The Crossover Point: How Do You Define Financial Independence?

In “Are you wealthy? Here’s a test,” I defined financial independence as: “when income from my assets can cover all my family living expenses and a few luxuries”. These words were never clear in my mind until I read Your Money or Your Life by Dominguez and Robin and saw the illustration. The authors called this the “Crossover Point.” Perhaps, this was the best graphical representation of the word financial independence.

The Crossover Point

Take for instance the graphic below. If my income (green line) is less than my expenses (red line), I can quickly accumulate debt (black line below $0). However, if I am diligent at reducing my expenses and improving my income, I can climb my way out of debt, and build assets (black line above $0) that appreciate in value and generate income. If the earnings from my investments (blue line) exceed my expenses, then I have achieved basic financial independence (the first crossover point). If it exceeds my current income, then I have achieved a more secure financial independence (the second crossover point).

Crossover Point 1

Ingredients of Wealth Building

Although this was simplified, it did demonstrate key ingredients of wealth building:

  • Living beyond your means (i.e., income is less than expenses) create debt
  • Even small amount of debt can grow quickly out of control
  • Debt steals time, the most valuable component of wealth building
  • Reducing expenses is the most effective way to eliminate debt and build wealth
  • Effective investment strategy can help achieve financial independence quicker

A More Realistic Illustration

Here is a look at a more realistic illustration:

Crossover Point Realistic

There are many life events that can delay financial independence. In this illustration, I factored in key events like home purchase, marriage, and childbirths in the 30s. In the 50s, I built in additional expenses for kids’ college expenses. There are also several spikes for car purchases. I also factored in a few pay cuts which are represented by the 2 dips in income. Here, you see that both crossover points are further out.

If you are interested, here is the Financial Independence Illustrated Excel Workbook. Note that I did not separate out taxes, it was bundled into expenses. I also made some assumptions (1) debt grows at 20%, (2) assets grow at 10%, (3) income and expenses grow at 2-4%, and (4) safe withdrawal rate is 5%.

Here are a few links about Financial Independence and Crossover Point:

About the Author

By , on Sep 12, 2011
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance. He is a licensed Realtor specializing in residential homes in the Northern Virginia area. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, and financial literacy author.

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Leave Your Comment (2 Comments)

  1. Van Beek says:

    Financial independence to me mean that you can do the work that you love to do. The idea is that income from this work and the income from your assets cover the cost of the life you want to live.

  2. Kevin says:

    Relentless asset building may be another route, maybe the most effective. Once you have enough savings and investments, you can get rid of your debts and open up all kinds of options.

    If you’re committed to maximum savings–and I’m talking about well above 10% of income or the usual metrics, you find ways. It will force you to live beneath your means and find ways to get to that point of independence. Kind of like a laser beam focus.

    If you can focus your time and energy on such a wealth building task for even 10 years you can achieve financial independence much quicker. Not easy to do, but if you have the desire to be financially independent as well as the committment to make it happen, it maybe worth the time sacrificed.

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