Tag Archives: financial freedom

10 Years in a Life

Bronx River
10 years ago today, I turned 27 years old. I was working full time while attending law school part time. It was my fourth and final year of school and I was getting a little nervous. I would have about $90,000 of student loan debt, which included some loans from my undergrad, when all was said and done. Fortunately, I did have some money saved in retirement accounts and savings account since I had been working and saving. That amount, however, was dwarfed by the student loan debt. Life was a little stressful, but life was also very good. I was going out with a girl who would soon be my wife. I was preparing to go on a Rotary Group Study Exchange to Mexico for a month, while also preparing for the Bar Exam.

10 years before 10 years ago, I turned 17 years old. I had just gotten my learners permit and was hoping to learn to drive. Exciting times! I was in my junior year of high school and preparing to take my SATs soon. I was browsing through college catalogs wondering what school I’d end up going to. I wasn’t sure what I was going to study but the world was my oyster. I was optimistic about my future and thought that I had all the potential in the world. I also worked on the weekends and had some spending money. I dutifully saved some of that in savings accounts that my parents had opened for me. I had my eye on the future. Although my definition of future was my college years. I was looking forward to leaving high school and going to college.

And 10 years before that, I turned 7 years old. That was thirty years go and my memory is kind of foggy as to what was going on in my life. Luckily, I was frugal even back then, eschewing toys and saving my money and stickers for the future. I was 7 years old. Everything was possible. I could be President of the United States, but my dream was really to be the starting point guard of the New York Knicks. I dreamed of building a futuristic car since Knight Rider was one of my favorite shows and even made notes about what features it would have. I could have been a young Elon Musk!

Today, I have been working as an attorney for almost 10 years for the same employer. I work in the public sector so the pay isn’t the greatest but I do have really good benefits and the hours aren’t too bad. My wife and I have been married for about nine years and we have two wonderful boys ages 3 1/2 and 9 months. I have paid off over half of my student loans but there’s still a chunk left to pay. They are all ultra low interest rates so I’m not in a rush to pay them off, but I’ll try to throw some extra money at it when I can. Life is good, but pretty hectic with two little ones.

10 Years from now, I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing. I don’t have a crystal ball to tell the future. I hope to have reached financial freedom by that point, but I don’t know if I will, being that I don’t plan on leaving this high cost of living city called New York City. If I am still working, I’ll probably be with the same employer. The benefits and pension are golden handcuffs! My kids will be entering the teen/pre-teen years…that might be a rough phase! I don’t foresee being in the co-op that we bought as we will probably have outgrown it. What neighborhood will we move to? Will we opt to rent versus buy? I don’t know.

A decade. 10 years. 120 months. 3650 days. You can do a lot in that time span. It is a long enough time to accomplish pretty much any of your goals if you put your mind to it. If you are in debt, it is plenty of time to get out of the red and into the black. It is enough time to reach financial independence, according to the Groovies. Ten years is a long time, but 10 years goes by in a blink of an eye. Time flies. If you want to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be, you need to start now to work towards it. Where do you want to be in 10 years? What are you doing today to get there?

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Financial Freedom

credit: Flickr, Tony Fischer

credit: Flickr, Tony Fischer

Back in May, I went to Florida with my wife and our then almost 2 year old son. We just wanted to get away for a few days for some rest and relaxation, plus, we wanted to take advantage of not having to pay for our son’s airfare before he turned two. It was a little difficult for us New Yorkers to get accustomed to the change of pace, as we’re used to rushing around everywhere. One evening when we went out to dinner, my wife was grabbing some stuff from the car and was blocking a gentleman’s path to his car which was parked next to us. She apologized and said that she would just be a moment. He responded by saying, “don’t worry, I’ve got all the time in the world. I’m retired.”

I’m definitely envious of that. My normal schedule consists of drop-off and pick-up of my son, and in between is my 9 to 5 job and the hour plus commute each way. Then there’s dinner, dishes, maybe some TV and work on my blog (yea, I know I haven’t done much work on my blog), shower and sleep. The next day, I wake up and get to do the same thing all over again. Over the weekends, there are errands to run like grocery shopping, laundry, and visits to our parents. Sometimes with all the things on the “to do list,” I wonder where we find time to work! The last year or so, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with reading about those who have attained financial freedom/financial independence/early retirement. It would be amazing to have the time to do what I choose to do. For all the early retirement critics, it is not just have about NOT WORKING, rather it is about having the option to choose what to do with your time (which may include work, but work you enjoy or which is flexible).

