Welcome to The FI Journey Website. This is a place to allow me to express and collect my thoughts, ponderings and feeling about my journey through Financial Independence and life in general.
I thought twice at first about writing this post as I figured people might think it was a bit morbid but then I thought to myself, no… this is all about facing reality head on and being honest and open. This is supposed to be a blog where I get to share my thoughts and opinions after all :).
For the past few months, a very close family member of mine has been battling with advanced cancer. Last night from 1 – 7am I was in a hospital side room with many family members waiting for the inevitable to happen. It did happen with all of us present at around 4am. She passed pain free surrounded by loved ones which was something we all wanted but of course at the same time was a horrific experience and many images of which I still can’t get out of my mind right now. This isn’t the first time I have been with a close family member when they died but is the first time since my pursuit of FI began.
During these 6 hours together, we all were talking about many different things and at one point the subject of money and priorities in life came up. The general opinions and thoughts that appeared were that you should live life as if it were your last day and money doesn’t matter, it’s better to spend it now and be happy etc. This is in part what made me think about writing a brief post on this sentiment whilst being enveloped in the grief and trauma of it all. Has it changed any of my beliefs around the pursuit of FI?
I didn’t really disagree with the general sentiment of what they were trying to convey but did disagree with what they said if taken in a literal sense. I completely agreed that when such moments in life crop up that it can make certain goals and pursuits look trivial and can make you question things that you might be doing or worrying about in life. It certainly does make you reflective on such things. Should I live like today will be my last day, should I start spending all my money as who knows when I will die, it could be tomorrow, a week or 10 minutes. How can I think about an FI date 8 years in the future?
Live each day like it will be your last
The idea of living each day like it will be your last day I think is easy to dismiss. There’s no way I could do that as it would mean straight away that I wouldn’t go to work, I would want to be with my family all day. I would need to make arrangements etc.. it’s not feasible to think like this. I would say that the more realistic and perhaps what is really meant is – Live like each day could be your last. Now, I think there is some truth in this because I do try to enjoy the present moment and each day. I try not to live life on fast forward to the next weekend or month or next major event. Despite this though, I still live each day with the presumption that there will likely be a tomorrow and that there will likely be a next week, month and year. I don’t know this for certain but I live my life as if it were the case whilst trying to as best I can balance being present minded and enjoying each day for its own sake.
Stop saving & spend all your money so you can be maximally happy
You shouldn’t save so much was said to me during this time. Now, I think this boils down to believing you are depriving yourself by not spending money which I have written about before. I think this certainly can be true if you are extreme in your approach but even then, deprivation is a very personal thing. Someone could get immense pleasure from not being materialistic, having minimal items and living a simple life. To someone else however this might be torture. So would I be happier spending over a grand a month instead of investing and running down my current stash? I don’t believe I would no as I don’t feel deprived and I get immense joy from having strong finances and FI as a possibility.
What if I had a terminal diagnosis – would I regret my FI pursuit?
I obviously don’t know how I would feel for sure but based on how I think I would feel. This would be a strong no. I would not feel that my life was deprived whilst pursuing FI so I don’t think I could feel regret. I would also have enough money to know I don’t need to worry about money or work as I wouldn’t need to work in this scenario as I already have a sufficient stash to last a decade or more. I would be able to focus my complete attention on my family and approaching the end. I could go on vacations with family and do things that I perhaps would have done less frequently before. In essence I know that being in the position I am already because of my FI pursuit, I would be able to remove some barriers and worries that I might have had if I had not pursued it. The whole experience would of course still be terrible and I don’t want to suggest otherwise.
Will I go down a gear after this?
If I was still at the early stages of my FI pursuit when I was more strict with myself and the slight feelings of depriving myself were present, I have no doubt this would have made me ease up a little bit faster perhaps than I did originally. Because I already have got to a sweet spot for now at least, I won’t be changing anything about how I approach FI. For me, what will change in the short term at least is how frustrated I get about the little things which of course seem so insignificant when you go through something like this. The pursuit of FI is still on…
As always, Let me know your thoughts on this article, I always value your input and opinions.
