Do you know what makes any process easier? Looking at it from start to finish from a 30,000 ft view. I created this financial independence flowchart specifically for you to identify where you’re at, where you’re going and decisions that await you on your journey.
There is only a couple of financial independence flowcharts on the internet. I created this FIRE Flowchart with families in mind, using my own family as a template.
View and Download the Financial Independence Flowchart.
Married w/ combined finances
Dual income household
You’re willing and able to work full-time
You’re at least 10 years away from traditional retirement
You have an investment horizon of at least 10-years
You’ll consult with a certified financial planner prior to making any investment decisions.
Financial Independence Flowchart
These are the main points of consideration in this flowchart. Most of it is straight forward and in-line with the majority of financial independent thought leaders.
We can all agree that you should save for emergencies, get out of debt, invest as much as possible, give it time and consistency.
Here’s a deeper look at the flowchart decisions:
Employer retirement match?
Do you have access to a retirement account that your employer provides a contribution match? If so, contribute enough to get the employer contribution match.
Do you have any debt above 4.5% interest? If so, get it paid off. If it’s 4.5% or below, you’ll probably earn more investing rather than paying it off early.
After fully funding an emergency account, go ahead and pay off the rest of your debt. We want to free up as much cash as possible. Feel free to pay off your debt sooner, if it makes you sleep at night. Just ensure you have some sort of emergency fund in place.
Large future purchases?
Now that your debt is gone, your emergency fund is fully funded (~6 months of bare-bones expenses) save for any necessary future purchases like home improvements, new car tires, Christmas presents, etc…)
Saving 15% pre-tax income?
Are you contributing at least 15% of your pre-tax income? Typically, in a 401(k) type retirement account. That’s the recommendation to be able to retire at the traditional retirement age.
Access to 401(k) or 457(b)?
If you’re not contributing pre-tax income, do you have access to do so? If not, there are some alternatives. If you don’t have access to any of those, I would assume you’re working part-time. You should be working full-time or be self-employed if you plan to become financially independent. Unsure of what a 457(b) plan is? Go Here.
Save for kid’s college?
Do you plan to pay for some or all of your kid’s college fund? If so, then starting early with a 529 plan can ease the burden and allow compound interest to assist in growing that asset.
Tax-advantaged accounts maxed?
At this point, I would work on maxing out your tax-advantaged accounts, 401(k), IRA, 457(b), etc… Do this for both you and your spouse. Most people won’t complete this step as they don’t make enough, or don’t save enough. If this is a problem for you, you’re probably in the top 1% of the personal finance community.
Once you max your tax-advantaged accounts you can throw the rest of your cash at your mortgage. Why not pay it off earlier? Well, If you’re like me, you’re not going to live in your house for 10 years.
I also don’t want to wait until I sell my house to access that money and I’m not into HELOC’s or Lines of Credit. The S&P 500 has historically outperformed the housing market we are in.
What’s Not Included
I purposely left off anything regarding health insurance. It’s not an area that I’m comfortable providing ideas on. Health Savings Accounts (HSA’S) can be really great investment choices for some people. If you intend to invest in an HSA, I would place that just before contributing to your kids, 529 plan.
How To Use This FIRE Flowchart
This financial independence flowchart is intended to be used as an educational tool, a handy reference and to improve financial communication with your spouse. If you can understand everything here, your financial literacy is well above average.
The yellow diamonds are intended to be critical decision points on the flowchart. Without these, the subsequent steps tend to fall apart or become more difficult to achieve.
Consider each and every step in the flowchart before deciding for yourself, if it’s a smart financial decision for you or your family.
Feel free to print it out or send it to a friend or family member.
How Not to Use This FIRE Flowchart
Please do not use this FIRE flowchart as step-by-step instructions, that’s not it’s the purpose. Your situation is different than anyone else and there’s no perfect, dynamic flowchart that’s going to fit your situation perfectly.
If you can use this as a tool in your financial tool belt, great! If not, then leave it and find another resource. We need to think for ourselves and learn to use resources as resources and not law.
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This flowchart is for educational purposes only. It's not intended to guide your financial decisions. All financial and investment decisions should be made after consulting with a licensed and certified financial planner and at your own risk. This flowchart is not intended to be used for commercial purposes outside of firethefamily.com. Any commercial use or dissemination of this flowchart without express written consent is prohibited. For business inquiries, please contact us. Firethefamily.com is not liable for any damages or losses you may or may not incur by using the FIRE flowchart to guide your financial decisions.