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Working Toward Financial Independence While in Debt

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The Financial Independence Retire Early movement (FIRE for short) has become pretty popular over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. Who wouldn’t want to leave the workforce years early with a comfortable nest egg and spend the rest of their days traveling and pursuing their passions?

Debt and FIRE may seem like they don’t mix. After all, it’s hard to save and invest a large chunk of your income while you’re contending with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. For a while, I was discouraged and felt like I’d never achieve FIRE if I wanted to become debt-free. I considered giving up my FIRE goals and just focusing on paying off my mortgage and retiring at 67. 

But you actually need a lot less money than you’d think to achieve certain types of financial independence—more on that later. I’d even argue that people who have the discipline to pay off a significant amount of debt are in a better position to FIRE than the general population. 

Here’s why I think it’s possible to achieve financial independence even if you’re in debt now. I’ll also give you an overview of my FIRE plans as an example. 

Why People Who Have Paid Off Debt Are in a Good Position to FIRE

I think that paying off debt is great training for FIRE because it teaches you how to delay gratification. Those of us who are committed to paying off debt know how to live modestly and work hard toward a goal that often feels far away. We’ve learned how to cut down on discretionary spending and skip eating out and vacations for years at a time to accelerate our financial progress. 

That mindset is a huge asset when it comes to achieving FIRE. Once your debt is paid off, you’ll be able to funnel all the money that used to go toward loans into your investment accounts. If you maintain a high savings rate by living like you’re still in debt, you may be able to achieve FIRE even with a later start. It also helps if you’re able to contribute to your 401K while you’re paying off debt, which is a smart move even if you’re not aiming for early retirement. Investing just a couple hundred dollars a month during your debt payoff journey will shave years off your FIRE date. 

My FIRE Plans

You’ve probably heard of the standard version of FIRE, which involves saving a large percentage of your income (usually 50% or more) to build enough wealth to retire early. But there are actually a few different types of FIRE you may not know about that are easier to achieve. 

Lean FIRE

Lean FIRE is a type of financial independence that involves living on less than $40,000 per year. If you can get your average annual spending down to $20,000 or $30,000 (or supplement your investments with a part-time job), you can retire with less than $1 million in today’s dollars. 

Coast FIRE

Coast FIRE is even more achievable. People who have reached Coast FIRE have invested enough money in their 401K to retire at regular retirement age without making any further contributions. This means that they only have to cover their living expenses until age 67, which gives them a lot more career flexibility and ability to take risks. 

This is the type of FIRE that I’m currently aiming for because it’s easier to balance with my debt payoff goals. Trying to save 50% of my income and pay off my mortgage at the same time just isn’t realistic. But to achieve Coast FIRE in my late thirties or early forties, I only need to invest about $550 per month, which is completely doable even while paying off my mortgage. If you want to figure out how much you need to invest each month to achieve Coast FIRE, play around with this awesome calculator

Based on my early mortgage payoff schedule, I’ll be debt-free around the same time I achieve Coast FIRE. Getting rid of my mortgage will lower my expenses significantly. Because I won’t need a lot of income to cover my living costs, I’ll have a lot more financial freedom and career flexibility in my forties if everything goes to plan. 

FIRE Is Still Possible

If you have early retirement dreams, you don’t have to give up on them just because you started life with student loans or got into credit card debt. I encourage you to play around with some FIRE calculators and see what might be possible if you save diligently once you get out of debt! 

Do you want to retire early? If so, what kind of FIRE are you aiming for? Let me know in the comments section below!

Read More

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A New Mortgage Payoff Strategy

Why I’ve Relaxed My Debt Payoff

5 Part-Time Construction Jobs to Take if You’re in Debt

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If you are having money problems and want to clear out some debt off the books, a part-time job can help. Generating more money by taking on a part-time job can put a huge dent in your debt. The construction industry generated about $2 trillion in revenue in 2019, you can get on that. There are great part-time construction jobs that pay well and will help you to come up with the money to pay down your debt.

1. Laborer

What does a laborer do? Just about everything that does not require a specific skillset. Laborer jobs are everywhere. As a laborer, you may work on a demolition team and do tear-outs. You may be there just to carry things or get things around. Laborers have a wide range of duties that typically do not involve using tools or require any specific knowledge.

According to the Department of Labor, the average laborer earns about $15 an hour. If you did that for 20 hours each week, think about the extra money you would generate to pay off some bills. It is hard work, but it is something anyone can do for some fast money.

2. Painting

According to the Kansas Division of Workers Compensation, about 40,000 occupational illnesses and injuries are reported each year. When it comes to construction work injuries, house painters, and commercial painters rank among the lowest injuries. This means that you can be a painter part-time and not have to worry about getting injured on the job because the odds are low that you will be.

Painters, even part-time painters, can make a nice chunk of money with a little hard work. If you can paint a room, you can expect to make about $250 or more per room after you consider supplies. If you painted houses only on the weekends and did it as a freelance construction gig, you can make up to $1,500 extra each month. That would be a game changer for your finances.

3. HVAC Assistant

Maybe you are not fully prepared to rip apart an old HVAC system and install a new one. Maybe you are not sure what a load cell is and what torque sensor units are or that they are designed to work in a wide range of temperatures from -452 degrees F to 450 degrees F. That’s okay. You can still carry tools and equipment, and assist someone that does.

Every new building needs a new HVAC system installed. You can work on the weekends with an HVAC installation company as an assistant to generate more money. The HVAC industry, according to IBIS, generates on average every year $40 billion. Go get your piece of the pie and find some part-time work as an HVAC installation assistant.

4. Construction Cleanup

Have you considered starting your own business to generate more money? There is a niche in the construction industry that does not require you to build anything. Construction cleanup can be a lucrative business and all you need is a vacuum and some cleaning supplies. After a home is built there is a lot of dust and debris left behind. Someone must clean up the mess. A construction cleanup business on the side is a great way to earn money, have your own business, and potentially find a new career.

5. Asphalt Repair

Sometimes earning a new skill is a great way to earn more money. Asphalt repair is a relatively easy skill to learn and it is something that you can do on the weekends. Homeowners are willing to pay for asphalt repair to keep their driveway in top condition. To start, you do not need heavy equipment unless you want to offer additional services like resurfacing. You will need some hand tools and to watch some tutorial videos, and then you can start making money.

The best way to beat down debt is to generate more income. A part-time job in the construction industry can be a flexible way to earn more money. Start your search today and be debt free before you know it.

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