Financial Independence Is Both A Journey And A Destination

It’s been said that life is a journey, not a destination. I believe that to be true. Always planning for tomorrow and keeping your eye on the future will give you a lack of appreciation for the moment at hand. I am sometimes guilty of this, as planning for retirement before the age of 40 takes a great deal of thought, vision and fortitude. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy my days or that I’m somehow unhappy because I’m choosing to pursue financial freedom so early in life. Rather, it’s the opposite: I’m extremely happy knowing that I’m hastening gratification in life because I’ll have all my time to myself at such an early age.

I’ve received many emails and comments from curious readers as to why I would want to “sacrifice” 12 years of my life so that I can retire by 40 years old. Who would want to suffer for such a significant period of their life only to really start living at a future date? That makes no sense to me. Hopefully this post will dispel some of those crazy notions.

I believe financial independence is both a journey and a destination.

Certainly I’ve had to live well below my means for the last three years. At first it was a struggle to sell my car and get by in a small city by bus and bicycle. It wasn’t easy. There were many days when I was riding my bike home in the pouring rain (we get crazy afternoon thunderstorms here in Florida), getting weird looks as onlookers would gawk at me as they whip by me in their shiny Cadillacs and Audis. Days in the beginning were trying, and I sometimes wondered if I was doing the right thing. I didn’t have a lot of money saved up and coming home soaking wet after a long bike ride home only to sit down and eat some mac n’ cheese was tough!

But after doing it for a few months I started to see the beauty in it. Life became an adventure. It wasn’t just wake up, get in my car, find the closest parking space to the door, clock in, work, get back in my car, avoid other drivers and people, ignore the scenery, set myself on autopilot, get home, eat dinner….wonder why I was so broke.

That game was over! A beautiful, new life had sprung up in its place. One where getting to work and getting home actually became an adventure. What time would the bus show up today? Early? Late? Don’t know…better get to the bus stop with time to spare. The bus ride became a time where I could get a nap in before work in the morning, and watch the scenery with gusto on my way home in the evening. No more worrying about gas prices or traffic. Hmm, I guess this isn’t so bad after all.

Moving across town to a cheaper apartment sucked at first. I was living in a gated community when I first came down to Florida – suckered in by the beautiful landscaping and heated resort-style pool. But a sucker I am not. The girlfriend and I moved a couple miles down the road to an apartment that was over 25% cheaper and closer to the bus line. Hmm, no car payment and now a cheaper rent bill too? Now the money is starting to roll in. The benefits are becoming clear. You mean I get to still live in a nice apartment with modern luxuries like air conditioning, running water, electricity, all the appliances one could need to live a life fit for a king and also save money on top of it? Where exactly is the sacrifice?

I’ve since developed some wonderful talents as the journey to financial independence has become fuller and more enriching. 

I’ve learned I have a passion for writing, and the fact that this blog has grown in such an exponential manner is staggering and rewarding beyond my wildest dreams. To know that I can reach over 1 million people all over the world and inspire that kind of audience is, well, simply amazing. That is a part of the journey that I can only wish I had started earlier.

I’ve also fallen in love with investing, specifically dividend growth investing – whereby I invest the excess savings from my frugal lifestyle into high quality companies that have a history of rewarding shareholders via rising dividends. These rising dividends are of course backed by rising earnings, because the companies produce or sell products and/or services that people around the world want and/or need on a regular basis.

You see, the journey isn’t a sacrifice at all. I’m living my passion every single day. Every time I log onto Dividend Mantra and interact with you wonderful readers is a joy for me. Writing articles like this, inspiring people to change their lives is no sacrifice at all. It’s a wonderful journey towards personal growth. Researching wonderful companies, balance sheets, cash flow statements, income statements, annual reports, 10-K’s and the like is heaven for me.

But it’s not just the journey. It’s also the destination that makes the journey so fulfilling in the end. Certainly I’m having fun all the way to the finish line, but just like a runner in a marathon, the reward is in the run as well as crossing that line and knowing that you did it. You’ve accomplished something real and nobody can ever take that away from you. I’ve done some amazing things that have been a part of the great journey, but are just as much a part of the destination. I’ve built up my portfolio from $5,000 to over $100,000 in three short years. I did this on a middle class income because of persistence, consistency and a strong belief in what I’m doing.

