Striving towards financial independence

When I look back at my life, the person I am today did not form out of any single defining event.  I didn’t have an “aha!” moment or an inspirational occurrence that has shaped my existence.  Instead, where I am now is the product of many, many small steps.  Sure, behind those steps are still the driving forces that define me and my personality.  And yet, I can imagine that if any of those steps were removed, I might be a very different person in a very different situation.

Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

Thinking about my current job, for example.  I only got the interview because I was willing to put myself out there and email the recruiter to set up a coffee one-on-one rather than trying to talk to her after her presentation.  Well, I was only confident enough to do so because I had done so many interviews with other companies.  And I had only interviewed so much because I am very driven to be always being employed (when I want to be).  Aaaaand I’m paranoid about my ability to be employed because I have seen my parents struggle with employment and money.  And so on and so forth.  I can easily imagine that if my parents had been more careful with their money or more steadily employed, I would not be so driven to be good at getting jobs.

So when I think about Financial Independence, I suspect it has more to do with the small steps than the large ones.  Being able to pay my bills and not *have* to have a job is an important goal for me.  I want that flexibility!  Sure, I might still want to keep working – but I want the option of quitting work if I feel like it.  This is a Big Goal, kind of like getting an awesome job!  But I’m not likely to receive a life-changing inheritance or win the lottery.  I probably won’t strike it rich in stock options or be the CEO of a hot new start up.  But I can do the small things that get me to a place where I am financially independent.  We are approaching it from a few different angles:

  1. As of today, Brian and I earn an average of $45 in dividends per month.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s enough to pay our cable and internet bill every month.  Even better –  it’s a rising average.  We started the year at $28 a month.  By next month, it’ll be over $60.  Our goal is to get it to $100 a month by the end of the year.  It’s all part of the master plan.
  2. We also rent out our first condo.  When we bought the condo, we took out a $250,000 mortgage.  That mortgage is down to $225,000 – most of that thanks to our renters!  Again, it doesn’t seem like a lot.  But it means that we can sell it right now and get $25,000 (closer to $15,000 admittedly, after fees and whatnot!) that we didn’t have before.  And we’re planning on holding onto it for a while yet.
  3. We are also frugal.  We only spend $200 a month on food.  We pay $35 a month for cable and internet.  I wash out ziploc bags, damn it!  And it’s not because any one of those things will help me get rich.  But all together, all the small steps – it lets me save 45% of my net income.  And that’s just me!  Brian’s doing a pretty good job too  😉

Of course, I don’t know if doing any of these things will guarantee that I’ll be able to get to Financial Independence.  They are small steps in the grand scheme of things.  But hey, so was deciding to email a recruiter to go for coffee.  🙂

Posted in: Philosophy

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