My Thoughts on FI…
There are a lot of financial independence/retire early (FI/RE) blogs out there. There are even more personal finance blogs. Although there are fewer Canadian ones, what I think are the most interesting ones are personal journeys to reach FI. Is it cliche to say that it’s about more than money? Rather, it’s about changing your life. There has been a movement, albeit a small one, toward minimalism and away from consumerism. This all ties into financial independence because when you spend less than you earn, and invest the difference, that is how you get on your merry way to FI.
When I was in university, one of the first things that my finance professor said to us was, simply put, “compound interest”. This is also what Warren Buffet believes in. A few years later, I came across Mr. Money Mustache and it all clicked. Invest 25x your annual expenses into ETFs and you’re FI. But putting it into practice was another story. Live by these tenets: spend less than you earn, time in the market will always beat timing the market, and continuously educate yourself. There is no lazy way to earn money, everything has a cost – usually, it’s your time.
Many FI bloggers I’ve seen are high salary earners. Many of them worked in big tech. Many of them American. House hackers, living for free. I’m fortunate to not be considered low income, but I definitely am not in the top snack bracket by any means, and in Canada we pay a heck of a lot more in taxes, and in the larger metropolitan areas, real estate is certainly not cheap. Now maybe I’m just making excuses for myself, but I strongly believe in moderation. I choose not to squirrel away 80% of my take-home pay because then I would be living in a sunless basement apartment and eating beans and rice every day. Is it possible to have nice things and also work towards FI? That’s the question that I want to answer. Personal finance is exactly that – personal. It’s your money, so do whatever you want with it. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow so you might as well enjoy today – within reason.
I know of so many people who have worked so hard for so many years and then haven’t had a chance to enjoy it. And then there are the people who have achieved FI and are living their best life. There are also people who have reached FI and have fallen into a depression because their life lacks meaning. Everything is a spectrum. Balance and moderation are key. Don’t deprive yourself, but it’s important to remember not to spend beyond your means. But can this moderate lifestyle attain FI? I guess we’ll see.