7 reasons to pursue Financial Independence

Here’s the Financial Independence blog just published at moneysense.ca. I’m posting this here for those who may have missed it, even though it reprises a similar guest blog I did for Roger Wohlner at his blog this weekend over at The Chicago Financial Planner. You can find a link to that one via the MoneySense post and indeed to the original blog that spawned both of them at My Financial Independence Journey blog.

However, unlike those other blogs, in this version I’m continuing the publishing of the end-of-chapter summaries that appear in the new US edition and e-book. Those who bought the original edition of the book won’t have those summaries, nor the glossary at the end.

Chapter 5:  You can’t always get what you want

 A paid-for home is the cornerstone of financial independence; paying down mortgages

•A paid-for home is the cornerstone of financial independence.

 • Bad debt is consumer debt that charges high rates of interest and cannot be deducted from your income tax bill.

 • A home mortgage is good debt, especially in America, where you can write off the interest charges from your taxes.

 • The faster you pay off your mortgage, the less interest you’ll pay.

 • Aim for a 10 or 15 year amortization period, not 30 or 35 years.

 • Pay Yourself First by setting up an automatic draft to transfer 10 to 20% of your paycheck into investments.

 • Leverage means borrowing money in order to invest. It can work but requires emotional fortitude to stick to the program when markets are down.

 • Because you can write off some expenses, self employment is an often overlooked tax shelter.

 • Real estate is a major part of a diversified financial plan but those who don’t want to be landlords can instead buy REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts.

 

 

How a digital book-signing works

On the flip side of this card is a code, each of which contains a unique number that will work only once per customer. You can see what it looks like by viewing the image in the blog just before this one.

Those who signed in to the one-hour session Thursday really did get four free e-books. I was happy to get the books of the three other authors who participated in the session. Details in previous blog.

If you missed the chance for the free e-book, it is of course available for sale here. And I’d be happy to send a bookstub like the one here — or better yet, email an image of it — to any financial blogger who thinks they’d like to review the book.  Drop me a line at jonathan@findependenceday.com or at my corporate email at MoneySense magazine.

Get your free e-book at this Digital Book Signing

bookstubNow here’s a deal! Anyone who wants a free e-book of the new US edition of Findependence Day – or three books by other authors — can do so at a  ”Digital Book Signing” next Thursday.  Just click here to register, then  join us Thursday, July 18th at 3:30 pm EST. I’ll be one of four authors featured. Everyone who signs in will be emailed a BookStub [see illustration] signed by me (or other authors), immediately following the event.

For those for whom the concept of a digital book signing may be novel — it was to me as well! — click here for a short introduction to the concept or this 2011 New York Times article, Would you sign my Kindle?

In the case of the US edition of Findependence Day, readers who have already bought the hard-copy Canadian edition can now get the e-book at no extra cost. The story is much the same as the original but it’s all set in the United States, the financial terms are all American, there’s a new glossary and it includes end-of-chapter summaries of the key financial concepts learned. Apart from the Kindle, you can get the book on the Nook, iPad and most other popular e-book formats, or indeed in a format readable on laptop or desktop computers.

Of course, you don’t need to have previously bought the book to take advantage of this short window: those who have happened on this web site and were curious can now satisfy their curiosity without spending one thin dime: Canadian or American! Guerrilla frugality at its finest — hoist by my own petard!

The other three authors and their featured books are:

L.D. Nascimento; The Curse of The Golden City and The Path to the Fallen Stars 

Andrew Bernstein; California Slim

Daryl Edwards, The Guardian Corps and Book One—The Argent

Obviously, we all hope to create a bit of word-of-mouth for our respective books and ultimately to stimulate actual sales. In the case of Findependence Day I’d encourage anyone who does download the book and enjoys it to post a short review at Amazon.com, which is one of the main ways the book can be purchased (whether Kindle, paperback or hardcover). Here is a sample of half a dozen recent mini-reviews of the new edition at Amazon (click on Newest reviews first).

Recent Reviews of US edition of Findependence Day

Here is a link to several other recent reviews that appeared in and around the American Independence Day. This is a link to the Reviews tab elsewhere on this site: they appear four lines down and are grouped together to distinguish them from older reviews of the first edition.

