I was first introduced to the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement/concept when I read Quit Like a Millionaire, where I was also introduced to the ChooseFI community. Since then, I’ve been an avid consumer of things related to FI. I’m not really planning to retire early in the stereotypical sense because I really love what I do, but falling into the ChooseFI rabbit hole has been a real game changer for me. Over the last couple of months I’ve been consuming the ChooseFI podcasts and absorbing as much information as I can (e.g. this post that introduces the FI-concept). On October 1, the hosts of the Podcast (Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa), along with Chris Mamula, released a book about ChooseFI… and you can bet I had to get my hands on a copy to read it.
I am someone who is relatively new to the FI community, and this book was excellent at helping me build a foundation for building my own pillars of FI. The Choose FI book begins by outlining the stages of FI and then by walking you through identifying your own reasons to pursue financial independence. For me and my why, I want to someday have more free time to spend with those I care most about; I want to travel regularly; I want to be able to say “no” to tasks I don’t want to do; I want to have more time to dedicate to pursue my passions. I’ve loved almost every job and side gig I’ve held, but I want what’s known as traditional work to someday be an option, not a necessity. Know that identifying your “why” will make the information in this book all the more important.
This book is outlined into five main sections with 15 chapters. I already tackled the “introduction” section that outlines getting started and identifying your “why.” The remaining sections in this book focus on spending less (and increasing the value in your life), increasing your earnings (hello networking, career-building, and hacking college), and investing better. Finally, this book ends with an exercise in imaging your life the way you want it, bringing you back to the intentions you set at the beginning of the book.
Before I read this book, I’ve been a pretty rigid person with my finances, I won’t lie. But to be fair, I think I’ve always been this way (thanks, scarcity mindset), and it’s not always been a positive thing. The FI path isn’t an easy one, but it shouldn’t be so rigid that you’re missing out on enjoying life now. For me, when the authors of this book started to discuss the importance of maintaining balance–both planning for the future AND still enjoying spending and living the moment–I knew this book and this community were for me.
Because I live in a city where the average household income is at around $30k, I’m fully recognizing that it is a privilege to talk about saving for retirement in any capacity and I’m acknowledging it here.
In the Spend Less section, you’ll learn a little about the art of becoming a valuist, tax optimization and savings rate, and the saving/living (work/life) balance. The most mathematically interesting section for me was a chart in their book the authors created based on Mr. Money Mustache’s ( MMM ) post “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” that outlines how many working years you’ll need to reach financial independence based on your savings rate.
This chart honestly stunned me and I found myself reading this section of the book over and over again, playing with the marginal savings rate percentages I’m able to do at this stage in my career (including student loan debt payments). Although I really love what I do, I honestly don’t want to have to work for 30+ more years…I want it to be an option. This chapter got me to increase my savings rate because it explained how it’s still possible to live a full life with a little less…but it also helped me find a balance between living a full life this year and saving to have a better quality of life in the years to come.
This section has chapters that focus on hacking the costs of higher education (or pursuing alternative career paths), the importance of investing in your career, and networking. As someone who has written about the direct and indirect costs of college AND who works at a university, I advocate to everyone who plans to attend college (or has kids who may attend college) to read this chapter and its references. For those of us who already finished college (or decided to go straight to the workforce or pursue a trade), I’d focus more on the chapters emphasizing networking and investing in your career.
To compare alongside with the “spend less” chapter, it’s certainly easier to save a higher percentage of your income when your expenses remain the same and your income increases (whether through consulting jobs, freelance work, side gigs, or engaging in professional development that directly correlates with an increase in salary upon completion). The key points outlined in these chapters give some good ideas for increasing income and connecting with the right people.
This section of the book provides investment strategies that almost anyone can do. An important thing to take notice of is to minimally invest up to your employer match (if you’re lucky enough to work full time and have this employer benefit), otherwise you’re literally throwing away part of your salary.
My favorite chapter in this section relates to the benefits of investing in index funds (rather than individual stocks). I’m a big fan of index funds because they are the summation of a lot of different companies rather than just one…so they are less risky than buying an individual stock in say, Facebook (or any individual stock). I don’t want to give this book’s content away, but this chapter delves into the specifics.
Other chapters in this section also focus on non-retirement account or stock market investment strategies such as building a business or investing in real estate. Both chapters delve into strategies on how to do so and provide ideas that others can engage in who have the time/capital/ability to gain experience.
The Choose FI book ends by bringing it all back to your intentions. This section of the book shares the stories and lessons learned from prominent individuals in the FIRE community like the Happy Philosopher, The Mad Fientist, Mr. Money Mustache, and others and encourages reader to embrace their past financial mistakes and to learn from these lessons rather than remain frustrated by them. Although this book focuses on FIRE (the retire early portion as well), the book gives its readers the opportunity to redefine what an “early retirement” may look like. Oftentimes people picture retired people sitting around on the beach or not really doing much of anything; instead early retirement may look like running your own business full time, staying in your current job in a part-time role, volunteering more within the community, pursuing your passions, or a number of other things.
This book provides a blueprint to pursue financial independence and will benefit anyone who is new-ish to the concepts outlined. As a librarian, I also really love that this book provides a bibliography of all of the podcasts, articles, and interviews cited within the book so learning can continue beyond this book. All content has URLs or links to free additional content (depending on paperback version or kindle version) so the learning doesn’t have to stop when you finish this book. Go check it out!