My Financial Independence Journey: A Unique Perspective

My Financial Independence Journey: A Unique Perspective

This is a guest post from Joey Cohn, let me know if you would like to guest post on RFI!

Joey Cohn is the creator and author of HardlySimple.com.  He aims to help people reach and maintain a high quality of life through improving their health and personal finances.  You can connect with him on Twitter @HardlySimple1.

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“I can’t wait to wake up at the crack of dawn to work at a job I don’t necessarily like with no actionable strategy to get out of this endless loop” said no one ever.

Look, everyone dreams of the day of not having to rely on working anymore to support themselves and being financially independent.  But in all honesty, everyone’s definition of financial independence is different.  There isn’t a one size fits all.

For me, financial independence is getting to the point where I no longer must rely on working to support myself or my family for the rest of my life.  But I’m a little different because I like to work.  So, to me it also means being able to work and be productive without the financial reliance and stress that typically comes with a job.

One other important thing financial independence means to me is being healthy.  I know, you’re probably thinking it doesn’t have anything to do with no longer working for the man but hear me out.

First, healthcare is expensive.  Not just the cost of health insurance, but doctors’ visits, medication, treatments, etc.  It’s expensive for a healthy person, let alone someone that is, well, not healthy.  So, if you’re able to take some control over your health, then it will help you take control of your wealth.

Second, what’s the point of trying to become financially independent if you neglect your health?  Or worse, your journey toward financial independence is at the sacrifice of your health?  If you’re like me, I not only want to become financially independent, but I also want to enjoy a high quality of life during my journey, and especially once I’ve achieved my goal.

Implementing A Healthy Lifestyle

While our health isn’t totally in our control, there are numerous studies showing the positive effects that diet and exercise have on your overall health.  So, before I even truly identified or engaged in my journey of financial independence, I knew that being healthy was important, and I encourage you to come to the same realization.

But just agreeing with me isn’t going to do anything.  You need to take action.  I’m not writing this to go into what that action should be for you, because again, everyone is different, and you have to figure out what works for you.  But I’m hoping to motivate you into changing your way of thinking about your health, specifically diet and exercise.

Of course, diet and exercise will have a strong positive impact on the way you look, but even more importantly it will make you feel better.  Fortunately for myself, I have always lived an active lifestyle and have been healthy, but you may not have.  So for you, this could be something that’s outside your comfort zone.

So, you know what?  I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone.  You don’t need to run a marathon or limit your diet to cabbage and celery, but just like how compound interest exponentially increases the value of your retirement account, eating healthy and exercise will provide a compound of health interest in your life.

Need some help getting started with taking control of your health and fitness?  Check out “Beginners Guide To Improving Health And Fitness.”

If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is

We live in a consumer driven society.  Companies and influencers are using marketing strategies to show us the life they believe we want.  And you know what?  For a while I fell for it.

I was spending every dollar I earned trying to keep up with the Joneses.  I was going out to eat and to bars and clubs almost every night.  I was buying expensive clothes and watches.  I was going on expensive trips.

But after a while I realized something.  With all this money I was spending I still wasn’t happy.  I mean, all the people in the advertising I saw from companies looked happy.  All the influencers I saw posting themselves wearing expensive clothes in fancy locations looked happy.  I thought I was living the lifestyle I wanted.

Then it hit me.  This is the lifestyle our consumer driven society wants for us, and hey, if it aligns with your specific wants then that’s totally fine.  But I realized it’s not what I wanted, and all these things were not satisfying me.

Then it really hit me.  I was so caught up in trying to live this ridiculous lifestyle that I totally ignored my personal finances and long story short, I ended up $28,000 in credit card debt at the age of 25.

I needed to make some changes and unfortunately, I didn’t have Doc Brown’s DeLorean from “Back To The Future.”  So, I did a lot of research and created my first budget.

I immediately set a dollar amount for what I can spend for each category (no I wasn’t penny pinching or refraining from buying coffee).  This allowed me to take control of where my money was going and get myself out of debt.

From there I also did the following:  I consolidated most of my credit card debt with a credit transfer to a new card with 0% interest for 18 months, included a line item for saving in my budget, and adjusted my spending habits to accommodate my budget (and not the other way around).

Every month I would review my budget and my finances and make little tweaks here and there to improve where I could.  After a little more than a year and a half I was out of debt and even had some savings built up.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend starting and using a budget because it is such a powerful tool to help take control of your life.

Need help creating your own budget?  Try reading “How Literally Anyone Can Create A Budget.”

Here are the other steps I am taking in order to achieve my version of financial independence:

401(k) Match

I have worked for a few companies over the course of my career and whenever possible I invest in the 401(k) whenever it’s offered.  I always invest to get the maximum match that the company provides.  I do this for three reasons.

First, it’s a tax advantaged investment vehicle for my retirement.  This means that pre-tax dollars are being invested into the account.  On top of that, the money put into the 401(k) is not taxable income since you technically aren’t being paid that money directly.

Second, my employer is willing to give me some free money to add toward my investment.  I don’t know about you, but I like when things are free, especially if it’s money we’re talking about.

Third, I’m able to take advantage of the power of compound interest.  Compound interest is the process of your money earning interest, and then over time earning interest on your money and the interest it has already earned (interest on interest).  A very powerful tool that you should take advantage of.

My plan is to continue to continue to invest in my employers 401(k) always contributing to get the maximum match that’s offered.  My suggestion would be to do the same if you’re able to.

Roth IRA

Five years ago (I hate that I didn’t start sooner) my wife and I decided to each open a Roth IRA account and to start contributing $100 per month.  Our goal was to be able to begin maxing out our contributions toward Roth IRA’s within five years.  It turns out that by the end of year two we were able to contribute to a point of maxing out our contributions each year.

If you don’t have a Roth IRA or an IRA, I encourage you to open one immediately and start contributing.  Especially if you’re employer doesn’t offer you a 401(k).

While the contribution limits are lower for a Roth IRA than a 401(k), you have much more control over the account.  Not only that, but a both a Roth IRA and an IRA also take advantage of compound interest (and you know how I feel about compound interest).

But more importantly you’re investing in your ability to retire at some point in your life.

Fixer-Upper Flip

Whoever said that getting married is stressful surely wouldn’t have recommended buying a fixer-upper to work on at the same time.  But yeah, that’s what we did.  And boy was it stressful.  I don’t say this to discourage anyone from buying a fixer-upper in order to make a profit, but our experience was atypical.

Without boring you with all the details our plan was this: buy a fixer-upper, live-in it while we work on it, and then sell it for a profit after roughly four to five years.

What really happened was that we had a crook for a contractor, couldn’t live in the house for the first nine months we owned it, and spent twice our budget on the renovation.

Now while all that sounds terrible (and it wasn’t fun living through it), we learned a lot and at the end of the day we will still make a very nice profit when we do finally sell (I know this due to the appraisal when we refinanced our mortgage recently).

The end goal is to use this experience to learn about home renovations and how to turn a profit for flipping properties or using a buy-and-hold method to rent them out.

If You Haven’t Already, It’s Time To Start Your Own Journey

Everyone’s journey to reach financial independence is going to be different.  And while I told you my journey, and gave you my recommendations of strategies to implement, you need to ultimately figure out what is going to work for you.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey and I wish you the best of luck on yours.

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