Our Financial Independence Building Blocks
You may have noticed in my first post that we have a big family – 6 kids to be exact! It would cost a small fortune to afford daycare for our crew, so understandably we decided that my wife would be a stay-at-home mom as we began to grow our family. As you can imagine, having a large family living on one income can make growing wealth a challenge. But I love challenges! With a bit of creativity and some grit, and with the right building blocks, I believe financial independence is achievable for SILKs [you’ve heard of DINKs (double income no kids). Now introducing SILKs – single income lots of kids!].
Frugality is the cornerstone of a financial independence plan. It’s almost indispensable. We’ve all heard stories of the rich and famous who, despite their millions, end up broke and even bankrupt. In other words, you can’t out earn poor spending habits! And while earning money is great, saving money has a double impact on your financial independence goal. Remember that perpetual money making machine I referenced in my first post? Well it doesn’t come cheap! And with every frugal decision we are able to save up more quickly to buy it. But, like most machines, there are different models at varying price points. And by reducing your lifestyle, you are able to get by with a smaller less expensive machine – which means you will be able to buy it even sooner!
Keep an eye out for future articles about my frugal roots growing up in a family with 9 kids, my own family’s frugal wins, and of course our experiments in extreme frugality. Cutting coupons will look like child’s play!
One of the biggest expenses in most budgets is food. And what better way to save money on food than to grow or raise your own?!
I grew up in a large Phoenix suburb of nearly half a million people. But deep down, I always wanted to be a country boy. My dad used to read book series to the family, and one of those was Little Britches – an autobiographical series by Ralph Moody about his life growing up as a rancher in the early 1900’s in the American west. I think this is what originally sparked my interest in country life as a young boy.
After getting married, work and school eventually moved my new family to the Midwest. After being suburbanites for a few more years, we decided to flee to the country to take advantage of lower home prices and property taxes. Alas my childhood dream was becoming a reality! We found a beautiful home on one acre of green grass with a handful of fruit trees surrounded by farmland. It’s far enough from town to see the stars, but close enough to still have easy access to all the city amenities when we need them. While one acre may seem small to some, it feels like wide open spaces after growing up 20 ft from my neighbors!
Although my wife still needs a bit of convincing, my hope is that we can start a small homestead and provide as much of our own food as possible (she’s not exactly an animal lover!). I plan to start small with a garden and some chickens and add some goats and pigs down the road.
We didn’t raise any animals or do much gardening growing up, but my parents were skilled home canners. Whenever we found a great deal on fruit, we would by it by the cases and make delicious homemade jams and canned fruit. I have fond memories of sitting around our giant kitchen table paring peaches as we prepped them for canning – sampling frequently for quality control of course! I have carried on this tradition with my kids and even expanded my skills to include meats and vegetables. I see home canning as an essential tool for those in pursuit of financial independence since it allows you to buy food at rock bottom prices (or grow/raise it) and preserve it for the future – frugal eating all year long! My hope is that we will have more opportunity to do this as we start to produce our own food on our little homestead.
Real Estate Investing
Let’s state the obvious here – SILKs have an income disadvantage compared to DINKs. We have half the income and more mouths to feed! And you can only frugal your way so far. Financial independence requires money after all and unless the single wage earner has an incredibly high salary, it is going to take some additional income sources to speed up the timeline.
I’ve always been intrigued with real estate. I love driving through nice neighborhoods admiring the beautiful homes and scouring real estate apps looking at listings. And there is something about investing in physical assets that appeals to me more than paper (or more like digital!) assets. While I know real estate investing comes with its own challenges, I see it as an extremely viable option for a single income household looking to increase their monthly cash flow and speed up their path to financial independence.
I’m no real estate mogul, but I have dipped my toes in the water in the last few years. When I was attending school in a small town of about 10,000 people, we decided to buy a home instead of rent. The idea of living in someone else’s house with 2 kids at the time who liked to color on walls and pull on blinds didn’t appeal to me. Not to mention, the home prices were so low that it was hard for my engineer mind to pay hundreds of dollars more a month to fill someone else’s pockets. We knew we would only be living there two years and that it might take a while to sell in the market at the time, so we planned to keep it as a rental once I finished school.
While I was clueless to all the intricacies of owning real estate and really wasn’t in the best financial position to be investing, it has turned out to be a positive experience so far. In many ways I got lucky and have been blessed with a solid tenant (a professor at my alma mater) who pays on time, takes care of minor repairs, doesn’t call me at 3 am, and is content to renew his lease every year for the foreseeable future. The major drawback is that my first job out of college took me to another state, and long distance landlording is a challenge. I have no plans to kick my tenant out any sooner than he wants to leave, but in the future I plan to invest locally. I want to start with a small multi-family rental (2-5 units) and build up from there.
Real estate can require a lot of capital, so I am always looking for other less expensive ways to boost our income. You could call me a serial side hustler, and it started young. Digging through the couch cushions was a major source of income for me as a kid, but I quickly realized there were better methods of building wealth. At 5 years old, my brother and I began a small business collecting aluminum cans from the neighbors and taking them to the recycle center. I helped him build some can crushers of his own design out of 2×4’s and mason jar rings which we tried selling to our clients. Since then, I have tried everything from being a ride share driver to my latest adventure of selling used books on Amazon.
I like the term side hustle. So many of us work a typical 9-5 job (or 9-9 for others) and we may be hustling, but the size of our paychecks is not directly related to the amount of hustle. We are essentially trading time for money. For me, a side hustle is more than a part-time job – the earning potential is nearly limitless and the more we hustle the more we can make.
Stay tuned to read about all of my side hustles of the past (some successful, others not so much) and to keep up on my new side hustle experiments!
So there they are – our five building blocks for building wealth and achieving financial independence. Yours may be the same or they may be different. Find whatever works for your family. Feel free to share yours in the comments and I hope you enjoy future articles in each of these categories.