Financial independence is that moment when you have enough invested assets to live the lifestyle you want for the rest of your life. You can choose to continue working or not, but you are no longer dependent on a paycheck to live your lifestyle, or to cover your expenses.
Financial independence is freedom.
You are not chained to a job you dislike, a city or commute with too much traffic, or the sort of weather that doesn’t suit you just to have a job to pay for your life.
When you are financially independent you can pursue your passions – like travel, learning a musical instrument, inventing a product that can benefit humanity, volunteer, hike, bike, write that book, mentor, pursue a spiritual quest or do a myriad of other things on Your List of Life.
Once you are making enough money from your investments to cover your expenses, you can relocate yourself in any number of paradises around the world. You can RV across the continent, house sit around the globe, grow the perfect garden, or learn a new language.
How to get there
We like to call it Creating a Money Machine where your invested money continues to grow ahead of inflation, even though you are drawing from it to cover your expenses.
The best way to understand how much you will need to create this scenario is to figure out how much you are spending today. Not how much you make by working, but how much cash you are putting out to live your lifestyle. Multiply that spending figure by 25. That is your target investment amount.
Assets vs Income
Long before your retirement date it is important to structure your portfolio towards growth as compared to income.
That’s not to say you cannot own income producing investments such as bonds or REITS to balance your portfolio, but ideally, those should be held in tax advantaged accounts such as IRA’s so that the income is not currently taxed.
The rest of your portfolio, depending on your age, should be in low cost growth ETF’s or mutual funds such as VTI, Vanguard Total Market. This way your investments are structured in a more tax efficient manner.
I hear many stories of people well into retirement with annual incomes of 100K or more who have to give a portion of that back to Uncle Sam for income taxes each year. Then they fear inflation eating away at their spending power.
Equity assets will grow outpacing inflation thus keeping your purchasing power intact and you are in control of taking capital gains if and when necessary.
This is important, especially if you are planning on decades of retirement like we did.
The idea is that assets outperform inflation. Income does not.
It was our experience that our expenses dropped significantly once we left the work force. Mind you, we sold our home, invested the proceeds for growth, and decided to travel. Doing this afforded us the opportunity of not maintaining a residence while it sat empty for months or years while the invested proceeds continued to grow. This freed us from property taxes, insurance, and home repairs. We eventually became Car-Free as well, so we no longer had car insurance, repairs and maintenance, fuel costs, or anything else related to supporting a vehicle as well as leaving more money invested in equities.
Financial independence eventually taught us that we needed little to be happy, and we basically became minimalists before it was fashionable.
This style of living may or may not appeal to you, but the point is when you are financially independent, you can create whatever lifestyle best suits you. You are the one in charge of your life and that is very freeing.