Financial Independence

7 Lifestyles of Financial Independence Early Retirees

Once you achieve financial freedom, the world might not change but it will definitively change your world. Once your investments can sustain your lifestyle, you’ve made it. You are free.

Once FI, you can then choose to work, or not. You can choose to travel the world or keep working on projects which you are passionate about.

Some reach financial independence and retire early, others simply enjoy the freedom to slow down their work life and live a little.


Choose your financial independence lifestyle

With the FI movement getting more and more popular, we are seeing an array of amazing lifestyles people are creating for themselves. From cruising the world to van life to geo-arbitrage, the possibilities are endless.

If you think outside the box, the world becomes your playground. The structure and limitations society has to offer is not the only possible way of life. In some cases, people live alternative lifestyles to drastically lower their expenses and reach financial independence quicker while others are a way of life they created only once reaching  FI. In either situation, these extraordinary people went all in and created a lifestyle around their wants and needs.


Van life, even with a family

If a giant McMansion is not your thing, how about living in a tiny van? That is exactly what Andrew, Stacey, and Rowan chose to do. This family of 3 bought a 1999 Volkswagen Vanagon camper van and designed a lifestyle of family adventures for themselves.


Camper Van Travel with a Baby From Youtube


They are not fully financially independent yet but the van life is a great way for them to travel for less and spend more time with their newborn. This is also an amazing way to reach financial independence faster since they are reducing their expenses considerably.

With a van, they are able to have water, cooking facilities, a bed, space to stand up, and plenty of storage for the baby’s stuff like diapers, blankets, a car seat, etc. for a fraction of the price of more traditional travel.

On the plus side, this lifestyle is super cheap, allows you to travel extensively, and to reconnect with nature. However, the downsides include the many material sacrifices needed to fit in such a small accommodation, mechanical issues and power and sewage scarcity.


How about traveling the world in an RV?

If you need a bit more space, you could always start shopping for an RV. That’s exactly what our friend Steve from Think Save Retire did when he retired at 35 years old. He is now traveling in a 200 square foot Airstream with his wife. Exploring the continent, and enjoying these small living quarters.

They saved 70% of their income for several years and has now that they have reached financial independence, they have built a lifestyle around their love of travel.


Picking Up Our Airstream From Youtube


They have a great post on why you do not need a huge house and they are the perfect preachers of this. They sold their house and now live in an RV fulltime!

It is slightly more comfortable than the van life but still is a radical lifestyle change.

On the bright side, this arrangement can be achieved for a lesser cost than owning a home, allows you to travel extensively, and to reconnect with nature. However, some disadvantages include the smaller living quarters, mechanical issues and the need to connect in campgrounds for power and sewage.


Meet the full-time Cruiser 

From down-sizing to grand living, meet Mario Salcedo.

The round-the-world cruise has long been one of those brass rings of retirement but Mr. Salcedo has taken this to a whole other level. Since he reached financial independence 20 years ago, he has been living on cruise ships permanently.


Retire Early on a Cruise ShipSource: Scott McIntyre for The New York Times


Mr. Salcedo estimates he has been on 950 cruises and logged 7,000 “cruise days” at sea. – The New York Times


It’s not something we would think of doing but that’s what makes him happy so he has built his lifestyle around it. Although full-time cruising costs him roughly $70,000 per year, he has created a lifestyle which makes all of this possible.


I decided I had enough of the corporate world, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life traveling the world – Mario Salcedo


Once he retired from his corporate job, he started an online investment management business which he now operates as he cruises around the world.


Meet the Happiest Guy in the World From Youtube


Now, if that is not the perfect example of creating a lifestyle around the life you desire, I don’t know what is. He wanted to live on a boat and was sick of wasting time on the things which did not bring value to his life (cleaning up, dishes, cooking…) so he designed a life perfectly aligned with his desires.

The good things about such a life choice are that it allows you to travel extensively, is truly all-included, and maximizes your leisure time. However, the high price tag, lack of stability and connection, and potential monotony of being on a boat all-year-round could outweigh the positives.


Debt free with a tiny home

Now back to earth, housing costs are through the roof and even the smallest condos are far from affordable in most major city centers. People are now taking on huge mortgage debt to pay for guestrooms they barely use and that second living room they so needed.