Chris – The FI Journey
The thought of tracking expenses to the penny always struck me as being way to strict and burdensome. I remember when I read the book ‘Your money or your life’ which talks about doing exactly that as part of its FI strategy that it wasn’t for me and even though I’d like to budget and know fairly accurately what I’m spending that it was a step to far. I can’t really recall what specifically changed my mind or made me give it ago in May 2015 but since this date I must be honest, I haven’t looked back.
Pre FI Exposure
I have been budgeting probably since 2011 which was pretty much before I had a full time job. I tracked my incomings and regular bills but I never tracked my actual expenses when it come to what I called disposable income (money left after standard bills) or exactly what I spent on food or fuel. I simply recorded the direct debits so I could see if anything increased on a monthly basis. I would know that I roughly spend £100 on fuel for example and £120 for food and that with my regular direct debits/static bills that I would have £200 disposable income left or £50 a week to spend on daily activities/outings and spends through out the month which could include a book or a game etc.
As I knew I would have £50 a week on average, I would loosely spend accordingly. It was easy to know if I was spending more or less as I had no real savings so all I had to do was look in my wallet and at my bank balance and I’d know if I had overspent or not. During this time, I used my credit cards now and then for big purchases but always tried to pay back the balance over a couple of months. The largest balance I ever had was £2200 from the time I went window shopping at Comet and bought a £2000 TV :o.
To the Penny
As I mentioned in the intro, I decided to start tracking all my expenses down to the penny in May 2015 as part of trying everything I could to help move FI closer to being a reality. To be honest and even to my own surprise, I found this rather easy and not burdensome at all. I actually enjoyed doing it! I liked keeping my receipts and working out what category to put things into.
I still use my monthly budget which is simply an evolved version of my older budget spreadsheet that provides me a rough idea of how much I expect to spend in categories such as Food and Fuel which aren’t completely static but now on my expenses spreadsheet I record exactly what I spend for each which allow me to see if my budgets are realistic or not as an average cost per month.
I gave a fair bit of thought as to what to call this article. Some of the names that I thought of were “The privilege of being on the path to FI” and “The Good fortune of being on the path to FI”. I settled on Gratitude instead as for me this allows for appreciating the luck, good fortune and privilege of being on the FI journey whilst not making it seem like it was all random without any effort and awesome work from yourself included.
My Buddhist background
After graduating Uni I had a gap year, and during this year I got heavily into Buddhism after reading ‘The Art of Happiness’ by the Dalai Lama. Over the next couple years, I studied Buddhism very closely and read countless books on the subject, I even went to see the Dalai Lama in Manchester as well as going to a couple of weekend meditation retreats. I will no doubt do a future article on my experiences and thoughts on Buddhism but it’s worth clarifying that I was only ever interested in Modern Buddhism (no literal rebirth, Karma, nirvana) and that I don’t consider myself a Buddhist anymore. I mention this however as I am no doubt very influenced by much of what I learnt and am still very grateful for some useful ideas/practises I picked up during this time. This has no doubt informed the creation of this article.
So what do I mean when I talk about gratitude about being on the path toward FI. I simply mean acknowledging, appreciating and being grateful for the good fortune, privilege that you have for being on this path towards FI. There is no doubt that some people will feel that they are independent and are completely self made. They have put all the effort in, worked two jobs, learnt about how to achieve FI and have been disciplined throughout the process. Other people who are not pursuing FI could for sure be in the same position as me if only they tried harder, retooled, got that degree, worked day and night to start a new business etc… Now I believe that the above sentiment is indeed true up to a point and that you can be a relatively independent person but that this is in no way the absolute truth. There is so much more at play, so much that we have no control over.
Now all of what I state below is meant to be the generalities, it’s all about probabilities. A person born in a country without many freedoms or options to a poor family with an abusive relationship with parents still could end up on his path. But I would argue it is much less likely.
