How much you need to be free, meaning of freedom, stop worrying and start living

Happy Sunday! Welcome to Work Less issue 41.

Before that, I want to let you know that High Performer OS is now open for purchase again. It will stay open at $79 until I complete all the new databases and templates.

After that, the price will become $99 instead of $79. If you're ready to hit your work, business, and life goals consistently and mindfully, High Performer OS is for you.

Learn more about HPOS today

How much you need to be free

FIRE stands for financial independence retire early. The general rule of thumb is to have a net worth of 25x your annual expenses in low cost index funds to reap the stock market returns. It's based on the 4% Rule from an influential 1998 paper, the Trinity Study.

The 4% Rule suggests the total amount a retiree could withdraw from his or her investment portfolio without ever running out of money for at least 30 years. In other words, if you only withdraw 4% from your portfolio yearly, you can sustain your lifestyle with zero income for a very long time.

It's a common and simple way to calculate how much you need for retirement (early or not). Suppose you spend $100k per year when you retire, divide $100k by 4% or multiply $100k by 25, and you need $2.5 million to be free (from work).

Chasing after freedom

People who pursue FIRE value freedom and flexibility over possessions. It's a net positive goal to have on its own. I don't make FIRE the ultimate goal, but it keeps lingering in the back of my mind. Think about the freedom, flexibility, and security FIRE brings.

But... Is freedom the goal?

Is it truly the end? Do freedom and flexibility have meaning on their own? Freedom seems like a value we hold dearly as millennials. But is that always the case?

Perhaps not. I haven't heard my family talk about wanting to be free from all work. And in my culture, we rarely make freedom a virtue or value. If we were to trace back in time, freedom (from work) is probably the least valuable thing for our ancestors.

Freedom is only valuable when you live a meaningful life

The value of freedom comes from having autonomy and control. But to make the autonomy you have meaningful, you need other components like challenges and agency.

Retiring early isn't about not needing to work. Instead, it's about having the time to do what is meaningful to you. It could be:

  • Spending time with your partners, kids, or dogs.
  • Solving big problems and creating art for people who need them.
  • Exploring things (knowledge, tech, places, etc.) with people you love.

It's not that these things come without challenges to overcome and struggles to endure. But they are challenges accepted and struggles embraced.

That's what makes the work (and the freedom to choose them) meaningful.

Stop worrying and start living

If you don't hate—or better yet, love—what you do now, don't bother too much about reaching FIRE as soon as possible. Perhaps you're worrying about not having enough. If that's the case, worrying over saving is not the solution.

Instead, here are my five rules to stop worrying about money and start living:

  1. Always spend less than you make.
  2. Gradually widen the gap between how much you make and how much you spend.
  3. Have an emergency fund.
  4. Create multiple streams of income.
  5. Be willing to do work that is valuable to others.

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