My husband and I are very different people, but we have many things in common. One of the biggest similarities is that we’ve always wanted to live an exciting life.
We want our lives to be a story filled with adventure and excitement, and also have real meaning. We want our lives to count for something that’s bigger than ourselves, but also something that is different and unique.
We’ve always wanted to accomplish something about which people would tell stories – and do so not for an egocentric reason or a search for fame (if anything it’s far from that), but the thrill of doing something different.
The best concept that I can use to describe these aspirations is the American pioneers from folklore. Think of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, two iconic figures that represent the exploration of a new frontier. While the historical representations may differ significantly from the legends, these stories are compelling not because they are factual, but because of what they represent.
According to Merriam-Webster, a pioneer is:
“a person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought, activity, a new method, or technical development.”
In our minds, pioneers do that and so much more.
Pioneers have a bold vision to do the extraordinary. Pioneers are on a quest for something that others believe is not possible or out of reach. Pioneers bravely travel uncharted territory. Pioneers live their lives in unconventional ways and eschew social norms.
And perhaps most importantly, pioneers have a passion for the journey, not just the destination.
Despite all of my best intentions to create a life that meets this goal of being original and exciting, my husband and I have found ourselves far from that goal.
We’ve created an intentional life of giving back. After getting married, we moved to a third-world country to teach English, and over the past decade, we’ve held various jobs of giving back to the community, often working for nonprofits (as we currently do). Despite this, our lives were supposed to be about more than just the 9-to-5, Monday through Friday grind.
Yet, that is where we find ourselves. An aspired life of intentionality, purpose, and meaning has slowly evolved into a conventional story.
While a few of the details are different (namely the tax status of our employer & our motivations), our recent life story has turned into the one that we have tried to avoid.
This story, which will be documented on this site in the coming months is about our commitment to redefining our lives. This site will follow our personal journey, but it’s about more than us. It’s about the bigger concept of taking back control.
A New Frontier
Our story is also about using this concept of the American frontiersmen as a lens to both help understand and redefine our lives.
We grew up believing that pioneers were a thing of the past, but now there’s a new frontier to be explored. It’s not one of geography nor one of invention.
Pioneers are often associated with the new life or opportunity that they are pursuing. But they also look critically at the world as it is and decide that it’s worth pursuing a change, even if the journey will be arduous.
Both a desire for adventure and a belief that life can be better than they know it now.
A push and a pull.
The same is true for our story.
Like these pioneers, our story starts in a world where people throw away their freedom without even realizing it. A world that needs change.
In pursuit of happiness (and for a mixture of other reasons that we’ll explore in more depth), we see those around us spend beyond their means and collect more than they need. They own their things and their things own them. They become servants to the possessions, which pushes them to work longer hours, typically in a job that they do not enjoy, or worse yet, despise.
Without realizing it, life becomes a sequence of:
- Wake up
- Go to work
- Get home from work
- Recover from work
- Get ready for bed
- Get up, do it all over again
And of course, there are 1-2 days a week (or 1-2 weeks per year on vacation) to do the other chores or have some sort of social life.
Without realizing it, life becomes miserable. And worse yet, there seems to be no end to this vicious cycle. We know this to be true because, despite our best intentions, we have found ourselves in this cycle.
However, there is another way to live. There is a new frontier to be explored.
This new frontier shows us that money is a tool that can be used in different ways. It can be the whip that keeps us on the consumption treadmill, or it can be a hammer that helps to build a life of freedom, meaning, and fulfillment.
This new frontier is Financial Independence (FI).
What is Financial Independence?
Financial Independence (FI) is a financial term that describes having enough assets saved to fund a lifestyle indefinitely. And while FI is a financial term, there’s so much more packed into its definition (we also defined financial independence using just one word).
Financial Independence also means that you have the freedom to pursue a life that will provide you with meaning and purpose, whether that’s spending more time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies and projects that you are genuinely passionate about, volunteering or working to make the world a better place, and/or living a healthy, more balanced life.
You might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how do you achieve it?” We’ll talk more about this in the future – after all, we can’t answer all of these questions in one post, and to be fair, we’re still figuring it out ourselves – but let’s start by stating it very simply.
Financial independence is when you no longer need to work for money because the income from your investments can cover your living expenses.
This may sound a lot like retirement, but this is much different – at least from retirement in the traditional sense. Retirement is often thought of like a 20-30 year window of your life when you quit the 9-to-5 grind and gives you some free time to do what you want. To put it differently, it’s the time towards the end of your life that allows you to seek happiness, almost as if it is a reward for all of the up-front hard work that you put in over a 40-45 year career.
Work hard now. Pursue your dreams later.
This is the message that most of our society embraces.
But again, there is another way to live.
By making changes to engineer your life, you can not only speed up the path to financial independence but find happiness in that process.
To be clear, this frontier isn’t another California gold rush. It is not a get-rich-quick or a magic pill to make it all better. It will be a difficult and trying journey, but we believe it will be worth it.
We’re Not Alone
Did you know that Daniel Boone became a pioneer because he had heard of the land filled with an opportunity from earlier settlers? Where is this in American folklore? The takeaway from this for me is it’s not so much about being the first to do something, but the actual adventure of doing it.
Just like Boone, we haven’t come to this new frontier on our own. There are some early explorers in FI (AKA, early Fioneers) who are already blazing the trail ahead of us, showing that this can be possible within a few years. We’ll dive into the contributions that have been most inspiring to us in future posts. While their work has been transformational for us, there is still so much uncharted territory.
As with any new way of life, it’s easy to lose balance. Many of the early Fioneers get so focused on their goal that they speak of FI only as a destination and some end up sacrificing too much along the way. Still, there are others who get so fed up with life as we know it, that they decide to follow their passions now, no matter the future consequences.
We believe that FI is best understood as a pioneering journey that requires courage and vision to create a new way of life. This vision is as much about creating a fulfilling and meaningful life along the journey as about making our way to the destination and beyond.
Both a destination and a journey.
Our Journey to Financial Independence
For us, this is the beginning of our journey in pursuit of financial independence. As Fioneers, we don’t know yet what this journey to FI will look like – we embrace the ambiguity and uncertainty. To put it plainly, there are many paths to financial independence and it’s too early to say how we will get there and what there will look like.
But we do have a basic sense of what the future holds, so let’s start there.
We are embarking on this journey as Fioneers, knowing that the journey is just as important the destination.
That’s another way of saying that we aren’t going to sacrifice our happiness now for a reward later. We could do that by being super frugal, investing all of our savings, and living an ultra-simple life.
There will be some elements of frugality (like how to drastically cut our grocery bill), but it’s important to not lose sight of the end goal: a better life.
To fall victim to this extreme would lead us into a similar path as traditional retirement (work hard now, pursue your dreams later), albeit with a faster timeline.
Many in the FI and early retirement community are already encouraging those pursuing FI to think not only what they are retiring from but to focus more on what they would be retiring to, with the guiding question,
“What would you do if you didn’t have to work for money?”
This question – this search for passion, meaning, and what energizes us – will be our compass on this journey because, for us, the journey is as important as the destination.
There is much ground to cover. We invite you to be fellow travelers, or better yet, Fioneers.