Articles

Love your job? Why you should still pursue financial independence

By Leif Dahleen, MD
Physician on FIRE

Editor: I love my job, and financial independence has brought an even greater appreciation for it. This guest post from Rich at PF Geeks gives his perspective on the benefits of FI even when you love your job in today’s WCI Partner Selection, originally posted on Physician on Fire.

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I’ve heard this one a thousand times. “I love my job. Why would I pursue FIRE?”

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The key is in the first two letters: FI, or financial independence. You can achieve FI and decide not to retire early (RE), and it’s a choice that many people make.

A second key is the fact that our current love for something may not last forever. Even if our desires don’t change one iota, the thing we love can change drastically.

Rich from PF Geeks loves his job, and it doesn’t pay particularly well, but he is absolutely aboard the FI train. He explains why he pursues this path and why others should follow his lead, regardless of how passionate they may be about their careers.

Love Your Job? Why You Should Still Pursue Financial Independence

Four years ago I stumbled onto the crazy idea of financial independence.

It was like I discovered a different universe where people save insane amounts of money and are on a clear path towards escaping the 9-5 and doing whatever the heck they want with their time. I devoured podcasts and blog articles by people who were living this life or well on their way towards financial independence.

I was hooked.

The only problem? I was 22, unemployed, and about to start grad school.

It’s impossible to save money and become financially independent when you aren’t making any money. Less income + more expenses is definitely not the path to FIRE that everyone recommends.

But away we went!

We cut costs mainly by downsizing to a smaller apartment and slashing our food budget in half by making cheaper meals. My wife supported us for a couple of years while I did seminary full-time and worked part-time. After two years, I transitioned into a full-time job in youth ministry and have been doing grad school part-time ever since.

Those first couple of years, we didn’t make much progress. It took us two years to grow our net worth from $16,000 to $32,000, but what we didn’t know is that we had created some habits that would allow us to grow our savings exponentially. We’d developed a stomach for frugality and a hunger to save as much as we could.

As our household income went from $40k to $110k combined, we’ve been able to save a significant amount of our income because we kept spending like we did when I was unemployed.

We’re now 26 years old and we’ve just crossed the $150k net worth mark!

We’re still a LONG way from reaching financial independence, but we’re well on our way.

The funny thing though is that we have zero desire to retire early and we are still hustling to pursue financial independence.

Even though I plan to have a source of income until I’m on my death-bed, we’re still staying disciplined with our finances–sticking to a budget, staying frugal, spending on things we value, maximizing our income, and investing the difference.

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We love our jobs. No really. We do.

When I first got into the FIRE movement, a bunch of people were talking about having a plan for once you retire early–having things to do, finding purpose, hobbies, etc.

I remember the question that one person asked, “If you woke up today and never had to work a day in your life and not worry about money, what would you do?”

The honest truth is that I would be doing almost exactly what I’m doing now.

The work I get paid to do now as a full-time pastor is almost exactly how I’d spend my time in retirement. Maybe less emails and meetings 🙂

I get to study the Bible, preach, help people become followers of Jesus, and train others to do the same. Some days I’m meeting people 1on1 working through life’s problems and other days I’m getting to lead our training for 40+ men in our church’s leadership development program.

I have a great boss, people I love to work with, and I’m fairly compensated.

Four years in and I’ve had less than a handful of bad days at work. The longer I’m here, the more I’m actually satisfied in what I’m doing. No job is truly perfect, but I feel like I have it as good as it can get.

Finding Ikagai

There’s a Japanese concept called Ikagai that some self-improvement bloggers and life coaches use to help people figure out what they want to do in life.

Ikigai

You’ve got four circles:

  1. What you love
  2. What you’re good at
  3. What the world needs
  4. What you can be paid for

Getting two or even three out of the four is a pretty good spot to be in. For many people who are on the path to financial independence, they’ve found a way to get paid for something they are skilled at.

The most common sacrifice I’ve seen is the top circle — getting to do something that they actually love.

And I get where they’re coming from. Work doesn’t have to be something you enjoy or even purposeful. At some point, you’ve gotta find a way to provide for your family and putting food on the table and a roof over heads comes first.

But it’s nice when those things line up.

It’s easier to make this sacrifice when you’re planning to retire early and in theory… can spend the rest of your life doing what you love and find purpose in.

I’m not in a rush to quit my job or even stop working at all because I feel like I’m living life right in dead center.

I love what I do and wake up almost every day excited for what I get to do. Over time, I’ve developed some actual skill and education in pastoring, preaching, and discipling. I truly believe this is a need in the world and I’m incredibly lucky to get paid to do all of this.

Finding the right career fit doesn’t mean that you’ll always have “employer fit.”

Why we are pursuing FI even though we love our jobs

First, it’s good to put it out there that being financially independent doesn’t mean that you actually have to retire early and stop working. You can have enough saved to cover your annual expenses and still find joy, value, and purpose in working.

Even though we love our jobs and have no intention to actually retire early, there are a number of reasons why we are still pursuing FIRE.

Here are our 6 reasons why we’re chasing FI even though we love our jobs

1. Traditional retirement is no easy task for a pastor

Most pastors and people in ministry struggle to save money, period. It’s a profession that isn’t exactly known for having potential for high income or salary growth.

Lifeway recently published some data on retirement savings for pastors and the numbers aren’t pretty.

