Well, BiggerPocketers, it has been almost exactly one year since I purchased the property that made me financially independent and one year since I appeared on the BiggerPockets Podcast. At that time I was working full-time for the military, unsure how I would wield my newfound possibilities. Now, well, I’m still working full-time, but I was able to transition into a lower paying job predominantly working from home and doing something I absolutely love. So we’re a year into this, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.
5 Truths I Learned by Living Financially Free for One Year
1. Financial freedom won’t solve all your financial problems.
I still didn’t feel entirely “free” after reaching financial freedom. Part of that was because I was almost halfway into a 20-year military career that would secure health insurance and a pension for life. Was that something I was willing to walk away from? Was I ready to leave an organization I’d put so much time into already? It took a while to think about.
Another reason I didn’t feel safe was because of the changing political climate. Could my financial calculations survive the acceptance/failings of the heath care bill? What else did I not think about?
Related: Life Hacking in Pursuit of Financial Freedom: How I Add $1,500+/Mo to My Income
And ultimately, a big reason I started this process was because of my financial blueprint. I wanted to feel secure that no matter what happened, I’d be able to get through it. Achieving financial freedom alleviated a lot of that pressure, but it didn’t fully cut me free from those worries.
2. Financial freedom gives you options.
Was I able to FIRE (financially independent, retiring early)? No. Not mentally anyway. Could I have? Yes. I’m an extensive planner and know the average expenses for every month the past four years of my life. But I didn’t want to retire early. Financial freedom allowed me the opportunity to stop and consider the prospect, feel entirely comfortable to take at least an extended vacation between jobs if needed, and not feel pressured into a job I didn’t want to do. I took my time, found a few jobs I was excited to do, and eventually was hired into a remote position that allows me to take my dog for walks at lunchtime and pursue my passion, which is working in academia. But guess what? I haven’t walked away from my military pension, either!
If you are FIRE-minded, I truly believe it means your creative reach is above-average. I knew staying at home full-time was never an option; I’d end up volunteering my time somewhere, working part-time at least, or finding a better career fit. Having that freedom behind me allowed me to relax, look at situations more objectively, and find a better lifestyle fit. Life doesn’t always have to be “either/or.” Sometimes there’s a “both/and” option in there. And sometimes you’re only brave enough to look for it if you know you can walk away entirely.
3. If you want to get things done, you still need to prioritize.
I can’t tell you how many sunny days I’ve looked out the window from my office/cubicle thinking, “If I were home right now, I’d be outside going for a run” Or something similar. It’s so easy to say. “I don’t have time to do _____!” and I’ve said that plenty of times. But you know what I think? We have time to do most anything we want to do; we just don’t make it a priority.
It’s amazing what I started accomplishing by telling myself I wasn’t making _____ a priority. It inspired action. So, if I didn’t make time for it during my everyday schedule before, what changed? I cut out a 20-minute commute one way, but what did I fill it with? If it was work to schedule in beforehand, it will be work to schedule in even when you aren’t doing much. There are barriers that may not exist anymore, like waking up too early for your body’s natural clock, feeling overwhelmed or emotionally drained, etc. Still, though it may be easier to schedule those things in and find time, you need to make the effort.
4. You’ll want to set yourself a schedule.
Well, most of your friends still work weekdays, so you’ll still mostly socialize in the evenings and weekends. The great thing about financial independence and making a schedule that suits you well is that you’re more present during social interactions. Nothing is a huge deal anymore. You may not be retired yet, but that doesn’t mean you won’t start adopting parts of the retirement mindset.
Related: Are Your Children Stopping You From Achieving Financial Freedom?
Remember when I was talking about priorities? Well, the first few weeks feel like a stay-at-home vacation where you get to those things you’ve been putting off for so long. Most of “those things” will be one-time projects and not habits you were hoping to create. Have an idea of what habits you want to start and work hard to begin! Go run those errands midday to avoid the crowd. Put your running shoes in a new place to remind yourself that you want to make a habit of running. Make a checklist of YouTube lessons you want to burn through.
5. Financial independence won’t automatically make you happy.
So many people feel like ending the rat race is what will make them happy. It’s easy once you reach financial independence (and perhaps before or after you retire) to have a really low tolerance for pointless meetings or situations. I’m not a counselor or anything, and this will probably be preachy, but don’t let the thrill of the chase rob you of the present. Goals are great things to have, and life happens everywhere. For some, health issues arise because of stress (from work, schedule constraints, whatever). At the same time, once you reach your retirement goal and quit your job, you may find that stress and whatever else that was driving you out of the rat race aren’t fully gone, hence the need to find happiness anywhere. Be prepared for a better quality of life, but have the coping skills to mitigate it if it never comes.
I’m only a year in, and I haven’t retired off my income, but there are very real and tangible benefits to reaching financial independence. I’ve negotiated myself into an ideal working situation because I wasn’t afraid to try. We’ll see how life shakes out over the coming years, and I hope to have great things to tell you. For now, stay tuned for more posts regarding how I acquired the rest of my properties. Happy investing!
If you’re in pursuit of financial freedom, does any of the above surprise you? If you’ve reached this point already, anything you’d add to this list?
Leave your comments below!