During that trip to Florida, we also met a man who drove the trolley, busing guests to different parts of the resort grounds. He was excited to see my NY Giants t-shirt and said that he used to live in NY but that he is now “retired.” “If you’re retired, why are you working here?,” I asked. “I like working here, I get to meet people from all over the place and I enjoy it,” he responded.

Jim Collins wrote in a guest post of Mr Money Mustache: “It has never been about retirement. I like working and I’ve enjoyed my career. It’s been about having options. It’s been about being able to say “no.” It’s been about having F-You Money.”

I’ve noticed a lot more blogs and articles about people who have attained this elusive financial freedom at a young age, or who are on track to do so. It seems contrary to all the articles in the mainstream media which contends that most probably won’t be able to retire even at age 65. However, after reading the journeys of those who have attained financial freedom or who are about it reach that goal, I’ve realized that it is possible. I have never mentioned my goal of reaching financial freedom at a much younger age than the traditional age of 65 or even 55, which was always within reach for me as I luckily have a pension (though many of my colleagues still do not retire at 55 since they are unable to live on the generous pension amount). I want to reach financial freedom at age 45 in a little over 10 years. Yes, by April 2026 (before I turn 46), I want to have the option of not working if I choose not to. I have never mentioned this goal on this blog because I have many doubts about whether I can pull it off and I fear failure. But sometimes you need to have ambitious goals. “When you reach for the stars, you may not get one, but you won’t come up with a hand full of mud either.” – Leo Burnett.

One final anecdote from our trip to Florida. On the flight home, I overheard a little girl a few rows back crying. Fortunately, little LRC did pretty well on the flight. The little girl yelled to her mom, “I want to do what I want to do!” I chalked it up to a little girl’s temper tantrum, but then when I thought about it, she said what we all probably think inside. We want to do what We want to do. It’s just that we’ve grown up and realized that that just isn’t possible. But what if you found out that if you attain financial freedom, that sometimes, you CAN do what YOU want to do.

Are you doing what YOU want to do? Are you pursuing financial freedom?

Recommended reading:
Check out this inspirational cartoon which starts by saying, “Creating a Life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement.”

David Cain writes on his blog, Raptitude: How Much of Your Life Are You Selling Off?

Paula Pant is doing what SHE wants to do by designing her lifestyle to fit her passions

An attorney leaves her big law job to pursue her passion as an illustrator.

The blogger at Tawcan writes about his fight for financial freedom.

Justin from The Root of Good writes about how he has spent his 2 years of early retirement.

Going from Ordinary to Extraordinary


“I love it when a plan comes together” – Hannibal Smith from the A-Team

April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month, and Shannon from The Heavy Purse has invited many wonderful personal finance bloggers to write about “Getting Financial Real”. I am so excited that she asked me as well as many other wonderful bloggers to participate this Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival. Please check out Shannon’s post and the other posts by personal finance bloggers by clicking here.

I’m often amazed and inspired when I read about people who completely turned their lives around. They go from being deep in debt, struggling to stay afloat, to digging out of that mountain to become financially free. I’ve never carried a balance on my credit card (actually I did once, but only during the promotional 0% period), and have always been a frugal person who saves his money and lives within my means. The only debt I had was about $16,000 in student loans, but that’s okay, student loan is “good debt,” right?

The Ordinary
After graduating from college, I contributed to my employer’s deferred compensation plan up to the match which was 5%. I even opened an IRA account and contributed a small amount each month. I “invested” in the stock market, if you considering buying “hot stocks” I read about online to be investing. I lived within my means, but was still susceptible to lifestyle inflation. I was doing everything right according to the mainstream financial media. When I went back to graduate school part time, I added another $74,000 of student loan debt which totaled $90,000 in student loans. No worries, everyone says that it’s GOOD DEBT. However, I will say that the degree did increase my income potential and it ultimately was a good choice, but the student loan was a big financial burden. I extended my graduate school loan payments from a 10 year payoff plan to a 25 year payoff plan. I would be debt free when I turn 52! But once again, I didn’t worry since student loan is good debt and everyone I knew extended their payments. I patted myself on the back for all the great financial decisions that I made. I am glad that I was at least on the right financial path, but if you were to ask me whether I was “financially real,” I’d have to say “no.”

Shannon lists the Four pillars of Financially Real as follows:
1) Understanding your financial reality
2) Develop authentic goals that make your heart happy
3) Create a roadmap to guide and protect your idea life
4) Adopt an abundance mindset.

