By Joshua Weinstein
I recently turned 40, my eldest daughter moved out, and I stared at the next chapter of my life like a deer blinded by oncoming headlights. I was caught off guard. Instead of remaining paralyzed with fear about how to prepare for the future, I darted to the internet for answers. I found ChooseFI, an amazing website, podcast, and blossoming community focusing on financial independence (FI) and the life-altering effects of making a few incremental changes in your daily routine. Financial independence, defined simply by ChooseFI, is having 25 times my annual expenses saved, such that I’d have enough to cover my ongoing expenses in the event I no longer had an income – whether or not by choice.
How to save that much, though, became puzzling. ChooseFI is where I learned more about savings and safe withdrawal rates, lowering and managing living expenses, tax strategies, easy investment approaches, travel hacks, debt repayment, and more. What began as a complete mystery in my early 40s has since evolved into a passion project and hobby. In the Why of FI, I learned my journey to FI isn’t about deprivation and “missing out” on the way to save. For me, FI became much more. I realized I spent so much time and money on material things, paid services, and events that weren’t adding value and joy to my life. Rather, they were keeping me from increasing joy. There have been many twisted ironies on my journey, such as realizing just how captive I’ve been to mass marketing, rampant consumerism, and the appeal of “buy now” and “pay later” offers that came my way.
In the initial year since my discovery of the FI movement, the payoff has been surprising. Sure, my savings rate is higher and my investments are focused on low-cost, broad-based index funds, but the side effects have been invaluable and somewhat unexpected. To name a few, I have more time for family and friends, I eat at home more often, and I feel more optimistic about the years to come.
I invite you to see what anyone can do, regardless of background, income, or location to achieve Financial Independence. My biggest takeaway – FI isn’t about how much I earn, but how I spend and save.