What if Financial Independence is Not for You?

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The concept of financial independence may be daunting for some people. The more I write about it, the more I recognize that. Additionally, while I’d love to believe anyone can achieve it if they want, that may not be realistic. Actually, what I think is most important is for anyone to be able to achieve some level of financial stability.

Firstly, let’s define the generally accepted definition of financial independence. Typically, it is known as having 25 times your annual spending saved in investment accounts so that you can live off ~4% without depleting it. The idea for this came from the Trinity Study

There is a lot of controversy surrounding what are actual safe withdrawal rates. 

That being said, let’s just define financial independence as having enough money saved in investments so that you don’t need to continue to work to generate income.

Can Anyone Achieve Financial Independence?

This is a rather interesting topic and was asked of me when I was on the Chain of Wealth podcast. I have some thoughts on this topic that I will expand upon in this article.

Additionally, this question was asked today on the What’s Up Next Podcast. During this episode, five inspiring people, who’ve all achieved financial independence shared their thoughts on this topic. What’s amazing about these five people is the obstacles they’ve had to overcome to end up where they are at financially:

It’s a really interesting interview and I recommend that anyone take a listen. One of the things that stood out to me, which was said by Krysty, is that a scarcity mindset is not necessarily a bad thing. Here is the link to the episode if you want to hear more about that:

Can Anyone Achieve Financial Independence?

My Short Answer is…

No. Realistically, achieving financial independence might not be possible for everyone. Moreover, not everyone may want to achieve financial independence.

Years ago, I watched the documentary, Happy.

One of the major takeaways for me was that in their research of traveling the world to discover what makes people happy they found that it’s not really money. Unless someone is in extreme poverty and an increase in income would drastically change their life from impoverished to sustainable, increases in income do not typically correlate to an increase in happiness.

Hmm, isn’t that interesting? I think most of us know that deep down.

What’s Important to You?

Finding financial stability, in my opinion, is the thing to focus on. Gaining control of your finances doesn’t have to be about this big audacious goal of financial independence. Sure, I think most people want to know they can retire someday but maybe not.

Take, for instance, my father. He and my mom have done well for themselves. They both worked hard most of their lives, lived within their means and saved for retirement. They are financially independent.

In spite of that my dad only officially retired about a year ago at age 79. Sure he wasn’t working full time up until that age. Additionally, he worked for himself and out of his home but none the less, he worked. He liked his work and it gave him purpose. He didn’t need to keep working for the money, but he kept working.

I know many people that say they enjoy work and want to keep doing it until they die. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you’ve found something that gives you purpose and brings in a paycheck, by all means, keep at it.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

Financial Stability

What moves me the most in wanting to help others is when I meet people who have no financial stability. When I see people in a constant struggle with money, I want to teach. Because, for most of us, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Bryce Leung says, “if you figure out money, life is incredibly easy; if you don’t figure out money, life is incredibly hard.” There are exceptions to this like, cancer, depression, etc. However, what I will say is that if you don’t figure out money life will be exponentially harder.

Financial stability can really start with little things. Everything big always starts with something small. 

What do I mean by the little things? I am talking about…

  1. Reducing debt
  2. Mindful and/or value-based spending
  3. Modest living
  4. Prevention
  5. Increased savings
  6. Investing 

And when you figure these things out, you have opportunity to become outrageously generous.

It’s Not All Equal

When I’ve been asked if I think financial independence if possible for anyone, I often think of a particular friend I have in recovery. She is not able to work and is on disability. In light of that she lives a simple life and within her means.

Furthermore, she has found purpose in helping other ladies in recovery which is something not limited by her disability. Sure financial independence, in the sense that many people define it, may not be feasible for her. However, I’d argue that she’s found it.

While she has limitations in this life, she’s able to manage and should be able to continue to manage all of the days of her life. Sure she doesn’t have money to spend on whatever she wants but she is sustained and thriving. She’s found financial stability.

No one’s situation is equal. Nor does everyone want the same thing.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I think the most important thing we can do is to focus on the little things with our money. Essentially it comes down to working to create margin so that what comes in is more than what goes out.

If financial independence is a goal you’d like to achieve, awesome. Go for it and be sure to help others along the way.

If financial independence seems like an impossible goal, that’s okay. Just focus on gaining control of your finances so that you are the master of your money rather than the other way around.

