Long story short, in 2010 we had $225,000 in student loans from my fancy-pants MBA degree and negative net worth. We got crazed and unusual with our dollars, cleared the debt in three and a half years, and are now working toward our own version of financial independence. You can read all about it here.
Because I love writing and enjoy helping people, I launched www.DesignIndependence.com to share what I've learned about grad school and personal finance over the last ten years. I write what I wish I'd read when I was twenty five. I write more about my motivation in this post, too.
The name Design Independence simply riffs on two themes that are very important to our family. The first is the concept of lifestyle design, deliberately using our time and resources to create the life we want. The second is financial independence, looking to disconnect our income from our time without trampling on the rest of our values.
I know from personal experience that many high earners - doctors, lawyers, and MBAs - focus on growing their incomes, and not their net worth.
Also, many mainstream financial pundits are focused on serving the broad middle class. That advice often doesn’t resonate with the big-earner crowd, even when they could benefit from taking the advice! Design Independence wants to help bridge that gap, drawing from great resources in the financial independence (FI) community and making connections to apply those concepts in the lives of people who earn big incomes or aspire to earn big incomes.
The problem is this: For any of these high-income paths, you lock in at a very young age without knowing how you’ll feel about your vocation in your thirties, forties, or fifties. Why not prepare now for anything you may face in the future? Financial Independence is the ultimate luxury and provides the best vocational flexibility.
If you're living the dream, I'm talking to you
If you're a big earner, you run two huge risks. First, you may create an absolute fortune in income throughout your life, while saving and investing way too little money. Second and more subtly, if your savings rate is too low, you tie yourself to very competitive, stressful work for way too long. There may come a time when, for whatever reason, you want or need an off-ramp from the big salary and big demands of your job.
Here's the good news (the Gospel of Design Independence): it is relatively simple (not easy!) to live a very comfortable life now and create a plan to be completely financially free at a young age. It just requires being intentional, and a willingness to swim against the tide. My family and I have not yet finished this journey, but we're well on our way and excited to continue to share our story, and to help others traveling the same path.