When I first wanted to start talking about the idea of financial independence with my wife I was hesitant because I thought she would think the idea was a little bit crazy or unattainable. I worried that if I took the wrong approach she would be turned off to the idea especially if she perceived it as simply involving not spending money on anything and living as cheaply as possible. So I decided to give her a book, Your Money or Your Life, and asked her to read it and then see what she thought of the idea from that perspective. It turns out that the approach the book takes resonated with her especially when it comes to thinking about the value of what you choose to spend money on versus how much of your life you spend to acquire or do something that costs money. In fact I think the book was one of the reasons she started to think about all the costs associated with working at her former job and this helped her to pull the plug on that and start working for herself. One of the key points presented in the book is not to deprive yourself of everything by spending as little as possible, but only spending money on what you truly value. We like that approach because everyone has different things they value and that means that everyone’s plan is a little bit different; you simply cut out spending that does not really give you value. When we started to consider what we value we found it was not items, but rather experiences.…
When my wife and I first got married we fell into the trap of “what’s for dinner tonight?” and “do we have enough money for this item?”, or “what are we doing this weekend/today/tonight?”. We would have these conversations everyday, at random times, or worse never make time for them at all. We were finding that operating as a family with a newly combined budget, calendar, and goals was more complex than when we were just two individuals. To address this, we started having weekly family meetings. We designed these meetings to be an opportunity to discuss our family business in a more structured and efficient way.
I have been looking forward to writing this post ever since I decided to start a blog. When I tell people that I am planning to leave my faculty position in higher education by the age of 45 it elicits some puzzled looks. Why would I give up on a career that essentially guarantees me a job for life (under most circumstances), a flexible schedule, and three months off per year? The reason is quite simple, regardless of all the perceived benefits, it is still a job. Originally, like many people, I put too much emphasis on what I did as a career being directly related to who I am as a person. The idea of pursuing an intellectual passion and sharing that with others through research and teaching, however, is not the same thing as having a job or career as a university professor. In fact I find that in my research area, working at a university can sometimes get in the way of my true intellectual pursuits. So my plan is to leave academia by the age of 45. Below I have listed some pros and cons of working in higher education that influenced my decision to ultimately leave this career behind. Realize that not all academic institutions share every one of these attributes, but I do think there are some strong generalizations that can be made. This list is based on my experience working for both a large public research university, and a medium sized private teaching university.
If you have read any of the first few posts where I provided our current financial picture and numbers, you may have noticed we have a couple of real estate properties listed in our assets. About 15 years ago my brother and I invested in some real estate properties, purchasing two houses in an area we expected to grow and develop. These properties were located in a sparsely populated area about 500 feet from the beach in the northwest part of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. Neither of us had a lot of experience with purchasing properties as investments, but what we did see was an area where little beach communities were popping up all over the place and expected the same in this area. It helped that we were familiar with this area, growing up about an hour and a half away. It might seem surprising to some, but Florida has a lot of rural and undeveloped land outside of the five big metropolitan areas (and I do mean rural) and this includes beachfront property. This certainly has become less in the last decade, but the location of these properties at the time was about 30 miles from the closest place to buy groceries, and about an hour drive to any reasonable population center. The seclusion itself was actually quite appealing.
As I continue to add content to our Financial Independence project, I wanted to provide a little bit of context of how we arrived at the point we are currently at and where we are starting from (in terms of a formal plan). After we discovered and started thinking about financial independence in 2016 our Net Worth was a little over $600,000, and as we start blogging about this in 2019 we are currently just shy of $900,000. We were fortunate that we made a few smart money moves earlier in our life, even though we were not thinking in terms of FI. Many of those decisions are what allowed us to be in the position we currently are in and hopefully able to reach our goals in a relatively short amount of time. Of course while we did do a lot of smart things, we also made some decisions that put us behind where we could be right now, but you can’t change the past, only learn from it. We also had some setbacks due to health care costs and caring for a family member we lost almost two years ago. Even given these setbacks and a few poor decisions, when we compare ourselves with the statistical averages in the United States, we have no room to complain about our current position, especially since nothing in our life has been handed to us or passed down from family.
I figure many of my posts in the future will contain elements of lessons learned and life events that shaped our current thinking, but in this post I wanted to focus on some of the major financial milestones that I (Julia) have personally accomplished and experienced up to this point by looking at my job history, and will probably add a second post by my spouse in the near future.