Our journey towards financial independence

arrow on a tree pointing the way through the woods

It’s time I let you in on a secret. For the last five years or so, Mr Rixon and I have been followers of a growing movement across the world known as financial independence (FI) or FIRE (financial independence, retire early). Our goal is to save up enough money so that we can quit the rat-race long before traditional retirement age, and devote our time to the things in life that we truly enjoy.

It all started when Mr Rixon began reading a blog called Mr Money Mustache back in 2015. An early pioneer of FI, MMM retired from his day job at the age of just 30 through little more than being really, really sensible with money. We then went on to discover a small but vocal band of FI advocates extolling the virtues of FI and sharing advice with others on how to achieve it.

Why we chose to pursue FI

view of green fields, hedges and hills

Inspired, Mr Rixon and I asked ourselves whether we would like to join this community of free spirits. The answer was a resounding ‘Yes!’ We decided that although we both enjoy our work, we would much rather live without the constant stress and worry of deadlines, commutes and meetings. We decided that we did not want to live from weekend to weekend, while our muscles slowly turned to mush behind a desk, or to wait until we grew old to pursue our dreams.

Luckily for us, our dreams are not costly ones. We aspire to quit our London life for an outdoor lifestyle in Devon, involving long country walks, cycle rides, gardening, camping, wildlife conservation and building a treehouse.

Once we had agreed that FI was for us, the next step was to plan our route there. The key to early retirement is to save more money than you spend each month. FI followers recommend saving half your income or more and investing the rest into low-cost stock market funds, being sure to make the most of tax-advantaged accounts such as ISAs and pensions. Once you have saved up the magic number of 25 times your average yearly expenditure then you should be able to live off your savings indefinitely. You will then have what is known as a passive income.

At first, saving half our income seemed like an impossible challenge. Would life be bearable with so little money left over to treat ourselves? How would it be possible to maintain our green and ethical ideals given that the eco-friendly option is usually the pricier one? And would we manage to keep saving once we became parents, knowing how expensive babies and children can be?

Does FI take the fun out of life?

All You Need is Less in Scrabble pieces
Credit: Edward Howell, Unsplash

Critics of FI claim that the frugality involved makes for a miserable existence. But it really depends on what gives you pleasure in life. I’ve never felt the need to keep up with the latest fashions, drive a posh car or own an expensive branded mobile phone and would much rather indulge in a spot of forest-bathing than go to a spa any day.

FI doesn’t mean that you have to forego all luxury. It’s about working out what you enjoy most in life and being more intentional with your spending. Personally, I’m happy to save money by choosing supermarket own brands of tinned vegetables and breakfast cereals but nothing is worth drinking a bad gin and tonic! Forking out for a premium bottle of gin over a cheap one is not going to wreck our FI plans. Not when we have taken the time to secure the best possible deals on broadband, home insurance and car insurance.

I’m also fortunate that my hobbies (before parenthood and lockdown at least) are all free or low-cost: reading, gardening, running and walking, and volunteering for conservation charities.

Can we do FI and live sustainably?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

In my experience saving money and living sustainably can go hand in hand. Here’s a snapshot of the many ways we’ve found to be kind to both our pocket and the planet:

  • Shopping second-hand wherever possible as this saves on all the finite resources used to make items in the first place
  • Borrowing and lending specialist tools for DIY projects with our neighbours and family
  • Buying refills for household products, making our own cleaning products or using an e-cloth
  • Planning meals, cooking in batches and freezing leftovers to ensure that fresh vegetables don’t go off before we get to eat them
  • Buying items that have a long expiry date in bulk to get better value for money and save on packaging
  • Refilling a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water
  • Replacing lightbulbs with energy saving ones
  • Cancelling our gym memberships and exercising in the great outdoors or doing free workouts on YouTube
  • Using public transport, a bike or our feet to get about and saving the car for long journeys only.

Since having children, our outgoings have naturally changed. Parenting and FI is a huge topic on its own, so I won’t go into detail now – just to say that we’ve managed to find plenty of ways to save money on our children too, such as acquiring second-hand clothes, toys and books and making use of all the free facilities and activities available in our area.

