Financial independence for the non-early retiree

85 thoughts on “Financial independence for the non-early retiree”

  1. I am clapping as I am reading this. All I can say is yes, yes, yes! I am one of those people who may not do the “RE” in FIRE, but I am bound and determined to be FI. I still have a bit to go, but I will get there hopefully by 50.

    1. Thanks Jason! Good on you for choosing the FI route even though you may not directly pursue RE. Once you reach FI, your options will open up dramatically, allowing you to spend your time doing precisely what you want to do, employed or otherwise. It’s a great feeling! 🙂

      1. I am with Jason. I want financial independence because the profession I am in is very cyclical. I don’t want to stress while looking for a job. I don’t want to remove those important to me luxuries from my child during the down times. I’d much rather remove the non-important things and be much, much more stable. I see FI as stability and relaxation which are good for everyone’s health, lol.

        1. Hi Ginger!

          Agreed on removing all those non-important things in your life and just focusing in on what is truly important. That gets to the heart of why financial independence is so important, regardless of whether you’re looking to retire early or not. It just makes EVERYTHING that much easier.

          Thanks for reading. 🙂

  2. Great topic. I’m in that situation where I hate my job and I really dislike my boss. I plan to kick the bucket next year and take the leap on building the jewelry business full-time.

    I like your question…What if you were laid off tomorrow.? A year ago before Mrs. Budgets jumped to the “dark side” of personal finance blogs, I would of answered..Holy crap! I need to dust off my resume and send it to some competitor companies. I also thought at that time I would be at this company for 10-15 more years. But when you lose an amazing boss, you get a new boss that you dislike and work becomes more of a burden to go to everyday, the story changes!

    Today, I would totally respond with “I’m laid off? Cool, I get to sleep in.”

    1. Awesome, Mr. Budgets. Yup, as you’ve experienced, things change – and not always for the best. Being FI means you can quit at your leisure, and I’m definitely impressed that you’re jumping in head first with your business. It takes guts to do that, but once you’re successful, it will probably feel that much sweeter that you took the plunge!

      Good luck in your endeavors. I’ll definitely be following along on your blog.

  3. No plan to retire early??? What’s that about? Agree with you 100%, circumstances can change. That great job with a great supervisor can change in an instant. Your company can have a bad couple years, your supervisor moves onto bigger and better things, etc. FI can be a back stop to all of that even if you love your job!

    1. Hey Fervent!

      Totally, I have no idea why someone would not want to retire early, even if you love your job. But hey, to each their own I guess, but even so, being FI allows you to leave at a moment’s notice. It’s a nice feeling. Like you said, it’s the ultimate “back stop”. 🙂

  4. The two concepts aren’t different in our minds, but it’s definitely important to remind those who love working that FIRE doesn’t HAVE to mean quitting your job. It’s working on your own terms, when and where you find acceptable. We for sure plan to work after retirement (after a decompression period, that is), but will do work that’s more fun and creative, and doesn’t come with the health-destroying pressure that we currently deal with. Retirement does not equal (or doesn’t have to equal) sitting in a recliner watching the Price is Right all day, every day! (Is that show still on, btw?!) 😉

    1. Agreed, they aren’t different in our minds either. Who wouldn’t want to quit their JOB early, anyway?

      Yup, I believe The Price Is Right is still alive and kicking, but now hosted by Drew Carrey – yes, a SKINNY Drew Carrey. It’s weird. 🙂

  5. Nice to see an article on the FI goal only. I plan to reach FI, the RE is not part of the plan. I like to have a challenge, something to do that excites me. When I reach FI, it might be work, it might be something else…I am curious to see what it will be, it will not be drinking mojitos at the beach all year long.
    For me, reaching FI will result in total peace of mind: There will be no more worry on the job… There should be a word for that

    1. I concur. We work to be FI to achieve the flexibility we desire for the future while recognizing the need for a challenging new endeavor. For example, we have a concept for a business in mind that we are thinking of launching, and the freedom to pursue it if we’re successful would be awesome!

