Welcome to A Foreign Service Path to Financial Independence. I am a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) and I’ll be your host. I hope that by sharing my path (I’m far from there yet), I’ll be able to help you on your journey as well.
What is Financial Independence?
Financial Independence (FI) is the ability to support oneself without needing your standard 9-to-5 job to pay for your needs. Generally, your needs are met by a mix of passive income, side hustles, and judicious life hacking.
The goal is to have the freedom to choose your happiness over the needs of your employer. It doesn’t mean that you have to quit. If you love your job, stay with it! Bank all the extra and enjoy your life. But, if a time comes and you have to choose between your job or your happiness, FI lets you choose your happiness.
There are many approaches to reaching FI, and many versions of milestones or pillars or core tenets of FI. If you are coming to FI entirely fresh, I recommend that you start with one of the larger communities, and have a look through the Resource Page. There is a lot that has been written on FI, what it means, and how to get there.
The Foreign Service Path to FI
Here, I’ll be talking about stepping stones that are specifically available to Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and their families. My intent is to give a brief overview then provide a separate, in-depth article on each one. More may be added as I learn of them.
Don’t worry – it’s all (U).
1. Make A Budget
Live Off Your Base Salary
I know you love your danger pay, your hazard pay, your overseas comparability pay. I don’t blame you. I love them, too. But, they’re not there to stay. Every post brings new percentages, and if you start your budget based on high percentage perks, you’re going to be out of luck when you move on. Use the extra, when you have it, to feather your nest and get to FI sooner.
- Step One: What’s Your Actual Base Salary?
- Case study: Single FSO (Me)
- Make A Budget (in Local Currency)
Pay Yourself First
Life in the Foreign Service gives us plenty of opportunities to spend on others. We need to focus on paying ourselves first, and maxing out the vehicles available to us: the TSP and the IRA.
2. Understand Your Retirement Benefits
Pension, TSP, Health Care, Life Insurance. What do they actually mean for you, and your path to FI?
3. Have the Government Help You With Debt
Student loan debt can be crippling. Having the government help with the debt can be great, but there are a few tricks to look for.
4. Take Advantage of Your Travel Benefits
Being an FSO has some AMAZING travel benefits. Paid plane tickets for R&R, paid hotels for trainings and conferences. It’s wonderful as it is, but there are ways to make it glorious.
5. Geo-arbitrage: You’re Doing It Right
Geo-arbitrage, or the concept of moving somewhere with a lower cost of living to get the most out of your salary. With excuses to colleagues living in DC or Europe, the Foreign Service is the place to be for increasing your pay while decreasing your expenses.
6. Amazon is Your Frenemy
If Trailing Houses is to be believed, FSO families are all Amazon addicts. Disregarding the often-frustrating shipping timelines, Amazon prime can be a remarkable tool for when you just can’t find something. It can also be your worst enemy, as 1-click buy options, stress shopping, and homesickness lead to questionable choices.
7. Learn From Your Community – Frugal Wins Around the World
CLO libraries, dehydrators, ingredient swaps. How to get what you need and want overseas without breaking the bank or going without.
- Resources on the FS Path to FI – check this page out first for some introductory help and links to the community