The destination is there. I’ll cross that finish line one day. I’m currently 31 years old, so I have about 9 years to go. But don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t think I only concentrate on the future, not really living for today. I’m living out my passions today, while still knowing that I’m getting closer and closer to the destination of financial independence, which will only buy me more time to focus on the passions that brought me there in the first place. That means more time to research investments, more time to write and inspire, more time to be a better person and more time to try and make the world a better place. A wonderful destination, but an even better journey!

Make sure your journey to financial independence isn’t just focused on the destination. What makes you feel alive? What are your passions? How can you cultivate those passions now, while still marching towards financial freedom? Enjoying every single day is extremely important, and can be ever more enjoyable knowing that you’ll one day have much more time to do what you really love to do. Make the most of every day. Make the most of you!

How about you? Do you believe financial independence is both a journey and a destination?

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. says

    DM,

    I’ve been following you on this site for over a year now, and it’s been amazing seeing the progress you’ve made in such a short period of time!

    You’re right, it’s more than just the final destination… life is all about the journey. And it’s been awesome being able to share it with you, from afar. I use sites like this, and others for continual motivation on my own journey.

    Best of luck to you!

    • says

      FI Fighter,

      Thanks so much! I’m really proud of the progress thus far. It’s been an amazing ride so far. I appreciate the support. :)

      Life is definitely all about the journey. Constantly putting your life off for a tomorrow that may or may not come is crazy. I try to make the most of today, while still planning for an even brighter tomorrow. Because tomorrow will eventually become today.

      Best of luck with the new rental property!

      Best regards.

  2. says

    I do the same thing but a little different. I save 30% of my money no matter where it comes from ( a job, dividends, or interest). If I take my recyclables back for refund, 100% of that money gets saved. I currently invest all money giving to me for birthdays, Christmas or a tax refund and leave the option premiums in my brokerage account.

    If there is money left over at the end of the month, all that money is place in my brokerage account.

    I am thinking about possibly paying down the tax deductible debt some

    • says

      Investing Pursuits,

      That sounds like a great plan there. Saving 30% of your money is still about 10 times higher than the national average. Keep up the great work!

      I don’t know if I’ll always be able to maintain a 60% savings rate, but I do know that frugality will stay with me the rest of my life. That’s the great thing about living below your means. It teaches you what really matters in life, and allows you to keep perspective.

      Best wishes!

  3. Steve says

    It takes guts to go against the culture and live the lifestyle you’re choosing. It takes even more guts to post it on the net for all the world to see (and criticize!).

    I admire your courage. Keep up the good work. There may be a few who try to discourage you from your journey but most of us who read your posts are encouraged and inspired by it. Thanks!

    Steve

    • says

      Steve,

      You’re right. I guess it does take guts to not only live in this matter, but to also share it with the world. But I think that’s what’s so inspiring about it – it shows that this is all possible on middle class means. The proof is in the pudding.

      Thanks for the kind words and support. I’m just really happy that there is an audience out there that appreciates what I’m doing and enjoys what I bring to the table.

      Take care!

  4. says

    Great moves you did, man. I am still fighting over using a car to work or bike. The problem is that time to time I need a car at work and may times when I decided to walk or ride a bike someone called if I could go for a site visit. Gosh! And I had my car at home!
    But I like the idea and I am planning leaving my car at the office overnight.

    • says

      Martin,

      Biking, riding a scooter or using the bus isn’t applicable in all circumstances. I know for sure that I wouldn’t be able to live without a car if I was still back in Michigan. The climate isn’t favorable and the entire state is practically built for car use. That’s one of the reasons I moved here.

      But I think that the fact that you’re trying to make a change and use your car just a little less will pay dividends over time. Keep it up. :)

      Best wishes.

  5. Spoonman says

    I think my message is landing in the spam folder again =).

    This is a really nice article, hopefully it’ll give the naysayers some pause. As you so eloquently point out, there’s no real sacrifice here. Yes, there was a natural period of adjustment, but now you live in new normal.

