Creating a Freedom Plan

Image. Fog Rolls In. Brad Beckstrom

Image. Fog Rolls In. Brad Beckstrom

By Brad Beckstrom

“The message here is that people need a freedom plan, not a retirement plan. The traditional work until you’re 65 to cross some imaginary finish line is going away fast”

It’s never too late to start, but start now.

My knees burned as I climbed up the hill. It was 103° and I was hiking up a steep trail in a jungle north of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Lightheaded again, need more water. What if I just keeled over right here on this trail? How long would it be till someone found me?  I have a family at home, I have responsibilities.

As I slowly got my stride back, it hit me. It’s not unusual for my knees to burn, or to feel lightheaded in hot weather. Hell, this happens when I’m walking our dog on a trail at home. But it happens more than it used to.

The Question

This is where I came face-to-face with the question…. what if I waited too long to do this?  I mean, not just this trip or this hike. How late is too late to set out on that big audacious quest?

What’s a big audacious quest? That thing in your head that you’ve always wanted to do. Most likely It’s been lingering back there since high school. Not some short trip or vacation but a quest. Something that may take years and requires focus and dedication. Something you don’t want to wait too long to start.

The men on both sides of my family are not known for their longevity, and all of them worked until the day they died. Hard work was something you just did. Preferably for yourself.

My parents passed this on to me. I’ve been saving money since I started my lawn cutting business in 8th grade. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already working on a freedom plan.  It looks nothing like the traditional retirement my dad or either grandfather never made it to. It looks more like freedom.

The Freedom Plan

My friend Jason said “Retirement is what you do from something you hate.”

The message here is that people need a freedom plan, not a retirement plan. The traditional work until you’re 65 to cross some imaginary finish line is going away. Fast.

Even with all its challenges, we live in a time of unprecedented opportunity. The opportunity to work for yourself, take advantage of investment tools, unlike anything our parents generation had. The opportunity to jump on a plane and fly halfway around the world for $650.  The opportunity to rent a two room apartment in the center of Barcelona for $65 a night on AirBnB. The chance create something that will move or help someone you’ve never met. This type of change and disruption is all around us but it takes time to see it, to learn how to use it.  Time that many people don’t have, especially when full-time work, kids, commuting, mortgages, and middle-age enter the picture.

Ask yourself these questions.

What can I do now to make sure that I don’t retire at 65?  What do I love doing so much that I would do it for free, now?  You may know this right now or you could be years away from it. The important task here is to start asking the question: what would my big audacious quest look like?

You may have some false starts, you may choose something that takes a decade to master. So time does become important. Putting together a freedom plan involves a careful reflection on what you’ll need to be financially independent while doing what you love to do, years before you turn 65.

Some very smart people have defined financial independence as the ability to live on 4 percent of your total assets per year. Assets including a combination of stocks, bonds, real estate, and other investments. This formula takes into account major market fluctuations, recessions, and even depressions. You can put in your own numbers and test it out using one of the free tools I’ve included below. Don’t let all the data on the graph freak you out. The important number is the success rate in the summary.

So, a freedom plan would combine this formula with a conservative estimate of what you could earn doing what you love. For someone like me who loves to write, travel, and create, a conservative income estimate may be zero dollars per year after taxes and expenses.

For me, that’s okay, remember part of a freedom plan is something you love doing so much you’d do it for free. It might include something that pays in something other than dollars, like the ability to sit down with your family for dinner every night.

Some people will get there sooner than others. The message here is that you start to redefine what 45, 55 or 65 looks like before someone else does that for you.

Here are some great resources to get you headed in that direction.

Four kickass financial independence calculators. Way better than the stuff most brokerage firms and banks put out there.

Getting Started

I like this one from Financial Mentor because it allows you to add future expenses and windfalls like a child’s college costs or the sale of your home.


If you an investor you’ll love Portfolio Visualizer.  You can backtest a portfolio asset allocation and compare historical and realized returns and risk characteristics against various simple portfolios.

If you don’t know your asset allocation, or your investments are all over the place in different 401Ks, IRAs, HSAs, 529 plans, you should check out Personal Capital. Use their free portfolio tools to track all of your investments in one place.

Data Geeks

Use this Crowd Sourced Simulator FIRE sim to figure out what you’ll need for your freedom plan.  Includes hundreds of years of stock market data and simulations based on good and bad economic scenarios


Some books, available online or free at your local library to get you pumped and moving in the right direction.  Some new, some older but all with important relevant help in creating a freedom plan.




  1. Kent

    Lots of information in this post. Thanks. 54.5 for me. But I’m old school and have a DB pension. Been FIRE’s for 5 years now. And haven’t seen winter in 4 yrs. #endlesssummer

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