TechFI: Financial independence in IT

This is a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time now as it has played a big part in my life for the past 23 years. Over this time I’ve pursued financial independence whilst working in a variety of position in the Information Technology sector. Being in Tech has exposed me to opportunities that are unavailable to people working in other industries and it has been frustrating to see colleagues, most of whom are far smarter then I am, still struggling financially. Hopefully, these articles will raise some awareness of small behavioral changes that people working in IT can make to lift their game when it comes to saving money and ultimately opting out of the rat race.

laptop at the beach

In the last few years, the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement has taken off and is starting to prick the bubble of mainstream consciousness. I’ve never really liked the tag of Early Retirement applied to my own personal goals as it conjures images of spending time gardening or playing golf. It also provokes pushback from people who say “but I like my job, I don’t want to retire. I wouldn’t know what to do with my time”. Hence I prefer just to use the term Financial Independence and will continue to do so on this site.

If achieving Financial Independence isn’t about Retiring Early then what is it? For me, it’s about security and autonomy. It’s about having the financial discipline and resilience to make your own choices in life. Someone that is living paycheck to paycheck, or is servicing a large mortgage, or paying down a massive student loan or sending their kids to an expensive private school (or all the above as is often the case), is trapped and scarily dependent on their job. They are exposed to a great deal of stress if any of their circumstances change. They could lose their job, or become sick, incapacitated or face higher interest rates on their loan. More insidiously they are also stuck in a lifestyle that denies them the chance to pursue fulfilling interests. Taking a career break, spending quality time with the family, maybe volunteering for a good cause are all hard to achieve without some measure of financial independence. FI insulates me from the bad times and allows me to experience more of the good. It certainly isn’t about playing more golf.

When distilled to its essence pursuing financial independence is quite simple. Spend less then you earn and invest the remainder. To do this requires an attention to detail, a willingness to chop out fat, let go of what is unnecessary and analysis of past and future performance. Interestingly many of these traits map over to the disciplines required to be a good IT practitioner. A good programmer is constantly trying to simplify, optimize and remove clutter. It is hard to obtain financial independence without adopting some measure of frugality and good software cannot be created by adding bloat. I’ll explore this relationship further in a later blog. Suffice to say I feel that the IT industry offers both fantastic opportunities to reach a high net worth at a young age and is also populated by people with the right mentality to actually pull it off.

I’ll publish more articles about these topics over the next few weeks as I cycle around the South Island.

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