On the other end of the spectrum, some are building their future in tiny homes, living debt-free, and enjoying their freedom.


70 Year Old Builds Innovative Off-Grid Tiny House From Youtube


Imagine having a cost of living so low that you can actually watch your bank account grow just from your government pension. Well, that is just one of the benefits that Peter Matheson discovered when he built and moved into his off-the-grid, super tiny house on wheels in Grand Forks, British Columbia.

He always enjoyed building and the creativity of trying to fit things into a smaller space. Once he volunteered at a cold weather shelter and helped design some tiny homes for the homeless, he then felt the need to experience it for himself. That’s when he built his own 125 sq. ft. tiny house.

He is now retired debt-free and enjoying a life of leisure in British Columbia, Canada.

It all comes down to priorities. If having two living rooms is not in your priorities, then why pay for that?

This way of living is really cheap, allows you to leave a minimal impact on your environment, and to reconnect with nature. However,  one has to consider the many sacrifices needed to fit in such a small accommodation and some municipalities have by-laws against tiny homes.


A homestead instead?

If small is not your thing, how about a 66-acre homestead in rural central Vermont. That’s what Nate and Liz along with their daughter and dog are doing. While working high-paying jobs, the Frugalwoods used extreme frugality to allow them to save 71% of their income and they have now reached financial independence at the ripe age of 32.


What a well-off couple learned from cutting consumer habits From Youtube

If you enjoy hikes in the woods, working on the land, and being close to nature, homesteading is a great way to live in the midst of it all. This rural lifestyle can be a lot of work but it can be very healthy, appeasing, and relaxing.

Another alternative to this is cottage-living. We are thinking of this once we achieve financial freedom. Buying a cottage would be cheaper than living in town and would get us closer to the nature we love. With city home prices skyrocketing, living a bit further from civilization might be the way to go.

On the plus side, this lets you reconnect with nature, disconnect from the busyness of the city, and live from your own land. However, the downsides include a dependence on cars, long hours of manual work, and long drives to get anywhere.

Liz just released her first book, Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living which we highly recommend. It is a great read and complement to their blog.


Geoarbitrage to retire early

Another option if you are location independent (such as not having a fix work location since you have reached financial independence) is geoarbitrage. This entails living in a lower-cost of living country or city to benefit from a lower-cost lifestyle.

This might mean moving to a cheaper state or tax-free country to cut your spending once retired. Another great life hack (if you can pull it off) is to use geoarbitrage while working remotely. This can drastically increase your savings rate and let you achieve financial freedom faster.


Geoarbitrage to Financial Freedom


For example, our friend Mr. Crazy Kicks is currently shopping around Central America for a cheap place to live. We really like the idea since, once you retire early, there is no obligation to stay in a high-cost of living neighborhood or even country.


We’ve already investigated retirement destinations in Costa Rica and Spain, so we jumped on an opportunity to fly to Belize for free. – Mr. Crazy Kicks


Why not explore the world and save while doing so?

What is amazing about geoarbitrage is that it lets you live in warmer climates or different cultures than you might be used to, and it can be cheaper than to live than where you come from. However, a major downside is that you might need to give up your citizenship and might be leaving a lot of friends and family back home.


Just never stop exploring

On the same lines, if you are financially independent and like to explore the world, you could become a perpetual traveler.

Go curry cracker lifestyleThat is exactly what Jeremy and Winnie over at Go Curry Cracker are doing, even with a kid. They have been to dozens of countries and, just like us, mostly travel for free using rewards points.

This lifestyle is definitely not for everyone since perpetual traveling can get exhausting but if you are an avid traveler, go for it!

Traveling full-time can be fun and eye-opening, can be done cheaply with the help of rewards points, and is a great way to discover the world. However, a major downside is that you might be leaving a lot of friends and family back home and it can get exhausting.

Finally, there is always the option to stay home, exactly where you are, and stay put. But that’s boring! 🙂

We hope you find your own calling and create your ideal lifestyle. If there is anything we missed, please share along in the comments! Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.


Financial Independence

The 7 Stages of Financial Independence

We talked about it in the past; we want to reach financial independence in less than a decade. There is no secret to reaching financial freedom; work hard, spend less than you earn, and save a large portion of your income.

