Finances

The title just grabs you, doesn’t it? Finances, what could be more exciting! Seriously though, in this post I’ll discuss how I’ve put the cubicle (and full-time work) behind me, am traveling the world and living the life I want.

There’s a strategy, of course. But sometimes I feel that people think that I’m (magically) independently wealthy or have a fairy godmother.

Here’s the truth – I’ve worked really hard, saved money and made some tough decisions. I’ve devised a budget; I’ve created a strategy with multiple fallback plans; I’ve prioritized what’s most important to me – and I’ve let the rest go.

The most important thing in the world to me is freedom – from the cubicle, from endless (pointless) meetings, from “presence = productivity”; to travel, to live in new places, to create a day in my vision. This requires a strategy, a budget, some courage and a willingness to make sacrifices.

The strategy begins with savings. I had been putting money away for years into separate accounts. I named them different things. One was “house”; one was for “car”; one was for “travel” and one for “emergency”. Putting them in different categories encouraged me to save, even if I did not know exactly what I wanted to do with the money yet.

I have no debt. I do not own a home, have student loans, a car payment. I do not have a spouse, children or pets. I pay my credit cards in full every month and I paid cash for my snazzy 2013 Honda Fit. (picture below)

The strategy continues with income (passive and active). What do I mean by that? Passive income automatically occurs, without me having to do anything. I have some savings, neatly tucked away in an Index Fund. The interest, dividends and capital gains generate a bit more income. I have a small VA disability compensation. This establishes a good passive income base for me each month.

From there, I generate a bit of active income (an active role from me required). I have a part-time job (20-25 hours/week) working for a tax company online. It’s a great job – I can work from anywhere, any time of day. Because the entire company is online, the culture is online. There is no thought that “presence equals productivity”. I was amazed at how easy it was to see how hard people work, and how productive people are, entirely through an online medium. The pay is not much, especially by American standards. But the flexibility allowed (both by part-time work, and online work) balances out the lower monetary pay.

Next, I have my budget. I live frugally, keeping my bills as low as possible. I have no apartment. I gave away most things in a massive, multi-week minimizing process, three years ago. I am left only with what fits in a 5′ x 5′ storage unit and my car. I live mostly in Airbnbs, which I have found to be an amazing way to travel! I live locally, cheaply and always have access to a kitchen.

Freedom, mobility, health and adventure are my priorities. No more fancy vacations, adventure races or even a gym membership – they are infeasible with this lifestyle. Instead, I run on the beach. I do bodyweight exercises and walk or take public transport. Eating out, trips to the movies and evenings out drinking with friends are a luxury. Instead, I cook at home. I drink at home, too! I switched to a mostly plant-based diet a few years ago, exclusively for health reasons. For those who do not know, my mom had a triple bypass at 60, and died three years later of pancreatic cancer. Both heart disease and cancer are rampant – on both sides of my family. So I try to keep myself as functionally healthy as possible. Side benefit – for me, a plant-based diet is also cheaper! This leaves plenty of money in the budget for wine and other necessities.

This may feel extreme to a lot of people. It does require flexibility and an open mind. It requires a lot of time living out of a suitcase (as I have not settled down anywhere permanently yet). It requires a lot of planning, and a willingness to accept life as it comes. Sometimes I get lost in a new city. Sometimes I take a dance class, but miss my gym membership. Sometimes I go out to dinner with friends, but skip the social yoga class for a home yoga routine. I often bring a mini-kitchen with me when I travel. This includes knives, cutting board, garlic grater, measuring cups, collapsible tupperware, even spices and a wine opener! I have learned the hard way that I cannot always expect a fully stocked kitchen. (Read about my adventure in Concepción to see how valuable my mini-kitchen can be!)

This comes to me easily, by remembering what’s most important to me. As I think further, I remember that my relationships are the most important thing in the world to me. Freedom, mobility and adventure are second. The aspect that I absolutely love about this lifestyle is that I get to see all of my family and friends far more often. I’m able to travel when and where I want, for however long I want to. I find joy in this freedom. I love knowing that I can be there if and when someone I love needs me. I love knowing that I can visit people, and that I don’t have to be rushed anymore.

The freedom I have found in financial independence makes all the hard work, all the saving and scrimping, and all the small sacrifices I continue to make, 100% worth it. I’m 41 years old, and living the life I have wanted to live for a long time. It’s exciting to begin this adventure as we embark into a new year and new decade. I hope you found this post helpful and insightful, and if you have questions, please let me know!

My friend David (tagged in the FB post!) introduced me to the Financial Independence movement. I had already been on the path to FI. He simply recognized a kindred spirit, and helped me to put the finishing touches on the strategy you just read about. He introduced me to the 4% rule, and showed me that I already had achieved financial independence based on my expected budget. His calculations encouraged me to do this. So thank you to David for his help!

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