Mindful Money: Financial Independence
How can I become more Mindful of Money?
For many people managing their money and finances can cause a lot of stress. As we grow into a more MIndful and conscious way of living, we can focus with intention on this stress and choose to see this current problem through a new lens and perspective. For me this came via the FIRE movement (Financial Independence Retire Early).
I've read some people mention that when they found the FIRE movement, it was like waking up from the Matrix. I had the same experience! The lure of the online sales lost so much of their pull for me. Why? Because I was now awake and aware. I didn't want to spend my money “buying things I don't need to impress people I don't like.”
After understanding the FIRE movement, I'm better able to stay focused. I'm also aware and mindful of my intention and values: To spend as much time with my husband and kids doing the things we love.
by FI Monkey www.choosefi.com
What is Financial Independence?
Simply put, the goal of the FI movement is to save 25 times your annual expenses. It is thought that once you have this amount saved you can begin withdrawing enough from your investment accounts to cover your expenses. At this point you would be considered “financially independent.” and no longer need to work for money. Your time is your own.
FIRE: Financial Independence Retire Early
I have become very excited by a movement called FIRE, which stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. The more I started learning about this movement, the more I felt it fitted with my own beliefs and values, seeking to live in a more Mindful and Conscious way. FIRE is about learning how to manage my own money and working out where my own priorities lie, so that I can gain some freedom to make choices that are more in alignment with the kind of life I want to live today and in the future.
The more I researched and learned of this community of people, the more I discovered this was not about people wanting to have money to live the life of the 'rich and famous'. Instead FIRE is more of a mind set about consciously living so you can afford the freedom to choose how you live. I began to see the FIRE mindset leaves behind the traditional mindset that most of us grew up with (do well in school, go to university, get a respectable job/career and work hard until you retire at 65). It offers a different path to the one well-trodden by many of our parents and grandparents.
As I entered this community I began meeting people who were FI in their 30's. Some who had retired already and were following their lives dreams and passion projects, and others who were still working because they wanted to and not because they had to. One thing that became very clear to me was that they were humble people, and keen to share their message about FI with others to enable them to live this conscious way too.
I believe the above question is a great one to ask yourself, and a necessary exercise to begin with on a journey towards financial independence. Is this something you would want? What are your fears, and doubts? These are great questions to explore as you learn more about how to become FI.
Is it possible for me to become Financially Independent?
YES, it is possible for me, and for you too. It really requires quite a simple formula.
As JL Collins states in The Simple Path to Wealth, "spend less than you earn, invest the surplus and avoid debt". He also goes on to say, "the greater the percent of your income you save and invest, the sooner you will become financially independent".
So, given this formula we need to save well and invest it wisely and financial independence is possible.
It is not necessary for you to be on a big salary to become FI. This is clearly shown by Andrew Hallam's story which he told is his first book "Millionaire Teacher". Andrew was a school teacher who built a million-dollar portfolio on his teacher's salary. He teaches others how to do it too. Andrew Hallam's most recent book, Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas was the first book I read on this topic and it offers a complete blue print to follow for anyone wanting to hop on board. It was fantastic to read a book written by a high school English teacher as it is written in a way that makes a financial investing book great fun to read! Andrew is also teaching his financial philosophy to high school students, and I believe that learning how to manage your money is a fantastic life skill for high school students to learn!
How can I become Financially Independent?
Those in the hard core FI community say that we need to save a lot more than many of us already are. They say that it is ideal to save at least 50% of your current salary. Therefore, in order to achieve this, for most people it becomes necessary to make some serious lifestyle changes and find ways to significantly reduce our living costs.
What if we really did start to scale back our lives today and learn to live in a more 'moderate way'?
Living well below our means, instead of living well beyond it!
The idea is to become far more conscious of what you are spending your money on, and decide if this item, or experience is ultimately necessary. It would require us to live to a budget, and as Andrew Hallam suggests, recording on an app every expense you make. He says this is a huge way of learning how to become more accountable for every cent. We can consider some of the bigger price tags we have such as accommodation and food bills and reduce any unnecessary expenses. This becomes a very personal journey for all.
By living in a more conscious way we can become more aware of what our priorities are. Our mindset is so important at this point. Is it that we feel heavily deprived, or are we feeling lighter, and freer and more in charge? In the FI community, some people do begin to live in a frugal way as they save as much as 60 or even 70% of their salary, but for them, they have a goal in sight, and they will reach their goal faster than someone who is spending more today and saving less. It is entirely up to you.