Time period & Country you are born into
I feel very fortunate to have been born in this time period that we currently live in as a well as a modern free country (relative yet again). We are performing so well on so many different quality of life metrics and things keep improving. This is not to deny problems and areas where there is decline but I feel so fortunate to not live in a world dominated by superstition, unequal rights, real poverty etc. Just having access to the Internet, a warm house with running water and a hot shower is bliss. We have so many luxuries available to us and countless activities you can partake in in the modern world many of which we of course naturally take for granted. Having this setup as a foundation for which to build FI on is the take home here, we live in a time period and country where FI is a possibility for probably more people than it ever has been at any time before.
I thought it would be nice to make a short post while chilling in the lobby of my hotel during the final day of my lads holiday outing to Amsterdam. It’s lovely just to sit back on a nice sofa with gentle music playing. Watching people and the world go by… it feels like it’s been hours already but that’s another side effect of being in the dam :D.
Pre FI Aware Days
Some of my most fondest memories come from going on family holidays when younger. The feeling of just being on holiday where most of your daily worries can just be parked or put on hold for a week or two. It’s interesting when your entire surroundings change for a period of time. I love that nothing NEEDS to be done but there are always things to be doing on holiday even when that includes specifically not doing anything at all. I used to look forward to my yearly big holiday which included Florida or New York at the time. I would spend a fairly large sum of money and take lots of spending money too. I usually paid for the holidays in full on CC and then would pay them off over several months.
Since learning about FI
I for the past few years have gone to European destinations at least once a year. I always look for a good deal, go on a weekday etc. I certainly have not lost the joy of looking forward to and of being on a holiday but the days of multi thousand pound holiday are things of the past for now. I much prefer to go to 3 star if I can help it rather than a 4 or 5 although right now I am sitting in a 5 star lobby due to an irresistible deal… To try and be as efficient with money as possible though – I use a Revolut card so I can get the best travel currency exchange rate and withdraw from cash points without being charged (£200 limit a month). I get travel insurance for like £5 online and I don’t waste money on drinks/snacks that are charged at ridiculous prices. I find a supermarket and get better priced goods or simply take bottles of water out with me to help save.
I am certainly not a complete spendthrift though. I enjoy eating out, paying for experiences and activities out. I had a Chinese massage and speedboat ride earlier.. I did the speedboat ride first hehe. As of now, I still have only spent £250 over 5 full days though, so not bad. Money well spent for me. Maybe what makes these holidays even easier for me to justify is that they are still coming out of my matched bettings winnings and the next 4 or 5 holidays are already covered :D.
Local trips & Staycation
I have recently been going to more places in the UK itself and have recently gone on many day trips to Liverpool and Manchester etc. I definitely don’t need to go abroad just to have a good time. I have had many staycations during he last few years also. It’s interesting how sometimes I get a strange reaction from people at work when I tell them I am not actually going anywhere on holiday but simply am having a staycation. I even had a two week staycation a year or so ago where I wanted a 2 week kind of trial of being FI to see how I would find it – it went well albeit two weeks simply being used mostly to relax from having worked for so long.
So do you all still go on holidays? Have you reigned it in completely or do you still have a guilty pleasure of a traditional holiday that can’t budge?
Chris – The FI Journey
There are many people who are pursuing FI almost solely it seems to escape the so called ‘Rat Race’. I am sure we can all relate to this in some way ourselves as work isn’t usually a place we go to beaming with energy and excitement looking forward to another day. Fridays don’t tend to be the most depressing day with Mondays being the best due to us having a whole week of wonderful bliss fueled work ahead! I have read so many FI forum posts over the years of people dreaming of never having to work for their awful boss anymore, no more long traffic filled commutes, no more office politics, no more writing TPS Reports! The list of things at work which we despise can be long indeed and being able to escape these things can be a huge motivator in striding towards FI.
You apparently didn’t put one of the new coversheets on your TPS reports – Office Space Movie quote
Despite work not being perfect and still providing frustrations at times, I have definitely changed my views over the last few years as I have been in both a really bad job and now find myself in a really good job. This post will discuss my ever evolving thoughts on Escaping the Rat Race.
