Financial Independence All Around Me

I’ve been on this financial independence journey for less than two years, but in those two years I’ve never really heard of anyone in the “real world” talking about financial independence. That’s partially the reason I started this blog so that I could share my journey and discuss financial independence with like-minded individuals, because it seems to be voodoo outside of this community.

Something happened the other week that took me by surprise. Financial independence and related topics reared their head THREE times in one week! I was happier than a kid in a candy shop. I remember texting my girlfriend right after one of the encounters because I was just so happy and had to tell someone. My first encounter was in a very public environment, which made it that much more surprising.

The Conference

About two weeks ago I was at a work conference in the Midwest. I was in a room full of around 400 accountants and people with financial jobs. At one point during the conference there was a panel of three people with some pretty fancy financial titles from some big companies giving a talk. When it got to the end of the panel discussion, they asked the attendees to ask questions. One woman asked if they could discuss any adversity they have encountered in their careers and how they overcame it.

One of the panelists told a story about how when he was about 30, he was asked by his boss to do some sketchy things at work (accounting things). He hated this and it stressed him out greatly. He told his boss he wouldn’t do what he was asked and called his wife to warn her he might get fired. He told himself that day that he would live a life of financial independence, and subsequently paid off his mortgage and all his debt so that he never had to rely on his biweekly paycheck to live again. Right here I was wondering what was going through everyone else’s head as they listened.

He didn’t want to have to do something his bosses said that he didn’t feel was right, just because he needed the paycheck. I don’t believe he was fired, and it seems like it was a happy ending.

Unfortunately I didn’t muster up the courage to walk up to him after and ask him about his financial independence journey, but he is probably in his mid 40’s now and I am definitely curious if he’s actually financially independent and working because he enjoys it, or for other reasons.

The Business Owner

A cool part of my job is I get to meet a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs. I had a meeting with a business owner down South. I never know what to expect when I go to these meetings as the personalities I’ve encountered are always something different. This time I was pleasantly surprised.

The business owner pulled up to the meeting in a Honda Accord, he wore a Timex watch that had to of cost less than $40, and his khakis which he was wearing were probably given to him for Christmas ten years ago. He was in his mid to late 50’s and had removed himself from the day-to-day operations of his business, which I don’t see very often with many of the type A business owners I run into who have trouble letting go and passing the reigns on to other qualified people.

He had left the room at one point and one of his managers he had in place to run his business couldn’t say enough nice things about the owner – “He is the type of person who knows when enough is enough, it’s a great quality, and you don’t find it in many people anymore.” If I didn’t know otherwise, I would of thought he was an 8th grade science teacher and not a business owner with an eight figure net worth.

Saving His Whole Salary

I was at a work dinner and my boss started talking about his career projection. Who doesn’t love learning the nitty-gritty about their bosses? He talked about how when his wife graduated from law school while they were in their mid-twenties and started working at a law firm, they saved 100% of his salary and about 15% of hers. This continued for eight whole years until his earning potential surpassed hers and she decided to stay home with their kids. I was so into the story as I thought it was awesome, until he started talking about his mansion which he now owns. Of course I Zillowed it and now know where all his net worth is. I’d rather have financial independence instead of a 6,000 square foot home, but to each his own.

I love seeing people practicing financial independence, or at least living within their means. It took two years for me to hear people discussing it in the real world, and somehow related topics came up three times within a one week period. Unfortunately I was brought back to reality on Sunday when my roommate was complaining about how he had to work on Sunday, and I told him to start saving his money so that he doesn’t have to work until 60 and his response was “that’s stupid.”

Has anyone in the “real world” discussed financial independence in your presence? If so, share your story below!

53 thoughts on “Financial Independence All Around Me

  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline

    It’s great when you actually hear these stories in real life. It gives you hope. 🙂 That’s why FinCon is such a great conference to attend, so many like minded people to share stories with. I can’t think of any recent FI stories, I often here the opposite of how people are struggling with their finances.
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…Trim the Fat from your BudgetMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Stockbeard

      I think if you look at all of us in the FIRE world, there’s this “moment” of “enough is enough”. It can be a bill, your debt status, your work becoming so boring you can’t take it, and all of us started to think “maybe there’s another way?”.

      It would be interesting to get stats, but I’m sure everyone at some point gets bored of their job. How they handle that situation is what makes the difference (change jobs, or realize all jobs are kind of the same and try to reach FI).

      For many of my friends in their thirties, they still like their jobs and don’t see the point of FI. I think once they reach their 40s or 50s is when it will hit them?
      Stockbeard recently posted…The crazy stuff I do to save money. #4 is pretty embarrassingMy Profile

      Reply
      1. Fervent Finance Post author

        It might never hit them. Some people just don’t feel comfortable breaking away from the norms, and I’ve realized FI is not for everyone and that’s fine. But who wouldn’t like to be at least in some good financial condition to make decisions where their job doesn’t dictate the answer?

