The Financial Independence Grid

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Behold. The Financial Independence Grid.

This grid shows how long it will take you to achieve financial independence (25 times your annual expenses) based on your post-tax annual income and expenses. The grid assumes you start with a net worth of $0, earn 5% investment returns on your savings each year, and that income and expenses remain consistent each year.

A little over a year ago I shared the early retirement grid, which topped out at $100k on the income scale so I decided to recreate the grid with a max income of $250k to account for high earners. After all, nearly one in four households in the U.S. earn more than $100k annually

How to Interpret This Grid: An Example

Suppose your household earns $70k per year and spends $40k per year. This means you have $30k left over each year to invest.

Assuming your investments earn 5% annual returns, it will take you 20.1 years to save up $1 million (25 times your annual spending). 

Savings Rate: The Most Important Metric

Your savings rate is the one metric that determines how fast you can achieve financial independence.

Notice how a household that earns $100k per year and saves half of their income can achieve F.I. in 16.6 years. A household that earns only $60k per year and saves half of their income can also achieve F.I. in 16.6 years. 

The numbers are even more encouraging when you look at scenarios with over 50% savings rates. Consider a household that earns $100k per year and only spends $40k per year. Based on the grid, they can achieve F.I. in only 12.4 years.

On the flip side, a high income can be completely offset by excessive spending. A household that earns $250k per year will have to work for 51.4 years to reach financial independence if they spend $225k each year.

Some Interesting Observations

  • You can achieve financial independence in about 7 years with a 75% annual savings rate at any income level.
  • You can achieve F.I. in 10 years with a 66% annual savings rate at any income level.
  • A 50-year-old with a net worth of $0 could achieve F.I. by age 67 with a 50% annual savings rate.
  • A 23-year-old college grad could achieve F.I. by age 40 by saving 50% of their income each year.
  • A 23-year-old college grad could achieve F.I. by age 55 by saving only 25% of their income each year.

Zach

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.

Zach

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Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.

5 Replies to “The Financial Independence Grid”

  1. Hello! Love your visualisations. Helps put your thoughts into perspective and definitely made it more interesting!

    Would you be able to share some tools you used for visualisations? and some guides references you use for learning data visualisations.

  2. Nice grid but your math is incorrect.
    At the high end (250k) it shows 1 year of savings to achieve FI with $10k in spending. If the goal is 25 times annual income this is incorrect if starting with $0 and a 5% interest rate.

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