Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why We Choose Flexible Independence

Waves crashing on a beach

First off, congratulations to the new parents of baby P.I.P.!  I am honored JC asked me to help out while they get baby P.I.P situated.  Our Little Man was only born two years ago, and I remember what an adventure that was.  My name is Bryan from the Income Surfer blog, and I want to share why Mrs Income Surfer (IS) and I chose Flexible Independence over a more traditional FIRE approach.


Clearly this is a personal choice.  Each person, or family, has different needs and goals.  In our case, I was the primary bread winner for the IS family.  I was trained as a civil engineer, and had a steady job that paid pretty well.  Mrs. IS was working a couple hours per week at our church, and raising our toddler full time.  We had been talking about a plan to exit that life, since before the Little Man was born, and in February 2016.....we decided to step out into the great unknown

I personally believe that we (as humans) put far too much effort and worry into things that we can't control.  Many things in life are largely out of our control.  We could start with stock market fluctuations, because Passive-Income-Pursuit is largely a financial blog.  Then there are the truly critical things like our health, which is largely outside of our control.  What do you really have....if you don't have your health?!  There are of course things we can control,
Mountain view in the winter with snow
such as our life/work balance......how we treat loved ones.....our debt load.....how much we save.....how much we spend.  Mrs IS and I have worked hard to be in the financial position we currently enjoy.....and that effort has granted us a great deal of flexibility.  We are intentional in our spending, but that doesn't mean sacrificing things that are important to us.  Quite the contrary, we spend money and time on the things that are important to us....and have zero regrets about that.  Could we have done more, of course, but it is all a balancing act.  Could we have spent less on healthy food, sure....but we think healthy food is important.  Could we have stayed home more instead of taking the great trips we had envisioned, of course, but we like to spend our time traveling.

When I left my traditional day job on February 12th, we only had a plan for the next few months.  We knew that we had enough savings to last few years if we had to, so that wasn't particularly a concern.  We decided that at a minimum, we were going to take 3 months to travel and figure out what exactly we wanted our lives to look like.  We knew this wasn't a binary decision, and we knew that we would probably be more active/engaged in our new lives than we were in the past, but we didn't know what it would all look like.  We started by taking a week at the beach, down here in Florida.  Then we went home and spend about three weeks getting things ready around the house for a roadtrip.  Then we finally left on the roadtrip.  The roadtrip (about 10 weeks) was spent visiting all the friends/family/and destinations that we didn't think we had “had time” to visit.  Oh we had the time, but we had chosen to spend it differently.

We spent time in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.  I also got to check an item off my bucket list, when I attended the BerkshireHathaway shareholder meeting in Omaha.  It was a great time, and something very interesting happened about a month into the trip.  We realized that we not only didn't miss the “stuff” back in our house in Florida, we didn't miss our old lives.  We were enjoying the flexibility and time.  A week or two later, we came to another realization.  Wewere tasting FI!  No, not the FI that many people seek....with F-You money or cash flow from 50  dividend stocks.  Our own kind of FI, which we call Flexible Independence.

Mangrove sunset
We do have a few revenue sources, from our investments and blogs, but they don't completely cover our costs.  Some people, especially my family, thought we were nuts when we did this.  After all, don't all good/respectable people work until they are 65 or 70?!  We will always work at something, because our goal isn't to do nothing.....it's to do the things we are passionate about.  So what does that mean?  Well for Mrs. IS, it means time with our son....travel....and working with the church on community causes.  For me, it means time with our family.....travel....investing.....writing....and volunteering.  I am also very passionate about businesses and business models.  I consult some with small businesses.  I also help with real estate development projects from time to time.  Recognizing a need in the FIRE community, I am launching AllTravelJourneys.com as a place where we can all swap travel ideas and read about inspiring/exciting destinations.  As you can see, our lives are full.  We aren't just sitting around watching the TV!  Actually, three years ago we found we weren't watching TV any more.....and gave ours away :)  That isn't the kind of life we dream about, and we worked too hard getting here to pursue anything but our dream lives. 