Saving alone is not enough to reach FI; it is vital to invest your savings. Otherwise, it would simply not possible to save enough to significantly reduce your retirement age. These days it has never been easier to invest responsibly and sustainably, thanks to the wide variety of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) funds available. By investing in these funds you can support companies that treat their employees well and do not destroy the environment – at the same time as getting a good long-term financial return.

Does FI make sense in a time of coronavirus?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on all our lives. Some critics have argued that pursuing FI adds too much uncertainty to these already uncertain times. However, saving for FI is a long-term plan and the stock market has historically always bounced back given enough time. On the other hand, being wholly reliant on one source of income, with little in the way of savings, has put many people in a vulnerable position. We are fortunate that we have been able to keep working from home over these last months, as well as saving money in many areas, such as transport and eating out.

One of the more positive things about the Covid-19 restrictions has been the chance it has created to get to know our neighbours better. The people on our street have been using a WhatsApp group to borrow, lend, recycle and reuse all kinds of stuff, from bicycles and electric sanders, to books, pottery and plants. We may even have found a potential buyer for our house (when the time comes to relocate), which would allow us to save a significant amount on hefty estate agent fees.

Does FI have to mean retirement?

close up of hands holding seedling in soil
Credit: Nikola Jovanovic, Unsplash

When we achieve FI we will not retire in the traditional sense. For a start, I don’t care much for golf or cruise ships. Many FI followers have what is known as a ‘side hustle’ to help earn extra income to bring them closer to financial independence; or once they have reached it, to help pay for emergencies or big trips, or just to keep busy.

Side Hustles that we might explore once we move to Devon include an eco holiday let, a wildflower or tree nursery or a small carpentry business. And of course, I will keep writing this blog! If we find that we can live very well off our passive income, there is nothing to stop us from donating the extra money from our side hustles to good causes!

Now, I understand that FI isn’t for everybody. We are extremely fortunate to have a foot on the property ladder, very little debt, relatively good health and a decent income. Without these things in place it would be harder to get started. But I truly believe that many more people could lead happier, healthier and freer lives by following the FI dream, if only they knew that it were possible.

For a nature lover like me pursuing FI seems like a no-brainer. We are losing the biodiversity of our planet at an alarming rate. 68 percent of our wildlife has disappeared since 1970, according to the World Wildlife Fund. By buying our financial freedom, our family will be able to spend more time enjoying the nature we have left – and fighting for it.

I hope you will follow us on our FI journey, and maybe even be inspired to start your own.

Here are some useful sites to help get started:

And of course, for general money saving advice, you can’t beat Money Saving Expert

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20 thoughts on “Our journey towards financial independence

  1. I wish I’d known about this years ago but each to his or her time (I was born in 1950). Now that my wife and I are retired we practice many of the things that you suggest and since both our daughters are no longer at home we only have ourselves to look after.
    I will certainly follow your journey as long as you continue to write here and wish you only good luck with your adventure. Ashley 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. charlotte rixon

      I wish I’d known about it earlier too, then I would have been better with money when I was younger! I think anyone can take something away from the financial independence movement no matter what stage they are at. Thank you so much for your support, it really means a lot!

      Like

  2. Sarah Wilkinson

    If you can both do your jobs from home, there is nothing to stop you moving to the countryside now. No need to wait until retirement (early or otherwise)!
    Good luck to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. charlotte rixon

      Hi Sarah, you’re absolutely right! The Covid-19 situation has shown that we can work perfectly well from home and caused us to move our plans to relocate to next year! However, I don’t want to give the impression that we are doing time while we remain in London. I have loved many aspects of life here – it’s just not for us for much longer. Thank you!

      Like

  3. ruthchurch

    Your money-saving tips are pure common sense and it’s good to be reminded of them! And I love the idea of sharing and borrowing tools amongst neighbours – a chance for contact during these strange times. Having a “side hustle” is yet another brilliant idea – a way to use your skills and fit into your new community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. charlotte rixon

      Thanks for reading, Ruth. I hadn’t considered that a side hustle might be a good way to help fit into a new or existing community but you’re right, it certainly could be, especially if it benefits the local environment and economy.

