Financial Independence is essential both now and in the future

It’s only been a little over 2 months since I had my lightbulb moment and began my journey to financial independence. I’m a little bit obsessive so once I discovered it was possible to retire early, that became my goal. I’ve read hundreds of blog articles, explored many options and thought a lot about how awesome it would be to be free from the tyranny of the 9-5 job. In the last couple of weeks though, I’ve realised that I’m not necessarily trying to quit work. I’m just trying to “decouple pay from work” – a phrase that I picked up from an awesome article written by Jim Wang for the Our Next Life blog

I love what I do but..

That’s the truth. My day-to-day tasks and the activities that are part of my role are generally fantastic. There’s a couple of things I’m never going to love but it would be a waste of time (and totally boring) to expect to love every moment of every day. Things I don’t like that aren’t essential to the job itself are:

  • Waking up early to adhere to the 9.30 – 4.30 core hours of the business. I’m nocturnal. Quite frankly I do my best work after midnight. Or I get inspiration at times that aren’t within business hours. It shouldn’t be so important how I work. What should be most important is that I deliver great work.
  • Being based out of one place/location. I love travel. I used to be a consultant for 6 years and whilst I eventually wanted a desk of my own so I could leave a pair of shoes at work by the end, I loved living/working in different cities and buildings.
  • Being pigeon-holed with a finite skill set. I’m more of a generalist rather than a specialist. I have job envy and like to try my hands at different things. I’m curious about interesting roles and love challenges/continuous improvement. I thrived on the ability to change roles when I was a consultant but sadly it is not the norm to move from role to role within organisations particularly when you have a desired skill set.
  • Being stuck in one career. I forget where I read that we (and I’m never sure whether I’m generation Y, X or a millennial – or even what the distinction is) are likely to have 3-4 different careers over our lives. This is compared with the baby boomers who were more likely to have a single career and work at a single organisation. I’ve had my first career as a consultant software engineer and I’m on my second one now. I know there’s at least one more that I’d love to explore, becoming a professor/lecturer/teacher of some sort. I had to do start a master’s to transition from 1 to 2 and I’ll most likely need a PhD to go from this to 3.
  • Having no say in what projects I work on. I love what I do generally but I can’t say I’m excited about fast fashion. Or some of the projects that organisations that sell fast fashion commission.

FI and work shouldn’t be mutually exclusive

I don’t know that anyone said that they were but I’ve certainly spent the last month or so feverishly entering different numbers in a spreadsheet. Sometimes the numbers excite me – when I think it might be possible to retire in 7 years – and sometimes they don’t – when I feel like it might be more realistic to expect retirement in about 17.5 years. 17 and a half years was downright scary, at the time I thought it. Mainly because I was thinking from a perspective of not doing any work at all. Who says financial independence starts at the point where you no longer need to work forever?

Here’s what I want. I want to do what I do or teach what I do or some combination of the two. At the moment, I’m in the sweet spot of being paid well for something that I love and am good at. It means that I can quit my jobs when my personal values are not in line with my organisation’s and still get to do a job I love. This might change in the future if what I do is no longer as desirable as it currently is. If I decided to do a PhD and transition into being a lecturer then I most definitely wouldn’t be as well paid as I am now but if I stayed in the UK I could earn enough to maintain my current lifestyle and still put away some money. But with Brexit, who knows whether teaching would even pay as much as it does now? I certainly wouldn’t have access to a studentship as most of the ones I’d qualify for are sponsored by the European Union.

So, Financial Independence, will be the only way that I can retain control. The only thing I need to work out now is how to calculate my FI amount if I don’t want to draw money from my savings most of the time.

I just want the freedom to work on things I care about in ways that I want to 

I have a number of jobs that I could do if I didn’t have to make money.

  • The “pure passion” project. I don’t care whether it makes any money or not. I just think it would be amazing to bring to fruition. But it will cost money. So I’d need to be able to pay for life while I worked on it.
  • The “values meet opportunity and could be revolutionary” project: I have this idea of the new frontier being in an industry that has not made any progress for over a century. I would be able to do a PhD and/or work in this industry and if things work out I could even make a ton of money. I’d need the time to grow this business and don’t expect to make money immediately.
  • The “perfect organisation” job: There’s a couple of organisations that appear to have the perfect mix of budget, belief in talent/letting people work in their own way, and innovation that (from the outside looking in) would make me so happy to keep working for an employer. I’m not where I need to be in my career yet to apply to them . I’d need the freedom to develop my portfolio and skill set (including possibly getting a master’s) to match their requirements.
  • The “outdoor/non desk based dream” job: For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a farm hand/builder/bus driver. Anything that doesn’t involve sitting at a desk all day. That is physically demanding. Or that means that I can be in the great outdoors most of the day instead of sitting on my arse. But I was scared of not earning enough if I did one of those.

All of these scenarios will need me to pay for living expenses and/or have enough money growing to offset a lack of savings for the duration I’m engaged in them. All I need to work out is how much I need to be free to engage in one of those yet have the security that I wouldn’t need to work anymore if I couldn’t. I’ve seen really good tools and calculators out there but they don’t seem geared towards someone who just wants freedom to make better choices about their work.

Does anyone know how I arrive at this number? Please send me comments if you do. 

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