This is a more general post, but it’s a topic I’m interested in because my dream is to get to the point where I can write books without having to worry if they’ll sell or not. This post is applicable to writers who would rather write for passion than try to write something you don’t like because it’ll sell. (There are times an author’s passion is what will sell, but that’s not always the case, and I’m focusing more on the authors whose passion doesn’t lead to sales.)
This post can also benefit anyone who would like to reach the point in their life where they can have enough money in order to 1.) not do a job they hate or 2.) trade the job they’re at for the thing that gives them passion. If you can work at something you are passionate about, that’s the ideal equation, but not everyone can obtain that balance.
So for those of you interested in this topic, I plan to do more posts like this in the future. My focus on this blog will still be what I’m writing because writing is my main passion, but I’ll be popping in from time to time with stuff I’m learning as I study the subject of financial independence. I figure there’s no point in investing so much of my time and energy into exploring this topic if I can’t at least pass on what I’m learning. It might be that someone might benefit from these posts, and if so, then that’s all the better. I love being able to help others whenever I can.
Alright, that aside, here we go with the initial post on the topic of financial independence.
1. I think it’s important to define why money has value. (This is picking your reason for wanting to achieve financial independence in the first place.)
Money doesn’t have value because it’s money. The reason money has value is because money buys you freedom to pursue the kind of life you want. If you have enough money, you can afford to pursue what most makes you happy. So really, the more money you have, the more freedom you have to do what you want with your time.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to be happy. I’ve seen a lot of videos where the main goal for people who want to reach financial independence is to reach that coveted millionaire status. These remind me of the authors who keep saying that if you want to be a successful writer, you must make that magical six-figure income. Otherwise, you haven’t “made it”. This thinking, of course, just isn’t true. A successful writer is different for everyone. Some authors live a very frugal lifestyle and manage just fine with $20,000 to $30,000 a year. They’re making a living at their work, but they won’t get any pats on the back from authors who only acknowledge that coveted “six-figure income”.
But success in writing doesn’t always boil down to money. To me, being a successful writer is writing the kinds of books I feel will give God glory because this life is much more than me; this life is ultimately about Him. If I spend my time writing books that I would be ashamed to show Him when I die, then I have failed, regardless of how much money those books made. When others are entertained by what I write, then it’s icing on the cake. But no, my real goal is not money. However, I do need to pay bills and eat, and because of that, I need a plan to get to where I want to be.
Money is a bridge that allows you to do what is most in your heart. Think about what excites you. What is it that would make you want to jump out of bed first thing in the morning because you can’t wait to do it? That thing that most inspires you is the real purpose in reaching financial independence. I think if you keep your eye on the prize, it’ll make the journey a lot easier.
2. Now that you have a goal, the next thing to do is to create a plan.
I haven’t gotten far into this one yet, but just from my experience as a writer, I know that it’s a lot easier to reach a goal if you specify what it is you want to achieve and then break things up into smaller steps in order to get there.
I currently have a total of 92 books out. Back in 2009, my goal was write 100 books. I took that big goal that seemed like this big mountain at the time, and I broke that goal down into smaller, more obtainable ones. I started with the goal of 10 books. Back then, I wrote one chapter in the story each day that I sat down to write. When I hit 10 books, my goal went to 20 books. By the time I got to 20 books, I realized I tend to write books that are in the 50,000 to 70,000 word range. I began to figure out how many words I typically wrote in a day, and from there, I was able to get an idea of when a book would be ready for publication based on my average total word count for a book. So instead of writing a chapter, I would focus on reaching a certain word count each writing day. As I continued writing books, I discovered better ways of breaking things down into smaller goals.
The reason I rambled on about all of this is because finding the smaller steps to your big goal is going to take time. You’ll have to experiment with the small steps you come up with in order to see if they are realistic to your situation. For example, I have a husband who spends more than I do. I would do just fine with a bed, a desk, a computer, and cardboard boxes for everything else. This is how I was living before we got married. I did have a small TV and VCR for entertainment, but that was it. I didn’t need a lot of things. Even today, I prefer to minimize the things around me. My husband, on the other hand, likes to have more things. So we have to have work on compromising in order to be satisfied, and these compromises have taken a while to figure out. If it’s just you in the equation, you’ll get to your goal a lot faster. If you have others in the equation, it’s going to take longer if that person doesn’t see things the same way you do.
Also, when you’re looking at the smaller steps, you have to decide what little luxuries you value the most. I don’t believe in the “sacrifice it all” method, though some people have successfully done this. My mindset is that real change takes time, and if you deprive yourself of something you love, the temptation to give up is going to be greater. You’ll be giving up some things as you go on your journey to financial independence, but you don’t have to give up everything. You can factor in a modest amount of wants. Figure out what you’re main “wants” are and eliminate the rest. For example, some people love to travel. It’s their big enjoyment in life. Other people would rather have expensive clothes than travel. And some people would be willing to give up travel and expensive clothes if they could eat out instead. If you can reward yourself for taking effective small steps to the big goal, I think progress will be smoother. This doesn’t mean you won’t have some setbacks. There will probably be setbacks. But those are easier to overcome if you have something to look forward to while you’re on your way to financial independence. Don’t be afraid of experimenting and finding new ways that work best for you.
3. So what should your big goal be? (This is your financial independence number.)
What I’ve learned so far in researching this topic is that you have to start with a list of your monthly expenses. This list mainly takes into account survival expenses, rather than everything you actually buy in a month, but you can adjust these numbers to include the “high value wants” you purchase in a month.
When you figure out how much you need a month, the next thing you do is look at what how much money you’ll need to satisfy one year’s worth of expenses. This is the stage where you are at Financial Security according the You Tube video I’m going to share below. It’s called “10 Levels of Financial Independence and Early Retirement” AKA “How to Escape the Rat Race”.
The explanation of Financial Security is at the 5 minute mark. The next stage is Financial Flexibility, and that is taking the annual income you need to survive and multiplying that number by 12.5. (The explanation for that is at the 6 minute mark.) The stage after this is Financial Independence, and that is taking the annual income you need to survive and multiplying that by 25. (You can find this starting around the 6:50 minute mark in the video.)
Now, I don’t think your “Financial Independence” number has to be 1 million dollars. If you live a modest lifestyle, you can easily get away with less than that much. I know I don’t need that much.
What you have to factor in is how much money you can spend and how much money you can save. That’s why the “Financial Independence” number will be different for everyone. Everyone’s situation is going to be different. I suggest sitting down and playing with the numbers. Start tracking your expenses for a couple of months. Find areas where you can cut back. Find areas where you want to keep spending. And remember to include your spouse and children into this equation (if you have them). Be realistic about this, and plan accordingly.
As a final note, I just want to emphasize that the goal in achieving financial independence isn’t to sit at home all day and do nothing. You don’t have to be scared about spending every single penny you have. Just be smart about how you spend your money. We’ll get more into this in the future, but for now, think of the kind of life you’d like to live that would give you the greatest satisfaction.
Since this post is a little over 1700 words, I’ll stop it here.