So for the first time in my life, in that cold winter morning of 2012, I began to doubt everything I do and the purpose for them.
Ten years later, I am still not sure if I know the answer. It seems that ever since my childhood, I have been trained or programmed to follow other “successful” people’s life path by doing what they do so that I can be successful too. After all it’s a proven track, isn’t it? So why not just follow it. In my case this means investment of time and money in an advanced degree in exchange for jobs that will support my life until I retire. It seems secure.
The human society was not like that since the beginning of time though. But, ever since capitalism was born hundreds of years ago, our society has gradually evolved into what it is today. The system has it so that everyone ends up at different place of the food chain.
Things are, we are so used to it, or maybe we are all programmed to be part of it that very few ever question the system. This may sound a little dark but that’s how I feel in that morning when I woke up.
Like I said, I am still not sure if this is the answer to my question. But since that morning, one thing becomes clear to me:
I don’t want to live my whole life like this.
I want to live the way I want, not how I was told or taught. I could fail, but that’s MY life. Obviously, it’s easier said than done. Because in order for me to break out, I have to think differently. However, the education I received since my childhood points the other way, and I have been thinking in that box my whole life until then.
Long story short (and to be fully elaborated in my future blogs), I started the journey. I have heard about the term “Financial Independence” or “FI” before, but never gave it a second thought. All of a sudden, it becomes important and has a clear meaning to me. It’s a status that allows me to have the capability to pursuit what I think is important to me, without having to be chained to a employment contract. It means freedom.
It’s been 6 years now, and what a journey it has been! In 2012, I lived in a house with a big mortgage, a car loan, with a beautiful wife and two kids. We have some savings in our 401k, but pretty much don’t have much left after paying the bills. Like many families, we took a couple vacations each year, and are not too worried about not saving enough money or our financials. Because there will always be a paycheck next month. “It just works”. But after that morning, I realized this also means we are chained to our jobs, so we have to break from it.
It was a very hard start. Breaking out of what we are so used to the whole time and into something we were never taught before seems highly risky. What if I fail? What if I suffer? Why not just continue the life we have now?
Today, between my wife and I, we have sizable savings in our 401k, pension, and IRA accounts, but that means nothing to us. A market meltdown like the one in 2008 could easily wipe it out. So many people who hoped to retire around 2008 and live on the income from their retirement savings had to delay their plan because their asset suddenly was worth only 50% or less. So we have learned not to count on the retirement savings. What we do count on, is our real estate investment portfolio that is generating more and more cash flow for us as the portfolio grows. This year, for the first time, our real estate investment monthly cash flow has surpassed our paychecks.
Are we ready to be FI? I don’t know yet. But I do know, I feel much better about my life and future than 6 years ago when the journey to FI began. This is not to say, our journey is rosy all the way. It’s quite the contrary. There have always been doubt and fear as we learn how to invest. Many times when important investment decisions are being made, we didn’t know if we were doing the right thing. Luckily, there are many educational resources that helped us learn and avoid mistakes, and I want to share our learning (especially the hard ones!) with everyone too. This journey is like an ongoing experiment that’s full of possibilities.
And I invite you to observe the experiment!