Finally, below is the summary of key concepts covered in Chapter 4 (see earlier blog posts for the first three; others will be posted over the coming weeks):

Chapter 4: Baby You’re a Rich Man

The concept of Human Capital

• A “Frooger” is a Frugality Guerrilla.

• Froogers make frugality a lifetime habit: first to eliminate debt; later to build wealth.

• Part of being frugal entails tracking expenses and making a budget.

• If your employer has a pension plan, you’d be wise not to pass up the “free money.”

• Teachers and government workers like Sheena enjoy “Cadillac” Defined Benefit (DB) pension plans where you know exactly how much you’ll receive in retirement.

• Younger tech firms like Jamie’s employer are more likely to offer 401(k) retirement plans that go up or down with the stock and bond markets.

• Once you’re free of all consumer debt, employees should start an IRA or Individual Retirement Account. Uncle Sam gives you a generous tax break as an incentive – as long as you’re not also covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b).

• You can save $5,500 a year in an IRA, or $6,500 if you’re over 50.

• You’re richer than you think means young people are rich in “human capital” – millions in future earning potential.

• To get diversified long-term growth in the stock market, consider exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or index mutual funds.

• ETFs and index funds are cheaper than most mutual funds because they track broad stock market indexes like the S&P500.

 

Independence Day and Financial Independence

Findependence Day US Edition

Now that Independence Day has come and gone, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about your Financial Independence Day, or my contraction for the same thing: Findependence Day.

Whether it arrives in the near future or many moons from now, we know that the day of leaving the workforce must some day arrive. The timing may or may not be under your control: health and employer willingness to retain your services also come into the picture. What IS under your control is the financial resources you can mobilize to maximize your freedom and flexibility once this event occurs. And this must be done while you’re still gainfully employed.

One difference in these terms is that while Independence Day comes around every year, Financial Independence Day is a more unique event. It’s not carved in stone, of course, and can be moved forward and backward depending on circumstances.

The illustration is from the cover of the new US edition of Findependence Day, complete with fireworks and balloons. The calendar depicted is from the future (2027), and July 4th is circled as the “Financial Independence Day” of one of the lead characters in the book – for this is a novel as well as a financial primer for young people just entering the workforce and embarking on family formation.

Recent reviews

The point, as financial planner Sheryl Garrett remarked in a recent Marketwatch.com review of four books (including this one) is that the book’s title is about making a target: a point in the future you are working toward: “Findependence Day is the day you have choices and freedom. It’s redefining retirement and reaching financial independence.” Sheryl wrote the foreword to the book, which you can access via this free preview here at Amazon.com.

You can also read a blog on the book just published at NextAvenue.org, tied to the Independence Day theme — here — as well as a podcast on the book, where  Al Emid interviews me for New Books in Investment: here.

Posted July 2nd, is this review from Book Pleasures’ Conny Crisalli, which is also posted on Amazon.com here. Click on “newest reviews.”

And finally, on July 4th (yes, Independence Day) is this interview with Preet Banerjee on his “Mostly Money” audio podcast.

The power of visualization

Anyone familiar with goal-setting and visualization will know that, as I say in the book, there’s some power in setting an actual date in the future as a goal by which something is to be achieved. Jamie feels that on the day he turns 50, his income from all sources will exceed the income he could get from a sole employer and so he will become “findependent.”

I note that there are starting to emerge other books that also focus in on Financial Independence rather than Retirement, even though the term so beloved of the financial industry and the media is Retirement. In his recent non fiction book, Financial Independence: Getting to Point X, author and financial advisor John Vento describes Point X as the inflection point when financial independence is achieved. I”ve not yet read the book or talked to the author but it seems to me that Point X and Findependence Day are very similar concepts.

It’s worth reading Wikipedia’s entry on Financial Independence, which reads as follows.

   … the state of having sufficient personal wealth to live, without having to work actively for basic necessities. For financially independent people, their assets generate income that is greater than their expenses.

I first became aware of that entry just a few weeks ago when I wrote a guest blog for fee-only planner Roger Wohlner, aka The Chicago Financial Planner.  Since I’d finished the book by then it had no bearing on the book but the concept was not dramatically different.