The common thread in the past 5 months has been flexibility.  When Mrs. IS and I reflected on what our dream life would look like....we kept coming back to two things.  Flexibility and Fulfillment.  We make no pretenses about not working any more.  Mrs. IS works 3 or 4 hours per week at our church and I work about 5 hours per day.  In addition to getting to spend plenty of time with our son, what makes this arrangement great is that we can easily go off on trips for three or four weeks at a time.  I can generally work remotely, and she can push her hours around so that she can complete her tasks in as few as four days per month.  That's flexibility, and we love it!

River waterfall
How did we get to this place in our lives?  Well first off, we spent a great deal of time discerning what we really wanted out of our lives.  Think, “I want flexibility because it allows me to work on fulfilling projects.....travel to great destinations.......and maintain relationships with the people that matter most to me”.  Not, “I want to retire because I don't like my current job....and don't want to go there any more”.  I personally don't want my journey to be about running from something.....but about running to something, and that something is my ideal life.  Next we figured out how to make those goals/objectives a reality.  In our case, it meant living simply....eliminating debt.....saving money routinely.....and investing that hard earned capital.  We have had a couple lucky breaks along the way, but we have worked hard not to blow those opportunities.  So now, we live in a simple house and drive two basic older cars.  (Wish we could get down to one car, but haven't gotten there yet).

I am sure projects/opportunities will come along which will have us working more, but the great thing is that we now realize that we have the option to seize or pass on those projects.  We are living just fine the way we are today.  We don't have to take on those projects, but if we do take them on it will because we really want to work at/on them.  We will also know that we have the ability to drop back to our current lifestyle, should we start to feel stressed or uninspired by those projects.  Perfect example.  I am currently working on the new travel website project mentioned above and spending about 8 hours per week helping a local startup get going.  If I get stressed, overloaded, or bored with those projects...... I can reevaluate and drop back.  Right now however, these projects are energizing and fulfilling to me!

While it doesn't work for everyone, this lifestyle is very fulfilling
for the Income Surfer family.  It also leaves us time and flexibility to visit family out of state, take on more or less work, and most importantly.....spend meaningful time together as a family.  The first few months of this experiment left us with a cash flow shortfall of about $1,500 per month.  The rest was covered by
Family on the beach at sunset
our investments and website.  Our goal is to continue living this lifestyle, while also saving about $25k per year.  That will provide a nice margin of safety.  I'm sure we'll be there soon, provided some really exciting project doesn't entice us back to full time employment :)


Have you considered a less traditional vision of FIRE?  What does your current goal look like?

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for asking me to contribute JC. I hope you guys get some sleep. I remember those newborn days, but they were a blurr.....
    -Bryan

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  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Bryan. I am happy to hear that your definition of FI is working out well and wishing you the best with the journey ahead. Im glad to hear that you dont watch TV -- no zombification there :). Our TV is sitting in the basement and I cant remember the last time it was turned on. Better to go out and live your life than living vicariously through TV shows and movies.

    cheers
    R2R

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    1. Thanks for the support R2R. We'd definitely rather get out and live in the real world. Life is short enough anyway, to not experience it would be a tragedy!
      -Bryan

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  3. Great post and I love this definition. I have never thought of myself as someone that wants to retire and do nothing...as you said, I want the freedom to do the things I want to do. Sure, I can do some of those now, but a 9-5 plus drive time eats the majority of the day and the rest of the time is left to balance a lot of interest and family.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Papa. I'm glad the post resonated with you. We each have our own needs, so Mrs IS and I try to design that life to meet our needs. So far so good. Good luck on your journey!
      -Bryan

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  4. Income surfer I love your definition here of "Flexible Independence." Rather than aiming for the extreme end of the spectrum of FIRE, you are doing what works for you and makes you happy. That's as good as it gets in my book.

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    1. Thanks for the support DE. We've had 5 great months so far, and hardly any regrets. Life is good, and flexibility is great. I hope your week is going well
      -Bryan

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  5. In essence you have set your own goal and are striving. A true spirit of freedom is to be able to define your own destination on your journey. Thanks for sharing!

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