The road to financial independence is looonnnng. Even if you have a frugal lifestyle and you’re socking away a high proportion of your salary, for most of us it’s going to take at least 8-12 years to save enough in investments to cover our expenses. And that’s if everything goes to plan.
I’ve been on my journey for about two and a half years now, and although I’ve made progress I’ve also extended my original investment target to include paying off my mortgage (see my post on weighing this up). I know it’s all about making small changes that accumulate in the long term, but I’m still about ten years off and my target is looking very large.
It’s easy to feel a scarcity mindset when I look at my spreadsheet trackers. I get feelings of frustration and competition with myself, and start comparing with other people. So how can I shift into an abundance mindset, when the beacon of financial freedom is so far away?
Look back at old budgets
I’ve been keeping a detailed budget since 2020, but I’ve been able to estimate what my net worth was going back to my student days at University. This has helped me see what I’ve accomplished, even if back then I wasn’t aiming for financial freedom. I’ve changed my whole attitude towards money, I’m no longer spending big in low value areas and my net worth is positive! Last year I paid off my student loan early even though it was low interest (see that post here) and I’ve kept my original tracker based on minimum payments. Sometimes I look back at the amount I would still owe today, and I feel the psychological gain from not having that debt.
Financial freedom does not have to be all about striving to get to the finish line, there are plenty of milestones along the way that enhance your life. Many FI ladders have the rungs way too far apart for me, but I really like the ‘gamified’ FI milestones from We Want Guac. I’m currently at the Vacay FI, which means I could theoretically withdraw $2k per year for a holiday. That sounds a lot better than being $575k away from freedom!
You might also think about how your savings can give you freedom right now, and if you could make it a longer but more enjoyable process. This is the premise behind Money Flamingo. I’ve started calculating scenarios where instead of just pushing for FI, I figure out when I can start working a four day week and reach freedom in 12 or 15 years instead of 10.
Also check out my post on ten things to do in your very first year of working towards FI.
Use your security to take risks
One of the features of an abundance mindset is the willingness to take on (calculated) risk. I’m not talking about investing in crypto and Uncle Dave’s stock picks though!
Instead of waiting until I have my expenses 100% covered by investment returns, I’m trying to think about what I would need to earn to go into a lower paid but more rewarding job. Or how much I would want built up to in order take a secondment in another country or city, or take an extended period of leave for travel.
Since I don’t think I’ll actually retire when I reach FI, I’ve started to think about what I would do when I get there and work out if I could do it well before I reach my end target. Could I take mini-retirements along the way? Or start transitioning now into what I imagine post-FI work to be?
Don’t wait to start giving
The final element I’m trying to embrace is to recognize how fortunate my circumstances are that I’m able to make progress with my personal finances, and I have a pathway to achieving my goals. I don’t need to be an extreme cheapskate to get there.
Not clinging as tightly onto every dollar has involved giving to myself, allowing myself to spend on the things I know I get value from (see how I allocated myself a budget for fun in 2022). I’ve also been able to give to others (see this post on giving to others whilst aiming for FI).
Relaxing a little on my budget, and setting an upper limit to my savings has helped me feel the immediate benefits whilst still creating longer term growth. I don’t feel I need to strive quite so hard, because I can realize the power of giving myself joy and comfort, and the power to give money away.
Have you struggled with the scarcity mindset during your financial freedom journey? How have you shifted to one of abundance?