        Reply
    2. Fervent Finance Post author

      That’s awesome – it takes guts and I like guts. In all reality I can see myself calling it quits before I’m 100% FI, and just figuring it out along the way and bridging that gap with side hustles and other projects 🙂

      Reply
  2. Jim Wang

    I think that the term “financial independence” is relatively new but pieces of it have been floating around – living within your means, work life balance, work the 9-to-5 to live for the other 9-to-5, etc. Just putting it all together, with an end goal in mind and packaged in a single term is new.

    I also think the recent recession has rebooted a lot of people’s minds. How your job isn’t a 40 year thing, how it’s not 100% stable, and how you need to be building up savings because the employer engine won’t run forever. In fact it may not survive the next economic pullback. All these contribute to the growing popularity of FI.

    That said, it’s still up against commercialism and when the economy really gets humming again and prosperity is around us, I suspect FI will slip a little. People won’t see prosperity as a big period of asset accumulation, they’ll see it as a time to enjoy now and the cycle continues. 🙂
    Jim Wang recently posted…How to Get an Instant 20% Return on InvestmentMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Great observations Jim. FI popularity is probably cyclical just like about everything else. Maybe it’s popping its head out now, but will hide again when money is flying around 🙂

      Reply
  3. Steve @ ThinkSaveRetire

    Unfortunately, people in my industry don’t seem to talk about financial independence. In Information Technology, you either love it or you want to “retire early” – which, of course, is different from financial independence. So the discussions I usually hear about are more along the lines of “I can’t stand the stress – I gotta find something new to do with my life”.

    I think it’s funny that you mentioned Zillow’ing your boss’s home. I actually did the very same thing a couple weeks ago, and it turns out the CEO of my company lives in a $15m home in California. More power to him if that’s the way he wants to spend his money – I admire people who are able to carve a lucrative niche for themselves in this world.
    Steve @ ThinkSaveRetire recently posted…Blogging 101: How I manage my web hosting options – Digital Ocean vs. BluehostMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I Zillow everyone I work for’s home 🙂 Some may say it’s creepy but I like to know. I’ve learned in the work place you get ahead by understanding other people, especially your bosses and their homes tell a lot about them.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      So true Sam. Suffering makes people research their outs. If everything was hunky-dory, I would have just gone about my business, conducting my financial life just like everyone else. Which probably would of meant not saving much and not really caring. Maybe it was good I didn’t like my first job!

      Reply
  4. Mr. SSC

    I’ve run into this pretty rarely, so like you, when I do I get a “what?! Did I hear that right?” sort of moment. The first is a guy I work with that has been out of school for ~3 yrs now, and he was excited because this year his car qualifies for “antique” status and will be exempted from emissions checks. Yep, he still drives his 25 yr old Volvo, and is stoked about it. His main reason is so he can bank more and get to an FI point earlier in life.
    Another moment was a colleague I went to grad school with. She was mentioning upgrading her car, and while everyone else in the car was telling her to get a new car, her response was, “Why would I want to lose all that money in depreciation?” I’m fine with a good used car. It was the topic of conversation the rest of the lunch, because no one else could understand why you wouldn’t want a new car. Again, she’s investing as much as possible to hit FI earlier in life.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…So much background noise…My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Wow I think it’s pretty neat you personally have met two people in the real world with FI ambitions. It’s probably rare in NYC since I feel everyone lives to work, and then is so burnt out otherwise they blow all their money on booze to cope with it and take-out because they are too tired to cook. They see everyone else doing the same thing and think it’s “normal”. Not me!

      Reply
  5. Justin @ Root of Good

    I’ve bumped into a few people who are on some form of the financial independence chase (before I started my blog – afterward, all the FI weirdos showed up of course 😉 ).

    One guy was in his late 20’s and heading back to school to get an MBA and his wife was going into med school. Their goal was to ramp up their income into the mid six figures so that they could save up enough to provide “at least a six figure passive income” as he put it. So far they are doing pretty well I believe.
    Justin @ Root of Good recently posted…Looking in the Rearview MirrorMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I’m one of those guys that concentrates more on the income side of the equation as well. My expenses can only go down so much, but my earning potential is limitless (okay well it probably has SOME limits).

      Reply
  6. Leigh

    I’m an engineer and most of my friends are engineers. Engineers like to optimize things, so they understand optimizing. A friend on the weekend mentioned a story they’d read of someone who had retired early and picked apart all the reasons why they couldn’t repeat the story. I hate it when people do that. Another friend said they could retire early but they have an expensive habit of X that they don’t want to give up, so it won’t happen. But they at least understand the tradeoffs they’re making. I tend to tread cautiously when discussing it with friends offline. One of my friends thinks it’s really cool that I might actually be able to retire in my thirties though! And my boyfriend is finally starting to believe it might be possible I think.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Yeah SO much of our little FIRE community is engineers. I feel like everyone is some type of engineer in the reddit FI community as well. I wish I worked / associated with more engineers. Maybe they’d understand better.