With #1, while I was doing a decent job saving money and not spending it frivolously, I really didn’t know where my money was going. I realized this when I was complaining to a friend about wanting to save more and getting ahead, but having a hard time because of student loans and the amount of money I spent on gas for my long commute. He asked me if I had a budget, I said, no. I didn’t think I needed one since I was living within my means. He asked me to do a quick mental budget calculation of my expenses, and when I did so, it dawned on me that I probably had the ability to save more than I thought.

As to #2, I only had vague goals of retiring at some point in time, traveling and buying a house. These goals seem far away and abstract. I wasn’t sure when it would happen, why I wanted those goals, just that those seemed like goals everyone has.

On to #3, I was always interested in saving and investing so I thought I had a plan, but it wasn’t a true blueprint or roadmap. It was just saving and investing for the sake of saving and investing. Not a bad thing, but not a roadmap.

Finally #4, I would say that I had a scarcity mindset rather than an abundance mindset. My main motivation for saving and being frugal was that I wanted to have more money and didn’t want to lose it. Also, while I was frugal, I was ashamed of it and thought that when I “made it,” I’d finally have the nice material things that everyone craves.

Journey to the Extraordinary
After I came to the realization that I lacked a roadmap and direction, I read and learned a lot from personal finance blogs. While we still do not have a monthly budget, my wife and I do track our expenses and determine how much we should be saving each month. Paula Pant from Afford Anything calls this type of budgeting the “easiest budget ever.” (We use Personal Capital to track our expenses and net worth which makes it a lot easier). We also paid off our high-interest student loan debt. Last fall, my wife and I bought a co-op, and I’d like to purchase a house in perhaps 6 to 7 years when we will likely outgrow our current space. I would also like to be financially independent in 10 years where I can continue working if I want, or leave and pursue other interests if I prefer that instead. Basically, I’d like to have the option of not having to go to work, and having my investments cover our expenses. My wife and I have ramped up our contributions into our 457 plans and Roth IRAs. We will hopefully be maxing it out at some point. We are also saving money in a 529 plan for our son. Recently, I’ve been looking into investing in rental properties. Finally, I’ve come to a realize that I am truly blessed with many wonderful things in life. I no longer think that being frugal is depriving myself because while money is important, it doesn’t buy you happiness.

Please share what motivated you to get real with your financial situation, the results and lessons you learned as you reclaimed your financial power.

Are You Afraid to Take the Leap?

Impala AdeFrias

“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” – Louise E. Boone

Impalas are majestic creatures that can leap as high as 10 feet in the air, and in one leap can travel 30 feet. That’s amazing! However, in captivity, when the impala is kept behind a fence that is only 3 feet high, it will not escape. Why? The reason is that their inability to see where they’ll land prevents them from making that leap.

I really enjoy watching Shark Tank, and I love the entrepreneurial spirit and passion of those who come on the show. Many of them left their jobs to devote their life to something they believe in. I truly admire those who were willing to take that leap in their career by leaving their jobs to do something they are more passionate about. J. Money from Budgets are Sexy and Holly and Greg from Club Thrifty took the leap and have successful blog(s) as well as other online businesses. Likewise, Shannon from Financially Blonde, left her job in Wealth Management to start her own company. She also wrote a blog post recently saying that she urges her mentees to be brave and to not fear the gap. Leaving a steady paycheck and working for yourself no doubt takes a big leap of faith. I haven’t yet found something that I’m passionate about which would also earn me an income, and my blog probably made less money in its almost 2 years in existence than I probably make in one day in my regular job. Though I know that working another 20 years at my current job is not something I see myself doing. But even if I find my passion, I question whether I’d have the courage to leave a steady paycheck and benefits.

I also admire those who were able to save up enough money to call it quits and leave the workforce at the prime of their earning years because they’ve decided there are better things to do with life than working until you’re 65. Justin from Root of Good quit his job at 33 and spends much of his time relaxing, learning new things, and spending time with his family. Jeremy and Winnie from Go Curry Cracker left their jobs in their 30s to travel the world. Who doesn’t want to have more time to do the things they want to do, to spend more time with their family, to learn new things, and to travel more. While I am no where near taking the leap into early retirement or early financial independence, I know that even if was, I’d be worried whether the money would last and what others would say about such an audacious plan.