Seek Findependence, Not Retirement

As I wrote for Roger in a blog entitled “Seek Findependence, Not Retirement,” the two terms are not the same. To be sure, you can’t really have retirement if you don’t first achieve financial independence, but seen the other way around, you can be financially independent and yet not choose to retire. Just look around at any big success in the business or art worlds and you’ll see the truth of that. Mick Jagger is findependent but still rocking, and the same can be said for Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg and any number of other artists, musicians, actors and other celebrities.

Most of us are not born on Independence Day but we can all pick a date in the future – not necessarily a birthday – circle a figurative calendar and declare “That’s my Findependence Day.”

A warning though. It’s quite possible that the day after Findependence Day will be very little different than the day before. It happened that I turned 60 in April, almost to the day when the US edition of the book was published. fireworksAs I related on my Financial Independence blog at MoneySense.ca, I hosted the world’s first Findependence Day Party, complete with balloons and fireworks. The following Monday, I was back at my day job at MoneySense magazine.

Findependence works in concert with related concepts like early retirement, phased retirement and even sabatticals and staycations. My thoughts on the latter can be seen in the blog published just before the one you’re reading now: Rehearsals for Retirement.

To everyone in America, I wish a happy Independence Day.

 

Rehearsals for Retirement

ochscoverIf you like folksingers from the 1960s, you’re probably familiar with Phil Ochs, who sang “I ain’t marching anymore” and many more catchy protest songs. He came to a sad end (self-inflicted) and one of his last albums was entitled Rehearsals for Retirement. (Yes, I still have the original vinyl and the song title is actually one of the chapter titles in Findependence Day).

That title also serves as today’s blog title and happens to be a key strategy for those who are pursuing financial independence. I’m taking this week off from my day job at MoneySense but it’s more or less a “Staycation”: a working vacation spent at home. Other terms for this are “Veranda Beach” or (in Quebec), “Balconville.”

In the book, I write that the day after Findependence may well be the same as the days and weeks before: you continue to practice whatever craft or profession that got you to Findependence. You’re not “retired,” you’re still productive and you still wish to be engaged in the world, connecting with the workplace, colleagues, friends and family — either virtually or physically.

Definition of Findependence

Let’s step back a second and review the definition of financial independence (findependence for short). I wrote about this on my Financial Independence blog last week at MoneySense.ca, which you can find here. Based on how I interpret the Wikipedia definition of financial independence, it is a prerequisite for retirement: that is, you can’t have retirement without findependence, but on the flip side, you CAN have findependence without retirement. Findependence is also the precursor to such variations on retirement as phased retirement,  semi-retirement and today’s theme of “rehearsals for retirement.”  A one-year “sabattical” is one long such rehearsal but as I write below, even a one-week paid vacation from your day job can be a rehearsal if it’s a working staycation.

Varieties of Staycations

There are I suppose two or three types of staycations: one is where you really take a vacation from work of any kind; another is where you continue to work, but on your own projects rather than an employer’s.  Your time being your own, you can also do a hybrid of these, which is the route I’m going this week: doing various errands and chores one normally might tackle on weekends, but also engaging in social media, writing and other work-like tasks.

As I experience this, I’m reflecting that a working staycation is very much like Och’s Rehearsals for Retirement. I have several friends who are both findependent and fully retired, in that they no longer perusue economic (money-making) activities. But of course, they end up as busy as anyone else: household chores, shopping and maintenance don’t go away even if full-time employment ceases to be. You may pursue various artistic or entrepreneurial activities that may or may not lead to economic reward down the road.

If you still have a day job but have reached the point where you have several weeks of paid vacation each year, you may find a working staycation an excellent trial run for retirement. When I wrote the first edition of Findependence Day in the summer of 2008, I began the writing during my paid vacation weeks from my newspaper staff columnist job. Since I had been a freelance writer for several years in the 1980s, I was familiar with the rhythmn of writing at home. At some point I can see finishing my journalism career in the same way, supplementing the various “Findependence” sources of multiple income with the odd freelance assignment, book royalties and the like.

As I write the first draft of the blog entry you’re now reading, I’m doing so on a MacBook Air in my back yard. The sun is shining, a waterfall is splashing into our fish pond, cardinals and blue jays are pecking away at a bird feeder and life is good. I’ll go back into the house to polish this and format it for the web but this is an example of the kind of life I describe as “findependence.”

If you’re contemplating such a step but unsure about whether you’re suited for it, I recommend trying a week or two of a working Staycation during paid leave from your current day job.