    2. I completely agree, Amber Tree – the peace of mind knowing that you don’t NEED to be working where ever it is that you do work means you have the ability to be and project confidence virtually 100% of the time without any fear of losing that job, or needing to work in general! 🙂

  6. This is a great post. And aren’t even early retirement peeps always touting that we might still make money in retirement? It’s the whole work vs. job thing. Yay to work. Boo to job. And flexibility and freedom. From sea to shining sea. Oh sorry… got carried away in the spirit of FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE!

  7. I definitely agree that FI is great to have even if you want to keep working. It gives you “FU money” so when you hit a situation where your new boss is a tool that makes you hate your job and the company you once loved…. I was gone in less than 4 months. It worked out well, but still things change pretty quickly.
    Plus, like you pointed out, maybe you get a wild hair and want to do something out of the box. Having FI gets you the freedom to choose that path and not be stuck working for the man because you HAVE to. 🙂

    1. Hey Mr. SSC,

      Yup, it ultimately all comes down to freedom – pure, juicy freedom. It’s nice knowing that you can quit any time things get bad, take some time off, then try it again. 🙂

  8. I agree, FI and RE are separate concepts. FI without RE is a wonderful plateau which can go on endlessly; RE without FI must be temporary, with the inevitable transition often rudely abrupt.

    Right now I’m taking a six-month professional break. I’m clearly getting a taste of RE without being at FI yet. I’m still 8-10 years out from FI, depending on what sort of mischief my wife decides to play with our expenses as the children approach college age.

    1. Hey Joseph,

      Yep, nothing wrong with taking a professional break. I think that I probably should have done that, in fact, a few years ago. Would have probably made these years a little easier to take! 🙂

  9. I totally would love to retire tomorrow if I could, but then I would also come back to work tomorrow. As you said, once you reach financial independence, you can choose… I would totally stop doing the boring documentation side of my job… and only do the fun problem solving and implementation side of my job. Someday… maybe… I’m just beginning my financial journey… I’m working on finding the balance between future and now…

    1. Hey there ARBM!

      Appreciate you stopping by, and better late than never when it comes to financial independence. It’s never too late to start, and I love the name of your blog. An All Around Better Me is definitely something we all can strive for.

      Thanks for visiting.

  10. Man can’t agree with you more on all of your points. Great stuff. Too many of us are just looking at the limitation instead of the possibilities. Being financial independent will definitely provide way more flexibility and freedom.

    1. Thanks Tawcan, appreciate the vote of confidence! I definitely agree that flexibility and freedom is the name of the game in this business. It’s about the freedom to do, well, everything! 🙂

      Thanks for reading.

  11. Planning to work forever, or at least well into one’s 60s or beyond, is wonderful, but unfortunately some things are out of our control. An illness or disability, to ourselves or our spouse, can derail such plans. I think working diligently toward financial independence, starting when one becomes an adult, is the safe and secure way to go. Nothing wrong with having too much money in one’s senior years. 🙂

    1. Hi Kurt,

      So true. You just never know what circumstances that you’ll be confronted with in the future, and being prepared to take time away from your full time employment is definitely one of those things that can make an unexpected event that much easier to deal with. I’ve never heard anyone say that they have too much money! 🙂

  12. Hit the nail on the head with this statement:

    “Financial independence provides the freedom and flexibility to do anything.” I’ve found that when I’m in a position at a job where I no longer need the job, my world is opened up. You almost ENJOY your job more, with the knowledge that if the tide turns, you can easily move on. To me, it’s all about the freedom that is provided – never really about the money, just the freedom that money can help provide.


    1. Thanks DP, appreciate your comments. The freedom and flexibility to do anything is a freedom unlike any other – in my humble opinion.

      Thanks for reading!