    Just like you, I am an incurable planning-holic. I very much enjoy planning and exploring different corners of possibility space. My wife and I go for long walks and have a blast talking about all the different possibilities that await us when we achieve FI. Let’s call it a hobby of sorts. Having said that, we certainly enjoy the present. Our weekends are packed with activities and outings.

    This is another awesome article that should be archived under “for the skeptical friend”.

    • says

      Spoonman,

      I’m sorry about that. Not sure why that keeps happening??

      “New normal”. Great stuff there. I should have used that phrase in the article. You nailed it. Just like humans adapt to ever-greater objects and living circumstances, we adapt to (perceived) lesser conditions as well. In fact, when I was doing research on hedonic adaptation, the concept was originally researched using prison inmates and how they adapt to their new normal over time. Humans are resilient, and I’ve not only adapted but have become much happier in my current situation.

      I can only imagine the conversations you have with your wife. Your whole world is going to change in a few years. You’re going to have so many opportunities available to you, your head will be spinning! Fun stuff. :)

      Best wishes!

  6. says

    DM,

    You rock. You’re 100% right that it’s a journey. Live life both today and for your future. It’s a delicate balance.

    I know you’re living right today. Heck, I was down there. We walked around sweet, sweet Sarasota. We interviewed each other beach side. We sat down and ate at the best darn sandwich shop in town. We had fun. That’s a journey.

    You’re doing it right. Save all you can but remember that today is all you have. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

    Talk to you tomorrow,

    Kraig

    • says

      Kraig,

      Good talking to you!

      I’m with you. Planning for tomorrow does not mean skip the enjoyment of today. Like I was saying earlier, tomorrow will eventually be today. If you’re constantly living your life in a future that may not come to pass you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. While I greatly look forward to financial independence I also know that my life isn’t going to somehow magically be roses and rainbows. I’ll still be me. I’ll just have a lot more time on my hands. If I don’t know how to enjoy life and being me I’ll be in for a big disappointment. I enjoy today, while still greatly looking forward to tomorrow. Like you said, it’s a balance. :)

      Best regards.

  7. Anonymous says

    Great article!

    Being a dividend growth investor myself I’ve been reading your site almost from the beginning. I’ve seen you grow in confidence as a writer. At the start it was mostly metrics but the big idea was there — “living with purpose.” Now you’re able to get right out there with what it means to you to live with purpose! It’s a balance between being in the moment and imagining a still better future.

    Keep on growing!

    • says

      Anonymous,

      Thanks for the kind words there. I really appreciate that comment.

      I have tried to spread my wings a bit. I’m not a writer by trade, and this blog started out with relatively modest ideas and I wasn’t very confident anyone at all would enjoy what I had to say. The more success this blog has, the more I want to write and inspire.

      Life without purpose isn’t much of a life at all. And certainly while working for a living has value, I think there is much more purpose to my life than the old 9-5 till’ 65.

      Please stick around!

      Best wishes!

  8. Tobias from sweden says

    what are your thoughts on the canadian company Liquor Depot? ( LIQ.TO )
    6,1 % yield, understandable business and payout monthly.

    • gibor says

      I hold this stock for about 3 years and like it….every months dripping 1 more share… They operate in Alberta, BC, Alaska and Kentucky… places were people drink a lot :) (what else to do?!)
      Also, some provinces (esp. Ontario) started to discuss government demonopolization (not sure if spelled this ling word correctly :)) of alcohol sell. It can be very beneficial to LIQ.TO

    • says

      Tobias,

      I’ve never followed LIQ, but I did take a quick look at it just now.

      It has had negative revenue, EPS and FCF growth over the last 5 years. The dividend payout ratio is over 100% and the valuation (based on the 5-year average) is very high. The dividend hasn’t grown in years. I don’t see a compelling investment here.

      I hope that helps.

      Best regards!

  9. says

    DM,

    Loved this article. I don’t understand why some people want criticize because you’re not doing what everyone else is doing. My guess is it’s a combination of going against societal norms and at least deep inside jealousy for not being able to have the same kind of lofty goals.

