The Financial Independence Journey – Where do we go from here?

The other day a co-worker, in his late 20’s, came up to me during lunch and wrapped one of his arms around my shoulders. He then did the same for the other co-workers too. I thought it was really strange and figured something was up. Sure enough, after giving everyone a “man hug” he declared:

I’m leaving the company tomorrow to seek for new opportunities. Thank you for all your help.

His announcement as a complete shock. He has always been a happy-go-lucky type of guy with a smile on his face whenever I interact with him. As a senior product manager, I deal with people on many different teams every day and this co-worker has been extremely helpful and a pleasant to work with.

After a little bit of chit chat, we were able to find out the main reason why he’s leaving the company – he was not being challenged in his current role. As a young engineer, he wanted to work on certain projects to improve his coding skills. He was not given the opportunity. Since he started with the company, he has been pigeonholed to do a specific task. The task, although extremely important in the overall scheme of things, is extremely repetitive.

According to him, he had provided this feedback to his manager about 10 months ago but nothing has changed since. Frustrated, he decided to find opportunities elsewhere.

When I heard that, I applauded and congratulated him for taking action. It’s easy to get comfortable and just clock in and clock out every day, collect your salary every 2 weeks, and leave your desires to be challenged at the door.

His story made me reflect on our financial independence journey. How do we keep ourselves engaged and challenged on this long quest for financial independence?

The Boring Financial Independence Journey

If you break down the financial independence concept down to its core, it requires 4 simple steps:

Step 1: Earn
Step 2: Save
Step 3: Invest
Step 4: Repeat and wait

Unlike many mainstream media articles have suggested, becoming financially independent is not a quick process. To be financially independent is simply a game of time. For the rare few, it may take less than 5 years to become financially independent; for some, it may take 10 years; for the vast majority of the population, it may take 10, 20 years, or longer to become financially independent.

While being financially independent is very enticing and appears to be a very magical status, the journey can be extremely boring and repetitive. Because you’re continuously repeating the 4 steps mentioned above.

There are no magic pills. There are no shortcuts.

Sure, you can win the lottery or get an inheritance. But if I were you, I wouldn’t count on these to propel you quickly to financial independence.

Financial independence takes time. And the slow and steady path usually is the best approach.

How do you make sure you are engaged and being challenged every day while on the financial independence journey? How do you make sure repeating the 4 steps doesn’t get boring and repetitive for you after a few years?

So…Where do we go from here?

For Mrs. T and I, we know that passive income will exceed our annual expenses one day in the future, it’s simply a matter of time. You may recall that our dividend income in 2018 covered 32.7% of our 2018 expenses or 58.8% of our Necessities. We are slowly but surely building up our passive income by deploying the earn, save, invest, and repeat & wait steps.

Unlike many FI/FIRE seekers, we don’t have a specific timeline or date that we must become financially independent by. If we hit this milestone in our early 40’s, great. If we hit this milestone in our mid 40’s, great. If we hit this milestone later in life, that’s great too.

While we have a good mindset about our FI journey, things can still get boring and repetitive. We may get complacent. We certainly don’t want is to lose interests, give up our quest for financial independence, look for other challenges/opportunities in life, and go back to our pre-financial epiphany lives.

How do we do to keep us challenged and engaged so we don’t lose our focus on this long journey?

For one, we can challenge ourselves to earn and save more. What about earn an extra $100 each month? What about increase our savings rate by 0.5%? What about creating another passive income stream that will generate additional $20 a month? Although these things seem little, a little bit here and a little bit there all add up.

Outside of financial challenges, we can certainly keep ourselves engaged and challenged in our daily lives. Pursue a hobby that we have always been interested in but haven’t had the time is a great way to challenge ourselves. For example, photography is something I really enjoy. While I shoot weddings part time, I haven’t had as much time to do creative portraits. I can certainly challenge myself by organizing creative portrait shoots with models and makeup artists. I can also challenge myself by using different lighting set up and techniques.

Shot this in a super dirty abandon trailer. Kudos to the model for stepping inside.

Since I speak Mandarin and Mrs. T speaks Danish. A good challenge for us would learn each other’s mother tongue. It would certainly be great to understand what everyone’s talking about when we go back to Denmark and be more involved in the different conversations.