  13. Steve,

    I thought we would weigh in how we view these definitions:
    Our jobs – what we do to earn money to fund our FIRE goals.
    Our work – what we love to do regardless of if it makes money.
    FI – the ability to display our middle fingers to “Our Jobs”, telling them we quit because we no longer need that money to live.
    Retirement (RE) – Retire Early, the ability to leave the previously described jobs behind to pursue our own personal interests – preferably while we are still alive. 🙂

    Take care!

    1. Hey Bryan!

      I like it! The ability to give the big middle finger to corporate America is very, very refreshing. And most of all, I’m definitely looking forward to actually doing it next year. I’m sure you are right there with me, too! 🙂

  14. Steve,
    I totally agree with this mindset. I wrote an article a long time ago after I talked to a friend of mine that was totally set on working another 20+ years. I think it’s super important to not stay “forever” at a job just because it’s fun or easy, because when you’re getting near the twilight of life, you need a job that has meaning to the world. In my mind, to stay at a job forever, you need to have freedom, adequate compensation, fulfillment, and enjoyment—otherwise, it’s just not worth it long term. I wrote about it here, if I may drop a link 🙂 ( Thanks for posting!


    1. Hey Eric,

      Absolutely agree. I’ve worked with people who’ve been at an organization for 15 or 20 years, and I’ve seen a noticeable negative difference in skill and motivation with these people to be perfectly honest. There are exceptions, of course, but usually there are two primary reasons why people stay at an organization so damn long: They can’t find another job that pays more, or they are so comfortable in their jobs that they just don’t care enough to look for another one. In either case, that has never worked for me. I like to see new things and experience new lines of work – it keeps things interesting for me.

      I get bored fast. 🙂

  15. Great article Steve! You are right it’s so hard to not link FI with the RE, it just seems like they go together. I think you make great points that you might not want to RE, but don’t you want to build wealth and win the long term game. Very few would answer no to this and my guess is they are seldom reading financial blogs.

    1. Thanks Even Steven. They sure do go together like a hand and glove, but that certainly doesn’t mean you HAVE to keep them firmly connected at the hip. Take one without the other – no big deal with that! 🙂

  16. Nice!!

    “I’m laid off? Cool, I get to sleep in. ”

    That is a great quote!!! If it comes down to an act of getting laid off… I’ll get to use that one!!

    1. Ha, thanks Tim. Agreed, I’d much rather use that quote than the other. The freedom and flexibility to do anything, including being chill and comfortable with an unexpected layoff. 🙂

  17. Hi Steve, I totally relate to this because I decided to start my personal finance journey without early retirement in mind. I took action because I wanted to take control of my finances and have financial security. And like what you said, I also wanted to be ready when a change comes my way. Things aren’t looking very pretty here in Australia and there has been some restructuring in my workplace as well, if I didn’t find out about the beautiful world of PF and FI, I think I’d be suffering from anxiety by now. I’m nowhere near ready for early retirement but knowing that I can survive a few months without work, if anything happens *knock on wood*, allows me to sleep soundly every night.

    Thanks for writing this awesome post!

    1. Amen to that, J! I love this statement: “I took action because I wanted to take control of my finances and have financial security”. This is definitely what it’s all about – the freedom to do whatever you want.

      It’s great! 🙂

  18. I’m glad to see this topic addressed in the financial blog world! My husband and I are both the rare type looking at earning a pension one day and for that reason we don’t plan on retiring early. Plus my husband is locked into his military obligation until close to his retirement anyways. However, we are still actively pursuing FI because it opens up so many more options and takes away so many stresses (like lay-offs as you mentioned, or maybe health problems, supporting elderly parents, who knows!)

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Stephanie. I think you’re doing this exactly right – having that card in your back pocket to play, if needed, provides you with incredible freedom. You can quit whenever you decide that your job is no longer worth the effort. 🙂

  19. Great point you’ve made. FI is the first and most important step. It’s what leads to every other decision you have the freedom to make, whether it’s RE, keep working, start your own business, etc, you need financial independence first.

