How the Path to Early Retirement is Like Learning to Drive a Car.

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If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed. – David Viscott

Want to take control of your finances and reach for early retirement, but you're confused with where you should start? Let me help you with the first step.

How many of you were scared to learn how to drive a car?  I know I was!  I was scared, nervous and excited.  And you know what?  Taking control of your money and fighting for financial independence and early retirement gives me those same feelings!

Scared that once I am retired something will happen and I’ll have to go back to work.

Nervous because I’m doing so well on this journey so far and I don’t want to mess it up!

Excited because the thought of freedom and financial independence is exhilarating!

This post has been stewing in my head for about a week now and when I finally was able to start writing, the thought hit me.  The road to FIRE is like the road to getting your driver’s license.

There are so many steps to achieve both.

The first step is learning.

Before you actually get your license you have to take a class and learn the rules of the road, right?  When is it safe to pass?  What does that sign mean?  Should you use your high beams or low beams in the fog?

While financial independence doesn’t require you to pass a test, it is a good idea to learn about 401k’s and IRA’s, fees, taxes, investments, withdrawal rates and so much more.  It’ll make the journey a lot less confusing.

Start reading books on financial independence.  Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin is great and one that I’ve read about five times now.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey is also great for helping you get out of debt.  He also has a radio show that is pretty entertaining and I highly suggest checking out.  I listen to it on my drive home from work.

Then there are the hundreds of personal finance blogs with tons of tips and tricks to help you along your journey.  Mr. Money Mustache and jlcollinsnh are two of my favorites and provide a ton of information on the FIRE movement.

I started reading books and websites when I was deep in debt.  Like $50k in debt.  I knew I had a long way to go, but I wasn’t sure what I needed to do exactly.  After doing a bunch of reading I started doing Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.

The second step is to get going!

My dad used to pick me up from high school when I had my learner’s permit.  He drove most of the way home, but once we turned off on a deserted country road with hardly any traffic he would switch seats with me and let me drive the last few miles home.

Eventually I got to drive the entire way home and then once summer hit I took Driver’s Ed and got to drive around town in a car with a “Student Driver” sign taped to the car.  I learned how to drive a car in baby steps.  Taking on more and more as I felt more and more comfortable.

If you’re thinking about maybe possibly trying to get out of debt and way, way down the road, trying to reach financial independence, it’s important to do what you feel comfortable doing. As time goes on, challenge yourself with something new.  Attempt to earn more income or cut some unnecessary items from your expenses.

As much as you want to, you aren’t going to go from $0 to $600k overnight.  That’s why you need to start now, today.

I was working on the baby steps and not even close to being debt free when I got laid off from the job I had.  Things were a little stressful back then!  Luckily my parents were there for me and gave me a roof over my head.  Eventually I got a job doing retail and instead of focusing on getting rid of debt I decided to build up my emergency fund a little more.  *I felt comfortable doing this.  Please do what’s best for you and your situation.  

A few years later I started working at my old job again and was able to get out of debt completely.  Since I already had a decent sized emergency fund, I started throwing all my extra money towards retirement.  And I’ve been doing that ever since!

When I wanted to start an emergency fund I signed up for an online savings account.  Back then it was known as ING.  Now it’s Capital One 360 (referral link).  Still an awesome bank and I’ve been extremely happy with it!  It’s super easy to use and you can create multiple savings accounts for different goals.  I have two!  One is my Emergency Fund and one is called New Car Fund.  No car loans for this girl!

Lastly, Pass the Test!

Sadly, I didn’t pass my drivers exam on the first try.  I was extremely nervous and just did really bad.  So I kept practicing my parallel parking and kept chauffering my parents around.  By the time my second exam came around I was a lot more confident.  I passed on that second try!

I still haven’t reached financial independence, and I have a long way to go.  However, I would say that I’m in the cruising stage of this journey.  I know what I need to do to pass into freedom and I’m just trying to stay the course.  I’ll get there eventually.

I just really hope that once I reach financial independence, I stay there! That is one test I don’t want to fail!  But if I do, I’m sure I’ll pick myself up and keep preparing to pass into freedom once again.

One awesome thing about being frugal is that I don’t need to depend on a huge paycheck.  It’s nice now while I’m building my stash, but if the unthinkable happens and I have to go back to work once I’m retired, a part-time (hopefully enjoyable) job should suffice.

It took me many years to really get going on this FIRE goal, but the important thing is that I started.  I started small.  Like really small.  Like I started doing Baby Step 1 while I was soaking up everything I could on personal finance.

That’s all I could handle at that time and if that’s all you can handle, great!  At least you started.

I keep track of my stash with Personal Capital.  Personal Capital (affiliate link) may be one of the most important tools of my early retirement journey.  Every single month I keep track of what I spend, save, and earn.  It’s a valuable tool to have, because I can look back through the months and see what areas I need to work on.  They also have a pretty cool retirement planner that let’s you know if you’re on track to reach your goals!

In Conclusion

So I know you don’t have to know how to drive a car to get where you want to go in life, but it certainly helps!  You can also go through life not knowing anything about personal finance.  You can live your life not ever giving a damn about how much you earn and spend, but watching what you spend and living below your means certainly helps you get somewhere in life.  Hopefully early retirement!

If you are just starting out and aren’t sure what to do, just keep reading and learning.  There is so much valuable information out there that something will resonate with you.

Keep taking those small baby steps.  It’s worth it in the end!

Want to take control of your finances and reach for early retirement, but you're confused with where you should start? Let me help you with the first step.

4 thoughts on “How the Path to Early Retirement is Like Learning to Drive a Car.”

  1. Great analogy! I love the bit about education, too. It’s so important to learn about personal finance, how to invest, and how to grow your income. I wouldn’t be nearly as successful as I am today had I not taken time to educate myself. I’m also reading and learning because I think knowledge is a life-long pursuit.

    1. I completely agree about knowledge being a life-long pursuit! I’ve thought about going back to college and just taking a class here and there on whatever interests me. Science, history, English… It’ll probably have to wait until I’m retired though. I’ll have plenty of time on my hands then!
      Thanks for the comment!

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