Not yet retirement, but perhaps a rehearsal for it!

Note to US book reviewers & financial bloggers

One of the activities in which I’m engaged this week is promotion of the US edition of Findependence Day. Any journalist in the mainstream media can request a review copy by emailing promotions@trafford.com.   If you’re a financial blogger or a financial planner with a newsletter or good social media followings, I’d be glad to mail you an access card in order to download the e-book edition in most major formats. I’ll also email you a Word file of the end-of-chapter summaries, such as the one below. You can reach me at jonathan@findependenceday.com.

Chapter 3 summary

Finally, as promised, here’s the next installment of the end-of-chapter summaries of the main lessons learned in the book:

Chapter 3: Poor Boy Blues

You can’t save by spending; Be an Owner, Not a Loaner

• Frugality needs to be a lifetime habit, ranging from brown-bagging work lunches to taking public transit half the time.

• Don’t just focus on cutting expenses through small sacrifices; find ways to increase your income.

• Beware financial industry gimmicks like “spend ‘n save” cards.

• Department store credit cards charge the highest rates of interest.

• The secret of building wealth is to be a business owner.

• Be an owner, not a loaner means investing in stocks rather than bonds; or better yet, starting your own business.

• While the biggest fortunes come from starting a business, most of us are better off diversifying our equity exposure through index funds or Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).

 

 

 

 

Retiring Retirement

falkHere’ a post from my Financial Independence blog at MoneySense.ca, posted this week from the Morningstar annual conference held in Toronto on Wednesday. Pictured is Michael Falk, a partner with Illinois-based Focus Consulting Group, and I’m reporting on his talk entitled Prime Minister, There’s a Hole in My Safety Net.

And as promised a few weeks back, here’s the second-chapter summary of financial lessons learned in the second chapter of the new US edition of Findependence Day:

Chapter 2: Money Money Money: It’s a Rich Man’s World

• The best investment is paying off debt

• A line of credit lets you consolidate high-interest loans at one combined lower interest rate.

• A more effective method is to spend less than you earn.

• Avoid paying only the minimum monthly payment on your credit card. Better yet, pay balances off in full and never pay a dime interest.

• Build a six-month cash cushion.

• Mutual funds offer young investors professional security selection and diversification and through equity funds, exposure to the stock market.

• Financial Independence is not the same thing as Retirement. It means you continue to work because you want to, not because you have to.

• As your portfolio grows, you can lower investment management costs by using a discount brokerage, buying low-cost passively managed investments, and engaging a fee-only financial planner.

• During Semi-Retirement or the “First Retirement” you can give back to the community by volunteering, and discover talents you never knew you had.

 

 

 

Seek Findependence, not Retirement

wohlner66This week, I did a guest blog on Roger Wohlner’s blog, The Chicago Financial Planner, which you can find here.  As I note there, Roger [pictured on the left] is the kind of fee-only financial planner I recommend in Findependence Day. By the way, Roger is a must-follow on Twitter as @rwohlner

As you can note in the comments section which follow that post, people are becoming more aware of this paradigm shift and the distinction the book makes between traditional “Retirement” and Financial Independence (or “Findependence”).

As one commented, by viewing the goal as Findependence rather than full-stop retirement, he was able to move his “retirement” date up by 15 years.

Related to this concept is a blog I did here a few months ago about Early Findependence being a more achievable goal than Early Retirement. I note in this weekend’s Financial Post, a package of stories about extreme saving (I’d call that ‘guerrilla frugality”) by Melissa Leong, including a profile of a couple who supposedly “retired” at 35.

We’ve seen these stories before of course: Derek Foster and Dianne Nahirny both wrote books describing how they retired in their 30s. But of course, they were really describing Findependence since if nothing else they were still “working” by writing books how about how they stopped working!

 

 

 

The basic financial literacy lessons underlying Findependence Day

ipad-3-concept.pngWhile Findependence Day is at one level a “novel,” complete with a multi-layered plot, characters, setting etc., it’s a hybrid creation that also attempts to weave the basic lessons of financial literacy into the story.

As indicated last post, the new US edition, including the e-books, includes a feature not present in the original North American (i.e. Canadian) edition: end-of-chapter lessons of the basic concepts learned.

