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Rethinking financial security

“Financial security is not an income amount,” said Adcock to CNBC. To him, financial security is “a time amount.” He knew he was ready to retire when he could live the life he wanted without relying on a regular paycheck.

Adcock and his wife kicked off their retirement by spending three years traveling the country in an RV. “We were certainly living small. We were spending a lot less than we are now,” he said. “That was really the first time where I felt financially secure, meaning we don’t have to work for the rest of our lives.”

To Adcock, the "magic" happens when you know you can live for many years off your investment portfolio.

The couple got to where they are today by aggressively saving and investing — they saved about 70% of their income and invested that money in retirement and brokerage accounts. “I’d say our savings rate was borderline extreme,” he said. “But I hated what I did. I wanted out as fast as possible.”

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Start by building an emergency fund

There’s a good chance you’re currently a long way from feeling financially secure. And you wouldn’t be alone.

According to a 2023 LendingTree survey, almost half (49%) of U.S. adults admit they wouldn’t be able to cover a $1,000 emergency using only cash or their banking accounts.

The U.S. personal saving rate, which is the percentage of people's incomes left after they pay taxes and spend money, was just 3.2% in March, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

But it’s possible to become financially secure, even without the extreme savings approach of Adcock and his wife. Start by building an emergency fund, which should be about three to six months’ worth of your living expenses.

If this seems daunting, aim for $1,000. Even this small amount will give you some cushion against unexpected expenses — and will help you continue on your path to financial security. To find an extra $1,000, consider budgeting to figure out where you can save, such as cutting back on subscriptions, eating out and small daily expenses such as bottled water.

Look at retirement in terms of a ‘time amount’

Once you’ve saved that first $1,000, you’ll already start to feel more financially secure. From there, you can take steps to save three months’ worth of living expenses, then six, and start investing to build an investment portfolio that will allow you to quit your job someday.

The more financial security you have, the more freedom you’ll have to live life the way you want to. You aren’t just focused on a number, but on a better life journey. When you’re not tied to your paycheck, you can start to consider retirement — or you could consider a sabbatical, a career change, starting your dream business or cutting back the hours you work at your job.

Today Adcock and his wife remain semi-retired; they still bring in some extra cash from a website, newsletter and new book. But they have the flexibility to work when and how they want, rather than being dependent on a regular paycheck.

Even if you’re happy as things are, you’ll sleep better at night knowing you can meet unexpected financial challenges that come along. That ‘magic’ number you’re striving for may be less than you think and arrive sooner than you were expecting.

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Vawn Himmelsbach Freelance Contributor

Vawn Himmelsbach is a journalist who has been covering tech, business and travel for more than two decades. Her work has been published in a variety of publications, including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, CBC News, ITbusiness, CAA Magazine, Zoomer, BOLD Magazine and Travelweek, among others.

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