Monday, March 20, 2017

First Quarter Report: Personal Finance

I've been preoccupied the last few months. Buying a house-- which Mindy and I did last month-- will do that to you. But before the house, I was obsessed with learning about personal finance. In fact, over the course of a couple months, I ended up reading about a hundred posts by Mr. Money Mustache, dozens of posts by the White Coat Investor, several  books, and listening to a lot of Radical Personal Finance podcasts. I learned a ton. And it changed me. In fact, it led me to radically redefine my long-term personal and professional goals. If I can reach a 50% savings rate, I should only have to work full-time for about 10 years. 10 years! I could then scale back to part-time. When I realized the shockingly simple math behind early retirement (in the words of Mr. Money Mustache), worlds of possibility opened up to me. With the house paid off and investment dividends covering my basic expenses, I'll be able to spend most of my time with my family around the homestead, working on projects, writing, reading, contemplating, and going on an occasional long-term trip. I could be free! (At least with my time. A lot more people in this country are going to have to become libertarian for me to also be able to legally quit paying taxes and submitting to stupid laws.)

Indeed, the realization that I could be financially free at a relatively young age has been akin to my political conversion to libertarianism back in medical school. Now as then, I feel both excitement at my recent enlightenment and chagrin for not seeing it for so long. How could I have been so blind, so careless? I have to believe that the only people who aren't excited by financial independence either haven't thought about it or have believed the self-defeating lie that it's not possible for them. Surely everyone with sound mind and body would be on the FIRE (Financial independence / retire early) train if they realized that with some sacrifices and wise investing early on, they wouldn't have to work by the time their kids are teenagers. Right?

Now, if you just dismissed those words because I get a doctor's salary, allow me to humbly point out that the vast majority of people on the train to early retirement are earning less than six figures-- and some of them are semi-retired even at my age. Recognize that most of your reasons why you can't retire early are rationalizations. However much you make, the key is achieving a high saving rate by ruthlessly eliminating all expenses from which you don't derive a benefit. It also helps to have a side-hustle to make extra cash, but that's secondary. If you stop telling yourself the self-limiting story that early retirement isn't for you because of x, y, and z, and start living well below your means and investing wisely now, you'll wake up one day pretty soon with the freedom to do whatever the heck you want. 

And when that day comes, give me a call. We'll go do something awesome.

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