How does the freedom to travel when you want, relax on your own schedule or work only when the mood strikes you sound?
Right about now I would love to have me some of that and I can tell you that that goal is top off my medium term vision board!
While I know I have missed the conventional fire plan and am certainly way past retiring in my early 30’s like a lot of the fire influencers out there and truth be told I am also past the point of being able to retire in my 40’s, I am not letting this hold me back from planning on getting there sooner rather than later.
This article explore what I have learnt the freedom journey entails.
Before I dive in let me take one step back. While my comments above gloss over this fact, it’s important to get real upfront and state that from what I have read and heard about these early retirees this is clearly not an easy journey and requires hard choices, discipline and the ability to save and invest as much as possible.
It is also extremely important that we get a very clear idea in our minds of what is it important to us on our journey on this planet so that we don’t miss out on life in our pursuit of this so called freedom.
I was recently listening to a podcast, and one of the interviewees was speaking about the depressed state he fell into when he reached early retirement in his late 30’s.
He had spent the prior 10 years totally focused on his early retirement, working inhuman hours, saving a ridiculous amount of money and quite frankly not having much of a life. He reached his magical early retirement and then ….. nothing. He promptly fell into a deep depression and confessed on the podcast it was totally as a result of him having no clue what freedom meant to him and what he wanted from life.
Don’t let this be you. Make sure to enjoy the journey as well as having a clear vision of what life looks like after you hit the retirement sweet spot.
Enough with the negativity let’s get to what we need to do!
These are the 10 steps to freedom according to those who have successfully navigated the journey:
Step 1: Define What “retirement” means to you
Maybe like me, you want to jump of the corporate treadmill and pursue your passion, spend time with those you love and travel. Or you may have some more altruistic vision for your freedom. Whatever it is, the 1st step is to establish your ideal day in that ideal life. Likelihood is that it doesn’t entail doing nothing!
Step 2: Establish where you are at
Understand what you currently have in terms of assets. This is done simply by taking all cash you have, any assets that can bring your more cash, including your pension, investments, properties and subtracting all you owe from that amount. This is your net worth and the starting point of your journey.
Secondly determine how much you want to live on per year in your retirement. The easiest way to do this is to determine what your current annual expenses are. The more accurate you are in establishing your current spend the more accurate you can be in establishing your future spending.
Adjust your current spending for anything you will not have after your retirement and add anything you see yourself spending additionally in retirement.
Step 3: Work out your “freedom number” – your key to retirement
Given that you have established what your freedom life looks like and how much you want to spend per year you can establish your freedom number.
Multiply your annual expenditure number by 25 and 33. This will give you the top end and lower end of the amount of assets you will need in retirement. The calculation assumes that your investments, which you will be growing to build your freedom number, can return between 3 to 4% after inflation, this being the low end and top end of your investment return. The number you get by multiplying your annual number by 25% will theoretically give you 4% and the number you multiplied by 33 will give you the 3%.
This is a basic estimation of the net worth number you need to build.
Step 4: Determine a realistic timeline to reach your freedom number
There are a number of great online retirement calculators. I particularly like Nutmeg’s (www.nutmeg.com/pension). You simply input how much you annual retirement amount is that you calculated above, your current net worth amount , the return percentage you expect your assets to earn. By using 3 and 4% you can get a conservative and base case estimation and when you ideally would like to reach your retirement number. The calculator determines how much you will need to save per month to reach your goal.
If the monthly saving appears way to punchy you can consider decreasing the annual amount you would like to live on or increasing your timeline to retirement.
Step 5: Get real about your monthly savings goal
Based on your monthly savings goal calculated above take a hard look at your current lifestyle and make sure you are committed to achieving this goal. Remember my story at the beginning of this article though. Don’t stop living today in pursuit of this future goal. Make every step of this journey a worthwhile one. That means adapt your lifestyle to ensure you live your best life everyday while building your freedom.
Loving your best life now doesn’t mean overspending and living frivolously. It simply means living intentionally below your means.
Step 6: Get creative around income
While the first element is to practice mindful spending the second powerful element is to increase your income.
Consider taking up a side hustle and building other streams of passive income to add funds to your freedom pot.
Step 7: Maximise your tax efficient investing accounts
Take advantage of all the tax benefits available to you and maximise your pension and other tax friendly investing accounts such as the ISA in the UK, 401k and IRA accounts in the US.
Be mindful if you plan on retiring at a very early age as you can only withdraw your pension at retirement age. Before this will result in you incurring significant tax penalties.
Remember to include this in your assessment of the assets you will have available to you in the years before retirement.
Step 8: Pay off expensive consumer debt and possibly plan to repay your mortgage before retirement
While it is a no brainer to pay off the money parasite of consumer debt, a mortgage may involve a little more consideration.
If your mortgage has a very low interest rate it may be more beneficial to invest the amount you would have used to repay your mortgage early and create a sinking fund for repaying the mortgage at retirement or sometime thereafter.
This is both an emotional and a financial consideration as for some people having a mortgage detracts from the freedom they are seeking in retirement. You know yourself and what is important to you so plan this one accordingly.
Step 9: Plan for big ticket future expenses
This may include healthcare if your employer has been footing this bill. In addition if you have children you may also plan on helping them out in terms of further education, a wedding or their first home.
Step 10: Maintain Flexibility
Plans change, markets tank and life throws curveballs. Be flexible and open to diversions and a meandering path.
Your journey to financial freedom is as much about self-development and growing as an individual as it is about building your freedom pot.
Embrace the lessons and the excitement of having a big future goal while living mindfully in each moment of self discovery that a big challenge brings.