What Does Financial Independence Mean to Me? Is it Just About Quitting and Retiring?

Why I’m talking about FI, what my goals are and what it means for my current lifestyle. Instead of being about leaving your job, it’s more about what you want to do with your life – now and in the future.

Written by Adam on 2017-07-04. Blog, Financial Independence, personal, Canonical. 6 comments. Find out how I make money.

No. That’s the short answer. Friends, coworkers, family, and readers discovering this blog— I’m not unhappy with life and looking to quit my job and retire. In writing up my personal mission last year, it helped me understand what I want to focus on with my time. The mission I came up might explain some of why I’m not looking to retire:

I help empower people to transform their ideas into reality by enlivening code education.


I’m lucky enough to be working for a code education company (Pluralsight), and in a position that allows for me to explore new ways of teaching. If I wasn’t working here, I’d likely be looking for ways to do this on my own.

A Similar Story

Code School’s founder, Gregg Pollack, and I have a lot in common. He left Code School/Pluralsight last year — a decision that was not easy for him. After a break, he was again looking for ways to help others learn to code — but this time with a different angle. Open SourceCraft is his latest endeavor, talking with creators of open source projects to understand their passion and mission. If you’re into code, you should check it out! I have a feeling if I wasn’t working in a job I love, I would also find a different way to teach people to code.

Where Does Financial Independence fit in?

To recap, FI can succinctly be described as follows:

Having enough money saved up, such that it could grow and enable living off that growth for the rest of your life.

If you’re curious to dive deeper into this topic, here’s a deep dive to get your head around the idea.

This could be called “fuck you money” — the point where you could leave your job in a fiery blaze. I’d rather use a more happy term like “fuck yeah money”. For reference, this number is somewhere between 25x (4% WR) and 33x (3% WR) how much money you spend in a given year.

Your Yearly Spend x 33 = Savings needed ( 3% SWR)

SWR: Safe Withdrawal Rate — the percent of your total savings you could spend each. This formula allows for so much control, which is why I love it! I can spend less, avoid lifestyle inflation, and see a direct impact on this formulas output. Likewise, growing the current total savings on hand and seeing that number approach a goal is tremendously satisfying.

Percent to FI graph

Rather than just throwing money into a savings or investment account, having a goal in mind adds gamification to savings! If I saw I was at 60% towards my goal a few months ago, and now I’m at 65%, that’s a great motivator for sticking with it. I’ll be digging into this chart all in good time — giving actual numbers for how much I’ve saved, how much I’m aiming for and other juicy numbers. This chart tells a tale of going from 30% to 50% of the way to a goal I set for myself in 2 years.

Thinking in terms of financial independence gives saving and investment a goal.

It has seriously increased my GoogleSheets-fu, something that’s come in handy more than once in other situations. How often would I otherwise get a chance to be exposed to,fv xirr and other accounting focused functions? It’s helped me be more mindful about what I’m spending. Spending money on things and regretting it is a major pain point for me, and this goal has been one more thing to help keep that on track.

My First Truth First

A worry I have is that by associating retirement with being financially independent, that people will think I have one foot out the door at my job. I’ve met (or suspect) a number of people who are financially independent, all ones who don’t speak of it, and they are some of the most driven people I know. Whether you’re already FI, working towards FI, or just living life, you can still be an asshole or a good person. In my case, I’m not thinking about retirement. It’s more likely I’ll someday want to change or evolve my personal vision, and that would cause a shift in my focus to something else — causing a career or job change. A few years ago my personal mission would’ve had something relating to writing code in it, but that changed, and my role changed as well when I transitioned from an Engineer to a Product Manager.

Growing Funds

I feel like I still haven’t answered the main question though:

If you’re not thinking of things in terms of retirement, what will happen when you get to 100% on that chart?

Good question! The answer is that I don’t know.???? Reaching an arbitrary number of savings wouldn’t trigger any change in my job, my role or my vision — I can say that with a high degree of confidence. The more likely options would be:

  • I let lifestyle inflation in, and the FI number would grow, pushing back FI years to a point where I am ready for retirement.
  • I set a higher goal at that point, implying that I’d like to raise my standard of living in retirement — likely traveling more.
  • Do I start looking for additional new investments to pursue — real estate perhaps?

It’s possible to look into the future multiple years out from a financial side, but much more difficult from a personal happiness level. I’ll focus on what I can control — which is having a good savings rate now, spending wisely and pursuing things that make me happy.


Hi, I'm Adam! I help millennials invest to reach financial independence sooner than they ever thought possible. Want to see what you could do to reach FI sooner? You're in the right place!


Why not add to the conversation below? Your voice is welcome!

Great post Adam! Early on I was interested in the RE component of FI/RE, but since learning more about myself (through ageing 😉 I actually came to the realisation that working on something that provides a huge challenge is of far more interest to me than retirement. I’m still driven by financial independence, but not because I want to quit as soon as I get there.

Nice! What challenges are you pursuing?

We were just saving without a goal but now, we actually track our savings rate and aim high to reach financial independence in the next decade. It’s a great motivator to have a goal!

Very cool, that sounds like a familiar story for sure. Having that measurements helps to improve.

Where does one put their “million dollars” to be able to draw off 4 percent a year to live without tapping into the principle? A bond fund? Annuity? – This is the part I struggle with …

Hey Dawn! The tricky part is there’s no safe investment that we can point that will always return enough every year to live off that 4%.

A diversified portfolio of about 50% US Equities (stocks), 30% International Equities (more stocks) and 20% bonds has historically returned at least 7% over the long run. If you withdraw 4% of that and another 1-3% goes towards inflation, that works out to being able to live off in the long run. There’s no guarentee, although it has historically worked.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about how that works in practice, I have a free course on it you can check out: The Minimal Investor. I hope that helps!

Minafi - The intersection of FI, minimalism & mindfulness.

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