Everyone has a goal of being financially stable. Do you want more than that? Maybe you want to build a palace-sized mansion someplace beautiful. Maybe you want to travel the world. Maybe you just want to sleep in on weekdays and not report to anyone. All of these dreams have one thing in common: They’re about personal freedom.
The ability to quit a job you hate, go on a vacation because you want to or storm out of work after a really frustrating day, is a form of freedom. Specifically, it’s personal financial freedom: having enough money that you don’t need to work to cover your basic necessities.
Realistically, how much money would it take for you to be that free? It might seem incredible, but, depending on your goals, it’s possible. If it’s a goal, or if you’re just curious, consider the following.
1.) What’s your number?
Traditional retirement planning assumes you withdraw money from an account for all of your expenses, so you expect to spend a certain amount each year. Multiply that number by the number of years you expect to live after retirement, factor in inflation and a modest rate of return, and that’s it. For financial freedom, though, the number is a little different.
If you’re looking for financial freedom before retirement, you’re looking for what’s called interest-only retirement. That means your capital is generating a stable rate of return, which is your only source of income. This is a preferable condition, because you don’t know how long you’ll live.
The math is pretty easy. Take your desired yearly income, multiply it by 66.6 (a 4% annual rate of return, less a 3% rate of interest), and that’s what you’d need. For example, a $50,000 yearly income would require about $3.3 million. That’s a lot, but it’s not ridiculous or unattainable.
This is especially true if you’re willing to live on less. $50,000 per year is quite a bit for one person. If you want to live simply in an area with a low cost of living, you might be able to survive on $30,000. To get there, you’d need just under $2 million. Again, that’s a big number to think about, but it’s reasonable for a person to save in their lifetime.
2.) How can you get there?
There are two lifestyle habits killing the move toward financial freedom: consumer debt and lifestyle inflation. Nothing promotes reckless spending like easy access to expensive debt and the belief that happiness is just a major appliance purchase away.
Consumer debt is common for most people. It’s not just credit cards; it’s also auto loans and other big-ticket purchases. Basically, anything that you’re borrowing money for that isn’t going to increase in value falls into this category.
Lifestyle inflation is purchasing goods based on the mistaken belief that you need them. Some might call it “keeping up with the Joneses.” Lowering your lifestyle expenses helps you get to financial freedom in two ways. First, it lowers your savings target. Second, it leaves you with more of your income to save.
Instead of driving a new luxury car, get a gently used sedan. Rather than the biggest TV your house can fit, get a smaller one or do without. Stay away from gadgets and gizmos. Financial freedom means living below your means for the rest of your life. The goal is to save at least half your income every paycheck until you have enough to retire on the interest.
3.) Take a shortcut
Financial freedom doesn’t have to be complete, and it doesn’t have to be forever. Having enough money to quit your day job and sustain yourself on your investments plus your passion projects can also be a freeing feeling. Knowing you have enough in your war chest to last you a year or more of unemployment is freeing as well. By reducing your time frame and increasing your freedom income, you can cut down the amount you need to save.
Just because you may not reach your full financial freedom number is no reason to give up. You can still find yourself in a position to obtain a large part of the same feeling. Even if you never storm out of your job in a huff, having the knowledge you’d be fine if you did can help you get through a tough time.