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By In Featured, Financial Independence, General Benefits Knowledge

FI Benefits 2020 Special, Part 1: The Pre-Game

Every year, the vast majority of Americans must “elect” their benefits for the year. In the benefits biz, this occasion is called “open enrollment season” and if refers, as the name implies, the time of year when employees get to select their benefits — primarily health/medical, dental, vision and life insurance options — through their employer for the coming year.  Something around 75 percent of employees who get benefits through their employer get them with a January 1 start date, which puts them making their selections some time between October and mid-December.

We at the Benefits of FI aren’t just here to show you how to make the most of open enrollment, we’re here to make the most of your FI goals during open enrollment!

With that in mind, we are running a series of posts over the coming weeks that will get you ready for OE, give you ideas for how to view the various criteria for making benefits elections, and ultimately to help you view OE through a FI/FIRE lens. We will also post some of our favorite posts about benefits across the FI blogging universe, to further give you a leg up in selecting benefits for the year.

First up, a little pre-game — knowing what to prioritize in your mind before OE starts.

Here goes…

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By In Do the Math, Financial Independence, Student Loan Debt

Could Your Paid Time Off (PTO) Help Fund Your Early Retirement?

There was a news item circulating around the benefits business this week about PTO Exchange, a company out of Seattle that raised $3 million in venture capital. The idea investors are buying into is that you can and should use your excess PTO (AKA “paid time off,” or vacation pay) for other things you might want or need, like paying down your student loan debt, or putting it toward gift cards, or all manner of other things.

If you’ve ever 1) not used your PTO and watched it either expire or roll over into a new year where you’ll just get more PTO you won’t use up, or 2) you’ve left a job and had all that unused PTO vanish into the ether, you may have gotten the same lightbulb I got when I first read about PTO Exchange. Here’s why…

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By In Financial Independence, General Benefits Knowledge

The Russian Proverb for Employee Benefits: Trust, but Verify

On my personal Twitter profile, I describe myself as a “progressive pragmatist and vice-versa.” What that means is that I tend to look at things optimistically but with a healthy dose of realism. I want things to go well. I want everyone (myself included) to be prosperous and feel important. But I know, from my own upbringing and experiences of family and friends, that positive thinking alone won’t overcome bad odds.

Why am I thinking so philosophically on a Thursday afternoon? Well, I’m sitting in Reagan National Airport — fun fact: “trust, but verify” was a favorite saying of his in relation, ironically, to the Russians, who originated the saying — after attending an event focused on employee benefits. I’ve been to a lot of these types of events and the mood at the more research-focused ones is generally somewhere between unbridled optimism and abject despair.

“The economy is great right now, unemployment is at an all-time low and benefits have never been more important!” 🥳

“Yeah but employees are paying more and have no idea how to use their benefits.” 😩

The thing is, both perspectives are a little bit right. That’s where you come in.

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By In Budgeting, Do the Math, Featured, Financial Independence, General Benefits Knowledge, Health Insurance

Congratulations, You’re FIRED! Health (and Health Coverage) Tips for Early Retirees

If you’re in the FIRE vanguard, retiring in your late 20s to mid-30s, you’re (hopefully) living the dream healthy enough to enjoy your retirement to its fullest. If you’ve planned your housing, transportation and other common living expenses well, they will be quite manageable within your budget until it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil.

But keeping that coil tightly wrapped gets harder with each passing year. Don’t risk your financial health by compromising on your physical health — get insurance. And not just the cheapest insurance. Make sure it’s good enough that it doesn’t leave you with huge bills if something bad happens. Such decisions and expenses should all be part of your FI plan, even if it means a few extra years of saving to be fully prepared for a long, healthy life of early retirement freedom.

Here are some tips for that early retirement health care party…

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By In Financial Independence, Savings and Budgets

An Essential(ism) Approach to Financial Independence

I’m currently attending the DIG South Conference, which was created by my friends Stan and Sunny Gray, here in Charleston. It’s a fantastic event — so important to promoting new kinds of business in a South that could use it.

With those new kinds of business come new kinds of thinking about both business and personal goals. That’s where I found myself thinking about FI and FIRE as the opening keynote speaker Greg McKeown laid out his model for Essentialism. It should be a familiar idea if you are currently taking in the better wisdom of FI — you need to reduce and/or remove the unnecessary to truly be able to focus on your most important goals. You cut your needs to the essential. It was a simple message delivered with incredible enthusiasm and it really got me motivated.

(For anyone looking for a quick primer on McKeown’s thoughts on Essentialism, he did an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast that’ll get you up to speed and motivate you as well.)

After the presentation, I got to chat with Greg a bit more and told him about the FI movement and he said something that I’ve been feeling that I’ll now share with you: while he saw the great value of setting goals to achieve financial independence at an early age, he wasn’t fully sold on the notion of retiring early.

“I don’t see myself ever ‘retiring’ because I’m doing something that I love and want to keep doing,” he said. In other words, he’s applied his essentialism practice to his career and found one that he wants to do, as opposed to having something for a period of time as a means to an end.

It’s a thought that I’ve had as well because I quite enjoy writing and consulting and hope that I’m doing it for a very long time to come. Likewise, I know my BofFI cofounder has become very busy in his “early retirement.” In fact, most of the people I see in the FI blogger community aren’t really retired at all, even if they say they are. They’ve simply found a way to gain financial independence and then “retire” from having others dictate their daily grind.

It resonated perfectly as I read more and more posts from smart, driven people who are convinced that they will be retired at 40, or 35, or 29. If you have that drive, then you will certainly not settle for whatever notion you may have in your mind of being retired to travel the world untethered to a dependent source of income for the remaining 40-70 years of your life. You’ll need to have something to keep you going. And if you find yourself doing well at cutting out the nonessential early in life, you’ll be able to do it again and again as you grow older. I think that’s ultimately what I took from McKeown’s presentation and comments — the ends don’t justify the means, it’s the means that will sustain you before, during and after your FIRE journey.

Now I’m off to read the book so I can soak in some more essentialism!

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