party confetti happy

We published our first blog post on September 14th, 2018. Happy first birthday (or blogaversary) to The Fioneers!  

In this time, we’ve published 53 posts (not including today’s), totaling 132,563 words! 

When I see that, all I think is “BIG NUMBER!” 

Since I have no frame of reference for what this actually means, I decided to do a bit of research.  What I learned was surprising. 

We have written more words on The Fioneers than J.K. Rowlings wrote in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, which comes in at only 106,821 words. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice falls short at only 122,685 words. We even leave the Neverending Story in the dust, which, surprisingly, only has about 96,000 words.  

If I include the words from this post, we have achieved Lord of the Ring levels, matching the 3rd book, The Return of the King, which clocks in at 134,462 words.  

I also learned that anything above 110,000 words is considered an epic. 

As I reflect on our first year of The Fioneers, my main takeaway is that writing is an incredibly powerful tool. 

Writing can be used to share experiences and impact the world around us. Even more incredible is how it can transform the writer. 

Writing helps me to articulate my own worldview and philosophy of life. After spending a full year figuring out how to express my thoughts in writing to people around me, I have a stronger sense of self than I’ve ever had before. I know what I want, and I have a plan to achieve it. 

Top 10 Posts from our First Year

As we reflect on The Fioneers’ first year, we have decided to share our 10 favorite posts. In these posts, you’ll see more about our philosophy about money and life, ways we’ve applied traditional financial independence concepts to our own lives, and our journey toward Slow FI.  

For newer readers, this list will give you a fuller picture of our background, experience, and journey toward financial independence so far.  

For longer-time readers, I hope you enjoy seeing which posts were our favorites and catching up on any you might have missed! 

1. Slow FI: The Real YOLO

This post is the best articulation of the Fioneers’ Philosophy thus far.  

Being a Fioneer is not about sacrificing your quality of life to retire as quickly as possible. In fact, early retirement is not actually our main goal. 

Our primary goal is happiness.  

“Slow FI: When someone utilizes the incremental financial freedom they gain along the journey to financial independence to live happier, healthier lives, do better work, and build strong relationships.”

Financial freedom is not all or nothing. Instead, it’s incremental, and we can grab hold of it along our journey to financial independence.  

This approach allows us to see life as a many stage journey where we can make small (and large shifts) to improve our lives all along the way.  

“The ultimate goal [of Slow FI] is full financial independence, but the focus is on making the journey as remarkable as the destination.”

Since we only live one life, I’m going to focus on finding the right balance between planning for the future and making shifts to improve my life along the way.  

2. My Ideal Life: How FI Gives you Options 

I credit members of the financial independence community with opening my eyes to lifestyle designs and possibilities I would have never considered.  

Through engagement with this community online, I saw people living their lives in very different ways. 

Some people were doing long-term nomadic international travel. Others were traveling around in an RV (or sailboat). Still, others were using geographic arbitrage to allow their money to stretch further in places like Latin America or Southeast Asia.  

Ecuador Travel Church

I saw people moving to locations of their choice, becoming entrepreneurs, taking a semi-retired approach to life by working for a portion of the year or taking a mini-retirement.  

Before I started this pursuit of financial independence, I would have never thought any of these lifestyles were possible for me. Thinking about big dreams just made me feel depressed. 

I had assumed that everyone started out their lives with big dreams, were disappointed when they realized they were expected to work full-time for 40 years and figured out how to deal with it. 

“Through learning about the lives of so many of the early Fioneers, I’ve learned that when people are Financially Independent the world opens up for them. The choices available are beyond what I thought existed or were within my grasp.”

Now that I’ve been exposed to these different options and understand the mechanics behind achieving them, creating big goals feels energizing.  

3. Financial Independence in a HCOL Area

While we’re on the topic of busting myths, here is one of my favorite posts that Corey (Mr. Fioneer) wrote this year.  

It seems like most people unquestioningly believe that you can’t reach financial independence in a high cost of living area. This is a myth. 

While each person’s situation is unique, we’ve actually found the opposite to be true.  

“The idea that a high cost of living area could fast track a journey to financial independence is counterintuitive.”

Living in Boston has accelerated our path to FI. How? We attribute this to having access to higher-paying jobs and more job options. 

