Reasons To Strive For Financial Independence And What It Feels Like

I first wrote this post, Reasons To Strive For Financial Independence, in 2012, soon after I had left my day job in the finance industry. It was a 13-year slog, but I was thrilled and also a little worried about the unknown. The idea of this post was to capture the feeling of financial independence.

In this updated edition, I'd like to add more color on the reasons to strive for financial independence. Today, I'm 45 years old and a father of two young children. It's interesting how our perspectives change as we get older.

Since 2012, I've written about the negatives of early retirement nobody likes talking about. I also shared what I would do differently if I got to retire all over again. It's worth checking out these two posts as well.

The whole point of this post is to encourage everyone to save more, invest more, earn more, and pay better attention to your finances. It's good to strive for financial independence. I know we're all tired as hell from juggling so many things during the pandemic.

However, I can assure you that the reward is worth the “sacrifice.” We must keep on going.

What Does Financial Independence Feel Like?

When you finally become financially independent, every day will feel like Christmas morning. If you don't celebrate Christmas, then substitute Christmas with your birthday.

The feeling is the same as when you were a kid waiting for a present. You go to bed late because you're so excited. And then you wake up early because you're so excited!

As an adult, the feeling of being financially independent is similar to when you get into your college of choice or land your first job. Do you remember turning 21 and feeling so thrilled you could legally drink at the bars for the first time? Those were the good old days.

Technically, I've been financially independent since 2009 when I realized my passive income could cover all expenses. At the time, my taxable investments and real estate portfolio were generating about $50,000 a year.

Life would have been very simple living off $50,000 a year in San Francisco or Honolulu. Today, we'd call this type of financial independence Lean FIRE. It wasn't a lifestyle I was ready to live just yet at 32 years old.

My career and my wife's careers were both starting to take off until the recession hit. I decided to work three more years to feel more secure.

Surviving Recessions

There was one point during the 2008-2009 recession, however, where I thought I'd have to start all over if things continued to worsen. Thankfully, the world didn't end just like the world won't end today.

I decided to hang on for the recovery and start Financial Samurai. My hope is that during the current 2020 recession, all of us can find some ways to hang on and boost our income as well. If we survive, we will come out of this terrible time stronger.

Back in 2009, financial firms actually raised base salaries by ~70%. I was shocked when my base salary jumped from $150,000 to $250,000. The purpose was to comply with the government's desire to lower year-end bonuses.

Ironically, the government enabled finance workers to live more freely with higher cash flow. Those smart enough to negotiate a severance when thy departed received much higher severance packages. The reason? A severance is based off base income, not a bonus.

Today, we're coming out of the pandemic with strong employment demand. Unfortunately, there's a war in Ukraine, inflation is elevated, and the stock market is quite volatile. The good times seem to be coming to an end and another recession could be around the corner.

This Time Of Uncertainty Feels Better

One of main reasons to strive for financial independence is to minimize financial worry.

Usually, when you have more money you tend to worry less about running out of money. However, there is certainly a truth to the saying, “more money, more problems.” Your worries tend to just overflow to something else, like your health or your parents.

In 2009, when my net worth declined by about 35% in six months, I was very worried. I worried I would lose all my money and then lose my job.

Therefore, I probably wasn't as financially independent as I thought. Perhaps I was fooling myself much like some folks are fooling themselves today with being OK retiring on income near poverty levels.

When we are younger, we tend to believe we are more invincible. We think we know more than we really do. I see this truth more clearly now at 43 years old.

In 1Q2020, my net worth fell about 6% from its peak. It still felt like a huge punch in the gut because the absolute dollar amount was much larger than when I lost money during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

However, my worry was lower this time because my net worth is more diversified and more defensive. Further, after 12 years of operation, Financial Samurai has turned into a steady income source that cannot be shut down. Thankfully, real estate held up and stocks roared to all-time highs.

At the same time, I've got much more at stake with two young children and a wife to take care of.

Passive Income Importance

I realize today that money will always be somewhat of a concern, even if you are financially independent. The more people who depend on you, the more you will feel the pressure to provide.

However, the concern tends to fade into the background so you can focus on more important things like your friends and family. You also need to have a purpose as well, or else you may get depressed.

Money is only a means to help facilitate these goals. Ironically, in order to stop caring about money, you've first got to care a great deal about money.

Sacrificing and hustling when you still have the energy is worth it. Waking up a couple hours earlier to work on a new income source is privilege. Adopting an abundance mindset will make you richer than if you adopt a welfare mindset.

If you are torn between being an optimist or a pessimist, choose optimism! If you're annoyed that the world isn't fair, too bad. Control what you can control in order to get what you want.

Once of the things that will help you during times of chaos is accurately forecasting your passive income streams. If you do, you will have less fear and more confidence navigating the storms.

Here is my latest passive income estimates if you are interested.

Reasons To Strive For Financial Independence

To provide some motivation during this uncertain time, here are some reasons why you should strive for financial independence. I'll also share with being financially independent feels like.

1) People don't piss you off as much anymore.

You know the people who are always late because they are selfish with their time? They used to bug me to no end. What about folks who steal your ideas and don't give credit? I could go on and on about such people in the work place and online.

Or how about people who only contact you when they need something? Seriously, bug off! All these people use to piss me off, but now they hardly ever bother me anymore. I just stop associating with them, because I no longer care about lost potential opportunity.

Related: Your Lack Of Emotional Intelligence May Be Costing You A Fortune

2) You begin to appreciate the government more.

When you're working hard at your job or running a business, you slowly start resenting the fact the government takes more and more money away from you the more you earn. You also don't like it when other people vote to raise your taxes without having to pay more themselves.

I'm willing to bet the government takes more in taxes than most people save! How crazy is that? Meanwhile, you witness all the government waste. You're so busy working that you don't have time to enjoy public services.

When you're financially independent, you can more easily enjoy the libraries, parks, museums, and concerts all for free during the weekdays. The return on your taxes increases. I have friends who play tennis everyday and kick back thanks to the government. They aren't rich, but they love life and are not stressed.

