An Interactive Guide to Early Retirement and Financial Independence

This article is an experiment — a cross between a choose your own adventure book and a calculator while also being a guide to help you understand the numbers behind early retirement and financial independence.

September 2, 2017. 40 min read. Financial Independence, Interactive, Investing.

Let's talk about early retirement and financial independence ! These phrases alone have a lot of weight associated with them, and you might have an immediate gut response to just hearing these terms.

You might love your job and wouldn't think about leaving it. Maybe you hate your job and can't wait to leave it. Maybe you're looking for a change. Maybe you feel you never want to retire because you'd just "be bored", or maybe you plan to work until you can't work anymore. For this post, I'm going to ask one thing...

My request for you:
Don't assume financial independence means retirement.

Instead, for this post, think of financial independence (abbreviated FI) as the point where if for any reason you stopped working, you'd be set for the rest of your life at your desired lifestyle. What you choose to do with your life at that point is up to you!

After making your way through this post and filling in your numbers, you're going to know what you'll need to do in order to make it happen. Here's a rundown of what we'll be talking about.

Part 1: Where am I now?

The most common question when it comes to financial independence and early retirement is the big one:

How much money do I need to retire?

This is going to be the core question we answer in this article, exploring it in a number of different ways. My goal is that after reading this post, you know exactly how much you'd need to retire in your current state, but also give some advice on small tweaks to your lifestyle that could hugely impact this number.

The first step is understanding your financial footing today and where your current path would take you. Depending on your financial health, this can range from a breath of relief to a sobering realization. Please, bear with it. I guarantee that knowing your financial health is better than not knowing.

This Article Is Interactive!

This whole article is a bit of an experiment. Whenever you see green dotted unlined text yes! just like that! , that indicates this is a place that needs your input! Just hover over it and it'll tell you what to do. The content of this post will change based on your input. Consider it an old-school choose your own adventure blog post like you read as a kid. Give the one in this paragraph a shot. Also, consider these estimates rather than hard numbers.

Next, let's dive into your numbers starting with some basics.

Savings Rate Calculator

Try changing the underlined values and see what happens!

My yearly after-tax income (w/401k included) is $ and I save $ total for retirement – including 401k and all other means. Using these figures, my savings rate (SR) will be about .

This is calculated with the following formula:

( / ) * 100% = Savings Rate

Adam Says: These values will NOT be stored in a cookie in your browser and NOT be anonymously aggregated will be stored in a cookie in your browser and be anonymously aggregated . If you revisit this page, you will NOT will see the same results. If you want you can reset all values to the defaults at any time.

When working towards retirement and financial independence, your savings rate is one of the most important numbers. The more you save each year, the faster you'll be able to retire – that's obvious – but how much faster? See where your SR falls on the following chart:

Years to FI/retirement by Savings Rate Calculator

Adam Says: Assumptions abound! This assumes $0 current savings, you save what you don't spend, /yr investment growth, WR, and that your spending will be the same when you retire. If you don't know what these terms mean, don't worry -- we'll get to them.

For your savings rate, , you can see on the chart that you would need to earn enough to be financially independent if you were starting today. If you were to continue saving and investing every year during that time, eventually you would have saved up. At that point, you would be able to retire and withdraw every year.

Throughout this post, we'll be diving into the math behind these numbers, why this is enough, how can you lower this number and what's required of you (and the world) to hit it.

Part 2: How much should I save?

What floors me about the above chart is that a 10% SR, is often sighted as a "good" savings rate. In practice, it will take you 41 years to save up enough to retire, and that's only if your spending stays the same! If your income and spending go up, it'll take even longer.

If you double that savings rate to 20% though, you can retire in 30 years. That's 27% less time working for 10% of your salary.

If you want to retire before you're 65, the common wisdom "save 10% of your income" is terrible advice!

If you're hoping to be financially independent before collecting social security, you'll need to save more than 10%. Let's look into ways to reduce this number. These estimates are making a LOT of assumptions. We can refine this a little, but for that, I'm going to need your help – in the form of answering a few more questions.

hiking

Get ready for a long journey.

Saving Money is a Hike

You're starting with a time period of based on just your savings rate. Saving this much isn't a sprint, or even a marathon but a hike. Depriving yourself for a few months, only to be exhausted, or spend more the following months, isn't going to have a positive impact. Pace and progress are the keys.

I've personally tried maxing out my savings some months – spending the least amount I possibly could to get that SR formula looking better. The problem was that the next month I'd reward myself for doing so and things would balance out.

Favor lifestyle changes that help you save over changes that feel like deprivation.

Instead, make changes that make your life better, and that you look forward to week after week and year after year. If you're spending money on something that brings that kind of joy into your life, to me that's well worth it.

Find a way to enjoy saving the same way you'd enjoy a hike. Make it effortless, make it relaxing, make it feel right.

You could be reading this and think there's no way I could save up . I know when I was growing up, at times my mom was scrapping to make ends meet, and saving was the last thing on her mind. For those reading in that situation, I empathize with you but struggle to find the best advice. You know your situation better than I ever could, as well as what you could do to make it better.

Part 3: How much do I need?

In order to understand how much you need, we'll need to learn a little more about you.

Let's Talk More About You

I'm a and old man woman trans* other undisclosed and have a total combined savings & investments of about $. Right now, I'm retired saving money for retirement paying off debt .

Each year I spend about $, but when I retire I'll likely spend of that (equal to about /yr).

I'm hoping to retire when I'm years old.


Minafi's Take On Your Finances

Given your SR and a net worth , if you continue to invest /yr, then you're on track to be financially independent in – at age .

At age , you would need in retirement savings and can start withdrawing /yr.

Adam Says: For these numbers, I'm assuming /yr investment growth and a withdrawal rate. If you're not sure what these numbers mean, don't worry! I'll explain them later on in this post.

This is where things start to get fun! There's now enough information to know a rough estimate of when you'd be financially independent – in at age . Let's dive into how we got to this number.

Retirement Age Calculator

This graph shows your future net worth given your current & future savings.

Adam Says: This assumes you're years old with $ in savings. You spend $/yr and save $/yr. /yr investment growth and you'll use a WR.

The dashed horizontal line in this graph is how much you'd need to be financially independent given your current numbers. The other line is your net worth at each age. The point where these lines intersect is your FI Age -- the age in which you'd have enough to be financially independent.

Financial Independence (FI) is different from retirement. Think of financial independence as the amount of money you'd need in order to never work again. Retirement (RE), on the other hand, is the act of not working.

I'm on track to be financially independent in at age ! Find your FI date at Minafi.

It's possible for people to be FI but continue working – you see it all the time. From CEOs of companies to quiet employees who have saved huge amounts to bloggers talking about retirement (well, some – not me). There are also people who are retired, but who may need to return to work someday down the line when their savings run out, or if social security fails.

To be FIRE (financially independent + retired) is an aim with the goal of minimizing stress from external sources. It does rely on stock markets to perform in a similar pattern to the last 100+ years, but aside from that, it's not based on too many assumptions.

financial independence

Financial Independence (FI) is a freeing idea and a beneficial goal.

Part 4: How much could I spend then?

Up until this point, we've been a little rosy in our withdrawal rate (WR). The withdrawal rate is the percent of your savings you withdraw each year. This can be calculated as follows:

Withdrawal Rate Calculator

This assumes that you'll spend of your current spending of about $/yr in retirement, which would be /yr.

(Yearly Retirement Spending / Retirement Savings) * 100% = WR
( / ) * 100% =

In other words, at a WR , you'll need to save up before you stop working completely. At your current pace, this will take - allowing you retire at age .