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  4. Paul Grice

    Feeling slightly smug at having introduced Mr Rixon to the MMM but so great to see you guys embracing the FIRE movement. It necessary for both partners to share the dream and you both do which is both excellent. If I could bet my money on who is most likely to succeed at getting there I’d bet on your guys. I’ve even changed all my lightbulbs to LED and started baking my own bread both inspired by the house of Rixon! I found that once you get to a position of not actually needing your job then you are also treated differently. When I handed in my notice some years ago my employer asked me whether I would be willing to work part time which proved to be a really nice transition into full time FI. Now that I’ve completely cut free I’d say that all the things that I enjoy are mostly or virtually free: daily dog walks, reading, getting lost down internet rabbit holes, getting better at playing a musical instrument, not getting up at 6am, cooking. I also found that most of the money that I used to spend was related to the business of being a working person or “treating” myself for having spent the day in an office. Hurragh for the FIRE movement but don’t tell everybody…. we want all those people that work in the companies that we bought share in…. to keep going to work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. therixonator

      Mr Grice, you did indeed introduce me to MMM and kick the whole thing off. Credit duly given! Thanks for all the kind words, looking forward to joining the club before too long.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. charlotte rixon

      Hello Paul,
      I can’t thank you enough for introducing Mr Rixon to Mr Money Mustache – sorry for not mentioning you in the post but glad you’ve claimed credit! Glad to hear you are enjoying your ‘retirement’!

      Like

  5. Thanks for the great post. I also discovered the FI movement about 4 years ago and has been quite life changing. Since then we have had kids and that has put another very different spin on things. Kids, damn, they are not cheap! However like you said, second hand is the way to go, especially as they will grow out of things so quickly.
    COVID-19 has also posed its own challenges about FI. I think initially people thought they would save lots of money by not going out, but I have found people are splurging a lot more and also binge online shopping.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. charlotte rixon

      Thanks for reading! I look forward to reading about your FI journey too. Kids certainly aren’t cheap. I shall go into more detail about ways we have found to save money on them in another post. That’s a good point you make about people binge shopping online – I will have to have a think about how to approach that one.

      Like

  6. I really enjoyed this post! We are partial FIRE with kids, recently relocated to London. I have found the pandemic to have slowed our spending and allowed us to reconnect with the outdoors, running, simple pleasures that cost much less. I agree the market will recover long term and right now we are choosing to double down on our strategy of patience & discipline. I’m new to the blogging world & looking to share my insights and experience from our real estate investment side hustle. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. charlotte rixon

      Glad you enjoyed it! I look forward to see what you are up to. Blogging seems to be a great way to find and share insights with other FIRE people.

      Like

  7. Huge fan of the Mad Fientist – a completely logical, unbiased approach to achieving FI. I started my own journey last yea and decided to make it my focus for 2020. Although I won’t be going quite as extreme as I did (I figured the cost of some things I gave up were actually worth it), I established a lot of good habits and set up systems that I can use going forwards. Main lesson for me was deciding what my ideal financial lifestyle looked like, and working back from there to see what I would need to save and how long it would take for me to get there. https://businessrulesforlife.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/2020-in-review-a-focus-on-personal-finance/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. therixonator

      I was just listening to Brandon on the Choose FI podcast this morning, he’s a really interesting character, I enjoy his own podcast too. He admits that he actually cut back far too much and ended up unhappy and hating the journey. As you it’s a balance, current you and future you need to both be happy! Looks like he’s found the perfect balance now though and is enjoying making music, something I’d like to spend more time doing when the goal is reached. Thanks for posting and enjoy the journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m so glad you talk about being easy on the environment. It can be really hard to balance being frugal with doing what’s right environmentally (like not buying imported produce) and that’s been the most interesting part of my journey so far!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. charlotte rixon

      Thank you for reading. It can certainly be a challenge to be frugal and more sustainable at the same time, especially when it comes to food shopping! This year I’m trying to make simple swaps of everyday household items for greener alternatives, which may be better value. Good luck with our journey!

      Like

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