Work before FI
Its interesting trying to remember exactly how I viewed work before I started on this path to FI. I had only been working for 4 years from the age of 23 as I finished Uni at 22 and then had a gap year. I got into the FI world as it were at 27 so I hadn’t been working for very long without having FI as an ultimate future possibility. I do recall not feeling like rushing into work which is exactly why having 3 months off after graduating from Uni turned into 6 months and then finally into 1 year. I remember thinking that I will be working for the rest of my life so why rush, I have earnt a break after working hard (I was never one to leave assignment of the FYP (Final Year Project) till the last week or few days before hand in :D…. oh no wait, that was me!).
I think at this time my priorities were more on things that were happening at that moment. I certainly didn’t think about retiring early or that I might be able to do so. I was just like everyone else it seemed who used a credit card for certain stuff, my monthly money came to an end before the month itself usually so the last week was usually tight. I really needed that money to go in on pay day and it was a relief. I did feel under more pressure at work because of this bigger reliance on needing the cash and being hit negatively so quickly if I didn’t have it. Work was just something we all HAD to do for money we DESPERATELY needed.
Work in the early FI Days – The Bad Job
A big driver of my initial interest in FI was to escape the rat race. I loved to read articles and stories of people who needed to no longer work for an income. Work really was something I disliked. I had an awful boss who was very nasty, there was a really bad work atmosphere because of him. We had unmanageable work loads where it felt like you was setup for failure because in doing something, there would always be something you wasn’t doing that would be highlighted. The thought of being able to escape this situation was just awesome. The idea of FU money seemed to appeal more when having an awful boss.
When I was working at my previous place, I had a conversation with a work friend of my mine about Financial Independence. This came about because he was talking about how he had just come into a fair sum of money (£10,000) and he was not sure what to spend it on. New car?, Las Vegas? He really didn’t know what to do with it. I chimed in and said well why not invest most of it and treat yourself to something with £1,000 or something.
The conversation progressed and we spoke about it a few other times. Now at this point, I was fairly new to all of this FI business and was hooked on learning more and enjoyed talking about it more openly. I told him that with my current savings rate and a fair wind I could stop working in 23 years time at 50 and all my necessities would be met – £1000 a month with house owned. I didn’t tell him I saved over £1k a month but he could tell it was prob close to that, he was shocked… shocked that I would sacrifice so much fun, joy, entertainment for some future in 23 years time that might not even come and when it did just to live on basics covered only. He proudly said “Live for now man, spend now while you’re still young and healthy”.
Live for now or later
This idea that I might be depriving myself wasn’t something new to me. I had heard it many times on forums and comments on certain blogs. There was a dichotomy set up of live for now OR live for later. Below are common things I have heard online, in real life and that I have come up with when thinking about it:
- You’re only young once
- Stop sacrificing your happiness now for future happiness that might not come or not even be what you thought it would be
- You could lose all that money, if you spend it on doing things then you will actually get use out of it
- Stop living your life on fast forward, why do you want to race to being older. It’s like you are racing towards the box.
- You won’t enjoy your money as much when you’re older
- You are restricting your life far too much
- In short – you are depriving yourself
Am I depriving myself? Am I living my life on fast forward desperate to get to future FI. Now I think these are great questions and it’s easy to simply say no, of course not! and be done with it but there often can be some truth in the general view that you could be depriving yourself in the here and now whilst on the journey. I have certainly come to see this with myself.
Examples of my deprived life
- I could go on several holidays a year all around the world with many weekends away (Paris & New York even would be on the table every now and then)
- I could own a Mercedes car, even a Porsche if I wanted instead of regular basic car
- I could buy £200 jeans and have a full wardrobe of designer clothes but I buy from Sainsbury’s or Tesco instead
- I could have all sorts of gold chains and expensive watches but I don’t
- I could have a 70inch TV and buy new technology and stuff for my house almost every month.
- I could buy Sainsbury’s tase the difference or Tesco finest selections on all my food. I could eat like a king!