    1. Thanks Ms. MyCountdown. Yup, FI opens up so many doors to make your life truly your own, where YOU manage your own time, not some corporation.

      Thanks for reading!

  20. Late to the game on this article, but just saw it via Twitter!

    This is a great read and another example of how Financial Independence, or getting closer to that moment, has benefits beyond “retirement”. The freedom to express yourself inside or outside of your job becomes less hindered as you don’t need the paycheck

    FI is on a spectrum so while it may take many years where you can quit and never work again, the benefits of getting closer still provide plenty of benefits in the here and now.

  21. I actually am FI now with savings and retirement, debt free, a paid off house etc. I like my job, usually, but once in a while someone gets a stick up their butt and takes it out on me. I have the FU money (John Goodman in ‘The Gambler’ explains it well) to walk but I get paid well and am putting every spare dollar into retirement. I have come to the conclusion that my work needs me more than I need it.

    1. Definitely sounds like you are in a really good position. Debt free is an amazing feeling! Oh, and this: “I have come to the conclusion that my work needs me more than I need it.”

      You’re doing it exactly right. 🙂

  22. I think you missed the biggest payoff of financial independence: you are finally free to do the right thing! If you see an innocent person suffering, you can help. Broken down car on the side of the road on your commute to work? Sorry boss, I’ll be late. Humanitarian crisis overseas? I can send money without worrying about the mortgage. Asked to do something unethical at work? Here’s my resignation letter.

    My personal plan is to use traditional FIRE techniques to achieve FI quite early before taking on a couple of years of “earning to give”. The synergies between ETG and FIRE are astounding, and the communities that have built up around those concepts have alot to learn from eachother.

    1. True that, JC. That’s a huge unspoken benefit of financial independence. You can do what you know in your heart to be right. That is a hugely important element to this picture, indeed.

      Thanks for that comment.

  23. I cannot tell you how much this article resonates with me! It is all about options… having the option to leave when your job starts to suck, options to relax after a layoff, options to change your mind and decide to stay home with the kids, etc etc etc.

  24. There is beauty in freedom of choice and being financially independent gives you freedom of choice. For instance, the financially independent person is more likely to work out a part time gig then the one needing the dollars. The financially independent person can stop working and take time to relocate and find a new gig if they want. The choices are endless and that is the point.

    1. Choices are the bedrock of freedom. You’re spot on, there is absolute beauty in the freedom to more fully choose your destiny. And, it’s available to more of us than we care to realize. If we only wanted it bad enough.

  25. Great article. There is indeed a difference between FI and RE. I have been FI for about ten years which allowed me to make job advancement decisions that I probably could not have if I were not. Many of my coworkers live paycheck to paycheck and they worry about losing there job or minor change in pay, etc, those things were never a concern for me. So what they changed the on-call pay schedule, so what there is no raise this year Being FI is great, I wish everyone would jump on the bandwagon.

    I will be RE @ 48 as of tomorrow, we will see how that goes.

    1. It’s a beautiful thing! Good on you for making the choice to become FI. “Being FI is great, I wish everyone would jump on the bandwagon.”

      Amen to that!

  26. Steve, brings to mind a story of an old guy I used to work with. He was FI for the last 10 years of his career. He always said he was “Just Two Days Away From Retirement”, then adding (two bad days in a row, and I’m outta here!). He finally had those two bad days in a row, at Age 66. Then, he went to work part-time as a consultant. He loves life.

    1. Awesome story, Fritz! I love hearing when people actively chose to better their lives by focusing on controlling their life situation. I love his perspective on work, too. 🙂

  27. AGREED! FI = Freedom. I’m not as big on the RE because work inherently brings fulfillment for me. But the FI, really allows for a ton of flex and options. Just the mental and emotional health it brings, is worth it.

  28. And THAT’S why I’m all for FI. It’s empowering. I just encourage folks to use it for good: to give back to others, build them up, and enhance others’ lives. That’s what I intend to do, and with this blog, you’re doing it too.

