Our Journey to Financial Freedom
One of the core themes in my life has been the pursuit of financial freedom. In this post, I’m going to discuss my journey to financial freedom and what I’ve learned along the way. I’ve been doing A LOT of thinking about this topic lately and I’m excited to dive deeper on more of this in future blog posts. But first, a little bit of history…
What is Financial Freedom?
I first came across the idea of financial freedom through Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. He says that financial freedom (or wealth) is when your assets generate enough income to cover your expenses, such that you’d never have to work another day in your life and still have money.
Financial Freedom 1.0 – FIRE
I’ve always been obsessed with financial freedom and passive income. I am in love with the idea of doing something once, and then getting recurring income from it. When I was 28, I decided that I would retire by 40. I had no clue how to do it, but it gave me 12 years to figure it out.
David and I first thought we would become financial free by becoming real estate investors. We took every Rich Dad Academy real estate investing course – wholesaling, tax liens, lease options, flipping, etc. The classes gave us the basics that allowed us to dabble, but it wasn’t enough information to become experts. But it did give us the confidence to get into real estate, and eventually, I ended up getting my real estate license and became a real estate agent.
Our plan was to make money in real estate and then buy rental properties to create passive income. For the most part, this has been our strategy for the last 10 years. As I grew my real estate business, we lived below our means (for the most part) and put all that extra money into retirement accounts and rental properties. And it is working!
For the last 10 years, I had always thought that achieving financial freedom was an all-or-nothing thing. Like in Ocean’s 13, when Saul says “When they opened The Flamingo, one day it was closed, the next it was open. End of story.” I thought that once we achieved our financial freedom “number,” I would just stop working and close up my real estate business. But as I approach financial freedom, I’m learning that it isn’t just all-or nothing.
The Different Flavors of FI
Along the way, I discovered an entire community dedicated to financial independence and retiring early (FIRE). One of the most notable blogs being Mr. Money Mustache and ChooseFI. Another great blog that I stumbled upon is Jessica from the Fioneers, which I first heard of CoastFI and SlowFI. The idea of CoastFI is that “is when you already have enough saved in your retirement accounts that, if left to grow until the traditional retirement age, you will have enough to live on comfortably.” Related to that, SlowFI is “a mindset or approach to financial independence that focuses on using the financial freedom you gain along the way to FI to design your ideal life.”
I’m excited because in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, we reached our CoastFI number! That is, if we never put another penny into our retirement accounts and just let them grow, we can still retire very comfortably at age 60 (when we can start pulling the money out). This means, I just need to figure out how to pay for our expenses between now and age 60 (about 20 years). The challenge with that is that I’ll need to put 2 kids through college during that time! We also have a good amount of rental income every month (in addition to what is in our retirement accounts), so that definitely helps.
But the fact that I don’t need to “save extra” for retirement has been a huge milestone and relief. My family could essentially live “month to month” and we’d still be OK to fully retire and stop working at 60. This allowed me to really think about what I wanted to do with my life, especially with 2 little kids running around. I saw 2 options:
- Continue to work hard in my real estate business and fully retire (i.e., FatFIRE) in 2 years. I worked really hard to build a real estate team and had my best year in 2020, closing 45 real estate transactions.
- Slow down and spend more time with my family and take a SlowFI approach. This would mean stepping back from my real estate business and spending more time with my kids.
I was completely torn (and sometimes still am) at what to do. On one hand, we are so close to achieving FatFIRE and never having to work again. On the other hand, life is short and I didn’t want to miss out on more time with my family just so I can retire in 2 years. So I’m purposefully choosing Option 2 – SlowFI. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Your time isn’t guaranteed in life and I don’t want to look back and wish I had spent more time with my kids while they were young. They are at an age where I can really influence their habits, help them develop a growth mindset, and really teach them lessons that will carry them through the rest of their life.
- With the pandemic, I’m grateful to have this time with my kids and I don’t want to look back and wish I had taken the opportunity to spend more time with them. I can work again when the world goes back to normal and they go back to school full-time.
- Even if I reached FatFIRE and never HAD to work again, I know that I wouldn’t be able to stop working. I’m still obsessed with passive income and I know I would keep creating passive income streams anyways (e.g., my Etsy shop).
- In order to do real estate at a high level, you have to either be all in or all out. If you aren’t all in, you aren’t serving your clients at their best. I had thought about becoming a part-time agent, but realized that it just wasn’t what I wanted to do, since real estate still happens at all hours, everyday. I just didn’t want that stress anymore. That’s why I decided it would be better to “sell” my business to another experienced agent. This way, I would get some future referral income (another passive income source!) and I wouldn’t have to do any day to day transactions anymore.
- The stress of real estate wasn’t good for my health either. What’s the point of having all this money if you die early or get sick and can’t enjoy it? I’d rather focus on my health and my kids right now, especially if we are in a good financial situation.
Financial Freedom 2.0 – SlowFI
So that’s where we are right now! I’m in the process of stepping back from my business. I anticipate that this is my last year in production (i.e., doing deals myself) and then switching over to a referral only model either later this year or early next year.
I’m also spending more time with the kids. I’m considering homeschooling them next year since I haven’t been super-impressed with how our public school is handling their education.
I’m also focused on growing this blog and my Etsy shop as another source of passive income. I’ve decided that any “work” I do in the future will only be to create future passive income streams. If it doesn’t have a potential passive income stream in the future, I’m not doing it.
I’m still doing a lot of soul searching on what excites me next. For the last 10 years, I’ve had a laser focus on achieving financial freedom and becoming the best real estate agent for my clients. Now, I’m looking for the next thing to set my eyes on. It may just be my kids. Or it may be this blog to teach others how they can reach financial freedom. I’m just not sure what excites me in the morning…yet. But when I know, you’ll know! 🙂