When it comes to the basics of what Financial Independence (FI) is and all the different types of FI from full FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) to just plain old Financial Independence, I think there is ample resources elsewhere that defines this and explains things such as the Safe withdrawal rate, savings rates, and precisely at what point one becomes FI. I expect most people that frequent this site will likely already understand FI in general so this post will mostly be about what FI means to me personally and why it’s such a big goal of mine to obtain it.
Despite the above, just to clarify. I define FI as simply having enough money from passive income such as a stocks/bond portfolio that will provide a person with all his expenses taken care of in perpetuity without the need to ever work again if one chooses not too.
What FI is not
Being FI is for me not about being rich or well off in the sense of driving a Mercedes Benz, going to the finest restaurants with 6 holidays a year, shopping in New York at Christmas and going to Paris every other weekend. When I am FI, it will look on the surface very ordinary for an outside observer, I will look very average and maybe even below average as my car will remain simple and functional, my wardrobe will consist of mostly items from Sainsbury’s or Tesco. I will go on maybe 1 holiday a year with a few weekends away in the UK at times – I will essentially be very much the same as I am now outwardly except for a few major differences that are harder to see. If I choose not to work or switch to part time, my neighbors might even feel I have fallen on hard times with me not doing the usual 9 to 5 every day. They would not suspect even for a moment, that in actuality I have hundreds of thousands in investments, own my home and with a fair wind will never need to work again for an income. I am glad about this, I don’t want to attract unneeded attention as discussed.
So to summarise for me – FI will give me the ability to live a mostly normal life activity/possession wise without the need to work which in turn will give countless sustained life benefits that are harder to see from an outside observer.
FI is an enabler
For me, FI is not the end goal or life mission as it were. It is simply a goal, a challenging long term goal and on reaching that goal the result – a sustained state of affairs and circumstances that will persist for the rest of your life. It is these enablers and circumstances that make this such a juicy, awesome goal to achieve. It is a goal that once reached will bear fruit that can be enjoyed each and every day. Not only however will this bring benefits at the point it’s reached, the journey towards FI itself provides similar enablers and plenty of fruit to gorge on along the way.
I am now going to discuss the FI enablers that stand out for me at various stages along the journey towards FI.
Enabler 1 – The possibility of FI
I think that before I come to some of the main enablers that stand out for me along the journey is firstly what many might not appreciate as much when creating articles like this which is – the mere awareness of FI and realisation that it is possible to achieve. Knowing that you are on a path towards hopefully never needing to worry about money, or even never even needing to work again as you could retire years before the norm is quite frankly liberating. Knowing you won’t HAVE to work until you’re 70 even if it results in worsening a medical condition you have is priceless.
Enabler 2 – Freedom from Debt
So… my first blog post topic is going to be on whether or not you should keep FI a secret. What exactly should you tell friends, family, random people on the street and things to consider if you do. It’s worth mentioning again before I start, that the whole point of this blog is simply to share my thoughts on something and what I currently do in order to create a discussion with all of you in the comments, I certainly will never preach or say that my way is the right or only way that’s for sure. Right then on we go…
This blog – 4 Years in the making
As I mentioned in the introduction post, this blog has been in the making for the best part of 4 years. I have swung between wanting to create a site when I feel I have something to say on an FI topics and then to deciding against it because part of me wanted to remain completely anonymous in my FI pursuit. I didn’t want to bring undue attention on myself and possibly have the blog linking back to me so my work colleagues or family find out about what I’m up to. Now this is assuming that this blog to start with will become popular which I highly doubt or that I might leave it logged in somewhere and then someone will recognise that it must be me based on the similarities they spot etc.
Why I don’t like sharing my FI pursuit
It boils down to not wanting people to know I’ve got a large amount of money. My reasons why are:
- People being jealous and envious of my situation which I have seen first hand with others I know who have money
Who am I?
Hey there! My name is Chris. Firstly as always thanks for taking the time to view my blog, it’s great to have you here. Welcome to my first real blog post, or technically the second one if you count my short introduction to the website :).
This first blog post has been 4 years or more in the making in some ways. I have often times been tempted to make a website about Financial Independence and life in general but never quite found the time or extra motivation to do so. I was also held back by conflicting thoughts about whether I should or shouldn’t which I will talk about in a future post.