Never let your fears get in the way of your dreams

In high school, my sister bought me a t-shirt that said “Never Let your fears get in the way of your dreams.” Those words inspired me and they appear next to my picture in my high school yearbook. I was young and the world was my oyster. Anything was possible! I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. Sometimes I miss the enthusiasm and confidence of youth. Although, I was always optimistic about the future at that age, I was also always risk averse and still am.

I am sure many of those who have taken that leap into the unknown have moments of panic and experiences of failure. Ultimately, no one has a crystal ball to see into the future. You do your research and your due diligence. You take calculated risks, but you take that leap. YOU TAKE THAT LEAP. Too often, many of us, myself included, will succumb to analysis paralysis where we overthink things and never do anything. Planning and being prepared is a good thing. But never taking action is not. So stop doubting yourself and do what it is that you know deep inside you were meant to do. Don’t worry if you fail. There are no failures in life, only life lessons. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

What’s holding you back from taking that leap?

Stop Being Time Poor

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by photostock

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by photostock

“Time Poverty is: When you don’t have the time to do the things you really WANT to do, because you are too busy doing the things you think you HAVE to do.”
-Bill Quain

In my last post, I wrote about how I don’t live in the moment and how I forced my wife and son to rush around the aquarium so that we could see everything. Well, the main reason I feel the need to rush all the time is because there just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything that I want to do. Many of us are overworked, our calendars and schedules are filled up, and we barely have much free time to spare. With money, I can be frugal and save it or be creative and find ways to earn more of it. You can’t really do that with time. No matter what you do and no matter who you are, you only have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. It’s not like the movie “In Time” where the rich and power have an infinite amount of time and those who are time poor are constantly trying to earn more time to live another day. So what can you do so that you aren’t time poor?

Good Time Management

While I said earlier that money and time are different, there are similarities in being a good manager of both. Erin who blogs at Journey to Saving wrote an interesting post on Young Adult Money explaining how you can budget your time like you budget your money. While I am not good at making budgets, I am good at making lists. However, lists only work if you actually use them. Don’t make lists with too many things where it’s overwhelming and none of them are accomplished. Also, make sure to prioritize so that the important things get done. Set deadlines for your lists so that it gets done by a certain date.


This doesn’t just apply at work, but in your personal life too. If you are overwhelmed, it’s okay to ask for help. Your spouse, your kids, other family members and friends are there for you. Some people may be perfectionists or want things done their way, but this often leads to being overwhelmed and not accomplishing their goals, so let go of some of that responsibility and ask for help.

Cut out the junk

Much like cutting out frivolous spending of your money, you can cut out frivolous spending of your time. We all spend a lot of our precious time on unproductive things like watching television, checking Facebook, playing games or aimlessly surfing the web, among other things. Sure, sometimes we just need time to do nothing or to just relax, but often times we spend too much time on these unproductive activities.

Saying “No”

This is a tough one for me as I am a people pleaser and have a hard time saying “no,” especially when “guilt bombs” are dropped. Many of us in the personal finance world have learned to control our spending impulses and have learned to say “no” to purchases that we don’t need. What’s a good tip for controlling our impulses when it comes to spending? Make a list of the things that are truly important to you. For me, the list does not include having the latest gadgets or wearing the trendiest outfits. For me, it’s playing with my son and doing things with my family so if I do spend, it will be on them. The same goes for time. Make a list of what is truly important to you and spend your valuable time doing those things that are high on your list, and try to say “no” to as many distractions that you can. Of course, you won’t be able to say no to everything, but there are plenty of things that you say “yes” to only because you feel a sense of obligation or guilt.

Financial Freedom

A few weeks ago during the holidays, I was off from work for about a week. I had so much to do during my week not working that I really don’t know how I fit work into my schedule! I haven’t really talked much about financial freedom, financial independence or early retirement. It is not something that I thought was possible until a few years ago when I started reading a forum dedicated to financial independence/early retirement. And then after starting to read Mr. Money Mustache, it really started clicking in my head that an early exit from the daily grind of working was indeed possible. It significantly changed my mindset about money and my actions. While I was always frugal, I stuck with what the mainstream media taught me: save up to your match in your 401K, open an IRA, retire at 65. I knew that being a government employee with the benefit of a pension, retirement at 55 was possible, but never did I think that “retiring” or should I say being financially independent was possible at 45, 40, or even younger! Work takes up a big chunk of your time. You probably see your co-workers more than you see many of your loved ones. Making an early exit from work to focus on your true passions sounds pretty good to me. I’m hoping to dedicate a post to this topic in the future.

What other ways can you “earn” more time?