Wouldn’t it be great if you knew how to design our life to make money save a fortune and retire early. I only discovered the (FIRE) financially independent retire early concept late in life. I was already in my forties so I am a late FIRE starter which has its own benefits and challenges that you can read here. If I had it all over again I would do it differently.
The later you start on this journey the harder it is. The reason is that you build a life for yourself that has to be sustained. Once you are used to a certain lifestyle it becomes more difficult to change it. Obviously you can change it but it requires much more sacrifice. Rather make your life FIRE fit before you start building it.
The ideal way to achieve FIRE is to do so from the day you start working and earning. Even better is to leave school with a plan. If you had a plan of how to design your life for the fastest FIRE what would it look like?
Fundamental FIRE Principle
There is one fundamental principle of achieving financial independence. You have to maximise your savings rate. The more you can save the faster you can invest enough money to be financially free. Traditional retirement thinking tells us that we start working in our twenties and then retire in our sixties. So we spend more than 40 years saving for retirement. Alarmingly most people still don’t achieve financial independence by that time. Yet others manage to do it in 10 years or less.
Your savings rate depends on how much you can save after you have paid all your expenses. The highest savings rate is achieved with the lowest expenses and the highest income. A high salary with high expenses means a fancy lifestyle. It won’t get you closer to financial freedom. In many cases it leads to the opposite, higher debt. You need to know how to make money save a fortune and retire early.
So you need to design your life so that you can achieve the following
- Highest income to make more money
- Lowest expenses to save a fortune
- No debt
1. Highest Income – Make More Money
Your income will determine what your expenses could be. To achieve financial independence in 15 years you need to be saving about 50% of your income every month. Everybody wants to earn more money and as much as they can. But the reality is that for an average 9-5 person your income is a function of the type of job you do and your experience. But there are ways to make more money from even the same job.
Maximise earning potential
Ideally you want to choose a job or business that can give you maximum earning potential. But then there are other factors that may limit you in achieving this. You also need to do something that interests you that you are capable of doing. If your focus is job satisfaction then you may limit your earning potential. If you don’t focus on making money you may not be able to save a fortune.
For the purpose of this scenario you want to be able to reach FI as fast as possible. So you need a career or business that will give you the maximum earning potential. If you are choosing a career path then you have to consider this. If you are already working then consider how you can upskill yourself or change paths to a higher earning career.
If you are unable to make career changes then you have to consider side hustles or additional sources of income.
Utilise promotions increases and bonuses
The biggest opportunity to make money save a fortune and retire early is by using increases and bonuses wisely. The secret is to use these increases as income to increase your savings rate. These increases should go straight into paying off debt faster or additional investments.
The opposite is using the money to buy more and raise your lifestyle. This is a slippery slope that makes you more dependent on a higher salary and means you need to earn even more. If you were able to use every increase or bonus that you received in your career you could comfortably reach a savings rate of 50% or higher.
2. Lowest Expenses – Save a Fortune
The money that you earn has two purposes. It is not only to pay for expenses. It is also for securing your future. Earning money just to spend it is wasting. You have to make more money and save a fortune to retire early. You must avoid the trap of higher earnings leading to higher expenses. Otherwise all you will be doing is working harder for longer. You will be living a higher lifestyle but not reaching financial freedom. The purpose is to increase your savings rate.
To design your life to minimise expenses you must save the most where you spend the most. The biggest items in spending will be
- Recurring expenses
Housing is normally the highest cost. A big house in a fancy area will come at a premium. You also need a big bond, spend more to furnish it, have higher utilities and higher maintenance costs and have the more wasted space.
To keep your housing cost as low as possible follow these 3 rules
- Buy a house in a suburb next to the best suburb
- Buy the worst house in a good neighbourhood or street
- Buy the cheapest house you need not the most expensive house you can afford.
The cheaper the house the more you can put down as a deposit. The bigger your deposit the better the bond rate from the bank. The lower the payments the more you can pay extra. The more you pay extra on your bond the less interest you pay. The sooner you pay off your house the sooner you can invest significant amounts of money. Just this change can boost your savings rate by 30-50% allowing you to make more money save a fortune and retire early.
Transport is a huge expense that can be largely eliminated if you plan properly. The best is if you can work at home or live very close to work so that you don’t need to drive. If you don’t drive you may be able to avoid all the costs related to owning and running a car.