Today, we must be appreciative of the government for providing over $3 trillion in stimulus money to combat the coronavirus. Heck, I appreciate the government so much that I plan to re-retire within the next 12 months! With such a massive safety net and higher taxes, I no longer have the motivation to keep grinding away.

3) Your health should improve.

Stress kills. During my most stressful working days I developed chronic back pain, tendonitis in my elbow, and TMJ (jaw clenching, teeth grinding).

My chronic back pain has long been cured since reading Dr. Sarno's Healing Back Pain Book nine years ago. However, it wasn't until I became financially independent did my elbow and TMJ disappear! My grey hairs also went away and haven't come back since.

Our health is priceless. Every time I'm sick, I wish to give anything to feel better. We need to remind ourselves how important our health is when we are healthy. It's easy to take our health for granted when we are young.

Related: How To Get Healthcare Subsidies Even As A Multi-Millionaire

4) You are no longer afraid of losing your job.  

I always had a little bit of worry I'd come into work one day and be called up to HR and get fired. A little bit of paranoia is good for everyone. It's just an annoying feeling.

Finance is a very cyclical and cutthroat business. If I got laid off, not only would I feel angry about being let go, I'd also feel embarrassed as I packed up my box of things.

Part of the reason why I wrote How To Engineer Your Layoff was to empower people to take control of their own destiny. To be able to leave on your own terms is incredibly empowering.

5) Easier to work on your passion projects. 

It's rare to be able to make a living off something you'd do for free. We call these things passion projects and not a job for a reason.

Financial Samurai has been my passion project since 2009. I treated this site as a hobby for so many years. I wrote carefree, barely focusing on monetization because I either had a job or had enough passive income. Enjoying the process is the key reason why this site grew.

Now that I've surpassed my 10-year writing anniversary in 2019, I've decided to do more experimenting. Potentially, I'll self-publish a new book to create more defensive income streams. Or maybe I'll do more podcasting. Whatever the case may be, it feels great doing what you love. The money becomes just a nice byproduct.

6) You hang out with people because you want to, not because you need to.

Hell is other people if you are forced to spend time with people you don't like. When you're financially independent, you only hang out with people because you enjoy their company, not because you want or need anything from them.

Imagine not feeling the need to respond to every e-mail or request. Feeling OK with 20,000 unread e-mails is wonderful. Imagine not having to pretend you like someone just because they hold the keys to your future. Liberating!

7) You become less afraid to fail.

So many of my projects have flopped, I don't know where to begin. Here's a post chronicling some of my past 15 years of failure. Failure is scary because it is embarrassing. Sometimes, failure can be disastrous financially.

However, if you have the financial means to withstand failure, then you become less afraid to take risks. Think about billionaires like Bill Gates or Evan Spiegel. Because they were born rich, they could afford to experiment with entrepreneurship.

Eventually, you get to the point where you start succeeding because success is partly a numbers game. You can afford to fail. When you can afford to fail, you will feel more free. To create something on your own feels much more rewarding than creating something for someone else.

Currently, I'm finishing up my new book with Portfolio Penguin Random House. It has take two years and over a dozen edits to write. I put everything I had into writing this book, so my hopes are high that it will sell well. But based on my track record of failures, it probably won't. But I'm not afraid to try!

8) You stand up for what's right.

There's a lot of bullshit in the world that goes unchallenged because people are afraid of the repercussions. How many times have you bit your tongue because you were worried about the consequences?

If your finances are secure, you no longer have to put up with verbal abuse or harassment in the workplace. If you don't need to rely on a job for money, you are much more able to speak freely.

When you are financially independent, you are more confident to speak your mind when you see an injustice. The reason is because your survival doesn't depend on your reputation, a person, or a company.

One time, a tennis opponent quit his match after being down 4-6, 1-5, 30-all because of a close baseline call I had made. It was clearly out, but he disagreed. He started cussing at me so I walked right up to his face. I told him not only was he a sore loser, he best apologize for swearing at me.

He was in shock at the confrontation, probably because nobody had ever stood up to him before. Immediately, he apologized and said he was out of line. He realized he could not afford to damage his reputation because he was a professional tennis teacher. Tennis was just my hobby, but to him, tennis was his livelihood.

Online, you see mobs form all the time because individuals are too afraid to stand up for themselves. For the sake of mob protection, individuals will give up their beliefs. It's sad.

To be able to never have to back down from anyone is a wonderful feeling. So is being able to live your truth.

Related: Once You Have F You Money It's Hard To Tell Others To F Off!

9) You care less about what other people think.

One of the best reasons to strive for financial independence is because it enables you to care less about what people think. Caring less about what people think is hard. We always want the approval and admiration of others. Why else do some people try so hard to seek status?

In the past, I always used criticism to try harder. Today, I approach criticism with more of a ho hum attitude. When you've been called every name in the book, criticism no longer bothers you as much. I don't suffer from FOPA, ie fear of other people's approval, and that feels great.

It feels liberating to have insults and insinuations roll off your back. Because you have less to prove, you don't. You also don't feel the need to one up your dissenter any longer because you're already set.

Not only will you care less about what other people think, you may find ways to benefit from your critics.

For example, every now and then, I get chased by the Internet Retirement Police (IRP) who are close relatives of the Karens. As a result, I decided to share a humorous story about a particular incident. Now the article is one of the top searched posts on Google. So fun!

10) You can explore new industries without worrying about pay.

Between 2013 – 2105, I consulted with several financial technology companies and learned so much about Silicon Valley startup culture. I even consulted for a Y-combinator series seed company with only six employees. Even though the company failed, it was a great experience.

Since 2017, I've been a high school tennis coach. For three months a year I would get paid only $1,000 a month to help 12 teenagers compete for glory. We ended up winning the Northern Conference Championship twice. We were excited to try and three-peat in 2020 until the pandemic shut us down.

Think about all the other jobs you would happily try if money wasn't a big reason for working. I'm sure you would have a lot more fun.

11) You make your parents proud.

Our parents tend to give us everything and ask for very little in return. They hope we can simply lead happy, self-sustainable lives. When we are financially independent, our parents worry less about us. We start spending more time with our parents too because we have more time.

