What is Financial Independence?

I am part of a growing movement of people looking for a way out of the rat race. The movement is called FIRE: Financial Independence, Retire Early. The blogosphere is growing with people embracing the movement, and I at first felt like I had little to add to this space. After all, Gwen of fiery millennials is another 20-something writing about her pursuit of FIRE, and there is also FIREcracker and Wanderer over on Millennial Revolution who are living the dream of global arbitrage after retiring at 31.

Luckily, personal finance is personal. We each have our own unique experience with money, and I’m hoping to track my progress to FI through this blog, and share my journey along the way. Because it’s more than just the money.

It’s self-reliance

It’s living a richer life with less

It’s ingenuity

It’s facing fear


People may think someone is a slave to money because they limit their expensive purchases, but that’s not true. Money can buy you freedom. That’s what Financial Independence is all about. Build the life you want to live, and save for it.

I hear from a lot of my friends, “But I’m living my best life right now, while I’m in my prime.” This is a fair statement– but I challenge them to examine the assumptions they are making. For one thing, life doesn’t end at thirty, or forty, or fifty, or sixty, or onwards for that matter. For another, you can still build your best life without spending loads of money. In fact, the challenge in financial independence is to build such a content life and maintainable lifestyle that if you won the lottery, your life would not change at all.

I don’t think saving or living frugally is a deprivation. Yes, sometimes it takes self-control. It means carefully choosing your priorities and perhaps driving a beater in order to have a fridge stocked with craft brews. As Paula Pant says, “you can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything.” Sometimes it means resisting the social pressure of your peers to spend more. It means deciding what your priorities are and putting your money towards those things.

If your priority is living your best life in your twenties, like I said, this is personal finance. That is your choice to make. Blow your hard-earned paycheck on daily cold brew, a nice new car, and lunch out every day at work. However, make sure it is an active decision rather than a passive one. It’s so easy to live in the now and scary to think about the future, let alone try to figure out going through the process of opening a brokerage account. Don’t let inactivity decide your future.

A note on FIRE– it ends with “retire early” and there is some contention about what that means. I think more of the emphasis should go towards the independence aspect, since that means you can choose what to do with your life with money out of the equation. This means you can work however much you want, on whatever you want. Yes, work. In retirement. Crazy I know. Part of the FIRE movement is redefining what retirement means since the traditional picture is a condo in Florida playing golf every day.

I have a mechanical engineering degree and am a software engineer by trade, but what would I do if I was completely financially independent? I would wake up in the morning with no alarm, make a coffee and read on the porch. After whipping up breakfast, I’d head out to the local river and go kayaking, bringing a picnic and a notepad. I would work on writing a book, probably a dystopian novel.

Yes, this dream life is built on real-life events

When I hit my word count, I’d take a nap, then paddle back home, where I have a mess of a workshop set up from the day before when I started to handcraft a wooden desk for my study. In the afternoon I might fire up my computer and work on my personal coding project until I feel like it’s time to stretch my legs again. Oh, and tomorrow I’m hopping on a flight to Norway because I heard Bergen is pretty cool and if I head up North I might be able to cross ‘seeing the northern lights’ off of my bucket list.

It’s a dream right now, but it’s perfectly achievable.

What’s the life you want to live?

Let me know in the comments below!

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