The four milestones to Financial independence

Most of us have to sell our time for money. For those who feel that this is an invisible prison, financial independence (FI) shatters these invisible walls. The journey to FI is decades long, hard and difficult, but the end goal of a more fulfilling life make the pursuit a worthy one.

Milestone 1: Mindset shift

The first milestone is to wake up from the deep slumber. Dosing on your deck chair during the once in a year vacation, you wonder why you only do this once a year. The kids screaming in the background dim out. You grab the red pill from Morpheus before he has a chance to speak and swallow it. You dust off the sand from your feet while you see the matrix for what it really is.

The challenge is Everstian, still the end goal is too good to forego. It is time to step out of the matrix without minding the gap.

Time needed: Nanosecond to six months.

Tasks:

Once the idea settles in, and some rewiring of the grey mass is sorted. The idea becomes intrinsic, the motivation internal. Money takes on a different utility, it is no longer a conveyor belt from paycheck to shopping mall. It becomes the key to unlock the full treasures of the world and life.

At this stage, gamification of spending and saving can bridge the gap between the current lifestyle and the one you want to achieve.

For example in order to shift from the standard lifestyle within your demographic to a frugal one you can challenge yourself to live frugally by creating challenges for yourself and the family.

Cook all your food at home for a week or a month.
Forego coffee shops for 2 weeks.
Make a plan to increase your take-home salary by 10% in 3 months.
Research on how you can reduce your tax bill by 10%.
Make a plan to work 30 hours on a side hustle this month.

In order to gamify your FI objectives need to be quantifiable and challenging.

If you have been loyal to this milestone for more than six months, then the habits you have acquired have become an intrinsic part of yourself. The chances of making it are higher.

Milestone 2: Accumulation of Assets / partially Financially independent

By now you have jumped off the sunbed.The wind is in your face and you are riding on a white FI stallion away from the matrix and towards the FI lighthouse. You can see it just as a spec, at the end of the beech. You are unstoppable. You feel ready to conquer the Sandstorms, Tsunamis, and Giant Crabs along the way. You know, this ride will take a decade or two but you are determined to get there. Day by Day.

Time needed: 10 years to Decades

Task:

  • Understand Fi is primarily a cash flow game.
  • Keep learning about personal money mmanagement

  • Pay off all consumer debt
  • Working smart and hard. Sleepless. Kill the time wasters.
  • Keep those around you on board tactfully
  • Leverage the opportunities. Find shortcuts
  • Roll with the punches. Turn problems into solutions.
  • Research investments (10 times more than your vacations)
  • Accumulate Assets
  • Use yield from these assets to accumulate more assets.
  • Upgrading primary income
  • Have multiple side hustles
  • Improved Financial knowledge
  • Investing more than you spend
  • Give back.
  • Have fun


If you have spent more than 10,000 hours on this project you probably have achieved some level of FI. If you are not yet there, prepare to work for another 10,000.

Milestone 3: Fully Financially independent

You look back and the giant crabs failed to materialise. The few bouts of heavy rain where much easier to deal with than you ever imagine. You laugh off the time when colleagues draw funny looks; when you choose spaghetti bolognese at lunch rather than the Greek Moosaka at double the price. The lighthouse is clearly visible, but at this point, you consider riding on your horse a bit longer…

Time needed: 10 years to decades
Task:

  • Able to support 100% of current lifestyle with income from fully owned assets
  • Aware and prepared for future FI black swans.
  • Use some yield from salary and passive income to acquire more passive income cash-generating assets
  • Prepare to leave a good legacy at your current primary employment.
  • Give Back
  • Have more fun.

Human wants are unlimited but resources are finite. Living frugally means redefining luxury, and working hard to make money last longer. FI can be endured or enjoyed, defining what FIRE (financially independent/early retirement ) is an individual task, but extra cashflow allows you more options in how to define it. Once Light FI is achieved, a few more years can give you an upgrade to medium or high FI. Worth pursuing?

Light Financially independent

  • Annual Cash flow from passive income: LIfestyle + 10%
  • Assets are diversified.
  • Emergency funds can sustain cash flow for 1 years
  • Productive Debt can be paid off with emergency funds
  • Dependent in part on social security/pensions.

Medium Financially independent

  • Annual Cash flow from passive income: LIfestyle + 30%
  • Assets are well diversified in type and geography.
  • Productive Debt paid off in full
  • Emergency funds can sustain cash flow for 3 years
  • Not dependent on social security

HIghly Financially independent

  • Annual Cash flow from passive income: LIfestyle + 100%
  • Assets are extremely diversified in type, geography, regulatory considerations, tax classes, etc
  • Emergency funds can sustain cash flow for 5 years
  • Not dependent on social security
  • Retirement home paid off in full

Milestone 4: Early Retirement (RE)

It’s time to give the old horse a rest, the lighthouse is as bright as you have imagined it all the way. The calm waves are frothing at the beach. The blue of the sea has a different hue, and the breaths feel fuller than a decade ago.

You take a peek behind the lighthouse, and the path you were on keeps going.

There is a fork in the path beyond the lighthouse. The first path is showered with items of hedonism, using this ample free time to please only yourself. The second one is using your freedom and money to change the world for the better.

Time needed: Nanosecond till the end…

Task:

  • Triple check that you have enough FI in you to go full RE
  • Understand: Once out of the workforce for a few years, more difficult to find employment afterwards!
  • Prepare for life living without structure.
  • Give back to family community
  • Aware that long periods of not working makes unemployable.
  • Turn Side Hustles into a lifestyle business.
  • Find the best value for cost of living spots around the world and visit them
  • Start an NGO?
  • Enjoy your new found freedom

Recap:
FI is possible, start early, work hard, work smart, keep at it. Ignore them. Stay the course and you’ll get there.

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Comments:
Which milestone do you most identify with? Where are you today? Tell me your story.



  • Great article Jim. I enjoyed reading every bit of it. You’re right, after 6 months the mindset is clear. There’s no stopping and no going back now. The path to the FI light house is clear and it’s only a matter of time before we reach our destination!