The Why of FI

Everyone has their own reason for wanting to reach Financial Independence (FI). For me, FI is the difference between staying in a bad situation, and knowing that I have the resources to get myself out of it, even if it costs me my job.

Like most FSOs, I’ve been in posts where things were less than optimal. A bad boss making you want to call in sick just to avoid them. A traffic nightmare each way on your commute. Being overworked or underutilized in your position. One too many foodborne illnesses. The post just being a bad match.

It’s not going to be the same for everyone – to borrow from John Milton,
“The mind is a universe and can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Your perfect post could be my perfect disaster, but the principles of FI, and the path to it, still hold.

My own path started helping out a friend, someone who wanted technical assistance getting an IRA established. I’d always had an IRA, as they were pretty easy to set up with my bank, and (of course) contributed to the TSP (more on that later). As we talked, it became apparent that more than the technicalities of an IRA were at issue. He wanted to get out of debt, and didn’t know where to start.

Trying not to meddle in his finances too much, I looked online for good resources. A friend suggested a book that I’d never heard of, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. Not being the sort to give a book without reading it first, I devoured ‘his’ copy in a couple days before diving into the concepts behind FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early.

In FIRE, the basic idea is that you build up your assets, primarily in low-fee index funds, until the profits on that account can cover your monthly needs without dipping into the principal. Once that occurs, you’re home free, and can retire, early.

Now, you’ll notice that this is the FS path to FI, not FIRE. I like my job (now). I intend to continue in it until I can retire with a full pension at 50 (another article on that to come). But I love the idea that if I ever am in a place where I don’t like my job, that I won’t feel as stuck as I did before. Your Money Or Your Life opened my eyes to the opportunities that were out there with a few simple life hacks, and taking advantage of the wonderful benefits of being in the Foreign Service.

I did eventually give my friend his book, but not before I’d started diving into the world of Financial Independence. For those new to the concept, I highly recommend Mr. Money Mustache and ChooseFI. The latter have a great podcast that I’m in the middle of bingeing. I’m halfway through their back episodes, and I really appreciate the community that they’re building.

So that’s it, my Why of FI. A path for the times when there doesn’t seem to be one. As I get more into the details of FI in future posts, we’ll cover more technical details, but for now, I wish you all the best on your journey.