The quest for freedom: How it al started

Wed, 05/27/2015 - 22:46

I always had a pretty normal and standard life. As a teenager I rode mopeds, I had friends and I went to school to create a more secure future for myself. After school I went to college, I moved out and did some crazy interesting things. During high school I worked at a supermarket re-stocking the shelfs. I didn't earn much, but it was enough to pay for clothing and drinks on the weekends. It also relieved some of my mother's monetary stress, since we didn't have a lot of money. Our furniture mainly consisted of old discarded give-aways. Earning my own money meant that I could take more care of my own bills. When the crazy college life was over I had to start working full-time. Not that I really wanted to, it just felt like the most logical next step and completely compliant to societies unwritten rules.

During my early work-years as an It Engineer I always fantasized about quitting and starting my own little company. No big money, just enough to be happy and relaxed. Not having to drag yourself to the office every day and deal with office people, office politics and, even worse, office rules sounded like sheer heaven. But I can't quit my job! I have all these bills to pay. Rent, electric bill, phone bill, food, clothes and let's not forget the gigantic student loan which needed to be paid back in full. I actually don't remember exactly how much it was but I believe my total student loan was well over €16.000,-. I needed to work to pay back all that money. And what about saving for a pension? Surely, I need to do that. No, there is no way in hell I can quit my job now and start a venture of my own and be free, jolly and happy. I was a slave to the rules of modern society.

Then something interesting happened. The economic crisis in 2008 surprisingly paved the road to freedom for me. In 2010 my boss told me he could no longer keep me so I was laid off in December 2010. I had some job offers, but they were not interesting at all. Many hours, low pay, no extras .... no future. I decided that since I was out of a job and I had some money from an inheritance (and no mortgage, no children, not married), now was the time to 'try' doing it on your own. I had no experience in being an entrepreneur or a business owner and I had little or no network of contacts, so I had to start from scratch, but I dived right in and just did it. I actually wanted to be a photographer (one of my main hobbies), but I did a lot of research in this field and found out that there was absolutely no (or very little) money to be made here. Basically, every idiot with enough money for a digital SLR camera could be a photographer. Therefore, prices dropped and the market flooded with part-time photographers. So I did the next thing I was good at. Linux! I'm actually not really the best Linux engineer around, but I do a pretty decent job and I'm LPIC-1 and LPIC-2 certified! And Linux engineers are hard to find. Even today!

I started my first freelance job as a Linux engineer in July 2011 after doing some short Linux jobs for small clients. This freelance job really started to fill up my bank account, fast! Even though hourly rates were still rather low due to the economic 'crisis', I still managed to earn about €7500,- (before income tax) each month. This was great! I was finally making some serious money! Even though just a year before that I didn't care about money, but more about my happiness and free time. Making lots of money felt really nice, but I still felt like I was missing something. The freedom and happiness I thought about years before.

At one point I started working as a freelance Linux engineer for a large, well-known Dutch telecommunications company. It was a fun and relatively stress-less job and I was working in a great team of very nice co-workers. Every day I would grind my mind thinking about life, happiness, freedom, money, needs and wants. How would, could or should all these things work together in harmony? One day in May 2014 I talked about this with a co-worker. I knew he was a freelancer as well, so he was also making lots of money. I asked him what he does with his money and how he foresees his future. When you have lots of money (to spare) it is wise to invest it and make it work for you. But I knew nothing about investing in stocks or bonds. It even sounded scary, mostly because I had no knowledge on how to invest wisely. Since interest rates on savings accounts were (and still are) unimaginably low, putting al my money in one of those accounts wasn't going to do anything to help my money grow.

So I asked my co-worker these simple question(s): "How do you invest your money?" and "What is your ultimate goal?".

THAT was the day when my quest for freedom first started. He talked very passionately about investing money wisely so it would actually grow, fast. He also mentioned things like 'frugality' and 'financial independence' and sent me some great links of blogs by Mr. Money Moustache and jlcollinsnh, the man with Fuck You money. His goal was to make 1 million Euro as quick as possible and retire early. Preferably within the next 10 years. It sounds crazy, but after talking to him and reading a lot of blogs on the subject I do believe it is possible. Especially when you're your own boss and work as a freelancer. E.g.: At this moment I work as a freelance Linux Engineer for another large telecommunications company and I make about €10.000 a month. After income tax that would still leave me about €7500 nett! Currently I'm still in the process of tracing all my money. Creating spreadsheets and keeping track of my money, but I already have a clear view of what money comes in and what goes out. I try to combine comfort of living with frugality to accumulate as much money as I can. I invest most of it in Vanguard ETF's to make my money grow and eventually have it work for me. Still after one year I feel a bit like a newbie in the whole FI (=financial independence) game, but Rome wasn't build in a day either. Steady wins the race. All I need to do is stick to the plan and retire early. By the way: retiring early doesn't mean 'stop living', or 'stop working' for that matter. It means doing whatever the F*&K I want and not having to worry about money, because there's enough and it is not important. It means not having to go to work every day. It means (quote by my co-worker) leaving the cooperate rat race and truly be free.

There is so much more I can write about this subject and I will! But for now this is it. Hope to see you next time.

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