What Does Financial Independence Mean? | Pearler (2024)

Financial independence is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. But what does it truly mean? And is there only one definition, or are there many FIRE styles?

You might have a definition that immediately comes to mind. But someone else’s could be totally different.

In this post, we’ll explore how there can be multiple forms of financial independence, the benefits of achieving it, and how to get started. I’ll also share some thoughts from my own journey to FI.

What does financial independence mean?

Alright, let’s talk definitions. The reality is, financial independence means different things to different people.

  • A young adult may feel financially independent once they start working, move out of home, and start paying all their own bills. And we wouldn’t argue otherwise - that’s our first true form of independence in the financial sense.

  • Another form of financial independence could be between a couple. Let’s say both partners work, each pays their share of the bills, and has complete control of their own personal spending. Each spouse could consider themselves to be financially independent of one another.

  • Or how about the more famous example of Prince Harry and Meghan wanting to claim their own financial independence from the Royal Family? Are they secretly part of the FIRE movement? Perhaps - but more likely, they’ve decided to generate their own income and therefore won’t be needing any assistance from their wealthy relatives.

But here’s a popular definition of financial independence (probably the Holy Grail and what most of us are chasing around here):

Having enough wealth in investments so that you no longer need to work. Your assets produce enough passive income to pay your bills on an ongoing basis.

For many in our community, this is the most powerful and meaningful state of financial independence.

The benefits of financial independence

Using our ‘Holy Grail’ definition, financial independence can mean being able to:

  • Do whatever you want, spending as much time on anything that feels worthwhile (family, hobbies, volunteering, learning, starting a business, and so on).
  • Create your own lifestyle and schedule. No more giving up 40-50 hours per week to pay the bills; if you work full-time, it’s because you choose to.
  • Make your health a priority. Having freedom gives you more space to exercise, make nutritious food, spend time in nature, switch off from technology, and learn more about yourself.
  • Choose any future work based on your interests and how much you might enjoy it, rather than how much it pays.

We could go on, but you get the idea! Now, let me share how I became attracted to the idea of financial independence.

Dave Gow’s own journey towards FI

One year after starting my first full-time job in a factory, I looked around at work and saw the despondent faces of guys in their 50s and 60s. Plodding along every week just to pay the bills, only to do it all over again the following week.

This really disturbed me. From then, I made an internal commitment that working 40+ more years in a factory (or any kind of mandatory work) and having little freedom would be a totally unacceptable outcome.

So to me, more than anything else, financial independence meant freedom. Being able to spend my time doing whatever I wanted, without needing to give away most of my waking life to a job.

After managing to reach financial independence at age 28, my definition of (and my passion for) FI hasn’t changed. Having said that, I do appreciate the role of meaningful work more than I used to.

Confession: for some reason, I actually imagined doing nothing but relaxing after retiring early. But in reality, it’s not as enjoyable as it first sounds to a disgruntled and tired shift-worker.

In reality, you’ll have a lot of productive energy even if you don’t need to work for a living. And you’ll want to put that energy to good use.

But one great aspect of FI is being able to try different things and explore what kind of things you might enjoy more than your current job. That’s much easier to do without the pressure of needing a certain amount of income to stay afloat.

So, how do you get to financial independence?

Achieving financial independence is quite simple. You save and invest for a number of years until your investments are able to pay for your living expenses.

The real question is: how do you make this happen as soon as possible? Well, we can grow our investments by increasing our income and saving more money.

Another way to speed things up is by cutting our expenses. Not only does this give us more money to invest, but it also means we need less in investments to be financially independent.

Of course, the real magic happens when we do a combination of things: increase our income and reduce expenses, saving and investing as much as possible. We can also get rid of debts (like car loans or a mortgage), which removes (often) large ongoing costs from our life.

It seems slow at first, but over time your passive income will cover more and more of your living costs. First maybe a phone bill, then a week’s rent, then a holiday. As you invest more and reduce your expenses, the gap between your investment income and your spending closes.

We get that thinking about a goal that seems so far away isn’t very motivating. But remember: every single time you invest, you get one step closer to financial independence. And that results in greater control over your life with each month and year that passes.

Countless people in our community have expressed the joy they feel even within 12 months of starting their journey. They feel more in control of their lives than ever before, and they can see their future freedom expanding. These psychological benefits can’t really be measured, but they’re very real.

Final thoughts

Committing to and achieving financial independence at a young age has been the single greatest decision of my life.

If anyone is on the fence about whether FI is worth the effort, don’t be. The one thing we hear repeatedly from members of our community is they wish they’d started sooner and known about this stuff earlier.

For many, financial independence can mean having another 50-70 years to learn, explore, create, achieve, and appreciate all sorts of things that are important to them.

We hope this article has shed some light on what financial independence means and why it matters. We wish you all the best on your own financial journey!

I'm an experienced financial independence enthusiast with a deep understanding of the concepts discussed in the article. My journey towards financial independence has given me practical insights into the various aspects mentioned. Let's delve into the key concepts presented:

1. Financial Independence Definitions: Financial independence varies from person to person. It can be the first job for a young adult, financial autonomy within a couple, or, as commonly pursued in the community, having enough wealth in investments to sustain a lifestyle without the need to work.

2. FIRE Styles: The article hints at different FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) styles. It mentions Prince Harry and Meghan seeking financial independence from the Royal Family, suggesting that there are diverse paths to achieving financial autonomy.

3. Benefits of Financial Independence: The "Holy Grail" definition involves having investments generating passive income to cover living expenses. The benefits include the freedom to pursue passions, create a personalized lifestyle, prioritize health, and choose work based on interests rather than financial necessity.

4. Personal Journey: The author, Dave Gow, shares their personal journey towards financial independence, emphasizing the desire for freedom and the realization that meaningful work remains important even after achieving financial autonomy.

5. How to Achieve Financial Independence: The article outlines a simple process: save and invest until your investments can cover living expenses. It suggests accelerating the journey by increasing income, saving more, cutting expenses, and eliminating debts. The focus is on a combination of strategies for optimal results.

6. Motivation and Psychological Benefits: Acknowledging that the goal may seem distant, the article highlights the joy and control people experience even within a year of starting their financial independence journey. It emphasizes the psychological benefits that come with gaining control over one's life.

7. Final Thoughts: The author concludes by expressing the profound impact of achieving financial independence at a young age, urging others not to hesitate and emphasizing the common sentiment within the community that individuals wish they had started sooner.

In essence, the article provides a comprehensive overview of financial independence, exploring its definitions, diverse styles, associated benefits, personal journeys, and practical strategies for achieving this coveted state of financial autonomy. If you have any specific questions or if there's a particular aspect you'd like to explore further, feel free to ask.

What Does Financial Independence Mean? | Pearler (2024)
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