For every dollar you save, you are slowly buying yourself time. If you are saving 75% of your income, you are buying yourself three years of retirement for each year you work.

Now, if you are investing in the markets and putting your dollars to work, the actual time you will need before reaching financial freedom will be minimal.

Once you have a considerable portfolio, you can start withdrawing 4% of your portfolio, valued at the first year of withdrawals, and then adjust for inflation (see Trinity Study). This four percent rule (or 3%, or whichever safe withdrawal rate you are comfortable with) can be adapted to your risk tolerance and appetite but four percent has generally sustained early retirees and has been well back-tested throughout the recorded history of our stock market (100 years or so). Once your safe withdrawal rate can completely cover your expenses and beyond, you have reached financial freedom!

We briefly talked about the stages of financial independence in the past but Joshua Sheats did a podcast about the 7 different stages of FI where he goes even deeper into the subject. We will go through his stages and expand on a few points we took to heart.


Stage 0: Financial Dependence

He starts by explaining how we all start as a dependent of our parents. They pay for all our expenses at first, and slowly, we start flying by our own wings.

If you are an adult and financially dependent, it is O.K. there is plenty of ways to get yourself out of it. Maybe you spend more than you earn or are struggling with student loan debt but whatever the reason, you have to pay off that debt as quickly as possible.

If your student loan interest rates are too high, consider refinancing to a lower rate through companies like SoFi. If you accumulated credit card debt, SoFi can also help you consolidate at a much lower rate with a personal loan.

Cut your expenses and start living within your means. There is no reason to keep up with the Jones. The Jones don’t even care about you or your finances. This will greatly accelerate your debt repayment timeframe and get you to stage 1  faster.


Grow your personal wealth towards financial freedom


Stage 1: Financial Solvency

Once you are able to support yourself on your own income without the aid of others and all of your bills are paid on time, you are financially solvent. This is where your own path to financial independence really begins.

To make you do not fall back to stage 0, make sure you track your spending, keep your main expenses in line, and keep a healthy emergency fund.

We use apps like Mint or Personal Capital to track all our spending and try to keep our Big 3 in line; Housing, Transport, and Food expenses.

Try to keep your total housing cost under 30% of your total income. This means someone making $50,000 per year should not spend more than $1,250 a month on rent or roughly $1,000 on mortgage payments considering all the additional costs of homeownership.

As for transportation costs, the best way to keep those to a minimum is to live car-free but this is certainly not a reality for everyone. We own two cars but we never had a car loan, never paid a premium for a brand new car, nor do we ever live hours away from work.

Try to buy slightly used cars and buy only what you can afford, not what the dealership is ready to finance for you. Pay cash and know that depreciation is a true cost that is often overlooked but cannot be ignored.

To keep your food costs low, learn how to cook and make lunches instead of eating out all the time. By shopping for fresh produce and quality meats, you can easily prepare restaurant-quality meals for a quarter of the cost.

Finally, keeping a healthy emergency fund is crucial to reach financial stability. The first step is to have enough in your checking or savings account to cover 1 month of expenses plus $1,000 as a buffer for unexpected emergencies.


Stage 2: Financial Stability

Once you are comfortable with this, you can increase your savings to  3-month’s worth of expenses. We suggest using online savings accounts like CIT Bank to get better returns on your money.

Having healthy savings and being able to respond to the curve balls life throws at you makes you financially stable.

At this point, or slightly earlier, you can start investing for your future self. Start with any free money offered out there. If your employer offers an RRSP (401k) with a match or an employee stock purchase plan, jump on the occasion.

Using low-cost index funds and tax-advantaged accounts puts all the chances on your side to grow your wealth and reach financial freedom.

Just to give you an idea, over the last 20 years, $10,000 invested in an S&P 500 index fund would have grown to $65,225 after a 0.05% annual expense ratio. The earlier you start, the better.

This is also a great time to start taking small risks with your time. You can start a side-hustle or participate in the sharing economy to start making a little money on the side. Start a blog and share your passion with the world or start a Youtube channel. Who knows, you might be the next big star and fast-track your progress.


Get a grip on your finances


Stage 3: Debt Freedom

This stage is about freedom. The freedom from creditors and the burdens of high interest.

