How do I get to F.I.R.E? The 10 Pillars of Financial Independence

updated November 7, 2022

Ok, so we discussed Choose FI’s “Baby” Steps to FI, which is a great place to start. But what does it take to reach financial independence?

This article from Choose FI talks about the 10 Pillers of FI, which gives more specific and advanced ways to help you reach financial independence. So once you’ve gone through the “baby” steps of financial independence, these are the more concrete ways to put it into action. And I’ll share how I have done each of these categories as well!

Low Cost Index Fund Investing

Now as allied health professionals, we are BUSY. We don’t have time to sit at a desk all day and day trade! And let’s be real, if you’re not in that realm, it’s a HUGE gamble. And most professional investors tend to not even keep up with the market in the long term. So since we can’t control the market, let’s focus on what we can control, which are the fees.

Index funds track the performance of a specific market as closely as possible. Instead of hand-selecting the stocks you hold, the fund’s manager buys all (or a representative sample) of the stocks or bonds in the index it tracks.1 My personal favorite, Vanguard, have significantly lower fees compared to other investing platforms. The most popular fund that JL collins in his book, “A Simple Plan to Wealth,” advocates for is the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX). It is designed to provide investors with exposure to the entire U.S. equity market, including small-, mid-, and large-cap growth and value stocks.2 Because of this broad diversification, it is a great way to diversify your portfolio in one easy fund. And you can automate putting money into it monthly, so you never have to think about it!

Low Cost Housing

According to the article, the average person spends half of their budget on housing costs. That’s wild! And if you live in an expensive city, I bet that ratio is even higher. I would know – I’ve lived in Southern California for over 5 years. Some things that I’ve done to help keep housing costs down include:

  • Live outside of your desired neighborhood – a bike ride away instead of walking distance – instead of right in the heart of the neighborhood
  • Downsize to a smaller space
  • Found an apartment that had a flat rate for pets that was part of the application fees, instead of a place that upped the monthly rent for pets
  • Found an apartment where utilities were included

But there are so many other things you can do to keep your housing costs down! Change the thermostat by a couple degrees to save on utilities. Maybe invest in a duplex/triplex and rent out the other unit(s) to cover some of the mortgage. Move to a less expensive city. Heck, maybe even live with your family for a bit to help pay off your debt. You’re never stuck where you are at – you always have options.

Buy Used Cars

A car is not an investment. I don’t care if you drive the newest Tesla, or a fancy Range Rover. Once it’s driven off the lot, it’s value goes down rapidly, and you still have to pay for that depreciating expense for the same cost every month, despite it’s value going down. A used car still in good condition with good gas mileage, however, is a much better expense.

My husband drives a 2008 Honda Civic. He has no car payments on it whatsoever. He’s been living that “no car payment” life for quite some time now. Me, on the other hand, bought my car new back in 2016. But with a 0% APR, it’s a better deal than most, so I still have a few more months to go before it’s fully paid off. But we are both committed to driving these cars to the ground. Sure, a new car would be nice. But our cars work well, so why replace something that’s already working?

If I went back in time, I wish I bought a gently used car! It would be one less payment every month for me to consider.

Crush Your Grocery Bill

This one is my personal favorite! Then again, I find joy in budgeting and finding good deals. But so many families in the US overspend on groceries and end up wasting much of it, especially perishable items. This is because they go to the store and mindlessly pick up what they see and throw it into their cart. Meal planning plays a big role on your path to financial independence, because this allows you to make sure you’re not overspending on groceries and wasting food. Good for your wallet, and the environment!

This bullet point also includes eating out for meals. Whenever you eat out, you are definitely overpaying. Cooking at home can average $1-3 per meal per person, while going out is typically much more. Plus, eating at home is more nutritional, so better for your health as well.

Tax Optimization

Before you go running for the hills after hearing those two scary words, hear me out. This is a more intermediate level pillar to learn, but it can be incredibly helpful down the road. From Roth IRA’s, to Health Savings Accounts, to capital gains harvesting, these tactics can save you a ton of money if you do the research and do it right. Lucky for you, you found my blog! I will be talking about these areas more in depth in the future. But for now, focus on what you can do today. We can deal with the other stuff later.

College Hacking

I’m a childless adult, so I haven’t had to worry too much about planning for the future of my children yet. But as someone who attended college, I know a thing or two about college hacking. For us allied health professionals, I’m also going to include graduate school and certification program hacking too!