Adam Says: This assumes the same /yr investment growth as before. According to the Trinity Study, 3% WR will work 98% of the time, while 4% WR will work out 87% over 30 years.

Withdrawal rate is one the most talked about (and heavily debated) topics when it comes to early retirement. I'm only going to introduce the topic in this article, but if you want to read more here's a great post on Where'd the 4% Rule Come From Anyway?

My personal withdrawal rate I use for calculations is 3%. I'm in no rush to retire right now, and I'd prefer to rest easy and be overwhelmingly confident -- or at least as much as possible.

investing

The math does add up, with some additional work.

Part 5: How is this enough?

When I first saw these numbers and did the math on it, I immediately asked the following question:

If I retire with and spend /yr when I retire, doesn't that mean my cash will run out in / = ?

If you put your money into a savings account, then this is exactly how long your investment would last. There are better places to put your money than a savings account through!

Factoring In Inflation

There is some bad news here, unfortunately. Each of those , your spending power would be slightly less due to inflation, which is generally around 3%. Inflation is something we have no control over individually but is something we can plan for.

Inflation means that each year, what you can buy with your money is going down by some small amount. If you've seen prices rise since you were a kid, that's potentially a result of inflation.

In , in order to spend in today's dollars, you would need in the year .

Because of this, we need to increase our total funds by each year just to have the same buying power as today. If you add in your WR, this means that your savings need to increase by /yr in order for you to draw from it long-term!

So why are we using for these numbers rather than ? The reason is that inflation doesn't mean all of your expenses will rise by this much every year, but that the Consumer Price Index and Product Price Indexes indicate that this shift in prices.

Your net expenses may even go down! I would recommend setting your percent of spending to be higher if you are farther out than 10 years to FI to buffer for potential increases due to inflation.

Enter Market Investing

The missing piece here is that you can invest that money in the stock market -- both while you're growing it and when you're drawing down from it.

Stock markets in the US have returned on average 7% a year since their beginning. This is an important number! If you're withdrawing at most 4% of this, and 3% of it is going to inflation, then your net worth will last forever. Unfortunately, the stock market has ups and downs, so we can't make predictions quite that bold, but we can use it as a baseline. This is why 4% is often sighted as the maximum WR to use in calculations.

Learning how to invest and earn ~7% will sound intimidating at first. It will take trial and error, but more than that it'll take being brave and putting money into the stock market. Using a simple 3-fund portfolio is a great place to start learning how to invest.

Your Numbers with Market Investing

If you put your money into savings and withdrew some of it each year, the total amount you'd spend would be . However, if you invested this and it grew at a pace of /yr, and you withdrew an inflation adjusted /yr, then this amount could provide you with before your 100th birthday.

That wouldn't be all at once but in the form of /yr. This is the true power of compound interest! Imagine how many more years you'd need to work to save this amount without investing. Actually, no need to imagine -- it's ! If you learn how to invest, you can retire years earlier.

This is the number one difference between people who retire early and those who wait until social security -- people who retire early learn how to invest.

When I first did the math on compound interest I was floored. The idea that I'd make more money during retirement than during my working years seemed counterintuitive, but the numbers were right there.

Become an Investor

If you're not currently investing, learning enough to feel confident can be intimidating. It takes time, patience and the occasional leap of faith. I've put together a 10-week email course to help you get started.

In this course, I'll email you a new set of tasks to accomplish each week. Sometimes this will include articles to read, or activities to perform on Vanguard.

By the end of this course, you'll have a balanced understanding of investing and confidence to invest for the rest of your life. If you've been putting off learning how to invest, this is where you should start. If you'd like to learn more, you can read about The Minimal Investor Course and sign up.

retire sooner

Speed up your FI hike with a few small lifestyle tweaks.

Part 6: What can I do to retire sooner?

Now that you have a baseline of until you've saved up enough at your current pace, let's see what small steps you can take to lower that number!

There are only 2 ways you can affect this number:

Make more money.
Spend less money.

The savings rate calculation we looked at is based entirely on these two numbers (spending/savings). Let's look at a few scenarios and see what impact they have on your FI dates.

What If: You Reduce Spending & Save It?

If you reduce your spending by (saving a year more), then you could be FI earlier once you have saved .

By reducing your yearly spending by , you'll need less to retire. Upon retiring, you'd be spending a year.

Adam Says: Are there things in your lifestyle that you'd be happy to cut? Would you rather cut spending by /yr or work for an additional years?

The less you need, the less you'll need to save. If you reduce your spending to $0/yr, you'd need $0 to retire. That's likely unrealistic, but the less you spend, the less you need.

The art is not in making money, but in keeping it.

Taking steps to reduce your lifestyle can pay off by reducing the time you'll be required to work to maintain it. Be careful not to go overboard though. Build a life you want, then save for it.

What If: You Earn Money In Retirement?

You're on track to spend /yr during retirement. What if you still spent this exact same amount, but of it comes from income in retirement? This would be finding a way to make /yr in side income.

In that case, you can retire earlier!

Adam says: What can you start doing today to add another income stream? It would reduce your time until retirement, but also add stability for later on.

Finding a small way to supplement your income can reduce the amount you'll need to save. The concept of a side hustle has grown a bunch in the last years, with people opting to find ways to control their financial destiny. I like Side Hustle Nations description of a side hustle:

A side hustle is something you do to earn money outside a traditional job.

If you're like me and haven't made money outside the boundaries of a W-2 for your career, this might just seem like more work and not FIRE. The distinction to me is in having a side hustle that you love doing. One that you look forward to waking up to work on.

At that point, this additional revenue stream can become another challenge in your life or another form of self-expression.

Lowering expenses and earning money in retirement are three very clear ways to reduce the time until you are financially independent.

What If: Reduce spending & earn income?

You reduce spending by while replacing of your income during retirement ().

This would result in you reaching FI in . That would be earlier than your timeline of by .

Adam says: It's crazy to think that these 2 things could result in a reduction in your working years.

Making more money and spending less while investing is the key to achieving financial independence sooner.

who is this for

There are 291k subscribers to /r/financialindependence/ alone.

Part 7: Who is actually doing this?

You might be surprised by who is pursuing FI. It ranges from people in debt to multi-millionaires who have retired already. There is likely someone who is in a similar situation to you out there.

I was lucky enough to chat with a number of people who are in various states of financial independence and get their takes on the subject.

Adam from Minafi

35m, married, working and saving money in Orlando, FL. $1.05m in savings. Spending $55k/yr now and in retirement. FI by 40 in a major city. RE date TBD.

That's me! I'm a web developer, board gamer and cocktail lover who is exploring personal finance and related fields. I've worked for years teaching people how to code at Code School, and want to educate others on FI while learning more myself. You can read more of my story if you'd like the full details.

How did you learn about FI?

Reading The Bogleheads Guide to Investing set me on my journey. It made it clear how little I needed to retire if I was investing it in the stock market.

What was your financial status when you began?

2 months after I graduated college (age 23), my mom passed away and left me her house and $100,000. A few years later I was 28, had experienced investing during the recession and bought my first home. After selling her house, I had $150,000 in investments and -$100,000 in home equity when I started while making about $52,000 a year.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Learning and executing on a long term investing strategy. When I look at my total investments today, more than 1/3 of it is from investment gains alone in the past 7 years. This, coupled with controlling lifestyle inflation.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

Does buying Bitcoin count? For me, I underestimated the financial impact of buying a house. I did this prior to learning about FI, and I undertook it without enough thought and planning. The extra yearly expenses (1-2% of the home price every year), the additional time for maintenance and improvements, yard work, cleaning - it's a lot to handle. In retrospect, I would've just continued renting.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Save up $3,000 and invest it in your 401k, a Vanguard IRA or a Vanguard Roth IRA. Use that account to learn the basics of investing - how to buy and sell, what investments to pick and how that works. Starting small in an account where you don't have to worry about taxes helped me gain confidence before jumping in completely.