So who am I? As mentioned earlier, my name is Chris. I’m in my early 30s and work in IT as an engineer. I am an ordinary guy and in many ways I don’t differ in what I do to many of my friends and colleagues at work and in personal life. I like a few drinks now and then, play far cry, wolfenstein on my PS4, watch the walking dead and enjoy the odd trip to Amsterdam (no not to do that, before you think…).
In other ways however, I am living a separate kind of life and journey that only a couple of my close friends know about. I choose to keep it this way as from my own personal experience talking about never having to work again or having large sums of money as a result just feels like you are bragging or often makes people relate to you differently in a negative way. This of course doesn’t extend to everyone but I would rather keep it to myself and only discuss the generalities with others if they are curious. This is one of the major reasons why I wanted to create this site as it allows me to connect with others on a similar path in a more anonymous way. So… this journey is of course as most of you already know is the journey towards and through Financial Independence.
Pre FI Enlightenment
It really interests me that I remember pre FI knowledge how I looked at the future. I never even considered it a possibility to really retire early at 50 which to me was the definition of early. I thought it would take a lottery win or some huge luck to even accomplish that. I was focussed on living more in the present with retirement in the far foggy future. I thought investing was just really gambling and too complex and out of reach for me, you could literally lose all your money and it was a no go area for sure.
Fast forward to Age 27
I came into a little bit of money during this year through bad circumstances, it wasn’t life changing money at all but was a fair amount to consider what to do with it and at the time was more than I had ever had sight of. I wanted to invest this somehow to best grow the money for the future. I began researching what investments were wise and what the likes of Martin Lewis at Moneysavingexpert thought. I eventually discovered passive index investing at the website Monevator. This website introduced me to the new world of Financial Independence. I went on to read Mr Money Moustache , Early Retirement Extreme, theFIREstarter and many other sites discussing FI. I was infatuated, besotted by it all one could say. I couldn’t get enough of it – I was addicted to checking my spreadsheets, working out my FIRE date, going through simulations, and reading more and more content on the general topic of FI.
Over the next few years, I fine tuned my budget, cut expenses where I could, increased my savings rate, created a Cash is King fund, Emergency fund and tracked my money to the penny, yes the penny! I originally had a FIRE date 23 years in the future, this changed with extra money, New bare bones FIRE goals, and more fine tuning to 18 years, 15, 12 and finally ended up at 8 years. I wanted to pull the trigger on full FIRE. I really disliked my job, hated my boss and couldn’t wait to escape the rat race.
Fast forward to now
I have since those early days continued to be fully committed to FI as a broad goal, I have however changed in some key ways in my approach and what I consider to be the end game. My trouble was for myself this is, was I was far too strict in the early days and I really was aiming for bare bones FI and treated FI as the end goal in its entirety rather than more of an enabler and something that gives you more options in the future.
I have since moved jobs and now I really enjoy what I do, I have an awesome boss and no longer hate work. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the weekends or live to work but I no longer feel like FIRE is the definite end target. I think FIRO (Financial Independence Retirement Optional) is more of a fit for me or switching to part time work maybe. I have loosened up on a target solid date for FI although I still check compound interest calculators and have a rough idea in years when I should reach some semblance of Base FI. This is currently 5 years away.
I have also stopped for the most part feeling guilty spending money on things I value and enjoy. I love saving money on goods, I love bargains and buying in bulk things that I use and eat still but if I want a certain brand name food I love, I won’t hesitate picking it up whereas before I think I was more aware of the price. I like to think I am more balanced now in my approach and in turn I feel more comfortable, my quest for FI has almost become an auto pilot function in many respects.
This website & closing remarks
Well that’s enough about me, if you have read all of this I applaud you that’s for sure. I really hope with this website I can join in with the community and in turn perhaps write a few posts that people find interesting. At the very least, I hope it allows me to keep on the straight and narrow path by sharing my thoughts and feeling along the way.
Chris @ The FI Journey