In retrospect, I should have done this from the get-go since the book is first and foremost a financial literacy primer.

As I create a backgrounder for the press, I’ve gone through the exercise of extracting the 18 end-of-chapter summaries (“What Jamie & Sheena learned this chapter”) into a single document. It reinforces that if you toss out the story, there’s plenty of useful material there, so much so that I sincerely believe that if anyone took every lesson to heart, they would indeed “achieve financial independence while they’re still young enough to enjoy it.”

Those who have only the Canadian edition can view the new foreword and an example of the end-of-chapter summaries by previewing the free Amazon Kindle version here. And you can get the e-book version for $3.99 or less in most tablet and e-reader formats by clicking through the Trafford link here.

But for those who would rather not, I’ve decided I’m going to roll out the 18 summaries in this blog perhaps on a weekly basis. We’ll start with chapter 1, even though that’s already available in the sneak preview:

Chapter 1 Summary: Take it to the Limit 

Topic: Credit cards and other forms of bad debt

• You can’t start building wealth until you’ve eliminated debt.

• To save, you must stop spending.

• To stop spending, you must embrace “guerrilla frugality” and be willing to make small sacrifices.

• The foundation of Financial Independence is a paid-for home.

Findependence Day is simply a contraction of Financial Independence Day.

• The key to manifesting your Findependence Day is to pick an actual date in the future and visualize it happening.

• To reinforce the idea that saving is more important than spending, take to heart the motto “Freedom, Not Stuff!”

What the e-book has that the original edition lacks

Amazon-Kindle1If you already happen to own the original print edition of Findependence Day (now called the Canadian edition), is there any reason to also buy the new e-book edition of the just-published US edition? Perhaps there is, considering that at $3.99 or less for all but the Kindle edition, the e-books are only a quarter of the price of print editions.

The two main features in the e-book that are new are the glossary at the end, and the end-of-chapter summaries of what Jamie and Sheena learned. The latter may be useful for those who have already read the story and now just want to be reminded of the basic principles of financial literacy covered.

End-of-chapter summaries

For example, you can view the summary after Chapter 1 by clicking the sneak preview of the Amazon Kindle version here. (Amazon charges US$7.63 for it). For convenience, I’ve reposted that page below. Most of the bullet points apply to either edition, although some are focused on US-specific financial content like IRAs or Roth plans. This isn’t the case for the excerpt below, though. At some point, I will likely do an all-Canadian ebook edition but until then, readers of the original book may still find the US ebook useful.

There are also some subtle differences most wouldn’t notice unless you compared the editions side by each. The original was finished just as the financial crisis was hitting, while the new edition benefits from the insights investors have gained since 2008. There are minor changes in the technology devices: in the original, Jamie has a cell phone, in the new one, it’s an iPhone and there are more references to social media in the subplot about Jamie’s troubles with his business partner. Some names and places have been changed but the story itself and the financial lessons imparted remain pretty much the same.

Kindle, Nook, iPad & other formats

If you want the Kindle version, access the Amazon.com link shown under the Buy American edition button. For the Nook e-book, access the Barnes & Noble link under the same button or click here. For most other e-book formats, go to the Trafford.com site here, select the e-book edition and you’ll get a list of formats from which to choose.

What Jamie & Sheena learned this chapter (Chapter 1): 

• You can’t start building wealth until you’ve eliminated debt.

• To save, you must stop spending.

• To stop spending, you must embrace “guerrilla frugality” and be willing to make small sacrifices.

• The foundation of Financial Independence is a paid-for home.

Findependence Day is simply a contraction of Financial Independence Day.

• The key to manifesting your Findependence Day is to pick an actual date in the future and visualize it happening.

• To reinforce the idea that saving is more important than spending, take to heart the motto “Freedom, Not Stuff!”

News release on new edition: review copies available on request

logo_prwebThe official news release announcing the new US edition of Findependence Day has just gone up on PR Web. Click here to view. Since the publisher does not as a matter of course send out review copies to the media, any member of the press interested in reviewing the book needs to contact the publisher to formally request a copy.

The contact for this is at the top right hand of the release linked above: Marketing Services, Trafford Publishing, 888-232-4444. There’s also an email request form there. If you tried and found the process unwieldy, drop me an email at jonathan@findependenceday.com and I’ll try to expedite the request.

 

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