Following that, keeping your spending in check year after year and not letting it grow out of proportion with your happiness.

Read more about Adam Collapse

Gwen from Fiery Millennials

26f, working and saving money in the Midwest. $170,000 in savings. Spending $40k/yr now, $25k in retirement. FI by 28 in a ruralish area. RE by 30.

Hey, I'm Gwen! I'm a 26 year old IT professional on my way to early retirement. I enjoy playing sports, cuddling my cat, reading and working on my real estate properties.

How did you learn about FI?

I found Mr. Money Mustache's blog my junior year of college and was immediately hooked. I spent the rest of my time in college soaking up information from blogs, prepping, and strategizing.

What was your financial status when you began?

I graduated from college with $10,000 to my name, a paid off car, and no debt at the age of 23.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Not allowing lifestyle inflation to creep in. Keeping my spending low has been an enjoyable challenge.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

I wish I had gone for slightly cheaper housing in 2016. I spent a lot of money to live close to work. It would've been better for me to live slightly further away, but I wanted to bike to work.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Keep your expenses low and focus on growing your income as much as you can. You can only cut your expenses so much, but the sky is the limit when it comes to earning more money.

Read more about Gwen Collapse

J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy and Rockstar Finance

37m, married, working and saving money in Washington, D.C. $657,837.01 in savings. Spending $72k/yr now, $48k in retirement. FI by 45 in an expensive city. RE never. :)

I'm a daddy of two, blogger of two, and been a self-employed blogger since 2010. Love to see all the new faces coming up in the community as we need as much help with this $$$ stuff as we can get out there.

How did you learn about FI?

Oh man, from the original OG of the FIRE movement before it was even a "thing" - Jacob Lund Fisker of EarlyRetirementExtreme.com! Although I sorta thought he was nuts until Mr. Money Mustache came around and blew it up even more ;) From that point forward I started actually applying myself and it's been an interesting 5+ years ever since. Super thankful for them all.

What was your financial status when you began?

I had about $50,000 of net worth when I came onto the blogging scene back in February of 2008, but really wasn't that great - nor horrible - with money then. I was kinda so-so and going with the flow until we bought our house at the peak of the market with no money down and 100% financing, and that was the wake-up call to start paying attention more and get on my $hit. I stumbled across the financial blogging world from there and it completely transformed both my wallet and my mindset. Not to mention my friends and career and outlook and everything. Huge game changer for me.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Probably that I went from chasing millions just to be able to say that I'm a millionaire, to chasing "enough" just so that I can be financially FREE. That was the biggest change of everything for me over the years. Realizing that it's not about the money at all, but how it can be used to set yourself up for a most beautiful lifestyle.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

I would have stopped working on 10 billion blogs and projects at the same time, and instead focused on only one or two and just really KILLED those to have a more relaxed lifestyle from the start. The more I've been in this blogging/career world, the more I realize that pouring your efforts into one main slot can powercharge your goals vs spread out over time.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Remember that it's not about the money!! And to try and enjoy your lifestyle today vs always being obsessed with the future. A lot of this stuff requires TIME in order to have your $$$ marinating and growing, so you have a lot of living to do before that magical moment of hitting your "number." Soak it up!

Read more about J. Money Collapse

J. from Millennial Boss

28f, married, working and saving money in the Pacific Northwest. $300k in savings. Spending varies by location, $60k in retirement. FI by 35. RE by 40 in a city metro.

I'm J and I love dabbling in various side hustles, travel hacking, and reading personal development books. I plan to retire with my husband and my dog near family but the truth is that I love dabbling so much that I always see myself bringing in some sort of income. I'm currently an Etsy seller and make a few hundred dollars per month through that.

Call the Early Retirement Police I dare you. I'm also an early retirement podcast co-host, former collegiate athlete and wannabe current athlete but I get so swept up in my side hustles that I don't have time to workout. I go to FinCon, Chautauqua and all the FIRE conferences and meetups because I love this community.

How did you learn about FI?

I found Mr Money Mustache through the blog No More Harvard Debt which encouraged me to pay off nearly $100k in student loans in 18 months.

What was your financial status when you began?

I was nearly $100k in debt when you consider my husband's student loan debt and my car loan/credit cards.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

I took career hacking to the extreme in the last 5 years and increased my income exponentially. I also switched into the tech field which helped with that. I love my job now. The biggest challenge is cutting back on housing in a high cost of living area.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

I believe the Rascal Flats lyrics "God Bless the Broken Road That Led Me Straight to You," and I truly wouldn't change a thing about my life - both the good and bad. It led me to where I am today. I'm one of those people who thinks that something as small as a sneeze could change the path of your life. I wouldn't go back in time and change anything out of fear it wouldn't bring me here.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

I have two pieces of advice. First, the first step is the scariest. My husband and I sold our home, new car, all of our stuff and left our friends and family to chase career opportunities out West. It was hard but that first step is the hardest. It gets easier once the debt is gone and you start accumulating. Second, meet other FI-ers in person as it affirms your path.

Read more about J Collapse

Early Retirement Dude from earlyretirementdude.com

48m, married and retired in the Southeastern US. $2.3m in savings. Spending $55k/yr. FI & RE at 36 in a ruralish area.

I'm a Deadhead-type GenX'er. Love running and bicycle touring. Averse to the toxicity of consumer culture and the modern workplace. Trying to wake people up to the idea that financial independence/early retirement A) exists, B) can be an antidote to that toxicity, and C) is actually achievable.

How did you learn about FI?

Honestly, I came up with my own version of it in a vacuum. I graduated from MBA school and went corporate in 1993, so I didn't have access to the web-based resources available today. Found myself immediately miserable. At the time defined-benefit pensions were being killed off by 401(k) plans, so between the financial modeling tools I'd learned in school and the idea that I'd have to fund my own retirement, I cooked up a plan to get out of the workforce much earlier than 57 1/2.

What was your financial status when you began?

Started with a few hundred bucks and a beat-up car and a couch from Goodwill that was covered in suspicious purple stains.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

When I was twenty-six I got passed over for a great job because I'd stirred up some political problems through sheer arrogance. I really wanted that job, so I called up the hiring managers and asked them if we could get together for a feedback session. What could I learn/do differently/etc. to earn an offer during the next round of hiring? Asked them that in all humility. They gave me straightforward feedback, I got the training and made the changes they recommended, and ended up getting hired. If I hadn't asked for that meeting I'm convinced I'd still be working.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

I wish I hadn't put so much pressure on my wife to be frugal. Twenty years into our marriage, now, and she still feels guilty when she spends money.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Understand that it's not just a numbers game. If you focus on FI/ER to the exclusion of all else, you can wreck things that are very important to you--relationships, pastimes, creative outlets, etc. It's a serious commitment. Know what you're getting into.

Read more about Early Retirement Dude Collapse

Amy Blacklock from Life Zemplified

49f, married, working and saving money in Michigan. $900k in savings. Spending $75k/yr, $50k in retirement. FI by 53. RE by 55 in an rural area.

My current day job is in the automotive industry as a project analyst with additional responsibilities in office management. On the side I'm a nutrition and health coach, blogger, and freelance writer. I enjoy a variety of sports and fitness activities, and I love learning and trying new things.

