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I realise that this may be controversial. Some people may read this and disagree. But our goal is not financial independence. At least, it is not on the cards for us right now. Instead, we are working on a slightly different situation.
For us, we are working on financial stability. To me, this phrase means being in a place with our money that gives us the right balance between our needs as a family now and in the future. It is very personal to us and your financial stability may look entirely different from ours.
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What is financial independence?
J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly defines financial independence as “when you’ve saved enough to support your current spending habits for the rest of your life without the need to earn more money.” At this point, most people choose to retire.
There is a huge movement of people who are aiming to “FIRE”, which stands for Financial Independence/Retire Early. And the internet is full of people retiring in their 20s, 30s and 40s after achieving financial independence and it sounds amazing.
Surprisingly, it is not just a dream for the super-rich or mega high earners. There are stories of people managing to retire early who have been average-wage earners with a lot of determination. It takes hard work. To achieve it you must work hard at saving money and making money.
Why it is not our goal?
We came a little too late to the FIRE game. By the time I had discovered that it was an achievable goal we had two kids. And this put some limitations of our ability to achieve financial independence in a desirable time frame.
Not only this but we realised that there are other priorities in our lives greater than being able to stop working. Our number one priority is to ensure that our children get the best start in life and that involves spending as much time as possible with them whilst they are young.
Therefore, we have focused our efforts on finding a situation that means that my husband and I work the least amount possible now without sacrificing our chances of financial independence in the future.
What does this look like?
We have applied many of the same principles that people aiming to achieve FIRE would take. We have reduced expenditure and live a frugal life. On top of this we actively seek sources of passive income and maximise as best we can. We side hustle in the hours when our children are sleeping to fund our dream.
Therefore, it is merely that the outcome is different. We are not doing these things to stop working in the future; we do them to work less now.
What steps are we taking for the future?
If you are wondering how sustainable this is then worry not. This is not a reckless adventure where we are full steam ahead until one day we wake up and realise that we are old with no pension. We have made plans.
Despite both my husband and I working part-time and jointly earning a little less than the average salary in the UK, we still manage to save or invest approximately 40% of our take-home pay. We are also both paying into pensions and overpaying on our mortgage. We should be mortgage free within a decade.
I guess, therefore, you could debate whether we are actually aiming for financial independence. Or could we further give up these things and work even less.
Does it have to be one or the other?
Ultimately, no! There are many people who throw themselves at their FIRE goal and have kids. They make parenting and early retirement a realistic dream. Plus, there are many examples of people who have achieved financial independence with a young family.
We, too, should be able to retire early, but we have made a choice to delay that to focus on now. We could say we are borrowing time from our future selves. Or as I like to call it, semi-retirement.
There will come various points in our lives when it is appropriate for us to focus more time on earning money. As our children get older they will need us in different ways than constantly being in our presence. When these times show themselves, we will readjust our financial goals. Perhaps then we will make financial independence the target.
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.