When I finished paying off the student loans, I immediately moved on to my next goal, which was to buy a house. After I purchased the house, I decided that financial independence was in my future. I announced I was working toward it, but I didn’t really share numbers or draw a (time) line in the sand. It was all very willy-nilly. Sure, I’m working toward it, but haphazardly and when the mood hits me.
In my mind, I had an arbitrary number and a loose timeline. I kept thinking, “$500,000 by 50.” I was 40 then. I gave myself a decade to save $500,000. That was a bold notion from someone who didn’t have $10,000 in retirement accounts at the time. But, I didn’t give it much thought. The house demanded my attention, as did numerous work and volunteer projects. I knew it was a “someday” goal, and I let it live in the back of my mind.
My website has also lived in the back of my mind. I’m not posting often, and I miss it. I have been writing in other venues (check out my Instagram essays) and focusing on projects for my full-time work. One of those projects took me to Wales, and from there I backpacked around the UK for a few weeks. It was a dream come true. I managed to do the entire trip for less than $4,500 – and that includes airfare, lodging, food, rail pass, tour tickets, conference fee, etc. [Note: I don’t travel hack, because I’m not eligible for rewards cards due to my 2013 bankruptcy.] While I was traveling, I kept thinking about how much I enjoy it, and how much I’d like to return to a couple of the places I went. I thought about how financial independence would provide the time and funding for those returns, as well as for more travel.
Once I got back home, I ran the numbers. I have a mortgage on a house that needs some work. I have a little over $26,000 in my retirement accounts. If I want to reach FI by age 50, then I’m going to have to DOUBLE MY INCOME and make that much consistently for the next eight years. I will need to bank half my income, and in order to do that, I have to find a way to double my income.
The strategies that worked when I was paying off my student loan debt are not going to work for my pursuit of financial independence. Sure, it will help to reduce spending. I can make my own coffee instead of buying takeout. No problem. But, I don’t have the low cost living situation that I was in then. And, I don’t want to take on any side hustle that will have me. I want to be strategic about this and build a side hustle that aligns with my values and becomes a part of my life’s work.
I’m struggling with this revelation. It would be so much easier to go back to what I know: taking on extra teaching jobs, scoring exams, scouring Craigslist for focus group opportunities, and taking on sponsored posts. I made more than I ever had before when I was doing those jobs. It’s how I paid off the student loans. But, I was scattered in my work, and laser focused on one goal. Now, I want to be laser focused in my work, and let the work earn my progress toward my FI goal.
I have some ideas: build this website up, offer speaking services, write essays for bigger markets, teach at writing conferences, help other writers build up their online presences, help creatives manage their money so they can pursue dreams of travel and writing the books within them. Each one seems so lofty. I can’t believe that I could actually make money from any of these ideas.
Although, I see fine fellow bloggers do it all the time.
You’ll be seeing some changes to this website as I add affiliate links and helpful posts on how to do various writing and community-building things. You’ll also see me wrestle with my mindset as I move to my next level income, my next level life. I am convinced that this is the right course of action, but I am not convinced that it will work. I suppose that is the magic, though. It is an experiment, much like paying off my student loans. It’s an adventure, and adventure is one of the strongest reasons that I want financial independence. I want options.
To get those options, I’m going to have to make more money. To make more money, I’m going to have to expand my money-making options. That is the reality of my FI goal. I can’t just wish it into being. It’s going to take work. I just have to decide the kind.