Hearing my parents say they are happy that I'm happy is gratifying. Every one of us have some desire to make our parents proud at some level.

It's funny, but I wrote the initial two paragraphs five years before I had my first child. Instead of entitling this section, “You make your parents proud,” I think a more appropriate title for this section might be, “You give your parents relief.” As a parent, I'm always worried about my kids.

See: Solving The Happiness Conundrum

12) You get to spend more time with your children.

The sooner you become financially independent, the sooner you can spend more time with your children. It's hard to juggle work and parenting, as millions of people are experiencing now with the lockdown.

Children grow up quickly. It is very rewarding to teach children new things and witness important milestones. When our children become adults, we will reminisce about the time we spent with them. We might even regret not spending more time with them if we worked too much.

My wife and I had children late, which is one of the downsides of trying to achieve financial independence at a younger age. We focused so much on our careers that we didn't seriously entertain the idea of starting a family until our mid-30s. We also didn’t think we could comfortably afford children in expensive San Francisco.

If you know you want children, I say have children sooner, rather than later. There's never a perfect time so don't wait for one. The sooner you have children, the longer you will have each other in your lives.

This fact trumps all other arguments for when to have children because you will love your children more than anything.

Related: The Ideal Age To Have A Baby Based On Age And Economics

13) You feel greater happiness for longer

Perhaps the best reason to strive for financial independence is greater happiness. Not only do you feel happier, you get to feel happier for longer!

When I first left my job, I was happier, but I was also filled with a lot of uncertainty. Only after consulting for various startups, coaching high school tennis, becoming a father, and more did I realize I had a higher steady state of happiness. 

You can check out my life satisfaction by age chart to learn more about what I mean. With less monetary worry, you'll be able to focus your time and effort on the things that truly matter. 

Striving For Financial Independence Is Worth It

A reason to strive for Financial independence - spending more time with your kids
The freedom to take my boy to an empty museum on a weekday is awesome

Hard work is awesome because the benefits last long after the hard work is done. Don't be afraid or feel ashamed of obsessively pursuing financial freedom while you are younger. The people who are trying to put you down are too lazy to try themselves.

More than eight years after leaving work behind, the value I place on financial independence has only increased. This realization has motivated me to keep on sharing why it's important to get your financial life together.

I've been called lucky many times and I don't mind because I am. Whatever wealth we have is mostly due to luck. To not recognize our luck would be disingenuous.

As a lucky guy, I plan to use my good fortune to lead the life I want to live. Hopefully, I can help many people get luckier too with this site.

If you're considering financial independence, I say go for it. You'll one day discover the sacrifices you made to get there were not sacrifices at all.

Life is on hard mode now. But the good thing about hard mode is that it can't get much harder. Sooner or later, life will get back to normal. And when it does, we will cherish our freedom greater than ever before!

A Tool To Reach Financial Independence Sooner

To reach financial independence sooner, it's important to track your net worth. Sign up for Empower (previously Personal Capital), the web’s #1 free wealth management tool.

In addition to better money oversight, run your investments through their award-winning Investment Checkup tool. I will show you exactly how much you are paying in fees. I was paying $1,700 a year in fees I had no idea I was paying.

After you link all your accounts, use their Retirement Planning calculator. It pulls your real data to give you as pure an estimation of your financial future as possible.

I’ve been using Empower since 2012 to make sure my net worth is properly allocated. When you are financially independent, the last thing you want to do is go in reverse.

Achieve Financial Freedom Through Real Estate

Real estate is my favorite way to achieving financial freedom because it is a tangible asset that is less volatile, provides utility, and generates income. Stocks are fine, but stock yields are low and stocks are much more volatile. The -32% decline in March 2020 was the latest example. However, real estate held steady and appreciated in value then. 

The key to financial independence is having enough passive income to covered your desired living expenses. I've found that real estate has helped me achieve this goal the most .

I've personally invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding across 18 projects to take advantage of lower valuations in the heartland of America. My real estate investments account for roughly 50% of my current passive income of ~$300,000. 

Take a look at my two favorite real estate crowdfunding platforms that are free to sign up and explore:

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing.

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends.

Related posts about financial independence:

Achieving Financial Independence On A Modest Income

The Not So Obvious Reasons Why People Want To Achieve FIRE

Readers, how is your path to financial independence going? Do you feel the journey is ever over? If you have financial independence, how does it feel?

About The Author

105 thoughts on “Reasons To Strive For Financial Independence And What It Feels Like”

  1. I am surprised at your statement
    “Today, we must be appreciative of the government for providing over $3 trillion in stimulus money to combat the coronavirus.”

    This money did nothing to combat the actual virus. One only needs to look at China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, and others in Asia to realize how the virus could have been contained. Even the new president who campaigned as being the better candidate to tackle covid, admitted that there was no way to change the trajectory of the pandemic. The government absolutely wasted 3 trillion dollars and is in the process of wasting yet another 1.9 trillion. The latest bill is even worse as it includes numerous programs that have absolutely nothing to do with combatting covid. As an American I am ashamed of how the country has responded and continues to respond during this pandemic.

    1. I’m surprised you would be ashamed of trying to help working families and poor families with children who are struggling during this time period. It is brutally difficult, if not impossible to raise children and work at the same time for during a pandemic.

      There are no easy perfectly efficient solutions to combatting the virus, poverty, and other issues.

      What would be your alternative solution? And can you tell me more about your background so I understand where you are coming from?

      Here’s what you wrote before:

      I keep trying to convince my self to buy a nice home (I live in Monterrey, Mexico). Nice homes are in the $300,000 range but yesterday we visited a friend in a lower income area, and the area was safe and decent small homes were barely $50,000. I could easily afford either home but the stingy in me keeps trying to keep me from buying either.

      Any thoughts on how to start spending? I should add that I am retired and 60 years old with a decent pension and savings. My father was always cheap as well and my brother and I were raised that way so it is difficult to justify spending even a dollar or two. I do spend money on travel and within the past few years, have started to stay in much nicer places. We just got back from a 5000 km driving road trip to southern Mexico. Contrary to what you read in the news, there are very few people traveling within Mexico – nearly all are going to the famous beach resorts like Cancun and Cabo. We often had hotels to ourselves in some beautiful locations.”

