Financial Independence Stealth Mode

As people on the path to financial independence know, it can sometimes be hard to stay true to your financial goals while still being very involved socially with your friends, family, and coworkers.

I learned this lesson this past weekend. I was asked to go to a dinner that was $50 prix fixe. Add in NYC sales tax of 8.875% and 18% gratuity and you’re looking at about $64. Plus subway there and back, and I would have been down 70 bucks for a dinner. So I commented back “that’s out of my price range.” Boy did I regret that. The person who invited me responded with “what do you need to save for? YOLO. A ring only costs $10 grand.” Next time I’ll just say I’m busy.

For reasons similar this, I’m in what I like to call “Financial Independence Stealth Mode.” Sounds pretty bad ass if you ask me, but in actuality it is more of a pain in the ass than anything. I really got excited the other day when a coworker told me about a new fancy Starbucks coffee machine that was installed at work. He told me it’s a life saver since the coffee tastes good, and he spends too much on coffee and is trying to lower his expenses. I really wanted to blurt out “I know exactly how much money I waste on coffee, and I’m currently trying to cut this expense out to speed up my financial independence date.” But in reality I just ended up saying “you and me brother.”

I’ve noticed in life you are always going to have friends and family that never really take charge of their finances and will live paycheck to paycheck for their foreseeable future, and not ever set financial goals or plan accordingly. The last thing these type of people want to hear about is how you are contemplating your domestic/international mutual fund allocation in your brokerage account or how you are struggling to decide how to deploy your capital since you’ve already maxed out your 401k, IRA, and HSA for the year. It’s tough to know when to share your experiences and personal finance advice, and when to shut up. With close friends and family, I’ll usually just say “If you want to get to X financial goal, I’ve done a lot of research and here is how you should approach it.” But with coworkers and friends who aren’t that close, I usually just keep my mouth shut.

Decisions about who you surround yourself with on this journey have to be made and those decisions can be tough. True friends and family will understand your goals, and be accommodating. Those that are spendy-pants and aren’t willing to take charge of their personal finances are people I’ve been removing from my circle over the past year or two.

Sadly, in “real life” only four people know about my goal to retire in my 30’s. It’s sometimes tough to differentiate between my personal life and Fervent Finance who is allowed to speak his mind freely about financial independence without any repercussions. Therefore I’ve realized it is great to have some outlets to be able to share your goals and discuss financial independence. Personally this blog has been great for this. I can share my ideas with like-minded individuals, learn about what has worked and not worked for others, and spread the financial independence gospel. Also I’ve learned, as Justin at RoG wrote about, optimal spousal selection is key. I’ve been very lucky to have a girlfriend who is sipping the financial independence Kool-Aid with me. It’s so much easier to be on this journey when you have a partner in crime who shares similar goals. She’s great when I want complain about how bad some people are with their finances, as I know readers don’t want to hear about that all the time.

While it may be a pain to be in Financial Independence Stealth Mode, I’ve found it works best for me. If someone wants to talk personal finance with me and is open and willing to listen without judgment, I’ll be happy to share my story. In the meantime I’ll confide in this amazing online community and bug my girlfriend every time I get excited when I make a deposit to Vanguard.

P.S. – The picture in this post is of the hyped up Super Blood Moon from Sunday night, from a midtown Manhattan vantage point. More like super disappointing if you ask me.

Are you in Financial Independence Stealth Mode? Have you had to make some tough decisions lately to keep your life and goals in line?

63 thoughts on “Financial Independence Stealth Mode

  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline

    If you waited maybe another 1/2 hour you might have been more impressed with the moon. 🙂 I agree sometimes it just best to give a standard answer instead of trying to explain yourself to people that are not in they same mindset. Having are income kicked in the teeth over the last few months we’ve had to be mindful of our spending too.
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…5 Tips to Create a Debt Killing BudgetMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Patience isn’t my best attribute for sure with regards for waiting for the blood moon. It’s kind of sad that standard answers are easier.

      Reply
  2. InsiderAccountant

    I wondered what the picture was – aren’t blood moons supposed to be at least the slightest bit red? That crappy movie Red Riding Hood had blood moons being quite red if I recall correctly, and it was of course entirely based on facts (yeah sure, just like it was oscar-winning material as well).

    I agree wholeheartedly with your stealth mode concept. I don’t share my goal with most people as they just don’t understand. Only those close to me have some idea, and even then they can view it negatively at times.

