, and watch a YouTube video. Take advantage of all the resources out there!
You can not achieve financial independence without investing. Your money needs to work harder than you, and it needs to keep working even after you stop. Putting your money to work is KEY to financial independence. Take time to research and determine what you want to invest in (a business, the stock market, real estate, etc.), and then take all that money that you're making and invest it as soon as you can!
9. Surround Yourself with Positive People I totally understand that you may not always be able to choose the people who are involved in your life. But when dealing with negative people, just understand that they are usually coming from a place of insecurity, fear, and unhappiness. This is YOUR journey! Don’t let your journey be dictated by the negativity of others!
So these are the nine things that Amon and I did to achieve financial independence and retire early. I hope that you’re feeling inspired because now . . . it’s time for you to begin taking steps towards FIRE!
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