Today’s “Debt Free” is Tomorrow’s “Retirement”

I’ve always tried to be smart with my money. I followed all the traditional advice and the “rules” around saving for retirement. Including the, 50/30/20 rule, which encourages saving 20% of your income towards your retirement.

With my parent’s encouragement, I started contributing to my company’s retirement account and quickly increased my contribution to the maximum allowed. And then I put my savings on automatic pilot.

It seemed like I was making the right moves for a good retirement later. But, could I be doing more?

Retirement Savings and the Journey to FI

To be honest, I spent the next few years not really giving retirement much thought. But then came the recession. And the voluntary layoffs. And eventually the involuntary ones.

The discussions about early retirement became more and more prevalent. Many of my co-workers began volunteering to be part of the voluntary layoffs. They had been working towards early retirement, at the age of 55, anyway. So, here I was, a relatively young professional seeing the advantages of financial independence. It sounded amazing to me, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it a reality in my life.

Then, I discovered the FIRE movement. I was instantly intrigued. Traveling the world has always been a dream of mine. It seemed like an impossibility though. A “too good to be true” fairytale.

How to Retire Early: A Complete Guide

Recently, I read an article focused on explaining how someone could “retire early”. At first, the article seemed to be genuinely trying to explain how one could “retire” early. Starting with identifying how much money you spend yearly and then calculating the total amount you will need for the rest of your life.

Then came the fatal line. “No matter what you earn, you will need to save a lot if you want to retire early”.

In the view of traditional retirement, this is true. But what if something else is more important?

What if financial independence was the important bit? The part always seems to be viewed as a mechanism to get to “early” retirement.

Debt Free is Tomorrow’s Retirement.

The Financial Independence movement is so much more than “Retire Early”. In fact, I would argue that financial independence is the whole point.

The opportunities of life are vast if we aren’t living with the pressures of a house that we can’t afford or working at a job that we don’t enjoy or having strangers raise our children.

What possibilities exist if we all bought a house that we then paid off as quickly as possible? Maybe you could live off one income? Maybe you could work part-time? Maybe you could start a business or perhaps travel more?

What possibilities exist if we saved, not just for an emergency, but for our future life? What options would you have in your career? Maybe take a job that interests you, but maybe pays less. Or maybe you could risk moving into a adjacent industry because you have the money to support your family if something didn’t work out.

I challenge you to think about what it would be like to live a life debt free. What if you worked because you enjoyed it, not because you needed the money?

I think this is the real lesson of the FIRE movement.

Gain financial independence so that you can live like you retired early.

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