The costs snowball the further you live from work. The longer the commute the more you drive. The more you want a comfortable car the more you spend on fuel and maintenance. The greater the risk of accidents and the sooner you need to replace your car. It’s a vicious cycle.
Even if you just live close to work and have to travel a short distance you will save hugely on car expenses. Spending more than 30 min a day commuting is going to waste significant amounts of money and cost you time.
I have worked far from home, 2h commuting and close to work 30 min commuting. Its like living two different lives. One is an expensive rat race the other is a richer life with time and higher savings rate. This alone can save a fortune to retire early.
Food used to be very simple and basic and we all ate similarly. But that has changed and food has become a big expense category. With our fast paced busy lives convenience and dining out is common. An extravagant family can easily spend double what a frugal family spends on food.
If you don’t plan your groceries and just buy whatever you like whenever you want you can expect to be wasting a lot of money. That convenience is costing you more not only in money but health too. Being careless with your food and eating will lead to additional health costs. This classic Mr Money Mustache article explains what to consider to get your grocery bill down while keeping it healthy.
Snacks and sweets are a huge money spinner for consumer food companies. An analysis of my grocery bill showed how quickly these costs add up. They offer no nutritional value at all. Infact they are the exact opposite. They are treats and should be treated as such and not become a regular feature.
It comes down to what you buy, where you buy it and how often you buy. There are so many options these days with different food brands and different types of grocery shops. Buying your vegetables from a traditional green grocer vs the fancy plastic pre packaged woollies vegies. Or buying meat from a butcher vs the meat aisle at the supermarket.
Ideally you are looking for a simple healthy well balanced diet. To make the optimal savings you are going to have to buy in bulk to save and you are going to have to do more preparation. Cooking from scratch goes without saying as anything with convenience will cost you more and be unhealthy.
Recurring expenses are always a hot topic. These seemingly small monthly amounts are often disregarded because there are bigger areas to save on. This is correct but if you are looking to max out that savings rate you cannot leave any stone unturned.
There are two problems with recurring expenses
- They are small but recur month after month and add up
- One recurring expense might be fine but there can be many
Any recurring expense should be calculated and looked at in terms of a longer time period. The same way as small frequent investments compound positively over time, So too do small recurring expenses compound negatively over time.
A quick rule of thumb is to multiply the monthly expense by 163 to see what it will cost you over a 10 year period.
Take that latte that everyone talks about @R40 a pop and 30 times a month that’s R1200pm or R195 600 over 10 years.
DSTV premium at R829pm works out to R135 127 over 10 years
Gym membership of R900pm works out to R146 700
Add those three together and you are close to half a million rand over 10 years.
3. No Debt
Debt is the exact opposite of financial freedom. When you are in debt you owe someone money so they control you in some way.
The problem with debt is that you pay interest. Paying interest is the biggest waste of money. You are paying a premium price for an item simply because you could not save up for it and want it immediately. That R100 000 car that you pay off over 5 years actually costs R 127 482. That is an extra R27 482, almost 30% more.
Buying a house is possibly the only exception because you have an asset that will appreciate in value. But still there is money to be saved there. On a R 1 000 000 home loan @10% the interest cost over 20 years is R 1 316 051. So the interest costs more than the cost of the house! If you pay off the loan in 10 years you can save R 730 243.
Buying anything else on credit and paying interest is throwing your money away. That interest should be compounding your savings and getting you to financial freedom. Instead you are making the banks rich.
Avoid paying interest and significantly increase your savings rate.
Design Your Life for Financial Freedom
You need to understand these principles to make the right decisions early on in life. The problem with most people is they don’t think about this until closer to retirement. But then you have wasted too much time and made too many wrong decisions. The changes you need then will be drastic and life changing.
By designing your life to make more money and save a fortune you won’t need drastic steps and feel like you are depriving yourself. You will be consciously living your life to achieve financial freedom. When you achieve that freedom your life will be better than than you could have imagined.
There is no way around this. You need to make more money and save a fortune to be able to retire. The only other option is to work your whole life and retire poor. Too many people land up with that option. Don’t let it be you.
But wait ther is more. Check the next blog post on tips to design the ideal frugal life to become a mllionaire.