Just two years ago, as a recent college graduate struggling to pay my expenses while still trying to live an ideal lifestyle, the idea of not having to work to live seemed odd. The loose definition of financial independence is having all your necessary expenses paid for without ever having to work again. Isn’t that funny? We look at the world today and see how so many people across the globe can barely make a living wage. And then, there are people providing for themselves and their families without working at all! How do they do it? How can you reach financial independence?

How to Never Have to Work Again

Let’s clear something up: People don’t just become financially independent by not working. Just like you and me, they work hard and save up to get to this point.

I didn’t see it in the beginning, so reaching financial independence seemed completely ludicrous to me. Now I know better.

Our ideas of success and wealth in this country are associated with the status symbols enjoyed by a fraction of the population — large McMansions, luxury cars, designer clothes and handbags, and all the other stuff that shows like Real Housewives seem to glorify. Instead of falling into that trap, ignore the noise, invest your money wisely, and live a lifestyle that makes financial independence — even retiring early — a possibility some time in the future.

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Here are a few tips for how to reach financial independence and never have to work again:

Live Within Your Means

At this present time in my life, my needs are met. I don’t have dreams of owning expensive designer jeans, a yacht, or gold-trimmed furniture. The way I see it, if I continually progress in my career — earning more and more money each year — but don’t significantly change my current lifestyle, I’ll reach financial independence in 20 to 25 years. After that, I'll never have to work again if I don't want to.

This will require sacrifice. Sure, I’d like to eat a nice $50-plus meal once a week, but that’s not going to put me on the best path toward financial freedom. Staying disciplined is half the battle to reach financial independence.

I choose to cook my lunch and dinner five out of seven days a week to justify splurging on a nice meal once or twice a month. The money saved on all those $10-plus lunches makes it easier to afford expensive meals when I do decide to indulge. As my income increases and I’m able to dictate how much I’m earning, my lifestyle choices will likely change. I no longer shop at dollar stores, for example.

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Set Yourself Up for Success

We all dream of winning the lottery overnight and making more money than we know what to do with. But chances are that this just isn’t going to happen. Being strategic about putting our money in assets rather than liabilities will help grow our wealth. Unfortunately, most things that seem to bring us joy are liabilities — new cars, new clothes, jewelry… The list goes on and on. Hardly anything that we buy seems to be an asset. Your car depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot. The clothes you bought two years ago end up being donated to Goodwill. It’s a slow burn of our money.

However, there is a solution: investing your money in property, stocks, index funds, and — most importantly — your education will put you on the fast track to financial independence.

A house is more than likely an asset that will increase in value over time. If we look at stock prices from big tech companies like Amazon and Apple, we kick ourselves for not buying into them years ago. And investing in yourself and your education will make you more valuable to employers. That’s why doctors and lawyers routinely make six figures and will continue to do so until they retire.

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Reaching Financial Independence: Start Today

Your piggy bank as an adult exists in your savings and investment accounts. No one ever regretted saving money. While we’d like to spend money like rich athletes, we simply can’t. It isn’t normal. We can reach financial independence if we stay disciplined and focused on our long-term goals. While easier said than done, it’s our lives in the end, and we dictate our own futures.