What is Financial Independence?

After spending so much time in this community, reading people’s stories, I realized that Financial Independence meant different things to different people.

According to Wikipedia FI is “is the state of having sufficient personal wealth to live, without having to work actively for basic necessities”.

But does FI mean for the people in FI community?

Let’s see.

According to this amazing article by Military dollar (What is FIRE? (Financial Independence / Retire Early) ,  FI is ” is the point at which your assets produce enough income for you to live off for the rest of your life without the need to work for pay.”

Imagine that for a minute, being at a point in your life where your investments generate enough money to cover your basic expenses( the 4 walls which are shelter, food, utilities, and clothing). Well for people who have already FIred it is a reality and despite having the freedom to quit their job and live a life abundance without having to subject themselves to the typical 9-5 job, some choose to continue to work, just like some choose to retire from the workforce to pursue other interests, whether it’s travelling, writing crime novels or simply raising their children. Other choose to turn their side hustle into a full-time gig.

Paige from the chooseFi group said “For me it’s about learning how to make money work for me, instead of me working for money my whole life. IF that leads me to early retirement great. If it just gives me room to breath, that’s great too.”

I think what Paige says here is spot on. In the FI community, we learn to save and invest our money so that one day, our dividends or other sources of income will provide for us, instead of us going to work 40 hours a week just so that we can pay our mortgage, car payments or fancy gadgets. It is the eat to live and not live to eat kind of philosophy.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t appreciate living in comfort and don’t enjoy lavish vacations but we tend to live more frugally than the general population. I have read about people who would downsize their home or who moved to a more affordable area just so they could put that extra money towards their investments and if you ask them, they have never happier than since the moment they decided to declutter their lives. 

Being FI is about optimisation, about doing extensive research whenever you are looking to buy a new item, wondering if we really need it, if we are going to use it, not just if can afford it.

I remember this MMM interview where he said ” ask yourself if that object you are about to buy is going to 1. make you happy 2. take away something negative from your life.

For example, I recently treated myself to a brand new pair of Bose QC 35. Money was not the issue, but I spent weeks if not months wondering if I should buy them or keep the ones I already had and invest the money in VTI.

Ultimately, I was able to make my decisions by answering those two questions : 1, yes they make me happy, I listen to a lot of music and podcasts every day and having this amazing sound increases the experience. 2. It does take away the pain that my old headphones cause because of my glasses, plus I am completely isolated from surrounding noise which for someone who is as sensitive to ambient noise and who has a vital need for frequent isolation, is a life changer.



Brian, from the choose Fi group, says “To me, FI is about maximizing lifelong happiness. 
For some, it’s a sprint to retire early, for others, it’s about enjoying the slow(er) road. Regardless, it’s about making conscious choices about time and money to maximize your happiness.”

Another pillar of the FI community is contentment. See FI, is not just about financial independence, it’s about freedom, about breaking free from shackles of consumerism, to refocus our lives on the simple things, the things that truly matter.

Erin says FI is  ” Financial integrity and life autonomy.” Financial integrity, now that is an interesting concept. 

People in the FI community will often thrive to make the most ethical or responsible choices, whether it is by biking to work to not only reduce costs but also to reduce pollution or by buying organic food at their local farmer’s market.

Reading this last paragraph, FI may appear to be quite eutopic, like a dream world but I can assure you that people in the FI community are well grounded in reality, if anything we often have a better grasp on the tough reality of the world we live in, which is precisely why we attempt to reshape this world to our own standards and judging by the number of FI blogs and the popularity of the various podcasts on the subject FIRE is catching and hopefully it will soon become the norm.


For more information on the pillars of FI, check out the amazing choose fi podcast, episode 21, here. http://www.choosefi.com/021-pillars-fi/


Author: expatonfire

I'm a 33 year old french woman and I currently live in Ireland. A few months back I had a near death experience that pushed me to reconsider the way I was living my life and to seriously think about my future, no more excuse and postponing things!

One thought on “What is Financial Independence?”

  1. Great descriptions. Unlike a lot of other things, FIRE is so much more about the “personal” side of personal finance, you did a really wonderful job highlighting that. Thanks.


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