    Involvementioned in our little online community has made a huge difference to my commitment to this path – if nothing else it helps reinforce the messages if my determination ever wavers.
    InsiderAccountant recently posted…It’s the last day of holidays… againMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      What are you going to do with the rest of your life? What happens when you want to have kids? You’ll run out of money! Thanks but no thanks to those potential conversations.

      Reply
  3. Mrs SSC

    I do try and stay in stealth mode. Most of my close friends know we want to retire early – but they think that is like 50, not around 40… at this time I choose not to correct them. We have been facing layoffs at work (7 days to go!) and I am oddly at peace about it since we are about 70% to our FI goal and thus have a nice cushion. I have actually been scolded for seeming too happy at work, since everyone is in super stress mode…. so now if people ask “How are you?” Instead of saying “great”, I just kind of frown and say “could be better…” and try and look mopey… I didn’t know I would need acting skills to be in the FI game!
    Mrs SSC recently posted…This is how we do it: Estimating our FIRE budgetMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Glad you’re still hanging in there Mrs. SSC. Haha = next thing you’ll know is you’ll be starring in commercials for a little side hustle gig 🙂

      Reply
  4. Alyssa @ GenerationYRA

    F.I. Stealth Mode – I absolutely love this concept. Unfortunately, there are many people I spend a lot of time around (i.e. in the office) that are in the boat of the YOLO mindset. Every once in awhile I attempt to put in my two cents (“If you could find potentially find another way, I would try not to cash out your 401(k) for a bathroom remodel…”), but most of the time it’s a lost cause. I have many systems I’ve set up in the background that are helping me build wealth in my 20’s that I do not disclose to most people – mainly just my fiance who I am so fortunate likes to chat about these things & we support one another with our financial goals & values. I think that fits the theme of Stealth Mode quite well. 🙂 All of the sudden I am geek-ing out and envisioning all of the people in the PF blogging community with invisible capes going into Stealth Mode because we all have our financial goals in place!
    Alyssa @ GenerationYRA recently posted…Overcoming the Fear of InvestingMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Alyssa! It’s funny to think about us all running around with capes in the night making deposits into our investment accounts 🙂 That’s awesome you and your fiance are on the same page, I’ve learned that helps tremendously.

      Reply
  5. Leigh

    The way I look at the stealth mode is that I still say yes to things…just in moderation compared to otherwise. The foodie friend who I’ll spend $40 on dinner with? I’ll say yes to dinner about once a month. So long as I don’t do more than two $40-60 dinners per month, I’m fine with it. If it was me, I probably would have gone to that prix fixe dinner, unless I didn’t like the menu of the restaurant. I’d much rather pay for wonderfully delicious food out than mediocre takeout food anyway.

    My boyfriend and I definitely commiserate about how terrible people are with money! It’s really nice to have that.
    Leigh recently posted…Reader SurveyMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      It more had to do that I didn’t particularly want to go to dinner with that crowd. What’s a significant other if you can’t complain to them!?

      Reply
  6. Claudia @ Two Cup House

    For a time, we were in FI Stealth Mode, too. However, I started sharing our updates via FB with friends and family and the cat was out of the bag. Fortunately, everyone has been supportive and many started asking questions, curious about our journey and how they might be able to get started with theirs. I haven’t FB “friended” any co-workers, so they aren’t aware of our FI journey–not really interested in fielding all of their questions on a daily basis, so I keep to myself at work. 🙂
    Claudia @ Two Cup House recently posted…Small House Construction Update, #4, The Final Frontier, aka We Moved to Our 536 sq ft HouseMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      That’s awesome how open you are with your friends and family. It seems like you have some good ones as they are supportive. I’d wait to share at work, until you’re much closer to the end 🙂

      Reply
  7. Our Next Life

    Sorry if I was one of those who overhyped the supermoon! 🙂 Sounds like Manhattan was not the optimal viewing spot.

    We definitely understand stealth mode, or the double life, as we call it. (We’re all secret agents, right? Although I’m sure that’s not actually as cool as we all think it sounds. It’s a government job after all — ha!) I wonder, if you tell someone that a meal is out of your price range, and they question you, if you can just say something vague like, “I’m saving for real estate.” A few times I have accidentally let slip something about saving money around coworkers, and that is the answer I’ve reached for when questioned. It can be interpreted any number of ways, and is inscrutable, especially given prices where you live.

