Changes are you have stumbled upon this blog via other personal finance sites and already known the concepts of financial freedom and early retirement. If this is the case, you can skip this post. For those few who are not familiar with this little sub section of the personal finance space, I will cover the basics below.
Financial independence (I chose to go with financial freedom because financial freedom sloth had a nicer ring to it, it just sounded a little bit better 😉 is the point where your passive income covers your normal expenses. Basically you do no longer need to work. To some this is also the point that some do in fact decide to stop working altogether and decide to retire. Hence the early retirement part of it. Since a lot of people who are drawn to this concept appear to be engineers and they love abbreviations, FI and FIRE where born. With FIRE being Financial Independent Retire Early.
So one can say that financial freedom has two parts:
Generating passive income.
Of course passive income is never 100% passive. Even the most passive investment needs you to log in to your investment account now and then and transfer some money around (perhaps even sell or buy something – gasp, the horror!). Some people achieve financial freedom via real estate which does involve some (or even a lot) of work.
But the general consensus here is that you get most or all your income from other sources than having to work full time for somebody else or in your own business. In most cases the passive income comes from investments (either stocks, bonds, real estate) but we live in a strange world and other possibilities are possible (perhaps you own a patent that pays regular royalties, a company pays you well to put some windmills on a plot of land, your grumpy cat achieved internet stardom and brings in the money …). Point is, you are no longer under any obligation to get up early in the morning and go to work every day of the week, for most weeks of the year.
Covering your normal expenses
The more you spend each month, the more passive income you are going to need. Sounds simple enough but you would be surprised how many people are not aware of the link between their day to day spending and their ability to save …
How much do you need to cover your expenses? Well, this guy has a pretty good answer to it. The basis is the trinity study.
Now, if you go poking around on the internet you can find posts on forums where intense debate rages about this study. And as a non USA person you could say: does it apply to my country? But I had never heard about the trinity study and also came more or less to the same conclusions just by observing that even in Belgium we had a handful of companies paying out a net dividend (after taxes) of 3% to 4%. They even continued to pay their dividend during the biggest market storms (anybody remember 2008, or before that 2001?) and in most cases are able to increase their dividends over the years, thus giving some inflation protection. The 25x annual expenses in investments (whatever form those investments may take) is a pretty practical rule of thumb. We’ll go with it for the time being. Once you are close to that number you may want to examine more closely your assumptions, expenses, rates of return and all that stuff.
The same guy also has a pretty good post on how to get there.
Basically: the less you spend, the more you save AND the less you actually need to achieve financial independence. Being frugal is the name of the game (being smart helps).
Two other sites also cover the basics (and much more) of this whole FIRE thingy pretty well
Any questions? Google is your friend (I am the lazy one here, so go click, click the links and read, read …)
In the next post, I will go into the details of how I view what financial freedom in Belgium specifically means.
Luckily for us, achieving freedom no longer involves painting our faces blue, having to listen to Mel Gibson going on and on about something or another and then ride into battle and die horribly. So we have that going for us!