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Thoughts on Becoming “Financially Independent”

This month I hit a milestone on my FI journey. I’ve become financially independent! (assuming a 4% safe withdrawal rate) In other words, I now have saved up 25x the total amount of money I spent last year.

Does this mean I can quit my job?

Technically yes, but I’m not going to.

That’s because I want my life after a traditional day job to look very different than what it looks like now and that’s going to take more than I’m currently spending.

Most importantly I want to buy a place to house hack, but given the high price to rent ratios in New York City, I won’t be able to cover the entire mortgage with rent from the other unit(s) unless I buy far into the outer boroughs. And I don’t want to do that.

That means I’ll be increasing my housing costs in exchange for the freedom to paint the walls, get a pet, garden, become an AirBnB host, do house swaps, and anything else that comes with the benefits of owning your own home.

Given the fact that my target FI number is higher than where I am now, it’s no surprise that reaching FI for my current lifestyle has been anticlimactic. But when I think about it, every FI milestone has been anticlimactic, and I’m beginning to realize that no amount by itself will ever make me feel fulfilled.

I thought that it would make me happier to know that I could walk away from my job, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead it feels like getting a “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. Nice to have in my back pocket, but I really just wanted a house.

I wonder, instead of thinking about numbers like the first $100k or 25x spending, if it makes more sense to focus on the life events that happen like taking an mini retirement, leaving a job, or pursuing a new opportunity. After all, if money is just a tool, it would make sense that having it or the possibility of using it doesn’t bring joy, but actually using it to accomplish a task does.

Up until this point I’ve been so focused on getting to FI that I haven’t really thought about how I wanted to use it once I got there. It’s time to fix that now.