If you reached FI by saving up $205,500, where would you invest that to guarantee it would produce $685 per month? I assume that would be in a taxable account since you’d be too young to pull funds from a tax-advantaged account, correct? But how, specifically, would you invest that amount of money to keep it safe and generating enough income to draw 4%?
You are suggesting that because the risk free rate of return is 2.5% anybody who is not obtaining that return is not invested “properly”. However, risk is a real thing and it affects investment returns, and everybody invests with different objectives in mind. I would argue that anybody pursuing financial independence that is 100% invested in ten year bonds is not properly invested because the return from that portfolio will likely only keep up with inflation (if that). Whereas somebody who is pursuing financial independence would be better served in a balanced portfolio including stocks, bonds and maybe other asset classes. This portfolio is more than likely to return less than 2.5% in any given year, but is a more “proper” asset allocation to meet his objectives than is investing 100% of the portfolio in 10 year bonds.
I retired at age 56 with budget/baseline FI, but I am now in blockbuster category (age 69). My investment accounts have done well and the house has increased in market value. Renting part of the home covers housing and transportation expenses, and my small pension covers basic living expenses. I withdraw money from investments for travel but reinvest most of the gains. I too am faced with heavy income taxes once I have to withdraw from tax deferred accounts. I have run spreadsheet projections for income, net worth, and income taxes to 2035 with various withdrawal plans and estimated net returns. Always come back to deferring tax as long as possible, spending down the taxable accounts first, while building up the tax-free account agressively. What I would do differently is learn to invest my own money at a younger age, buy a bigger better house at a younger age, and retire earlier.
The media often portrays financial freedom as an insurmountable task that requires decades of saving and investing. That’s sometimes true, but it’s beneficial to focus on each victory along the way. For example, most people could pay off all non-mortgage debt, and accumulate enough savings to find a new career that is enjoyable. Those are huge accomplishments on the journey to financial freedom that should be celebrated.
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At the most general level, economists may define wealth as "anything of value" that captures both the subjective nature of the idea and the idea that it is not a fixed or static concept. Various definitions and concepts of wealth have been asserted by various individuals and in different contexts. Defining wealth can be a normative process with various ethical implications, since often wealth maximization is seen as a goal or is thought to be a normative principle of its own. A community, region or country that possesses an abundance of such possessions or resources to the benefit of the common good is known as wealthy.
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Paying for a car repair without stress is just a small part of the picture. It’s more than just being able to afford emergencies. It’s knowing you don’t have to worry about retirement because you’ve worked with your financial advisor to invest consistently for decades. It’s the freedom to quit your J-O-B to do something you love, even if means getting paid less.