There are many methods that can get you to financial independence, but the ones that have the best chances of success all require the same two things; time and patience. Yet for those who discover the FIRE movement, it's hard to ignore the feeling of wanting to be free from the need to work. A search for more financial stability soon becomes one for more urgent liberty, where one desperately tries to find tried and proven methods that will grant them wealth and freedom quickly. With this in mind, what are some of the ways that sound plausible but might not be exactly what they appear to be?
Financial Independence is a never ending journey that doesn't stop just because you reached a particular financial figure in your net worth. While the money is what can be measured, the fundamental goal is a far deeper thing. Therefore, looking for get rich quick schemes will rarely work, if ever. And there's a chance that they could cost you if you're not careful. When embarking on new ideas to try, focus on more meaningful reasons for why you're doing them. You will find success if you stick with it and put in the effort, but it simply may not be as quick as you're hoping at the start.
The future of finance or simply just overhyped magical internet tokens?
Regardless of how you see cryptocurrencies I feel it has to be on this list purely for the reason of risk management.
For transparency, I personally keep around 5% of my portfolio in a few select cryptocurrencies that I've taken an interest in, which is more than plenty for my own liking.
So what's the issue?
I've seen people in various places mentioning they are taking all of their savings, or a large portion of it, and essentially betting it on cryptocurrencies. They try to convince themselves that they're being sensible by "looking at the long term" and expecting that Bitcoin, or whatever coin they have chosen, will continue to rise.
It may... and for the sake of my own 5% I hope it does.
But I fully expect the remaining 95% of my portfolio, invested into index funds, to be the key to me reaching financial independence.
The temptation with cryptocurrency is that you hear stories of how someone bet their savings and after a couple of years they were sitting on hundreds of thousands. Maybe even more than a million.
At the age of 25, or something like that.
Blinded by the prospect of getting rich quick we may be tempted to try a similar approach, with any thoughts of the exceptional risk exposure being pushed aside.
You need to hear this... that approach is stupid.
Take a small portion of your net worth and give new things a try by all means, but always take care of the core (the 95%) under all circumstances.
Losing a small portion of your money on adventurous assets is a lesson that can help you improve in the future, but losing almost all of your money will often be a devastating blow that could take the rest of your 20's to recover from.
Starting a YouTube channel
The internet has been a wonderful medium for reaching others that we normally wouldn't have been able to.
It doesn't just have to be via YouTube. Pick any social media platform or online presence where an audience can be gathered.
The more people you can reach, the more influence you can have, resulting in you having more social value that could potentially be monetised through sponsorships, advertisements, or affiliate marketing.
We see examples of such people or influencers almost every day of our lives. We're subscribed to them and get a notification each and every time they release a new piece of content.
We look at their lives through the perfect lens of the internet and imagine how everything would be so nice and convenient, if it were only ourselves sitting on the other side where the grass always seems greener.
How hard can it be after all?
It's not like you need any qualifications or training. You can simply sit down and create something, then upload it. Once it's done it's all passive, right?
Yet after a few months of doing this there doesn't really seem to be any traction.
A couple dozen views for each piece of content hardly seems worth the time it took to create, and for some reason that title you came up with wasn't as internet-breaking as you thought it would be.
Starting a channel online is a good thing for your own personal growth, but if your only desire from it is to make money then you need to be told that it's not as easy as it often looks.
Starting a Business
Financial independence often means personal freedom to work and live how you want, rather than being restricted to the wishes and demands of a boss.
So what better way than starting your own business, being the boss, and calling all the shots?
Starting a business can take many shapes and forms. It could be an online business that markets or sells products, you could create a mobile app, or it could be a small shop in the real non-internet world offering products that you create or a service that you could provide.
Having the guts to try something for yourself is certainly commendable and I will never fault someone for having a go. But expecting that thing to be your ultra fast-lane ticket to financial independence may be a bit unrealistic.
Yes it can happen, and you may even see people share their stories of success.
But how many of us can really be the next Harvard-dropout who creates a tech unicorn?
Or maybe you've set your sights on a young internet entrepreneur who claims to be making five or six figures each month via the products they're selling online.
Yet whenever I hear these stories the finer details of those figures, such as how much of it is profit and how much needs to go back into keeping the business afloat, is often missing.
Having an idea and trying to turn it into a business can be incredibly rewarding and exciting. In my personal opinion it certainly beats the idea of being stuck in a nine-to-five that has little to no purpose or meaning for your life.
But if your hope when starting a business is to spend just a little effort and time before cashing out big, then I can only imagine your expectations are somewhat misplaced.
Trading Hot Stocks
You're browsing social media channels for ways to make extra money. You come across a video about "investing". The channel owner describes how they made £10,000 in a week by getting in early on a single stock that went up a huge amount.
And now you want to try and do the same.
You start browsing all sorts of obscure places on the internet for "hot stock tips" backed by seemingly sound technical analysis. Down the rabbit hole you go.
"All I need to do is find one perfect stock, get in early, and that's my ticket to financial freedom."
You fool yourself into thinking that you're different to the over-confident, yet misguided, people that you see taking part in those internet communities.
After all, you're going to be more sensible, you're going to "do your own due diligence". Right?
But... what exactly is due diligence?
Is it simply reading a company's balance sheet? Do you even know how to do that?
My guess is - probably not. And even if you did, so what?
The vast majority of professional, highly qualified, fund managers fail to beat the market over the long run. So chances are you will fail too.
Take it from someone who worked as a proprietary trader for 2 years. Trading stocks, commodities, or any financial instrument on the markets is not as easy or as lucrative as some people make it out to be.
Nobody knows what the market is going to do next, and your attempt at betting it all on the next revolutionary electric car company probably won't result in you being able to retire early.
Being really frugal
This one will likely not sit well with some people who follow the financial independence movement, because mathematically it is possible.
Let's say a person starts working at the age of 21 and manages to save and invest 70% of their income. Using conservative numbers for the average annual return on investment, said person will be financially independent at the age of 29 and could live using the 4% rule.
It's possible, but is it worth it?
The median pay for a 22-29 year old in the UK is around £495 per week, or around £2,144 a month. Saving 70% of this would leave just £643 to work with each month.
That £643 not only needs to go towards rent, food, bills, and everything else during the 8 years of working towards financial independence, it also needs to be maintained for the rest of the person's life after they've reached it.
I know, I know, I haven't taken into account the adjustments to align with inflation and the fact that the numbers are conservative. But the 4% rule is estimated to last around 30 years while our young financially independent friend is likely to live much longer than that.
Not to mention, I haven't taken any tax into account.
Being more mindful with how you spend your money is excellent advice for everyone. But abandoning all of life's joys and pleasures is not.
While the math does not lie, you must always keep in mind that being "financially independent" may mean you do not need to work, but it does not necessarily mean you can live.
Far better to take a more moderate approach where you're not rushing towards the end result, but instead enjoying the journey every step of the way. After all, what's the rush?
Many of the things you say you will do after you've reached financial independence, you can do before it. The same cannot be said for someone who only has £643 to work with each month for the rest of their life.
I want to finish this article by saying that you, as someone who's working towards financial independence, should try at least one of the things mentioned.
Yes, should try.
The point of this article is not about avoidance, but about setting more reasonable expectations for your journey. We often take on certain tasks or practices with the hopes of a lucky break, or some overnight success.
And when it doesn't happen, we lose hope and give up.
I myself have done all 5 of these things in some shape or form, and in some cases am still doing.
Our greatest chances of success in life often come through learning from failures, so it's important that you make mistakes along the way at some point.
There is no get rich quick scheme, there is only continued progress for oneself.
And it doesn't matter how long that takes.