    So awesome that you and your girlfriend are on the same page. Our plan would definitely not be possible if we didn’t share this vision and commitment to peacing out of our jobs ASAP by any means necessary. 🙂
    Our Next Life recently posted…On Still Not Sharing (Most of) Our Numbers // Talking Finance With No FinancesMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Haha was it that obvious that it was directed at ONL?? You make a great point about real estate though. It seems that in mainstream culture, the only acceptable thing to save for is buying a house! Maybe I’ll use that one too.

      Reply
  8. Tawcan

    We’re on FI stealth mode when it comes to outside of the family. A lot of people I know would just think I’m crazy if I start talking about FI. I don’t need to waste my time explaining to them how it can be achieved if you save and invest now rather than wait till you’re in your 50’s. Having a spouse/partner on the same page as you when it comes to FI is definitely very important. Two people together can accomplish a lot more than one person can.

    Reply
    1. bamfmoney

      I’ve done the opposite. About everyone that knows me at work/outside of work has heard me say I’m going to retire in my 30’s. Most thought I was crazy, a few believed I could do it. Fast forward, I hit fi and leave the work place is 4 months. A lot people in my building know about it and are shocked it’s possible. Proving the naysayers wrong, was just extra motivation for me. Never found my match on the journey and not sure if it gets any easier with age.
      When asked to go out somewhere that is pricier than I’d like for an evening of entertainment, I usually just say I have other plans.
      bamfmoney recently posted…Net Worth Update and Some Commentary as of 9/30/2015My Profile

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      1. Fervent Finance Post author

        Wow – letting people know that Clark Kent is Superman takes some confidence. Good advice on just saying you have other plans when the activity is too pricey. Congrats on hitting FI!

        Reply
  9. Norm

    I feel this. Especially wanting to blurt out “I know exactly how much I am spending on coffee…” I always have to keep myself in check before I start getting befuddled looks. It’s probably the same as any hobby you’re too deep into. You have to stop yourself before somebody says “What a nerd that guy is…” I have that problem even worse with frequent flyer miles, since I am always dying to tell people how to get free flights, but know that at first glance credit card churning sounds like a scam. I’m also terribly worried about coming across like a braggart.

    That said, I’ve found you can test the waters with people and see if they have the same feelings as you. Like you, I probably have no more than four friends and family who know about our financial plans.

    PS Blood Moon was awesome here upstate!
    Norm recently posted…Search Terms: Your Questions Answered!My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Good point, it’s great to test the waters of a topic of conversation first before diving in. I definitely nerd out hardcore on power lifting, eating, and personal finance.

      Reply
  10. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure

    I’m loving the term. We’re in stealth mode! It makes it seem so important and exciting! Yes, we certainly stay in stealth mode because we’re “lame” and “boring” with what we do with our money. But as I’ve said, I do like “mentioning” things I’ve “just discovered” (ten years ago) that are smart financial moves to see if people think similarly. “You and me brother.”
    Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…How I’m Making $10,360 OvernightMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      People don’t want to hear about you contributing to retirement. They want to hear about you leveraging up and buying a dream home! 🙂

      Reply
  11. Mr. SSC

    Yeah, clouds and rain killed our supermoon here. We’re in FI stealth mode. I think there is 1 person at my last company I told about our plans, and he was onboard with support, but maybe not join the cause. At my new company 1 person knows we want to pull the trigger and go do something else in 2-3-4 years but that’s about it. She’s supportive or at least not negative but I try not to talk about it too much.
    Since going out to eat comes from allowances – I used the “can’t afford it this week” once and now I’m just “busy”, lol. With my family, my brother knows but his take is “I’ll never be able to afford to retire.” When I tried to give him some tips or advice or things to use, it was like talking to a wall, so other than he knows we have “a plan” that’s about it for family even, on my side.
    Sometimes FI stealth mode is just easier.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…This is how we do it: Estimating our FIRE budgetMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I’ve never full-out told someone at work, but one of my coworkers who I would consider a friend I’ve discussed how I save a lot more than average and stuff like that and he was very supportive. But no talks about retiring at 38 🙂 Stealth mode is just easier, and sometimes easier is better.