      You also said you were in the top 2% net worth. So another words, you are wealthy, you don’t even live in America, and you’re complaining about trying to help others? What’s going on here? What is truly bothering you to make you not want to do everything possible to help other people during this difficult time?

      1. I am ashamed at the response to the pandemic. Trillions of dollars were spent but with little assistance provided directly to the working and poor families. Basic healthcare was never included in any of these relief bills. That alone would have alleviated much of worry that many families have had during this pandemic. Biden’s proposal is to reopen the exchanges so those with limited resources can purchase nearly useless insurance.

        A much better solution would have been to provide universal income to those same families and truly close the economy for a few months much like the Chinese did in Wuhan. Yes, it may have been draconian but it worked. Life there has returned nearly to normal and the economy is booming once again. Why is it the US has refused to follow the lead of those nations that have successfully combated the virus? How many of those half a million Americans that have perished would be alive today if they had?

        I am retired Foreign Service Officer like your parents. I live in Mexico and I have seen the pandemic from a different perspective. Here the government provided little economic assistance. When the pandemic first hit, we moved to a nice home 25 kms from the city in a rural area for fear that crime would explode in the lower middle class neighborhood where we reside. Surprisingly crime has not risen very much; people help each other and know that they cannot count on the government.

  2. Money Mindset


    Recently started reading your stuff and love it. I’m close to leaving a Wall Street (both in NYC and international) job after 12 years. My wife has an online business we are scaling and I’m in process of starting a blog about my path to financial independence.

    When you started the blog in 2009 how did you do it? Lots of employers (esp Wall Street) prohibit (or at least highly discourage) employees from having a public presence and/or side gig which impacts timing.


  3. I just wanted to say thank you for doing a great job with this blog, I’m already wealthier by following your advice and I only discovered this blog about 5 months ago. I read the Internet Retirement Police article linked to this one and I got angry that you would get such awful comments for writing great articles, I thought I should show some love, thanks for helping us become smarter and wealthier, keep up the great work!

      1. I think you and I would be friends. You try as hard as I do. I just don’t understand the advice of passive index funds. Everyone including Warren says this is the way to go. I read 4 hours a day about the markets. I enjoy it. After that effort, I bought Netflix, Tesla, Apple and Amazon. That’s it. Everyone I ask has Netflix. No one talks about Apple Plus. In my opinion, 50 years from now there will only be EV made by Tesla. Amazon owns the world. It seems most people are walking with white sticks in their ears. Maybe I’m just lucky. Maybe I’m foolish. Maybe I’m just stupid and got lucky. I am a part owner in these companies and I will NEVER sell them. If I lose my money, you can say “I told you he was stupid he should have bought an index fund.” By the way, Warren is into Apple and not an index fund.

  4. Since discovering your blog in 2013 and pondering whether I could be (or already was) financially independent, I’ve had a terrific run financially. I’m not on board with every point, but I definitely get where you’re coming from.

    For me, everyday is not like Christmas. In many ways, I have bigger problems (mo’ money, mo’ problems). Relative to my wealth, I also continue to be stressed out by small problems (e.g., the car mechanic possibly ripping me off) that I realize should not bother me so much. (Just to clarify for me personally, I’m talking about being peeved, not flying off the handle or staying wake at night plotting revenge). All of us should work on not letting the small things bother us regardless of our wealth.

    Over the years, I have tried to approach life with greater calm. By not being burdened with a full-time job, I have greater clarity of thought and time to face the other challenges in life. The money helps, but I think part of it is just getting older and hopefully wiser.

    The only part that is like Christmas are the moments when I remember I avoided 25 more years of sitting in an office, cubicle, meeting, commute, etc. Then most of life’s problems seem to be put into perspective.

  5. We Want the FIRE

    It sounds repetitive and/or needs to be stressed so much, the MOST important things about achieving FI is to a) start as early as possible before life obligations pile up (spouse, house, kids) and b) stay stay stay out of debt as much as possible.

    I fell into my interest of finances largely by accident. I’m very analytical, and like to build spreadsheets. I built a spreadsheet to track the payoff of a vehicle and how extra principal payments would affect the total interest, term, etc., and just continued to read finance blogs/books so I could build more spreadsheets. Kinda nerdy, I know. That was about 3 years ago. Which until that point, I put 6% in a 401k to get my employer match (7.5% which is amazing) and that was it. Never really had substantial savings, pretty regularly had a car payment, etc. Luckily I did get rid of my student loans, and had always been responsible with not building up consumer debt.

    Now, at the age of 34, married with two kids (5 and 3), 3 years into a 30 year mortgage, and a spouse that stopped working to stay at home with them until they are both in kindergarten+ to maybe return to work part time, it feels like a much more tremendous uphill battle to payoff the mortgage faster while also building up investments. All of these obligations have taken away flexibility I once had, but didn’t realize how IMPORTANT it was. The days where I could’ve sprinted towards these goals are long gone. Sure I had fun in the moment, but it could’ve been so much more balanced. Now I must chip away much slower, a brisk jog at best. But admittedly I should still be FI far before the average person. Why? Because I am dedicated to it. I set goals. I track progress. I want to be FI.

    I busted my butt career wise to get to where I am, and make great money for my age in a smaller city, and in the past 3 years I’ve been able to:
    -Build an emergency fund of 4 months of expenses…it was 3, creeping it to 6 since the pandemic began.
    -Max my pre-tax 401k
    -Max out a Roth IRA (I’ll need to start backdooring in the next few years)
    -put 5k into a 529 for each child annually
    -Start paying extra principal on mortgage (on a 17 year trajectory, but I like having the 30 year for flexibility)
    -Investing at least 5k annually in an after tax brokerage in a simple 4 ETF index fund portfolio.

    I went from saving 13.5% of my gross income (includes employer match) to currently at a rate of 31.5%, which continues to rise every year with any raises or income increases. I’m on track for my goal to FI at the age of 50 with no mortgage, or maybe 45 if I’m lucky (I agree luck has a part to play in this) with my ongoing career progression and maybe some side hustling.