Now we all know that student debt is a real crisis here in the US. Here are some hacks that I did to help pay my way through college and PT school:

  • Scholarships – there are SO many scholarships out there, you just have to do the grunt work to find them! I had a scholarship for being a Filipina-American; a scholarship for being mixed race; a scholarship for being in a sorority; and I even competed in the Hawaii Junior Miss pageant my senior year, and as 3rd runner up and medaling in a variety of categories, I earned a couple grand from that. Yes, it takes time to apply, but it can be worth it in the end.
  • Resident Advisor – I did this for my junior and senior year of college, which fully funded my room/board and my meal plan, along with a small stipend as well that I put towards, you guessed it…my debt!
  • Work Study – I was fortunate enough to be eligible for work study positions on campus, which paid me to work and I could put that money towards my tuition. I did a variety of work study jobs – athletic department, first year experience office, orientation leader, personal trainer, teaching assistant – all which gave me valuable work experience and money.
  • Side Hustle – this was my “under the table” cash money I earned which I budgeted for fun things to do! I’ll talk more about this later in this post.

Travel Hacking

This is my second favorite! I want to warn you, this is only for the responsible folk who can pay off their credit card(s) in full every month. Otherwise, travel hacking is not for you!

But if you do pay your credits cards in full every month, kudos to you, and look into credit cards with travel rewards and bonus points to help fund your travels! My two personal favorite cards are the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Visa. I’ll be doing another post in the near future about the specifics of these cards, but I can tell you that my husband and I haven’t paid for a flight in over a year due to all the points we’ve racked up…and we’ve flown to Hawaii, Washington, Texas, and New York, so it has saved us a ton!

Cut The Cord

My husband and I don’t value television and cable, which is why we don’t have a cable bill every month. We bought a $15 antenna from Amazon and we are very happy with the basic channels that it gets us.

We use a cheap phone plan as well to cut our bill. Don’t feel like you have to stick to the big dogs, like AT&T and T-Mobile. We went from being with Verizon and paying $150 a month, to switching to Mint Mobile and paying $65 a month. And the service is just as good!

We also pay minimal for subscriptions. We have a Netflix account, but that’s it! But like I said, we don’t value television as much as others might. Remember that personal finance is personal, so make sure that what you are doing aligns with your values.

Side Hustles

I’m a full time PT. I have the blog and this website and this coaching as a SIDE HUSTLE. This side hustle is something I enjoy, and also gets me some money on the side. Who knows, maybe one day this could be my full time gig, but I’m happy being a full time PT for now.

But I also have other side hustles as well: I’m an UberEats delivery person, I created digital downloads on Etsy, I do amateur vintage pin up modeling, and I have even gotten paid to, I’m not kidding…stretch someone. Not do PT with them, not do soft tissue work with them, but stretch them. But there are literally hundreds of side hustles out there! And I say literally, because author Chris Guillebeau wrote a book on it: 100 Side Hustles: Unexpected Ideas for Making Extra Money Without Quitting Your Day Job, so if you feel like you don’t have any skills for a side hustle, I bet you’ll find at least one thing in this book.

Savings Rate/The 4% Rule

My last post discussed your savings rate – click here to reference back to it for your review.

If your goal is to retire early, then the 4% rule is crucial for you to understand. The 4% rule presumes that this is the the maximum percentage that retirees could withdraw annually from their portfolio3 without running out of money for a 30 year retirement. Another way people look at this is that you should save up 25x your annual expenses in investments to be able to retire.

While I like this general idea, as it focuses on spending and not your income, there is more recent pushback on this rule, and there is more research coming out to update this rule. I plan on posting about this in the near future, so stay tuned!


So before you X out of this blog post and freak out about how many life changes you may have to make to get you on the path to financial independence, think of it from this perspective – financial independence puts the focus on what you value and what makes you happy.

Financial independence isn’t about deprivation. It’s about figuring out what you truly value spending money on, cutting back on the unnecessary expenses that cost you too much and don’t add value to your life. And once you reach financial independence, you will have the one thing that most people can agree on we all value – our time.

To read ChooseFI’s full article, click here.

  3. “Fuel for the F.I.R.E.: Updating the 4% rule for early retirees” –

Like what you read? Check out some of my other most clicked blog posts!

If you want one-on-one mentoring in your finances, let’s work together to help you on your personal finance journey! Click here to sign up for your FREE 20 minute consult.

Note: I am not a certified financial advisor/planner or a certified financial analyst or a CPA or an accountant or a lawyer. Remember, I am an allied health professional, just like you! This website/blog is for entertainment and educational purposes only. Please consult with your financial advisor(s) regarding your personal finance, investment, and tax matters. 

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1 thought on “How do I get to F.I.R.E? The 10 Pillars of Financial Independence

  1. Pingback: 4 Podcasts That Changed My Financial Life – FIREd Up For Allied Health

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