The road to financial independence is pretty boring at this point.

  1. Contribute enough to 401(k) to get employer match
    • Done.
  2. Pay off all high-interest debt
    • Paid off student loans in 2013
  3. Build an emergency fund (should have occurred prior to # 1, but just didn't officially set it aside as such.)
    • 4 months expenses in high-interest savings account, now adding $100/mo to build toward 5 months or anticipate future higher COL
  4. Contribute to tax deferred accounts up to max
    • Last year (2015) I started contributing to 401(k) up to max
    • Not yet maxing out HSA since prefer to build up accessible funds in taxable account to help finance future small business (but putting enough into HSA to cover expected annual expenses--i.e. contact lenses and glasses.)
    • Not maxing out my Roth IRA for same reason as IRA, although plan to increase contributions with next pay increase

Milestones to look forward to:

  • Next month, my total retirement + cash accounts should exceed the balance due on my mortgage loan
  • During June I should find out my next salary increase and nail down the adjustments I'll make to automatic savings plans
  • 7 years from now, I could stop adding to retirement accounts, and just let them grow until I'm 65 and likely have plenty of money to retire on (assuming I keep my spending rate about equal to now.) (I don't plan to stop contributing entirely.)
  • 15 years from now, I could stop working and live off of savings, assuming:
    • Salary keeps up with inflation
    • Keep earning steadily each year and don't take time off work for kids / travel / life.
    • Spending levels don't change

There are a lot of assumptions in hitting those milestones that I am already fairly certain will not be reality. It seems more likely than not (haha accountant-speak) that the plan should take into account both moving to a higher cost-of-living city at some point (to be closer to where we grew up) and the addition of children (which I would at a minimum take a few months off for, but preferably more time than that.)

I can make choices now to affect the following:

  1. Focus on a career path that will cause earnings to increase more rapidly
    • For example, leveraging my way up to controller at a larger company, with employees under me, resulting in higher pay grade.
  2. Figure out a career path that may pay less, but I would like to do for my whole life rather than just the next 15 years
    • A. Could turn current skill set into a small business to allow flexibility (work fewer hours but work more years)
      • Challenge here is that for years this will likely mean earning less per hour of work, which would be same effect as just finding an employer to let me work part-time. However, could eventually turn into much higher earning per hour, if successful, which working part time for a company likely will not.
    • B. Could learn a whole new skill and change careers to something that makes me not desire to retire early
      • I'm not sure there's anything out there that I really want to do for 40+ hours per week for decades

2A seems like the most feasible plan to me, but pretty scary. It seems like the most interesting, but the least stable. And what if it turns out I don’t like it?

Really, I’m suffering from the good problem of having too many options. I could decide to change careers entirely in the next couple of years and still be fine for retirement–problem is, I don’t really have an overriding passionate purpose I’ve been waiting to pursue. Day-to-day, I know accounting work is up my ally, even if it isn’t all that interesting all of the time.