    While there is some sacrifice in order to save and invest as much as you do, like you I don’t feel the sacrifice. I have a roof over my head, air conditioning, running water, electricity. The list could go on forever. Sure I could spend all of my excess and live it up a bit but would it really change the quality or happiness of my life? The year and a half that I was out of work was one of the happiest stretches of my life. Bills were covered. I got to spend lots of time with my then girlfriend now wife and I got to spend much more time with my family and friends.

    • says

      Pursuit,

      I agree. Sometimes living a life different than everyone else can cast you out. I don’t mind that, because living a life different than everyone else is exciting and adventurous. I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      You would know about living below your means. You save an extreme amount of your income and yet you’re happy and fulfilled. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

      I’m with you on that time off. I also had a lengthy break from work when I moved to Florida. I came here with a few grand and no job. I figured worst case scenario it would be a nice vacation. Obviously it worked out very well. However, that time off was amazing. And although I was happy when I landed a job a couple months after moving here, I secretly wanted to go back to having all my time to myself. I vowed to myself to get back to days of complete freedom as soon as I possibly could. And the journey started…

      Take care!

  10. stephanie says

    I think people are critical because their own lives are so out of whack. I’m on a similar journey as you and for me it’s mostly about controlling my spending, and being conscious of consumption. I have (until recently) followed the pack in life by spending everything I earn — it’s so easy to do! But it takes conscious control to end those habits. By early next year I’ll be mortgage-free, and saving 50-60% of my income, without feeling at all deprived.

    I think frugality looks odd to people because they’ve equated spending with enjoyment and entertainment. I find it fascinating that people think you can’t enjoy things without spending money! We’ve all been well trained by advertising in our culture to spend when we’re sad, and spend when we’re celebrating, spend when we want to take up a new hobby — to just spend all the time. It’s refreshing to hear from people who have woken up from this mindless cycle.

    • says

      stephanie,

      You made a great point there. Spending money does not equate to happiness. There’s a pyramid there where you have basic needs (food, shelter, water) on the bottom, then luxuries like air conditioning and a car one step up and then you go all the way to the top and you have Ferraris and mansions in Europe. But study after study has confirmed that once you have the basic needs met and a few luxuries thrown in for good measure, happiness doesn’t go up much. It’s the marginal utility of money. More and more and more will eventually drown you, rather than make you more happy.

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad that we are both off the mindless cycle. :)

      Take care.

  11. Anonymous says

    Took2summit here
    Off topic but I have NSC as a pretty big position and notice you do too. I am wondering your thoughts on their dividend increase. the 4% increase scares me. They only have a 35% payout ratio and an 11% 5 year EPS growth estimate, why only 4% increase? Seems as if they are not confident about something..I know they sometimes raise the dividend twice a year, so I hope this year is one of those and I hope the next increase is well over 6% in 2 quarters

    • says

      Took2Summit,

      I wasn’t extremely pleased with the recent raise, however I wasn’t overly disappointed or even surprised. Reduced coal volumes have hurt the company materially and they’ve had a hard time making that up with other shipments. Railroads are cyclical, and extremely sensitive to the overall economy. Due to that, I don’t expect NSC to raise the dividend by 6-10% annually like clockwork like Procter & Gamble or Coca-Cola. However, if this is the beginning of a trend then I’ll have to reconsider my position in the company.

      Also, this signals management is being cautious and prudent. Which I actually quite like. Coal volumes are down and the company is looking for ways to improve revenue. However, again, if this is a trend and next year looks no better than I may have to reconsider my investment thesis.

      Best wishes!

  12. Anonymous says

    Dear editor, have you considered freeganism at least for a few months? That would save few bucks more…life would be even bigger adventure! (I’m not referring to visits to the emergency room after eating something dodgy…but I recall you had a good health care insurance ;)

    • says

      Anonymous,

      That’s something I haven’t considered and probably never will. One amazing thing is that my dividends will likely cover my food costs for the rest of my life. So the way I see it, I’m eating for free anyway! :)

      Best wishes.

