Actions Required For Financial Independence (Viking FI!)

 
  • In this article we break down the math and habits for reaching financial independence (FI).
  • We outline the 5 major factors that contribute to achieving FI.
  • These plans can be tailored to individual situations and needs.
 

Hamster on a treadmill or Viking Warrior?

Are you a hamster on a treadmill? In other words, are you just spinning around each year without a plan and no end in sight in terms of options, cash flow, financial freedom or early retirement? Are you a slave to someone else’s dreams? Are you financially weak? Or are you becoming the money Viking warrior you were meant to be? Achieving the second question and conquering financial freedom is what The Money Vikings is all about! We are cataloguing all the many ways that people become financially strong and fit. Over 15 years ago I started to track net worth and decided to become financially strong. Many of us are spinning our financial wheels each year, not getting ahead. But if I have learned anything from the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) community and my last 20 years of investing, it is that we actually have more control and options than we realize. It takes a vision, a plan and action. Most of us can conquer our own financial freedom. It is not easy and I do not know many shortcuts. But I have learned the time tested habits, secrets and actions we can all deploy to build wealth! Therefore, we can put into place the habits and actions required to create a position for you and your family of financial strength!

Your vision

In my opinion, a vision of your life is important. But I advocate for a realistic vision. I know motivational gurus will say aim for the stars, invent the next big thing, become a billionaire, life goals complete. But that is a fantasy that someone is selling to us. Why not make the vision much more satisfying and attainable. Sure, it is great to try and invent the next hot website or technology, but that is not in the cards for most of us. It is a strange combination of skill, luck, timing and a ton of personal sacrifice. What about a vision of freedom and an attitude of more than enough? A nice middle class home, low debt levels, passive income machines, good healthcare, a loving family, hobbies and interests. This vision is actually very attainable. It will certainly take a lot of work and no one will hand you anything for free. But I believe this is possible for many folks. Recently I have been exploring the concept of writing down my vision. I have kind of done this over the last 15 years through my annual NET WORTH RITUAL. At the top of the statement I would write some overarching goal (Own a home, create college fund for kids, etc.) Last year I read the book  “Money, Master The Game” by Tony Robbins. And probably the biggest thing I took away from this great book was that our visions and goals may not be as far out of reach as we imagine. And, we can usually put a number on our vision as a kind of placeholder.

The math

For some reason we are taught to be scared of numbers and math. We think, “That is for the “smart” kids” is kind of the message we get. Rubbish, math is for humans and we have used it for thousands of years to conquer our environment and survive. Same holds true today if you would like to conquer your financial freedom. Let’s say you live in a lovely mid sized town in America. Your goal is to retire at 50 with $40,000/year in passive income to sustain your fun modest lifestyle. Using the 3-4% withdrawal per year rule, one would need about $1 million in a low cost portfolio in order to sustain this lifestyle for a long time horizon. $1 million is certainly a lot of money in my mind, but it is more attainable than many people think. Let’s break it down: If you start at 20 years old and aim to stop full time work early  at 50. You have 30 years to amass the nest egg required for your dream. You would need to save about $1,000/month in your low cost portfolio of stock and bond index funds. This is assuming about a 7% annual return on your stock index funds and bond funds combined. Sure, $1,000/month is a lot of money, but if that is your dream, won’t you push yourself the extra mile in order to achieve it? It is also it impossible with the development of frugal habits. Really take a look at how much you are spending on fancy coffee, clothes, an expensive car payment, entertainment, etc. It might be easier than imagined to discover that $1,000. If you receive a company match, then you can harness the power of the VIKING INVESTMENT TRIFECTA. This will shrink that time frame to $1 million drastically. The main point here is that we have placed two easy tangible pegs to our dream/goal: $1,000/month and 30 years. These numbers can be adjusted up and down depending on your desires and particular situation. For more on the math required to reach various stages of passive income, see our handy FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE CHART:  

20 years

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The other best time is now!” I am not saying it comes easy or cheap. But I think it will take at least 20 years to create an extraordinary financial life for most people. This is because most people do not start with some huge nest egg handed to them. But hey, I see this as good news because it means we have options and can implement a plan to FI. The next 20 years will come no matter what we all do, why not make it as great as possible? This does not mean you cannot enjoy the next 20 years and find plenty of ways to live on less and enjoy a life of True Wealth. Which by the way has less to do with money and more to do with relationships, pursuits, meaningful work and health.

