The boring route to financial freedom
We've had friends to stay - one thing I've learned is that if you want visitors, move to a ski resort, you suddenly become much more popular. I'm sure they're coming for my good company rather than the ski slopes though😏. Other than the fun we had, here are a couple of things about their visit.
Thing number one was my friend, Mark, fractured his L1 vertebrae - that's not in the fun category! It wasn't even an outrageous ski accident, he was simply sledging with his daughter. Do it another ten thousand times and nothing would happen, he was just unlucky and had to spend half his holiday in hospital! Thankfully he's home now and on the mend. Thinking about the boring route to financial freedom, thank goodness he had boring sounding, but very essential, travel insurance.
Thing number two is that Olivia (Mark's wife) is fascinated by the idea of financial freedom. I don't blame her for that, it's pretty good. She knows that we bought a house in Dubai which we sold for a good profit and figures that's how we became financially independent and able to retire early.
It sounds plausible, but it's not true. For sure that house money is nice to have, but our route to financial freedom was much more boring.
We worked hard
I've heard people say "work smart, not hard". Hopefully I'm not stupid, but I'm also not the sharpest knife in the block so I couldn't just rely on working smart. And even if I could, why not work smart and hard and accelerate the journey?
So I worked hard for my employers, I was dependable and reliable, and aimed to perform beyond expectations. These things got noticed and helped me get promotions, pay rises and, later in my career, some bonusses, all of which aided the journey to financial independence.
We lived a balanced life
My Mum used to say that "a little of what you fancy does you good, but nothing to excess". I've tried to follow that advice.
Translated to a getting to financial freedom context: spending to do the things we wanted was fine so long as we didn't spend everything and made sure there was money left over to save. I'm a firm believer that we have to live a good life now, not go without hoping to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It's a balance.
How much to spend and how much to save will differ for different people so you're going to have to figure that out for yourself.
Ignored the Joneses
We were mixed on this. We have had premium brand cars in the past but they didn't get us from point A to point B any quicker than any other car. I wouldn't do that again. We also bought a house that was much bigger than we needed because it was similar to what many of our friends had. We were lucky that it worked out, but I now like that we live in a much smaller, 61 sqm (650 sq ft) apartment.
I've come to believe that less is frequently better than more. I've enjoyed our accommodation downsizing journey and, these days, I appreciate having the right stuff rather than lots of stuff. Also, becoming financially free is great, but so is becoming free of trying to meet the perceived expectations of others. Ditch keeping up with the Joneses.
Recorded our spending
It seems weird that simply writing down what you spend makes your money go further and means you can save more for your financial future. It's like a secret weapon. I record our spending on a spreadsheet which is quite easy as we pay for nearly everything by debit card - online banking provides most of the information I need. There are apps that I could use but I prefer my trusty spreadsheet.
Writing it in my spreadsheet keeps me conscious of how much I'm spending, what I'm spending it on, and acts as a natural brake to stop me spending too much. Controlling our spending gave us a feel food factor reward at the end of the month when we saw how much our savings had increased.
I really dislike debt so we did two things. For smaller items we saved up and only got them when we could afford them. It drives me mad to see how much marketing is to encourage people to take out debt to buy things they can't afford right now. I've had two car loans in my life (kept both cars for 10 years plus), never used an overdraft and never paid credit card interest.
We did have mortgages, but we overpaid the monthly payments whenever we could which was a good investment when interest rates were higher. It also stopped us frittering away that extra cash.
Saving & Investing
Make sure you understand your investments. Ask if you don't understand, and make sure you keep asking until you do understand. Don't be embarrassed about it. I messed up on this one, it cost me a lot and it wasn't a nice experience. Also, pay yourself first - I think that comes from the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. So if you plan to save 100, 500 or 1,000 a month, transfer that to your saving or investment account on payday to stop you spending that money by accident.
So Olivia, they were some of the boring things that we did to get to financial freedom, and still do now. It might sound dull: work hard, live a balanced life, ignore the Joneses, spend to do things but make sure you save a decent amount too, avoid debt, record your spending, invest but make sure you understand your investments. Do these things and you'll have a good chance of getting to FIRE. At the end of the day, making sound financial choices doesn't mean that life can't be good, I never found it boring, I can tell you that it works and I can promise you that it's worth it.