3 min read
Suppose you currently spend $60,000 per year. According to the 4% Rule, you need 25 times your annual expenses to achieve financial independence, which means you need $60,000 * 25 = $1.5 million.
Depending on how much you already have saved, that number might seem daunting.
That’s why the most common advice you’ll hear from myself and other personal finance bloggers is to reduce your expenses.
Suppose you cut your yearly spending to $40,000 per year through joy-based spending, gratitude, and smart consumption.
Now, to achieve F.I. you only need $40,000 * 25 = $1 million.
That’s a serious improvement.
But for some, $1 million still might feel like a long way off.
Fortunately, I have some good news: the first few years of saving are the hardest. As time goes on, though, investment returns will help propel your net worth higher at a faster and faster rate, as illustrated in this chart:
Notice how it takes less time to go from $600k to $1 million than it does to go from $0 to $100k. (This chart assumes consistent yearly savings and investment returns)
You might still be thinking, “That’s pretty encouraging…but I want to escape my damn cubicle as fast as possible.”
If that’s you, I have one more financial tool you can use: active income.
Instead of saving so much money that you never need to work again, consider saving up a smaller stack of cash and then transitioning to doing work you actually enjoy, even if that means earning less.
Consider the following numbers:
A $100,000 dividend-stock portfolio with a 3% annual yield will pay you $3,000 per year.
You could also make $3,000 per year by earning $58 per week doing something you enjoy.
For me, I could earn that much with about two hours of stats tutoring.
Two hours of active work I enjoy could produce the same income as a $100,000 dividend-stock portfolio.
Now, there are obvious advantages of having the portfolio. If I didn’t feel like tutoring one week, I would lose out on income. The portfolio, on the other hand, would faithfully pay me whether I work or not.
The drawback of the portfolio, though, is that it takes time to build up. From the chart above, we see that by saving $10k per year and earning 7% investment returns it would take 7.84 years to accumulate $100k. That’s a serious time commitment.
This is why active income is so appealing. It provides the ticket to a shorter cubicle life.
To put some numbers in context, take a look at this grid that shows how much you would need to earn to match the yearly income of different 3% – yielding portfolios:
This grid makes me hyped.
From looking at my February Income & Expenses Report, I see that I earned $105 in dividend income and interest last month. I also earned $516 from blogging. That’s a total of $621.
That’s more income than I would have received from a 3% – yielding $200,000 dividend portfolio.
The best part of all is that this $621 was enjoyable income. It didn’t even feel like work.
Chasing Work You Love – The Fastest Path to Freedom
The traditional financial advice I see thrown around is to cut your expenses drastically, then play the waiting game for 10 – 15 years until you have enough savings to be financially independent.
I do agree that cutting expenses is the first step you should take, but I would argue that the second step should be to pursue enjoyable active income. This could be a variety of things – blogging, writing, freelancing, teaching, tutoring, etc.
It could even be a less stressful full-time job that you have always wanted to pursue – high-school coaching, opening a bakery, starting a photography business, becoming a park ranger, etc.
This type of income might take 2 – 3 years to build up, but during that time your high savings rate will simply add to net worth.
If you haven’t considered it yet, take a step back and look at how enjoyable active income could impact your financial journey. It could be the ticket to a much shorter cubicle life.
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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