What is FI for us?

FI means a lot to us! And it means something different to all of us. Does it has to be a yes/no thing? Do you need to wait for the benefits until the moment is there? Let us explore.

Quite soon in the journey towards FI, I realised that FI is not an absolute given: you are FI or are not FI seems so strict to me. Rather than looking at it binary, I look at it as a spectrum, a continuum.

Let’s take one step back and look at the what FI means to others and how we can use that to define our own version.

FI seen from a money point of view

One of the definitions that I like about FI is made by Ms. ONL

what is work

This is actually a great definition for multiple reasons:

  • The definition is a high level definition that removes any reference to 4pct rule, savings rate,… It means the discussion can be focused on the core. You start to get the idea.
  • The definition focuses on what is really important in life. When retired (or in FI) you do things based on passion and fun. You focus on what thrives you and gives purpose. As such, pre-retirement, you work because you have to find a way to pay the bills.
  • The definition does not “forbid” you to work in retirement.

The limitation to me is that it is an absolute given: you are either FI or not.

FI seen in stages

There are definitions that have a a gradual build up towards FI and that even go beyond. There are 2 great articles on this one.

The stages of Financial independence (Radical Personal Finance) and the six stages of Finacial Freedom (Money Boss). The 2 articles share some same stages and there are some differences. Let me try to make a summary.

  • Financial Solvency: you have to work to pay the bills – you still have debt or increase your debt.
  • Stability: You have a good control on your income and spending, you manage to save money and an emergency fund starts to build up
  • Agency/debt freedom: You are now debt free (maybe still a mortgage for tax purposes)
  • Security: your stash can cover basic expenses. Nothing more, nothing less
  • Independence: The stash covers the life style
  • Freedom/Abundance: Your stash supports more than you need in your regular lifestyle.

The advantage of this approach/definition is that you have somehow a roadmap to guide you. However, it is very money centric and needs you to understand the link between savings you have and your spending.

This approach lacks some higher goal, a reason to be FI. The moneyboss makes one illusion to FU money in the stage Agency: “you have enough banked that you could quit your job at a moment’s notice without hesitation.” Radical personal finance puts it like this for financial independence “The key at this stage is simply to know that it’s up to you!”



The evolution in our thinking

Over time I came to realise that FI is not a destination, it is a journey. Image you reach FI, then what? Sit on a the beach and drink cocktails all day long? Would that not bore you? I am pretty sure people start to look for a purpose. And I read this in a lot of stories from people that reach FI or are about to FI. (and like always, tere are exceptions). I do think that I would need some purpose, goal, challenge in life.

So the question is: why wait?!? Do I need to be FI before I can do that? Can’t the journey be fun as well?

What if we define FI by the percentage of time that you can spend on your passions? I admit, this makes things harder. How would you measure that? As it is not based on an exact number and mathematical science, how can we compare to the other FIRE Jonses?

Maybe I am just a lucky bastard that used the amberindex to jump to a new job. This new job/company avoids a lot of unhappiness – the best way to be happy. And I get to do things that I want to do in a post FIRE life. My wife is currently envisioning a similar approach.

Despite the fact that we are not FI (I work because we need the money), despite the fact that we are only in the agency/debt freedom faze (we have the cash to pay off the mortgage, just decide not to), I do feel 50-60 pct FI already. 

does that make sense to you?




28 thoughts on “What is FI for us?

  1. Totally! I love this smooth paradigm shift of Cheesy Finance and you 🙂 You are completely right, it is all about the journey. If I would have continued my unfulfilling job (the one I already quit) for another 13 years, I would have been FI at the age of 56. But I would have put my life in a waiting room for 13 years!

    If you embark on a journey, you will always look around you: ‘We were supposed to go that way, but hey, that way (that we couldn’t see earlier on) looks nicer!’ I like your changed way of thinking. FI is a means, not a goal. The goal is happiness and fulfillment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, we really are on the same page. Even the posts today match! Guess great minds do think alike 😉
    To answer your question: heck yeah, this makes sense!


  3. That makes sense to me and I’ve started to come around to that same philosophy. We’re in the security stage and a few years from FI, but I’m starting to feel the urge to slow down and begin to enjoy what life has to offer more. I’d love to say goodbye to the 100+ hour work weeks for good!


  4. For me there are three types of FI, The super deluxe model where your assets generates more income than working for a living.The deluxe model, which is having no debt and having assets that generates enough income to replace 100% of your working income. The standard model, which is having no debt and having enough income to replace 60% to 70% of your working income.


