Financial Independence

Today’s post features a guest post from Mike Ballew.  He is the creator of the  Freedom Path Blog and a fellow engineer.

In school, I was fascinated by Medieval times and the predominant form of government, the monarchy.  Kings and queens ruled the world with the power of life and death in their hands.  Society was divided into structured classes where very few people crossed the line.  Woe to you if you were born into a peasant family, you would spend your life toiling in manual labor.

We are fortunate to live in a different time and place where we are free to do whatever we want, whenever we want.  Anyone today who puts in the time and effort to get a good education can make something of themselves and rise above the circumstances of their birth.

(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, The Small Investor gets a small commission.  But don’t worry, it costs you nothing extra and keeps me from just spending all day fishing instead of providing great articles on investing and personal finance).

Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together


Eye-Opening Experience

My first job as an engineer was with a large chemical company.  The union plant where I worked was sprawled out over several city blocks.  The smokestacks rose above a spaghetti mess of piping down below.  The air was thick with a toxic mix of chemicals, and we had to wear hearing protection everywhere we went.

The company was organized like most any other, with a cast of characters that included a CEO who I never met, a plant manager who I rarely saw but was on my best behavior when I did, countless managers and supervisors, maintenance people, administrative staff and of course the union workers.

As I took all of this in, it occurred to me that maybe we hadn’t progressed as far from the Dark Ages as I had once thought.  I could see the traces of a caste system in corporate America.  Sure, there was no king or queen, no court jester or anyone yelling, “Off with his head!”  But there were powerful people there who held my fate in their hands.  If I had an off day or did something wrong, I could be shown the door.

So let’s get real for a moment.  Can we really do whatever we want whenever we want?  If that were true, why did I get up at the crack of dawn this morning and fight my way through traffic to get to work on time?  Why am I chained to my desk every day instead of burying my toes in the sand at the beach?  What I discovered in my first real job right out of school was the truth:  the power had just shifted, from the monarchies to the big corporations.

Financial Independence

Financial Independence

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with our way of thinking.  It’s nice to open the windows and let in some fresh air in.  What is my point in all of this?  Where is the recipe for financial independence you were looking for?

Financial independence is more than just a number on a bank statement.  Financial independence is your ticket to freedom.  When you achieve financial independence, you don’t have to work anymore.  You don’t have to get up and go to work every day, you don’t have to bow and scrape to stay in management’s good graces.

I am not going to put a dollar figure on financial independence because it’s different for everyone.  There are many who have tried to quantify it but suffice it to say that financial independence is having enough money so you don’t have to work anymore.  It’s not a new concept, 40 years ago Johnny Paycheck summed it up in these six words:  “Take this job and shove it.”

Closing Thoughts

My objective with this article is to get you to see the world in a different way.  I want to motivate you to reach your goal.  If you want it badly enough, you will achieve financial independence.  If freedom from work is more important to you than spending money on things to impress people who don’t know you, then you will achieve financial independence.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  I would encourage you to do something today to put yourself on the path to financial independence.  Drive past that pricey coffee place, stop daydreaming about McMansions and expensive European sedans, and increase the percentage you put into your employer’s retirement plan.  Get serious about financial independence and you will achieve it.

Guest post by Mike Ballew, author of the Freedom Path Blog.  Mike’s background in engineering serves him well as he dives into the number-crunching world of personal finance and retirement planning.  Mike is passionate about making wise life decisions and achieving financial goals.



  1. I started at a very similar facility as a chemical engineer many years ago. My goal the day I walked into the plant was to be the plant manager by the time I was 40. It took me until I was 41 which was close enough. I never got to CEO but I did get to the top job in our division and actually got promoted both times our company was merged into a larger one. Surviving two ownership changes when you are in one of the top jobs is quite a feat, normally they clean out the old guard and bring in new leadership. I recognized the caste system but I also recognized it was based on merit and not bloodlines. The currency that mattered was intelligence and emotional skills and those were my strongest attributes. It made for a very enjoyable career and one in which I feel like I was able to mentor and teach dozens of others and change their lives for the better. The corporate life is not for everyone but for me it gave me a chance to accomplish a great deal and I always felt very appreciated and well rewarded. I became financially independent by living frugally and truly am that one job, one house and one spouse guy. Many of my coworkers did not see work the way I did. They did feel dead-ended in jobs that did not challenge them in good ways. Many I encouraged to find better jobs elsewhere. A few like me found a great fit at our company or somewhere else in our corporation. Your message about becoming FI is so sound! I was FI but chose to keep working because I felt like I was serving others and not just making money and I was having fun. But whether your job is a dream or a chore having the freedom to not work is very nice and relieves a lot of stress. Great post, love your blog Mike and also The Small Investor.

    • I keep working for the same reason. Working on rockets and other aerospace vehicles is fun, so why not keep doing it, especially if they’ll pay you for it.

  2. Currently working at a job that I never imagined I’d be working in but turned out to be very good at. While I’ve never met the ceo as it’s a fortune 100 company, I don’t feel the need to. Financial independence only has to mean that I can do the things I want to do without being barred by monetary constructs. Let’s just hope the day never comes where I want a 1000 foot yacht… then my happiness will be in a bind.

  3. I can see that similarities in this to my life. the dicsovery of financial independence is one that wasnt taught to me. As i went along in the world began to discover a whole new meaning to theese words and felt it necessary to never let another generation go bye without the knowledge of “keeping your financial house in order. Great post.

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