The Unpopularity of Financial Independence

I don’t have any friends who are interested in financial independence. A few friends have encountered Mr. Money Mustache’s blog through the course of their financial searches, but I don’t know anybody else personally who is pursuing FI.

Largely, I don’t think anybody knows it is an option. I certainly didn’t. I once had the off thought that it might be possible to earn my income through investments, but the sheer size of the required money intimidated me, and I basically gave it up as unrealistic. Now I know it is very realistic.

Just yesterday some friends at church (good people, I might add), were laughing at how a friend had gotten a high-paying engineering job in the midwest, rented a 2-bedroom 2-bath apartment for $500-600/month, and was putting 35% of their earnings into retirement, with an employer match of 10%. In speaking about this person, one friend laughed and said, “Does he want to get married anytime soon?” All I could think of was how his friend could do even better if he downsized to a 1-bedroom 1-bath apartment and invested even more!

My first paycheck came in today with the changes I made for health insurance, which saves me a decent amount of money. This inspired me to put 2% in my roth 401k on top of the 30% I’m putting in the traditional 401k. You know, tax diversification.

It’s very popular if you are in your 20s to travel, and it kind of kills me thinking how fast I could save up for travel if I weren’t contributing all this, but the power of compounding is real, and I know I will thank myself later. I have left just enough money in my take-home pay to afford my standard budget and still have some left over for the car, for travel / personal development, and cash for giving or investing outside of the retirement accounts. But if I really want to hit my goals, pushing myself to 35% would be ideal. I am planning on getting creative with rent so I could boost this higher, since it is fairly low compared to most others in the FI community. Living alone is a luxury that probably costs me around $600/month. I should write it like that in the budget. Rent is what I would expect to pay if I split a place. That extra $600 should just be a budget item called “personal luxury”. Ouch! That’s a dose of reality I need!

A co-worker once asked me what my plans were for marriage, kind of as a joke in response to my story of pursuing FI. Average women want a large house with all the accoutrements, new cars, etc. They want to see your status. See, though, I want to BE my status, free to pursue what really matters to me in life. Now, when you hang around churches a lot you find more women who want to do missions work and aren’t as concerned about having things. To be fair, I had a really long conversation about all of this with a (rather attractive) girl who received it well a few months ago, but I think most people in the church are still gunning for that middle class life of consumption, as long as the family can dutifully give 10% to the church, of course. It is what is. I’d honestly rather be single than spend my life chasing the American dream. The best you can hope to do with excess possessions is share them, and that’s probably the only smart way to approach that dream: to not over-consume, but to do things like open your house up to others, to make food for them, etc. But that really is a huge can of worms I can’t cover in one post. In all reality though, almost everybody I know will choose “lots of stuff, just shared” as an out for giving up things in general. Honestly, I’m just going to have to let go of this. It seems rather dumb on my part to worry about other people’s decisions.

It’s not popular but it’s definitely my cup of tea. My copy of Jacob Fisker’s “Early Retirement Extreme” arrived today and it’s chock full of great philosophy. I want to volunteer full time overseas, to make those small differences in the world, to experience new cultures, and to be able to do it all without a timeframe stamped on it. That’s what FI means to me. It may not be popular, but I think when my friends see that in action they may think, “Hey, you know maybe that’s wasn’t such a bad option, afterall.” Unfortunately, it may be rather late in their game, so I keep discussing the subject. Let’s make this more popular!