How did you learn about FI?

I stumbled upon Mr. Money Mustache at the age of 45 and realized I wasted a lot of money and time.

What was your financial status when you began?

I was newly married after being divorced for a couple years. We both had some money in 401k plans and IRA's but nothing to brag about. I think we were both saving around 10% in our 401s at the time. We had some debt, car loans and a mortgage, but no plan to eliminate it other than making the monthly payments.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Increasing our incomes by changing employers. Maxing out any and all retirement savings accounts that we could. Eliminating all debt other than our mortgage. Selling our sexy vehicles for older but dependable cars.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

Started saving more so much sooner! Not fall into lifestyle creep and try to match what others were doing to achieve a so called status.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Try different methods to find out what works best for you. If you hate debt eliminate it. Earn as much as possible, without sacrificing your health and time with your family. Save just a bit more than you think you should every month. Automate saving and investing. Don't give up. If you need to modify your plan, that's okay. Forgive yourself for any mistakes, make corrections as needed, and keep on going.

Read more about Amy Collapse

Darrow from Can I Retire Yet?

57m, married and retired in Santa Fe, NM. $1m+ in savings. Spending varies. FIRE at 50 in a city metro.

Early-retired civil and software engineer, author, investor who loves outdoor sports like climbing, biking, and hiking.

How did you learn about FI?

By pursuing my dream of freedom from a 9-5 job.

What was your financial status when you began?

Frugal, relatively high-earning engineer.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Not inflating lifestyle (houses and cars) as I received raises and bonuses in my career.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

Hindsight is always 20/20. In reality I think I made the best decisions I could to reach the goals I had at the time.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Spend in the few areas that matter to you. Cut back everywhere else. Avoid big houses and cars. Learn to invest prudently for the long haul.

Read more about Darrow Collapse

Jane from Cash Fasting

25f, working and saving money in New York City. $65k in savings. Spending $25k/yr now. FI by 35. RE TBD in a city metro.

I'm a VA native trying to build wealth in the Big Apple. I'm relatively new to the idea of FIRE, but I've jumped on board and I'm eagerly tracking my progress. I enjoy dancing, cooking, trying out new restaurants, and telling my friends to invest more in their retirement accounts.

How did you learn about FI?

I've always had an interest in personal finance. In my first job out of school, I did market research for credit card companies, and was the go-to gal in my friend group for the knowing the best credit card offers, terms, and bonuses. In 2015, my boyfriend introduced me to Mr. Money Mustache. That sparked the idea of FI for me; that I could take all this PF knowledge that I was accruing and apply it to my future in a way that wasn't just building the biggest nest egg possible.

What was your financial status when you began?

I finished graduate school $35K in debt. I don't think I had more than $2K in my checking account, but let's be real, that was my parents' money. Luckily I didn't have to pay for any large expenses like a car and I lived at home straight after graduation, which allowed me to focus on my debt right away.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Increasing my income. I'm not the most frugal person (though I try to be), but you can only decrease your expenses by so much before it stops making sense to do so. At the beginning of 2017, I negotiated a 20% increase in salary, which helped me pay off my debt earlier than expected.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

Lived at home longer. After a year and a half at home, I moved out to live with a couple of friends. It made my commute longer, and increased my expenses by a lot. I definitely enjoyed the experience, but I wasn't unhappy at home. The nine months I lived with friends before moving to NYC probably cost me a good $10K.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Set short-term goals. Pursing FI is more of a lifestyle change than it is pursing a long-term goal. Ask around; people who have reached their FI number don't have an accompanying revelation or giant increase in happiness. If you set smaller goals like "pay off loans by 2018" or "save $5K by the end of the year", the boost you get from reaching those goals will help you stay focused on the bigger one. Also, don't forget to enjoy the journey.

Read more about Jane Collapse

Ms. FAF from Frugal Asian Finance

30f, married, working and saving money in Washington, D.C. $320k in savings. Spending $50k/yr now and in retirement. FI & RE by 50 in a city metro.

I am an Asian personal finance blogger, a full-time working mother of one, a devoted wife, and a real estate dreamer. I am passionate about saving money while living a fulfilling life.

How did you learn about FI?

I learned about FI after joining the personal finance blogger community on March 21, 2017.

What was your financial status when you began?

My only debt was the mortgage on our house, which we’re aggressively trying to pay off. My husband and I have always been frugal. We’ve been conscious about saving and investing whether we’re trying to achieve FI or not.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Dedicating myself to my blog (FrugalAsianFinance.com) to show myself and others that I am serious about financial responsibility.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

I wish I could have started my blog sooner to join the amazing blogosphere earlier.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Saving money and investing is great, but don’t forget to enjoy life.

Read more about Ms. FAF Collapse

Jim from Route to Retire

41m, married, working and saving money in Ohio. ~$1.08m in savings. Spending $60k/yr now, $45k in retirement. FI & RE by 49 in a rural area.

I'm currently in IT management and have been at the same company for over 18 years. While they've always taken care of me, I don't enjoy the day-to-day anymore. When my daughter was born, I hated having to go to work every day - I felt like I was missing out even though this is common for dads to do. Since then, I've been on a mission to be free from the financial burden shackling me to an office every day. We now have three rental units and are hoping to purchase 2-3 more before I quit my job in a few years.

How did you learn about FI?

My big wake-up call to FI was reading Robert Kiyosaki's books ("Rich Dad Poor Dad" and "Cashflow Quadrant") years ago. It wasn't that they were step-by-step guides, but more of a realization that I don't have to be stuck in the rat race forever.

What was your financial status when you began?

I had just finished working hard to get myself out of around $35k of credit card debt. I had a clean slate and was ready to make things happen.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Changing the funds in my 401(k) from managed funds to a low-cost Vanguard index fund is likely to save me over $60,000 in fees just over the next 8-9 years.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

I wish I had started earlier. If I had house-hacked or started in real estate years earlier, I would be much further ahead than I am today.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Start early, find a high-paying job you enjoy, live a very modest lifestyle, and save and invest a very large percentage of your income.

Read more about Jim Collapse

Mrs. Adventure Rich from Adventure

27f, married and working and saving money in Michigan. $285k in savings. Spending $55k/yr now, $35k in retirement. FI by ~45 in a ruralish area. RE TBD on what life throws at us!

I am a wife, mother, and outdoor lover who has a hard time sitting still. My husband, son and I live in our dream location, beautiful northern Michigan, in what we hope is our "forever home". We are adventurers disguised as a business professional for a Fortune 40 company (me) and a facilities manager (him).

How did you learn about FI?

I first learned about FI through Mr. Money Mustache's blog. From there, I found blogger after blogger sharing their FI journey and goals. My husband and I were hooked!

What was your financial status when you began?

When Mr. Adventure Rich and I first found out about early retirement, we were about to get married and carried around $50K+ of car loan, student loan and credit card debt. We buckled down, paid off the $50K and started stacking our money for two big goals, our house and our retirement.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

I would say there have been two key changes we made as we pursued FI.

One was a relentless effort to stash as much money as possible outside of our checking account. Our retirement contributions come straight from our paycheck and we direct deposit a portion of our pay into savings accounts as well. The automatic savings has helped us save for our goals (retirement, emergency fund, house fund, etc.) because we never have to think about it or are tempted to touch it!

The second change was an overall mindfulness about our spending. Do I really need the extra box of snacks at the store? Or that $50 item on Amazon? Will I really be happy with that $5,000 vacation? It has been a process of understanding that yes, we can afford to purchase random luxuries or spend money on a plethora of things, but we choose not to. Instead, we choose to buy our time... our freedom and retirement.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

Personally, I would have not bought a new car out of college. It wasn't too bad (~$18k for a new Nissan Versa Hatchback which I sold 5 years later for $6k with 90K miles on it), but it was a depreciating asset.