    I say all that, as hopefully some motivation for others. Either at my age, older, or hopefully some young whippersnapper out of school may see this and get that early head start, and sprints for awhile before they have to jog…

    Keep up the good posts, Sam!

    1. Good stuff! As the saying goes, “Better late than never!”

      With kids, the energy to side hustle and do more work absolutely gets zapped. Ideally, folks have a solid financial foundation first, before having kids. Otherwise, the stress might destroy a marriage.

      But I think you are very fortunate to have kids at 29 and 31! They are the biggest blessing and worth any financial sacrifice.

    2. Sounds like you’re off to a great start. I’m not sure when I achieved FI, but I was laid off in my early 40s, and I didn’t sweat it. Nor did I ever return to a full time job.

      The only thing I would suggest is to not fear debt. We’ve all been programmed to eliminate debt, but debt is instrumental in building wealth whether it’s college loans, car loans, mortgages, etc. Many finance gurus preach paying off all that debt as quickly as possible but not all debt is created equal.

      Home mortgages are hovering around 3% lately and it’s tax deductible. Whether that number is actually 2, 3, 4 or 5, you should think twice about paying that debt off early. If you want to build wealth, then you must be able to make investments that return > 5% over the long run. Don’t lock your cash in your home equity where the appreciation is quite low. I highly recommend maxing out your low interest, tax deductible home loan for as long as you can while you are in your wealth building years.

      Much of my wealth has been built by real estate. I’ve taken on a mountain of debt, but it’s been worth it. Recently, I even bought a car that was 100% financed. At a 0% interest rate, why not? However, I never pay interest at a rate higher than my HELOC rate which is < 4% and I'm careful about what I spend in all respects.

    1. Finance. I was a Director (one up from VP in banking) when I left in 2012. Finance was the best industry to make money in the 1990s and early 2000s. Then big tech really took over.

      1. Nice. I’m a software engineer, making decent salary for the midwest, but hoping to find Bay Area-type companies that allow remote, see if I can make some more.

        1. That is the dream for a lot of SWE. In fact, don’t be surprised if Sam replies and includes a link to his “why investing in the heartland” post to provide insight on what may be ahead in the future.

  6. Hi Sam! Long time reader. I was recently laid off last week and it was hard to read personal finance content when I have no income coming in as of now. This was exactly the post I needed to stay motivated and strong. Thank you

    1. I’m sorry you were laid off. It is such tough times now. I hope you at least got a severance and get some enhanced unemployment benefits. I’m pretty confident benefits will be extended.

      Hang tough!

  7. I’m not quite at FI yet but getting there. Hopefully, I can hit FI over the next two to three years.

    But even getting close to reaching financial independent provides with a few great benefits:

    (1) Less stress over money;
    (2) Actually enjoying my job more because I am not afraid to mold my job to what I want (limit my interaction with people I don’t like, reject projects which I don’t find interesting, not afraid to speak up more and challenge status quo, work more from home, etc.);
    (3) Spend money which allows for personal growth and enjoyment; and,
    (4) Focus more on value than cost.

  8. The sentence you wrote, “Ironically, in order to stop caring about money, you’ve first got to care a great deal about money” really struck with me. That’s so true! I cared some about money in my early 20s and then a good deal more in my late 20s. Then, I cared a lot about money in my 30s and really stepped up my hustle. I need to remind myself of the feelings I had in my late 20s and 30s to appreciate my financial independence more. It’s bumpy as heck out there in the job market today and you’re right about appreciating the governments stimulus initiatives. Sure it’s not perfect, but we’re fortunate to have a government that is able to take action. Great post and loved reading the updates. Thanks for inspiring us for so many years with so much financial knowledge and wisdom!

  9. Financial Chipmunk

    Thanks Sam for reminding me why I’m still saving and investing hard. Without purpose its just penny hoarding. Good luck!

  10. When you wrote this in 2012 retirement was far from my mind. Now I have a date set for 2021. While I do not have multiple income streams, I saved enough and diversified enough to not worry. I will not need social security distributions either. Much appreciate this article. I associate with people of a certain view that government is in their way. Well government will not be in my way when I no longer have the W2. Yes, I could appreciate the libraries, fire departments, road repair crews, and what not. But thirty six years of paying for all that is enough for me. I diversified among tax avoidance strategies and might even afford to stay in a nice part of California without feeding much to the beast. And there are still nice areas. There is political freedom and there is financial freedom. The sad cruel fact is that if you have enough money the state thugs will ignore you. Sad and cruel for those struggling. But I’ve had enough of living like a miser.

  11. Your statement of willing to go to war over being mistreated is admirable in theory, but sounds dumb in practice. You can get shot if you decide to go to war with the wrong people.Your statement of willing to go to war over being mistreated is admirable in theory, but sounds dumb in practice. You can get shot if you decide to go to war with the wrong people.

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  13. Were you bullied while growing up? Or maybe you never grew up around rough neighborhoods where violence is a daily part of life. Your statement of willing to go to war over being mistreated is admirable in theory, but sounds dumb in practice. You can get shot if you decide to go to war with the wrong people.

    1. Definitely got in a lot of fits and suspensions growing up. There was definitely a lot of conflict.

      How about you? You say it sounds dumb in practice to stand up for yourself. Were you walked over a lot as a kid? How did you cope with not standing up for yourself?

      1. I was never bullied or walked over at all while growing up so never had to really stand up and fight back at all. I went to an inner city school and grew up in a rough neighborhood, so my friends and I knew to stay away from certain people. If you try to start a war over every trivial injustice such as someone cutting you off in traffic or argument on a basketball court in the neighborhood I grew up in, it can easily get you shot.

        1. Definitely. But for other things, I recommend you really stand up for yourself and know your worth.

          What is your story? Age, industry, eduction, financials etc so I can get a better idea of where you are coming from?

          1. I’m late 30s, bachelors, high tech, 160k to 185k depending on bonus, around $1 mil net worth. It wasn’t my intention to sound harsh with my initial comment. I recall reading about how you remained calm with your meathead racist college linemen story, so was mentioning sometimes removing oneself from a situation is the smart thing to do. As you mentioned once someone becomes financially independent, we don’t have to deal with ignorant folks any longer.