Reader Questions: Do you think anyone can achieve financial independence? Is that even the right question to ask? What if financial independence isn’t for you? How do you obtain financial stability? 

Theme pic by mauro mora on Unsplash

10 thoughts on “What if Financial Independence is Not for You?”

  1. Such a good perspective Deanna. I think many people jump to the goal of achieving FI too early.. After accomplishing the more important, bigger achievements such as paying off debt and reaching a point of financial stability, FI then becomes more realistic. But if you’re not happy before FI, chances are you won’t be happy after FI. Find what brings joy to your life and put that at the top of your list, FI is a nice to have but Joy is a must have.

    1. Hi Daniel, thanks for coming by & commenting. Yeah, I never want anyone to feel intimidated by the concept of FI. In the end, it’s about finding balance & purpose. 🙂

  2. Yeah, there are quite a surprising number of people who want to work even when they know they are financially independent. And that’s absolutely fine! My spouse, for example, have no intention of leaving work!

  3. Effing brilliant. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately. I achieved financial independence in 14 years, and I did so rather easily. How? Well, for starters, Mrs. Groovy and I didn’t have kids. We also had very good salaries for North Carolina. When we retired in 2016, we were each making a little over $60K annually. But here’s our biggest ace in the hole. We didn’t mind looking or acting poor. We lived in a modest home, drove an old car, compiled a wardrobe from Walmart and Kohl’s, and considered a Blizzard at Dairy Queen on Saturday night a rollicking good time. For the longest time, I viewed these aspects of our lives as anything but remarkable. And I guess in isolation, none of them are. But when you combine all three, they are pretty remarkable–and rare. Not many people are willing to forego kids. Not many people are fortunate enough to have a solid household income relative to their cost of living. And not many people are okay with looking and acting poor. I really think we have reached peak FIRE. Financial independence is simply a bridge too far for too many people for FIRE to ever be mainstream. We now need a spin off from the FIRE movement. A movement that’s devoted to financial security rather than financial independence and happiness rather than retirement. What catchy acronym can we give this movement? And who can lead this movement? Don’t know. But–haha–I nominating you to lead this spin off. I’ll start working on the catchy acronym. You’re the best, D. Great freakin’ post. Cheers.

    1. Hi Mr. G! Firstly, blizzards at Dairy Queen on a Saturday night ARE a rollicking good time. You are my hero. Yeah, those don’t seem like big choices but all the little things add up to big things. Not everyone wants to do that. Additionally, some people below the poverty line do that but it won’t help them get to financial independence. A spin-off from the FIRE movement sounds about right! Haha! I’ve been giving that a lot of thought lately and do have thoughts of rebranding. I know that many of the women I help aren’t considering financial independence but rather stability and that seems like a worthy goal.

      I am very curious to see what catchy acronym you come up with!! Thanks for coming by and the thoughtful comment. All the best to you.

  4. Abigail @ipickuppennies.net

    I don’t think everyone can attain financial independence. There are some people who will never be able to stop working, and they will have to work until they physically can’t anymore. They don’t have any money to spare to save up, and Social Security won’t be enough for them (because they’re low-income) to cover basic expenses.

    I think a lot of people with median incomes could achieve financial independence if they really put their minds to it, but as you pointed out everyone’s situation is different. If you earn $60,000 but $20,000 has to go to childcare and another $20,000 to your mortgage payments, then you’re not going to be able to max out a Roth and 401(k), which would be what gets you to early financial independence.

    1. You are exactly correct. Some people don’t want to make the necessary changes, and others aren’t in a position TO make those changes.

      Thanks for your comment, Abigail.

  5. Some very good points. No, not everyone can actually achieve FI. But the lessons of the FIRE movement can bring improvements to many people’s lives, regardless of circumstances.

    Our fathers sound similar – my dad absolutely loved his work and loved the routine and purpose it gave him. He tried retirement several times and finally “officially” retired last year at 71, but he’s still plugging away at work he enjoys, considering consulting within his career field, and pursuing new interests such as beekeeping. He’s definitely not one to lie on a beach or play golf for his retirement years!

    1. Hi Kate, yes there are definitely some valuable lessons/takeaways from the FIRE movement for so many people. Excellent point!

      Our Dad’s do sound similar. 🙂 Beekeeping, what a fun hobby to explore!

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