I also would have saved more earlier. I always took advantage of my employer match, but I wish I had just jumped into maxing out my 401K Year 1 of work and not waited until Year 4. Granted, in that time, I paid off my car, my student loans and paid for a good chunk of our wedding (my parents pitched in too), but still... I think I could have found ways to ramp up my savings rate earlier.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Stick with it, even in the ""dry spells"" or hard times when goals seem far off or thwarted by unexpected expenses. Find the joy and adventure life has to offer every step of the way. Go outside, take a walk, watch the sunset, read a good book... just go live!

Oh- and try not to get into the comparison game (both for the spenders and the savers!) There will always be people who have more money and/or spend more money, ignore it. There will also always be people who save more and reach FI/RE earlier... learn from them and use their stories as motivation! Then, go on and live your own life :)

Read more about Mrs. Adventure Rich Collapse

Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme

41m, married, retired in Chicago. Enough in savings and spending $11k/yr (<$7k/person). FI by 30. RE at 33 in a city metro.

Renaissance man and an intellectual gunslinger with an attention span of 3-5 years. I enjoy thinking about hard interdisciplinary problems and finding practical solutions. I've worked with problems in nuclear astrophysics, energy resources, sustainability, algorithmic trading, and extreme FIRE.

How did you learn about FI?

The rudimentary concepts of FI aren't exactly rocket science, so I largely figured it out on my own before I realized there was an actual term (FI) for it. In 2000/01, I started reading different websites that questioned hyperconsumption, the debt-based financial system, and the sustainability of natural resources. At the time, I had two goals: 1) Living with a very low ecological footprint (see Mathis Wackernagel); 2) Save enough money to buy a house without needing a mortgage.

At some point I read RDPD's cashflow quadrant book (one of the few books available to me from the library at the time) and learned about the idea of using investment-income instead of job-income to make a living. Since I already had $100k saved, I hacked up a small fortran program to see when my capital income would exceed my expenses so I no longer depended on a job.---And realized I was almost there already. I had also heard about YMOYL, so I knew low cost living was possible in practice, but I hadn't actually read the book yet.

What was your financial status when you began?

Before I decided to lower my footprint and save to buy a home, I always had around $0-1,000 in my savings account (no debt) being in the habit of spending all my savings on new tech gadgets. Quitting my useless gadget addiction cold turkey meant it was easy to save more than 80% of my stipend. A sustainable lifestyle costs very little! As a result, I had nearly $100k saved when I finally graduated (PhD).

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Always question the prevailing paradigm! Feynman (one of the gods of physics) insisted that insight was best achieved by working out the solution to a problem on your own rather than studying other people's solutions.

During the 2000s, the conventional dogma stipulated or rather demanded that early retirement was reserved for high-income millionaires; that it was easier to make more money than to spend less; that spending less meant "doing without or learning long lists of frugality tricks; and that being officially retired required one to permanently renounce any and all kinds of income.

When I did the math and graphs showing the highly nonlinear relationship between early retirement and high savings rates. I published it in 2010 and it has since been copied many times by other bloggers. I used the Pareto Principle (as popularized in the 4HWW) focusing on the biggest costs of housing, driving, and eating instead of the long tail of frugality tips and tricks that mostly follow the same overall principles anyway (think "reduce, reuse, recycle"). We moved into an RV before it was the cool thing to do. I began to deliberately design my lifestyle using systems theory concepts realizing that if activities were valued for their productive potential, it should be possible to spend very little and even make money almost automagically. Of course, the Internet Retirement Police did not approve of anyone calling themselves retired when they still accepted money here and there from multiple sources but to me it seemed crazy for anyone (under 99 years of age) to refuse all future income out of principle. Why refuse money? Why be unproductive? Look at Steve Jobs, who didn't need to work but still did it anyway: Why don't all humans do this albeit on a smaller scale when it's completely possible? I don't know.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

When breaking trail/mapping out the territory, it's hard to know where to go, because you're always learning as you go along. This is similar to doing research trying to answer questions not yet knowing what the questions are. Research is the proverbial 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, but I find it personally interesting not just theoretically but also practically, so I try to experience things by living them as much as possible.

I wrote the ERE book (2008-2010) to provide the intellectual ammunition and map for metaphorical lieutenants and sergeants to teach future soldiers. I think most [soldiers] prefer the ""I did it and so can you""-type stories and books latching onto leaders they want to follow and be like. These stories are what generates mass appeal when it comes to outreach. I'm happy to see so many practical examples now and how those unconventional ideas that were considered crazy and unrealistic ten years ago are now commonly accepted in the FIRE community.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

One of the concepts that hasn't been widely adopted is the web of goals concept. It still seems commonly believed that the only way to radically lower expenses is through simple living and deliberately doing without and "sacrificing". Web-of-goals is a systems theoretical concept that ties together all one's assets, skills, and resources by looking at each of them as a potential input and a potential output to each other. By "closing the loops" between them, expenses can be lowered by increasing complexity to maintain the same output. Under the consumer-paradigm, expenses indicates "standard of living" because you get what you pay for. Whereas under the web of goals paradigm, spending is only used to reduce friction, so here you get according to your design skill level.

It's advanced stuff but I think it's worth looking because lower expenses will shave years off from one's FI projections and increase one's safety to adverse economic conditions. I think if it was widely adopted, we'd see a lot more FIRE blogs where spending is under $15,000/year/household.

Read more about Jacob Collapse

Working Optional from Working Optional

40~45, married and living in Southern California. Half way to FI. Spending $90k/yr now, $60k in retirement. FIRE at 53, RE in 50s in a city metro.

Self-employed, work in IT, newbie Personal Finance blogger. Looking to increase semi-passive income via real estate, informational products, SaaS apps etc.

How did you learn about FI?

Came across a few blogs while browsing Bogleheads, Reddit and then it took off from there. Having a minor mid-life crisis helped.

What was your financial status when you began?

Arrived in the US with a $2,000 loan ~18 yrs ago. Worked full-time, got an MBA from a top 15 school part-time. Paid off all student loans, got married, had kids, got a mortgage (twice) etc over the next decade. The last ~7 years have had a nice positive impact on my finances.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Earlier: Becoming self-employed. There are highs and lows, but it has taught me to be naturally frugal and "save for a rainy day". The highs jumpstart my savings.

Recently: Changing my mindset i.e. deciding to pursue FI and realizing that it *was* possible, and that it was what I wanted but didn't know how to describe it.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

Could have been smarter about some investments made in 2010-11 and should have jumped on the real estate bandwagon as well.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Save & Invest - the two items that you can control even if you can't switch jobs/careers. Live a modest lifestyle.

Read more about Working Optional Collapse

Mr. and Mrs. Frugal Hacker from Frugal Hackers

27f/30m, married and saving in San Francisco, CA. $480k+ in savings. Spending $56,845.07/yr now, $36,568.63/yr in retirement. FIRE 30 (Mrs) and 33 (Mr) in a super expensive city.

We are two young married Canadians of Indian origin living and working in San Francisco making $300k in annual income before taxes and expenses. Mr. Frugal Hacker is a Software Engineer and Mrs. Frugal Hacker is a CPA. A typical weekend is usually some combination of long-distance cycling, hiking, walking around San Francisco, board games with friends, building personal finance spreadsheets and working on our blog, frugalhackers.com

How did you learn about FI?

