The new Buzz Term is “Financial Independence” prompting people to evaluate their plans for retirement. There are plenty of people who want to retire early by saving a bunch of money and then just living out the rest of their lives how they see fit. As I am on this journey I had to stop and ask… Do I want to work less or retire? Where does Financial Independence play a part?
So far what I’ve seen and read about the whole FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement has been talks of Millennials working to save money, deciding to stop working, and just… live. Then you have the older generation who think they are crazy, running numbers, saying it won’t last, they are missing the point, etc. Personally, I don’t think anyone is wrong. They just have different approaches to how they will manage the rest of their time on earth.
Let’s unpack this.
The average American will work from their teens all the way to their 50+ years. At some point they are faced with a choice of continuing to work or retire if they can. This has been the life schedule set by society from generational guidance to the educational system. Let’s get clear on what retirement means
The action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.
Nothing complex here. The problem is most of us will continue to work even after retirement. Some will have to do it because either the money saved ran out, lifestyle changes, increase in living expenses, they got bored, etc. Then we just get “busy”.
By working hard up front to save money and retire early when you’ve reached a specific amount is what the FIRE movement is all about. The problem is trying to estimate how much money is needed to live out the rest of your life. Plenty of people have done some excellent analysis on numbers but no one truly knows how much it will take. We just have strong ideas.
Work Less and Invest
Let’s talk about the approach of working less and invest. I see Financial Independence differently from what I’ve been reading. My thoughts are to work hard, invest, and then live off your investments. That is Financial Independence in my mind. I’m not talking about “saving for retirement” because I think that is a recipe for false hopes. Once you retire with healthy savings, the rest of your time is spent on managing your lifestyle around the dollar.
Retirement doesn’t mean you do nothing. Every retired person I know fills their days with some other time-consuming activity they have committed too. Both of my parents are retired. My mom tells me she feels busier now then when she was working. Well, that doesn’t sound right. Pops on the other hand “retired early”, ended up investing and managing his investments while “retired”. Neither of them has to work for money, they just find themselves doing something OTHER than what they retired from.
After witnessing this, I came to realize that in order for me to retire early and STAY retired, I need to invest. Not only invest but to create a system to automate my investments. This will allow me to work less and not worry about managing savings in the traditional sense. Remember the goal here is to “live” as in, maximize my time. The less time I spend working, the more time I can travel, spend quality time with my parents, raise a family and stay consistently active in their lives during “work hours”.
What Should I Invest In?
It should be clear by now that I am all about investing time and money. These things are essential if you want to retire at any point regardless of your age. Investing isn’t exclusive to money. There should be a range of investments made in your lifetime and they should be consistent. Let’s talk about a few.
Invest In Yourself (education)
The best investment a person can ever make is in themselves or someone else. Investing in your education, skills, happiness, etc. should be a lifelong activity. No matter what age, language, culture, skin color, religious background, etc. a person should always invest in something, especially yourself.
If you’re not spending 5 hours per week learning, you’re being irresponsible – Bill Gates
When it comes to financial independence, consistently learning is key to maximizing your time and your investments. I’m not saying you need to be super professional with all kinds of college degrees and all that. I’m saying you should keep expanding your view of the world and stay open. It will keep your life exciting and full of purpose.
Invest In Assets
My favorite asset is real estate and stocks/business that pays monthly, quarterly and/or annual dividends. What I like about these is that if they are set up right, it will require little work to keep it rolling. This is what I mean when I say “work less”. How awesome would it be to only have to check in every so often to see how things are going? Having an automated system of gathering returns on investments and managing risk is definitely an advantage to those who want to work less and retire.
Benefits of such a system will extend beyond your current lifespan too! Your children and or spouse can inherit this system and it will run with minimal involvement. Additionally, it can last you through your later years without the stress of having to change your lifestyle because your savings are running low. Certain assets will appreciate and have a better chance of sustaining pending changes in society like inflation. Most importantly, anyone can be taught how to manage your system in case you are unable to for any reason.
Save your money and invest wisely. If saving cash is a bit of a challenge, then invest in yourself so you can make better adjustments to earn and save more. Again, investing in real estate is my favorite avenue. A really GREAT resource is BiggerPockets.com. I’ve learned a lot there. Gaining extra income through stock trading is not bad either. So what do you want to do? Retire or simply work less?