Reaching financial independence is like the holy grail of financial goals. After all, the ability to no longer need to work for money to live on is incredibly enticing.
Just imagine what you could do with that newfound freedom!
But the path to financial independence (or FI for short) is usually not glamorous. It requires hard work and dedication to make steady progress towards your ultimate goal of FI. But there are some strategies that can help you achieve your goal of financial independence.
Let’s take a look at these expert tips from people who have actually reached FI, or are seriously dedicated to the path of achieving it. You might find a tip that helps to transform your financial trajectory.
1. Identify your “FI number”
Financial independence happens once you have enough money saved and invested to never need to work another day in your life. Although you might decide to work at a job you love, there is great freedom in knowing that you’ll never have to work another day in your life.
A big part of the financial independence journey is determining just how much money you’ll actually need to make this dream a reality. That number is your FI number, the goal that you should strive for when you decide to seriously pursue FI.
Although there are a few different schools of thought about how to calculate your FI number, this general rule of thumb is a great place to start:
Your annual expenses x 25 = your FI number
Personally, I am at the beginning of my journey to FIRE (Financial independence/retire early). I’m only a small part of the way to achieving the FI number that I have in mind.
But having mine in mind has helped me stay motivated to save extra diligently. I highly recommend nailing down what your FI number is, too. You might be surprised by how much having a concrete goal in mind keeps you focused on the savings goal — at least that has helped me so far!
2. Pay down debts that stand in your way
Net worth is a big part of achieving financial independence. When you check out your net worth, the debts you have will drag this number down.
“After almost a decade of post-secondary studies, paying off student debts was painful, but I stayed the course and paid as aggressively as I could to get rid of my debts as quickly as possible.”
Alyor says the key to his success with debt repayment was to make a written repayment plan. Additionally, he regularly checked in with his shrinking loan balances to stay motivated along the way. He expands,
“If you’re finding it tough to make as much progress as you’d like, it’s time to look for a side hustle to increase your income earning potential and drop your debt even faster.”
3. Avoid lifestyle inflation
Lifestyle inflation is easy to justify. After all, shouldn’t you take advantage of the best that your paycheck can buy as it increases? If you are trying to achieve financial independence, then saying no to lifestyle inflation is critical.
James Diel, CEO of Textel, achieved FI several years ago. Diel says:
“Saying no to keeping up with the Jones’ helped me stick to a moderate budget that included saving 30% of my monthly income toward retirement and avoiding unnecessary big purchases that get in the way of saving.”
He recommends putting this into practice by:
“making some smart money moves early on in your career and keeping your budget low without severely depriving yourself of the things you want helps you maximize your investment profits, so you can save less now and still end up with an ample nest egg.”
4. Prioritize savings
Saving for a big goal is easier said than done. This is especially true when life throws expenses your way.
But it is possible to boost your savings by making those savings a priority. Or in other words, making it a point to pay yourself first.
Minesh Patel, CEO of the Patel Firm, is so close to FI that he hopes to achieve this big goal within the year. But when he was just starting his journey to FI, he says,
“The most critical way I could save for financial freedom, even as a young graduate with a tight budget, was to pay myself first.”
Paying yourself first sounds like a great idea. But what does it actually look like in practice? For Patel, the journey began by automatically investing some of his earnings into retirement savings every month. With that, he knew that savings weren’t being compromised. Patel says:
“Somehow, being aggressive with savings up-front and seeing less in your checking account during the month makes you feel like you don’t have the money to spend frivolously.”
5. Spend on what matters to you
“Every dollar you spend is a dollar that you’ll never get back.”
She encourages those on the path to FI to consider every purchase as a choice to exchange time being FI in the future so that you can have that item now. She says:
“That perspective helped me adopt a minimalist lifestyle and reduced my consumerism greatly. I really didn’t need another pair of jeans when there was nothing wrong with all of the others in my closet.”
Before you make a purchase, make sure that the item is worth it to you. You’ll have to decide for yourself what is ‘worth it.’ But taking the time to think through your purchases could lead to a decrease in spending.
6. Boost your income
The savings you create must come from the difference between your spending and your investing. Unfortunately, frugality will only get you so far.
At some point, you may need to look at the other side of the equation and boost your income to increase your savings.
“We’ve primarily raised our income by earning promotions in our traditional job. At the same time, we both have some small side hustles that we have used to help pay off our mortgage more rapidly.”
7. Take care of yourself along the way
It is easy to let your determination to achieve FI push you beyond your limits. But pushing yourself too hard could lead to premature burnout.
“Understanding your limitations and being okay with admitting weakness will only benefit you in your journey of learning. Taking care of your mental health is essential when working toward FI because if you are struggling, your work will struggle.”
Take whatever actions you need to take care of yourself along the way. Remember, it is absolutely okay to slow down on your journey. Don’t push yourself beyond a healthy limit.
8. Invest for the future
“The idea of financial independence can easily turn on its head if you follow it blindly. For most people, the most intuitive way to start is by scrimping and saving as much as they possibly can – some even manage to set aside half of their earnings every month!”
But simply saving won’t supercharge your path to financial independence. Garcia expands:
“If you want an efficient FI strategy, you need to complement your saving efforts with investment. In other words, for every penny you save, it’s good to invest another penny so that it could eventually turn into two pennies.”
For Garcia, this concept is what he calls:
“having your cake and nibbling at it, too. It’s only possible and viable if the cake is growing at a sufficient rate that your nibbling will never cause it to disappear.”
9. Don’t try to sprint to the finish line
Financial independence is a major money goal. In most cases, it will take years (or maybe even decades) to achieve.
Anthony from The Investor Handbook wants to remind us that:
“personal finance is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
When you are just getting started, the difference might not be noticeable. But over time, you’ll see real progress.
As you approach your journey to financial independence, Anthony recommends thinking about the journey like working out.
“A single session working on your abs won’t give you a flat stomach, but keep at it for ten years, and you’ll definitely be rocking that six-pack.”
Imagine where you could be in ten years by choosing to make progress towards your FI goals with every paycheck. The commitment to FI could transform your life through small efforts over time.
10. Focus on your own journey
Throughout every facet of our lives, it is easy to get caught up in comparisons. That holds true for personal finances, as well.
Kara Metcalf (waiting on link) recommends focusing on your own journey. She says:
“If you compare your life to your friends, family, or coworkers, you’ll usually feel deprived or lacking because you will be saving money rather than going on extravagant vacations, buying a new wardrobe each season, or eating out every day.”
For Kara, she also says that:
“In my 20s, I hated eating my packed lunch every day while my coworkers were going out to lunch. But in my 40s, those friends still get up before the sun rises every day to commute to full-time, oftentimes soul-sucking jobs. I wake up naturally (without an alarm) and spend my days exploring beautiful new places every day.”
Remember that everyone’s journey is different. Make it a priority to focus on your own goals, and stop comparing your life to others.
The path to financial independence will look different for everyone. As you navigate the journey, tailor your spending patterns to strike a balance between your current needs and your future desires.
What steps are you taking to achieve financial independence? Let us know in the comments!