Back in August, an article I was reading (to support a fellow writer) contained a link to mrmoneymustache.com.
I clicked through and fell into the wormhole of financial independence/early retirement bloggers (FI/RE for short). I must have spent two side-tracked hours, before remembering to come back and clap for that writer.
But the whole thing intrigued me. Fascinating stories of people, mostly younger than me, who have freed themselves from financial slavery. Or are at least on the path.
I want that freedom. After all, isn’t that the true American dream?
Since moving to the States in ’98, I’ve been busting my ass to build a business and make a living. I’ve been the main income provider and fully support my son (as well as my ex). There’s no way I can retire.
At least, that’s what I thought.
But these bloggers were all telling a different story. So I kept reading.
The “shockingly simple math behind early retirement” inspired me to start my own spreadsheet. Apparently, the time it takes to become financially independent is largely related to how much income you stash away (or stache away if you’re using the cult-like lingo of the Mustachians).
Heck, why not? I love Excel.
Sadly, I quickly discovered that my savings rate (the amount of income I’m not actually spending) may be negative. My chance of retiring early is statistically equivalent to getting mauled by a shark. In Colorado. What? That makes no sense. I’m pretty good with money. Maybe my calculations were off?
I needed more data. From real people, not random bloggers.
The Initial Plunge (into a Keg of Beer)
Luckily, there are literally thousands of FI/RE enthusiasts across the country, so it didn’t take me long to find a local Meetup group. Turns out they had an upcoming event just a few towns over from mine. And they were brewing beer!
Obviously, I went. Home-brewed beer AND free financial advice? Sign me up!
What I encountered was even more impressive. A true community of people, who clearly cared for each other and offered warm welcomes to clueless newbies like myself. Plus they were all intelligent, dynamic people, who enjoyed chatting about ways to improve lives. And livelihoods.
What’s this? Real humans right here in the good ole’ Fake Motherland of A? My motto since moving to the States in ’98 has been “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Nobody gets my sense of humor, or my passion for heated debate. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like such an oddball.
I made some connections and promised to return in a few weeks to collect my share of the beer. I also swapped digits with another working mom who lives close to me and has a similarly aged kiddo. We made plans to get together and discuss my woeful (and apparently unnecessarily complicated) savings rate math.
Shockingly Depressing Reality
With the help of my new Mustachian friend, I was able to clarify my financial situation. I incorporated more of my business earnings (rather than just my take-home pay) into the calculation. And was able to determine that at my current savings rate is approximately 31%. Based on my current spend (which is admittedly atrocious) I’d need almost 20 years to reach financial freedom.
That’s assuming my income doesn’t continue to plummet. Unlikely, given that Warren Buffet has already predicted my fate.
But I remained optimistic. I’m good with money. Always have been. This shouldn’t feel so daunting.
Home is Where the Heart Is
Last summer, well before reading about early retirement or financial independence, I half-heartedly tried to sell my home.
I figured that reducing my stupidly large mortgage payment made sense given my dwindling business revenue. Since dire things were happening in retail, I didn’t want to lose my home as well as my business. So I listed the house last May, dropped the price a few times and then pulled it off the market in September. Not even four full months!
Truthfully, I chickened out. I hated having it on the market, keeping it clean for prospective buyers. I squirmed at all the complaints regarding steep stairs and no garage. What is it with Americans and their fucking two-car garages, anyway? But it was mostly nostalgia that caused me to pull the plug. This is the house I’ve raised my son in. My first purchase after the divorce. A stunning Victorian that brings back memories of Sydney and my youth.
I wasn’t ready to let it go
Beer Run Epiphany
Last week I finally made time to go back for my share of the beer we brewed. I drove to Mustachian HQ, thoughts of houses and freedom swirling in my head.
As my growler filled, we discussed vinyl versus wood sash windows, a personal beef of mine. I’ve always refused to upgrade. Because I respect old houses, you think? Because I’m incurably addicted to Victorian architecture? Or simply because I’m clinging to the past? After all, vinyl windows are cheaper and offer better insulation.
That’s when I came face to face with the realization that I’m clinging to my house for the same reasons. Basing decisions on emotional components, rather than intellect.
Misplaced nostalgia is delaying my financial freedom
I came home and reran the numbers in my trusty spreadsheet. Selling my house could cut the time to retirement from 19.7 to less than 5 years.
Yesterday, I called a realtor.
And for the first time in a long time, I strolled around at lunch feeling grateful for our vibrant downtown and just how much it supports my business. Somehow knowing it could be as little as five years till I’m done made everything feel easier. Amazon be damned. I’m planning to break free before modern convenience completely destroys our World.