Paul Graham retweeted a blog post by Mr. Money Mustache. Followed that link to MMM's blog, and we had our aha! moment.

What was your financial status when you began?

It was June 2016, and we had just bought a 3BR/2BA condo apartment in San Francisco. We didn't have any debt other than the mortgage and had ~$200k in net worth at the time.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

We started investing all of our savings in index funds. We've always been good at frugality and saving money. However, we didn't start investing in the stock market until we turned 26 and 29 (excluding some 401k investments).

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

We wish we started investing in the stock market earlier in our careers. We also wish we had maxed out our 401k contributions every single year since we started working. We had the savings, but simply didn't take advantage of our employers' 401k plans.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Pay attention to your savings rate. It's the single most important metric that determines how quickly you can reach FI.

Read more about Mr. and Mrs. Frugal Hacker Collapse

Zed from zencents

32m, married and saving in Boston, MA. $150k in savings. Spending varies, $20k/yr in retirement. FI at 40, RE at 45 in a rural area.

Engineer by day. Financial engineer by night! Suburban dwelling, home owning millennial looking to take back my life, by taking back my time. Love the four seasons, love to be outdoors, love my wife and love my puppy! (She's my puppy, even if she is approaching 7 years!)

How did you learn about FI?

I first came across Financial Independence in early 2015 when I fell into the Mr. Money Mustache wormhole. When I came out the other end I realized I needed to strive for FI myself.

What was your financial status when you began?

Back then I was a silly-spender. I purchased too many little "trinkets" and wasted my income, mostly because it didn't have a better purpose. Strangely enough, I had "ONLY $30,000" left in student loan debt. Coming from over $100k in student loan debt, that $30k seemed small. Someone should have slapped me upside the head and told me to use my extra cash on that!

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Focused on paying debt! My debt was such a hindrance to working towards any financial goal. It was always there, never shrinking, and basically just a monkey on my back. Finally realizing that FI is possible, made me rethink my lifestyle to work on destroying my debt. It didn't take long after that to finally wipe out the final $30,000!

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

Oh boy! I wish I didn't inflate my lifestyle as soon as I got that first engineering paycheck. I "saved" in my 401k. I "saved" for an emergency fund. Looking back, I barely accumulated anything because paying myself was not my first priority. Save early. Save often!

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Realize that FI is primarily a waiting game. And all that time waiting to reach FI, that is what they call YOUR LIFE! So, don't get too focused on saving and racing towards Financial Independence that you let your life slip by. Get out there, explore, and discover your true passions! Life is better when you're having fun!

Read more about Zed Collapse

Jon Dulin from MoneySmartGuides

38m, married and saving in Philadelphia, PA. $700k in savings. Spending $75k/yr now, $60k/yr in retirement. FIRE at 55 in a city.

My name is Jon and I live outside Philadelphia with my wife and our daughter. Both my wife and I hate debt and want to quit the rat race as soon as possible. As we are raising kids right now, we have to balance our spending and savings and this is a monthly task. Some months are better than others, but through it all, we keep our focus on our goals and save as much as we absolutely can. Currently we are on track to retire and be FI by 55.

How did you learn about FI?

After college, I was talking with a friend about how we wanted our lives to unfold. After talking, I realized that I would never be able to achieve my dreams just by working a 9-5 job. I needed to create a plan and start taking action. During this time I stumbled onto Early Retirement Extreme and the rest is history.

What was your financial status when you began?

I had a mountain of credit card debt that I had to dig myself out of. But even when I was doing that, I was investing small amounts of money in my 401k and in a taxable account.

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Questioning spending. Instead of getting caught up in the emotions of buying something, I now stop and think before making any purchase. It has helped tremendously to avoid purchases I later regret.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

I wish I didn't have the credit card debt when I started. I'd be much farther ahead of the game. But, I learned a lot about debt and money by being in debt, so even though I wish I never had the debt, it has made me smarter with money now.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Start now. Even if you can only save a few dollars or pay a little extra on your debt. Every little bit helps and grows and compounds in years to come. So take the first step. By taking the first step, you have a chance of FI. If you never take that first step, it will never happen.

Read more about Jon Dulin Collapse

Philip Taylor from PT Money

41m, married, working and saving money in Frisco, TX. $709,500 in savings. Spending $80k/yr now, $50k in retirement. FI by 47 in a super expensive city. RE... What is this 'retire' that you speak of?

Married, father of three, former practicing CPA turned full-time blogger, podcaster, and conference/event planner.

How did you learn about FI?

I first learned about FI when I read David Bach's Automatic Millionaire. He showed me what was possible. I further developed my understanding of it in the mid 2000s when reading personal finance blogs like Consumerism Commentary and Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. Then I found Jacob's ERE and it changed my whole understanding of what was possible.

What was your financial status when you began?

When I first began my wife and I had some college debt (roughly 30k), car loans (around 25k), and little savings ($40k).

What has been the most impactful change you've made towards FI?

Automating my savings and maxing out my retirement accounts each year has had the biggest impact on my finances; along with starting my own businesses which have fast tracked my wealth and given me the feeling like I'm no longer working.

What, if anything, do you wish you could have done differently?

I'm pretty happy with how it's all been laid out. But it would have been nice to kick start things a bit sooner. I stayed too long in Corporate America - 10 years.

What advice do you have for others going down the path of FI?

Find the life you want to live first - then save aggressively for it. The "why" is so much more important and interesting than the how.

Read more about Philip Taylor Collapse

Common Similarities In This Group

When reading over everyone's answers to these questions, a few themes start to stand out real quick.

They avoided lifestyle inflation

Nearly everyone mentioned avoiding lifestyle inflation as an essential component. If your expenses increase with your income, you'll never save more. All of the numbers in this post assume that your expenses do not go up. If you spend more each year, you'll need more money to retire, and it'll take you more time to accumulate it.

They didn't start with everything

No one I talked to got lucky with the lottery, an inheritance, a business acquisition or a lucky Bitcoin investment that accounted for a sudden retirement. There are some out there who hit the jackpot, but for most people, it's going to take hard work and time.

They spent in areas that matter to them

Going overboard on saving can make you miserable. Focus on spending money on things that will what bring joy into your life and makes you and those around you happy. This may seem at odds with lifestyle inflation, but it's important to strike a balance between these two.

Adam says: Thanks so much for all the people who agreed to be interviewed for this post! Their time and support mean a lot to me. If you're looking for some other reading, check out their blogs and events!

Part 8: Where can I learn more?

There are a few amazing books on the topic of financial independence and early retirement that go into these topics with much more eloquence than and depth than I could ever explore. If you're curious to learn more, these are all amazing resources.

Minafi Email List

Here at Minafi, I write about the intersection of minimalism, mindfulness and financial independence. I'll also be releasing more interactive posts like this one in the months to come. Sign up to get one email each month with what I'm writing about.

Books

Here are some of the top sources in different mediums to learn about financial independence

Your Money or Your Life

Your Money is an amazing exploration into developing a relationship with money that goes deeper than just buying things. This book is the origin of many articles and concepts that you'll read about in the FI world, told beautifully.

As great as Your Money is, it borders on self-help as opposed to finance - which actually helps its topics connect deeper for me.

The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing

This is the book that personally got me into investing and thinking about this subject. By introducing things like the 4% for withdrawal rate, understanding investing, diversification, fees, fund types, account types and more, this book served as my education on investing.

The Bogleheads Guide consistently ranks as one of the 3 most influential books I have ever read in my life - serving as an introduction and education all in one.

The Millionaire Next Door

The term "millionaire" has a connotation of lavish spending and abundance in popular culture. This book looks at a different side of that - working millionaires who worked hard to create a life they wanted.