  29. FI is awesome. I love my job so far, but it is great to have the option to work less or not at all. I think we need to keep FI and RE as separate concepts.

  30. Totally agree. Most people get sick and tired of their job sooner or later. I liked my engineering job when I first started and I hated it after 16 years. Mrs. RB40 liked her job 5 years ago, but she’s on her way to not liking it much anymore. People change.

    1. I’m right there with ya. I was originally okay with my job, but it got old…and fast. People can (and do) change. The best thing we can do is prepare ourselves the best we can for those changes.

  31. That was a great post. Yes, not everyone is wired for FIRE. It is still super important to strive to be FI. You never know what can happen with your job or your health. Being FI and having 20 years of living expenses saved up gives you tons of options if your current situation becomes distasteful. $ = freedom.

  32. Happy to see you make this point. I used to use retire early as the premise for what I was aiming for but as I got to understand the FIRE world more, FI is where I landed. I will be FI before I actually RE. Probably for a couple years but maybe more if the healthcare world is still as shaky as it is. For me, being FI is the goal. I’ve always loved my job. Of course, as soon as I realized I could become FI that switched how
    I thought about my job. I love it less knowing that I have to do it but in a few years I’ll love it more knowing I’m there by choice.

    It’s funny, after stumbling upon FIRE a couple years ago my whole purpose in life has changed. Getting to FI is what now drives most of my days…not in a bad way, just by motivating me. When you don’t realize you can retire early you are more content to just go with the flow because that’s how it’s always been done. Retire at 65 if you’re lucky. Its hard to convince outsiders anything different.

  33. Great short and sweet summary of the many benefits of FI. My wife and I are both in medicine. Our first jobs out of training were stressful because Obamacare insecurity and other changes that could leave us jobless despite 20 years combined after college education (and debt), and we didnt like that after all that training, we were at the mercy of others. So we moved from our hometown and took a job in a less desirable location making way more money, and also much better jobs. Now a few years later we are FI. We are both much more confident at our jobs both with patients and with administration because we know that we can be ourselves and dont have to act like someone wants us to act just so we can keep our jobs or get a raise come next contract. Also, my wife had a “meeting” the other day during the midst of her small locally owned hospital being bought out by a large mega hospital chain (thanks Obamacare) and severely downsizing. She thought she might lose her job but in the weeks leading up to the meeting we were like “so what, take some time off, we dont need the money right now”. Turns out she still has a job, but the psychological freedom of FI is priceless. Its like paying off a mortgage early even though it saves money to just make the minimum and invest the rest. Just do it! You will feel better than any extra money makes you feel.

  34. Many people love their jobs. My wife, Mrs. Hammocker, loves her job! She can see herself doing it for many decades to come. For me, I would prefer to find a less stressful career and get out of the rat-race. Our story is having the choice to continue working if we want. Thanks for the great insight!

  35. Thanks for this. I can never imagine a day where I don’t love being a writer…but the other day I realized that so many things could jeopardize that beyond my continued employment. Agism in the workplace, medical problems, injuries to my hands or eyes, etc. At the ripe old age of 47, I’ve just started taken my debt and finances seriously. I’m waayyy behind the curve, I know. It’s highly likely I won’t get the RE based on my circumstances…but I’m striving for the FI part.

    1. Better late than never! Congrats on choosing to prioritize your future because, like you said, we just never know what’s going to happen down the line. It’s wise for us to be ready for anything.

  36. I think that evne if you aim to achieve financial independence and will be comfortable in your 60s, it is still quite cool. The hcallenge there is to agree with yourself, that you are going to enjoy life differently – no luxuries, no overseas trips but it will be a comfortable life.
    It will affect your attitude and point of view and you unlikely to be a high flier.

  37. This is a great post! I had never thought of FI and RE being mutually exclusive like you have stated. However, it makes a lot of sense. Some people might decide to continue working even after FI. Going to read about how your work life changed after FI next! 🙂

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