      Reply
  12. Beth

    My friends and family are a little more aware of our take and our desire to be financially set. Our friends have come to me with their income and debt and asked me what to do. I’ve created spreadsheets to help them budget and pay off their student loans. Everyone is aware of my frugality and are on board with and usually impressed with how much I save. My husband is totally on board with our investment strategy and early home pay-off. He hasn’t completely drank the kool-aid in believing we can retire early, but he’s coming around. I don’t actually know that we will completely retire early, I think we will just become FI and probably work part time at jobs we enjoy.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Beth. I think your plan is great. I don’t plan on never earning an income again once I quit my career. I’ll have time to explore my passions and hopefully some of those will yield an income. It’s also great you’re able to help friends with their financial situations. I do a little of this when people ask, but I find it hard to offer it if people aren’t asking. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  13. Financial Samurai

    Love stealth mode! I’m a big proponent of STEALTH WEALTH once you get there as well. It’s much better to keep your intentions hidden from the public.

    BTW, do you know any bloggers who’ve reported a positive portfolio increase for 3Q2015 after the worst quarterly stock performance in 4 years this past 3Q? If so, how do you think they were able to achieve this result, and do they publish their actual positions in a screenshot as proof, or do they create their own charts so readers don’t really know how they did it?

    I’m looking for investment gurus out there (not bloggers who obfuscate investment returns to gain a following) for a new post I’m writing. Perhaps you might be one of them?

    Thx!

    Sam
    Financial Samurai recently posted…How To Create Multi-Generational Financial SecurityMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Sam – I’m definitely aware you are a big proponent of Stealth Wealth, and I think I’ll definitely stay stealthy for the near future with my FI goals. I’m pretty boring with my investing (index funds for the most part) so my portfolio ebbs and flows with the market. Take care!

      Reply
  14. Chris

    Hi, just found your blog and really enjoyed this post! My wife and I are casually working toward financial independence and I would say we are in stealth mode. For us, a major key has been living in a neighborhood we can easily afford. One of the benefits is that our friends and neighbors don’t lead extravagant lives so neither do we. We live in a similar home and drive similar vehicles to about everyone in our social circle. However, thanks to a comparably high income, we are able to save 50% of our net income every month without appearing at all frugal to our those around us. Almost everyone feels pressure to keep up with the Joneses to some extent, but for us it hasn’t been a problem because we happen to live around the right Joneses.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Wow Chris! It’s great to hear stories like yours. You’ve surrounded yourself with non spendy-pants types which is great. I’d like to be able to live in a more affordable area, while keeping my NYC salary. They say you can’t have the best of both worlds, but that won’t stop me from trying! Thanks for stopping by and take care.

      Reply
  15. Kyle

    I actually give financial advice pretty regularly, I just keep it short and let them ask further questions if they’re interested. Or finish by saying something like: “I can help you with your budget if you’re interested”. Keep it short so you don’t annoy anyone but extend the olive branch because you never know when somebody’s finally at that place to accept help.

    I Laughed at your plight of where to put your excess cash, It really is hard to talk to people living pay check to pay check about your plight of maxing out retirement accounts and pondering where to put the excess. Told my dad, whose also pretty frugal, about my early retirement goals. He mentioned some standard advice of wanting to put 5 to 10% of your income away for your whole career. I said, “Well, I maxed out my Roth IRA this year and am on course to max out my work’s retirement account and a plan of what I’ll do with any excess.” Kind of took him off guard.
    I know by myself I’ll get to retirement by 40, but it would be nice to chop off some years of that if I can find a spouse with similar financial goals, kind of a deal breaker if they aren’t.
    Kyle recently posted…My MusicMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Kyle. That’s some good advice to kind of put feelers out there if people might want advice but don’t press it. Good luck finding a spouse with like minded ideas! It’ll happen – just be patient 🙂

      Reply
  16. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    Yeah, we try not to get too far into it with people we know. Especially when we played Magic. Most of the people there lived paycheck to paycheck thanks to poor planning, bad luck, lack of skills, etc.

    So they knew that we were being frugal to get out of debt, but they didn’t know exactly what went on with our finances. So when we did end up getting a house — relatively modest but still… — the couple of people who visited were really surprised.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…Are you ready for a frugal Christmas?My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      It’s definitely tough to be part of a crowd who isn’t proactive with their finances at all.