  • 10% of pastors have zero retirement savings
  • 28% have less than $50,000 in retirement
  • 36% of missionaries, pastors, and ministers have less than $100k set aside for retirement
  • Only 7% have more than a million saved for retirement

Anyone in ministry needs to have a clear strategy for their retirement. My wife and I recognize that we need to be diligent in how we save. We’d rather be over-eager in our savings and be able to ease off the gas when we’re older than reach our 50’s and be forced to play catch-up.

Retirement is coming eventually. Reaching there earlier is just helpful.

2. No job is perfect forever

I hope I’ve made it clear in case anyone I work for actually reads this… I absolutely love my job. I have zero desire to leave it and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if I’m working here for the next 20 years.

But great jobs, even amazing ones, may not be that way forever. Bosses change, policies change, people change, responsibilities can change, or your salary might not change.

If you have a fantastic job situation like I do then be grateful for it and do all you can to contribute to the healthy working environment of the organization!

3. Take on work & ministry opportunities without worrying about pay

Non-profit work can be tricky when you are relying on a paycheck. There are so many ministries and organizations that are doing fantastic things in the world, but can’t afford to pay much.

I would love to be able to offer my experience, education, and time to churches and ministries that don’t have the means to compensate me.

4. Being able to give more now and in retirement

My wife and I both feel the conviction to be generous in how much we give financially. We support our church, individual missionaries, and other non-profits. We’d love to be able to increase how much we give and start a Donor Advised Fund like what PoF has done!

Once we are financially independent and have a healthy cash buffer, we plan to dramatically shift our savings and giving. We’d love to get to the point where we are giving away the majority of what we earn.

5. Keeps us disciplined and avoiding lifestyle inflation

When you’re chasing financial independence, being disciplined is almost a necessity. It certainly is at our income level. Sure, we could be more lax since I plan to be working and bringing in income for most of our lives–but the more we start to spend, the more we would need to have saved whenever retirement comes around.

Pursuing FI keeps us disciplined and keeps us from letting our lifestyle inflate too much.

6. Pursue other work projects

While we don’t plan to retire early, being able to take time off to pursue other projects or needs could free us up for non-financial opportunities. I have a number of writing projects and ministry ideas that I’d love to pursue. Not having to worry about a paycheck could give us the freedom to pursue those.

Maybe for you it’s extra time with your family, going to grad school, or volunteering with a non-profit.

Our Financial Mission Statement

Over the last few months, my wife and I have been trying to get really clear about what our purpose and goals are in life: we’ve talked through things like our marriage, ministry, and how our finances play a role in this.

Here’s our “financial mission” that we came up with:

We want to be faithful in how we give to others, while saving towards financial freedom in our late 30’s. Once financially independent, we hope to be able to give the majority of our time and income to gospel-related causes.

If you’ve never taken the time to write something like that, I can’t recommend it enough! It’ll force you to think through what you value and care about and what your view is on money.

Our view is simple: Money is a tool that we need to 1) care for our family and 2) have the gospel-impact we want to have. The more we have and the sooner we have it, the more we can do with it.

However, there is no topic that Jesus addressed more in his ministry than money because of all the dangers and pitfalls there are. We want to be wise in our planning and saving without making money into a thing we worship. We want to be good stewards of our money in how we spend it, save it, and give it.

That’s why we’re so committed to continuing to give our money away on the path to financial independence.

Our Three-Phase Approach to FIRE

After taking some time to think through our financial mission, we put together a plan to accomplish it.

We’ve broken it down into three phases of focus: Income, Saving, and Giving.

1. Income

My wife and I are both in our mid 20’s, early in our career, and we don’t have any kids yet (although we’re about to start trying!).

Our primary focus in this season of life is increasing our income. We’re still giving a good percentage of our income away to our church, missionaries, and other causes. We’re definitely still saving, but when it comes to money, we’re trying to spend the next few years increasing the top-line of our budget–our income.

We’ve both been working hard at our day jobs. Picking up new responsibilities, demonstrating leadership, and executing with excellence. As a result, we’ve seen our combined income grow significantly.

But now we’re also trying to create some other sources of income. In 2019, I made around $10,000 freelancing and I’m experimenting with a couple of dividend reinvestment programs that are starting to build!

I recently launched a niche site in addition to my personal finance blog that’s all about helping people learn how to meal prep. Food is one of the biggest expenses for most people so we share cheap and healthy recipes on our site for people to make.

Our goal is to be making $1k a month by December 2020 and to significantly increase that by the time we turn 30!

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2. Saving

We’ve got about 3.5 years until we turn 30 and our goal is to have around a $250-300k net worth depending on our house value and what the heck happens in the market the rest of this year and the next few years.

Once we’ve got a good nest egg started and a solid income, we should be able to save a large portion of our income while also paying down our mortgage.

From 30 to 40, we hope to pay down our mortgage, reach financial independence, and increase our giving a few percentage points each year.

3. Giving

Once we’ve hit our financial independence number and paid down our mortgage, we want to dramatically increase our giving! If we can hit this by the time we turn 40, then anything else we make can go towards our financial mission: caring for our family and giving our time and money to gospel-related causes.

That might look like continuing to work full-time and giving away a significant amount of money or it may look like working for a church that can’t afford to compensate me, but needs a pastor.

It could look like teaching in a seminary, writing books and discipleship resources, or going on mission trips.

Everyone Should Pursuing FI, even if you love your job

I truly believe that everyone should be pursuing financial independence! We’ll all have to retire someday, so trying to put yourself in a healthy place financially ahead of time is just a bonus.

Even if you love your job situation as much as I do, you never know what can happen. It’s important to have a plan and take steps today to reach financial independence.

Do you love your job? Do you prioritize financial independence and/or early retirement?

POF

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