In order to achieve FI, most people will need to earn more than a million dollars. This book put that number into perspective for me, bringing it down to earth.

Communities

There are a number of thriving communities focused on financial independence and early retirement. I can't include them all, but here are a few that I've participated in and enjoyed.

/r/FinancialIndependence on Reddit

This is a place for people who are or want to become Financially Independent (FI), which means not having to work for money.

Bogleheads.org Forum

This was the first forum I discovered when investing. I asked extremely basic questions and people were helpful and welcoming. If you're learning how to invest, and want to do it the smart way, this forum, the associated wiki, is an amazing source of knowledge.

Mr. Money Mustache Community

While Bogleheads leans towards investing, the MMM community ranges from "do it yourself" to "real estate investing" to "taxes" and "entrepreneurship".

Early Retirement Extreme Forums

The Early Retirement Extreme community (created by Jacob interviewed above!) focuses on all parts of retiring early with a slant towards extreme lifestyle changes that can make the process go faster.

Calculators

The graphs in this post are only a starting point for understanding your financial future. The best tool I've found for digging deeper into these numbers and incorporating many more variables is Personal Capital*. They have a Retirement Planner tool that I've been using for years to understand my own finances. Check them out if you're hoping to dig deeper into graphs.

Personal Capital Breakdown

A scenario I was running on my own finances

What I really like about Personal Capital* is it goes beyond the averages used in this post to group scenarios by percentile. In this screenshot above, you can see a line for my median case, but also the worst 10 percentile. The little blocks are me playing with life events: buying healthcare, taking social security and when Mrs. Minafi stops working.

Part 9: Recap

You made it to the end! Let's recap a little about where you are now and where you're going.

Here's A Snapshot of your Financial Health

You're a year old man woman trans* other undisclosed currently earning $/yr and saving $/yr for a savings rate (SR) of about .

You've managed to save up $ so far. Right now, you're retired saving money for retirement paying off debt and spending $/yr.

In retirement, you're hoping to spend of what you spend today (equal to about /yr) and retire at age years old.

You're on track to be financially independent in – at age once you've saved up

You're Assuming markets will rise /yr and that your withdrawal rate will be .

If you permanently reduce your spending by (saving /yr) then you could be FI in .

If you earn a little money in retirement, say , then you'd be FI in .

If you permanently reduce spending by and earn a side income of , then you'll be on track to be FI in -- earlier than your current path.

Adam Says: This is a dense area, but it includes all adjustable numbers in this post. If you're wanting to just play around and see the results of any scenario, this is your chance!

Part 10: What Next?

If there's one takeaway you get from this post, it's that the concept of financial independence isn't solely for those who are extremely wealthy or for those who are nearing social security.

It's a path that starts with understanding what you want out of life and figuring out what you'd need to do to get there. The fastest way often means removing excess from your life that isn't increasing happiness in proportion to the amount spent. Beyond that, it's about understanding how much you need to save to live the life you want and making a plan for it.

There is no predetermined group that financial independence is for. It could work well for people in extreme debt who want to get out and work towards a different future -- or for people in their career looking for what comes next.

My Recommendations For You

  • Track your spending for a month. Learn where every cent is going.
  • Start learning the basics of investing. I recommend starting with a Simple Three-Fund Portfolio at Vanguard or in your 401k. Understand what you're investing in there.
  • Sign up for my Minimal Investor Course.
  • Find a community of people to learn from. This could one of the above places, a blog you enjoy, a podcast you jive with - anything that keeps you learning.
  • Make a plan for when you'd want to be FI, and work backward to understand when you'd get there and how to get there sooner!
  • Read more about minimalism, mindfulness or financial independence here on Minafi.

I read An Interactive Guide to Financial Independence and Early Retirement on Minafi and now know when I'll be FI!

If you enjoyed this article, or have any thoughts on it, please share it and let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you!

An Interactive Guide to Financial Independence and Early Retirement via @minafiblog

Credits

Special thanks to the following people for helping out on this!

  • My Wife for reading over various drafts and ideas.
  • Bret Victor for Tangle, the JS library for data binding.
  • Mike Bostock for D3.js. I want to make more chances to use it.
  • John Bogle and The Bogleheads who gave me a great foundational education in investing.
  • Mr. Money Mustache for turning me on to the idea of FI.
  • All of the bloggers who agreed to an interview.
  • Everyone who's shared this post to help spread the word of FI!

67 comments

  1. Incredible piece of content.

    Original, engaging, helpful, fun, and free.

    You’re an Ace in my book, Adam. I hope every single person landing on this piece of personal finance history shares it…because it deserves it.

  2. Holy crap this is an epic post. I love the interactiveness to it, and it hits on a ton of points of FI – savings rate, earning more, spending less, tools to track…just awesome stuff here. Great job.

    How long did it take to put this beast together? lol

    1. Haha thanks Dave! I started in midway through July and had been working on it nights and weekends since then. I don’t even want to calculate the hours (over 100 for sure though). A large portion was getting feedback and iterating on it too.

  3. So happy to see you finally release this guide! 😀

    If someone needs an intro to FI I know exactly where I am going to send them. Absolutely honored to be part of such an epic project. Now to go spread the word!

  4. Adam, numbers don’t work right when they’re higher. (I.e. over1M in savings) Plug in 3M for saving 50 yr old, 150k/yr and 70k in savings and living off of 55k and desire to retire at 53. it says they can’t retire until 72. This seems off.

      1. I was wrong. The numbers just don’t add up if you assume you’ve already had savings. Maybe it’s still taking out savings after you’ve reached the goal?

    1. Thanks for the feedback Chuck. You’re absolutely right – it was broken for people that were already FI. For the section on “reaching FI sooner”, there’s a part where it says “It’s crazy to think that these 2 things could result in a NaN reduction…”, but it was dividing by 0 and breaking everything. Should be fixed now!

  5. Mark my words, I will be sharing this. This is an amazingly comprehensive tool to walk through the concept of FI and determine a realistic FI goal. I feel like so many of the resources I have come across are all combined here in one epic post 🙂

    Thank you for creating and for including us! Looking forward to using this throughout our FI journey and sharing it with others!

    1. Thanks so much! I’m glad you’re finding it useful – especially for new people who might be fuzzy on the terms. Thanks again for the interview.

    1. Thanks! I’m a fan of the long-form style too – I think it’s the best way to really teach/learn something, even it means not everyone is going to make it to the end. Posts where I come away with takeaways (or resources) like your Ebay post, are the ones I remember and refer back to.

    1. Haha, thanks! I am curious to get feedback from people for which these terms are completely new. Most the initial readers will be people with personal finance experience. I want to talk to some people who read it and have no personal finance experience.

  6. Thanks for including me in this, Adam! I’m definitely astounded by how cool this post is! Not only is it a good read, but it’s fun to toy with using your own numbers.

    Hopefully, you’ll get a lot of folks out there that use this as an eye-opener toward the path to FIRE.

    — Jim

    1. Thanks for the feedback. Yeah, I’m seriously hoping it lands that way – as an optimistic look at what the future could be for people who have never heard of these terms.

  7. The formatting is flawless and beautiful! Great job Adam! I’m having the most fun playing with this. I am such a forgetful fruit but I recall bookmarking the forum page so I could go back and answer it later on a desktop computer but it slipped my marbles.

  8. Wow! This is so cool! My husband and I are expecting to receive pensions (no earlier than 55), so I had to play with the numbers a little bit to account for that. Since the amount of our pensions are determined by how long we teach for (among other factors), it’s a little bit of an unknown amount at this point. We are saving as if we wouldn’t receive a pension, so we can decide when we’re ready to retire. FI is the goal!

