Partial financial freedom means flexibility, skills, and choices. Don’t underestimate its power to change your life!
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If you’re on the road to financial freedom, it can feel discouraging when you see how far you are from your ultimate goal. However, I’ve got some good news – even partial financial freedom can be very powerful. Every dollar of your living expenses that you replace via your investments gives you that much more flexibility and choices.
My experience with partial financial freedom
I started buying real estate about 3 years ago as a full time surgeon. Over this time, my portfolio has grown to 26 units of rental property worth about 6 million dollars. I’m working on my quarterly Anno Darwinii update so you can see my income from the property on a more granular level. But in the interim, I wanted to discuss how the real estate has changed my life.
When I started investing into real estate, it was for the express purpose of accelerating my path to financial freedom. That’s basically the purpose of this blog and my social media, by the way. I want this blog to accelerate your path to financial freedom as well. Be it from real estate investment or just mindful spending habits, I hope I can help you get there faster.
But over the last few years, I’ve also realized that financial freedom isn’t black or white. The benefits start to accrue well before you’ve reached that final goal of being able to live off the income from your portfolio. It’s a phenomenon that’s similar to the benefit you get from the increased net worth you see as your brokerage account and overall financial situation improves over time.
What do I mean by this? First, let’s take a closer look at how close my family is to financial freedom.
How close are we?
In an ideal world, with all of our properties performing well, we estimated last year that we could expect around $150,000 of cash flow. In Los Angeles, based on our annual spending, this would have covered less than half of our spending. When I consider our spending, I include things like student loans and investment into brokerage accounts for our kids’ 529 educational accounts and my Roth IRA. This is in addition to the obvious expenditures like the car payment for my Tesla and the monthly payment for our primary mortgage and credit cards.
But admittedly, we lived pretty large in Los Angeles. This is why I’ve always been aiming for a moFIRE (morbidly obese) level of financial freedom. MoFIRE entails spending of over $200,000 in retirement, which is double the expected spending of the more common “fat FIRE”.
It’s important to me to have enough money to cover not only basic needs, but also lifestyle things that we enjoy, like restaurants and travel.
In regards to the rental portfolio, we’ve had our fair share of challenges getting these properties stabilized this year. But I still consider us about halfway to financial freedom based on our Los Angeles lifestyle.
Also, this isn’t really counting our investments in the stock market via our taxable brokerage accounts and the passive income we could expect from retirement savings.
Things have changed recently
As my regular readers know, my family’s current situation is really different now. Last month, we uprooted from our SoCal lives and flew across the United States to Memphis, TN. Our housing costs have decreased, our fuel costs are lower, and even things like private school tuition are lower than Los Angeles. There’s also no state income tax in Tennessee.
So I think it’s likely that we’re closer to financial freedom than we were before.
With time, I’ll be able to analyze this in greater detail and share the delightful geoarbitrage data with you. But given what I’ve seen so far, even if we have very few lifestyle changes, I think our overall spending should decrease in many different ways.
Read more: The Amazing Power of Geoarbitrage
Our monthly income is going to nose dive
As I mentioned previously, my wife is stepping into a really exciting role in Memphis. Her income level will largely stay the same.
It’s a different story for me. I was making over half a million dollars a year as a urologic surgeon in Southern California. Given the move to Memphis, my income from medicine in the coming year will likely be cut in half, if not more. I doubt I’ll make much money from medicine at all for the rest of 2022, due to licensing delays and my still looming employment choice.
As I’ve mentioned before, my job in California wasn’t perfect. I had a god-awful commute and hated the overnight call. Despite this, I still struggled mightily with this decision before I ultimately decided to support my wife’s career.
But the substantial real estate portfolio we’ve acquired made the decision much easier.
Partial financial independence means flexibility
We currently reinvest every dollar from real estate back into our portfolio. It covers things like sewer line issues, renovations, and roof repairs. But it’s immensely comforting to know that if we needed to, we could siphon off some of that money to help support our living expenses. The real estate is like having an extra emergency fund, nest egg, or retirement fund.
That knowledge, plus the certainty of my wife’s income, made the decision to move to Memphis a lot easier. Without the financial security of the real estate business, I honestly don’t know if we would have been able to make this leap.
Partial financial freedom means skills
Furthermore, the income from cash flowing assets is only one part of the equation. If you’ve attained partial financial freedom, it’s because you’ve invested time and effort into creating cash flow. There are a million and one ways to do this outside of real estate, for example: stocks, a service business like coaching, or a product business like selling on Amazon.
Although the cash flow from your side gig is very valuable, the skills you develop from building that cash flow is even more valuable. Those skills are what will allow you to rebuild if catastrophe hits and you’re forced to start over from ground zero. This is in addition to the higher level of financial literacy you inevitably gain by getting involved in business.
And for my readers who are professionals like doctors or engineers, these skills are likely outside of your current job. They’re your secret superpower that will pave your path to financial freedom and early retirement (if that’s your goal).
Read more: The 3 simple steps to achieve FIRE
If you’re on the path to financial freedom, it’s easy to get discouraged. Building streams of income takes effort, but it mostly just takes time. But I hope my experience illustrates that even partial financial freedom is very powerful. The strength of our rental properties has allowed me to forge my own path even though we haven’t fully realized our ultimate goal of financial independence.
Partial financial freedom can allow you to take risks in your career and life that you wouldn’t have otherwise had the courage for. So don’t get discouraged if you’ve got a ways to go. You’re making real progress towards your life goals and full financial independence.
— The Darwinian Doctor
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