If you have student loans, car loans, or credit card debt, now is the time to dump much more than the minimum payments and get those paid off.

For student loans, consider getting a lower rate through companies like SoFi if you did not already refinance your loans. Unless your rates are ridiculously low, increase your payments to pay them off faster.

For car loans, depending on your car, you could always downgrade to a car you could afford to pay up front. It might not be as new or as nice but it will get you where you need to go without breaking the bank. Over a five year period, a 5% interest rate means that about 12% of the monthly payments go towards interest. This really adds up over time.

If you accumulated credit card debt, you can uses services like SoFi to consolidate at a much lower rate or use repayment methods to get rid of that high-interest debt ASAP.

There are a few debt repayment methods out there, we will cover two super-efficient ones today. The Snowball method consists of listing all of your debts in order of smallest to highest dollar amount and then using any extra dollar to pay off the smallest balance while only paying the minimums payments on the others. Continue to do this until all of the debts are paid, the largest being the last one to go.


Source: Tempss co-lab


The other popular repayment method is the Debt Avalanche., For this one, list your debts in order of highest to lowest interest rate, regardless of the dollar amount of the debt, and pay the highest interest-rate debt as fast as you can. Continue to do this until all of the debts are paid, the lowest interest rate being the last one to get paid.

This method makes more sense mathematically but like anything money, psychology plays a big role in your debt repayment journey.

The Debt Snowball offers faster results since you will pay off the smaller balances first but the Avalanche method will pay off the totality of your debts faster.

To complete this stage, most people will still keep good debt such as a mortgage,  super-low interest-rate loans, or business loans. Anything that would hinder your financial independence, however, should be paid off.

Investments should also become a greater focus. You should try to max out your tax-advantaged accounts such as RRSP (401k) and TFSA (IRA). Automating everything with companies like Wealthsimple is super easy. Another way to start investing is with brokers such as Ally or Vanguard to keep your fees to a minimum but these are more DIY. If you have any more money to invest, you can even start investing in a non-registered account.


Start your financial journey


Stage 4: Financial Security

Once your investment portfolio has grown enough, there will be a stage where your basic living expenses will be completely covered by your investment income. Now, whether you work or not, the bills can get paid and you can survive layoffs or job switches.

At this point, you have security but a change in your income would still affect your lifestyle. To get to this stage, and to keep growing, your savings rate should be high in the double digits by now. We save over 50% of our income and keep our spending low to keep this savings rate as high as possible.


Stage 5: Financial Independence

When your investment portfolio can safely support your current lifestyle with a safe withdrawal rate within your risk tolerance, whether 3%, 3.5%, or 4%,  then you have reached financial independence. This represents 25 times your current spending (using a 4% withdrawal rate) so a $1,000,000 stocks and bonds portfolio would be needed to support $40,000 per year of spending.


It is appropriate to advise […] a stock allocation as close to 75 percent as possible, and in no cases less than 50 percent. – William P. Bengen


For the 4% rule to work, your stock allocation should stay quite high, even once retired. We covered this in the past and discussed different portfolios but personally, we hold 95% stocks with only a 5% bonds allocation. You can see our exact asset allocation in our Open Book series.

At this stage, you can retire or work on projects you are truly passionate about without worrying about the income they generate, or not.


Stage 6: Financial Freedom

Now, these last two stages are where things get interesting. Financial freedom is when you can actually afford more than your current lifestyle permits.


This might be things you desire to buy, experiences you desire to have, or philanthropic goals you wish to meet. – Joshua Sheats


At this stage, you are no longer restrained to such a strict budget and you can spend a bit more on things that truly make you happy. This might be attained by working, even after reaching financial independence, great investment returns, or income generated by one of your projects.


Master your finances


Stage 7: Financial Abundance

At this point, you have accumulated more wealth than you need to fund your lifestyle expenses and have a comfortable margin of safety. This would be the case of successful bloggers who started out as a fun project but who are now making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year or entrepreneurs who become hugely successful. By then, you must enjoy what you are doing, otherwise, there is no reason to keep working at it.

Hopefully, one day, we will all reach financial abundance but there is much work to be done.

Everyone can do it, just conquer one stage after the other and never look back. Stay constant with your personal finances and try to constantly grow. Best of luck, Xyz.