            1. Josh has a good point. I had a colleague in a similar situation who grew up in East LA. He was forced into a gang as if you don’t, you are relentlessly bullied and can possibly get killed. He rose to be a successful techie and got out. This world is different from ours (upper middle class). Some people “go to war” because of anger, “respect”, boredom or mental illness. When chatting with my good friend, I still recall his comment from over 10 years ago … ” You are thinking about this too logically. Some people just don’t think that way”.

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  15. I am still a long way from being financially independent but thanks to blogs like yours, I have made a lot of changes to the way I manage my finances. I no longer live paycheck-to-paycheck. However, I need to come up with a side income stream. One reason why I would like to be financially independent is to have the choice of whether or not to stay at any job.

    I know this is not the right forum to ask, but what can one do to have extra income? I do not seem to have any business acumen. I am however, a very good listener and good at comforting people in sad situations. In fact, when I was back home in Zambia, people always asked me to talk to those who were bereaved or had problems in their marriages and apparently my words worked. I just wonder how I can turn this into a money making venture without taking advantage of people in distress (I am also not sure of how to do so in Austria where I now live.)

  16. I agree with everything you say. I’m working on reaching financial independence though youtube. I already started working less for my boss and more for myself making video’s. I even agree with paying taxes and bills paying them with a smile. I struggled paying bills, I was behind on them and they cause stress cause you can’t pay them. Now I can pay them as soon as they drop in the mailbox and I pay them with a smile, just because I CAN pay them :-). If everything goes accordingly to plan I should reach financial independence in 2 and a half years from now. Can’t wait :-)

  17. I just wanted to note that you’ve given some good advice and some bad advice (primarily on the importance of GPA to careers outside of finance or Academia), but that I slightly object to your statement that bullies need to be eradicated;

    1. Mike, thanks for your thoughts. If you come into my house to mock me or disagree without a reason, then of course I’m going to defend and fight back. I’m happy to have a debate with anybody who disagrees. Seriously, that’s a big reason for this site’s existence so others can provide their viewpoints. Just disagree with some substance and some background rather than attack out of the blue. You’ve always got to protect your house.

      Please share with us your story. Thanks!

    2. Hi Sam,
      Been reading your blog for a few Months now.
      That article on 10% income for a car purchase hit me hard. I’d have to double my income, literally – to get a 5500 dollar car.

      How would you attack the issue I face?

      Where I have an associate degree, an Eagle Scout. Have volunteer experience, and have been in 4 major industries. I just don’t want to get bored, and my personality type and autism (high functioning) seems to make me bounce from idea to idea.

      I don’t want to use drugs to get me to focus. I know for a fact I love the arts and teaching. But teaching art sounds incredibly boring.

      Oh, and I’ve been wildly successful at sticking to your rule of don’t buy it, unless you can buy it twice today. So thanks for the nuggets!

  18. I absolutely agree with you that it is best to hustle when you still have the energy. Being financially independent surely feels like Christmas every day. I’m still on the process of building up my passive income. Hopefully in a few more years, I can completely give up my office job and concentrate more on blogging.

  19. Hey Glen, thx for stopping by. When I grew up overseas, I saw A LOT of poverty. I knew around the age of 9 that I did not want to be poor. I didn’t want to be a burden on my parents either. The images of poverty have stuck with me for a long time. As a result, I was very motivated to never stop trying early on.

    The one thing I can recommend is for everybody to be RELENTLESS in their pursuit of their goals. More than half the battle is sticking things through to the end. Good luck!

  20. I was just chatting with a friend the other day about FI. This dude is in his 40s and he’s doing extremely well. He told me that the best part about being FI/making the big bucks is that you have choices. He doesn’t have to worry about what he’s going to eat or where he’s going to go on a date. He has the choice to do whatever he wants after working hard for so long.

    I believe that’s the main benefit of being FI. You have the choice to do what you want. You’re not forced to work a job that you hate or to hang around with people you can’t stand for “networking” reasons.

  21. Nitpicky point:

    “If you are torn between being an optimist or a pessimist, waking up at 6am to get extra work done or sleeping in, and complaining about why the world isn’t fair or focusing on what you can control, I always encourage the former, former, former!”

    isn’t that “former, former, latter?” Either that, or we have an imposter Samurai on our hands! or, as my wife and I say “That’s your mistake, alien!!”

  22. Gotta say, I’m enjoying my failing road to eventual financial independence and entrepreneurial success. I’m so grateful thatpeople like you put out such motivating content like this. It keeps me inspired to keep plugging away.

    I love getting up at 5am to work on my online side hustle ventures for a couple of hours before work. I cringe at the thought of all the time I used to waste by “sleeping in.”

    1. Hey Matt! Good to hear from you man. Did you mean to write “failing” road? I check out what you’ve been up to and it seems like there is some progress along some bumpy roads! Just keep doing what you’re doing on the side, and one day, you’ll wake up and hopefully find your side income is enough to provide for your entire life!

      Good luck!

      1. Great to hear from you as well Sam! Thanks for spending time on my Dumb Passive Income blog yesterday and commenting on several posts. It means a lot to me when one of my biggest online influences takes the time to notice what I am doing and leave feedback and encouragement.

  23. I love your insight. What I have seen others do as well as myself is have fun when all of the little crazy things that big corporations do just don’t seem to matter.

  24. Excellent points! The feeling of accomplishment is a huge confidence builder. In addition, you are in a very small group of people who did it without creating a full blown company. Success creates more success and motivates you to try new things. The biggest reward is you now have the time to actually do something about all those ideas. Be careful though, confidence can become arrogance.

  25. Can you expand on what you mean by people playing tennis all day thanks to the government. Are they just claiming unemployment or disability? Just curious what you were getting at.

    1. In some ways, they get direct government assistance. In other ways, it’s because they’ve worked for the government and retired with a pension that still pays even if they work for another job.

      Big gov’t is here to stay, which means it’s best to take advantage of the situation rather than be bled to death by gov’t.

