The view from the top is different to how I imagined it all those years ago

Rewind to 2010 – I was 21, had just started working in my first full time job out of University. I’d come home from a backpacking trip around Europe and the US with a mate – I had a balance of great memories and experiences, some amazing new friends, a passport full of stamps and about $0 to my name, plus what felt like a small fortune of student debt. I’d also sold my car and motorcycle to fund the trip. Thanks ‘past me’, you were a real financial wizard. Worth it though.

Anyway, I was lucky (actually, super privileged) to have a graduate job lined up, paying a very basic entry level salary and my folks hadn’t put my bedroom on airbnb (probs only because it didn’t exist yet), so I went to work starting from scratch. It took a year or two to figure out that I was staring down the barrel of a long trot at work, and that my expectations for graduating uni and living large were pretty unrealistic. I hadn’t picked what looked like a high-paying career at the time, and looking around me there didn’t seem to be many obvious solutions other than to buckle down and work hard. So I did.

I spent the next 10 years working and side-hustling, moonlighting on the weekends and showing up to a series of corporate 9-5s. I lived in a series of modest flats (in some great locations!), moved abroad to Australia’s largest city to live with my future wife and invested in myself and my career.

While doing this – probably like you, I consumed as much knowledge about investing as I could. I was motivated watching my share portfolio grow. I kept the big rocks in the living expenses jar low (car, housing etc.), spent fearlessly on the things I valued (travel mainly) and invested the difference. It was only a matter of time before investments and passive income started growing.

I was fascinated by Peter Thornhill’s book ‘Motivated Money’, and of course read all of the major US and Australian FIRE blogs. A low cost, diversified share portfolio and the allure of regular passive dividend income was enticing. I certainly wasn’t the first to walk down this path, even though it was something that so few people I knew were interested in. Nevertheless, the fact others before me had done it, gave me confidence I would reach the top of the mountain eventually.

Fast forward to 2023 and I’m back in my home city, living by the most beautiful beach with my wonderful partner who’d I brought home with me during a stressful ‘COVID’ relocation – (like many others did!). Over the last couple of years we’ve wound back at work – both working 3 days per week currently. We have access to a passive income, mostly from fully franked dividends from Listed Investment Companies, and we earn rent from an investment property that we might move into later.

Last year we spent a couple of months traveling around the Mediterranean.. a bit like my adventure at 21 years old, with a few less beers and hostels, and funded by dividends instead of my life savings.

Sailing around Greece, fully funded by dividends was a real treat

Now days, every weekend is a long weekend. I spend more time in the ocean than I ever have in my life and we have time to enjoy the important moments together and with family. Work is flexible and no longer linear. Life still has its highs and lows but the pace is slower and it feels like the months don’t rush by quite as fast. I like it.

My definition of what the ‘top of the mountain’ is has changed a lot over recent years. After reading Bill Perkin’s book ‘Die With Zero’, I decided life was for living and that I could be content with the amount of heavy lifting I’d done in my 20s. Ok, so thanks ‘past me’, you weren’t so bad after all.

What’s your definition of Financial Independence? Perhaps it’s traditional fully ‘FI’ or do you think a more flexible (Flexi-FI) type approach might work for you? Let me know in the comments!

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