Should you tell your family and friends about your journey to financial independence? We have been on our journey to financial independence for at least the last ten years. It was not necessarily intentional for us to start down this path (more on our journey here). We have both been consistently employed at very good jobs and we are just naturally not that interested in purchasing the types of possessions to which a lot of above average income couples are attracted (fancy homes, new cars, jewelry, etc). As our savings continued to grow, we were initially focused most intently on the peace of mind that we had a large cushion if we were to lose our jobs.
Over time, we had discovered the online financial independence community and realized we were already well on our way. Since we’re private people, we really didn’t tell anyone we were on this path. And this worked really well for a very long time.
If you’re a private person, the beautiful part about saving aggressively towards financial independence is that it’s really not that obvious.
We’re not living in a camper or washing and re-using paper towels so most of our acquaintances likely believed we were saving like everyone else saved (i.e. possibly not saving at all). In reality we were saving over half of our income every year and quickly getting closer and closer to financial independence1. As you can see in the chart below, if you save 50% of your income (and believe in the 4% rule) you can retire after 17 years.
(As with many other FI topics, Mr. Money Mustache probably explains this concept best here.)
Avoiding awkward discussions about financial independence
We were happy to avoid any potential awkwardness that could arise from our friends and family knowing that we were getting progressively wealthy. And this worked really great during our wealth accumulation phase.
But there is a major downside to keeping your path to financial independence a secret.
A couple of months ago I quit my job. This was very puzzling to many of our friends and family. They were all aware that I worked way too much and I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing, but how could I just quit my job without having another one lined up? And why am I not trying harder to find another job?
At this point, how can we explain that we’ve saved enough that one or both of us can take significant time off from work without us having any concerns about how we will pay the bills? Aren’t we just burning through our savings? In reality our net worth has continued to grow even while I’m not working, but how could we explain that without explaining everything?
It was nice to keep our journey private, but it really wasn’t a great long-term plan.
It is now clear that we will have to ultimately come clean and tell our family and friends about our journey to financial independence. There is already a lot of confusion about our situation and this will become much more pronounced at the point that Mrs. Middle eventually walks away from her position at soul-suck tower. At this point, we’ll need to explain both that we’ve saved a lot and how we’ve saved a lot. Much like Chandler Bing, it’s a little difficult to explain what we do at work; therefore, it’s not obvious how good our jobs really are/were. Will our family and friends be happy that we’ve put ourselves in this position or will they think we’re crazy from walking away from positions that were even more lucrative than they realized? Only time will tell how they react. And when will that day arrive that we come clean to our friends and family? Dunno, but not today…
1 As you may have noticed based on the dates I mention above, we’ve also been extremely lucky. We really started saving aggressively around 2007. Therefore, it wasn’t very painful when our investments got cut in half during the 2008 crash, but we’ve certainly enjoyed the growth of the market ever since then. Eventually there will be another 2008, but we have done our best to be mentally (and financially) prepared for that inevitability.