Boston City Skyline buildings water

Because there are so many employers looking to compete for talent, this drives up salaries and means that people spend less time unemployed between jobs. In fact, we also know that employees typically receive larger pay increases by job-hopping. When there are more companies and jobs available, there are more opportunities to change jobs and receive larger salary increases.

However, even if living here did not accelerate our path to FI, we’d still live here because we love Boston. We’re close to everything. Public transportation is steps from our front door. We have great friends in the city. Living in Boston helps us to live out our philosophy of focusing on the journey.  

4. How I Increased My Salary by 100% in 4 Years

While increasing my salary at work is no longer my focus, I do have a lot to say on the subject.  I’ve read a number of articles about salary negotiation, and I always felt like I had something new to add.  

Since I work in human resources for my day job, I have negotiated salaries from both the employee and employer perspective. This gives me the inside scoop on what people actually need to do to receive a salary increase.

The main reason that we’ve been able to embrace Slow FI is that we focused on increasing our income earlier in our careers. Therefore, I wanted to share everything I’ve learned with others so that they can build a strong financial foundation that will allow them to take advantage of incremental financial freedom along their journey.  

Given that a lot of people are asking me for help with a salary negotiation, I  am considering creating a course or a coaching business focused on career advancement and salary negotiation, so watch for that in the coming year.  

5. Financial Independence in One Word: Enough

This was another great post by Corey. In this post, he shares about his experience buying more and more. As a teenager with a job, he always used his disposable income to buy new and better “toys” and filled up his space with stuff. 

When he was introduced to financial independence, he began to think differently. 

Rather than staying in this cycle of earning and consuming, he began to interrupt it with the concept of “enough”. This concept can be applied to both stuff and time.  

When we start to make the connection between time and money, we realize three things:

  1. What actually makes us happy
  2. If we prioritize our spending on things that make us happy, we don’t need as much money to live on
  3. Saving and investing our money allows us to buy back our future time  

“There are stories of individuals going to extreme measures to achieve FI in a short period of time that may confuse the purpose on the surface, but deep down and beyond all of the noise, it’s all about the security and freedom that comes with having enough.”

Once we internalized this concept, it helped us to curb lifestyle inflation and consumerism. It’s not that we don’t ever spend money; we just try to prioritize and spend it on things that add value and happiness to our lives.  

6. We Live in a 1,000 Square Foot Mansion

This is one of my favorite posts because it puts this concept of “enough” into action. 

We currently live in a 1,000 square-foot condo in Boston. For a long time before pursuing FI, we thought of this as a “starter home.” We thought we’d upgrade at some point to a single-family home or build out the 3rd floor into an extra bedroom and bathroom.  

“For the longest time, there was a little voice in my head that would tell me that we could afford to have a bigger home, with more of life’s luxuries. Reversing this script in my head started with understanding how my own personality and experiences have shaped my perspective.”

Once we internalized the concept of “enough,” we realized that we rarely use all of the space that we already have. While we enjoy having a second bedroom so we can host family and friends, we really don’t need a 3rd bedroom at this point in our lives.  

We’ve been able to shift our mindset from seeing our condo as our “starter home” to somewhere we are likely to stay for the foreseeable future.  

7. F-You Money: It’s a State of Mind

The rest of the posts we are highlighting walks you through some of both the challenges and key learnings I experienced throughout the year, starting with my post about F-You Money.  

Learning about the concept of F-You Money was very eye-opening for me. I hadn’t been involved in managing finances for most of our marriage, and I didn’t really understand our financial situation.  

Last summer, I hit a breaking point at work and started having regular panic attacks. I had just learned about F-You money a few weeks before, so I was able to dig into our financial situation to understand the impact of taking time off work.  

Through this experience, I realized that we already had a significant pot of F-You Money. What I needed to do was to utilize the financial freedom it provided to get better and decide what to do next. 

“F-You Money is having enough cash on hand in an emergency fund or liquid investments to walk away from an employer or another bad situation for a period of time, whether that be a few weeks to a few years… I don’t literally mean that I would verbally say “F-You” to someone. I mean that I’m taking an action that’s good for me, regardless of the consequences for the person or thing that is contributing to my unhappiness.”

Because of this knowledge, I was able to take several months off of work to get better. Then I ultimately decided to quit the high-paying job that was causing me stress.  