      Reply
  17. DivHut

    Money and finance is always a rarely discussed topic that is often a taboo topic. We don’t ask how much people make or question their purchases to their faces. Everyone seems to walk on by going through life with financial blinders on. Sometimes, stealth mode is the best mode. You’ll have a lot of negative energy thrown your way. People telling you, YOLO and that you can’t possibly retire in your 30s or 40s or even 50s. Sometimes, the less friends, family and co-workers know, the better. Also, but you already know this, a spouse must be on the exact same page as you in terms of finance. I am very fortunate that Mrs. DivHut is 100% on board and even baby DivHut.
    DivHut recently posted…October 2015 Stock ConsiderationsMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I would never be dishonest, but I might just hold back the details I guess you could say, so that I don’t spark an awkward conversation. FF stays away from awkward as much as possible 🙂

      Reply
  18. nicoleandmaggie

    Maybe we were lucky that the moon was covered up by clouds for the first half– it was pretty impressive when the clouds cleared.

    We were invited to a place that was >$200/plate about a month ago– we were not the only people on that email chain who noted it was out of our price range, though actually I think we just said we couldn’t make it without giving details. (And the yelp reviews noted that for $200 you still came away hungry, which is probably why they had appetizers and drinks at another place beforehand!)
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted…Ask the grumpies: Being responsible consumersMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Holy crap! What kind of gold crusted caviar were they serving for that price??!! Good idea bowing out of that one. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  19. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    I’ve found myself recently slipping in some comments regarding financial independence but I think most people just think I’m joking. Honestly, to us, it seems like there are many examples of those who have attained early FI and the recipe for success is right there. But to the average person, it is pretty ridiculous…they think retirement at any age is out of reach let alone in their 30s. So while it’s tough not to be able to shout it from the mountain top…that’s just the way it is. Stealth mode it is.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Financial FreedomMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      The crazier part about it, is it is attainable for most people. Attempt to increase income when you can, don’t keep up with the Joneses, invest, and wallah – Financial Independence. People just don’t understand how they would ever be able to live without the new car every 3 years and 3,000 square foot house with all the new gizmos and gadgets inside. Enjoy your weekend Andrew.

      Reply
  20. The Bearded Dragon

    Nice article, FF. Stealth mode is definitely where it’s at for interactions with most people. Most of my friends know I’m more interested in personal finance than the average person, but only a select few friends and family actually know that we are planning to be done at 40. It’s a shame that we can’t talk with everyone about our wins and losses on the FI front. But, hey, that’s why we blog about it right? Keep on keepin’ on, brother. And if we see each other in the dead of night in masks and capes making deposits to Vanguard accounts, we can just give a knowing smile and nod and carry on as usual 🙂
    The Bearded Dragon recently posted…Expenses: September 2015My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      You’re right – that’s why we have the blogs. Maybe someday we’ll be able to talk more freely about our FI goals… but I doubt it 🙂

      Reply
  21. Amber Tree

    Stealth mode is the way that I go. I stay anonymous as much as possible (although some people at work know about my blog).
    For that same reason, I do not mention any number what so ever on the blog. All is expressed in pct of the ultimate goal. I do not have a problem sharing that pct (I call it the amber index) as is tis quite low for now and the FIRE date is still far far away.
    Apart my wife, I do not speak about it with friends or relatives. I do not have the feeling that they are on the same frequency as I am.
    I once mentioned to my mother I want to retire at age 55, She thought I was joking… I might need to explain “retire” a little better, as it actually means: only work what/where and how I want.

    Still a long way to go, but at least, the journey has started
    Amber Tree recently posted…Managing kids activities and bloggingMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      How do the people from work react to the blog? How did they find out? No one has “found” me out yet at work 🙂

      Reply
  22. Mark@BareBudgetGuy

    Is this real life? The life of a secret financial stealth mode blogger…as my income has increased over the past few years, we’ve definitely found ourselves becoming lax, but we have occasional wake up calls and whip ourselves back into shape. I’m beyond the illusions of early retirement though, at least really early retirement anyway.
    Mark@BareBudgetGuy recently posted…Bare Budget Report – September 2015My Profile

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  23. Josh

    First time I’ve heard the term “Financial Independence Stealth Mode” but I like it. Thankfully my wife and I are on the same page when it comes to responsible personal finance. I’ll have to share this term with her so she can’t be call me a tightwad anymore. In public, we normally just stick with the “I already have plans.”
    Josh recently posted…A Wealthy Affiliate ReviewMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      It’s always great to have a spouse with similar goals! FI Stealth Mode is way sexier than tightwad.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hey Jeff! Totally agree that sharing this information with like minded people is much more advantageous.

      Reply

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