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My friend was fired today.

She had worked at this company for years and was exceptionally loyal though this company has not given much reason for it. Based on a rumor, her time at this company abruptly ended. She was given plenty of reasons for anger and disappointment.

As I comforted my friend, it became another reason for an ever-growing list of why I’m chasing financial freedom like a scary velociraptor from Jurassic Park.

I don’t want my position, livelihood, and identity to hang on employment. Instead, I want to level up to early retirement and end the game of financial dependence.

Choose Your Adventure

Before wrinkles and silver hair, I thought 9 to 5 until you die wasn’t an option it was a standard career advice. If I worked hard, I would always have work. If I was laid off, unemployment would be enough to survive.

A lack of wrinkles also meant a lack of wisdom.

After college, I focused on getting scrappy so I could be Park Ranger. There wasn’t much thought to financial freedom. I had a career to pursue before retirement, right?

After years of fantasy, the Park Ranger gig became reality.

Once I had captured and contained one dream, it was off to the next. Next stop, financial freedom.

Sam at Gov Worker says financial freedom means, “The ability to say “no” to crappy projects at work because you have enough money that you’re no longer afraid of losing your job.”

For me, financial freedom is not letting my employer dictate my happiness. Everything will change someday. At some point, I will wake up and realize the passion and people are no longer worth 8 hours of agony.

With a cause and reason burning a hole in my government issued pants, I realized I needed a plan. The plan, at a minimum, had to be better than cashing out my retirement when I need money.

I did that for college. It was a terrible choice that I still moan about.

Instead, I had to get serious and examine my personal finances like how a doctor asks about a new skin growth. I busted out the hand lends (aka spreadsheets) and went up close and personal with my finances!

Fearless Financials

The easy part was using my newly acquired federal benefits. I have fancy vehicles that would help do some heavy lifting with this financial freedom scheme.

I was already enrolled in TSP (fancy gov word for 401k) with a 5% match. Plus, a pension (FERS) that gets a big payout after 20 years. Two layers of retirement is better than none.

Through persistent questioning and plenty of paperwork, I verified I could use 4 years of military experience to boost FERS. Chopping down 20 years to 16. To cash in this program, I had to pay back my time for a total of $2,106 in a lump sum or payment plan.

After crunching numbers and talking to Mr. BuLL who loves numbers more than words, I chose the payment plan. I wanted to keep my savings where they are. Safe, sound, and hiding from payment plans.

Once this big decision was made with employment sponsored retirement and I signed the reams of paperwork, gov work always requires paperwork, I started reading more about personal finances.

But after figuring out my retirement account, and when I felt bored of saving, I started looking elsewhere. Investing seemed like a logical, if not scary, next step. The shifty charts and foreign language was as appealing as skydiving after a big meal but I hoped that once I figured out the lingo, it would be easier.

Over a year later, mission accomplished!

At first, I looked at the stock market and tried to not feel overwhelmed. I was trying to wash off the fear that happens when I have no idea what’s going on.

Then, I started Googling words until I got frustrated and confused. At first, this process took nanoseconds then seconds eventually minutes. The quick online reads turned to longer lingers and drifted to borrowing library books on bulk.

I had reached the voracious consumption stage. Still hanging out at this stage and the proof is on hold at the library.

Leveling Up

My unlicensed opinion is progress is good, considering a midlife start.

My 20’s is when I spent money, my 30’s is saving it. The best decisions I made in my 20s was: joining the Navy, graduating college, and avoiding debt. Instead, I was chronically broke.

In my 30’s: I have a Park Ranger job that I am very happy with, even if it meant staying in this exact position for 16 years. Currently, the passion and people are worth it. I’m aggressively investing especially after seeing the careening and chaotic growth called compound interest. The returns are best when compared to savings accounts. The place where financial freedom dreams go to be eaten by inflation.

Financial Freedom

After an encouraging phone call with my fired friend, I sent her an Amazon gift card. A small token for her current struggle. I felt grateful to be financially stable enough to give it.

I have worked through a few financial setbacks too though none as severe as being fired. But, as I continue to level up – I’m seeing setbacks as short-term losses that will become long-term gains in resilience, persistence, and sass.

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