  26. “Anybody who wrongs me online or offline should be very careful because I will happily go to war.” This is a bit much, don’t you think? I think intimidation is part of why I haven’t reached out to some bigger bloggers, because I don’t want to inconvenience them or have any perceived slight against them.

    1. Not really. The message is simply not to be an asshole. It’s easy to troll on the web, but who likes trolls? Nobody. The only people who should feel intimidated are those who are trolls, who steal ideas, or who have very bitter dispositions. Everybody else should be fine! I’m more disappointed when people do nothing to defend their honor because they are worried about the repercussions.

  27. Hi Sam,

    I just came back from a week of business meetings in California. What a great place to live… but not to work. Especially with all the additional taxes coming in… I strive to live in CA after I am retired and making modest passive income. It is really a perfect place for that.

    But working like crazy, and commuting long hours just to pay a ton in taxes… well, that is just crazy.

    I was ready to retire early but with news that the wife has one in the oven, I’ll have to re-think my early retirement plan!


  28. What a great story Sam!

    I am wondering if you wish you had “pulled the plug” earlier. It seems like you had all your ducks in a row well before you left, had you been a little riskier and left before your passive income had grown so large what would have happened?

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Not sure Jon. I really want to accumulate X more dollars from 2009-2012 and figure out a way to negotiate a good severance package after 11 years at one firm before taking the leap.

      FS has been online since 2009, so things were working concurrently.

      Best, Sam

  29. Hi Sam, Great post.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog I really appreciate that.

    Even though technically I guess I could be financially independent I don’t consider that I am there yet. Like you I have found that generating passive income online to be very liberating. Success leads to success as they say.

    I also wonder, if you can earn income passively from things you enjoy doing, when do you retire?


    1. Hi Quinn,

      I’m actually living off all my passive income generated from dividends, private equity, real estate, and CDs mostly (Check out the achieving financial freedom post for details).

      Online income is a new frontier that I’m now working and have a lot to learn! This is why it’s been fun reading your site and others in the online money making genre.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  30. There is nothing wrong with laziness, well to be more specific, doing nothing with your time. Did you ever see the movie Office Space? Peter the main character said he would do absolutely nothing if he had a choice and didn’t have to go to work due to his social obligation and. Its the American folk story we have all been told since we were little, “Be Productive”, “Don’t Waste Time”, “Time is Money”, all of which serves to make us busy little productive bees of society. I don’t think there is much value in doing something just to do it because others say you should, that is herd mentality. However, I do think that apathy, not caring, is the true danger you speak of because when you stop caring you stop living by removing yourself from the world. A lot of the concepts in this article reminds me of the book The Tao of Pooh, which explains the teachings of Taoism (similar to Buddhism) through familiar characters from Winnie the Pooh. I challenge you to read this book and create a post around some of the concepts. Don’t be a Busy-Back-Soon, someone who needs to be busy because it makes them feel important to be busy, be like Pooh, be yourself.

  31. I’m lucky enough to have a job that I excel at and don’t mind doing. One could say I have the best of both worlds right now, but the second I can safely and securely supplement my 9-5 income with passive income I will work 5 more years then retire for good!

  32. It’s really a great service that you continue to post your blog after you went FI. A lot of this stuff, especially for those who are new to this field (started working) and have no incentive towards FI other than the basic package of working until retirement, is good to hear from someone who manages to start off from working full-time.

    For me, I’ve had good habits for managing finances: pay off bills, don’t buy anything beyond my means, invest early on known investments (401K and house), but that’s the extent of how far I’ve gone. I’ve always had the notion of just working until retirement, and as long as I have some money here and there, I’m good.

    Your blog shows that there’s a lot more than that, and if you work hard towards a goal, it’s possible to be FI, or at least until money is no longer your primary goal.

    That said, I do have a small chunk of cash looking for invest in the coming round. I’m probably going to dividends (I just found out what they are!) even through everyone is fleeing from them due to the high increase next year. I know you’re doing structural notes, but frankly I just don’t understand them well enough to see why they’re good.

    1. No problem. It’s really easy in our 20’s to think we would love to work forever because we love what we do. I would say most folks after 10 consecutive years will tire out or get bored with their occupation. If they haven’t been saving and investing and figuring out different income streams by then, they might NEVER start, leading to a life of misery for being STUCK.

      Good luck on your journey!

  33. Love it! I haven’t quite reach FI yet, but we are pretty close. I agree with everything you said. I don’t have to take any crap from anyone and that’s the best feeling in the world. Well, maybe the Mrs. can give me some lips, but that’s it. :)
    Everyday does feel like a gift.

  34. I strive for this goal and hopefully I can reach it before I turn 45, I am big fan of passive and portfolio income sources to get me there. I want to reach this so that I can enjoy some freedom time instead of doing something because I have to. Since I was a kid we had to go to school and now that I graduated I have to go to work to pay for bills. Even though they both benefit me in the end, I still want to feel the freedom that comes with retiring early.

  35. I didn’t think I could want to achieve financial independence anymore than I already did, but after reading your article, I think I do!

    Can FI really be even better than we anticipate? There are very few things in life that exceed expectations, but maybe this is one of them?

    “everyday feels like Christmas”… man, now I really can’t wait to get there!

  36. People will still piss me off, I’m sure. I’m not particularly anti-government now, regarding fiscal spending. And, I only hang out with people I want to because doing otherwise would piss me off. You missed the biggest bullet point: Your life suddenly becomes more flexible than it ever was before. Flexibility, in and of itself, is my biggest reason for the strive to financial independence.

    1. I thought it was assumed that one’s life get more flexible once they are financially independent? Kind of like saying the ocean water is cold. More interesting to talk about life in the ocean once you jump in.

  37. What you’ve illustrated here is exactly why I think the strategy many take about focusing on getting out of debt or paying the mortgage early is exactly the right course for some. Many will focus exclusively on rate of return and say that paying off a mortgage is a horribly bad idea when they can do so much better elsewhere, but what they don’t see is what you can’t quantify, and that’s the independence and feeling of relief and all the good things that come with it that they get. For some, it’s just a number. For others, it’s a weight lifted off.