    1. Thanks! I thought about trying to include late in life pensions or social security but that’s a tough one to model well – unless people have a lot of additional knowledge.

      I’m actually really curious how you might’ve manipulated things in this calculator to account for that?

  9. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for sharing this interactive tool! Loving how simple and easy it is to use, I just started my personal finance blog here in Australia (TheFrugalSamurai.com) and take much inspiration from guys like yourself, keep it up!

  10. HI Adam – This interactive blog post is soo RAD! Thanks for creating it and sharing with all of us. It is eye opening for sure. You Rock!

    1. Haha, I’m glad it worked for the already-FI case. I went back and forth on how to handle that before settling on the “how about you set a stretch goal?” idea.

    1. Haha, from a tech standpoint it’s all Tangle.js (link in credits), some D3 and basic jQuery. The hard part was all the javascript artifact creation and figuring out to integrate it into a WordPress site. The solution was to create a new “page type” that’s juuust for this post, then hardcode all of the text from the post in that file. It meant I wrote this post in a text editor rather than the WordPress admin, but it worked out.

  11. This is cool. Looks like I’m on target. I did a double take because my current side hustle -is- the amount it said I’d need to make in FI. 🙂
    A part of my interest I FI is being able to do a job that pays less, and having the money to cover all the rest. Plus having more vacation time the corporate world is slow to dole out. 🙂

  12. I think the historical 7% return of US stock market that you were referring to is already inflation adjusted. The nominal historical return is 10% and the historical rate of inflation is 3%

  13. Hi Adam – I am new to FI/RE and really enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for taking the time to develop/share this tool. As a military service member I find it difficult to compute my potential pension at the earliest age of 42.

    Do you have any recommendations to account for this?

    1. Hey Jason, it sounds like this might be the same issue as social security not being on here? Is this your situation:

      You’ll have a pension at some date later (say 60), so you don’t need to save up a net worth that’ll last the rest of your life now – just enough to last until you’re 60 + any additional on top of the pension?

      I thought about trying to account for this case in the post, but I couldn’t think of a good way to keep it feeling simple. I’d recommend checking out Personal Capital (link in this post) for running those more complex scenarios. I have a scenario where I get Social Security at 68 with my same numbers as here on Personal Capital and it’s been fun to play with and understand how it impacts how much I need to save.

      1. Thanks for the quick response. I will be eligible to receive full retirement benefits at age 42. Based on my rank at retirement, I would receive an annual inflation adjusted income of $40K – $50K after taxes for the reminder of my life. Trying to fit this into traditional calculators can be confusing. The way I see it, it doesn’t hurt to use the same methodology that so many non-military folks are using.

        Thanks again for the feedback. I look forward to reading more.

        – Jay

  14. A real estate investment, a condo or house goes up about 5% ON AVERAGE a year. Minus you paying a mortgage rate. And the tenant hassle.

    So would it be better to take that money and invest them and get 7%?

    1. To me, the real estate vs market investing decision heavily depends on where you want to spend your time. Would you rather spend it building a real estate empire or passively investing?

      I personally put real estate along side other side business that could become main businesses. You’ll want to invest either way, but for diversifying your income streams between a job, investing a side business (real estate, side hustle, blog, etc) seems like a great path.

      If you do it right, real estate can build a TON of wealth. It takes a certain type of person, a higher risk tolerance and a lot of research. For me personally, investing a lot easier and gives me more time in my life to pursue other things.

      I came really close to going the real estate path though. Here’s a write-up on why I decided not to go that route:
      https://minafi.com/i-dont-want-to-be-a-landlord/

      1. Problem is, if you start your FI when the market cycle goes down, you lose a important chunk of your stocks.
        And also once you make more than 200k profit, you start paying taxes

        That being said, my tenant called to try to hassle me …. SO I NEED TO LEARN TO INVEST IN STOCKS 🙂 🙂 🙂

  15. Hi.
    This is a super great interactive planner! Is there a way for me to incorporate my defined benefit pension into the calculation?
    Thanks!

    1. You could count that in the retirement income/side hustle section. Basically if you know your monthly income, annualize that and put the value in the ‘What If: You Earn Money In Retirement?’ section.

    2. (Another) Adam answered this one – but sounds like the best way. In order to give this a little more focus it’s based around not earning anything else later on. The math and the number of options get pretty crazy complex after that. I’d recommend checking out Personal Capitals Retirement Planner if you want something with more options though. You can do things like adding a pension that kicks in at a specific year.

  16. Great article Adam. I assume you do not count home equity in your “starting assets” value? Just brokerage, (Roth)-Ira, savings accounts and similar instruments.

  17. This is a great distillation of the main concepts, formulas and mindsets behinf financial independence. I’m sure this page will become a major reference point for people beginning their journey…

  18. This is such a great way to package content within a calculator! This is exactly what so many people need to visualize it. I think the hardest part for me is realistically coming up with how much I will spend. I just don’t see this as being a static number. Not to mention there are so many unknowns. Healthcare anyone? 🙂 Great stuff, Adam. I’m sure I will link back to you many times!

  19. Nice website! I have a question, hope someone here can help

    > Stock markets in the US have returned on average 7% a year since their beginning. This is an important number! If you’re withdrawing at most 4% of this, and 3% of it is going to inflation, then your net worth will last forever.

    Wouldn’t there be capital gain tax of around 40%? So the return is not actually 7%, but around 4.2%?
    Or 7% is already after tax? But then 12% gross return is just too high, no?

    1. Good question! I didn’t go into tax on this article because it’s a rather large topic by itself. You might already k ow this, but bear with me. The capital gains tax is dependent on 2 things: if you held it for a short term (<1 yr) or longer. If you hold a fund longer than 1yr the gains will be taxed as ordinary income. For a couple filing jointly, this means you'll only pay tax after you've taken out $76,000 of growth in a year. If you take out $100,000, but 25% comes from the initial investment and 75% comes from capital gains you'll pay $0 in taxes.

      The trick here is to hold long term and then only sell an amount under this limit every year. This works for brokerage sales.

      Roth IRA sales don't have taxes, so that one is easy.

      401ks are where things get tricky. You wouldn't pay 40% at least, but you would likely pay a smaller amount. If you do a Roth IRA ladder, you can minimize this even more.

    1. Hey David! I’m biased on this one, but it’ll heavily depend on why you’re learning to code. If you’re up for it, reach out to me through the contact form (in the footer). If I can understand why you’re wanting to learn to code, I might be able to provide some good resources!

  20. Another one….If somebody would want to retire in 2017-2018. And would sell an investment property, and individual socks. The first 7-10 years of FI are crucial, and considering the possibility of a recession, what’s the best way to invest? 100% stock and forget about it? 75/25 with some stop-loss triggers? Or all in bonds for 12-18mo and wait?

    1. This one depends on your risk tolerance. We can’t know how markets will perform over the next 1, 5, 10 years. If I came into some money from investments right now, I’d probably dollar cost average them to a portfolio that matches my investment allocation. It would have a bunch of bonds in a range depending on what your age is. I wouldn’t put into effect any triggers for if things go down though. If you’re set with your investment allocation, then it can work through good times and rough times.

      In 2008, I lost 50% of my portfolio. I didn’t change things up and it ended up rebounding fast and exceeding the old value. If I had gotten out (but not gotten back in in time) I would have lost a bunch of money. That’s the hard part about trying to time the market – you have to get it right when you get out and when you get back in.

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