  13. says

    Awesome point, DM. I would love to be FI, but I don’t want to have to be miserable for 15 straight years to get there. It’s important to find a balance between wanting to be FI, but still being able to enjoy life currently. That balance is not always easy to find and is different for everyone. I think my wife and I will live as cheaply as possible while still enjoying our lives. I don’t want to spend unneccessary money, but I also want to have enough leway to enjoy life.

    • says

      Jake,

      Everyone has to find their balance. Right now I’m able to save ~60% of my net income. But that could change. The balance is probably a bit tilted towards the future right now, but as I pointed out above I enjoy today so much because many of the things I enjoy (writing, investing, fitness) are extremely cheap or free. However, I could lose my job or some other circumstance could shape my life to the point where my savings were not quite as high. And that’s okay. As long as you’re enjoying your life and responsibly saving for an even brighter future that’s all that really matters! :)

      Take care!

    • says

      Anonymous,

      Funny enough, OKE was high on my list for a purchase in August, as it was trading slightly below my cost basis (1 of the few positions I own that was cheaper than the price I paid).

      Of course, that changed today after the huge pop.

      I still think GE is a fair buy here. I like some of the Canadian companies, namely BNS, TD, RY, BCE, TU. The Canadian market has not performed nearly as well as ours over the last year or so. I was looking at BBL and RDS.B and both of them have popped quite a bit over the last week. KMI looks good here, but I’m already fully allocated. Not much out there that I find compelling. I think right now I’m simply trying to find reasonable valuations and not looking to knock it out of the park. I’ll simply avoid extreme overvaluation and stick to what I do best: finding high quality at a reasonably appealing valuation. We’ll see what August brings us, but I’ll likely mainly be focusing on energy, basic materials and some Canadian companies.

      Best wishes!

  14. says

    Investing, exercise, and my job are my passions. Yes, I love my job, a lot, so much that sometimes it is scary, what would I do if I lost it? I could probably find another one easily but what if I couldn’t, and this is why I invest. I invest for peace of mind, security, and to build a reliable passive income.

    It seems I save about 60% of my income every month(I just worked it out) and this is without really “cutting back” or anything. Some months the savings are smaller, maybe only 50%. I’ve _never_ had a budget either. If I had a budget I could probably save 70% or so, hmm, something to think about I guess.

    Great post as usual.

    • says

      The Dividend Guy,

      Hey, it’s great to be in a situation where you genuinely love your job. I’m jealous of you. I think you’re in a relatively rare situation, but that’s wonderful.

      Keep up the fantastic savings rate. Saving 60% of your net income on average without even trying is really amazing. I could probably push my savings rate up to 70% or so on a regular basis, but only after my income went up. My expenses are probably about as low as I can get them, as I’ve added on some expenses this year (mostly health insurance). Although once I pay off my student loan debt that will free up some room too.

      Keep up the great work! You’ll surely achieve FI in a fairly quick manner if you stick with it at that pace.

      Best wishes!

    • says

      Actually I just checked, and I only saved about 47% this past month, wow! I really do need a budget it seems!!!

      I’m going to work on one! You sir are an inspiration. Thanks:D

  15. Scoonie says

    Great stock pick with OKE! They just raised their quarterly dividend 6%, and their stock is up about 16% today alone. They had raised their dividend 9% back in January as well.

    • says

      Scoonie,

      I think I’m going to write an article about OKE today. That pop was rather unexpected and I’m actually a bit sad only because OKE was fairly high on my list for a purchase in August because it was one of the few investments I have that was priced below my cost basis. It looks like we have just another wonderful company trying to create shareholder value on our hands. Oh, woe is us. We investors in high quality companies sure have it tough! :)

      Best regards!

  16. gibor says

    DM, just was wondering…..don’t you plan to buy your own appartment/house? I hate to throw away $$$ to landlord… so buying house in every country I lived was my first priority… better to invest into your property…

    • says

      gibor,

      I don’t view owning one’s residence is a great litmus test for financial success, and actually some people would do much better renting and investing the excess capital that the spread between renting and buying offers. Of course, this varies from market to market as real estate is geographically hypersensitive.