We are enjoying creating a family life that fits with our dream of raising our child. This impacts on our financial decision today, so I would say our philosophy so far has been, to live within our means, and save for our retirement but also create a life of rich experiences together as well. As we embark on the journey towards becoming FI we are making many more conscious decisions on what we spend our money on today, reducing any unnecessary spending, saving much more than we were and learning how to make the money we save 'work for us' even more than we were. It feels a distant and yet very inciting dream to be able to become financially independent while we are all young enough to enjoy life to the full. But with help from the FI community we are able now to literally calculate when this would be possible for us. How long that will take is fully based on our ability to save as much of our current earnings as possible! To learn how to calculate this for yourself read: The Shockingly Simple Math to Early Retirement by Mr Money Mustache.
So save more equals spend less rather than earn more! The big consideration for me is the word: consumption. What if we all began to consume less? How would this benefit us all? I would say we are more Mindful today of anything we spend money on, and this makes life more freeing, and less restrictive for us, but then again, this is a mindset!
What do I do with my savings?
The first and most important thing to do with your savings is pay off any debt. There is no point in investing money, if you are paying off credit cards. This does not apply to mortgages, but the experts mentioned in the books below will shed more light on this.
Secondly it is necessary to learn how to invest your own money without falling into the trap of giving it to a financial adviser to invest for you. The FI community is full of people with investment stories gone very badly by going with the investments set up for them via financial advisors.
JL Collins states,
Unfortunately, benign neglect of things financial leaves you open to the charlatans of the financial world. The people who make investing endlessly complex, because if it can be made complex it becomes more profitable for them, more expensive for us, and we are forced into their waiting arms. Here's an important truth: Complex investments exist only to profit those who create and sell them. Not only are they costlier to the investor, they are less effective. (The Simple Path to Wealth)
The best place to start would be with Andrew Hallam's book and move through the other three books listed below. These are the books I have read, and they come well recommended in the FI community.
Thirdly you need to have an investment strategy. John Bogle is the founder of The Vanguard Group and created the very first index fund. Since then he has a following of people who invest using his proven philosophy. It is highly recommended you learn how to craft your own investment strategy using the Bogle-proven methods that have worked for thousands of investors. Each of the three recommended books below outlines the blueprint of the Bogle method using index funds.
By investing your money in low fee index funds, you have the potential to earn safe and steady compound interest over time, as you add to your investment. This means that one day, when you are ready to leave your regular income, your investments can become your income. But you have to really learn how to set this up and reading, listening to Podcasts and joining a community of others on the FI journey would be highly recommended.
Join a community of like minded people
I was fortunate enough to be able to join SimplyFI, which is The UAE Local Chapter of the Bogleheads® and ChooseFI . They have meet ups, a great website and Facebook group and I now have a community of people I can go to for support and to learn more as I embark on my own journey towards becoming more conscious in my daily living, and hence more secure financially so I can enjoy the freedom this brings. All of the recommendations I have listed here are ones equally endorsed by the founders of SimplyFI. Look in your area and see if there is a local chapter of the Bogleheads or ChooseFI you could attend as a community is essential.
I will continue to share with you my journey of living in a more conscious way financially and the many benefits that it brings to me and my family.
I find Choose FI's Podcast to be really inspiring and enjoy scrolling through their many episodes to find the one that feels in line with what I'd like to learn more about. I highly recommend it as it is very informative and packed full of great support. This is a great place to feel like you have joined a community.
Start with episodes:
38: The Why of FI
21: The Pillars of FI
What would Financial Independence Bring Me?
I think quite simply for my husband and I FI would bring us balance and
freedom of choice.
Freedom to raise our child in the ways and places we choose
Freedom to enjoy more quality time together
Freedom to travel and explore
Freedom to spend more time with the people we love in the places we love.
Freedom to be able to choose to work if we wanted to and not if we didn't
Freedom to focus on some of the many passions and dreams we both have.
Freedom from the fear of ‘not having enough’
Freedom from the fear of ‘what if….’
Freedom from the conventional 9 – 5 way of living!
Freedom to follow up on our own passion projects, helping others and our planet.
Recommended Books to help you reach Financial Independence
The following list of books all live on my bookshelf (some on my kindle). These books are the ones that I have personally read on my new venture into the FI world. I recommended you read them in the order I have listed them here. Each is well written, and literally gives you the blueprint for how to get started and what to do. I wish you all the best on your own journey.
Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas
by Andrew Hallam
Build your strongest-ever portfolio from anywhere in the world
Millionaire Expat is a handbook for smart investing, saving for retirement, and building wealth while overseas. As a follow-up to The Global Expatriate's Guide to Investing, this book provides savvy investment advice for everyone—no matter where you're from—to help you achieve your financial goals. Whether you're looking for safety, strong growth, or a mix of both, index funds are the answer. Low-risk and reliable, these are the investments you won't hear about from most advisors. Most advisors would rather earn whopping commissions than follow sound financial principles, but Warren Buffett and Nobel Prize winners agree that index funds are the best way to achieve market success—so who are you ready to trust with your financial future?
If you want a better advisor, this book will show you how to find one; if you'd rather go it alone, this book gives you index fund strategies to help you invest in the best products for you.
Learn how to invest for both safety and strong returns
Discover just how much retirement will actually cost, and how much you should be saving every month
Find out where to find a trustworthy advisor—or go it alone
Take advantage of your offshore status to invest successfully and profitably
Author Andrew Hallam was a high school teacher who built a million-dollar portfolio—on a teacher's salary. He knows how everyday people can achieve success in the market. In Millionaire Expat, he tailors his best advice to the unique needs of those living overseas to give you the targeted, real-world guidance you need.
The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life by J L Collins, Mr. Money Mustache (Foreword)
Since money is the single most powerful tool we have for navigating this complex world we’ve created, understanding it is critical.
“But Dad,” she once said, “I know money is important. I just don’t want to spend my life thinking about it.” This was eye-opening. I love this stuff. But most people have better things to do with their precious time. Bridges to build, diseases to cure, treaties to negotiate, mountains to climb, technologies to create, children to teach, businesses to run.
Unfortunately, benign neglect of things financial leaves you open to the charlatans of the financial world. The people who make investing endlessly complex, because if it can be made complex it becomes more profitable for them, more expensive for us, and we are forced into their waiting arms.
Here’s an important truth: Complex investments exist only to profit those who create and sell them. Not only are they more costly to the investor, they are less effective.
The simple approach I created for her and present now to you, is not only easy to understand and implement, it is more powerful than any other.
Together we’ll explore:
Debt: Why you must avoid it and what to do if you have it.
The importance of having F-you Money.
How to think about money, and the unique way understanding this is key to building your wealth.
Where traditional investing advice goes wrong and what actually works.
What the stock market really is and how it really works.
Why the stock market always goes up and why most people still lose money investing in it.
How to invest in a raging bull, or bear, market.
Specific investments to implement these strategies.
The Wealth Building and Wealth Preservation phases of your investing life and why they are not always tied to your age.
How your asset allocation is tied to those phases and how to choose it.
How to simplify the sometimes confusing world of 401(k), 403(b), TSP, IRA and Roth accounts.
TRFs (Target Retirement Funds), HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) and RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions).
What investment firm to use and why the one I recommend is so far superior to the competition.
Why you should be very cautious when engaging an investment advisor and whether you need to at all.
Why and how you can be conned, and how to avoid becoming prey.
Why I don’t recommend dollar cost averaging.
What financial independence looks like and how to have your money support you.
What the 4% rule is and how to use it to safely spend your wealth.
by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer , Michael LeBoeuf, John C. Bogle (Foreword)
The Boglehead's Guide to Investing is a DIY handbook that espouses the sage investment wisdom of John C. Bogle. This witty and wonderful book offers contrarian advice that provides the first step on the road to investment success, illustrating how relying on typical "common sense" promoted by Wall Street is destined to leave you poorer. This updated edition includes new information on backdoor Roth IRAs and ETFs as mainstream buy and hold investments, estate taxes and gifting, plus changes to the laws regarding Traditional and Roth IRAs, and 401k and 403b retirement plans. With warnings and principles both precisely accurate and grandly counterintuitive, the Boglehead authors show how beating the market is a zero-sum game.
Investing can be simple, but it's certainly not simplistic. Over the course of twenty years, the followers of John C. Bogle have evolved from a loose association of investors to a major force with the largest and most active non-commercial financial forum on the Internet. The Boglehead's Guide to Investing brings that communication to you with comprehensive guidance to the investment prowess on display at Bogleheads.org. You'll learn how to craft your own investment strategy using the Bogle-proven methods that have worked for thousands of investors, and how to:
Choose a sound financial lifestyle and diversify your portfolio
Start early, invest regularly, and know what you're buying
Preserve your buying power, keeping costs and taxes low
Throw out the "good" advice promoted by Wall Street that leads to investment failure
Financial markets are essentially closed systems in which one's gain garners another's loss. Investors looking for a roadmap to successfully navigating these choppy waters long-term will find expert guidance, sound advice, and a little irreverent humor in The Boglehead's Guide to Investing.