Lately, Mrs. T and I have been reading more books on various topics. Previously I read a lot of books on personal finance and investment while Mrs. T read a lot of books on self-improvement. By widening the topics that we read, we are challenging ourselves to learn and be open to different concepts.

Another thing I’ve really enjoyed is to connect with other FI/FIRE seekers. Thanks to this blog, I have been able to connect with many like-minded people and met up with them. I’ve always been amazed by how easy the conversations flowed and how enjoyable they have been. On many meetups, it would have been easy to talk for another 3 or 4 hours. Meeting new people and discussing ideas can certainly keep the FI journey more interesting.

Another interesting challenge might be figuring out the tax consequences once we are financially independent and not working full time. Figuring out how to be as tax efficient as possible is an extremely interesting challenge to me.

So where do we go from here?

Continue learning new things, finding personal challenges, and setting up yearly goals and working on these goals each week. At the same time, celebrate the small successes.

What do I mean by celebrating the small successes? It can be treating yourself when you cross the $1,000 passive income per month milestone or celebrating with your loved ones when your net worth hits a certain milestone. Without celebrating the small successes, the financial independence journey will only feel longer.

Remember, we all only have a set amount of time on Earth. Value your time!

Dear readers, what are you doing to keep your FI journey interesting?

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Mr. Tako
    March 4, 2019 at 5:05 am

    Great post Bob! For me, life is all about learning. Every day I’m challenging myself to learn new things. It’s not always about personal finance either (although that’s certainly a lot of it). Sometimes I’m learning how to fix a clothes washer, or install a new sink, or repair some appliance at home.

    Every day is a learning day. Some people say “I’ll get bored if I retire”, but I’ve yet to get bored. There’s too much to learn!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 4, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      Thank you Mr. Tako. I’ve been reading more books lately and for me that means I’m learning new knowledge. 🙂

  • Reply
    Joe
    March 4, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Goodness, you guys are keeping busy. Nice job. I think that’s the key to happiness. You have to be busy with the things you enjoy. I’m having a hard time challenging myself lately. The last year has been tough with various issues. We’re done with moving, but I still have a few things to fix around the house. After that, I have to do taxes and plan a trip to Thailand this summer. At end of March, our tenant is moving out and I’ll need to get that unit ready for sale. I don’t have time to learn new things. Maybe summer will be less busy. Who has time to get bored?

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 4, 2019 at 2:59 pm

      Haha we try to keep us busy. 🙂 Moving takes a lot of work and time so hopefully you can find some time after the move & fixing up stuff to settle down and figure out what the next challenge would be for you.

  • Reply
    Mr. Nomad Numbers
    March 4, 2019 at 11:41 am

    If we compare a life where a 9-5 is required to a life where 9-5 become optional I think the latter will most likely keep us busy than the former.

    As you said Bob, it’s really easy to get comfortable by the routine of a 9-5. A 9-5 also sucks most of ppl’s time so they don’t have many opportunities to get bored or to think much about what else to do when the work is over. On the other hand when you don’t need to go to a 9-5 you ended up with the space to really reflect about your life purpose and what you want to achieve. This is usually then that you have an OMG moment when you realized that their are A LOT of things that you can do.

    As for us, since our 9-5 became optional, we decided to slow travel the world full time and we are far from getting bored of this new lifestyle. We are currently in Aruba and we are enjoying realizing morning where we spend 3 hours at the ocean improving our swimming while catching up on reading and meditation. Something we would have never prioritize while going in a regular 1-2 weeks vacation because time was much more scarce than it is now for us.

    Based on what Joe said at the end of his comment, I’ll close by saying: “Who has time to get bored… when we can trade a regular job work by living a fulfilled life?”

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 4, 2019 at 3:00 pm

      So very true that a 9-5 takes a lot of time and prevent ppl from having the opportunities to think what else they can work on. Slow travel is definitely something we look forward to in the near future.

