What Do I Want My Post-FI Life To Look Like?

I’ve been thinking: though I’m on a solid track toward financial independence, I want to make sure I’m preparing myself for my post-FI life in the real way, not just financially.

For instance, after I reach financial independence I’d like to write a novel, get it published. But, as any writer would tell you, your first novel is like a first pancake. As in, it’s probably going to s-u-c-k. What makes a good writer, like most things, is intention and practice. Or so I’ve read.

Therefore, it makes sense for me to start writing now so that when I finally hit financial independence I’m not just starting and struggling. I want to have gotten through that first part of the S-curve. Like my financial front-loading I want to have built the foundation emotionally and skill-wise for a successful fauxtirement. Soon as I put in my notice, I want to be rolling.

But before we get to the point of preparing myself for post-FI, I need to look at the possibilities. Because, while it’s still abstract, there are so many ideas of what my life could look like. Getting a survey of my goals first will help me figure out what skills I should be preparing for later.

So here they are, my what-if-I-didn’t-have-to-work-anymore life paths:

Writer

love to outline stories. Character development, plotting, scene development. But here’s the deal: when it comes to actually writing as in can I put a string of words together I am very much a work in progress. My sentences are either too long or too short, I use too many commas, and half the time I’m like what the hell are words even. Don’t even get me started on writing dialogue. I remember once my creative writing professor said that one of my pieces read “like it was written by a third-world dictator, maybe North Korea.” I’m still not entirely sure what she meant by that, but I assume it was bad (and also kind of racist).

I’ve had some practice in the past few years writing on blogs, theater-y work, and general report writing for my job. But if I wrote novels or short stories, they’d probably fall somewhere between science fiction and literary fiction.

Benign capitalist

Unfortunately, as much as I think governmental intervention is important in creating safeguards and rules for a just society, it seems the only way to make an impact quickly either for the betterment or detriment of people’s lives is to use the most flexible institutional structure available in our country. That is: start a business. I’d like to found a B-corporation, build it up, and then transfer the ownership to the company’s employees, giving labor the financial benefit it’s due and starting afresh to found new companies in different areas.

As to what my businesses would actually do? I’m not entirely sure yet. I think I’d like to provide services that make zero waste living more viable (think, e.g. Go Box which provides businesses with reusable takeout containers). Or maybe I’ll buy up foreclosed property (to compete with exploitative buyouts like what’s happening in Detroit) and resell to previous owners under a rent-to-own model.

Tinkerer

Sometimes I feel like I just want to make things. Play around with an Arduino, learn how to do basic carpentry. This life path feels the most amorphous, in part because I rarely do anything with my hands and wouldn’t even know where to begin. But it also seems like it could be a lot of fun. Just having adult play. And if I come up with something useful then maybe I can spread it to the masses.

What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to work? How are you preparing yourself for post-FI?

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Outlining My Path To Financial Independence

Even since before I’ve started working, I’ve been enamored by the idea of financially independence. To live and to labor for the sake of self-determination rather than a paycheck would be idyllic.

But becoming financially independent is a lengthy process. By the time I reach “full” FI, I will have been in the workforce roughly 15 years. So it’s helpful to define intermediate goals, pitstops along the way, so that I can keep myself accountable and take stock of the progress I’ve made.

Going Through The Phases

There are five phases between where I am now and financial independence. Each phase is defined by an associated work requirement, e.g. when I pay off my mortgage I’ll probably still need to have a professional job, but could take on a lower-key one with less pay; when I hit full financial independence, I won’t need any job at all!

phases.png

As you can see, I expect each phase to last somewhere between one to two years. This means I’ll be able to compare my progress against predefined milestones on a near yearly basis rather than figure it all out at the end. It also means I have some designated off-ramp points. If I decide I don’t want to stay in my job until 2025, I’ll know how long I need to stay in order to reach a particular level of financial security.

The soonest I would feel comfortable transitioning away from my job is once we hit the inflection point. At that phase, we’ll have a very solid financial footing with fully-funded college and retirement accounts (assuming modest growth over the next few decades). That means, in a pinch, we will no longer need to save and invest for our future selves. Our only need would be to make enough to pay our expenses day to day.

The next major milestone will then be to pay off our mortgage. Now, we might not actually pay off our mortgage– I’d prefer having money in the market instead– but I’d like to have enough to do so should we choose. Since we live in a high cost of living area, a large portion of our expenses goes into our condo’s mortgage. Once we pay off our mortgage, we’ll only need to make enough to pay for living expenses like food, utilities, and the car.

Now, the next jump is more lifestyle inflation than financial stability, but one that we deeply want. Once our home is paid off, we’d like to expand our home: build out our attic space to make a master bedroom and bathroom suite. This will upgrade our condo from a 2/1 to a 3/2. Not a necessity, certainly, but we’d like if we are able to give our children their own rooms and us our own bathroom. Which will be nice, especially as our kids get older and our current space feels more crowded.

Finally, once we’re done nesting, we can focus on financial independence. We’ll hit barista FI where we could basically subsist on our investments and part-time low-wage jobs as needed. If I stick it out a couple years more, we’ll hit full FI, where all our expenses will be more or less covered as long as we sporadically take on a money-yielding project in between. Which, given we’ll still be young yet, I am confident will happen.

How Do I Plan To Get There?

Because I’m earning a good amount of money from my full-time job, I’m running on easy mode on the way to FI. My plan, boring though it is, is as follows:

  • Max out my and my fiancé’s retirement accounts (401k, 403b, IRA) each year.
  • Max out my employer’s ESPP each year.
  • Spend what we need to live, but track all our purchases each month and be conscious about lifestyle inflation.
  • Dump any remaining funds at the end of the month into taxable accounts.

Note that my plan does not include things like working 20 hours a week or buying a rental property. There are, indeed, a lot of ways to supercharge financial growth well-beloved by the personal finance community. I am, however, quite conservative and, if I do say so myself, lazy af. The slow and steady life is for me.

There are some low-effort ways for me to speed up the journey and mitigate risk which I will be pursuing along the way. I will:

  • Attempt to optimize my taxes and asset allocation.
  • Diversify my skill set in case I need to transition out of my line of work.
  • Establish myself as a key asset in my work in order to open myself up to future consulting gigs post-retirement.

What are your long-term financial goals? How and when do you plan to get there?