It’s important to build up your F-You fund because we don’t know when something will shift in our lives where we’d need to use it.  

8. Why I Accepted a Part-Time Job on my Path to FI

After quitting my high-paying stressful job and having a better understanding of our financial situation, I began to think about what I wanted to do next.

My anxiety had improved significantly, and I wanted to see even more progress, so I decided to pursue part-time jobs.  

Making this decision was simultaneously one of the hardest and best decisions that I’ve ever made.  

It was hard because of the baggage I was carrying around from experiencing sexism throughout my life. I had previously thought that feminism meant that I needed to work twice as hard to advance in my career so that I could pave the way for other women.  

Taking time off of work allowed me to work through my distorted views of feminism.  

Once I realized that feminism actually means that I get to choose to do whatever it is I want to do, the decision to work part-time felt right.  

“I now realize that working toward what I want is the ultimate feminism. I will choose to do what I want to do, not what is expected of women and not the opposite of what was once expected of women.”

I wanted to focus on my health, having more balance between my work and personal life, and being able to focus on things I enjoy outside of work.  

9. Busyness is Not a Virtue

The transition to working part-time was tough for me at first.  

I didn’t want to be working more, but I felt like I should be working more. I was sure I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, so I decided to dig into the research. 

pedestrians people busy

Busyness is extremely pervasive in our culture. Working long hours is incentivized. Having a full social calendar is a signal of higher status and wealth.  

“Without realizing it, we often buy into the cultural narrative that busy equals success, importance, and value. When we do, being and feeling busy makes us feel ambitious. It makes us feel important, valued, and worthy… When we buy into this cultural narrative, the opposite also feels true. We can become insecure about our idle time. If we aren’t busy, does it mean that our lives are meaningless? That we are lonely? Not successful? Uncool?”

Even though I was working part-time and actively trying to slow down my life, I was still subconsciously buying into this myth that busyness equals social value. When I didn’t feel busy, or, even worse, bored, I felt undervalued. Not only did I feel like people were judging my decisions, but I was judging myself.  

Once I realized that I was still holding onto this belief, I was able to let it go and embrace my desired slower pace of life as a positive thing. If we were able to let go of this myth that busyness equals value, I think we’d all be happier and healthier. 

10. Slowing Down for a Better Life

When I originally decided to work part-time, I started out working 24 hours/week with a plan to go up to 30 hours/week part-way through the year.  

In this post, I both announced that I wouldn’t be going up to 30 hours/week, even though it would lengthen our timeline to reach FI by a couple of years.  

Making the decision to slow down our FI timeline was challenging to make. I realized that it wouldn’t be so hard if there were more examples of people making unconventional decisions to improve their lives.  

Because of this, I decided to start the Slow FI interview series. To help others be able to make better decisions for their lives, I wanted to identify and amplify stories of people who were making deliberate decisions to slow down their journey to FI that would improve their lives along the way.  

“I’m making it my personal mission to identify and amplify the stories of brave, courageous people who are making unconventional decisions that go against the grain to improve their lives.”

Since this announcement, I’ve done 8 interviews on a wide range of topics, such as working part-time, taking mini-retirements to travel the world, quitting side hustles, taking a semi-retirement approach to life, choosing lower-paying work that you’ll enjoy more, or becoming self-employed.  

I’ve learned a lot about what I want out of my life from hearing the stories shared in these interviews. I look forward to continuing to share stories of people taking unique approaches to life. 

I’ve also begun to think about adding interviews of people who chose to retire early, what they learned in the process, and what they would have changed if they could do it again. Many early retirees are urging us to slow down and enjoy the journey, so I’d like the amplify those voices as well.  

Looking Ahead to Year 2 of The Fioneers

I have no idea what we will learn in the next 132,000 words on The Fioneers. 

We will continue to publish weekly content that will hopefully continue to inspire you on your journey to financial independence. We are considering creating more tools and resources to help you achieve your goals.  

I am also looking forward to engaging with this incredibly supportive community. I know that I will continue learning from your stories and experiences. I’m excited to see what year 2 will bring.  

We’d love to hear from you about what you are learning! Leave us a comment below, reach out to us through our Contact Us page (link) or by email – thefioneers (at) gmail (dot) com. 

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