What I’d Tell my 20-year Old Self about Financial Freedom

What I’d Tell my 20-year Old Self about Financial Freedom

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Today I get to share a guest post with you from Joseph Hogue. He explains what financial freedom means to him, and how he discovered and later re-discovered FIRE. Join him as he shares all the financial lessons he’s learned from the FIRE movement. Enjoy!

Financial freedom can mean different things to everyone. Find your definition early and you’ll be one step closer to achieving it.

The Financial Independence, Retire Early movement has surged in the last decade but there are a lot of misconceptions and myths around what it means.

Cody addressed many of these in a previous article about the misconceptions in the fire movement but it also reminded me of my own experience 20 years ago.

Not only is FIRE not about being lazy or risking running out of money in retirement, but it can also mean different things to everyone. I held a lot of these misconceptions early on and it led to one of my worst mistakes with money.

I learned from the experience though and it’s led to a new empowerment in what I consider financial freedom…I just wish I could have understood it without learning the hard way.

My First Money Mistake and Getting Burned by FIRE

I hated my first professional job. I had just graduated with a shiny, new finance degree and landed a job as a financial reporting analyst. It was basically corporate accounting and I knew I was going to hate it but I thought that’s where I needed to start.

The boredom at my new job quickly gave way to daydreaming of a day I could quit work, early retirement. Here I was a guy in his mid-20s and already all I could think about was retiring.

So I worked two jobs, managed a portfolio of rental properties and saved every penny. I rarely spent money except on the necessities and I had roommates that were paying off my mortgage. I studied investing and found new ways to invest.

Not only was I going to retire early, but I was also going to be rich!

The problem was, by working so much and pinching every penny, I was burning out every six months. I would then go on a spending spree and set myself back thousands of dollars. I was miserable and my bank account wasn’t going anywhere.

How I Rediscovered FIRE

I couldn’t even see my financially destructive behavior. It wasn’t until a friend clued me into what was happening that I resolved to slow down and set more realistic goals. I still worked hard and I still saved money, but I created a plan I could actually keep.

Fast forward ten years and I was bitten by the FIRE bug again. This time in the form of creating my own websites and other online businesses.

I started freelancing as an equity analyst in my early 30s and explored different side hustle ideas to make money. In 2011, created a few websites on personal finance and investing. I built the income from these to where I could go full-time in 2013.

The irony though is that I now work more than I ever did at a traditional 9-to-5 job. I no longer sit, staring blankly at the computer and wait for 5 pm. I’m at my desk every day, building my online business, and am usually working at least one day on the weekend.

FIRE and Financial Freedom Lessons Learned

It turned out, FIRE and financial freedom weren’t about retiring early at all. Financial independence was the ability to do what I love and not worry if it’s going to be enough to pay the bills.

Maybe the FIRE movement is misnamed or just misunderstood. For me, it’s more like Financial Independence, Retire Never. I love building my online business and couldn’t imagine a day where I don’t at least think of new projects or creating something on the sites.

I’m not saying FIRE will mean the same for you. Maybe it truly will be sitting around in your underwear watching TV at 45…if that makes you happy. The point is, don’t take what everyone else says about FIRE as gospel or written truth. Think critically about what it means for you and learn that lesson early, preferably before it costs you a lot of money or precious time.

Joseph Hogue worked as an equity analyst and an economist before realizing being rich is no substitute for being happy. He now runs four websites and a YouTube channel on beating debt, making more money and making your money work for you. A veteran of the Marine Corps, he now makes more money than he ever did at a 9-to-5 job and loves building his work from home business.

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