  5. Ciao ATL,
    As for me I think that I need to work on the fact that I still feel a “social pressure” to HAVE work, as I am in my 40s and technically fit to work. If I had the means to be FI I would find very hard the passage between switching off the rat-race and turning on the slow paced FI stroll mode… To me this is the hardest point to overcome right now.
    According to that “ladder” I would be in the Security phase, but I haven’t got kids right now so I am also thinking that something might change when they will arrive (if they will arrive, but let’s say we’ve got plans).
    I am still working on accepting that things are different from what my parents had at my age, I just need to believe in it!


    1. How about focusing on getting to FI, so that work becomes optional? you do not have to retire. I do not plan to. I will keep some sort of work to keep me focused, alert, in the system and a path towards a plan B. That being said, I have less this social pressure. I am more a rebel I would say


  6. for me the shift started with my post of januari where I tried to imagine live after Fi. And in all honesty, with my personality I think I will enjoy not working a lot more when I still need to work. I want, need variety. Working three months will just give me more motivation to throw myself on a personal project after those three months and will get me to enjoy the moment I do not need to work for the rest of the year all the more!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Do not start to measure FI in another way, it will just confuse people. FI is very well defined, including some basic math and many tools and websites.
    You can instead switch your focus from FI to another topic. Maybe you can find some inspiration from happyness bloggers instead of FI bloggers?


    1. FI is indeed well defined: have enough means to cover your expenses. It leaves in my opinion enough room to have some stage in it (like the 6 stage given by others).
      The goal of the post is not to confuse. The point was to highlight that once you are on the journey, you might see that FI is not the real end goal. Another name might be useful for this indeed. I am open for suggestions. I start to refer it now as a Joyful life.


  8. That’s the great thing about FI is it means different things to different people but gives everyone a common goal to strive to achieve. Some people are happy just covering their expenses and having no debt. Others want to keep accumulating and building wealth well after they are FI. Some people love to work so they will find something to keep doing and keep them busy while they are technically retired. No way is better than the others but the common theme is everyone being happier and enjoying life more when they are FI.


    1. The diversification in approaches and end goals is a great source of inspiration for your own journey. And you are right, no method is right, it is a personal journey, so you need to discover what is your right way.


  9. I think it’s awesome that you feel 50% of the way to FI. That’s what I love about personal finance. It’s personal for a reason. What makes makes one person feel secure, makes the other feel insecure. Sounds like your redefinition is the perfect FI for you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This makes total sense to me! For me also, it’s all about happiness. I’m trying to set up my life habits in a way that makes it most easy to be happy. Financial independence is one tool for that. It removes one concern / worry / constraint out of life, namely money. But it takes a long time to reach the final stage(s) of FI, so the habits have to be consistent with a happy life on the way there. You’re totally on the right track for that, love it! 🙂


  11. Hello ambertreeleaves,
    you mentioned a crucial aspect concerning the journey to FI. – Because there is usually no fast lane to FI, it’s important to make the journey “fun” in itself. Everything will be al lot easier when saving for investments is not seen as a sacrifice, but a positive step to FI. – I adopted this view. The journey to FI is a lot of fun, day by day. – Feel free to check out my blogpost https://dividendsolutions.wordpress.com/2017/05/20/goals-motivation/ where i cover some of these aspects.
    Greetings form Germany,


  12. I really like these articles about the reasons for FI and what it means to each differently. I agree with the terms being a bit limited and you’ve got to fit in one of those boxes. It’s the same with having debt, for many you can only reach FI without having debt. I don’t share those thoughts.
    FI is like you said just a journey to get somewhere else. We all want to pursue dreams and passions and use money (and financial independence) as a way to get there without being dependent on a job. It almost seems like we want to build up a safety net first, before we dive into pursuing those dreams and passions.


  13. I like the way you define FI for yourself, although it is more binary to me. Whether it takes me 10 or 15 years, I don’t care that much as long as I enjoy the path towards the destination. Being rich is fun, but becoming rich is awesome. I just do want to get there in an acceptable time frame.
    In your stage of life, it totally makes sense to live partial FI. Especially with kids. For me, it’s not necessary. Most of my friends are in my age range and money often is a limiting factor in decisions. I mean, sure we do want to go travel the USA and party in Miami for a couple of weeks, but most people in their young twenties don’t have the financial capacity to do so. This doesn’t mean we don’t have fun, we just look at cheaper destinations like Budapest, Barcelona, … And of course we do have an amazing time!
    I enjoy living a “broke” life now, because I think it’s part of being young / a student. Who doesn’t remember his broke days as a student?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It certainly will. The older I get, the more I will spend I guess. Expanding family, friends, travels…If I want to fulfill all my dreams I will need a lot of money 😀 Sow now and reap later.


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