      Reply
  7. Alyssa @ GenerationYRA

    This is great! I love when we can get a glimpse of financial independence outside of the blogging community and the 3 of your stories are solid. As far as myself hearing it in the real world, it’s usually tidbits here and there – but never fully discussed. Although, it’s only been a little over a year now that I’ve been trekking down the FI/personal finance path so maybe I need to hit the 2 year mark to start experiencing such real-life sound bites/experiences?
    Alyssa @ GenerationYRA recently posted…Flexible Philanthropy FundMy Profile

    Reply
  8. InsiderAccountant

    I really don’t one across this very often at work, and when I talk to a few people about early retirement they think I’m talking about in my 50s and that’s extreme enough for them. They don’t realise that I’m actually talking about my early 40s, but if they did they’d think I was crazy for sure.

    There have been a couple of older partners at our firm who achieved financial independence in their 40s I would say, but they never quite grasped the concept of “enough” like your client with the old khakis. Instead they just kept working harder and harder as they became almost addicted to the money, and it seems like they’ve missed the point of life in a lot of ways which is pretty sad.

    I was fortunate enough to see Paul Clitheroe (he’s probably Australia’s number 1 money expert for retail investors and people who watch commercial television) speak recently, and even in everything that he talked about (and explained that he had done) it was obvious that he didn’t really grasp FI or early retirement. If he can’t get it then what hope do the masses have?!
    InsiderAccountant recently posted…The Financial Train Wreck gets scammedMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Yeah that’s the thing – when working in accounting firms, we run into so many people who could be FI that instant but just have no idea what it is or how they could do it. It’s quite a weird thing. People are just so used to what their parents did or what their friends do and don’t realize they can chart a different course.

      Reply
  9. Norm

    I’ve never heard FI discussed in public, and I’ve only brought it up myself amongst the closest of friends. But I just have to say the end of your story made me laugh out loud. “That’s stupid.” It’s a reality we know all too well!
    Norm recently posted…Real Christmas Trees RuleMy Profile

    Reply
  10. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure

    I have yet to have a conversation with anyone in the real world thinking about financial independence. I sometimes mention we’re thinking about retiring early and then have to sort of laugh it off as a joke because it’s so strange and voodoo, as you say.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Yeah if I bring it up slowly and casually with friends, the first response is a laugh, followed by “yeah right – that’s impossible.” Oh well. Maybe they’ll learn when I retire in less than 10 years and want to jump on the bandwagon. I’ll be more than happy to point them in the right direction 🙂

      Reply
  11. Steve Miller

    As I was on my way to FIRE, I was reluctant to talk with anyone about my plans or how I planned to accomplish it. I guess I thought I might jinx it or what would happen if I didn’t make it? Would I look foolish and people would say what a jackass I was for trying?

    Fast forward 15 years after I started that journey, I’ve now been retired for over 3 years, living off my 4% SWR. I don’t have to work now but I do partake in projects that excite me and keep me intellectually stimulated. But the cool thing is, I can decide what I will and will not do.

    Now conversations of FIRE come up more often because people see my blog and want to know more about how I accomplished it.

    Happy Holidays!
    Steve Miller recently posted…Want to impact Someone’s Holiday? 10 ways to do itMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      The people always come out of the woodwork once they see you’ve been successful! Yeah I think I also don’t want to jinx myself or look foolish for “failing”. But in this scenario, failing would just be having a big stack of money, that wasn’t as big as I thought it would be – so is that really failing?

      Reply
  12. Josh

    At my work the conversation is typically to buy your own house instead of paying somebody else’s house payment and just to buy (i.e. finance) a simple vehicle instead of one with all the bells & whistles. During the 2008/2009 decline, a number of people at my work were furloughed and had expensive vehicles they suddenly couldn’t afford anymore.
    Josh recently posted…What I’ve Learned In 3 Months Of Blogging!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Josh. Yeah I always hear the “I want to stop throwing money away at rent.” But in my head I hear “you’ll still be throwing money away at insurance, taxes, maintenance, and into an asset that probably will just keep up with inflation.” 🙂 At least they aren’t financing Benzes!

      Reply
  13. John

    I rarely discuss our FI with anyone (outside of blogs like this) as it seems so few understand. They often assume (1) you must eat sticks and grass to save money, or (2) never go do anything, or (3) are greedy/selfish, or (4) just got “lucky”, or (5)……well, you get the point.