5 Major Factors

Sometimes in our money life, if we get the big things right, then everything else can kind of fall into place. We have spent 20 years investing and studying “normal” wealthy folks. I say “normal” because I am not as enamored with the outliers, those people like sports stars, entertainment personalities or tech titans. These are rare cases in the human population. And although these folks have worked hard, they have also been blessed with good timing, some luck, favorable genetics, etc. in many cases. Therefore, what do us normal folks do? We have a shot to build some wealth and design a life that aligns with our higher values. So what must be done to build wealth and create the life and early retirement you may seek? The good news is that many folks have done this before. And in the modern era, especially through blogs and books, we are able to understand the actions of wealthy folks and harness their habits to identify best practices. In addition to the 5 major concepts outlined below, please read about what really makes people into millionaires: HOW TO BE THE NEXT MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR!

1. Live below their current means

I am convinced that mission one for anyone starting on the road to build wealth is to get expenses under control compared to what is coming in. This may sound like common sense, but it is actually not that common. Americans are swimming in huge amounts of debt. In other words, something is wrong and we are living well outside of bounds. Many folks rack up more and more credit card debt and other debts because they lack the incoming funds to pay for their current lifestyle. This is a very dangerous place to be in terms of getting ahead and becoming strong. See, you need something left over at the end of each month that can be used for future investments. Debt saps vital energy that can be used to build wealth! What worked for me many years ago was going on a drastic cost cutting campaign. I scoured the monthly budget for every single item that could be cut. Unused gym memberships, Cable, Extraneous entertainment costs, too much eating out, buying drinks out, too many new clothes, too many expensive coffee drinks, etc. Am I paying a fair amount for rent? Can I renegotiate recurring bills like insurance? Can I pay off the car loan early? Etc. EVERYTHING! It seems like if most folks put their mind to it and are motivated, they can find all kinds of expenses that can be trimmed. This is because many things we consider necessities are actually luxuries we really do not need to begin with.  

2. Make wise investment moves

Most people that build substantial and sustainable wealth are not going nuts on Bitcoin or whatever the hot random thing is that year. Most FIRE folks are stashing cash in a plain old simple Vanguard 500 Index fund or equivalent. Save the stock picking for the extra 10% of fun money. Here are some other straightforward categories folks are using to build wealth the old fashioned way, one brick at a time:
  • Low cost index funds, Vanguard, Fidelity, Thrift Savings Plan, through an employer sponsored 401k
  • Dividend portfolios comprised of solid and well reviewed dividend paying aristocrats and kings. These are companies that have weathered many financial storms over the years and continued to pay solid dividends.
  • Some bond index funds. Although these have historically not returned as much on average as the stock index funds described above.
  • Real estate in various forms. High quality Real Estate Investment Trusts (like dividend paying stocks) or through real estate acquisitions, renting out property that you own.
  • Here is my “Sleep at Night” Portfolio I am using to build wealth!

AVOID or MINIMIZE:

  • Investments that require high fees for entry. Typically over time the fees can really cut into profits.
  • Highly speculative and volatile investments, i.e. hot stock tips, crypto currencies, gold, etc.
 

3. Protect and preserve

Once you start gathering some assets, then the fun of compounding can really take place and build even more weath. Try using the INVESTING TRIFECTA TO TRIPLE NET WORTH to amplify these results. But once you have some assets, you have to start playing some defense and protecting these from the big bad wolves that are out there. We recently catalogued all the ways that we can build a solid financial long house for our future, BUILDING A FINANCIAL “BRICK HOUSE”.

4. Keep learning

Wealthy folks tend to be life long learners and keep an open mind. You need to develop this skill to navigate an ever changing investment landscape. You also need to develop open mindedness in order to take in new investment intel. I hear many folks say that investing is too complicated and too hard. I am big believer that this should not be the case for the average investor and I explain why. We do not need to be the best investors. We just need to find traditional tried and true vehicles to enjoy the value of compounding and to collect some kind of yield on our investments. Picking individual stocks and choosing “winners” is very hard in the short run.  

5. Take calculated risks

Some of the wealthy folks I know typically took some calculated risks throughout their working and investment lives. Here are some examples:
  • A new working opportunity that provided a chance to learn new skills and make more money.
  • Taking those initial steps to begin investing and becoming comfortable with investment practices and behaviors.
  • Having faith in markets and the concept that they may fluctuate up and down on a daily basis, over the long run, markets typically rise in value.
 

The Bottom Line

The main point here is that you can make the most of your current situation and conquer your own financial freedom. This will look a little different for everyone, but with the development of certain habits and application of sound investing principles, I believe most people can achieve great financial strength.  
  • THIS IS NOT INVESTMENT ADVICE FOR ANYONE. The views expressed are personal opinions. See a professional fiduciary advisor for particular questions.

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