Retirement seems like a hazy, complex concept in the distant future that’s not relevant today. I’ve had a lot of friends, family, and colleagues tell me they are going to work until they die, and they will never be “rich”. I usually commiserate and ask them how they are preparing for retirement. In some cases they are doing nothing! Too many debts, paying for student loans (their own or their kids), bills, luxuries, etc., so they can’t afford to save for the future. Sometimes, they only contribute a token amount in the company 401k or they have no idea how the money is invested. I dig deeper and find that all their retirement savings are in a money market fund earning a trivial return that doesn’t even beat inflation.
This attitude surprises me, since I’ve been planning my own retirement since my early teens (I’m in my late 40s now). I believe that “Knowledge is Power” and retirement and financial independence should be a focus as early as possible. With some education, planning, discipline, and a little luck for good measure, everyone can prepare and improve their chances of achieving financial independence. One of the crucial keys is to use the power of time (see quote above).
Having a higher income may help, but really it depends on managing both income and expenses. Debt can be a pitfall that will undermine our chances for success. There are so many facets of retirement planning and achieving financial independence requires a holistic approach based on your own individual needs and goals. There are a lot of online tools and calculators we can use to help manage the following:
- Review Net Worth – Track where we are
- Budget – Track how we’re doing
- This can be a painful reality check, but we need to know income and expenses to make sure we have positive cash flow, otherwise it is not going to work out well in the long term
- We need to allocate a healthy percentage to savings
- We can improve our income and manage our expenses and debt to help grow our net worth and passive income
- As part of the long-term plan, we can calculate our post-retirement budget and determine how to make it work from our nest egg and passive income/side hustles
- As we will discuss, we may need some options to tap our retirement funds if we stop working before age 59 1/2
- Investing – Build our net worth and nest egg to achieve financial independence. Our risk tolerance and priorities evolve, so we have used:
- Tax-Sheltered accounts (401k, IRA, etc.)
- Non-Tax Sheltered accounts (Brokerage accounts, Real Estate Funds)
- Different Investment Approaches (Growth, DGI, Income)
- Different Investment types (Stocks, Mutual Funds, Closed End Funds (CEFs), Bonds, Preferred Stock, Baby Bonds, Real Estate Crowd Funding, etc.)
- Self-Enrichment through other interests and passions before and once we achieve retirement or financial independence
I admire the “FIRE” (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement, but my approach isn’t that drastic, particularly with expenses. We splurge on things occasionally at this stage of our lives, but we do appreciate the concept of “delayed gratification“. We save aggressively, and we’re aiming to retire within the next few years. This blog will follow the journey and things we learned along the way.
|Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner and content on this site is meant to provide food for thought, not professional advice. I share my experiences to show what worked so far and what didn’t, YMMV. Please consult your financial advisor or tax professional as needed.