    Surely some people have been dealt a bad hand in life, but more often financial problems are self inflicted. We (as a nation) do a poor job of educating young people about the science and math behind early retirement. It really is achievable by many people, but I guess the allure of a new iPhone every six months is too much to resist.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing it.

    John
    John recently posted…How to create your own debit cardMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Thanks John. You don’t want to get me on my soapbox about how personal finance should be taught in high school! It just needs to be a simple half year class that teaches everyone about compound interest, credit cards, 401k, savings account… just the basics which are so easy to understand, but never taught.

      Reply
  14. Mark@BareBudgetGuy

    Okay that picture is awesome. Now that I think of it, I don’t know that I actually discuss FI much outside the PF community. That probably due to the fact that I’m either always at work or at home talking to 4 year olds. But if I got out more, I’m sure I would.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Haha I love creating memes. Believe me, I think most audiences would act the same as your kids when you brought up FIRE.

      Reply
  15. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    Maybe you’re right about NYC…everyone seems to live to work. I don’t think I’ve heard many people talk about financial independence around these parts. Heck, my co-workers have a hard time staying away from credit card debt. Sometimes I try to encourage to see the light…like you did with your roommate…but they always have an excuse as to why they cannot do it.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Consumers BewareMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Yeah I think it’s just the mentality here. I mean I moved here for a job, so I’d assume many others have as well. Yikes CC debt is BADDD NEWS BEARS.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      That definitely makes sense! People you meet on the road traveling most likely have different priorities than me and my fellow office workers 🙂 That’s neat to hear. Thanks for stopping by Michelle.

      Reply
  16. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    Six THOUSAND square feet?! Ugh. Then again, I live in Phoenix. So the idea of cooling even 3,000 square feet (the size of one person I know’s house) makes me queasy.

    We have a 1,500 sq ft house, so we’ll be able to pay it off with relative ease. Granted, it’s just the two of us (though we’re home all day every day), but it’d be fine with at least one kid in it. I don’t get why people buy so much house!
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…I’m losing weight! But more importantly, STAR WARS!My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Yeah too much house for sure. Definitely a status thing for him. I think people believe that’s how you’re supposed to show others you’ve “made it” 🙂

      Reply
  17. Amber Tree

    Talking on FIRE with people is not easy. I tried with my mom, and she sounded worried… stopping with work, that early???

    Another time was with a guy I suspect of being FI, but I am not sure. He was any way interested when I explained the 4pct SWR, and I think I saw him doing the math in his head. I think I might have learned hime something that day.

    It stays an interesting topic…
    Amber Tree recently posted…Amber index and Saving Rate November 2015My Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      You could see the wheels spinning! I wonder if right then and there he realized what he could do. Neat story.

      Reply
  18. andy

    I know two family members that all we talk about is money, I love it. I can talk with them for hrs even when there is a party going on outside. Funny, we talk about the same things over and over. One is an uncle who is retired since he was 48 or so. has about 5 million in properties. I only have 500k 🙁 , but I am still young.

    I want to be financial secure ( to keep working if I wanted to or not). My guess is that it would take me at least 12 years. At a minimum have a beach house and live in it ( I don’t care to have multiple homes, I like free diving and love to wake up next to the water. But, to have a home in the beach in the florida keys which are really cheap compared to other parts in the USA, which is unbelievable since florida has the best weather all year round. So around 1 mill to 2 million at the moment for a house ( 1300-1800 sq ft) My current home is 3500 sq ft) but would gladly downgrade in size for a beach house.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      That’s great that you have people to talk money with. What’s great is there are many ways to get to a financial independence destination such as real estate, dividend growth investing, index funds, entrepreneurship, etc. No way wrong, it’s just what you feel most comfortable with and are willing to research and put time and effort into. Good luck.

      Reply
  19. Our Next Life

    Still haven’t had the FI mentions in real life, though I think I’m constantly at risk of spilling the beans. Someone at work will say something like, “Oh, the 401(k) match changed. Maybe I should lower my contribution.” And suddenly I’m Ms. Advice, and I have to fight hard to hold back and act like I only know a *little* about all of this, instead of an obsessive amount. 🙂
    Our Next Life recently posted…Of Mice and Money // 2015 Wrap-Up and 2016 RundownMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Haha I hear you. When I hear people say that they haven’t saved or are broke, and I know about what they make… I can’t help but try to get some words in edgewise!

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I’ve been trying lately to slowly and quietly work in money talk to conversations with friends, some times they go well if the friend is interested, other times I drop it right away. But when I hear someone say “I’ve saved nothing this year” I get queezy and want to help!

      Reply
  20. Steve

    My “Aha” moment happened when I was 40, a single parent, and was declaring BK. I had to admit that my biggest enemy was the guy looking back at me in the mirror. I had met the enemy and it was me.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge