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While taking our personal finance onto another level, a few small changes led to larger transformations that both simplified and elevated our lives.

Transformation #1: The Personal Finance Ninja

I’d like to credit this term to Stephanie, from poorerthanyou.com. Becoming a personal finance ninja is exactly how I would describe our transformation. We became more financially literate and developed knowledge and skills that extended beyond basic budgeting and saving money. We learned about the time value of money, various types of investment vehicles and which strategies aligned best with our risk levels and goals. Before long, we learned enough to swiftly create a financial plan for us to reach all our financial goals without needing to commit to decades of mandatory work.

We even helped our parents build their wealth by allocating their hard-earned cash in more appropriate investment vehicles.

Transformation #2: The value-ist

Many people take a long time to realize what is important to them and begin to cut expenses that they realize do not provide them much value. A reason for people to make this shift is due to financial hardship.

I just worked with a 76-year-old patient who was, unfortunately, struggling to pay her bills and realized that she only uses 6 channels on cable and has been paying expensive cable bills for over a decade.

When you have financial goals to meet, you won’t wait until you’re struggling to cut your cable, switch cell-phone providers, refinance your loans, look for alternatives to car insurance.

Transformation #3: The Tax Eliminator

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

You can’t actually eliminate your taxes, but you sure as heck can defer them. As you become more financially literate, you learn how to optimize your taxes and reduce your tax liability. 

One of the first things we did to minimize our tax liability was to put more of our hard-earned dollars in tax-advantaged accounts. In 2018, the year we made almost $20,000 more between the two of us, but our taxable income was actually $4,000 less than the year prior. Not only did we make more money in 2018, but we also kept more of it.

Transformation #4: The Aspiring Minimalist

I first heard this term on the ChooseFI podcast and know that Brad (one of the ChooseFI hosts) understands the struggles of an aspiring minimalist as he may have been the one who coined this term.

The concept goes back to getting rid of services and subscriptions that you no longer find great value in, but it can also apply to the things you have in your home.

Look around you, label those things with dollars. How much did everything cost, how much of it is collecting dust? How much of it would you sell right now if you had the option?

Minimalism is something that is attractive to me. Learning how to detach from things feels pretty freeing. Here’s a great book on minimalism that walks you through the life of someone going through the process.


GOODBYE, THINGS: THE NEW JAPANESE MINIMALISM

I couldn’t get enough of learning about minimalism and needed more content. This was a great addition to my learning. It will be an enjoyable read to guide you towards living a more simple, yet enriching life. Applying principles of minimalism have already given me the benefits of a clearer mind, improved productivity and a sense of liberation.


Transformation #5: The Carefree Couple

It’s really nice that my wife and I hopped on the FI tran at the same time. We’re carefree at heart, so it wasn’t much of a transformation, but it really put us at ease knowing that we’ll be okay.

We know that life isn’t about money, it’s about the connections you make with the people you care about and the impact you make to those who matter to you.

Related: To help align your finances and other goals with your significant other, try the 10 things exercise we got from Scott Ricken’s Playing With Fire Book

Transformation #6: The Somewhat Satisfied Employee

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Satisfied employee almost sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s somewhat true. My work-life balance has improved mostly because I realized that I am not “stuck”. It was enough for me to change my perspective and began doing something about my situation rather than complain about my job or the low earning ceiling of my profession. Complaining less allowed me to find more value in what do on a daily basis. Even more importantly, I am enjoying more of what life has to offer by spending more time with my siblings, writing more, exercising, and of course, laughing with my wife.

Transformation #7: The Master of Delayed Gratification

Working towards financial independence can take a good 5, 10, or 15 + years depending on your strategy. If you think about it, everyone is working towards financial independence if they are planning on retiring at some point. The question is, do you want to do so at 65 or sooner?

Being focused for a long period of time taps the concept of delayed gratification. With it, you can develop the habit of working hard without needing to see any immediate rewards. This practice won’t only help you reach FI, but can keep you motivated in the gym or be more consistent with your diet to achieve your body composition goal.

For me, I was already kind of a master of delayed gratification. What else do you call 7 years of schooling and unpaid internships? After hitting FI, maybe I’ll level up.

Transformation #8: The Multi-income Machine

Aside from learning ways on how to cut your expenses, you will likely find ways to increase your income. This is especially the case if your earning potential is limited in your current position.

You will find that side-hustles are not a new thing for people with financial goals. And financial independence is one heck of a goal. Keep in mind that your side-hustle can be something that will fill you with purpose and give you something to retire to while helping you on the way there.

Transformation #9: The DIY guy or gal

Snapshot of me while replacing the phone battery for my wife

In an attempt to increase the gap between income and expenses, you also learn ways of how to do more DIY around the house. In this time, I learned how to shop for my own car parts to lower my car maintenance costs, I learned how to break open cell phones and replace their batteries, I learned how to create my own whiteboard to brainstorm whenever I get an awesome idea. Lastly, I learned how to install flooring in a property I just bought. 


Overall, creating a financial plan for us to become financially independent in our late 30’s simplified our life and made us happier with our present situation. Our new outlook on life has transformed us into better versions of ourselves.

Related: Here is a deeper dive of our outlook before and after discovering Financial Independence. I call it our Pre-Fi Fog.


Learn More About Financial Independence

Toggle through to learn what Financial Independence (FI) means and the VITAL role it plays in allowing you to live your best life.

Financial independence (FI) is described as when your assets generate enough passive income to pay for your necessary and discretionary expenses without having to be employed or dependent on others.

These assets are usually in the form of stocks, bonds, real estate or other businesses

FI allows you enough financial security where you can retire and have your expenses covered by the income generated by your assets.

If you’re like most people, you are planning to retire or semi-retire at some point in your life, but even if you plan to work for as long as you can, I am sure you would prefer to do so out of enjoyment rather than necessity.

Ultimately, FI allows you to have more options and freedom. It allows you to be free from worry about how you would pay for your bills if you lost your job, got injured, or needed to care for your family.

It would also allow you to travel, spend more time with loved ones, explore hobbies, give back to your community, or sit on the beach without worrying about needing to go back to work.

SOUNDS GREAT RIGHT?

Now, what if I told you you could have this level of freedom before you are too old and wrinkly to enjoy it?

Most people wait until they can claim social security because they haven’t saved enough money, but there is a community of individuals who are way ahead of the curve. They have achieved financial independence decades ahead of their peers.

If you want to learn how to do the same, keep on reading!

If you haven’t heard of the 4% rule, you will today. It is a popular method to determine how large your portfolio needs to before you retire. Nearly everyone in the FI community starts at the 4% rule to determine their FI number.

The 4rule is a rule of thumb used to determine how much a retiree should withdraw from a retirement account each year. This rule seeks to provide a steady income stream to the retiree while also maintaining an account balance that keeps income flowing through retirement.

Investopedia

For Instance, if you have $1,000,000 properly invested, you should be able to withdraw $40,000 ( inflation-adjusted) per year without drawing down from your principal.

That means your lifestyle does not exceed $40,000 during the first year of retirement.

After the first year, you adjust for inflation each subsequent year.

If we assume a 3% inflation rate, you can withdraw $41,200 ($40,000 * 1.03) in the 2nd year and $42,436 ($41,200 *1.03) for the 3rd year.

To calculate your FI number we need to use the inverse of 4%, which is 25.

It took me a while to get it, so here is the math:

4% = 4/100 , Inverse = 100/4 = 25

Now let’s say you’re a nerd and kept a budget for the last year. You know exactly how much you spent in each category and you add up the total to be $60,000.

Use the inverse of 4% (25) to calculate how much you need by the time you retire.

$60,000 x 25 = $1,500,000

So you need $1.5 million to retire based on the above example.

All of the above comes from research called the Trinity study.

Our plan:

For us, the 4% rule was a great place to start, but everyone is a little different and we wanted to be more conservative.

Therefore, we are now using a 3% safe withdrawal rate (SWR) which means we have to save 33x our projected annual expenses. Some may argue this is too conservative, but we’re comfortable working a little longer for some extra security.

Using this method is not perfect, but it is a great place to start.

If your number looks TOO HIGH and you believe there is no possible way you can accumulate that amount of money even if you invested aggressively:

  • Check if you included recurring expenses that you do not plan to keep during retirement. These are typically any debts you owe or children that you will no longer need to support. If you find them, remove them from your FI number as you do not need to draw down from your portfolio to fund these expenses.
  • Maybe you’re just getting around to saving your first $1,000, $10,000, or even $100,000. It gets easier and more possible the more you save. Don’t let your belief’s limit your potential.
  • Maybe your current lifestyle is way too inflated and you do not intend to downgrade during retirement. If so, you need to be realistic about what is possible. It’s likely you either have to cut back now or cut back later.

If your number looks TOO LOW and you feel it is not enough for retirement:

  • This may be the case depending on where you are in life. This equation becomes more accurate the closer you are to retirement because you have a better idea of your current and projected expenses.
  • Maybe you’re used to seeing results from those retirement calculators that estimate how much you’ll need based on a percentage of your income. Those are usually pretty inflated because they usually aim for you to need 70% of your income to live. For instance, if you make $100,000, they will project your retirement to need 70k per year. For me, that is much more than I need to live on per year, but to each their own.