  • Reply
    Wally
    March 4, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    Bob, that’s awesome news about your co-worker! It’s hard to make a change once you are comfortable. The FIRE journey can seem a bit repetitive, but I think it simply becomes a lifestyle. The important thing for myself is to keep learning and growing as an individual, regardless if I am FIRE’d or not. I like your idea of continuing to set yearly goals. This will likely keep you pushing forward to improve yourself. Life needs to be challenging. If reaching FI is about sitting on a beach day-after-day with no goals or hobbies, then yes I can see that getting boring really fast.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 4, 2019 at 3:01 pm

      It’s definitely hard constant challenge yourself so you’re outside of your comfort zone. But that’s how we grow up humans. We need to be challenged and live outside of our comfort zone from time to time.

  • Reply
    Passivecanadianincome
    March 4, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    cool trailor pic!

    Thats neat and yet crappy about your co worker. Clearly he was a asset to the company and a great person to have around. Hopefully management addresses that and improves their system.

    I think blogging about finances really helps keep fi interesting and makes you want to chase it more.

    Like you, I have changed up my reading material a bit. Its not just financial books anymore.

    cheers Bob.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 5, 2019 at 10:25 am

      Yea it’s too bad this co-worker decided to leave, he was a great way. Yes blogging about finances is really keeping me engaged. 🙂

  • Reply
    Buy, Hold Long
    March 5, 2019 at 12:38 am

    Thanks for sharing Bob, awesome pictures by the way.
    FI is a very long process and I know that. I like taking time to research and invest.
    What I don’t like is how many people on Twitter and in real life that I have met, saying how their passive income pays for their lifestyle in a short amount of time (less than a year). As soon as I ask questions they get defensive and don’t give too many details. Without getting into too many details, one guy I went to school with says he could retire now because he has enough money, an amazing feat at just 27. Only to be told later that he was borrowing money to invest and owed a lot of people a LOT of money (c. 1 million)…. I hope he can pull it off! Ouch

    Cheers

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 5, 2019 at 10:26 am

      Yea I don’t like that either. Be open and share how you got to FI. Most likely if ppl say they get to FI in less than a year, they’re not actually FI. Things just don’t add up.

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    March 5, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Great post Bob, some like the consistency of a repetitive routine and some like constant new challenges. It is our challenge to be aware of where we are at on that spectrum and to break out of a rut if it is impacting our well being. Keep up the great posts and let us know when you can speak Dutch lol

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 5, 2019 at 10:26 am

      Haha I don’t plan to learn Dutch anytime soon. 🙂

  • Reply
    PFI
    March 5, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. We’re now in that repetitive phase and I think you addressed perfectly the challenge of staying engaged. After the initial learning frenzy, our search for FI suddenly got mundane.

    I love some of your suggestions for staying challenged and engaged. I too think learning more about tax strategies is a great next step.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 6, 2019 at 10:51 am

      Thank you PFI. It’s definitely important to stay engaged by challenging yourself. 🙂

  • Reply
    Diana E Sung
    March 6, 2019 at 7:31 am

    This post is well done. I struggled through the first few months of my debt repayment because I just wanted the debt to disappear magically and start “enjoying” myself again. However, I started to realize that it took a long time (several years of underearning and overspending;) to create this problem and it will take about that long to undo.
    Developing long term interests and enriching your personal lives through your art, learning, and travel will also make the transition to retirement more fulfilling. For me, getting on track for financial independence is helping me see all my goals (parenting, health/fitness, creative pursuits, career path) in a more patient, long-term way. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 6, 2019 at 10:53 am

      Thank you Diana. The financial journey is not just about improving your finances, it’s also about enriching and improving your personal lives. Think long term, rather than short term. 🙂

  • Reply
    German
    March 6, 2019 at 10:45 am

    LOL I can imagine a nice movie sequel where employee goes around and give hugs and then ciao ciao guys! I’m leaving tomorrow! I’m also in the process of changing jobs. I want to do something else for the paycheck while I’m pursuing my FI goals. We have similar passions. You’re in photography. I’m in videography. I love shooting short clips and edit them in post. Keeps me busy and challenged. I have a youtube channel that I hope some time in the future will bring is some nice cash flow. Have you tried to sell your photos as stocks for a passive income? That space is very competitive but if you’re good at it you can give it a try.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      March 6, 2019 at 10:54 am

      To be honest, stock photography isn’t really worth the time IMO. Makes way more sense to spend my time on wedding photography. 🙂

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