  38. You make some decent points about using free services as much. I can see where you are coming from on certain things. For me, I guess I already enjoy some of those things through open-source software (screw Microsoft-I hate anything related to Windows and avoid it if I can help it). I am still working on the people pissing me off things. I happen to live in an area where there are a lot of tourists, and it drives me nuts to be dealing with some of them.

  39. I quit my office job in 2009 with back pains and grinding teeth too, it does feel like Christmas every day now. But I don’t agree that getting things done is easier. Having no schedule, nothing but your own motivation to get things done is weird at first. When I have a goal I do work like crazy but you can also find me procrastinating for days.

    1. Maybe it’s b/c it’s still early for me Pauline, but I haven’t found myself procrastinating at all with my endeavors, even though I don’t have to do anything.

      It’s just so exciting to write, travel, do whatever. I’m very aware of the scarcity of time.

  40. I’m working on building my passive income streams so that I can leave my office job in about three years. Fortunately I enjoy my job so I’m not hating my life or dying to get out as soon as possible. So, I’m using the free time I have to build up side income streams so that I’ll be prepared and fully financially independent when I’m ready to walk away.

    I think that’s awesome that everyday feels like Christmas to you. Not very many people can say that!

  41. Hi Sam,

    The last two points of what you mentioned reminded me of an interview with a British author living in the US. It has been a very long time since I read it so I even forgot the author’s name. But one point he made stands out vividly today.

    He said, when the population has universal healthcare, they become bolder and less afraid to speak out their minds and stand for what is right. The Americans remain constantly afraid of losing their jobs thus losing their healthcare. The Brits and other people who have better social safety still would prefer to keep their job, but have less to lose by standing up for themselves.

    While I am happy for you that you worked to attain your own freedom and courage, it’s clear to me that universal healthcare and stronger sense of community would encourage truer democracy where people don’t make their decisions based on fear.

    1. I believe it. Either bolder and less afraid to go for things, or the complete other way.

      The issue is, not a lot of innovation has come from the Brits or other socialist countries.

      I’m happy to have universal healthcare, so long as everybody pays as well.

  42. Invest it wisely

    I’m curious; how does one report business income (I.e. from the blogs) in the states?

    I’m not financially independent by a long shot (if we’re talking about passive income only) but I have also gotten more confident as I build up my own income streams. I guess it’s because I no longer have as many doubts as I used to have. Good to hear that you’re taking it more easy these days too.

    You’re both lucky and hard working, and the second really helps out with the first! :)

  43. I am striving for FI so that I will not have to wake up at 5.30 am anymore. But your first point about not being pissed with people comes a really close second.

      1. Ah, no, I wish! Networth around $700K+ at the moment. It is going to be difficult in the coming couple of years due to a depressed global economy. Still aiming at 45, but a lot would depend on the property market locally in the next decade, and how creative I can get!

  44. I may be financially independent, but the chances of me ever liking the waste and inefficiency that is symbolic of government and the way my tax dollars are wasted is lower than Bernie Madoff’s chances of being nominated as the next chairman of the SEC.

    I mostly agree with the rest…but we’ll see how it pans out after I retire next year.

    1. I know that government being inefficient and wasteful is a part of the mantra of the conservatives. But there are plenty of counter arguments. I recommend any of the books written by Professor Ha-Joon Chang of Oxford. In his book he shows a plenty of examples where private companies are NOT more efficient than the government or state run companies. He acknowledges that many governments and state run entities can be inefficient but there are plenty of examples of bad private companies and good government entities. Was Haliburton efficient in Iraq just because it was a private entity?

      One of Chang’s central argument is that the economists too often hold onto their dogma instead of actually studying history. And his book has many examples where governments DID engineer economic growths and developments. He was born in South Korea, where centralized, government led economy worked miracles. Japan, Israel, West Germany are all examples where the government led economic developments worked. Even the US is a good example. The postwar economic boom followed massive investments in infrastructure by the government. It’s interesting that even many conservatives (except maybe far right libertarians) love government spending when it comes to defense, anti-criminal/anti-terrorist activities, and the kind of space explorations that provide bragging rights over the Russians and Chinese. None of those provide immediate short term profit, thus unfit to leave to the private sectors.

      1. If you’re a government worker, you’re much less likely to give a crap, much less likely to be fired for lousy performance, don’t have much vested in “the company”, etc. Using Halliburton as an example, is it that they’re not an efficient company? Or that the government drones and bureaucrats overseeing them failed miserably and allowed the US taxpayer to be fleeced. I can bet when Halliburton is working for a multinational integrated oil, they have their shit together. For every study, there’s a counter study. Plenty showing that for the same level of education and/or job type, private sector has higher output and for many in which the public sector union is applicable, the public sector unions have higher pay/benefits for equivalent output as well.

      2. The difference here is private companies that are deficient and or are run badly eventually die (well they do unless the government bails them out) and only their investors get hurt. Government however will just tax you more and more while borrowing more, eventually killing your fiat currency which will hurt everyone.

        So with all due respect to Ha-Joon Chang of Oxford its not the same.

      3. It’s pretty obvious the government is wasting money when you just spent 200 million of tax payer money to rain missles down on places and people that are so far away and irrelevant to anyone. Why do we have so many weapons stockpiled? That’s tax payer money. A military that spends 4x more than the top next 5 countries and a complete mess in the tax code which taxes people with w-2 income significantly more than a business owner or billionaire like Warren buffet. That’s just the surface – id call that massive waste and inefficiency. If you’ve ever lived in Canada or a small European country or New Zealand for example, you’d see how bad the government is taking our tax payer dollars for a ride.

      1. @ sojourner – Whether all private companies are inefficient and wasteful is irrelevant to the issue of whether my tax dollars are being wasted. What private companies do with the money they have raised is none of my business (unless I am a shareholder or are called on to bail them out). What the government does with the tax payers money is my business.

        @ Sam – And I will still be paying the taxes – the companies I invest in will pay taxes, I will pay taxes on my retirement income, I will pay consumption taxes and my children will one day be taxpayers too. And every dollar that gets flushed down the toilet by government is a dollar that rightly belongs to someone else.

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