      I wrote an article on this a little while back:

      http://www.dividendmantra.com/2012/04/do-you-own-or-rent.html

      But an even better article highlighting some of real estate ownership’s downsides can be found here:

      http://jlcollinsnh.com/2013/05/29/why-your-house-is-a-terrible-investment/

      We’ll see. I may still end up owning my own place, but it would more likely be a condo because I simply despise all the work that comes with owning a home. A condo, however, can offer the worst of both worlds, as it reduces liquidity and flexibility just like a house, while also sharing walls with potentially unfavorable neighbors. On top of that you buy into a shared investments with many other people that may not share your views on what it takes to run an operation successfully. Also, you’re still paying “rent” in the form of HOA dues.

      Best wishes!

    • gibor says

      DM, I’ve never heard about HOA dues…. We bought our detached house in sleeping area of great Toronto 1 month after came to Canada. We paid 232K. Now this house costs about 570-600K… We took mortgage linked to prime and paid it off in 7 years… Now we pay only property tax about $280/month and that’s it. If we were renting , until now we’d pay more than 200K just for rent and still won’t own any property and renting would live in apartment building with immigrants, “potentially unfavorable neighbors” and crime…And if you have kids, I wouldn’t advise anyone live in rented apartments.
      Just my personal opinion…. buy house, finish with mortgage and than invest….

    • says

      gibor,

      It sounds like you’ve done well with your home. I’m glad to hear it. Like I said above, real estate is very sensitive to local markets. And Canada has had a big run up in real estate prices over the last decade. There’s some talk that there’s a bubble up there, but I don’t follow the market closely enough.

      However, you have more than property taxes to contend with, correct? You’ll still have insurance payments, maintenance and repair costs as well. Plus there is the time involved to maintain the property, and time is money. Maintenance of a home is just nothing I’ve ever been excited about getting involved in. And real estate has historically done no better than inflation going back more than 100 years (here in the U.S.).

      Best wishes!

  17. says

    Go star gazing for 12 hours the first night you are FI. Go star gazing for me! Go star gazing for us all! As we continue to work, reduce, save, and invest, to join you brother! Then we can all enjoy the stars together!

    • says

      FYC,

      I’m with you. I look forward to the day when life slows down quite a bit, and taking time out of the day to enjoy the small things is possible. It’s been quite a long time since I just enjoyed looking around me, and that’s sad! Life is really beautiful, but we’re so damn busy to really see it.

      We’ll both get there one day!

      Take care!

    • says

      Aspenhawk,

      Thanks so much! Glad you enjoy the content here. Readers like you make it all worth it. :)

      Today was definitely kind to OKE and APD. OKE is doing some pretty exciting things. I’m mad I missed out on the opportunity to buy more shares in August, however. So many equities, so little capital! :)

      Best wishes.

  18. Anonymous says

    im pretty heavy into utility stocks I love it when someone pays there gas bill in New Jersey so I get my dividend check and pay mine in Utah I enjoy your blog

    • says

      Anonymous,

      I’m with you! I love owning a piece of wonderful businesses that sell products all over the world, and then send me a tiny piece of those profits every quarter. Every time someone buys a can of Pepsi in India or Shell gas in Europe I get a piece of that action. I love it!

      I get really excited just talking about it. :)

      Glad you enjoy the blog. I hope you stick around!

      Take care.

  19. says

    Hey DM,

    I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to take the path of FI. I came across your blog about two weeks ago and it really made realize I could retire early just like I had always hoped I could, but wasn’t sure if it was actually possible! Because of you I started out my own blog this week so I can have something to track my progress over the years!

    • says

      Kill the Grind,

      Glad you found the blog and found some inspiration here. That’s why I write! :)

      I’m excited for you. You’re starting a few years younger than me, and in better shape than I was. You’ll surely be sitting very pretty when you hit my age.

      Best of luck to you as you march towards freedom! :)

      Best wishes.

    • says

      NickD,

      Sounds like you have yourself a very sweet situation going on up there. Not sure if something like that is for me, but if you can deal with the elements and homesteading is something you can do that can be quite financially beneficial. Keep up the great work. I know of a lot of people that dream of doing something like you’re doing!

      Best regards.

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